Dichotomies of our Times

As educators, administrators and all those with a stake in education ponder, reflect, consider and urge a change in educational frameworks, there are other social changes happening as well. Never have human beings had so much open contact with others throughout the world on a 24/7 basis, yet at the same time, they are increasingly isolated in their urban environments.

Nevertheless, there are connections. Whether one considers those connections to be of a  general universe of consciousness which is more readily accessible because of the web, and hence, individuals end up reading the same references from such distances as Russia and South America; or whether there is indeed a universal consciousness which, at moments of shifts in paradigms raises its voice through nodes across the world, one today may transcend physical isolations through the web, learning with others, joining their voice and ideas to others.

George Siemens points out 7 trends in education:

  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

Stephen Downes explains how  “The core technology of web 2.0 is social software. We are most familiar with social software through brand names like Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, and most recently, Google+. But if we think for a moment about what social software is, it is essentially the migration of some of your personal data – like your mailing list – to a content management system on the web. These systems then leverage that data to create networks”

Networks for learning, networks for communities of practice. Among less academically gifted students, these networks are also relevant. On the one hand, they need to be reminded that learning is a life-going process, not one that ends at the institution’s gate nor when one completes a semester. For educators, both of the above are equally relevant, for it is in the classroom that learners experience formal learning.

How does this relate to digital storytelling? Stories too are like nodes within a network. If one dares to perceive  the classroom as a small network of individuals, each one who is connected to an outside world, both physically and digitally, immediately a network of nodes appears before ones eyes. As students write and publish their stories, they are sharing and contributing to the general paradigm shift that education finds itself in at the moment. They are in some way – however small it may appear – participating in a connected world and connected learning by publishing their stories, their connections on the network.

Digital storytelling may take different formats – from movies, to slideshows, from cartoons to timelines where learners adapt their stories to the tool or platform they are using to express themselves and what is relevant to their learning. Learners today may still have notions of the teacher centred classroom, where there is lack of learner autonomy and creativity,  but that too  changes  once they realize how empowered they may become when mastering digital tools to express themselves.

Dichotomies have always existed. In the age of Connectivism, my questions remains: why aren’t more classrooms connected? Why isn’t the curriculum adapted to include digital learning – not only the use of Powerpoint or a bit of typing with  Word – but the use of ICT  and digital media?

I don’t know how much of our brains are being “re-wired”. I do know that my reading habits have changed dramatically with the use of the internet. My notions of aesthetics have been strongly influenced by digital flexibility and the openness of endless possibilities. Fragmentation has also become a way of life for me. At this point in time, I do agree with George Siemens on how  the potential for learning through the use of digital media will certainly have effects on learning expectations and, in turn on learning outcomes.

When will the curriculum be ready to embrace these changes as well?

References:

Alone Together – Sherry Turkle

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age – George Siemens

E-Learning Generations – Stephen Downes

S is for Stephen - Stephen Downes explains how Connectivism relates to the classroom and more

Everything is a Remix