How do we learn and process vast amounts of information in the digital age? How do we practice filtering and deep thought in an information deluge? Why do we have such rampant disagreements on whether the Internet is a “good place to learn?” For many of us it’s an exciting time to be in education because of these questions. Pedagogues and thinkers from diverse fields are combining their expertise to form a new set of learning strategies that reflect both the myriad sources of information available via networking and the ease with which anyone can demonstrate their thinking and learning for examination, critique and sharing. Going by terms such as “connectivism,” or “personal knowledge management,” many attempts to build a framework of digital-age learning share common threads which highlight the essential skills and processes of a modern learner. Regardless of any particular preferred framework or methodology, these common threads reveal general stages that we can practice, develop, model and instruct.Consider the table below:
Stages of Model
|Harold Jarche, Personal Knowledge Management||Seek, Sense, Share|
|Ben Schneiderman, Leonardo’s Laptop||Collect, Relate, Create, Donate|
|Change MOOC (Siemens, Downs, Cormier)||Aggregate, Remix, Repurpose, Feed Forward|
|Les Foltos, “Put Me In, Coach!” (ISTE Learning And Leading, February 2014)||Communication, Collaboration, Information Gathering, Information Organization, Expression|
These frameworks come from a variety of sources and contexts, but what do you notice about each of these processes? I see three commonalities:
All of these require active gathering of information and expertise from a variety of sources.
|Foltos||Communication, Collaboration, Information Gathering|
This model of research is not novel– similar to “go to the library and gather information,” learners are
collecting information from sources and filtering it based on its utility or appropriateness. What is
different is that learners build (and continually revise) an customized network of inputs using social media tools and peer or expert networks (RSS/blogs, Twitter/G+/LinkedIn/Facebook, subscriptions).
As each student builds a unique network of inputs and makes critical decisions about what input to “bring in,” the result of this stage is already different range of information, ideas and materials for each student.
Once the input has been gathered, each framework has a phase of taking this diverse stew of creating a personal body of expertise.
Different ideas or resources are brought together, assembled and related in ways that form a complex and personal understanding. Connections are formed between concepts or resources, and comparisons or contrasts are made. This is a messy stage– an intellectual Crock Pot into which ingredients are constantly added and removed until an understanding emerges. This is stage in which formative assessments offer ways of testing ideas, or challenge learners to synthesize their thoughts into a complete picture.
Once a learner has an idea or understanding formed, all stages transition to a creative stage where the learner demonstrates the concept to the world.
|Change MOOC||Repurpose, Feed Forward|
There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Personal use: The learner creates an artifact which can be revisited in the future for review.
- Public use: The process of inserting one’s learning into the world allows it to become part of some one else’s input stage. Just as the learner pulled artifacts from someone else, there’s a social responsibility to contribute to the next learner’s process.
- Conversation: Offering the learning to the public also allows for conversation and engagement. Public discussion of an idea further strengthens or develops that idea and allows for the spread of knowledge.
- Critical Thinking and Creativity: Output could be referred to as the result of combining the input and the process. When a learner creates some form of new learning artifact for the public, it’s easy to see how the output differs from the input (and thus show the quality and nature of processing that transpired). If the output is a regurgitation of the input, then no deep or personal thinking took place (or the learner struggles to communicate it). If the output is significantly different in some way than the input, it’s easy to gauge true understanding and mastery of the idea.
Learning Learning is Learning
When we ask students to follow these kinds of processes, it brings to the surface their abilities to operate responsibly and effectively in a digital sphere. It also allows us to confront head-on when there are weaknesses in a student’s ability to use information from the Internet or to synthesize ideas. Finally, it gives students great latitude to create learning which reflects their personality, strengths, ambitions and interests. Do you see elements of your class which reflect these kinds of frameworks (whether overtly or implied)? Do you see places to apply this kind of a process to your existing curriculum? Post your ideas and thoughts below!