Henry Jenkins posts an article he wrote for Chronicle of Higher Education that looks at the ways in which higher ed is being pressured to change to respond to the use of social tools and networked learning. I love this one part where he describes his program at MIT:
To educate such students, we don’t so much need a faculty as we need an intellectual network. The program has a large pool of loosely affiliated faculty members who participate in an ad hoc manner depending on the needs and interests of individual students: Sometimes they may contribute nothing to the program for several years and then get drawn into a research or thesis project that requires their particular expertise. Our students’ thesis advisers come not only from other universities around the world but also from industry; they include Bollywood choreographers, game designers, soap-opera writers, and journalists. We encourage our students to network broadly and draw on the best thinking about their topic, wherever they can find it.
That “wherever they can find it” part is what I find really intriguing. How interesting would it be to teach and encourage our students to go and find the best available information out there? I mean, isn’t not doing that really doing a disservice at this point? It’s still such a difficult concept for a lot of teachers to embrace, this idea that there might be better information, better learning outside of the traditional structures. Case in point, some of the students I had a chance to work with yesterday here in Atlanta voiced frustration and not being allowed to use many online sources in their research regardless of who was creating them. They had to use books or electronic databases where the information was more “trustworthy.”The problem, obviously, is not only are we denying students the ability to connect with and use some great resources “wherever they can find it,” we’re also not teaching them the processes that go along with editing those resources for themselves, for making decisions about the content they find.
For most teachers owning or controlling the knowledge or content is a much more comfortable position than “owning the network” or the learning that comes with it. And again, I think that’s primarily because most don’t yet understand the potential of the network. The scope of “wherever they can find it” is still very narrow.
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