Recently I grabbed a Sept/Oct 2011 issue of Connected World magazine as they had an interesting main article by Bethanie Hestermann on “Learning in the age of devices – Cool Tools for School“.
I still often feel that the discussion with e-learning and using information and communications technology (also social media) in education hasn’t been taken to the next level and it’s still mostly on how great it is that we have some devices to play with. Not too many reflect what this really asks from us, from the whole education system (from the management, leaders, teachers, pedagogy, everything). The shift isn’t just technological, even more, it is about us as humans and how we could learn the best in the changing world.
I was glad to read that, although a magazine writing more about technological things, CW mostly addressed this topic very nicely. They wrote about how the role of the teacher should be turned more into a facilitator, how new [worldwide] learning communities are emerging and how learning is changing more and more ubiquitous, i.e. the classroom isn’t the king anymore.
Although, I have a couple of things to add. Even if we are giving individual devices (for example PDAs or smart phones) to the students to use in the classes, we also have to change the pedagogy, how we teach. The devices are alone just devices. Like books are just books.
The new paradigm of Networked Society asks for systemic thinking and creativity, not just the ability to answer right to teacher’s right or wrong questions. So to introduce new devices and to use them merely as polling devices for teacher’s questions to see who knows the correct answer and who doesn’t, isn’t anything new, creative nor too effective.
Using devices with social media applications for collaborative knowledge construction and facilitated learning experience are one of the most important goals we should begin to explore more deeply. Like stated in the CW’s article, facilitation is very important in this kind of pedagogy, but few know what real facilitation really takes. To facilitate is to help the learner to learn more efficiently and to construct his/her understanding in a deeper level.
Facilitation doesn’t mean we give answers to students, like some teachers thinking with traditional way of teaching do, but we help them to build the understanding on the topic and ease their way towards their goals. Deep learning doesn’t happen with just reading a book about a topic and answering some right/wrong answers. It happens with getting to know the topic from different angles, reflecting it with other people (face-to-face or online) and applying it to something or building something totally new from it.
We have long known that people don’t learn by just remembering. Just think about your own best learning experiences. That’s why we need to bring what people think is learning to a whole new level.
So if the topic about the future of learning interests you, pic up the issue on your favorite device (although I have to confess, I read it in paper ;)).