What happens when you allow kids to figure out their own path to learning by giving them access to the online community? That’s one of the thoughtful questions Richard Halverson, co-author of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, brings up in this interview at the CYTSE conference.
There’s a difference, Halverson says, between using cyberlearning tools for specific purposes — to learn math or health, for example — and towards open-ended discoveries, such as participatory cultures like World of Warcraft or FanFiction sites that teach kids the intangibles.
It’s a huge leap to make. Educators are still not wholly convinced that technology is anything more than just “bells and whistles,” so is it even possible to think about giving kids free rein to design their own path online?
And even in those communities that do embrace technology, “those two communities don’t really overlap very well,” he says. “One of them really wants to do what schools do. And the other one wants to see what the tools are capable of.”
The closest comparison to this kind of learning model, Halverson says, is the community college. “I think we’re going to see much more of that in our high schools, like less emphasis on core academic curriculum and more emphasis on well what…what interests you,” he says.
As for the issue about the control shift — of teachers letting go of the idea of filling students’ heads with facts and information — Halverson adds yet another level of complexity to the equation. With so much pressure to teach to the test and standardize learning, Halverson says he’s heartened by the fact that “teachers still make every single decision about which student gets to speak, how the assignments are structured, what kind of feedback they give to their students.”
And for the innovative educator, this is promising.