Beware the Internets?


A learner presents as restless. They go over and sit at the computer. Up comes Facebook, and you think "Oh, no. Now I'm going to have to scold them or something for wasting time on that damn Facebook mess."

Maybe not. It depends on whether or not they are a learner (as opposed to just someone in your room.)

Here's what I watched this morning.

After reading a short book of Canadian history, the learner:
Went over to computer and opened up Facebook. Then...
Opened a new tab and did a google search.
Back to Facebook - fast messaging - asked a question about spelling 'neighbour' ("So, it's like that other word, 'colour'? With the 'u' in it?).
Looked up photos of Don Jail online - reading the captions, noting dates, thinking.
Then more Facebook - type, clatter, type.
Then more photos of the jail. New google search for yet more photos, dates, information.
More Facebook - messaging someone new.
More google searches. Discovery of an inconsistency. ("That's weird. The book said... But here it's... I'll have to read it again... No, I was right...) More reading, searching, looking...


This is what real-life learning looks like. It's voluntary, and frequently spontaneous. It's social, or at least compatible with social activity. It's guided by curiosity and deepened by apparent inconsistencies.

In all this, my role is to provide the environment (warm, safe, private, good books, computers that work), and a little bit of advice on search techniques when asked.

I'm not saying it's ideal, and I don't want to idealize it. There's only about 1 learner in 8 I'd trust to not get hopelessly distracted by the internet. More to the point, my classroom isn't supposed to be a place where real-life learning takes place.

My classroom is - and is supposed to be - an artificial space where people cram learning, get extraordinary help, and reach further, faster than they would alone. That's the justification for spending tax dollars on it. That's why we do things like take attendance or assess progress or have goal meetings.

Still....

Pic by Asher Sarlin via Coding Horror.

2 comments:

ballet girl said...

I'm 'with you' on this one.

My students, however, are - mostly - not up to internet browsing without guidance. That would (of course) be fine with me, if they wanted to do it. But mostly they don't even think to do it, or want to do it - and I assume this is because:-

1. they really don't know how useful it can be, but more importantly -

2. most webpages - and even the stages one steps thru to get online - are made up of so many WORDS, that if you have trouble READING words - the whole thing seems light years away from your capabilities.

One way I have tried to overcome this, is by using Google IMAGES, the first time I teach them about doing an online search.

But this is only entertaining for a brief period - apparently...

Getting back to your basic proposition, about trusting your learners to do what they want to do - and learn along the way (at least that's MY interpretation of what you are saying).... I very much try to do this, but sometimes feel thwarted by their inactivity - which TO ME signals lack of initiative/lack of interest/lack of motivation/lack of ADULT responsibility...but one of my manager's said to me, that as she sees it, most of these people don't trust themselves to take the initiative/to make decisions for themselves about what to do or how to learn... because their earlier experiences have included so much failure.

I still grapple with this, as I have always been required to cope very independently, so I find it hard to 'baby' other adults who clearly WANT this sort of treatment...

Wendell said...

"...one of my manager's said to me, that as she sees it, most of these people don't trust themselves to take the initiative/to make decisions for themselves about what to do or how to learn... because their earlier experiences have included so much failure."

Ah, yes. The warm afterglow of public schooling. That's a whole other post.

Neat idea, though. Using google images, I mean. Sounds like a wonderful intro to internet searches. I'm adding that to my list of strategies right away.

Thks!