Resistance and the Re-Imagining of Knowledge

With distance I regard my educational expectations, hopes and whims. I look out the window of my regular comfort and into the lives of the disenfranchised, the disconnected, the illiterate and wonder what  knowledge is today, what would  knowledge be for these who dig up roads and what is knowledge for those in clean connected classroom.

There have always been gaps of knowledge between the haves and have-nots. Today is no different, despite the hope that is pinned on the Web of Open Access and Open Education.

I think of my own students and how their profiles have changed over the years. I tell myself to accept these changes in their attitudes towards educators, towards their studies. If, as an educator I have always encouraged change, if, as an educator I have always supported creative ways of learning, then why do I find it uncomfortable (at times) to accept that students’ profiles have changed? Society has changed. Social norms, social rythyms have been altered by digital technology. The world of education has opened its door to a broader background of students. Their diversity brings creativity but also frictions to classrooms.

Challenge: how does one  guide those frictions into constructive learning?

When considering knowledge today, it is necessary to bear in mind the changes brought about by Open Access. Increasingly there are more open journals, more academics who blog, sharing resources and reflective considerations on their teaching context. Knowledge production has changed, just as students and social environments.

Challenge: how does one make sense of all this open knowledge?

Again I think of my students, of the changes I impose on them in regard to learning with digital devices. As I scrutinize their faces, I am aware of their resistance to digital learning – at times. In this paradox of learning, where students are happy to bring an iPad to classes yet refuse to become autonomous learners, I ask questions and know that I am not the only educator to face this.

Pearce (2013) explains:

“Students are actually quite conservative in their use of open educational resources (OERs),” she said. “The students in our sample were clear that while many made use of them in their own learning, they were much more likely to do so when it was part of their course and it had been suggested to them by their lecturer.

“Where lecturers do not value OERs and do not signal that the use of OERs will help in their learning, and in particular where students are not offered technical support in their use of them, they absolutely won’t use them.”

She added: “I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”

If educators are to actually instigate, inspire and hopefully encourage learning, then one must take students’ approaches to learning more in account. Despite the benefits that educational technology may bring to learning, it is non-productive without students taking on board those same values.

What strikes me most in this excerpt above, is 53% of students who wished their teachers used more F2F interaction. This holds true in 1:1 classrooms – no matter how much creativity and autonomy iPadology may bring into lessons, students still expect educators to explain, to hold their attention at the front of the classroom.

Challenge : how does one make students understand that the requirements of jobs have changed today? How will demands of more collaboration, more creativity in job posts become relevant to the young, when they live the now, the moment and post-pone a future of accountability?

I look out towards the hazy sky filled with fumes, dust, incense. Distance from my regular social environment raises questions.

If , as an educator, I adapt to local circumstances, may I talk about adaptive learning?

An adaptive learning approach in classrooms which allows me to deal with student resistance, the re-imagining of knowledge and a more flexible path to educational change?

How do you deal with student resistance?

How do you make sense of the re-imagining of knowledge?


Five Ways Students use Technology in the Classroom

Parr, C., 2013, Students Will Defend Need for Traditional Learning


13 thoughts on “Resistance and the Re-Imagining of Knowledge

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  8. Well, the students want for Face to Face, and less jargon, and less posturing, because dammmit! >>> That’s what they are paying for! If they wanted to look up their own urls and watch videos, they would have stayed home for that! They do not mind technology. They do mind abdication of duty, action, responsibility, accountability! Sadly, there is a human component to learning. But NOT to teaching.

      • There is lack of enough accountability, all over education. Digital or not. The only place where there is real accountability, is in courses like “The Medical Fieldf”, Insurance, Real Estate, HVAC, or similar areas. That is because a “license” results (from the program), and there are civil and other authorities that control those. And even there, there has been examples of “gaming”. (I nearly became involved in one a few years ago.)

        What I am saying is that students (mature or young) and their parents (and others people), expect that there will be some constant face to face work. But… when you give the student (young or older) a bunch of URLS and a ebook, and send them off to do what they can, in a “study group”…. Well, what learning is there? The learning is only as good as the student group you are in, and as usual , some 25% of the people will do 75% of the work! (or worse!) And the dropout rates are significantly higher: The less human contact, the higher the drop out rate. Not always, but all too often.

        Meanwhile the teachers, instructors, and profs are off, doing their thing: “Self Branding”, studying in a MOOC (What, have they no education already?), blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, making videos, surfing the net, running a small business or two (from the school!), etc. But teaching?

        So the students say, “Hey, wait, I am a human being! But I am being taught and graded/assessed, by a machine! The teacher, instructor, prof, is not there [enough]. What did I pay for?” They, especially if they are young, need some leadership, and good human interaction. You see, the students are the clients or customers … so their desires do have at least a small amount of weight! (I am not saying they are always right. That assumption would be very invalid.) Students learning from students? The blind leading the blind?

