#edchat Pre-game: Spock & Vger ROFL

Day 223 - Learning to use computers by LShave

Day 223 - Learning to use computers by LShave

Here is today’s leading #edchat question:

How does the internet change the role of content and prior knowledge?

It doesn’t. Kids still need a personal stake in both to create meaning.  While everyone can learn content and has prior-knowledge, school-valued content and prior knowledge remain commodities that some have and some do not.  I would further argue that how kids access that information outside school has changed a lot more than classroom practice inside school. Think about the types of information students pursue on their own time in accordance with their own interests. They know where to go and what to search for regarding their passions, hobbies, interests, and fads.  I think kids are used to learning at a faster pace outside of school than inside.  The relevance of what students are learning and their specialization in search tools speeds up the pace of learning for them. Because we still insist on a curriculum being a curriculum and a school year being a school year (and a $14.95 unit is a $14.95 unit, and a mini-lesson is 5-15 minutes, dammit!), we educators often keep ourselves from re-imagining learning through personal, rather than curricular, connections at a different pace. It’s like when Vger DMed Earth and it took an outsider like Spock to realize humanity’s “child” was on Twitter, not email.  See scene 175.  I mean, obviously. K1RK GOT PWNED, NOOB! FAIL! I was totally ROFL.

At school, however, most students are still told what to research and how to research it. They’re told what to learn and how to learn it (Question: in paragraph 3, is the underlined phrase ROFL figurative or literal, and how does the reader know?). Choice of browser, search tool, and/or subject can sometimes cloak schoolwork in relevancy, but I don’t see many teachers, myself included, radically changing classroom practice specifically in response to the amount of information and access points provided by the Internet and associated instructional technology. I still struggle to balance inquiry and test prep in making design decisions.

Then again, while I encourage students to Google it whenever possible, I’ve never been a fan or practitioner of the research project. Teachers who have incorporated the Internet into research projects, what’s worked for you and your students? How have new opportunities to find information changed the way you teach students how to gather, analyze, and use it? How has the Internet changed student research habits?

I wonder if a next step isn’t to elevate the search to an art form complete with peer critique. How much more would students learn about the what and the how if we ran conversational search seminars? What if students brought stuck or failed searches to the table and then talked or messaged with one another about the best ways to find relevant information? What if we crowd-sourced both the relevance and the rigor of search lessons to students and their relationships?

I don’t think technology has changed to role of content or background knowledge in learning, but I think it continues to change how we collect information and what we do with it. How else should I look at the question, PLN? How do you think the role of content and prior knowledge have, indeed, changed? Has access given them a new primacy? Has standardized testing? Or is the purpose of instructional technology to package content and prior knowledge for quicker assimilation into more rigorous work?

How do we get better at helping students learn how and why? How do we take advantage the ways that technology speeds up the what? How do we involve students in all this content and prior knowledge?  The questions remain the same.

Disclaimer: I still want my giant iPhone.

(Answer: figurative or literal – either way the question is illogical.)

  1. I tend to think the role of prior knowledge maybe evolving as our literacy practices shift from page to pixel.

    First off I believe you are spot on about the role interests plays in leaning. There is such a strong linear relationship between interest and prior knowledge. I think, though, for educators the Internet may change this relationship because teachers now have access to unlimited texts. You can match students ans interests very easily.

    One problem with with authentic interests and texts is critical thinking. Students rarely evaluate an argument (see Stahls work on reading in history)or consider other perspectives when they are entrenched in interests. If you spend anytime trolling through the comments of politics or sports (a shame they have the same discourse) you can see this reality play out.

    I also believe the Internet may reduce the dependency of prior knowledge on making meaning. Skilled online readers may in face be able to quickly compensate for a lack of prior knowledge.

    I also think that the Internet requires new types of prior knowledge to move to the forefront. Paris, Wasik, and Turner identified three types of PK declarative (knowing what) procedural (knowing how) and conditional (knowing when. More recently Hartman and his colleagues have suggested three new types of knowledge just as central to literacy: location (knowing where), identity (knowing who), and goal (knowing why). There maybe some credence to this theory.

    I do agree with your methods for teaching students the social practices of online literacy. Learning online requires strategy exchange through collaborative authentic tasks. We have tried to build this into our Internet Reciprocal Teaching model .

    Learning activities that encouraged tlevel of y exchange often fall into three categories: modeling through online communication, collaborative problem challenges, and content creation. I see these fitting within the pedagogy you describe.

    Does the Internet change the role of prior knowledge. Maybe. Does it change ow we teach literacy. Definitely.

    • Thank you, Greg, for such a terrific and helpful comment. I’m especially interested in the location, identity, and goal aspects of prior knowledge. If we think about how students learn what they want to learn, they start with this kind of knowledge already in mind – where do I look, how does this relate to me, and how will I know when I’ve learned what I want? Sometimes we classroom teachers pre-teach this kind of information for school work via models, rubrics, and the like. Sometimes we just take it on faith that students have this knowledge, or we don’t think about providing it. It seems to me like a before-during-after structure would help build these crucial types of prior knowledge you mention and out them to use in a targeted manner for work.

      It’s also great to hear from CT – are you a native Nutmegger? I grew up in Glastonbury.


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