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April 1, 2005
Vol. 62
No. 7


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DOA: Education in the Electronic Culture

John P. Davies, 2003
Electronic media that provide new pathways to learning and understanding are threatening the culture of print that has dominated education over the last 500 years. Although this observation is not new, John P. Davies approaches the topic from the refreshing perspective of a clear-speaking postmodernist who, like Marshall McLuhan before him, understands the deep connection between the message and the medium. He calls for a redefinition of literacy and of the educator's role in a post-typographic world.
Davies does not suggest that text will disappear but that linear narratives will be increasingly accompanied by a variety of media types. Student projects will not just be nonlinear versions of the old 10-page essay, however: The very nature of student research, reporting, and documentation will change. When students have unfettered access to primary source materials to explore in-depth projects of their own design, an incredible power shift occurs. Davies references the work of the French philosophers Deleuze and Guatari, who distinguish between arboreal (tree-like) representations of knowledge and rhizomal (crabgrass-like) structures that exist just beneath the surface and spring up in surprising locations with tremendous resiliency. The Internet is the poster child for rhizomal representations of knowledge, and it resonates with the ways young people learn and communicate ideas.
Fifty years into the computer revolution, Davies provides a context for the fundamental changes needed in education. We do not need to replace books with computers, he writes, but to rethink the nature of education in light of modern technologies to ensure that when our children go to school, they do not find it “DOA.”
Published by Scarecrow Education, Lanham, Maryland; 800-462-6420;www.scarecroweducation.com. 168 pages. Price: $24.95 paperback.
—Reviewed by David Thornburg, Director, Global Operations, Thornburg Center; dthornburg@aol.com

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