        Some examples: If I hire a man to paint my kitchen, a man shows up and does the work, and is paid. If I hire a mechanic to fix my car, a man my use a machine to help with the diagnosis, because of the way cars are built today, but the man will do the work. If I hire a professional, say a lawyer, well he does the work. An accountant may use a computer, but he still checks things over, and signs his name. If there are errors, he is responsible. So why are so many educators “out of the loop”?

        But where is humanity/accountability/etc. in education, today? I am sure you are aware that there have been some notable failures, scandals, etc in the past few years. And these were because the people in charge the administrators (Yes, they share a good chunk of blame, too!), teachers, instructors, and profs… were not paying enough attention. In a number of cases the mis-use of technology was involved. So now you know why students, parents, tax-payers, and business is worried. (I will not bother commenting on politicians. There is too much silliness, there.)

        And sadly, I do not think we can expect the politicians to save things. Nor will some expert descend from the mountain with all the answers . (Oh they have a herd of theories and ideas, but educational theories do not have the foundations of say, evolution, or some other science.)

        No, this is going to be a hard one, but if there is to be a “fixing” of things, the educators will have to help “bootstrap” their own repairs. And they will need allies. So they have better start getting some allies now: Students (both in the process and graduates), Parents, Taxpayers, Citizens, Business, etc…. Dear Educators: We outnumber you. You need us. Drop the jargon, the posturing, and so forth. Stop telling us we are the problem, we are useless, we are ignorant, we are stupid, we do not understand, etc. That will not get you our help. And throwing money at the issues, well, we have run out of that stuff.

        I am not saying things are 100% bad everywhere, and there is no way to fix it. But I am saying that “the natives are very restless”. The sad part is that many students (at all ages) hate the schools, curriculum, teachers, tests, exams, assessments, projects, homework, procedures, administrators, etc. And that news has gone out into the community. And so we “outsiders” know.

        But when many teachers whine, bitch, complain, and hate this, that and the other thing…. WOW! You hate what/how/where/when you teach? You hate your job? You hate your work? You hate your school? The process and procedures? Your union? The administrators? The bloody buildings, even? And the students? GADS! “Mission control… We have a problem.” And that news has also gone out into the community. And so again, we “outsiders” know. And we are concerned.

        I myself, for example, used to favour public schools for education. I now think home schooling is a very viable alternative. And I do think that private enterprise can to some significant work. And I look around, and see that I am not alone. I see friends and family feeling the same. Heck, I see people who are former teachers listening to my arguments, and saying: “You may have a point.”

        But I feel like a canary in a coal mine. (Though I am not the only canary – small comfort!) And that is not a comfortable feeling. I do not think “Apres moi le deluge.” But I see a revolution coming. It may not be the one you might be expecting. And when I comment on this in various places, I am not thrilled, many times with the response.

        No complaints here, of course, but a question was asked. And I answered it, the best I could. You may have more answers than I do!

  9. I feel some of my students prefer lectures and F2F because that is what they think learning is supposed to look like. They dislike being asked to think, or even imagine the question. You can’t blame them. They have been spoon fed their entire educational careers. Your point about a broadening diversity bringing creativity and challenges certainly hits home to me. But then I ask what exactly is it that they are learning? The hidden curriculum, and the things they learn in spite of the course’s intentions are often much more profound and powerful than any lesson plan. More and more I don’t teach– I get out of the way. I feel it is the learning environment that is critical. In a chair, at a desk, in an institution presupposes the message. Grading is degrading and I believe more and more that if you have to test you haven’t taught. yes, I get push back on that. “well, surely with something like math”, I am told. But really, the proof is the pudding, not the correct answer. So I look for ways to enhance the creative cycle. If there is a disconnect in class it’s because part of that ecosystem is missing: imagine, research, do, reflect, try again. Or I start with action, much more serendipitous.

  10. Hi Jan,

    Thank you for sharing your reflections and concerns – which closely echo mine. You raise a vital issue that is often ignored -students WILL learn despite all testing (which I do not find particularly inviting to deep learning). It is the HOW they want to learn that educators need to grasp.

    True, educators are increasingly treated like drones and expected to direct more drone like lessons which follow a pre-set imaginary assumption of learning. Clean cut and sterile, for learning is a messy affair.

    Spoon-feeding will neither satisfy nor prepare students for their futures which hasn’t even yet been invented; these are the times we live in. A reality often unspoken is how a certain generation has grown up pampered, not knowing the meaning of “No”, “wait your turn” and other social norms which were expected in the past. Educators increasingly are obliged to deal with this as well.

    Nevertheless, students learn. By cramming on the eve of the exam or outside the classroom, they do – like they always have. However, it will be those who have more self motivation, less fear and more appetite of success, who will be better prepared for the future.

    Perhaps it has always been this way.

    Perhaps not so glaringly obvious.

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