Saturday, February 21, 2009

Educators and Participatory Learning

"To me it’s one of the tragedies of the so-called information age," writes Cathy Davidson, in Academic Commons about educators limited willingness to embrace technology that allows for participatory learning. Continuing in this discussion she adds,
"Here we have this astonishing new way that people are making knowledge together. As educators we should all be vibrating with happiness at this moment! Here are millions of people, typically unpaid, with no ulterior motive, for profit or otherwise, who are validating what we do as a profession with what they do in the spare time as a passion. That seems to suggest that all of us overworked underpaid teachers have it right, that in fact there is something about humanity that likes to learn, and likes to share its learning, and likes to participate. That’s incredible! Every time I read some professor grousing about Wikipedia--that it’s not reliable, it’s not credentialed, etc.--I say sure, of course, so what reference work is perfect? What we may give up in some instances in expertise we more than make up for in scope. We have to have some skepticism about the products of participatory learning--skepticism is what we do as a profession. But, my God, you’re talking about billions of contributions that people are making for free to world knowledge in so many languages, from so many different traditions of knowledge-making, and on a scale that the world has never seen before."
Yes, this does seem like a good thing and it is clear that people are engaged in creating and sharing knowledge. So what is troubling to educators? Why haven't we embraced these tools and why aren't more of us building educational activities in this space?

Davidson despairs, writing,

"I guess part of me just doesn’t understand why this isn’t the most exciting time for all of us in our profession. Why aren’t we figuring out ways that we can use this exciting intellectual moment to bolster our mission in the world, our methods in the world, our reach in the world, our understanding of what we do and what we have to offer our students in the world? It just feels like we’re in an age where we educators should be the thought leaders and instead we’re futzing around the edges. Our profession’s lack of excitement and leadership in all the issues surrounding the information age baffles me."


Anonymous said...

I agree. As an artist and technologist, everytime I try to share something new with an educator, I get rebuffed because I don't have a credential or an educational affiliation.

Well, maybe I should never try and teach anybody anything because I don't have a credential.

I am currently introducing new media solutions for educators. You can see samples here

Thanks and power to you.

Sarah B. said...

Davidson has great points. Why can’t we educators as a profession embrace the changes in technology and communication and use it to our advantage? Ultimately, I think there are two problems. The old adage, we “teach like we are taught” unfortunately still rings true. Even teachers who use many of the tools that would be useful in education for their personal lives, do not see the applications for it in the classroom, because that is not how they learned the subject so that is not how they will teach it. We have to find better ways of helping teachers over that barrier, both new and old teachers. The other problem for teachers embracing technology is the climate in which they teach. Demands to meet standards, principals/administrators grouching about the costs (professional development and implementation costs), and pressure to meet standards that do not embrace the new technology rich learning environment all create a climate that teachers must fight against in their desire to “use this intellectual moment.”
Thanks for posting Davidson's Comments.