Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pencetus Alahan


Terdedah kepada risiko seperti habuk sedari kecil antara puncanya

SETIAP pagi, anda bersin berulang kali hingga hidung dan matanya berair. Malah, garisan halus terbentuk pada batang hidungnya akibat tabiat menggosok hidung setiap kali terasa gatal.

Lalu pelbagai andaian atau kemusykilan yang timbul - apakah ini masalah resdung atau sinus dan mungkinkah ini masalah selesema biasa? Bagaimanapun, selepas pemeriksaan dibuat, anda disahkan mengalami masalah alahan yang lazimnya wujud dalam pelbagai peringkat kehidupan dan dianggap sebagai lumrah.

Alahan adalah satu tindak balas terlalu sensitif disebabkan oleh satu atau lebih bahan dalam persekitaran (debunga, habuk, makanan) yang melalui mekanisme sistem imun. Walaupun alahan jarang meragut nyawa, kesannya akan mengganggu kualiti hidup pesakit termasuk gejala fizikal dan tekanan emosi yang serius.

Untuk mendapat alahan, pesakit perlu terdedah kepada alergen (bahan yang tidak merbahaya) yang menyebabkan tindak balas imun. Sistem imun terdiri daripada dua jenis sel darah putih iaitu T dan B. Ia membantu sistem imun mempertahankan tubuh dengan mengenalpasti bahan asing.

Sebarang elemen berbahaya yang dikesan akan merangsang sistem pertahanan tubuh (mast cell) untuk melepaskan bahan kimia seperti histamines untuk memeranginya. Apabila sistem imun tersilap mengenalpasti elemen berbahaya, alahan akan berlaku terutama apabila berulang kali terdedah kepada bahan tertentu.

Gangguan alahan boleh terjadi dalam pelbagai bentuk termasuk gangguan hidung dan sinus kepada alahan kulit, lelah dan makanan. Gejala-gejalanya juga berbeza dari ketidakselesaan ringan (hidung dan mata berair, bersin, gatal) kepada gejala yang lebih berat (sesak nafas, ruam, tindak balas alahan melampau atau anafilaktik).
Pakar Bedah Telinga, Hidung dan Tekak yang juga Profesor di Jabatan Otorhinolaryngology Universiti Malaya, Dr Prepageran Narayanan, berkata jenis alahan yang dihidapi seorang kanak-kanak berkait rapat dengan betapa terdedahnya mereka dengan persekitaran sejak bayi.

Katanya, pada awal kelahiran, biasanya mereka terdedah dengan bedak talkum, lampin pakai buang dan pakaian. Pada usia dua hingga tiga tahun mereka gemar memasukkan apa saja objek ke dalam mulut, empat hingga lima tahun mula bermain di taman permainan dan terdedah kepada persekitaran luar sehingga mula mendapat alahan.

“Anda hanya akan mendapat alahan bergantung kepada apa yang didedahkan kepada anda. Sebab itu kadangkala ada pesakit yang datang mengadu pada mulanya tiada masalah dengan kekacang tetapi lama kelamaan alahan itu wujud. Ini kerana individu hanya akan mendapat alahan apabila terdedah berulang kali dengan perkara yang sama,” katanya pada kempen awam Hidup Bebas Alahan anjuran Persatuan Pakar Bedah Otorinolaringologi Kepala dan Tengkuk Malaysia (MSO-HNS), Persatuan Alergi dan Imunologi Malaysia (MSAI) dan disokong oleh GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd (GSK).

Bagaimanapun, katanya, apa yang menyedihkan, alahan sering disalah anggap oleh masyarakat, malah kebanyakan pesakit rela menerima hakikat alahan adalah sebahagian daripada lumrah kehidupan.

Gejala seperti hidung berhingus dan tersumbat bukanlah masalahnya tetapi akibat daripada gejala-gejala yang timbul itu dan menyebabkan seseorang terpaksa mengambil cuti sakit kerana tidak dapat bekerja.

Ada pula yang datang bekerja, tetapi tidak dapat melakukan tugas dengan baik kerana masalah hidung yang berhingus, tersumbat serta mata yang gatal dan berair.

“Keadaan ini bukan saja memberi kesan kepada produktiviti tetapi juga mengakibatkan tekanan perasaan serta psiko-sosial,” katanya.

Dr Prepageran berkata, memandangkan alahan adalah permulaan masalah yang lebih serius, ia perlu dibendung dan dicegah seawal mungkin. Sekiranya individu alah kepada habuk, hama atau debu, langkah kawalan dan pencegahan awal boleh diambil dengan mengelaknya. Ini kerana lebih awal alahan bermula lebih lama ia akan dihidapi.

