Archive for May 2011
Kids are learning . . . just not in the ways expected of them through formal education. Young people have always engaged in informal learning based on their interests and passions. Kids have found and initiated these opportunities in the past through school clubs, reading, local community centers, and neighborhood kids’ ballgames and performances. These informal learning opportunities have taken an astronomical metaphorical leap due to social networking and ease of access of interest-based information via online means. I am that not sure if those involved in the institutionalized education of young people are unaware or choose to ignore that young people are often learning more outside of the school than within that learning environment.
Major researchers such as Mimi Ito, Constance Steinkuehler, Danah Boyd, and Henry Jenkins have been documenting these trends. Here is what they’ve discovered:
Mimi Ito on Interest-Based Learning
Networked media offers an unprecedented opportunity to support learning that is highly personalized and learner-centered, driven by passionate interest and social engagement. But very few learners and educators are taking advantage of this opportunity. And the reason for this is that too often we separate the worlds of young people and adults, play and education. We hold onto the old boundaries between schooling, peer-culture, and home life, between what looks and feels like learning and education that we grew up with, and what looks and feels like socializing, hanging out, and playing. Even if those boundaries were never that real to begin with, in today’s networked world, they are even more untenable. My argument is that we need to engage with kids’ peer cultures and recreational lives outside of school if we want to tap into the power that today’s networked media offers for learners (http://www.itofisher.com/mito/publications/peerbased_learn_2.html)
Full Reference: Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/report
Constance Steinkuehler on Creating Powerful Learning Environments Through Games
Collective information literacy emerges in which the communal rather than individual participation is the defining feature of online play spaces such asmassively multiplayer online games. In In online social contexts such as World of Warcraft, information literacy is contingent on the presence and availability of other people. Peers are often the first line of inquiry because, simply put, storing information across one’s social network and then querying that network when a need arises is far more efficient and adaptive than storing copious amounts of information in one’s own head. In such spaces, the fact that the Internet is a communication device and not merely a collection of semi-static information resources becomes difficult to ignore.
Martin, C. & Steinkuehler, C. (2010). Collective information literacy in massively multiplayer online games. To appear in eLearning and Digital Media, 7(4), 355-365.
Constance Steinkuehler’s Publication Page: http://website.education.wisc.edu/steinkuehler/blog/?page_id=222
danah boyd on Teenagers who are Living and Learning with Social Media
We all know that youth are searching for information in totally new ways so I’m going to skip over that. But they are also sharing differently. Sharing of information is very different in a world of bits where it’s easy to make a duplicate and still retain what you originally had. Pointers have value and sharing information can create memes. Needless to say, youth are leveraging social media to share with their friends and peers. Now, most of what they share might be pure gossip, but teens also share links, references, ideas, and original content.
Henry Jenkins on Learning in a Participatory Culture
Outside their classrooms, today’s children learn by searching and gathering clusters of information as they move seamlessly between their physical and virtual spaces. Knowledge is acquired through multiple new tools and processes as kids accrue information that is visual, aural, musical, interactive, abstract, and concrete and then remix it into their own storehouse of knowledge. (http://www.henryjenkins.org/2009/05/what_is_learning_in_a_particip_1.html)
Henry Jenkins’ Blog: http://henryjenkins.org/index.html
Progressive educators have always asked, “How can we provide students with the opportunities and skills to learn how to learn?” Now, given the tools and access, the role of educators should be primarily to assist students is leveraging the numerous online resources so that they become their own self-motivated, passionate, and self-directed learners.
As someone trained in counseling, the therapeutic modality that resonated most deeply with me was Narrative Therapy. Simple stated, narrative therapy is about telling one’s story and having witnesses that story. (For more about Narrative Therapy, see http://www.narrativetherapycentre.com/index_files/Page378.htm.)
People want to tell their stories AND want witnesses to theses stories. Evidence of this is seen in today’s world through the amazing popularity and growth of status posts via Twitter and Facebook, and through all of those personal movies being uploaded to Youtube at an unbelievable pace.
So when I saw the recent posts of by John Nagel and Walter McKenzie about narratives, I began thinking about what they mean in this post-modern/21st century and its implications within education.
John Hagel, in The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context, discusses narratives and their place in this post-modern era. Key points he mentions are:
In our digital world, content providers progressively chunk up their offerings to provide more choice and easier access. . . . As this occurs, value moves from content to context. In the old days, context came in various forms. It came in the package that delivered the content (you often could judge a book by its cover) or, even more broadly, it came from the stable surroundings that produced the content. . . . As our world fragments and changes ever more rapidly, we find that context cannot be taken for granted – it must be defined.
We have already seen a growing emphasis on experience as an important element of context. Stories have become increasingly important to provide even broader context. We are now on the cusp of a revival of narrative as an even more valuable context
The role that narratives play:
- Narratives provide stability and continuity in our lives. Narratives help to orient us.
- Narratives have the potential to profoundly shape the future.
- Narratives also help participants construct meaning, purpose and identity for themselves.
- Narratives help to ignite and nurture passion within us.
We desperately need new narratives that will provide alternatives to the older, more confining narratives. These new narratives must embrace the fragmentation and change that give us more choice and options while helping to orient us and calling us to more fully realize the potential that we all have.
What we need are narratives of explorers, rather than narratives of true believers. The narratives of explorers emphasize the opportunity to learn and grow by constantly framing new questions and embarking on quests to gain new insight through action. They focus on the possibilities to be discovered rather than the certainties to be recovered.
The tools required to take on this task are becoming more and more powerful and ubiquitous. Digital technology provides all of us the ability to define and communicate narratives in rich and textured ways.
McKenzie also discusses the need for contexts for information (like narratives) and how they can lead to insight and innovation.
Referred to as the Information Age, the first ten years of this new century are characterized first and foremost by an information explosion. At the outset, the challenge seemed to be to simply be able to manage the data with which we are inundated. But as the tools to manage data have become more and more user friendly, the next challenge is to find contexts for the pertinent information we encounter…context provided by the experience and expertise we bring to understanding information. When we have meaningful understanding of information, insight is created…the kind of insight that identifies opportunities for innovation. http://edge.ascd.org/_Beyond-the-21st-Century/blog/3732794/127586.html
Not only do people want to tell their story – they want their stories embedded into a place and time. Thus, this time in history can be subtitled as, Narratives in Search of Contexts. As such, technologies are being developed to provide context to stories.
- Tags and Hashtags (e.g http://www.cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html)
- Location Based Services like Foursquare (e.g http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com/blog/2010/30-ways-to-use-foursquare-in-education/)
- Social Gaming (e.g. http://livebinders.com/play/play/5696)
- Virtual Environments like Second Life and Opensim ( see http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/01/11/next-stop-open-sim.aspx)
- Even GMAIL is introducing a People Widget “Next to every email message you can now see contextual information about the people in that conversation including recent emails you received from them, relevant Buzz posts, shared documents and calendar events” (http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/introducing-people-widget.html) .
As this is an education blog, the implications and support for constructivist and personalized education become even more evident within this discussion of narratives. Educators and parents should gain an understanding of the need for personal narratives as a source of personal understanding of self, environment and community, and the world-at-large. They need to provide the guidance for young people to create their own narratives safely and respectfully within post-modern contexts. It is also important to take this opportunity, as Hagel states, to assist the new generation in becoming explorers, in developing their narratives (and related contexts) for framing new questions and embarking on quests to gain new insight through action.