This week, we were treated to a wonderfully engaging debate that, it can be argued, goes at the foundations of what it means to be a teacher. Nicole, Channing, and Jodie savagely duked it out with Catherine, Amanda, and Shelby over whether or not (or to what extent) we should be focusing on knowledge that can be acquired by googling.
This topic is not at all as simple as it seems, and opened a can of worms that had us discussing what we are doing as teachers, as well as the merits of having such a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. At one point, even the well-worn question over memorization reared it’s head. It was a good time!
I unleashed my own predisposition prior to the debate last weekend. The debate did not do a whole lot to move my predisposition to be honest, but it did help me see this as the controversial, and perhaps confusing, topic it is.
Specifically, we were prompted to examine the topic through a self-reflective lens.
So , I consider the kinds of changes that this massive expansion of knowledge has on my own profession.
For my part, I do not really see this increased access to knowledge as a threat to my position, or any teaching position. Knowledge simply being accessible does not really intrude into what we do as teachers. But, as I will argue below, it will (already has) forced us to evolve in our practice.
Nicole, Channing and Jodie shared an engaging Tedtalk from Pavan Arora. In it, he shares the startling revelation that our base of human knowledge is doubling every 1-2 years …
With knowledge growing at such an exponential rate, how would we even know, as teachers, where to begin? What do we consider fundamental, core knowledge that needs to be passed on to our students?
I can’t help but consider the radical changes to the face of literacy, as an example. There was a time that a student’s ability to meaningfully and independently access curriculum was predicated by their being able to physically read text off a page. Don’t get me wrong, reading and writing is incredibly important, and learning to read rightfully dominates our primary grades.
As an LRT, the manner in which assistive technology can now help students with learning disabilities bypass their challenge and actually access curriculum on their own… it’s so very incredibly exciting. No longer do students with these challenges in literacy depend on a scribing teacher to record their ideas for them. They can do it as independently as anybody, using tools that other kids think are cool (speech to text, screen reading). All I’m asking is: is it knowledge itself that remains fundamental, or the way that students access and employ that knowledge?
Let me take this a little further in deploying another article shared by Nicole, Channing and Jodie: THE OBJECTIVE OF EDUCATION IS LEARNING, NOT TEACHING. The authors interestingly ask: Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?
It’s a fair question to ask, isn’t it? As a teacher, I want to make sure what what we are doing is in fact relevant for what our children are going to need to find meaningful employment in their economy. The Future Work Skills 2020 report succinctly highlights how the skills that will be required are dramatically different from our own. They discuss the rising importance of skills like social intelligence, new-media literacy, cognitive load management
Knowing that we are in a world where not only is our access to information on the rise, but our base of knowledge is growing dramatically, I can’t help but be concerned and feel responsible for helping students develop the abilities to navigate and make use of this unlimited knowledge at our fingertips.
My own worries are only amplified by concerns brought up by Daniel “The phenomena of fake news, misinformation, propaganda and pseudoscience have ravaged the internet in the past few years” Nicole shares similar concerns in remarking how…” Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.” Are they ever right. The controversies surrounding fake news and its impact are regular topics of conversation in our Ed Tech courses, and for good reason. There are, without a doubt, forces that actively use this confusing overabundance of information to advance agendas and misinformation of their own.
So what do I want?
So what is it that I want, exactly, for my own practice? I feel like I’ve been all over the place in this post. However, if there is some sort of common thread here, I think it has to be something along the lines of a recognition that we do, in fact, have a vast pool of knowledge at our disposal. To pretend otherwise, as a teacher, would be irresponsible and doing a disservice to my students.
Thanks for reading!