For the first article review, I selected John S. Brown’s “Growing up digital: How the Web changes work, education, and the ways people learn” (2002). I discovered this piece while perusing the reference section of George Seimen’s article on connectivism (2005).
I chose this topic for much the same reason that I chose this class. First, I’ve been out the position of classroom teacher for nearly five years now. Best practices in education change quickly and the technology behind the practices change even faster. In order to connect with kids and provide them the resources to succeed, teachers need to be current in their own understanding of child development as well as available and effective technology. Second, I have two young children preparing to enter the public school system. This article provides insightful perspectives regarding the ways in which young learners are expected to learn as well as the possible future horizon that guides current decision making.
The article begins by drawing parallels between early technology application, such as photographs and motion pictures, to our current understanding and relationship with the World Wide Web. This helped me activate prior knowledge on the topic and relate to the new topic within a context I understand. In this infancy stage, we’re just beginning to realize the full potential of the technology. A model doesn’t exist so we use new technology to accomplish the same old tasks, rather than redesigning the tasks based on new information and new resources.
The idea of leveraging learning was interesting to me. With a bachelors in Business, I understand this term well from a financial standpoint, but have never considered it in terms of learning. With the sheer volume of available information and the questionable sources confusing the facts, it is nearly impossible to stay current with everything we want or need to know. Type the word “leveraging” into Google and the definitions are as follows:
1. Use borrowed capital for an investment, expecting the profits made to be greater than the interest payable.
2. Use something to it’s maximum advantage.
Initially, I assumed the author was considering leverage in the sense of using something to it’s maximum advantage, such as senior citizens helping teachers (and themselves) by sharing stories and life lessons with children. As I continued to read, however, I got the impression he was getting at more. This lead to much reflection on social learning through the lens of leverage. Perhaps the first definition of leverage, the true business definition, is appropriate as well. Rather than spending a considerable amount of time learning the detailed in’s and out’s of a topic with the end goal of becoming an expert, it’s possible to borrow the ideas and opinions of others (capital) to build our own knowledge base (an investment), where profits (understanding and earning potential) is larger than the interest payable (time and energy of initial investment). The Return on Investment in this scenario is enormous, largely due to the vast quantity of information already organized, evaluated, or synthesized. My initial thought is that borrowing ideas, thoughts, or opinions of others is merely surface learning because you can’t truly understand those points of view without a grasp of the assumptions or underlying principles that form them. As I read the assigned and self-selected articles this week, however, it shocked me how quickly information changes and how frequently we need to unlearn and relearn something. Siemens (2005) study asserts the following: The half-life of knowledge, the time elapsed from when knowledge is first gained to when it is obsolete, is shrinking. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and doubling every 18 months. (p.1). Based on this, perhaps leveraging knowledge is more practical and efficient in our modern world.
The author discusses the ways technology can cater to multiple intelligences, stating “as educators, we now have a chance to construct a medium that enables all young people to become engaged in their ideal way of learning (Brown, 2002, p.2). As part of my Classroom Research project last semester, I explored digital storytelling as a best practice in early education. My 4-year-old learned to create digital stories and express herself and her intelligence through scene selection, animation, music, photo, and other specialized options. I saw her express her ideas through art and music, which seem to be her preferred intelligence. Motivation and engagement were high, due in large part to the novelty of the technology and perceived privilege of being able to use it. I recognize, therefore, the potential for technology to help kids express their personal intelligences in various ways. I contest, however, that technology is necessary for this and the notion that because of technology we can “now” create ways for kids to express themselves through their preferred method. My daughter is in a Waldorf pre-school right now. She is building, dancing, beading, singing, and baking instead of being plugged into a computer. Is she not developing and showcasing her multiple intelligence in the natural world? Isn’t it the teacher then, more than the technology, that “construct a medium that enables all young people to become engaged in their ideal way of learning” (Brown, 2002, p.2)? I believe technology is a powerful tool in the teachers’ toolbox, but no substitute for informed, intentional, and meaningful instruction.
The final point that really stuck with me after this article is the idea of social learning, constructing knowledge within and because of a community of like-minded people. The author discusses two dimensions of knowledge – explicit and tactic. Explicit knowledge deals with ideas and concepts, while tactic knowledge applies to skills and doing. As a carpenter, I can certainly appreciate the value of learning by watching and participating directly in a project versus reading about the process. The author supports this, stating “a lot of our know-how or knowing comes into being through participating in our communities of practice” (Brown, 2002, p.5). By engaging in dialog and exchanges with these groups, we are leveraging our novice skills, abilities, and understandings to their full potential. We learn and share knowledge, refining and rethinking what we know. Brown (2002) states, in learning communities “no one person was the expert; the real expertise resided in the community mind (p.7). This leads to the final discussion about a learning ecology. An environment adaptive to change and rich with diversity of thoughts. It is precisely this melding of ideas, experience, cultural perspective, and diversity that create a interwoven and cross-pollinated perspective of knowledge around any topic or idea. Perhaps this means I need to change my definition of an expert from one who knows nearly everything about a topic or discipline, to one who knows where to look for the answers they seek. We don’t need to carry the entirety of the world’s information around in our head, we need to situate ourselves in a learning ecology and develop our know-where skills.
Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning. Retrieved from https://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm
Brown, J. S., (2002). Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn. United States Distance Learning Association. Retrieved on December 10, 2004, from https://www.usdla.org/html/journal/FEB02_Issue/article01.html