After reviewing the material for this week I was left pondering two questions. What is the nature of learning? Has the nature of learning changed because of today’s technology? The nature of learning is rather simply complex, but people through the system of education have complicated it. Learning is cyclical, social, interactive, and reflective. I have come to believe this is inherent. People have and are born with a desire to learn. Simple. Education however is a man made construct and serves people’s purposes. It is something as a culture we have been encouraged to pursue to the highest level possible (like gaming levels if you like) and yes an education is very useful, but it is the system through which it is employed that can get in the way of our desire to learn and better ourselves. Learning theories describe the simple, but complex nature of learning. In order to teach effectively one needs to understand the nature of learning. These theories give teachers a solid base to draw and learn from, but it is when we treat the theories in isolation of each other that the education system falls short. No one learning theory is perfect, but each has insight into the nature of learning. People might say they are a constructivist, connectivist, behaviorist, or cognitivist, but our understanding of it cannot be boiled down to one theory or another. Learning in the 21st century does not need to change, instead the education system that helps to facilitate learning needs to adapt, change, and create new systems for learning to take place within.
Now to the question, has the nature of learning changed because of today’s technology? No. Technology has not changed the nature of learning, but rather has highlighted the fact what the nature of learning is. Technology is illustrating for us that we do not necessarily need the same education system of yesterday to learn, but that we need each other and varied systems of education from which to learn within. This led my thoughts to gaming and John Seely Brown. The education system can be a huge motivator for encouraging learning however it is constructed. The connection between gaming and learning that John Seely Brown makes illustrates how the system of education can be like an assemblage of levels to be passed. The levels could be preschool, K-12, and then higher education. Think of the eternal student. Why do they keep going back for more? Are not we all eternal students of learning?
But this preschool to college game so to speak does not work for everybody in the 21st century. Lucky for us technology has opened up new roads or levels for people to pursue the lifelong game of learning. Khan Academy is helping facilitate some of John Seely Brown’s ideas about gaming, learning, and education. It is free, global, measures your progress, and celebrates your mastery with badges, energy points, and avatars. Khan Academy may not always facilitate John Seely Brown’s vision of learning to be instead of learning about, but it could if used in the right context. If Khan Academy mini lectures are used within the K-12 classroom the social organization he refers to can take place in and outside the classroom because of social media. Khan Academy and the teacher could be the catalyst for the students beginning to make the shift from learning about to learning to be. The information is given to the students; they grapple with it (discuss, analyze, reflect, apply, explore further, ask questions), and slowly learn what it means to be a mathematician, scientist, artist, citizen, anthropologist, writer, reader, etc. In K-12 it is the teacher’s job to help students wear many hats and this allows students to see what their strengths, weaknesses, and passions are. Learning to be is something to work towards. Not every K-12 student knows what they want to be when they grow up and in today’s world they will most likely grow up to be many different things. John Seely’s Brown (2006) states, “By proceeding along this path, a student bridges the gap between knowledge and knowing’ (p. 20). This gap is also being help through the increased use of technology in the education system. The 21st century student as John Seely Brown (2006) describes, “In today’s Internet environment, learning to be literate in multiple media is an important tool in learning to be’ (p. 20). One of the greatest disservices educators can do to their students is not use technology with good teaching practices. Teachers need to be good role models for the 21st century student
Speaking of good teaching practices, when I watched the Eric Mazur YouTube video, Eric Mazur shows interactive teaching; my first thought was what is so special about this? Eric Mazur is just practicing good teaching. The peer instructional method is nothing new to me and it is something that may be underutilized in education, but it is simply just good teaching practice. It I something I have used and I imagine it is much easier in a K-12 setting than a large lecture hall. In order to learn people need to interact, discuss, reflect, and do it all over again. There it is the nature of learning. The only thing that was absent from the video was the fact no students were using technology to formulate an answer. In a classroom today, 21st century students would have whipped out their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. I could see students tweeting their questions and thoughts and having it projected onto a screen for everyone to view. There would be mini discussion going on as well as a whole group discussion in this peer instruction situation. What sets the 21st century student apart is their ability to break free of the traditional education system and create new systems of learning.
This leads me to Partnership for 21st Century Skills. I found P21 nothing new and was skeptical of it when I saw who the founders were, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Cisco, Dell. It screamed of business and money sticking their nose where it does not belong. Then I looked at P21’s learning framework and that reeked of common core. The 3Rs and 4Cs are nothing new. Individualized education should be they way of the future, but this may be too idealistic for our current educational state. When I looked a little deeper into P21 it seems like it could possibly bring out what could be the positive impacts of the common core. It still appears to be a little to economically driven for my liking. Business should not be influencing the education system like it is, but that has been the main driving force behind our educational structure for centuries.
Must learning change for the 21st century? Or is it just trying to break free with the help of technology?
Brown, J. (2006). New learning environments for the 21st century: Exploring the edge. Change, 38(5), 18-24.
Eric Mazur YouTube video, Eric Mazur shows interactive teaching
Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/
Partnership for 21st Century Skills https://www.p21.org/