Changes in our ability to access information and engage in non-school based vehicles for acquiring information are pushing schools and educators to think beyond the delivery of information as their prime role.
It really resonated with me, even though I’d like to replace “acquiring information” with “learning.” While there are a growing number of people in our profession that are beginning to “engage in non-school based vehicles for acquiring information,” there are still too many, especially in leadership positions, who don’t have a clue. It’s not even on the radar. We have a relevancy issue here with many adult educators out of touch with the reality of what is available to us as learners.
In my dissertation work several years ago (working with my own district’s administrative team), I made a recommendation that leaders immerse themselves in new ways of learning to begin to craft a more relevant vision for education and understand that school isn’t the only place students learn/access information.
Throughout the data, the participants communicated a comfort level with technology tools. While the participants are comfortable using technology primarily for personal productivity, developing a vision for 21st century learning will require discovery of how new tools aid in the learning process. This understanding will require the participants to engage in immersive learning with digital media. Johansen (2009) describes this as the “ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments, to learn from them in a first-person way” (p. 56). Technology is a natural component of the learning culture – both formal and informal (Ito, et al, 2008; Spires, et al., 2008) – and it must be viewed as natural for meaningful learning (Jonassen, et al., 2008) to occur.
Experiencing how students use technology in their informal learning will help leaders reframe how technology is used in school. Rather than using technology simply as the means to produce a final product, technology must be integrated throughout the process of learning (Sawyer, 2006). While the participants are experiencing the full range of learning with traditional and emerging Web 2.0 technologies, it is recommended they work with each other and teacher leaders to develop new ways technology can become a more natural part of the learning ecology. Because of technology, learning has shifted dramatically in the out-of-school world of students, yet schools have ignored the need to alter instructional practices. If the world operates through an epistemology of digital, participatory learning, schools and leaders must understand the affordances and constraints of digital media in order to replicate digital, participatory learning. (pg. 142)
So here are the steps: (1) Experience learning with new tools. (2) Realize our paradigm for school has been disrupted! (3) Take action to change our paradigm. (No. 3 is quite possibly the most challenging. I know we’re still working through that.)
And here are the questions: What action will we take? What is the added-value of school now that students have access to limitless information and countless experts (assuming they know how to find them)? How have our lives as adult learners been transformed by multiple avenues to limitless information about any possible niche passion we may have? How will we pass the transformation power of digitally supported learning onto our students? (And yes, while we continue to play the other “game of school” required by state and federal politicians).