Kim’s Blog

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In Response to Feb. 24th Class

The guest speaker for our class on Feb. 24/09 was Stephen Downes.  I have commented on his blog in a previous entry and I was impressed with his presentation on the future of online learning.  I enjoyed listening to Stephen speak as his blog began to make more sense to me and I loved the images he used with the presentation.

Stephen spoke about ambient learning as “ending the separation of life and learning.”  This is so key in my world especially because when students can connect something we are learning about in the classroom with a previous experience, they acquire deeper meaning and understanding. I’m sure this is the case with older students as well.  I found this for myself this evening as new terms were presented.  I had to look up lolcat and RSS– as soon as I read the meanings on Wikipedia, I was able to apply my own previous knowledge and understand the meaning of these terms.

The intelligent fishing rod was an interesting metaphor which resonated with some of the students but not with all.  I liked the idea of learning without directions but learning within the process.  Stephen posed the rhetorical question “how many people actually read the directions?”  To be honest, I do skim directions but I find that I learn best by doing rather than by reading.  I once went on a school trip to France.  We were given a file to read before we got there to inform us as to what we could see, do and experience.  It meant nothing to me.  I didn’t understand or find it interesting although I was very excited about the trip.  When I returned home, I looked through the file and I was able to read it and understand it as I drew upon the experience.

Throughout this techno journey, we have discussed which skills kids really need to learn.  We have discussed the 3R’s but they’re beginning to seem passe.  Stephen posed the 3L’s – language, logic and learning.  I think I may adopt these 3L’s as the skills I need to focus on teaching.  Students need language to communicate and technology is all about communicating and making connections and networks.  How do we communicate?  – through language.  Students need to learn to read and write (good penmanship not required!).  In order to learn to read and write, students need to learn how to speak and listen.  Students need to learn how to use and apply logic to situations.  There are horror stories all over the internet about people who were not logical or critical thinkers and they were taken by scam artists.  And of course, learning.  This is all about learning.  Students learn what they find interesting and we, as educators, need to guide and open doors to show students the world so that they can discover their passions and interests.

My favorite slide in the presentation was the image of the water drops in
“Worlds Within Worlds”.  Stephen suggests modeling, demonstrating, practicing, reflecting synchronous with simulations, immersions, communities and games.  The future of online learning are the last four ideas and the first four concepts are how we now teach students.

“It’s a river, not a reservoir.”  Sometimes I feel like I am a stagnant teacher and I do the things I have done before because I think I know what works but in reality, I need to keep up with the flow and try new things to keep things from getting old and stagnant.  A few of us had a great “conversation” about the future of online learning.  I can see this happening but there is a fear of students not learning social skills as they do in traditional school settings – are they really learning social skills?  However, when students are not interacting with their peers, how can they practice social skills?  Many students have become disengaged in school and are dropping out of school at astounding rates.  Could these students become engaged in online learning?  Is online learning the answer for all students?



  jackie wrote @

I have enjoyed reading your blog today. I had a hard time following Stephen during the class, but I took some time today and googled Stephen. After reading his blog, I have a better understanding of our last class. I still worry about students and the social skills. I beleive that students still need face to face contact in order to learn the necessary social skills. (This is probably still the kindergarten teacher inside of me talking!)

  stephen king wrote @

I wonder if the social skills students are learning in school are really the social skills we want them to have. Along with positive social skills we should not forget there are many negative social skills learned in schools.

Peer pressure is intense and many teens are lead to a series of negative “firsts’ by their school peer group including smoking, drinking, and drugging. I have found a social network online with wonderful values around sharing and helping/ Not such a bad world when viewed that way.

I realize there are two sides of the coin in the cyberworld too! There are negatives there as well. I think the point is face to face interactions are not always positive. The social environment in High Schools (I’ve worked in one for 23 years) is not just a positive environment. Some students are bullied into quitting and some even go so far as to commit suicide as we have learned through the media. Perhaps we need to be looking at a blended system where students take some classes in an online environment and others in a face to face situation.

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