Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Questionable

Reflecting on reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology chapters 7 through 10, I will focus on ideas and concepts that I thought were either good, bad, or questionable.

The Good

Recognizing that "lifelong learning requires moving away from highly structured schooling institutions... [since] learners will need to develop the skills to judge the quality of learning venues and the kinds of social networks that provide guidance and advice" (130) is an imperative. It should be a school's / teacher's job to foster the intellectual curiosity we were all born with, rather than snuff it out with busy work and topics that are not relatable or uninteresting to each student. Student choice is a necessity. One idea proposed by Collins and Halverson that I found quite interesting was the apprenticeship / credential model. When I was in high school, it seemed like the only option presented by teachers, counselors, and administration was college, despite the fact that many students would be better served with other options. The inability to even present vocational schools or apprenticeships as an equally worthy choice only makes those students more uninterested and unwilling to learn, which in turn creates a flawed learning environment. Students will focus on what interests them, all while learning basic literacies needed to communicate and think, as well as going to a job and creating their own identity. Why keep students in the class if they feel they have no reason to be there?

The Bad

As much as I love video games, I have to disagree vehemently with Collins and Halverson regarding their benefits. Yes, there are several games out there that truly challenge and engender one's critical thinking skills and creativity. Unfortunately, these games are few and far between; just like any other medium, be it books, movies, television shows, music, etc., there is a glut of garbage out there. To quote:

For example, the people who play massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), such as World of Warcraft and Lineage, use basic literacy practices to develop a whole range of other applied literacy skills, such as negotiating, bargaining, forming alliances, strategizing and outwitting opponents, calculating which approach is most likely to work, and communicating with different kinds of people. These applied literacy skills occur naturally in MMOGs but are difficult to maintain in traditional school environments. Yet, because we think of literacy skill development as being directly tied to traditional school content, most people regard gamers as wasting their time playing these multiplayer games (134).

This would be the surface-level truth to two men who have little to no idea what comprises gaming culture. There are those who fully maximize the social potential within games like WoW, but they are very, very few. The devotion and amount of time needed for this endeavor is staggering. I talked with a friend who played WoW for several years and quit playing within the last year. To sum up his thoughts: WoW is strictly seen as entertainment. "There are some skills to be gained, but ultimately it is a time sink." A lot of the game is essentially monotonous busy work. You do communicate and strategize, but it is not always productive, and with most people keeping anonymity through avatars, online civility is often nonexistent. Furthermore, as these games become more popular, the objectives become watered down so these companies can sell more copies of the game.

Also, Leeroy Jenkins isn't exactly the ne plus ultra of collaboration (language NSFW):

The Questionable

The authors note that "for the first time in history, children are more comfortable, knowledgeable, and literate than their parents about an innovation central to society ... they are a force for transformation" (122). This is only partly true. There are adults who are well-versed and literate and can further enrich children. Yet Collins and Halverson argue that "the virtue of communities of kids with shared passions is that they can take place without any involvement of schools and with little adult involvement" (124). Adults, especially those who know how to operate certain technologies, can provide wisdom and help steer children away from making mistakes, not to mention the obvious (that parental and adult involvement can keep children safe from those who may be interacting with them). Rather than disregard parents and adults in the learning process, they are just as integral, and can encourage their kids / students while monitoring and assessing their progress.

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