Jelasnya, adalah mustahil untuk mengelak dari terdedah kepada habuk, hama, debunga mahupun cuaca terutama di negara seperti Malaysia.

“Pilihan yang ada adalah menyedarkan masyarakat mengenai alahan dan mengenai pertalian antara penyakit hidung, kulit dan lelah.

“Pendidikan dalam kalangan orang awam adalah kunci dalam membantu pesakit dalam menentukan jenis alahan yang dihidapi bagi mengurangkan kejadian dan merebaknya penyakit itu dengan pengesanan dan rawatan yang bersesuaian.”

INFO: Antara faktor risiko alahan:

  • Asap rokok - Kanak-kanak yang membesar di rumah yang terdedah dengan asap rokok, lebih berisiko alami masalah alahan.
  • Mereka yang lahir tidak cukup bulan.
  • Pendedahan awal atau dari usia kecil kepada pencetus alahan seperti habuk, kulat, lipas dan jenis makanan tertentu.
Gejala alahan:
  • Berbeza daripada ketidakselesaan ringan (hidung dan mata berair, bersin, gatal)
  • Ia lebih kepada gejala yang lebih berat seperti sesak nafas, ruam dan tindak balas alahan melampau.
Oleh Suzan Ahmad
suzan@bharian.com.my

Sumber: http://www.bharian.com.my/

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Siti Hajar - contoh pengorbanan isteri solehah

Apabila disebut Makkah, seluruh umat Islam terasa teruja dengan kota suci. Sepanjang masa Makkah dirindui oleh seluruh umat Islam, terutama ketika musim haji. Setiap waktu menunaikan sembahyang pula kita terasa begitu hampir dengan kedudukan Makkah yang dijadikan arah kiblat.

Satu perkara lagi yang paling sinonim dengan kota Makkah ialah sejarah mula-mula ia dibuka oleh Nabi Ibrahim bersama isterinya Siti Hajar dan anak mereka Nabi Ismail. Di sebalik kisah pembukaan penempatan Makkah itu terselit pula kisah pengorbanan Siti Hajar. Pengorbanan Siti Hajar sebagai isteri yang solehah amat mengkagumkan dan harus dijadikan contoh kepada semua.

Siti Hajar adalah isteri kedua Nabi Ibrahim. Perkahwinan itu direstui isteri pertama, Siti Sarah, sebagai satu usaha untuk melahirkan zuriat Nabi Ibrahim yang bakal meneruskan tugas menyebarkan agama Allah. Siti Sarah tidak mampu melahirkan anak disebabkan usianya ketika itu telah mencecah 70 tahun.

Namun, perasaan Siti Sarah berubah menjadi cemburu setelah Siti Hajar mengandung dan mengambil keputusan tidak mahu hidup bersama lagi dengan madunya. Nabi Ibrahim terpaksa mengambil keputusan untuk memisahkan antara kedua isterinya itu untuk mengelak persengketaan. Peristiwa itu sebenarnya menyimpan banyak hikmah yang telah ditentukan oleh Allah. Nabi Ibrahim mendapat wahyu agar membawa Siti Hajar dan anak yang baru dilahirkan, Nabi Ismail, menuju ke satu tempat yang amat jauh dari kampung halaman mereka di Palestin.

Nabi Ibrahim membawa Siti Hajar dan Nabi Ismail ke satu lembah yang kering kontang dan tiada penghuni yang kini dikenali Makkah. Kedua beranak itu ditinggalkan dengan hanya sedikit bekalan makanan dan air minuman. Mereka hanya berserah kepada Allah kerana mengetahui tindakan Nabi Ibrahim itu satu perintah daripada Allah.

Siti Hajar menyedari jika itulah perintah daripada Allah, sudah pasti Allah tidak akan mensia-siakan hamba-Nya yang taat. Namun hatinya masih tertanya-tanya hikmah di sebalik perintah Allah itu.

Bayangkan perasaan Siti Hajar ditinggalkan berdua dengan anak yang masih bayi di suatu tempat yang tidak berpenghuni dan kering kontang. Pada siapakah dia harus mendapatkan pertolongan jika berlaku sesuatu perkara yang buruk kepadanya?

Dia juga sering tertanya-tanya sama ada dirinya masih berpeluang menemui suaminya yang tercinta. Sedangkan, dia tahu jarak perjalanan antara Palestin dengan Makkah pada ketika itu mengambil masa kira-kira enam bulan untuk sampai dan terpaksa melalui perjalanan yang sukar.

