Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning How To Learn

There was one particular excerpt from the reading within Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology that resonated strongly. Collins and Halverson describe how learning how to learn and learning how to find useful resources as arguably the most important skills we must teach our students, allowing us to focus "more on generic skills, such as problem solving and communication in different media, on interpersonal skills in order to interact with people from different backgrounds, and on learning to find information and resources and to learn from them" (95). This, in many ways, is a return to apprenticeship, labeled as the first era of American education. Rather than continue the mass-production pedagogy of the second era, "the pedagogy of the lifelong-learning era is evolving towards reliance on interaction" (97). There are students of all ages, but most are confined and grouped based upon where he/she is with the respective content. In my (albeit exceeding limited) experience within the classroom, group work is where students find most success in learning content. There is less pressure, and students tend to be less judgmental than teachers (unfortunately) when helping their fellow struggling students. Within this new learning standard, the teacher can serve as an overarching "master" of the content's direction, answer questions, and provide potential sources and avenues for further instruction / information.

Unfortunately, there is one major caveat to this style of learning outlined within the chapter, and Collins and Halverson try to underplay its significance. The two mention how revolutionary this way of teaching and learning is / may be / will be, yet admit that "the downside is that learners working in such environments may become more isolated from social interaction with other people" (98). This is a substantial concern. Schools are not merely outlets for content and disciplinary knowledge, but an area where people learn social etiquette and mores. Collins and Halverson previously stated how the SCANS report argued for a student's skill set to be equipped with "basic skills, thinking skills, and interpersonal qualities, such as responsibility and integrity" [emphasis mine] (96). There is something to be said for technology within education; in fact, there could be classes based on Internet civility, something that is certainly lacking when reading the comments on a YouTube video or a newspaper article.

While we may be connected to the Internet at all times, the vast majority of our daily lives are spent interacting with people in one form or another. The outlets of education are changing, but teachers are not replaceable. As mentioned near the end of the chapter, "computer systems have limited understanding of students as individuals and do not provide the warmth and support of a good human teacher" (103). Good teachers show themselves to students as good role models. I don't want to simply dismiss the value of incorporating technology within the lifelong-learning mode; I have been extremely fortunate and learned a ton of new things through the Internet. However, there needs to be a more balanced line of thought. Collins and Halverson seem far too optimistic about how soon this lifelong-learning model will reach its apotheosis. To me, it seems like its decades away, for far too many reasons, whether it's a matter of the infrastructure being suitable and equitable or various bureaucracies and governments being afraid to adapt / change. It is still something to work towards.

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