Monday, November 3, 2008

A culture of cooperation or competition?

The Internet applications and skills we teach as part of Computer Literacy 3 often center on collaboration and common interests, but we will fail without a compatible culture and reward system.

Our traditional students may be accustomed to a culture of competition. This point was made in a New York Times article Combat to College, which describes the experience of GI Bill veterans returning to school after serving in Iraq.

These students are different from mainstream students in many ways, but one that caught my eye had to do with their culture of cooperation, which was summed up by John Schupp, a chemistry professor at Cleveland State University, who sees camaraderie in the classroom as crucial to getting the veterans to show up, to stay and to thrive.

“They tell me over and over they wouldn’t have come to college otherwise,” he says. “In the military world it’s the team. The squadron must survive. When you come to school it’s all personal — my books, my grade, my stuff, my notes. They’re isolated, because other students haven’t seen what they’ve seen.”

We discuss willingness to cooperate in my classes, but instilling a cooperative culture among today's students can be difficult.

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