Siti Hajar memang merupakan wanita terpilih. Zuriatnya melalui Nabi Ismail melahirkan nabi-nabi seterusnya hinggalah Nabi Muhammad. Kecekalan dan perasaan reda berdepan dengan cabaran hidup yang sedemikian tentunya tidak pernah dilalui wanita lain.

Tidak lama selepas tinggal di lembah kontang itu, bekalan makanan dan minuman yang dibawa telah kehabisan. Lebih merungsingkan lagi apabila susu badan Siti Hajar sendiri tidak lagi keluar disebabkan keadaan badannya yang tidak mendapat makanan yang cukup. Nabi Ismail tidak dapat menyusu susu badan ibunya.

Ketika itulah Siti Hajar mula resah. Tidak sanggup mendengar tangisan Nabi Ismail akibat kehausan, Siti Hajar meletakkan Nabi Ismail di satu tempat lalu bingkas bangun mencari ke segenap tempat untuk mendapatkan air.

Siti Hajar mendaki sebuah bukit untuk meninjau dari jauh agar dapat melihat kalau-kalau ada tempat menakungkan air. Dari puncak bukit itu dia melihat dari jauh seperti ada air bertakung. Dia berlari sekuat hati ke tempat itu agar cepat dia mendapat air itu bagi diberi minum kepada puteranya.

Namun, setelah sampai di tempat itu, apa yang dilihatnya tadi hanyalah fatamorgana. Dari tempat itu pula dia melihat ada tempat lain seperti ada air bertakung. Lantas dia terus berlari ke tempat itu. Sekali lagi dia kecewa kerana apa yang dilihatnya itu juga fatamorgana.

Tetapi, dilihatnya sekali lagi ada tempat seperti air bertakung. Dia terus berlari tanpa mengenal penat bagi memastikan anaknya dapat minum. Begitu besar sekali pengorbanan seorang ibu. Dia tidak sedar dirinya sendiri semakin lama tidak berdaya lagi untuk bergerak.

Tanpa disedari, Siti Hajar sebenarnya telah berulang alik antara dua bukit iaitu Bukit Safa dan Bukit Marwah untuk mencari sumber air. Perlakuan Siti Hajar berlari antara Bukit Safa dan Bukit Marwah adalah tanda pengorbanan besar seorang ibu untuk anaknya.

Sebagai mengingati dan menjadikan kisah ini iktibar untuk seluruh umat Islam, perbuatan Siti Hajar berlari-lari berulang-alik dari Bukit Safar dan Bukit Marwah dizahirkan ketika melakukan ibadat haji.

Berlari atau berjalan bermula dari Bukit Safa dan berakhir di Bukit Marwah berulang alik sebanyak tujuh kali adalah antara Rukun Haji yang menentukan sah atau batal ibadat haji yang dilakukan. Rukun haji itu dipanggil saie yang dilakukan selepas melakukan tawaf.

Kembali kepada kisah Siti Hajar, selepas dirinya tidak lagi berdaya bergerak untuk mencari air, dengan rasa hampa dan memikirkan nasib anaknya yang ditinggalkan seketika itu, dia kembali ke tempat anaknya ditinggalkan.

Nabi Ismail yang kehausan ketika ditinggalkan telah menghentak-hentak kakinya ke bumi. Dengan rahmat Allah, tempat hentakan kaki Nabi Ismail itu terpancut mata air.
Melihatkan keadaan itu, Siti Hajar gembira bukan kepalang. Serta merta semangat Siti Hajar kembali pulih. Dia menerpa ke arah mata air yang terpancut itu lalu ditadah dengan tangan terus dititiskan air itu ke mulut Nabi Ismail.

Ketika menadah air itulah terpancul dari mulut Siti Hajar perkataan 'zami, zami, zami yang bermaksud 'berkumpullah, berkumpullah, berkumpullah'. Dari perkataan itulah lahir perkataan air zam-zam.

Tangisan Nabi Ismail reda setelah hilang hausnya. Dan dapatlah Siti Hajar pula menikmati air itu untuk mengembalikan kekuatan dirinya. Tempat air terpancut keluar itu dibuatkan takungan bagi mengumpul lebih banyak air.

