How is the internet shaping learning?

In an unfortunately titled article in a recent edition of the Examiner Lenn Millbower comments on claims that internet conditioned learners will change how we deliver instruction. Much as I loathe the whole concept of delivering instruction as a description of what our education system is all about, I did bring myself to read the article and found myself pondering two key points in it:

What is the response from teachers generally, and our education researchers and policy makers in particular, to the observations of Social psychologist Dr Aleks Krotoski quoted in the article;

”It seems pretty clear that, for good or ill, the younger generation is being remoulded by the web. Facebook’s feedback loops are revolutionising how they relate. There is empirical evidence now that information overload and associative thinking may be reshaping how they think. For many, this seems to be a bleak prospect – young people bouncing and flitting between a thoughtless, throwaway virtual world.”

Questions this prompts me to consider include…

What are we doing in our classrooms on a daily/weekly basis, using action research or reflecting on action methods, to test these assumptions and claims?

If they prove true, what are the implications of them for how we design learning for the future?

Are these behaviours that we simply need to adapt to and accommodate, or are they things we need to be strategically and intentionally countering in the pedagogical design of our lessions?

Millbower concludes his article with a similarly tough challenge for teachers:

Distilled down to its essence, we learning professionals have two choices.

  1. Deliver old style, long and detailed lectures, provide copious reading assignments, and expect focused attention on you; or …
  2. Replace lectures with mysteries and problems to be solved, replace reading assignments with topics to be researched via the Internet, and replace focused attention with texting and other social interactions.

We may not want to pick the second option—it will certainly make our professional lives harder—but our choices are adaptation or decreasing relevance. We better make the choice before our learners make it for us.

In my work I make regular use of the internet and Web2.0 technologies on a daily basis, and have regular contact with teachers around the world who are doing so in their classrooms. This article is a timely reminder that we need to be mindful of the boiling frog anecdote, and commit some time to researching the ways in which the use of the internet is shaping our learning behaviour.

One thought on “How is the internet shaping learning?

  1. The first keynote speaker at the conference I was at this week irritated me by talking of how we need to ‘cope’ with 21st century learners’ as they they were an annoyance, something to be ‘fixed’- a negative thing. May be I am quick to bring to the boil but I think the ability to use and leverage the internet is something to be encouraged, not accommodated. We should foster on-line learning.

    I nearly jumped the shark right then and there but showed the Habit of Mind of perseverance and it all came right by the end.

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