Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Era of Old School

                Personal Learning Networks by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli is the text that was assigned for one of my courses this semester – SEDU 183 taught by Mr. Marc “Balddaddieteach” Smith, to be exact.  Just after reading the first chapter, however, I put down the book and had a mixed reaction, let me tell you why.  The first chapter, titled Understanding the Power of PLNs, dealt with the issue of why schools today have to become more technologically advanced.  It was argued that by becoming more tech-savvy will enhance the student’s education because they would be able to “self-direct our[ the students] learning(p.22)” in ways the interested them, also, it would allow the student to further broaden their educational horizons by having access to unlimited educational resources around the world, whether that be a student in Hong Kong or a teacher in Bangkok.   The authors further explained themselves, by reassuring that the students would be taught the safe, correct way to wander around the internet, and that schools only use the blocking of Facebook and MySpace (which is no longer a worry cause, serious, who uses MySpace anymore?) as an excuse to keep the children “safe”.

                Ok, and these are the points where I get my mixed reaction!  I put the book down and thought, “ . . . Well, I see two problems with this.”  The first problem being that students will learn more using technology by being able to access more information about what they are interested it!  The writers clam that we are shifting from a “generic to personal (p. 17)” learning system where we “pursue our interests and passions (p.17)” If I had it my way, back when I started school, I would not have touched a math book or learned a single mathematical equation!  I would have spent all my time researching historical England and reading whatever literature I could get my hands on.  Students need to learn all the different subjects in order to be the ideal Renaissance man – or woman.  It is better to be well rounded, even if you have your weak points, at least you would have some knowledge of what the subject entails.

                This issue then led into the next comment made in the chapter.  The writers stated that schools are only blocking networks such as Facebook (MySpace, who?) and Wikipedia because it is keeping children “safe”. They stated that, “we suspect that it has much to do with being an easy way not to have to deal with the real world realities that the web brings” (p 36). Firstly Wikipedia is a sorry excuse of an “informational” let alone “educational” site.  Anyone can go on there and say that Uranus used to be called a planet, but has now shrunk and has teleported to be a blemish on someone’s behind!  Wikipedia, not creditable and useless, next – Facebook.  

Most drama starts on Facebook, and cyber bullying is a rapid growing issue because people do not have the courage to say anything to someone’s face nowadays.  Let Facebook be on the student’s own personal time, not during school.  My high school had sites like that blocked until the end of the school day, so if there where students still waiting in the building for a ride or sports practice, they would let the rest of the world know too.

The point I am getting at is that, yes, schools do need to become more tech-savvy in order to teach the students and teachers more, but also make the teacher’s job a little easier; but they also need to realize that some of the “old” school ways are beneficial and should not be totally thrown out like your grandmothers moth eaten pajamas!  I had a Math course where we had to do much of the work online . . . and I HATED IT!!  I couldn’t understand it by myself, let alone have the text on the computer screen tell me how to do it.  And yes, this is an instance where I could have found some miraculous Math Heaven site and have the answer told or attempted to be taught to be, but all students learn in different ways.  We still need that teacher in the class room to sit us down with a pencil and paper and help us work it out and explain it to us in numerous ways if we don’t get it the first fifteen times. 

Then there is also the issue of communication.  Sure, a student can talk to the teacher in Bangkok about Lewis Carroll and his nonsense Wonderland world, or have the student in Hong Kong do his parent’s tax returns, but could that student be able to turn to his peer next to him and have an intelligent conversation without any stutters, “like’s”, awkward pauses, or anything else that is classified as poor communication skills?  Having all this technology at the students (and teachers) fingertips is great!  But are we losing the humanity, or I should rather say human communication, that has been taught all these years?

The authors have presented a good argument, and to some extend I do agree, but you also have to worry about what is going to be lost with the addition of all this new technology in the schools.  I do encourage students and people of all ages to go out and educated themselves, but it is not going to be spoon fed to you.  Schools should be teaching their students how to maneuver through the internet safely, and go out and find the information they need and want to learn!  The internet, when used properly is a great source to learn new things, but I believe that there are still some aspects of the old school way of learning that are still valuable to learn.

Well, I know many of my followers had to read what I did, so if any of you have your comments, remarks, criticism, or right out bashing of what I had to say about it, leave a comment below.

 Till next time.

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