Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Digital Learning, Illustrated

One of the better activities for teachers to do is to look at the following YouTube video and answer the following questions:
  • What type of learning is taking place?
  • What role is technology playing?

It is worth it to take a look at the comments the boy has received (66 total when I posted this).

The type of learning that is taking place is illustrative of "digital learning".  It is student-centered, inquiry-based.  It draws upon teachers from around the world.  The individuals who are helping this boy out, the boy does not even know.  It is an authentic real-world experience for him, not something contrived and solely useful in the walls of a classroom.

In brief, he is learning through making connections.  And, it's not about the technology at all.  He didn't create this just to "make a YouTube video".  We aren't interested in assessing his videography or editing skills.  He wanted to learn how to use a bowdrill set, and the technology was merely a conduit to get to that learning, just as he would use a pencil or a calculator in other situations.

In this sense, digital learning is not about the technology at all; it is about the deeper purposes and important learnings that you want students to have.  It is about a curriculum that creates connections for students to multiple sources of learning, not to simply the one answer in the back of the book. 

The easy mistake to make, the wrong conclusion to jump to, is to think it is about the technology, since as an outsider that is what you see when you walk into a 1:1 school.  But if a school is doing it well, it's not what students should see.  As Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia points out, technology "should be like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible".  Students should no more be conscious that they are using the computer than other pieces of technology in their room.

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