Educational Lifelines

Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed). George Siemens

Who wants to be a Millionaire have known it for years.  Their lifelines, given even when a million pounds (or dollars) are at stake, offer phone a friend and ask the audience; a contestant chooses according to who they think will know best. In life we have shifted from wondering “who sang that random one hit wonder?” to simply asking google (or more recently Siri) our very-clever-special friend.  Of course a teacher has always been one of those special friends (some of them more knowledgeable than others) as have our parents and peers or, as we are calling them in the ed-tech world: nodes.  But there has got to be a limit to the knowledge that any individual can hold.  So we need to offer lifelines for our children.


Photo Credit: yashh via Compfight cc

There are various reasons why our students may need lifelines, some that I have met in my experience of 11-18 education:

  • students that are obviously gifted in a certain area, who need stretching in a way that is impossible in a large class and even in some cases beyond the capacity of the teacher (this does not undermine the teacher, unless (s)he does not find an alternative solution)
  • Students who do not learn the same speed or in the same way as other students who feel lost and therefore, over time, disengaged, not by lack of cognitive ability but in the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ that is the classroom
  • School refusers who, for whatever reason, are obviously not dictated by the reward/punishment drive as they daily defy the basic tenant the education laws: attendance.  Education should thus be arranged that would stimulate an intrinsic motivation drive, and either lead to reintegration or the bottom line, education.  
  • Home schoolers have already chosen self direction over being managed and the opportunities that MOOCs Coursera and (I am considering taking a Coursera blended learning course, and perhaps so should parents home schooling their own children – practicing what they preach!)

Karen Stephenson states:

Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”

In literature I believe that we create nodes (experiencing things vicariously though the personas of others) but find literature simply opens curiosity and poses questions which I then need to supplement with other knowledge.  Discussing the book or investigating the context are ways I have It is widely acknowledged that education and teachers have been slow to recognise both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn.

At home this is a given, my 13 year old son (a digital-native) decides he wants to build a computer that will help him to render the videos he is making quicker and more effectively.  I have absolutely no idea whether this is possible and whether a 13 year old could do this (it sounds impossible to me who is definitely a digital immigrant).  So instead of asking me, or a teacher who may not have the time to give to this whimsical idea, he goes online.  After watching how-to videos, reviews, how to get the best value on components (you-tube is fabulous) he started using my Amazon account to ask amazon users the things he new he couldn’t ask me or his dad.  The interesting part is how many people take time out of their lives to give freely their advice, about 100 Amazon answers later my email is full and my mind is blown, but Jacob has the knowledge he needs (if not the money!).

This kind of learning definitely hits Dan Pink’s target that the human default setting should be that of 2-4 year old.  But at 13 with the benefits of technology a learner can reap the rewards of purpose, autonomy and eventually mastery. And do not fear, Moocs are coming to K-12 so we can move education from simply the synchronous (real time) to asynchronous (anytime).

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