Takungan air yang dibina itu bukan sahaja dijadikan sumber air minum Siti Hajar dan anaknya, tetapi dalam tempoh masa yang singkat dikesan oleh burung-burung yang berterbangan. Berkawan-kawan burung datang dan pergi silih berganti minum dan berehat di kawasan itu.
Pergerakan burung itu kemudian dikesan oleh satu kabilah yang melalui kawasan itu. Mereka dapat mengagak bahawa tempat itu ada sumber air. Lantas, mereka mencari-carinya dan terjumpalah sumber air yang tidak disangka-sangka itu.

Dengan itu Siti Hajar pertama kali dapat menemui orang sejak ditinggalkan suaminya di situ. Ada kabilah menawarkan untuk membawa Siti Hajar meninggalkan tempat itu. Namun, dia tetap setia berpegang kepada perintah suaminya agar tetap tinggal di tempat itu.

Selepas peritiwa itu, kabilah-kabilah telah menjadikan kawasan Makkah sebagai laluan perjalanan untuk mendapatkan bekalan air. Setiap kali air dicedok, air yang keluar semakin banyak. Lebih menakjubkan, rasa dan khasiat air zam-zam amat istimewa berbanding air biasa.

Memandangkan ada bekalan air yang terjamin di situ, ada kabilah yang terus menetap di situ. Mereka yakin tempat itu dipenuhi dengan barakah. Tidak hairanlah jika dalam tempoh masa yang singkat sahaja, bilangan penduduk Makkah bertambah dengan mendadak.

Pengorbanan Siti Hajar wajar dijadikan contoh kepada para wanita dalam menghadapi cabaran hidup. Yang penting jangan mudah merasa kecewa dan hilang keyakinan diri apabila berdepan dengan sesuatu masalah.

Sumber: http://shalehudin.blogspot.com/
http://ibnurrahmat.blogspot.com/

Batas-batas bergurau


AGAMA Islam menggalakkan umatnya mengeratkan silaturahim sesama manusia agar kehidupan ini penuh dengan kasih sayang, perpaduan dan harmoni.

Kita juga digalakkan untuk menyenangkan hati sesama saudara kita. Salah satu cara untuk menyenangkan hati itu ialah dengan bergurau senda.

Adapun gurau senda itu suatu yang diharuskan dalam Islam kerana naluri dan fitrah manusia memerlukan hiburan untuk memperoleh ketenangan dan kesejahteraan. Bahkan boleh membebaskan diri daripada keresahan dan ketegangan.

Nabi Muhammad menjalankan kehidupan bersama para sahabat dan ahli kerabat baginda seperti manusia biasa. Baginda berkongsi kesedihan, kesusahan dan musibah dan baginda juga pernah bergurau senda.

Antara senda gurauan Rasulullah ialah sebagaimana yang diceritakan oleh Al-Hasan: "Seorang perempuan tua telah datang kepada Nabi Muhammad, lalu berkata 'wahai Rasulullah, berdoalah kepada Allah SWT supaya aku dapat masuk syurga."

Maka Rasulullah bersabda: "Wahai ibu polan! Sesungguhnya orang tua tidak boleh masuk syurga."

Lalu menangislah si perempuan tua itu. Dengan segera Rasulullah bersabda: "Khabarkan kepada perempuan itu bahawa sesungguhnya dia tidak akan masuk syurga dalam keadaan dia tua."

Lalu dibacakan firman Allah yang tafsirnya: Sesungguhnya Kami telah menciptakan isteri-isteri mereka dengan ciptaan istimewa serta Kami jadikan mereka sentiasa dara, yang tetap menjadi jodohnya serta yang sebaya umurnya.

Dalam senda gurauan Rasulullah yang lain lagi ialah sebagaimana dalam sebuah hadis yang maksudnya: "Daripada Anas bin Malik, bahawa seorang lelaki meminta kenderaan Rasulullah lalu baginda bersabda: Sesungguhnya aku akan membawamu di atas anak unta betina. Lalu orang itu berkata: Apa yang dapat saya buat di atas anak unta betina? Baginda menjawab: Bukankah yang melahirkan Al-Ibbal (unta jantan tua) itu hanya unta betina iaitu ibunya dan unta jantan tua itu ialah anaknya". (riwayat Al-Imam At-Termidzi)

Daripada kisah-kisah tersebut dapat kita lihat bagaimana Rasulullah bergurau tetapi dalam perkara yang benar, bukan perkara yang dusta.

Bahkan ia adalah disunatkan untuk menyenangkan hati orang lain. Walau bagaimanapun Islam melarang kita daripada bergurau terhadap perkara yang sia-sia kerana gurauan itu membuat orang ketawa berlebihan dan boleh menyebabkan keras hati serta melalaikan daripada mengingati Allah.

