Infinate Learning

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It is an exciting and challenging time for education. In the 20th century we perceived information as scarce while in the 21st century it is over abundant. Now students have the ability to search, work or publish at will, using text, audio, and video, or any combination these. The have un-precedented access to technologies previously cost prohibitive for schools, which are usually instant and often free. Learning and teaching has become a multimodal, multi-literate conversation – where participation is an everyday reality for teachers, librarians, administrators and students.

The opposing forces of ‘memory and forgetfulness’ no longer dominate learning. Since Gutenberg’s movable type in the mid 1400s, technology has allowed us to expand our creative and mental horizons, progressively chipping away at the need to ‘memorise’ and ‘recall’. Today more information is stored digitally than in all the libraries in the world combined. We simply don’t need to ‘remember’ everything. The output of ICTs exceeds the wildest dreams of nineteenth century industrialists, and alters our view of memory; forgetfulness; creativity and originality.  Schools need to extend their vision of learning beyond ‘memory-arts’. We are in a hyperdynamic world of connections, relationships, and adaptive tools that help us make sense of the information flooding about us. We are standing at the entry of an age of infinite recall and infinite memory, the lines between original works and derivatives is blurred because duplication is simple and storage cheap. The idea that students learn from single or even limited origins is naive. Originality and creativity is now an additive and transformative process. Students need to develop insight into how to navigate and select a pathway in the online world – and for that they need help – by creating better resources, developing better frameworks inside what schools call ‘information literacy’.

Students that score well on exams can also be strategic surface learners. They want and demand the ‘answers’. While there is pressure to ‘perform’ and ‘get results’, it seems that online learning is adapting and evolving regardless of what mainstream education thinks.

For example : The Florida Virtual High School – has a very different pedagogy, and very different approach to learning.

In two words? Personalized instruction. You want choices. You want to feel that you or your students are not just numbers. You want to work at your own pace. You’d like to study at home or from a library or coffee shop. You want some say in your education, and you want classes that hold your interest!

If these are the things you want for yourself or your students, you have come to the right place. We have built our school on these beliefs:

  • Every student is unique, so learning should be dynamic, flexible and engaging.
  • Studies should be integrated rather than isolated.
  • Students, parents, community members, and schools share responsibility for learning.
  • Students should have choices in how they learn and how they present what they know.
  • Students should be provided guidance with school and career planning.
  • Assessments should provide insights not only of student progress but also of instruction and curriculum

We are presented with infinite memory. We can store, retrieve infinitely more than our fragile memory. Our lives are not limited by local contemporaries or restrained by single sources of information. The internet wiped away that idea a long time ago. The next wave for education to deal with is the nature of schools and the mode of learning itself – in the global context. It is already happening. As Australia starts looking at the next phase of it’s ‘digital education revolution’ – I hope that it pays attention to schools like the FVS. I wonder what would happen if we had a HSC Virtual High School? – Now there’s an idea.

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4 thoughts on “Infinate Learning

  1. Dean, the Florida Virtual High School is an interesting concept. It has evolved from a distance education background and it certainly delivers a significant number of courses each year.

    I cannot help but feel that “Personalised instruction” should be labelled “Tailored instruction”. Personalised instruction for me would be face to face tuition.

    eLearning is an excellent vehicle for distributing knowledge and skills for those willing to learn. It allows opportunities for further education, particularly for those unable to travel or situated in remote areas. eLearning can also support existing face to face instruction.

    A learning environment that is entirely online suits some, not all. Experience with eLearning programmes involving organisations such as the University of Wollongong, Nokia, Singapore Airlines, JPMorgan Bank and others illustrated for me the pros and cons of 100% online delivery of courses. I feel that face to face instruction is an important facet of the socialisation process of our youth. Schools provide opportunities to acquire skills in interacting and coping with your peers.

    A virtual HSC High School that augments face to face instruction, supports students in remote areas and facilitates subjects with very low enrollments is a good idea yet I feel that students should still be engaged in a significant face to face component as well.

    Infinite possibilities, true. Infinite learning? Infinite memory? Not so sure about that. I sometimes get the feeling that we are filling our lives with too much stuff. Endless streams consisting of immediate moments of gratification and tenuous connections. Too many choices in today’s world. information literacy should focus on instructing students how to filter out the unnecessary stuff and how to focus on media that can facilitate lifelong growth, community connections and local benefits.

    Local is broken. It needs fixing. Global connections are fine yet let’s not lose sight of local, community, real neighbours. The infinite possibilities that are now available can be used to try and regenerate local connections and people stuff. Local is becoming the poor brother of global.

    Wired individualism versus real communities.

    Cheers, John.

  2. Besides the virtual setting of FVS and others like it, it will be interesting to see what happens with the change in pedagogy of typical face to face classrooms caused by the presence of ubiquitous knowledge. My take being in the trenches is that the best teachers are shifting their pedagogy to accomodate this reality while those who are subpar continue to dolt along one boring (memorization based) assessment at a time.

  3. Dean,
    The opposing forces of ‘memory and forgetfulness’ are being replaced with “structure versus free association”, which create a dynamic tension that can never be resolved. It is this tension which guides the journey through information. In order to acess this information, it is important to be able to place it in some meaningful context, and at a more basic level to be able to just to read it or write it. The discipline of the structure, the framework which must be learned is what allows the creativity and originality to surface.
    What has changed is access to information, and the way it can be rearranged to suit varying purposes depending on the needs of the audience. What has not changed is the requirement that the user can read, interpret and respond to the information. Web 2.0 comes close to the proverbial “monkeys pounding on typewriters writing Shakespeare”. The challenge is not to make it exist, but to be able to distinguish between classic literature and gibberish. Web 2.0 has both in abundance.

    The Utopia of students wandering in carefully landscaped pastures and self learing using wireless laptop technology requires that they have learned the basics of reading and writing, and somewhere a teacher to guide the framework for that student.

    • Thank you Andrew for adding a new dimension. I am indeed experiencing a rapid and unpredictable growth in online course provision, which has spilled over the institutional learning management system and indeed is seeing a lot of free association between staff and students which is well outside the structure. It’s the S-Curve in full effect.

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