As we start digging into the course content this week, I am most struck by how more people have more access to learning materials than they ever had in the past. Perhaps through Web 2.0 technologies, we can move even closer to true universal education for all. Ideally, open courses and the ever-expanding Internet could be the missing link for creating learning opportunities in communities everywhere.
According to Brown and Adler, learning occurs whenever learners interact with electronic materials inside or outside traditional classroom settings, especially through activities that involve a social aspect. “The emphasis on social learning stands in sharp contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning—a view that has largely dominated the way education has been structured for over one hundred years” (Brown & Adler, 2008). Without a doubt, social learning can be beneficial for some learners , but by focusing on learning within group situations, I feel like the authors, as well as many other learning theorists, are forgetting that some learners do not react well to such group pressures for many different reasons. Are we forgetting that some subjects or materials might best be learned by some learners through individually focused instruction or through more traditional direct instruction models?
During my undergraduate years from 2000-2004, I grew very tired of always hearing “Facilitator of Learning” over and over again from my professors. It was so obviously their favorite bit of educational jargon and integral to their program’s philosophy. We were told that we should move away from thinking of ourselves as lecturers, as distributors of knowledge, and instead think of ways to encourage our students to figure things out for themselves. I think that can be an incredibly useful and vital concept in learning, especially when considering how uninspiring and dull it is to be stuck in an educational rut, but I think we sometimes lean too much on group work with or without technology in an effort to be cutting edge. I’ve used Wiki sites for both individual assignments and group projects, and it is certainly an interesting process, tracking any changes and adding content while knowing that my process is open to the scrutiny of my other group members or even the class as a whole. “In this open environment, both the content and the process by which it is created are equally visible, thereby enabling a new kind of critical reading—almost a new form of literacy—that invites the reader to join in the consideration of what information is reliable and/or important” (Brown & Adler, 2008). I think it is important to think critically about all aspects of information gathering, preparing and sharing. Even so, I question the idea that everyone’s opinion on any given topic is valid. There is a certain amount of self-policing involved in larger online communities where the cream rises to the top fairly quickly, but what about in smaller environments like required classes? If we are going to be basing learning around what the students think is important, class may be more fun for them, but are they learning everything that they need to know?
One thing that everyone definitely needs to know is summed up in the following quote:
“What I want to suggest, though, is that the new literacy, the one beyond just text and image, is one of information navigation. I believe that the real literacy of tomorrow will have more to do with being able to be your own private, personal reference librarian, one that knows how to navigate through the incredible, confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable and located in doing that. So navigation will be a new form of literacy if not the main form of literacy for the 21st century” (Brown, 1999).
In short, everyone needs to be able to consider information critically and independently, and an emphasis on this new literacy would have profound effects on learning environments. By shifting away from the traditional misconception of librarianship as information gatekeeping, we can build a society of lifelong learners who are fully capable of interacting with information in their chosen learning environments in new and interesting ways. These ideas can be found manifest in libraries that have added Information Commons to their library footprint. The reference librarians are there to offer any assistance necessary, but the learner/patron is at the center of the space, not the reference desk. It is much more learner focused, and patrons can use the libraries on their own terms.
The readings this week make me think about the many ways we all learn, and I wonder how much our individual learning styles have impacted our teaching styles as well. It is always important to think outside our own likes or dislikes and not get bogged down in one mode of teaching. I think I have a lot more to consider about how to connect social learning through technology with my own learning preferences.