Learning, not schooling

Motivation, as seen in the video, Visions of Students Today, is a huge factor in learning. Students are no longer internally motivated. The culture, and not just students, is academically adrift, and there’s less discipline and drive. Thankfully, students want to make a difference, but filling out a standardized test “won’t get them there” as one student wrote in the aforementioned video. They need to feel relevant and that their work matters to someone somewhere. That’s motivation. They need to internalize the world and recreate it, a need for “new habits of mind”. “The past is over” puts this sentiment into focus. Learn about the past, yes, but explore it in terms of the present and the future. We need more authentic (I love that adjective in education) learning experiences, such as the World Simulation Project: “[Its] ultimate goal is to allow students to actually experience how the world system works and explore some of the most important questions now facing humanity such as those of global inequality, globalization, culture loss, environmental degradation, and in the worst case scenario, genocide.” These issues are the real ones that we need to focus on in class and try to solve, or at least develop the critical thinking skills in practice scenarios that pertain to these types of global problems.

According to James G. Lengel in his article Teacher Preparation and Technology, “Research literature throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact language acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning, motivate students, and enhance their self-esteem (ACT, 2004; CEO Forum, 2001; Boster et al., 2004; Mann et al., 1999; Tracey & Young, 2006; WestEd, 2002).” Web 2.0 tools possess the power required to accomplish these lofty – yet realistic – goals in education. A key ingredient is self-directed learning. Findings in educational psychology agree that students are personally interested in their learning when they choose their own learning goals or in creating them collaborate with teachers and classmates. In Understanding the Power of PLNs, Richardson and Mancabelli state that “for each of us as learners, the fundamental change is that we can be much more in control of the learning we do” (p. 19). As a teacher, I want to impact the way my students think for the rest of their lives; what they can do on a test is of little importance compared to what they can accomplish in life using what I’ve taught them. Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” I also want to instill in my students a strong sense of global awareness. Following Twitter hashtags surrounding a world-wise event is one way to accomplish this goal through the use of technology.

How are these media being used to support formal and informal learning? As Richardson and Mancabelli mention, “online exchanges have the potential to raise their oral and written communication skills” (p. 28) The authors continue by saying how passion and an actual audience drives students to write better, as well as opening their minds up to new ideas and developing collaborative skills. Without a doubt, technology supports formal learning. Informal learning occurs when students learn how to safely and responsibly interact with people online. Using technology to advance students’ learning also teaches them to respect the technology and see it for more than a distracting toy. None of these gains are possible with a traditional textbook.

Richardson & Mancabelli describe six new literacies for 21st century learning environments. Which of the six measures of literacy do I see as the most challenging? Off the bat I would have to say the most challenging is the first literacy, “Developing proficiency with the tools of technology” (p. 24). Some people take pride in how technologically illiterate they are. Even worse, they staunchly proclaim that they are incapable of learning how to use technology and would rather live life without it. Nevertheless, the world is undergoing a revolution of learning, and technology plays an inseparable role. To be a lifelong learner who makes an impact in the world today, knowledge of how to wield technology is essential.

6 thoughts on “Learning, not schooling

  1. Justin Montgomery Post author

    @prt117 Seasoned veterans of the teaching professions – those with 30+ years in the classroom – cite a decrease in personal drive in students as well as their marking period averages. Based on my trusted colleagues’ opinions, I based my statement that the culture at large is academically adrift. One of my colleagues – and friend – Frank Breslin wrote about these concerns in the following article: http://www.nj.com/times-opinion/index.ssf/2013/03/opinion_why_america_demonizes.html
    I feel that technology can contribute much to learning, but Frank has his points. Based on my short time in Korea, I saw dedicated students going to school six days a week for far more than 7 hours per day. The culture, the members of the community, the parents revere teachers and support them wholeheartedly.

    @his105 Hannah, I couldn’t agree more. I grin, because playing devil’s advocate or using hyperbole makes us think and judge and act. Although there is truth that more students lack the desire today to master core subjects taught with traditional methods than there were in the past, you are absolutely right: human beings have an insatiable internal drive to learn and succeed in pursuing their passions.

  2. Phil

    @Melissa – Thanks! I also like your example of how you periodically use the “So what?” question to help scaffold motivation. I think the applied or physical sciences have somewhat of an advantage over humanities-related disciplines because, as you note, it can be easier for students to make a connection to something they can typically relate to (e.g., They may know someone with that disease) and therefore enhance their motivation. Perhaps one strategy that can work for the humanities is hypothetical case studies that can be contextualized within a current event. If they are familiar with the event and its central issue(s) and players, then perhaps that authenticity makes it easier for them to walk through a portal of engagement.

  3. Melissa Glenn

    I think Justin may have been referring to the 2011 book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Arum and Roksa as it was shown in the video. I have not read the book in its entirety, but I have heard about it at various seminars. A recent article discusses how some of the methodology used in the book may have skewed the data: Students Might Not Be ‘Academically Adrift’ After All, Study Finds by Dan Barrett (http://chronicle.com/article/Students-Might-Not-Be/139395/). For me, the bottom line is that students need to be internally motivated. I can’t learn the material for them, they have to care enough to do it themselves. How can we as teachers, help them get there? If we make the material applicable or authentic as Justin describes, they will be more likely to care. This is at the core of how I design my lectures. I stop, occasionally, and ask, “why should you care?”. Then if they don’t give me a reason to care about the content of the day, I do! Usually this involves describing how the anatomy and physiology that we are discussing is involved in some disease process. They may know someone with that disease, and so it gives them a reason to want to engage in the content. I hope this and other methods that I use, help to provide motivation for my students.

  4. Hannah Inzko

    Justin, I really loved your post, but I would have to argue with you on one point. I would disagree that students are no longer internally motivated. I think about all of the things that students do in their personal lives (hobbies, sports, games, etc) and its hard to believe that they are blanketly internally unmotivated. I recently got the opportunity to hang out with Jane McGonigal, as she talked about what fuels the internally motivation fire and how we can capture that in education.
    I would argue that students don’t lack an internal motivation overall, they just aren’t seeing a real-life relevance to what we are teaching. This may be bold, but, I would also argue that this is as much of a deficiency on our part as it is on theirs.

  5. Phil

    Powerful video. Michael Wesch, the coordinator, has done some great work in this area, and if you haven’t done so already, I’d encourage you to check out more of his work. As an aside, … It was interesting to see how they reference work by Henry Jenkins, John Seely Brown, and Douglas Thomas – all of whom we’ve read in this course. As we’ve discussed quite a bit already, these authors really encourage and promote using tools to build learning networks that can in turn be used to help direct us to relevant tools and shed light on alternative viewpoints. I’m also intrigued by your statement on students being academically adrift – The culture, and not just students, is academically adrift, and there’s less discipline and drive. Are you saying that this is one of the messages conveyed by the video, or a perspective that you have? I’m curious as to what leads to this conclusion?

  6. jaf378

    Justin – Great post! Two things you mentioned really stick out to me: motivation and authenticity. With the shift toward more self-directed learning, students need that internal motivation to learn and succeed. Students need to want to learn (sorry, I know that’s cliche). Without that motivation, they can certainly do well on tests and achieve in the classroom, but how beneficial is their learning experience? Similar ideas relate to authenticity. The learning experience must be authentic, genuine, and relatable to their own experiences. Showing these applications will make the learning process easier, but also more rewarding.

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