Tag Archives: nonperformative

Must Education Change for Digital Natives?

Students born roughly between 1980 and 1994 were saddled with the moniker “digital natives” by Marc Prensky.  There are other descriptions of this generation as collaborative, optimistic, multitaskers, team-oriented achievers and talented with technology.

The Digital Native Debate has two claims: Digital natives exist and education must change to meet their needs. This unique group, according to the proponents of the digital native theory are not getting their needs met by the current educational system. Prensky says, “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

Watch this You Tube promoted on Prensky’s You Tube Channel:

The second assumption is that digital natives “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” Multi-tasking is given as an example. While students can listen to music, text, watch television and do homework is not a proof of higher intelligence. In fact, multi-tasking and multi-processing may result in concentration loss and overload according to Rubinstein as reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: “Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching.”

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Words that can Change the World or a Piece of it

More rhetoric from Professor Michael D.C. Drout:

I want us to think about the different ways that speech can change the world (using) the Speech-Act Theory. The fundamental idea behind Speech-Act is just what the name implies: Speech is not just the communication of information, but also a kind of action that people perform and that therefore has social as well as communicative implications.

He goes on to use simple examples. A baseball player strikes out. Until the official – the umpire says it is out – it does not change the game. A fan can yell, “OUT!” but that does not change anything.  This illustrates “performative.” The speaker or writer can change worlds by using the right  performative words. Someone using performative does something as well as says or writes something – they change things.

For example, someone may try to seem to make a promise (which is a performative action) when he or she really is just giving information (which is not always performative). A promise is performative because after it has been made, a whole variety of expectations and obligations are now invoked.

Telling someone that you will promise to do something is not the same; nor is making it look like you have promised when you have not.

This is a powerful rhetorical thought. Changing someone’s world by things you say or write is a powerful tool – use it with care. The way we treat people at work or at home is the most basic way we use performative rhetoric. You do not have to be writing a speech or an essay or even a blog to change someone’s world forever. You can destroy someone’s self-esteem and career direction by the words you choose. Speaking the truth and nothing but in conversation, might damage your listener or reader. My husband simplifies this by saying, “You can be a blessing or a curse – you choose.”

Once while working with a group of women as the teacher, a woman said to me:

“You know by the way you teach and write – you have changed lives – I can not say I have ever done that for someone else. That is a powerful gift to have.”

I must humbly admit that this person was not complementing me, she was warning me. She was upset with me and wanted to let me know that I had power in the words I used or omitted.  She was right. Words once spoken are seldom forgotten. Forgiveness is obligatory, but if the words were performative in nature, they can do damage forever.

Our words can change an opinion, they can encourage and uplift. They have the same power to wound or damage. Words. Write and speak responsibly.