This is so exciting – solid research that validates and urges new thinking about education from the MacArthur Foundation. The Reports on Digital Media and Learning have just published Living and Learning with Media: A Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. It’s an absolute MUST READ even if you only skim the executive summary. Perfect timing … I am reading the report just as I’m preparing to make a major technology integration proposal.
New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting. Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predeﬁned goals.
For some of us, no surprise there – kids’ social networks are powerful and provide them “just in time” learning that we know is more effective then prepping for summative standardized test.
Youth could beneﬁt from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.
And that means that educators have to try out some of the social forums. Once teachers get a sense of how personal learning networks enhance their lives, their attitudes towards classroom use will shift.
More on that point:
Rather than seeing socializing and play as hostile to learning, educational programs could be positioned to step in and support moments when youth are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest- driven forms of new media use. This requires a cultural shift and a certain openness to experimentation and social exploration that is generally not characteristic of educational institutions …
The problem lies not in the volume of access but the quality of participation and learning, and kids and adults should ﬁrst be on the same page on the normative questions of learning and literacy …
It is important to understand the diverse genre conventions of youth new media literacy before developing educational programs in this space …
In these settings, the focus of learning and engagement is not deﬁned by institutional accountabilities but rather emerges from kids’ interests and everyday social communication.
So, dare I say, no need for NCLB? We might actually think about what engages kids, rather than hold schools hostage to test scores?
Kids’ participation in networked publics suggests some new ways of thinking about the role of public education. Rather than thinking of public education as a burden that schools must shoulder on their own, what would it mean to think of public education as a responsibility of a more distributed network of people and institutions? And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement? And ﬁnally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from an engaged and diverse set of publics that are broader than what we tradition- ally think of as educational and civic institutions? In addition to publics that are dominated by adult interests, these publics should include those that are relevant and accessible to kids now, where they can ﬁnd role models, recognition, friends, and collaborators who are co-participants in the journey of growing up in a digital age.
Now there’s a vision for the future of education … and it keeps coming back to the need for adults to give up the death-grip on controlling what and how kids learn.