Save the Internet Blog » Blog Archive » A Tale of Two Cities
The Japanese enjoy broadband speeds that are up to 30 times faster than what’s available here at a far lower cost. This faster, cheaper, universal broadband access – according to an excellent article in today’s Washington Post – “is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.”
Last year about this time, I was getting a lot questions about what I was looking for from the class. In the first chat last year, it was one of the main questions and we spent a lot of time on it. Perhaps this is a good time for you to read Thinking Like a Learner to get some background on what I mean by stop thinking like a student and start thinking like a learner.
The challenge here is that if we can get beyond “Will this be on the test?” in our own practice, then it becomes more feasible to inculcate that attitude in our students.
In reviewing the definitions of distance, some commonalities begin to emerge. Practically all the definitions include a diagnostic list of elements which characterize the idea of “Distance Education.” First is the definition of Distance Education by the identification of technology. Many of the definitions include some exemplar lists of communications technologies that are used to bridge the physical and temportal distance between teacher and learner. Second is the stipulation of physical separation. In order for it to be distance education, apparently, the teacher and student have to be far enough apart to require the use of one of the technologies. Third, and less common, is what Otto Peters characterizes as an “industrialization” of the process with a specialization of labor.
The main problem with these definitions are that they are not diagnostic. They fail, almost entirely, to distinguish between “distance” and “classroom” when one starts examining the two side-by-side. I believe there’s a reason for that. Read On Distance Education and find out what it is.
In last night’s chat we talked a lot about this video:
We need to consider these figures as we’re considering what effect the web has on our social structure:
The bars are to scale. Notice the relative size of the whole of the US is a small fraction of China and India, and more importantly, the internet. If the internet were a country, it would be the third largest. What does that mean for our ability to connect to the rest of the world? And what does it mean when the US is about 20th in broadband availability and adoption?
The bars are to scale. Notice that the largest real city here is Mumbai, India. This graph is already out of date. As I’m posting this, the current population of MySpace is 198million. What does it mean for education that 85 million people in the world are blogging and almost none of them are teachers? What does it mean for education that almost 200million people have MySpace accounts that the school can’t access because of filters and “protection” but the kids can because they can do it from home?
We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of this.
This extended piece from Stephen Downes is a propos of our conversation over the last week about Learning and Education.
Half an Hour: Interview About Learning 2.0
In a nutshell, the difference between 1.0 and 2.0 is that in 1.0 students are depicted as passive recipients or consumers of knowledge and information, where in 2.0 they are active participants in the creation of that knowledge and information.
This is a good example of the kind of writing that Downes does outside of OLDaily, and you might consider adding the feed from Half an Hour to your individual ‘gators.
We haven’t really talked about the 1.0/2.0 idea here yet. Maybe we should avoid it. I’m more interested in getting all of you to break out of the “student” role and into “learner” mode but this is still a good and thoughtful piece. Pay attention especially to the biases of the questions. The question about critical thinking is a classic “better or worse” kind of question that people ask about distance education all the time. It’s a meaningless construct, sorta like asking “Which is more nutritious — apples or oranges?”
Nobody has asked this question yet, but I imagine a few are thinking it. There is a method in the madness. Please see the post Learner Centered for an explanation.
Frankly I’m always amused by teachers who call their classrooms “Learner Centered” because typically the choices afforded the learner are superficial. The nature of Education in the US these days requires that schools are anything but learner centered. This class — inherently — is not learner centered. As long as the teacher (me) tells you what you need to learn, then it’s teacher-centered, but going back to our discussion last week about Education and what gets taught and what gets learned, so long as I teach you at LEAST what’s on the syllabus, then I’ve fulfilled my end of the deal as teacher. You’re learning about distance delivery methods by exploring them and experiencing them. Along the way, you’re picking up new learning tools — not for your future students — but for yourself. At least some of the “incidental” learning in this class is to provide you with the tools and techniques necessary to manage your own learning and to create your own learning environments in ways that no school and no teacher can create for you.
One of the great things about being a teacher today is the wealth of resources available. A great thing about RSS is that, by picking a few good voices to listen to, you can get a really good network of resources. You may not link directly to the interesting thing, but somebody you’re listening to might. Vicki Davis is one of those voices. In Online Connections Course gets a Cool Cat Teacher Award Cool Cat points us to an excellent exemplar of the use of some of these tools in an actual class.
Toynbee is famously credited with the statement “Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” Where does distance education begin and how do we define it? How has it changed over time?
As you examine the history of the field notice how the definition is almost always tied to some mediating technology. Here are two places to start:
The commentary spooling out under the “Considering Education” thread prompts me to write a bit about Learning. This is actually a convergence idea that’s coming from several different directions, including a group I’m working with in Second Life. Here’s where it comes down for me.
Learning is what humans do. We learn all the time, every day. We can’t help but learn. What we learn is important to us. If it weren’t we wouldn’t bother with it. We learn where to get the best pizza. We learn where the traffic bottlenecks are likely to occur and what time of day. We learn the sound of our partner’s laugh and the smell of our mother’s kitchen. We learn how to read and walk and talk and dress ourselves. We learn what how to cook and who stars in our favorite entertainment. Some miniscule amount of what we learn has to do with school and, even in the classroom, only a minority of the learning happens around what the teacher is teaching. We learn who’s the smart aleck and who’s the smart one. We learn what the teacher expects and how the teacher works. We learn about the school, the building, the classroom, and the desks we inhabit. Oh, and along the way we may pick up some small smattering of subject matter knowledge. What we learn about the subject is colored by our experience, our prior knowledge, and even whether or not we had breakfast that day.
As teachers we have the hubris to imagine that what the student learns is what we teach. If we’re going to be honest with ourselves and with our students, we have to admit that — in comparison to everything else a person might learn in a day — what the student learns from us is miniscule, probably minor, and, in all probability, will be be forgotten within a month of the end of class. Think back to your own schooling. A few teachers probably stand out in your mind and, in some cases, perhaps a subject. The great majority of them are undoubtedly lost in the fog of history.
There is one large misconception about learning and the classroom that must be dispelled here and now, though. Learning does not happen in the classroom. The idea that learning happens in the classroom — as if that’s the sole location of learning, or at least of the significant bits of learning — is ludicrous.The learner learns everywhere, all the time. Focusing on the class room as the repository of learning overlooks the most obvious and fundamental issue facing any teacher. Learning does not happen in the classroom. It happens in the learner.
Given all that, what we do as educators needs to use that knowledge to create educational experiences that are so compelling, so interesting, and so engaging that learners become — and stay — motivated to participate in the educational experience long enough to make whatever it is we are trying to teach them part of their practice so that learning is not separate from or in addition to live, but rather interwoven to the point where the incidental learning becomes significant and students begin to see the relavance of what it is we are trying to teach them.
That’s actually the chapter of a book I’m supposed to be working on with my friend up at Syracuse. You can read it two ways. One has the connotation that reflects on the relationship between what teachers do and what students do. The other, and the main thrust of that chapter, is that Education-as-Institution is not learning from its own mistakes.