I love that we are still staying in touch and keeping the dialogue going after MOOCMOOC ended. I tweet with several people pretty regularly and have G-chatted with Rosemary several times. They Google+ hang outs — we have become known as the #MOOCMOOCbar– are the best though. We had our second one on Friday and here are some thoughts and notes that I wrote down (strangely, on actual paper). You can also see some other stuff from the hangout on this Google Doc.
What is learning? Who defines it? Is it students/teachers/institutions?
Does what we “learn” versus what we “teach” matter?
There sometimes seems to be more concern for jumping hurdles than indulging in a learning atmosphere, why? Does this come from the institution, society’s use/value of education, or the students? Perhaps jumping hurdles is an important skill to learn?
Are we innately born as learners? Is learning a social construct? Can/are both true? How/why does this affect our methods?
What is the difference between critical thinking and skepticism? Can radical skepticism (conspiracy theorist types) also be considered as critical thinkers? Does too much skepticism cause everything to fall apart (e.g. the social trust of knowledge/veracity)? Is causing this trust to fall apart good or bad? What role does digital publishing, the internet, and easier access to information play in this?
There seems to be an epistemological shift with digital culture that the above questions sort of hint at. This leads to more questions about memory and the nature of knowledge as well as teaching and sharing knowledge. There are three or four different terms that are distinct but very interrelated: knowledge of; information; knowledge about; and content. The very etymology of “information” implies that it forms us and changes us. How does this happen? We need more research into these things from a variety of perspectives including the psychological, physiological, and, of course, the pedagogical — especially with the rise of digital culture. Here we have questions about the relativity and physicality of knowledge. Do we have more knowledge than people can can handle or process?
We got a little bit more in-depth on the question of “is knowledge physical.” We agreed that it is, both in spatial terms as far as books/texts/etc but also temporally. To a certain extent knowledge is “what we can remember at a certain time” more than what we can reference or research. Thus, knowledge is, to a large degree, relative (answering the question above). This is an important sort of pedagogical reminder, perhaps tests/quizzes/conversations are important for this reason because they show the internalizing and forming of the information/lessons/knowledge. This is why ultimately teaching methods really do matter. We sometimes need a guide or curator as we explore the vast expanses of information. This must be more than just posting a bunch of links or assigning texts. At the same time, we must return to our first questions about learning and recall that our choice of texts/links/lessons/content become a construct of our own. How/why we construct things is a part of our position and is imbued with power to a certain extent. Does the digital world change or alter this power? I think so, but I’m not sure how. This is something I’d like to explore in the future because I think it is at the heart of a lot of contention within various definitions of the word “open” in setting such at MOOCs and publishing.
Thinking of knowledge as a construct, I suggested that knowledge is a series of previous conversations — we call this historiography in history. I was taught in ed. school that we much activate prior knowledge in our students — somehow — for a lesson to connect/stick. These are essentially points of references within previous conversations. A good example of these is the Beloit College Mindset List, which tracks events/things that college freshman have either experienced or not experienced so we can better understand them. It’s usually pretty entertaining, but I think it matters. When you teach and talk about knowledge you need common thought points. It allows us as teachers to connect dots. In this way we can access and explain the series of previous conversations that lay the foundation for the present as well as answer larger epistemological questions. I think those previous conversations do matter (not everyone agrees). That’s why need to maintain knowledge and information about things even though those conversations might have ended or evolved. In some ways I see some similarity to “scaffolding” in the education literature and the previous conversations idea, but I don’t think it’s quite the same (I could be wrong and would enjoy more discussion here). Past conversations still form us and we share in their story. Thought points matter, they affect how we teach, who we are, and what we know, but at the same time just like knowledge itself, those thought points are also relative — particularly among generations. However, we must ask is the teacher a necessity in finding and connecting thought points?
I hope these notes make sense and don’t seem too confusing. They’re mostly questions. Based on them, it seems that in some places we may have spun circles around ideas/issues. We probably did (it’d be interesting to see a chart of our discussion). I admit there are no real conclusions or lessons here. Our hangout may have ended but the discussion has not. Feel free to add your thoughts/questions/reflections/links in the comments or to the linked Google doc above. Also, let me know if you want to join in the next Google+ hangout. I really enjoy these conversations because they challenge a lot of my own thoughts and make me think more critically about teaching and the digital world.