Nabi Muhammad berpesan dalam sebuah hadis maksudnya: "Daripada Abi Hurairah r.a, Rasulullah SAW bersabda: Janganlah kamu banyak ketawa kerana sesungguhnya banyak ketawa itu mematikan hati". (riwayat Al-Imam At-Termidzi)

Berkata Imam Al-Nawawi: "Gurauan yang ditegah itu ialah gurauan yang melampaui batas dan sering dilakukan sehingga melalaikan daripada mengingati Allah."

Sesungguhnya jika gurauan kita itu bermaksud untuk menyenangkan hati orang lain terutama mereka yang dalam kesusahan, maka Allah SWT akan memberi ganjaran kepada mereka.

Bagaimanapun, jika gurauan itu boleh membawa kemudaratan, kesusahan atau mengakibatkan perkara buruk kepada orang lain, kita akan mendapat dosa.

Oleh yang demikian, berwaspadalah dengan senda gurauan yang melampaui batas atau berlebihan. Janganlah dalam gurauan itu ada unsur-unsur menghina, mencerca, mengolok-olokkan dan menyakiti orang lain kerana ia boleh mencetuskan permusuhan dan kemarahan sehingga menyebabkan terputus silaturrahim.

Jangan juga dijadikan senda gurauan itu suatu kebiasaan atau amalan kerana kesan yang tidak baik daripada gurauan itu mungkin akan terjadi.

Firman Allah SWT yang bermaksud: Wahai orang-orang yang beriman! Janganlah sesuatu puak daripada lelaki mencemuh dan merendah-rendahkan puak lelaki yang lain kerana harus puak yang dicemuh itu lebih baik daripada mereka. Dan janganlah pula sesuatu puak daripada daripada kaum perempuan mencemuh dan merendah-rendahkan puak perempuan yang lain kerana harus puak yang dicemuh itu lebih baik daripada mereka, dan janganlah setengah kamu menyatakan keaiban setengah yang lain dan janganlah kamu panggil memanggil antara satu dengan yang lain dengan gelaran yang buruk. Seburuk-buruk panggilan adalah panggilan buruk sesudah dia beriman dan ingatlah sesiapa yang tidak bertaubat daripada perbuatan fasiknya maka merekalah orang-orang yang zalim. (al-Hujurat: 11)

Sumber: http://www.utusan.com.my/

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sarung Pakaian Dalam Longgar Bagi Elak Masalah Varikosel


Masalah varikosel atau pembuluh darah vena buah zakar mengembang boleh berlaku secara semula jadi pada segelintir lelaki.

Ia sebenarnya tidak dikategorikan sebagai penyakit sebaliknya hanyalah perubahan struktur dinding vena pada buah zakar yang hilang fungsi elastik atau keanjalan sehingga menyebabkan darah mendap di dalamnya.

Keadaan ini menyebabkan buah zakar berdekatan vena yang kembang itu terdedah kepada kepanasan bagi tempoh lama, sekali gus menjejaskan kilang sperma.

Kadangkala anda akan berasa senak pada bahagian yang ada varikosel. Ini berlaku apabila vena yang kembang, mencengkam untuk menolak darah mendap itu memasuki vena dalaman yang lebih besar.

Varikosel ini biasanya dikaitkan dengan masalah kesuburan lelaki, apatah lagi sekiranya buah zakar berada dekat dengan saluran vena akibat pemakaian pakaian dalam yang ketat (buah zakar terdedah kepada pemanasan).

Jika ini berlaku, cara paling berkesan untuk pemulihan kesuburan ialah melalui pembedahan mengikat salur vena yang kembang dan mengurangkan kebengkakan vena.

Namun, ini tidak bermakna lelaki itu akan dapat memulihkan tahap kesuburannya. Jika sel kilang sperma sudah rosak, maka pemulihan kesuburan tidak akan berlaku.

Anda tidak perlu khuatir mengenai varikosel. Sebilangan besar lelaki mengalami beng kak pada vena sebelah kiri berbanding sebelah kanan dan tidak semua mereka yang mengalami masalah kesuburan.

Anda juga boleh memakai pakaian dalam yang longgar dan selesa. Sekiranya anda sudah berkahwin tetapi masih belum mendapat anak dalam tempoh setahun, barulah anda dan pasangan menjalani ujian kesuburan.

