Sunday, January 30, 2011

Education in a Connected World

In our last class’ presentation, Dr. Glen Gatin ‘s "Education in a Connected World" many interesting ideas were brought up.  We discussed the following terms:
1)  Constructivism - building on what we already know with new knowledge to construct our new reality.  Scaffolding is the role of the teacher in this model.  Our goal here is to foster independent learning.
2)  Constructionism - learning occurs when you actually make something.  This can be as simple as writing notes, as long as the act has meaning and anchors the learning. Our blog posts are, therefore, artifacts of our learning.
3)  Connectivism - the learning doesn’t just happen in the constructions you make, but also in the connections you make: twitter, PLNs, etc.  You can get an answer from your network.
Connectivism is the idea I thought was really interesting, because today we have so much information available to us that it can become white noise.  It is also hard to know what sources you can trust.  And you know that if we are having difficulty with this then our students will be even more overwhelmed.  Then there is the issue of how that connectedness is a double edge sword and how we need to protect students and teach our students how to protect themselves from the dangers that exist from us all being so easily accessible online today.  
With that in mind the two most relevant skills of the moment are filtering (finding and evaluating online information) and figuring out how to connect to the right people.  Today information’s quality ranks somewhere behind how fast it is put out and how easily it is found.  Rumours get reported with no thought to their truthfulness, and once something is out there and people have consumed it, it takes on a life of its own.  
What we can do as teachers is gently lead them into the murky waters of the Internet and through scaffolding and modeling teacher critical skills and online etiquette.  Some ways we can do this is small online groups for the class where assignments can be posted and uploaded, as well as discussion boards to continue learning outside the class.  Another thing I picked up from the presentation was ‘asynchronous classes’ which are classes that happen at different times(not occurring at the same time).  His class happens online through wikis because many of the students live far out of town and cannot make it into a classroom regularly.  So there is no physical classroom, just the online classroom he and his students have created.  This would not work in a grade school setting, but elements of this could really enhance student learning if the boundaries of the classroom where extended in a similar way for the students.  In this way, students could follow their interests and share what they learn with the class in a way that is both novel for the students and easy for the teacher, especially since it wouldn’t take up any class time.
I also liked the analogy that the Internet is a fire hose, spraying information.  There is good, bad, and dangerous information coming out of it and it is our responsibility as teachers to pass on tools and skills so our students can navigate the Internet.  Glen mentioned that too much of what is put out today is, as he called it, FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  These are the marketing tools for everything from underarm deodorant to political candidates.   We don’t want our students to be led by those that produce fear, but rather to become thinking students with a critical eye.  

1 comment:

  1. Definitely agree with you Aaron, teachers should start looking at how to teach students to filter through all the info on the internet. FUD is certainly a problem, and has always existed in the media. The internet just makes it so much easier to propagate! Hopefully if we teach our students enough we will have equipped them to make wise choices when using social media.