Challenges and Opportunities in realizing my philosophy of education in an E-Learning Environment

This post will be answering this guiding question:

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the realization of your philosophy of education in the evolution of eLearning as we know it?

I find that my philosophy of education is in a constant state of flux as I gain experience as a teacher, and progress through the OLTD program.  While many of the details of my philosophy are shifting, my core belief has settled into a (hopefully?) coherent statement.  If it could be boiled down into a tweet it may read:

 Students should create meaning through content that influences, and is influenced by their learning community, and utilizes their inherent skills, challenging them to think critically about their world.

201 characters with spaces.  Not quite under the 140 limit, and not fully representative, but hopefully robust enough for the purpose of this post.

I think the opportunities to realize my “philosophy of education” are almost endless, and growing by the day.  Reading through Stephen Downes blog post, I was amazed to see that the post was written in 2005, eons ago in digital terms!  It reminded me of an article I recently read on the guardian website that talked about the staying power of web 2.0 tools, and the importance of network effects and “stickiness” (the extent to which users will return to the site). It made me wonder how many of these companies Stephen mentions are still operating, and while clicking through the hyper-links, found that most of the sites are still around, although many more are now competing in this arena.

What excites me most about this new frontier of learning is how new it is.  I never really thought I would have a “when I was younger” story to share as I got older, but I seem to be uttering these words to my students more and more with regards to the internet and mobile technology:  “we had to use encyclopedias for research”, “we had to memorize each others phone numbers”, “We had to use the phone book” etc.  And I’m not even old! It’s a testament to how fast things are moving, that our students are growing up in a completely different world than the one we did.

I like the fact that we have so many tools available to us to aid in creation.  I love music, and have always been interested in recording music.  When I was younger I used to spend more money than would be considered reasonable on renting or buying audio recording devices so that I could make songs with my friends.  Today better versions of all of these technologies come pre bundled on any new computer you buy.  Money is no longer the obstacle it once was.  I think we will soon be at a place where students are more limited by their imaginations than by any other factor, and that is an environment that I want to foster and take part in.

The main challenge I see has little to do with the qualities of e-learning, but with the rate at which it is adopted by schools and teachers.  The tools are available to create personalized learning environments for our students, but they are still used mainly by early adopters.   E-learning will continue to evolve and become more malleable to the needs of its students, but it is the evolution in its adoption that seems most important to me.  As Downes states in one of his blog posts :

“Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services, …With rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts”

At each of the many schools that I sub at there are a small amount of teachers engaging their students through e-learning methods, and as these approaches become successful, I expect them to become more ubiquitous.  As attitudes shift, and successes occur, the amount of students learning through Web 2.0 technologies will increase, strengthening this network of peers, and enabling more opportunities to connect, share, and create together.

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6 responses to “Challenges and Opportunities in realizing my philosophy of education in an E-Learning Environment”

  1. Sonny Dhaliwal says :

    I love your insight Ben, when you made the comment the “students are limited by their imagination” made me think about my own teaching practice. I remember starting my teaching career not too long ago having all these ideas I wanted to try out but having to convince my administration of their value so it could be funded, but now I still have to do that but not as often; there is many free tools/software that I can use to accomplish my goal. I do not feel as restrained which bring freedom and inspiration and the willingness to experiment. The same applies to students, many new ways to learn and represent their learning. These are exciting times.
    Sonny

  2. Jonathan F Vernon says :

    Your point about stickiness resonates as I belong to one of several web agencies in Brighton in 2000/2001. We spoke about ‘stickiness’ all the time in relation to some Holy Grail Clients tended simply to want a fancy website. To solve a problem or shift a means of communication from print to digital, to reduce meetings away from the office or to learn at your desk in company time rather than doing a course in a conference centre somewhere. Many of the companies are gone, though the e-learning company Epic is an exception, whilst companies like Lumesse is the new name for Edvantage that might have been Learning Technologies. Cogapp have been around since the 1980s to they have held true and survived. Stickiness comes from desirability, refreshing content, relevant content, the social or gamified nature of the site and so on. I have ‘stuck’ to blogging since 1999 and still enjoy the little changed Diaryland … in WordPress since 2007 but only finally getting here via Blogger, Edublogs, Tumblr, Flickr and LiveJournal a few years ago. And only just now rencognizing, as was so easy to do in Diaryland, that you can discover ‘like minds’. I appear to have side stepped or leapt over teaching – my loss, but I will always take an interest. Its all part of the learning process that fascinates me.

  3. Avi Luxenburg says :

    A nice weave here, Ben.
    I love the notion of breaking down your philosophy as a tweet. A great exercise. I may have to try that.
    I enjoyed you mentioning that you are telling students “when I was younger” stories. When I was younger… I started teaching before the internet was even mentioned in K-12 education. Now think about how that makes me feel. If you are telling “when I was younger” stories, then my stories are from the dark ages.
    Your discussion about adoption of Web 2.0 technologies sure strikes a chord. I know that in our district, part of the fear of using technology is that it does not always work. I sure can understand when a teacher takes a risk and tries something new… and the technology simply fails them. I have an Ipad and Apple TV in my classroom, and when it failed to work just once I was leary of using it again. I must admit to being a bit embarrassed by that. I keep expecting teachers to take risks when I know exactly what they are feeling and understand their reticence.
    Although I have a dedicated computer lab, I have been playing more and more with 21st Century Learning activities that have little to do with technology: debates, job interview simulations… When I think of what I often see out there in terms of learning and teaching in the typical brick and mortar classroom, I am reminded of something that Randy LaBonte said, that the pedagogy needs to drive the use of technology.
    Thank you for the post.
    Avi

  4. Margot says :

    Hi Ben
    I, too, enjoyed your comment about ‘when I was younger…” You also mentioned that students would only be limited by their imagination. So, do you think the internet helps or hinders imagination? Do the plethora of tools just add to information overload or spark excitement…? Ahhh, so many questions. And I would love to see the latest, greatest technology always available to students, but as I work on the ‘other’ side (in post-secondary education service), the infrastructure needed to support that and the training needed to stay bleeding edge current aren’t sustainable in the current model of education delivery (as we know it). However, in encouraging imagination, it’s always pretty cool to see how students use and manipulate the tools at hand. Margot

    • benjaminscrogers says :

      I’d never really thought of that! It’s funny, I think that the internet offers the tools needed to represent a wide variety of ideas and learning, but can also stifle the motivation to realize those ideas. So I’m not sure exactly where I stand on that. I think that it comes down to the individual. There is the potential for both an overload of information, or spark of imagination, and it is up to you to take away from it what you will.

  5. Jane C says :

    Hi Ben,
    I, like Sonny, really like your comment that “students are only limited by their imagination”. I fully agree in today’s world where there is so many avenues for children to express themselves other than what I grew up with such as; mud sculptures, homemade play doe, paper, paint. Of course, I feel that the “Web” is not the end all be all for expressing imagination, and playing in mud is still fun, however, the tools children have access to can take their imagination a step further. If a child has an idea, but doesn’t feel they can draw it, for example, they can use any number of web tools to help their idea come to fruition. I also am seeing students who would never even put pen to paper, but given the “Write online” (www.learninggrids.com) program, are writing a lot more. They hated writing, but now can’t wait to write on the website.

    I also see the same type of challenge you see when it comes to how teachers and schools adopt the technology of eLearning. My concern is not just that teachers and schools adopt the idea of using the tools available to them, but also receiving support in the use of the tools with regards to using them in the best way to support students learning.

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