7:37 PMonline school
#This Is What Today s Online Learning Content Tells Us About The Future Of School
Today’s children are extremely savvy. They’ve grown up in a world where information was always just a button away. Buttons? Soon, they won’t even need buttons. With Windows 10, they’ll simply say, “hey Cortana.” She’s more like the world’s greatest librarian than a personal assistant. She delivers content on command. In the future, after children have mastered reading, writing, and arithmetic, will more formal schooling still be necessary?
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
I watch the way my own children (boys 7 and 10 years old) learn to play video games. They use Google to search for tips and tricks. They watch seemingly endless YouTube tutorials. Even when they’re trying to do something more complex, such as building their own Minecraft Server on a Raspberry Pi, I barely help. I tell them to search the web by themselves. If one blog’s instructions fail and they whine with frustration, I encourage them to start from scratch and try a new source. “Computers can be irritating,” I explain, “lots more failures than successes. But when it works, you’ll be happy.” Sometimes they give up. Other times they persevere. Each time they are learning not only about the task at hand, but also about the nature of self-directed learning.
Because of the unprecedented access we now have to information, some folks think that online self-directed learning will soon replace traditional education as we know it. They imagine that open, web-based solutions like Khan Academy, Lynda, EdX, and Coursera—perhaps paired with a system of certifications—can address most of society’s education needs. Professors, in a world where information is ubiquitous, could become more like curators than instructors.
The argument goes something like this: nowadays the classroom is often filled with mediocre instructors who offer middling lessons on really important subject matter. Why not leverage the internet’s ability to deliver content created by exceptional teachers as widely as possible? Why not help these superstar teachers develop interactive lessons that can be accessible to any student anywhere? According to the mainstream edtech narrative, average classroom teachers should no longer be creating content or delivering lectures themselves, instead they should be curating, assessing and supporting their students’ exploration of first rate academic content fetched from humanity’s vast digital library. “Hey Cortana, I wanna learn about the Greek god Hermes.”
I cannot deny that there is a little bit of validity to this vision of the future. Without a doubt, teachers at all levels of education need to get better at curating. Not only for job security, but also for pedagogical efficacy. In schools and universities all over the world, I’ve seen teachers deliver long boring lectures and PowerPoint presentations that cover basic background knowledge—biographical info about an author, historical context, etc. A quick web search almost always provides more vibrant and dynamic content on the same material. Ask any college professor and I bet you’ll discover most of them utilize web searches while building their lesson plans. Rather than regurgitating and paraphrasing this online material for their students, perhaps they should be curating! Drive students to a particular set of web resources like video lectures and scholarly articles. Then teach them how to make sense of the information they discover.
Or better yet, make it project based learning. Send students on web scavenger hunts. Build digital quizzes that are not meant to assess students, but rather to guide them as they find the information on their own. Curate active searches rather than passive instances of consumption. I like online open-book/open-web quizzes that students can take as many times as they like, but must get 100% to move on. It is a video game thing—like a series of maneuvers one needs to master before leveling-up. Assign these background and context quizzes as homework. Save classroom time for teaching the things that aren’t Google-able.
Of course, the ultimate 21 st Century skill that’s not Google-able is learning how, what, and why to Google—which is really just a pithy way of saying that no matter how ubiquitous learning content becomes, searching does not equal learning. Teachers still need to teach students the thinking skills that make for quality self-directed learning.
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