Thinking Differently, Doing Differently

Watching these videos reminded me of the profound disconnect between students’ behaviors and the typical classroom.  Students ingest thousands of bits of data in a given day at lightening speed, are hit by conflicting narratives of reality on social media, online, and on TV, and yet the educational system is woefully backwards.  Most colleges have ‘lecture halls’ where there is little interaction and the answers rests on the professor.  Knowledge is imparted, not shared.  Dialogue goes one way, rarely are students invited to participate.  This reminds me of the ‘hidden curriculum’ – a sociological notion that our educational systems implicitly teach students to be passive receptacles of knowledge.

What does this mean for me and my future?  I think that as an instructor, I need to impart lasting skills and connect what I do to real-world problems.  Much of our education systems teaches students to memorize facts and knowledge, which can easily be Googled.  While some facts are essential (the founding of our nation, for example), the whole category of knowledge which would be labeled in the lowest domain of Bloom’s taxonomy is pointless to teach.  If we are to help from ‘knowledge-able’ adults, the last thing educators should do is to lecture the ‘truth’ to them.  Instead, teaching people how to evaluate truth claims and how to sift through the superficial is vastly more important.  I wish that Wensch had elaborated on what he meant on knowledge-able.  I think that he omitted (or did he?) an important skill in his TED talk: learning how to find information independently.  The skills needed to thrive in the job market require people who self-directed learners, not passive drones!  I hope and I think that his vision of contemporary education includes this.

I resonated with his approach of crowd-sourcing knowledge through Web 2.0 tools.  After reflecting a bit and coming off the ‘high’, I realized that their are several obstacles to this type of learning and teaching.  For one, its hard to make a big ship change course.  Students are uses to passively listening to lectures and repeating what they have been told.  It will be difficult to get students to accept their own responsibility for learning.  Second, I think that while many of us know the tools, we need a ‘nudge’ everyone once in a while to connect what is possible with what we do.  I’ve attended several workshops and conference in instructional technology and I’m fascinated about how educators can use the tools to create real-time, impactful learning opportunities.  Sometimes I don’t always connect the technology, which is normally in my grasp, with its potential for learning.  Thats where a community of innovative educators is important.  Finally, I see that this technology flies in the face of opposing forces.   While we have the ability collaborate assignments, we also live in a culture of assessment and outcomes.  Accrediting agencies demand a tangible outcome from education.  While much of the Web 2.0 could create deep learning experiences, will educators pursue them if learning can’t easily be assessed?  I recently read an article about Augustana College which requires learning outcomes for social clubs.  Assessing everything we do is the new norm and I wonder if we will ever get creative enough or stick to our tried and true forms of superficial teaching and learning, such as lecturing and then giving multiple choice quizzes.  Wensch is right that we might indeed be on the cusp of a revolution in teaching and learning, but then again, we might also sink deeper into the iron cage of rationality.  Time will tell.

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