Reimagining Education in the Digital Age
The first keynote I attended revolved around the idea of integrating technology with education, at first I didn’t think much of the topic because most of our learning is through the internet these days, we don’t study through books anymore. Even social media is becoming a key factor for teaching and learning. Dr Couros discussed how he teaches his students to contribute to the web rather than just consume from it. He talked about how he is learning from observing how his children use and learn from the web, and that gives him inspiration regarding how his students could too. The world is changing, many disciplines are becoming data-centric and the internet is our main educator nowadays, more than our parents, instructors, or anyone else. Dr Couros discussed that the web is changing in 3 ways, first is change in content: content is not as valuable as it was before. I believe it’s because nowadays you can learn almost anything by looking it up online. There is a youtube video somewhere to teach you absolutely anything you want to know, and as a student, I’m thankful such useful knowledge is a few clicks away. This however makes me feel a bit uncomfortable with the fact that I go to university (and such an expensive one) to learn things I either already know, or can know from the internet for free. We are operating in a way that basically means that employs are looking for a certificate before they look for knowledge. As a college student who has taken classes with professors that have taught me nearly nothing, have heard me complain about it but then do good on their exams, I have to say it’s really funny how they don’t realize half the class learned that information from someone on Youtube who doesn’t have the PhD they do. In contrast, I did learn some things from the hour I spent listening to dr Alec Couros, because he was an engaging presenter. I was impressed to see videos of kids taking up challenges and making youtube videos, they’re contributing to the web in a way most of us aren’t. Also I was impressed to see others posting on the web to ask questions, and it felt very nice to see a community of people dedicated to help others on the web come together in the comments to share information. Another change in the web he discussed was the change in tools. I may love technology and it’s advancements, but I also feel like it’s making us not pay attention to anything else. I’ve taken pictures in class in stead of writing things down in the past, and I almost never go back to look at that picture. I never have any recollection of taking it or of the topic that was being discussed until I’m scrolling through my camera roll looking for a picture of something else, and that’s the downside I’m seeing to how new tools and technologies are changing how we learn. On the other hand, tools like apps can be very useful like the PhotoMath app that a kid on youtube made a video about for others to use for their maths homework. I was thinking “why couldn’t I have known about this last semester when I couldn’t make time to do my maths homework???”, I’m learning every day how to ask google the simplest of questions, because I’m sure to find something useful. The third factor he discussed was networks, how we can immerse ourselves in online communities who give us the opportunity to learn a lot, and in return we do the same. I thought of how on twitter every day I see interesting tweets where people share their opinions on a certain topic, or share stories of their experiences, and then thousand of people come in to comment. I’ve read tons of useful threads from tweets that started with simple questions, for example “What is the best work advice you’ve received?” and this was written by a person who doesn’t have a large number of followers, but with everyone retweeting with comments the tweet ended up with thousands of replies, all of which sounded very very useful. I always save these things for future reference. For this reason, twitter is my favorite social media app. I loved the idea that he requires his students to choose something they’ve always wanted to learn and use the web for it and then share what they’ve learned. Some students chose painting, some chose an instrument, some learned a new language and I think from this learning experience they saw the reflection of our societies that’s on the web, and how they got an opportunity to see how great it can be to teach them new skills. I also loved seeing snippets of the games his students made and that got me very excited for the game we’re going to make in our Digital Literacies class. What I loved most about this keynote was the discussion of how the growing social web can be such a beautiful place. I got very emotional seeing drawings of the little boy who passed away from cancer that were shared by strangers under a post the boy’s father made. What I loved even more were the videos of students in Brazil who connected to a senior’s home in the US to talk to them and learn English from them. I loved the illustration that between humanity, technology and pedagogy there’s a sweet spot. Overall this was a very nice talk to attend and I don’t think there’s anything I wish could’ve been done differently. I believe being open to constantly searching and learning from online sources has great impact on how we can learn in the future.
Teaching in an Age of Complexity
Dr Catherine Cronin’s keynote started off with talking about the idea of networking between teachers and students and the web, which was discussed in the previous keynote. It was interesting for me to hear the distinctions she made between the nature of teaching within physical spaces, bounded online spaces with restricted access, and open online spaces. Open online spaces encourage much more sharing, teaching, learning and in my opinion is the ideal space for contributing to the web. Engaging in participatory culture in digital spaces is the best thing about the internet as a whole, because that’s where real connections can happen and that’s because of the low barriers. Hearing this I felt that I should explore more blogs and maybe create a reddit account, so I can explore and be part of more online communities like twitter and tumblr. I really loved the figure of the piece of tangled wool she used to describe the link between open, participatory, and equitable pedagogies. How she said “I don’t think they could be disentangled”. I learned that making it “open” tackles the extent to which these online sources are accessible, “participatory” is for measuring the ability of students to put things out there instead of just consuming from the information made available to them, and “equitable” is making sure everyone has the same opportunity for this. The 3 together can diminish structural inequality in this educational context. It was also very interesting for me to hear that the greatest difficulty students in higher education encounter on the web is the balance between openness and privacy, because I believe this affects me and will continue to affect me in the future as a student or as a user of the web for any educational purpose, because I’m a very private person who is currently trying her best to get more out of the web. I also learned about the apps and websites for open web resources which was great, but the best thing about this keynote for me was the different perspective about Wikipedia she presented. I agree that being able to edit and write wikipedia articles is super useful because it gives us the opportunity to share on that sort of platform and be up to date with information regarding any discipline because Wikipedia is such a broad online entity.
Attending these keynotes made me notice something I wouldn’t otherwise have ever thought about and that’s how teachers who encourage digital learning have a wonderful community of their own, and now I’m considering taking a class in Education so if I’m ever someone’s teacher (which I do plan on being in a specific field) I can do it well. I feel like the two keynotes were very different but a little similar, the content cannot really be compared, but I believe the first one was more enjoyable and engaging because of Dr Couros’ great presentation skills, but the second keynote was much more interesting for me to listen to even though I saw it online. I found myself replaying several minutes to grasp the concepts better, and I learned a lot.