It is important to realize that “learning is happening online, all the time, and in numbers far outstripping actual registrants in actual schools” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 10). This informal learning is now an everyday part of many of our lives, but in formal education, people can sometimes forget that there are many types of learning and many methods of instruction. It’s not entirely the fault of more traditionally minded educators because so much of schooling is standardized these days. “Call this cloned learning, cloning knowledge, and clones as the desired product” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 21). People need to start thinking of new innovative ways to work within the structures that have been mandated by educational policy. More participatory learning may be an answer.
“With participatory learning, the play between technology, composer, and audience is no longer passive” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 16). Both educators and learners can collaborate during the learning process, discussing ways to think differently about information and ways to best use the new technologies and learning collectives that are readily available. Many of my colleague teachers had rules against using Wikipedia for research, but I took a different way of looking at it. “To ban sources such as Wikipedia is to miss the importance of a collaborative, knowledge-making impulse in humans who are willing to contribute, correct, and collect information without remuneration: by definition, this is education” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 29). As I mentioned in a Diigo note last week, I told my information literacy students to use Wikipedia to their advantage. At the bottom of every article is a list of references used to write that article, *those* are your sources! I had previously explained that encyclopedias are often filled with information that is too general for scholarly research anyway so they shouldn’t use them. I just tied that in with Wikipedia since it is in fact an encyclopedia. The references listed at the bottom on the other hand are the perfect research short cut. Why do all that again if someone has already compiled it for you?
Thinking critically about information is a priority in not just formal education, but also during day-to-day informal learning as we try to figure out the changing world around us. “The increasingly rapid changes in the world’s makeup mean that we must necessarily learn anew, acquiring new knowledge to face up to the challenges of novel conditions as we bear with us the lessons of adaptability, of applying lessons to unprecedented situations and challenges” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 33). As the world becomes more wired and learner expectations change to expect more collaborative and imaginative learning experiences, educators need to plan for more interaction with information because learners are becoming more comfortable with the idea that education isn’t always a traditional classroom, but can instead be a website where they can find new information that is relevant to their changing needs. “Given the range and volume of information available and the ubiquity of access to information sources and resources, learning strategy shifts from a focus on information as such to judgment concerning reliable information, from memorizing information to how to find reliable sources” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009, p. 27). Being able to judge information and interact intellectually with new sources might be the preeminent skill for the 21st century learner.
Jenkin’s blog posts about his conversation with John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas about their book A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change brought up some interesting points about the need for imagination in the classroom as a way to move away from traditional teacher-centric education models to more learner-focused learning opportunities. By shifting focus from a central point and instead allowing for the sorts of collaboration called for by Davidson and Goldberg, educators can allow themselves the freedom to allow freedom of imagination in learners. “You don’t teach imagination; you create an environment in which it can take root, grow and flourish” (Jenkins, January 21, 2011). By building a collaborative environment, both educator and learner can think differently about the information that is available now as well as any information that may become available in the future. “Essentially what this means is that as the world grows more complicated, more complex, and more fluid, opportunities for innovation, imagination, and play increase” (Jenkins, January 19, 2011). By decentralizing information gathering, sharing, and creating, learning can become more a playful and enjoyable experience that allows for unexpected innovations and discoveries.