Visions of green, visions of greetings, visions of home.
Yet it is not home where I find myself nor greeted by.
Values of learning, values of progress. Thirst for knowledge and thirst of knowing.
Like my beautiful deserts which have adopted me, I am surrounded by drought, lack of lush green, lack of development. Instead I face lack of basic amenities, lack of connecting. I face lack. Not of visions, nor values.
I am currently teaching an online course which I designed for a developing country. The contrast of my participants’ enthusiasm, curiosity, thirst for knowledge, is striking when one thinks of all the digital technology and facilities one takes for granted in other parts of the world. Not only do I have 24 hours of electricity, but for over 20 years have been connected and participated on the grid. My current students too are connected, but their online time is determined by the hours of electricity they are given in their regions; Wikipedia is a novelty for some, while Google is only search engine they are aware of. Their learning curve is sharp and steep. Their learning curve is a leap into the present and future.
I sit quietly, thoughts of learning, of online learning and distance education revolving in a dance. The changes I have seen and experienced in education have been constant, but never as urgent and on a global scale, as today. Information technology has brought about changes in all spheres of life, and indications predict even more to come with the advent of Web 3.0. As Oblinger (2012) well notes,
“Information technology has brought about much of the economic growth of the past century, accelerating globalization and fostering democracy. Such broad impacts would be impossible if “information technology” were only a set of technologies. As our use of mobile devices, games, and social networks illustrates, information technology can create new experiences. But more important, information technology enables new models. It can disaggregate and decouple products and processes, allowing the creation of new value propositions, value chains, and enterprises. These new models can help higher education serve new groups of students, in greater numbers, and with better learning outcomes.
As important as information technology might be, technology does not have impact in isolation—it operates as one element in a complex adaptive system. For example, in order for information technology to be a game changer, it requires that we consider learners as well as the experience that the student, faculty, institution, and technology co-create. The system is defined, in part, by faculty workload, courses, credentialing, financial models, and more. To realize changes through information technology, higher education must focus on more than technology.”
Digital technology would not be as powerful if not shared, if connections did not happen, if learning corridors were not open.
What strikes me most in my current online course, is the urgency to learn, the urgency to connect, the flexibility and learning capacity individuals have, when given the opportunity. Yes, my course was designed with a degree of difficulty for I had no idea who students would be. Designing a course in the dark is a challenge. Yes, I gave and re-check instructions, clearly and with examples. Yes, I am present to guide and provide feedback. Yet, what would any course be if participants themselves did not collaborate, did not investigate together?
Kang (2007) also explains how
“We learn from out interaction with other people, events and occurrences around us. Knowledge and meaning are always produced with a context. (…)
Learning is an ideological and cultural practice under the influence of socioculturally established norms. Therefore, the context is not a simple backdrop against which the learner is stituated. Rather, it is something shaping the learner and shaped by the learner simultaneously.”
Within this perspective, the credit of any course, and this one in particular, is not mine. It belongs to the participants, who with their thirst to become 21st century citizens, they are aware of the role of being netizens as well.
For all those who are digitally literate, for those who blog, who design online courses, and so much more, this leap into a present future may not appear significant. Deja vu almost.
However, from what I have experienced and seen in countries such as the UK, where at one university where I taught, for example, there was no wifi, my classroom had no projector nor desktop for the teacher, one needs to bear in mind the many changes and challenges that are occurring in economically developing countries. The argument of deja vu falls through for digital lack (whether that be in hardware or teacher interest, for instance) is found both east and west, north and south. Digital progress, digital learning is happening right now in far flung places of the globe, where learners struggle with lack of electricity and even possessing their own digital hardware (e.g. desktop, laptop, iPad). They depend on desktops at institutions, they look forward to courses which they can access on their mobiles.
This is today. This is the present. Tomorrow?
If educators don’t prepare learners for today, what hope will there be for our tomorrows?
Kang, D.J., 2007, Rhizoactivity: Toward a Postmodern Theory of Lifelong Learning
Oblinger, D.G, 2012, IT as a Game Changer