Kim’s Blog

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In Response to Stephen Downes

I started reading Stephen Downes’ blog a few weeks ago.  Some of it was hard to get through because he seems to know what he’s talking about; some of his concepts and references are beyond my current knowledge and understanding of technology.  I tried to read through it all until I realized through my technology journey that we are all on information overload and the trick is to sift through to find the gems.  Here is a gem I found: “To learn is not to acquire or to accumulate, but rather, to develop or to grow.”

Our society is determined to accumulate things.  The more things one has, the more successful one has become.  As a teacher, I feel like it is my duty to provide my students with skills and knowledge.  The better I prepare my students with things (skills, knowledge, etc.) the better teacher I am perceived to be.  And yet, it is more important for me as a teacher, to allow my students to learn, experience and grow from experiences rather than acquire knowledge they may never use again.  It is my duty to guide my students to discover who they are, what they feel passionate about and how to achieve their goals in life.  In some way, I think I attempt to provide these experiences but I have never thought about teaching, knowledge or learning in this way.

I completely agree with Stephen when he writes that “people want to use tools that look and feel like tools they’ve always used”.  Technology is moving so quickly that it takes time to learn new tools, then master new tools, only to realize that the new tools will be replaced with newer tools.  This can become frustrating when time is an issue.  However, it emphasises the need to teach our children to develop critical and creative thinking skills so that as they grow and learn, they are able to adapt to the changes in technology.

I think that when Stephen described the Smart Board ten years ago, it was unfathomable to some.  I still remember the first video game my sister and I played.  Now my own children play with their DS and Wii games.  I didn’t understand these games until we played them and I was amazed!  I am interested in Stephen’s ideas of classrooms of the future and the role of teachers in the future.  Many students today excel in informal learning.  Many students can walk up to a Smart Board and manipulate it quickly whereas teachers require days of training and hours of practice.  Students can text messages at incredible speed.  These examples of informal learning go unrecognized.  Stephen suggests a major paradigm shift – personal learning environments.  One such environment is the Quest Model which reminds me of earning Girl Guide badges.  The learning record appears to be a type of portfolio.  Student work would still be evaluated and recognized at the student’s pace and interest.  People would earn reputations online within social and professional communities.  People would be evaluated by their peers rather than a teacher or instructor.  I love the shift from the ‘unit of hour’ to the ‘unit of Knol’ – Knol refers to a unit of knowledge.  Another huge shift is from teachers delivering knowledge to students.  The role of the teacher will be to provide students with tools and to create an open community of communication between students, teachers and the community. 

Yes, these shifts in learning are exciting.  Yes, these shifts in learning scare me.  Will I be a teacher in ten years?  Will my services as teacher be required?  If not, why am I pursuing a Masters in Education?  I see great benefits to many of the paradigm shifts discussed and yet I still see the need for traditional schools as meeting places.  Many students come to school lacking social skills.  Social skills are not inate in all children, nor have social skills been taught or encouraged from home.  School is a place where students learn how to deal with a number of different people they may have never been exposed to.  When I envision a future of students learning in cyber space, I see some children getting lost.  I feel a tension because I have taught children who do not push themselves and yet, maybe if they were given the opportunity to pursue passions, they may excel in the world of units of ‘knol’.  However, when students follow passions, they miss opportunities to learn about other aspects of the world.  It is also my duty to provide my students with a wide array of experiences they may have not been exposed to on their own.

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3 Comments»

  stephen king wrote @

I knew the name was familiar. I also started reading his blog, but gave up on the screen. It is long so I printed it (80 pages), but looks rich with ideas. I want to read it all before I react.

As far as your question, will your services as a teacher be required in 10 years? I do not consider that a fear. Teachers will never be obsolete. Just look at us in EC&I 831 – we need teachers! There wil be a future in education as long as there are people; what we teach and what we teach with may change, but we will teach!

  Patricia wrote @

Just a personal observation…

I turn 55 this month, and my thoughts do turn to retirement possibilities. When I read blogs such as what you have written I still get tingly which means what I am doing is still exciting. I may have lost some resiliency (teaching is incredibly demanding) but I can still feel enthusiastic when I read posts such as yours. Keep on writing Kimmi! I’m not tired of having my grey matter twitterpated. 😛

  Stephen Downes wrote @

It is interesting to see how someone receives and interprets my ideas. You are exactly right when you say that the way to read my blog post is to scan through them and to pick out the gems. I never expect anyone to read everything; people have their own perspective and will find value in different things.


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