Sumber: mymetro

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments


by Michael Wesch , Kansas State University
Knowledge-able

Most university classrooms have gone through a massive transformation in the past ten years. I'm not talking about the numerous initiatives for multiple plasma screens, moveable chairs, round tables, or digital whiteboards. The change is visually more subtle, yet potentially much more transformative. As I recently wrote in a Britannica Online Forum:

There is something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second. While most of our classrooms were built under the assumption that information is scarce and hard to find, nearly the entire body of human knowledge now flows through and around these rooms in one form or another, ready to be accessed by laptops, cellphones, and iPods. Classrooms built to re-enforce the top-down authoritative knowledge of the teacher are now enveloped by a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where knowledge is made, not found, and authority is continuously negotiated through discussion and participation.1

This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.

The sheer quantity of information now permeating our environment is astounding, but more importantly, networked digital information is also qualitatively different than information in other forms. It has the potential to be created, managed, read, critiqued, and organized very differently than information on paper and to take forms that we have not yet even imagined. To understand the true potentials of this “information revolution” on higher education, we need to look beyond the framework of “information.” For at the base of this “information revolution” are new ways of relating to one another, new forms of discourse, new ways of interacting, new kinds of groups, and new ways of sharing, trading, and collaborating. Wikis, blogs, tagging, social networking and other developments that fall under the “Web 2.0” buzz are especially promising in this regard because they are inspired by a spirit of interactivity, participation, and collaboration. It is this “spirit” of Web 2.0 which is important to education. The technology is secondary. This is a social revolution, not a technological one, and its most revolutionary aspect may be the ways in which it empowers us to rethink education and the teacher-student relationship in an almost limitless variety of ways.

Physical, Social, and Cognitive Structures Working Against Us

But there are many structures working against us. Our physical structures were built prior to an age of infinite information, our social structures formed to serve different purposes than those needed now, and the cognitive structures we have developed along the way now struggle to grapple with the emerging possibilities.

The physical structures are easiest to see, and are on prominent display in any large “state of the art” classroom. Rows of fixed chairs often face a stage or podium housing a computer from which the professor controls at least 786,432 points of light on a massive screen. Stadium seating, sound-absorbing panels and other acoustic technologies are designed to draw maximum attention to the professor at the front of the room. The “message” of this environment is that to learn is to acquire information, that information is scarce and hard to find (that's why you have to come to this room to get it), that you should trust authority for good information, and that good information is beyond discussion (that's why the chairs don't move or turn toward one another). In short, it tells students to trust authority and follow along.

This is a message that very few faculty could agree with, and in fact some may use the room to launch spirited attacks against it. But the content of such talks are overshadowed by the ongoing hour-to-hour and day-to-day practice of sitting and listening to authority for information and then regurgitating that information on exams.

Many faculty may hope to subvert the system, but a variety of social structures work against them. Radical experiments in teaching carry no guarantees and even fewer rewards in most tenure and promotion systems, even if they are successful. In many cases faculty are required to assess their students in a standardized way to fulfill requirements for the curriculum. Nothing is easier to assess than information recall on multiple-choice exams, and the concise and “objective” numbers satisfy committee members busy with their own teaching and research.

Even in situations in which a spirit of exploration and freedom exist, where faculty are free to experiment to work beyond physical and social constraints, our cognitive habits often get in the way. Marshall McLuhan called it “the rear-view mirror effect,” noting that “We see the world through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”2

Most of our assumptions about information are based on characteristics of information on paper. On paper we thought of information as a “thing” with a material form, and we created elaborate hierarchies to classify each piece of information in its own logical place. But as David Weinberger and Clay Shirky have demonstrated, networked digital information is fundamentally different than information on paper.3 And each digital innovation seems to shake us free from yet another assumption we once took for granted.

Even something as simple as the hyperlink taught us that information can be in more than one place at one time, challenging our traditional space-time based notions of information as a “thing” that has to be “in a place.” Google began harnessing the links and revolutionized our research with powerful machine-assisted searching.

Blogging came along and taught us that anybody can be a creator of information. Suddenly anybody can create a blog in a matter of seconds. And people have responded. Technorati now reports that there are over 133 million blogs, almost 133 million more than there were just five years ago. YouTube and other video sharing sites have sparked similar widespread participation in the production of video. Over 10,000 hours of video are uploaded to the web everyday. In the past six months more material has been uploaded to YouTube than all of the content ever aired on major network television. While such media beg for participation, our lecture halls are still sending the message, “follow along.”

