My son, at the age of 12, taught himself to write java, html code and now, at the age of 13, he has moved on to flash. He sits in his desk and spends a fair amount of what a lot of people will say is his wasted childhood, going through YouTube tutorials, what’s more, making them himself, because yes, he has also taught himself how to record and edit videos. People comment, review him and thank him for creating such helpful instructional videos. (Ok, so, maybe that’s not an achievement for many of you, but to proud me, it is :))
I could say I felt bad about him spending so much time in front of his laptop. But I think I would be sort of lying. I would definitely like him to strike a better balance between the real and the digital, there is no doubt about that and we had our fair share of discussions on the topic. But the reality is that I have come to see his passion for technology as a parallel to some people’s passion for music or rugby or model trains. I know I’m going to get a lot bashing for this, but I’m prepared for it. I take it everywhere I go, when people who spend hours in front of the TV every day, hypocritically feel the right to tell me that my son spends far too much time in front of the computer.
I just ran a half marathon with my daughter (my third), I train in the gym at least three times a week and I walk 50 minutes to work – so, I’m not new to exercise and its benefits. And I certainly try to encourage it in him, but I’m also very partial towards technology and evolving with it. And I do see the benefits of E-learning and encouraging and developing an interest that is so important to him.
In order to understand why I consider E-learning to be such a key component in the education of a twenty-first century child, let me talk a little about E-learning and why the attached 2.0.
1. Web 2.0 tools
Created around the concept that people who participate in the web should be active contributors in it, the Web 2.0 tools Web 2.0 represents an important shift in the way digital information is created, shared, stored, distributed, and manipulated. It includes, but are by no means limited to, blogs, social networking applications, RSS, social networking tools, and wikis. Before the arrival of Web 2.0 tools, in the traditional Web 1.0 universe, data was posted on websites, and users simply viewed or downloaded the content. Now, users have more input into the nature and scope of web content and Internet forums have become more extensive and led to the proliferation of blogging while the dissemination of news evolved into RSS feeds.
2. E-learning component
In Minds of Fire, Open education, the long tail and Learning 2.0 John Seely Brown and Richar P Adler discuss the importance of new learning and teaching technologies in an environment such as today’s where we need to acquire new knowledge and skills on an almost a continuous basis in order to stay informed and retain our competitiveness in the job market.
Standing against traditional teacher-student Cartesian knowledge transfer, the social view of E-learning 2.0 – including online resources such as social networking sites, blogs, wikis, and virtual communities – says “we participate, therefore we are.” The Internet has facilitated collaborative learning through new kinds of online resources and has shifted the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated.
E-learning also differs from the traditional Cartesian educational system where students are only given the chance to be active practitioners in a field after spending several years learning about a subject. E-learning encourages what John Dewey called “productive enquiry” or the process of seeking the knowledge when it is needed in order to carry out a particular task. The Cartesian approach to education suited a relatively stable, slowly changing world where careers tended to last a lifetime. Things are different now. The environment, people, subject-matters, everything evolves at a much faster pace and we need to be prepared for it by investing in a new approach to learning.
John Seely Brown and Richar P Adler suggest that today’s learning methodology must replace the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads. The proposed new method of demand-pull focuses on “learning to be” through enculturation into a practice as well as on collateral learning using rich (sometimes virtual) learning communities built around a practice. Usually presented in informal settings, E-learning 2.0 is passion-based learning and tends to be motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something.
Although this new form of learning begins with the knowledge and practices acquired in school, which are now increasingly participating in this type of methodology, it is equally suited for continuous, lifelong learning that extends beyond formal schooling.
Gamification of E-learning – Second life
There are also strong advocates of what has been called Gamification of E-learning, particularly those that see Second Life as the next logical step in the development of e-learning / web-based learning. They claim second Life makes training engaging and experiential by bringing the trainee into conditions exceedingly similar to real life situations. It appears especially well suited for training that requires person-to-person interaction (sales, customer service, negotiations, teamwork, leadership, etc.), involves work in a specific environment (first response, emergency training) and / or performance of required procedures (equipment training). But the learning possibilities are endless, pretty much as in the real world.
This image,for instance, posted by danceinthesky on Flick represents the Virtual Learning Environments class that met in Second Life with guest speaker, Joyce Bettencourt (SL: Rhiannon Chatnoir) from Global Kids Online Leadership Program. In the image, participants are visiting the Kristallnacht exhibit, presented by the US Holocaust Museum. As they walk through the streets, you see ransacked homes and anti-semitic graffiti and hear testimonies of survivors telling their tales of terror and escape.
It is quite fascinating and there are companies that are already capitalising on the abundant training and educational opportunities in Second Life. Delta Printing is one of them and they offer quite a surrealist range of training options from corporate training in virtual worlds to the creation of customised environments for training and custom training simulations in virtual worlds and on-site second life presentations and seminars.
There is a whole new world – no, I should rephrase, whole new worlds – for us to dive into and take advantage of. I don’t think we should look at them from a distance and let them get away just because they seem to be too overwhelming, time-consuming or overpowering. But you might think otherwise.