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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Simple Virtual Schooling Questions

Randolph Decker asks the question, What is online learning? In his entry he points to an FAQ which he has developed that addresses that question (and others apparently, but since the website is down I can't tell for sure).

Similarly, John Norton asks the question, Are There Limits to Virtual Learning? And then proceeds to give us the views of two individuals who were part of a conference that John's group (i.e., Teacher Leaders Network) sponsored.

In both of those responses, the individuals accepted the premise that students were wired differently today because of all of the electronic media that they are faced with (and as you know the notion of digital natives is a common topic on this blog - see Students These Days for the most recent entry).

Regardless of where you fall on the digital natives debate, let's turn the question around a bit. The reason why this gets so much press and the reason why places like Michigan have begun to require that students take an online course to graduate (see Requiring Virtual Schooling?) is because there is an assumption that we are teaching them in a way tht they will need to/be able to learn in the future or providing them with skills that will be necessary, even essential to their future careers. But Will That "What I'm Gonna Be After Graduation" Job Even Exist When You Graduate? And even if it does exist, will it require the same skills that are required now?

If we are asking ourselves questions about virtual school, trying to predict what will serve our students the best for their future, should this be a good place to start our predictions?

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Blogger Nathan Lowell said...

The problem with most of the research is that it's starting with "what we know" in an attempt to project a kind of "what we can find out" mentality.

I'm seriously thinking we're on the cusp of a completely new paradigm. I don't know what it might be because I'm so inextricably bound to this one but if pressed, I'd suggest that we're on the threshhold of a new literacy and just as pre-literate societies couldn't imagine the impact of literacy, I think we're going to have a hard time projecting what an "information literate" society might look like.

Using the pre-literate tools to predict the path will be like trying figure out where an airplane is going by following the railroad tracks. At one point in the development of aviation, that would have worked because pilots often used the rails as navigational aids. That may be where we are now and it's lulling us into a false sense of security that our research topics, methods, and outcomes have an extended relevance in this new model.

What will happen to our understanding of the new model with it starts to diverge from the established patterns and we stop doing "the same old thing" and start using the technology in ways that are meaningful in the new context?

10:48 AM  
Blogger MKB said...


Are we on the cusp of a new methodological paradigm or have we just started to scratch the surface of one that doesn't really fit into our current model of thinking?

What I'm thinking about is design-based or developmental research (depending on the tag you use). Multiple cycles of the same research, just continuing to refine what is being looked at and how it is being looked, while feeding the results back into the systems to make changes to what is beig researched while the research is on-going. I mean we really haven't seen too many good technology-based projects that have used this methodology and maybe that is because we are still stuck in or too busy with the politically driven scientifically based evidence or pushing back on that political force with our own qualitative endeavours, to really give this newer methodology a real opportunity.


12:09 AM  

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