Learning, and Unlearning

I often hear the phrase that teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge, but the facilitators of learning. However, I believe this is not commonplace in our current education system. In our current education system, change comes slow.  And often teachers have to go through an unlearning process.  What’s Harder Than Learning, Unlearning highlights the unlearning journey for teachers. This is a process in which takes time, and understandably so.  Many teachers have worked their entire careers, built up resources and have been entrenched in certain teaching styles and traditions.  This rings true for lecture-based instruction where the teacher is passing on knowledge.  In Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, Brown and Adler call this, the “Cartesian education system”, which assumes that knowledge is a substance and it passed to students through the best form of pedagogy.  This shift in pedagogy is difficult for many teachers.  For teachers to unlearn this traditional view of education teachers need to buy-in or want to change.

Often when we go through this unlearning process we experience feelings of guilt because this practice could have impacted, and been successful, for our previous students, but we did not know any better.  To aid in this unlearning journey to promote teachers to move towards facilitating learning, or Brown and Adler’s social learning, which is, “student learning in which is grounded in the interactions with others around problems or actions”. Requires support among peer-teachers, and time to change.

As Michael Wesch mentioned in his Ted Talk, from 2010, “Students need to be able to find, sort, criticize, analyze new information and knowledge” this is important in the digital age as students will need to be able to critically think and sort through different mediums, and sources of information.  Furthermore, Wesch also stated that in today’s age it is ridiculously easy to:

  • Connect
  • Organize
  • Share
  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Publish

However, it is also ridiculously hard to do these things in a traditional classroom.  We need to be giving our students real problems and leveraging the appropriate tools for technology.

What steps should/could we as educators take in relation to bringing social networks into the classroom?

First and foremost, I believe that teachers need to model what responsive use of social media is to students.  Through this digital citizenship approach, teachers need to stay relevant.  For teachers to provide meaningful content to students we need to be educated ourselves and model digital citizenship.  We need to be aware of the technology our students are using in order to have meaningful conversations.

Our Instructional Technology Team in SECPSD is big on promoting the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards.  This provides a framework for educators and students with regard to technology, social media included.  ISTE’s student standard “Digital Citizen” promotes students to have a digital identity and to be aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.  In addition to knowing what is positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior is online, respecting intellectual property, and managing personal data, maintaining digital privacy and security and being aware of data-collection technology.  These skills will become the building blocks for students in an online space.

Kids are using social media at younger and younger ages.  As Jennifer Casa-Todd states in her Blog Post 10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers how to use Social Media, It is crucial that students are being taught how to leverage social media for good.  Casa-Todd makes an important point that we should be having conversations with students in regard to the differences in our online identities, and our real-life identities.  Such as determining the difference between friends and followers.

By providing relevant mentorship to students, teaching students about digital citizenship, learning the differences between online and offline relationships, and leveraging social media for good, will allow teachers to incorporate social media into the classroom in a meaningful way.

Educating our Students in a Changing Digital World Safely

Many parents and teachers are concerned about student privacy and online safety.  I believe that it begins with teaching about social media students about privacy and safety as a part of digital citizenship. Understanding data collection and digital privacy are important in the 21st century.  The fact of the matter is, our students are engaging in social media someway.  In order for teachers to meet the NCTE 21st Century Literacy’s students need to be  provided with the ability to:

  • Connect
  • Organize
  • Share
  • Collect
  • Collaborate
  • Publish

Students need to use these skills beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.  But it begins with learning how social media, and technology are impacting our own personal lives and how it is shaping our identity.

7 thoughts on “Learning, and Unlearning

  1. Hi Curtis, I really enjoyed reading your post this week! I totally agree with your discussion at the beginning of the post regarding the unlearning process for teachers. You are right in saying that teachers have refined their skill set and spent years collecting materials to disseminate information to their students which is tricky to give up! Simultaneously, learning a new way of teaching can be intimidating and for those that do give it a go, sometimes first attempts are messy! I know my first go at Genius Hour was not as I had hoped (let’s call it an epic fail!) but I have learned a lot since then. Change is tricky but as you know, very important.

  2. Nice post Curtis! What really resonated with me was when you said “teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge, but the facilitators of learning”. This is the most powerful thing that YouTube and other technologies really allows us to do!

    Our job is to help our students sort through everything out there, become good “digital citizens”, and help them get inspired to learn! We are definitely becoming more of something like a coach instead of a sage on the stage.

    At the same time, we sort of have to get really good at learning things fast, as everything is just moving along at such a quick pace nowadays! I wonder how teachers can stay on top enough that they will be able to help students learn in a world where everything is on YouTube or some other platform.

  3. Great post. I always question whether or not teacher have a 30 year teaching career or 30 one year teaching careers. I know a few teacher who have each day planned totally out and have been on same schedule for years and there isn’t a much that going to change. One reason I love teaching as much as I do is learning and looking for engaging and empowering ways to connect students with their learning, each other, and the world. I agree that traditional classrooms are limited in the opportunities to provide 21st Century skills development. There are many that say we need to go back to the basics but if we went back to the basics say in farm production would we have access to food the way we have now. I also agree that we need to build relationships to help support students’ development with social media and I feel that digital citizenship should just be called citizenship. Do you have any social media projects going with students now. Thanks for the read.

    • Hey Dean, I completely agree that digital citizenship should just be aligned with citizenship, as we are moving so quickly in this digital world that it needs to be encompassed within citizenship skills. I currently do not have a social media project going on with students, as my position in supporting teachers with students mesh well with the job description. I did however, want to dive into Twitter with my students when I was in the classroom fulltime.

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