Wikipedia has taught us yet another lesson, that a networked information environment allows people to work together in new ways to create information that can rival (and even surpass) the content of experts by almost any measure. The message of Wikipedia is not “trust authority” but “explore authority.” Authorized information is not beyond discussion on Wikipedia, information is authorized through discussion, and this discussion is available for the world to see and even participate in. This culture of discussion and participation is now available on any website with the emerging “second layer” of the web through applications like Diigo which allow you to add notes and tags to any website anywhere.

And as we note and tag these sites, we are also collectively organizing them, so that the notion that this new media environment is too big and disorganized for anybody to find anything worthwhile and relevant is simply not the case. Our old assumption that information is hard to find, is trumped by the realization that if we set up our hyper-personalized digital network effectively, information can find us. For example, I have set up my own Netvibes portal so that the moment anybody anywhere tags something with certain keywords I am interested in I will immediately receive a link to the item. It is like continuously working with thousands of research associates around the world.

Taken together, this new media environment demonstrates to us that the idea of learning as acquiring information is no longer a message we can afford to send to our students, and that we need to start redesigning our learning environments to address, leverage, and harness the new media environment now permeating our classrooms.

A Crisis of Significance

Unfortunately, many teachers only see the disruptive possibilities of these technologies when they find students Facebooking, texting, IMing, or shopping during class. Though many blame the technology, these activities are just new ways for students to tune out, part of the much bigger problem I have called “the crisis of significance,” the fact that many students are now struggling to find meaning and significance in their education.4

Nothing good will come of these technologies if we do not first confront the crisis of significance and bring relevance back into education. In some ways these technologies act as magnifiers. If we fail to address the crisis of significance, the technologies will only magnify the problem by allowing students to tune out more easily and completely. With total and constant access to their entire network of friends, we might as well be walking into the food court in the student union and trying to hold their attention. On the other hand, if we work with students to find and address problems that are real and significant to them, they can then leverage the networked information environment in ways that will help them achieve the “knowledge-ability” we hope for them.

We have had our why's, how's, and what's upside-down, focusing too much on what should be learned, then how, and often forgetting the why altogether. In a world of nearly infinite information, we must first address why, facilitate how, and let the what generate naturally from there. As infinite information shifts us away from a narrow focus on information, we begin to recognize the importance of the form of learning over the content of learning. It isn't that content is not important; it is simply that it must not take precedence over form. But even as we shift our focus to the “how” of learning, there is still the question of “what” is to be learned. After all, our courses have to be about something. Usually our courses are arranged around “subjects.” Postman and Weingartner note that the notion of “subjects” has the unwelcome effect of teaching our students that “English is not History and History is not Science and Science is not Art . . . and a subject is something you 'take' and, when you have taken it, you have 'had' it.” Always aware of the hidden metaphors underlying our most basic assumptions, they suggest calling this “the Vaccination Theory of Education” as students are led to believe that once they have “had” a subject they are immune to it and need not take it again.5

Not Subjects but Subjectivities

As an alternative, I like to think that we are not teaching subjects but subjectivities: ways of approaching, understanding, and interacting with the world. Subjectivities cannot be taught. They involve an introspective intellectual throw-down in the minds of students. Learning a new subjectivity is often painful because it almost always involves what psychologist Thomas Szasz referred to as “an injury to one's self-esteem.”6 You have to unlearn perspectives that may have become central to your sense of self.
  • To illustrate what I mean by subjectivities over subjects, I have created a list of subjectivities that I am trying to help students attain while learning the “subject” of anthropology:
  • Our worldview is not natural and unquestionable, but culturally and historically specific.
  • We are globally interconnected in ways we often do not realize.
  • Different aspects of our lives and culture are connected and affect one another deeply.
  • Our knowledge is always incomplete and open to revision.
  • We are the creators of our world.
  • Participation in the world is not a choice, only how we participate is our choice.
Even a quick scan of these subjectivities will reveal that they can only be learned, explored, and adopted through practice. We can't “teach” them. We can only create environments in which the practices and perspectives are nourished, encouraged, or inspired (and therefore continually practiced).

My own experiments in this regard led to the creation the World Simulation, now the centerpiece of my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course at Kansas State University. As the name implies, the world simulation is an activity in which we try to simulate the world. Of course, in order to simulate the world, we need to know everything we can about it. So while the course is set up much like a typical cultural anthropology course, moving through the same readings and topics, all of these learnings are ultimately focused around one big question, “How does the world work?”

