Students who are in school today have always been at school in the 21st century, it's just their teachers who haven't. Unlike most of their their teachers, these students were not alive in a time when the internet didn't exist. Google has always been around for them, and they have been educated in a time where learning is becoming increasingly social, and social media invites participation. Publishing, reaching out to millions of people at virtually no cost, has changed the roles of students from consumers of information to producers of information. The vast majority of web content is produced by "amateurs", people who do it because they want to, not because it's part of their job or because they are paid for doing it. And what they are doing is good. Today, for example, a Grade 4 student created an animation about how a pulley works, as part of the How the World Works unit of inquiry, after observing the flag being raised and lowered on the flagpole at the front of the school. Later today his animation was tweeted out by DoInk, the company that designed the animation tool:
This boy is 9 years old and social media is allowing his work to be viewed by potentially millions of people around the world.
In Chapter 5, Stephen Wilmarth writes about the tree of knowledge being replace by the knowledge cloud, with "ever-changing shapes and patterns" as "learning takes on a more active role rather than the traditional passive mode." Everyone who writes a blog post, or comments on one, who adds a photo to Flickr or to Facebook, who tweets, podcasts, makes a movie for YouTube or an animation using DoInk is producing content and adding to our collective knowledge. Stephen Wilmarth refers to this as the apprenticeship model of learning - learning by doing. It's just-in-time learning. And it's learning that both teachers and students are involved in.
For example, once I saw this tweet from DoInk, I emailed the class teacher so he could tell the boy who had made the animation that his work had been featured today. I got an email back from this teacher telling me that he'd spent some time with his class today, after they'd made their animations, working with the students so that they could add them onto the class blog. Now because this teacher is using wordpress.com as his blogging platform, embedding work so that it displays nicely, rather than just appearing as a link, is a bit of a challenge. It involves tweaking the HTML code. We discovered how to do this recently when, during the last unit of inquiry, he'd wanted to embed glogs into the class blog, and to be able to display the eBooks his students had made in Issuu. What he did, he told me in his email, was to look at an email I'd sent him some time ago about how to change the embed code. Then he and his students just "played around" with the DoInk code until they got it right.
Today I also read a blog post by George Couros. George was writing about how blogging has brought more depth to his thinking. And connecting with others through his blog and the comments his readers make allows him to go one stage further. He writes:
Through the writing process, I have the time to develop my thoughts, but once I hit “publish”, that is an opportunity to further advance them.Today we are all learning by doing. And by connecting with others, we are doing it better. It's not about the technologies we are using to help us learn, it's the relationships we are building as a result of this new social learning that are really pushing us forward.
Photo Credit: The lonely tree and the ray of light by Bernat Casero