This post is a personal reflection on the way that learning seems to have changed since I was a child, and focuses on the impact that Web 2.0 has had on the way I learn.
Schooling, Old Style
As a child, my school experiences were typical of the time. I see today’s children also having those same experiences. As a teacher, I have unconciously carried some of those childhood learning experiences into my practice today. Upon reflection, I think that most of them are still valid.
Having said that, while those practices may have sufficient by themselves some decades ago, I believe that modern teaching practice must take into account the new ways that learners can access knowledge. Failure to do so is to handicap today’s learners.
The Days of Books
Part of my learning included how to access information. Those of us of a certain vintage may well remember the importance of the Dewey Decimal system as a meaning of locating learning resources. To any librarian, that system must still be an invaluable tool.
The Oxford English Dictionary is available in hardback, all 20 volumes of it, for a mere $995 (US). It is also over a decade old. The Encyclopædia Britannica can be had in 32 volumes for around $2,000 (US), and it is next year’s edition.
The Development of Access to Information
Search engines have saved me a lot of time and effort. It means that I have learned about, and used, things of which I would otherwise have remained ignorant. This is access to information prepared by others in anticipation of questions being asked by people like me.
Personal Learning Networks (PLN) have vastly extended the number of people of whom I can ask questions. Before things like Twitter took off, I was reliant on asking questions of people whom I had met in person. Now, when I ask a question, I can receive answers responding directly and immediately to my question, and this from hundreds of people. No author has had to anticipate my question, and the people who respond inevitably add their own touches of personality to the answers.
Like all new technologies, there are dangers as well as benefits. One of the chief dangers in this context is misinformation. I have seen answers that are so far away from what is accepted by specialists in their field that those answers are potentially lethal to anybody who acts on them. In this case, the resource can be used as its own antidote: by doing a reasonably thorough investigation, it is possible to identify information that is well researched and has a good foundation in academia.
Impact on Teaching and Learning
I expect that there are already some forward-thinking schools and colleges that are already taking full advantage of these relatively new ways of accessing information. From my own perspective, I have not seen institutions around here that do so, nor have I seen anything that suggests this as a mainstream approach to learning in any of the curriculum documents that I have seen in this country.
I know that there are some dedicated individuals individuals world-wide (and in this country as well) who recognise the value of learning by these methods, yet their efforts are being resisted by backward thinking educational and political systems. We need to get this message out to the wider community, and reach the point where all parents demand this as a right for their children.