Students are co-creators of every aspect of the simulation, and are asked to harness and leverage the new media environment to find information, theories, and tools we can use to answer our big question. Each student has a specific role and expertise to develop. A world map is superimposed on the class and each student is asked to become an expert on a specific aspect of the region in which they find themselves. Using this knowledge, they work in 15-20 small groups to create realistic cultures, step-by-step, as we go through each aspect of culture in class. This allows them to apply the knowledge they learn in the course and to recognize the ways different aspects of culture--economic, social, political, and religious practices and institutions--are integrated in a cultural system.

In the final weeks of the course we explore how different cultures around the world are interconnected and how they relate to one another. Students continue to harness and leverage the new media environment to learn more about these interconnections, and use the wiki to work together to create the “rules” for our simulation. They face the daunting task of creating a way to simulate colonization, revolution, the emergence of a global economy, war and diplomacy, and environmental challenges. Along the way, they are exploring some of the most important challenges now facing humanity.

The World Simulation itself only takes 75-100 minutes and moves through 650 metaphorical years, 1450-2100. It is recorded by students on twenty digital video cameras and edited into one final "world history" video using clips from real world history to illustrate the correspondences. We watch the video together in the final weeks of the class, using it as a discussion starter for contemplating our world and our role in its future. By then it seems as if we have the whole world right before our eyes in one single classroom - profound cultural differences, profound economic differences, profound challenges for the future, and one humanity. We find ourselves not just as co-creators of a simulation, but as co-creators of the world itself, and the future is up to us.

Managing a learning environment such as this poses its own unique challenges, but there is one simple technique, which makes everything else fall into place: love and respect your students and they will love and respect you back. With the underlying feeling of trust and respect this provides, students quickly realize the importance of their role as co-creators of the learning environment and they begin to take responsibility for their own education.

New Models of Assessment for New Media Environments: The Next Frontier.


All of this vexes traditional criteria for assessment and grades. This is the next frontier as we try to transform our learning environments. When I speak frankly with professors all over the world, I find that, like me, they often find themselves jury-rigging old assessment tools to serve the new needs brought into focus by a world of infinite information. Content is no longer king, but many of our tools have been habitually used to measure content recall. For example, I have often found myself writing content-based multiple-choice questions in a way that I hope will indicate that the student has mastered a new subjectivity or perspective. Of course, the results are not satisfactory. More importantly, these questions ask students to waste great amounts of mental energy memorizing content instead of exercising a new perspective in the pursuit of real and relevant questions.

Of course, multiple-choice questions are an easy target for criticism, but even more sophisticated measures of cognitive development may miss the point. When you watch somebody who is truly “in it,” somebody who has totally given themselves over to the learning process, or if you simply imagine those moments in which you were “in it” yourself, you immediately recognize that learning expands far beyond the mere cognitive dimension. Many of these dimensions were mentioned in the issue precis, “such as emotional and affective dimensions, capacities for risk-taking and uncertainty, creativity and invention,” and the list goes on. How will we assess these? I do not have the answers, but a renewed and spirited dedication to the creation of authentic learning environments that leverage the new media environment demands that we address it.

The new media environment provides new opportunities for us to create a community of learners with our students seeking important and meaningful questions. Questions of the very best kind abound, and we become students again, pursuing questions we might have never imagined, joyfully learning right along with the others. In the best case scenario the students will leave the course, not with answers, but with more questions, and even more importantly, the capacity to ask still more questions generated from their continual pursuit and practice of the subjectivities we hope to inspire. This is what I have called elsewhere, “anti-teaching,” in which the focus is not on providing answers to be memorized, but on creating a learning environment more conducive to producing the types of questions that ask students to challenge their taken-for-granted assumptions and see their own underlying biases.

The beauty of the current moment is that new media has thrown all of us as educators into just this kind of question-asking, bias-busting, assumption-exposing environment. There are no easy answers, but we can at least be thankful for the questions that drive us on.


Notes

1. Michael Wesch, "A Vision of Students Today (and what Teachers Must Do)," Encyclopedia Britannica blog, Oct. 21, 2008, http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/a-vision-of-students-today-what-teachers-must-do/
2. Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (New York: Random House, 1967). [return to text]
3. See Clay Shirky, "Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags," http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html and David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (New York: Times Books, 2007).
4. Michael Wesch, "Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance," Education Canada (Spring 2008),
http://www.cea-ace.ca/media/en/AntiTeaching_Spring08.pdf [return to text]
5. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (Delacorte Press, 1969), 21.
6. Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (Routledge, 1974), 18.

Source: http://www.academiccommons.org/

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