Not Just a Tweak: Reimagining Teaching and Learning in a Connected World

Forty thousand. That’s the estimated number or search queries on Google per second. The same source states that in 1998, the year Google was founded, the search engine received 10000 search queries per day.  As it is evident, we live in a time where the amount of information is growing exponentially, and so is the knowledge that is being created as more information is consumed. The rate at which the world is evolving demands that all levels of society adapt to a world where change is ever present, and skills such as “the ability to find and solve problems, think critically and creatively, deal well with failure, persevere, and collaborate with others” are more relevant than content knowledge itself (Richardson). The big question is, how are our current education systems preparing the students to thrive in a digital world? This video presents five trends that are shaping the future of work:

After watching the video, the next question that comes to mind is, are our curricula designed to provide a stepping stone to access the new workforce? Some say that current curricula can be improved to suit the 21st Century demands, and some others, including the ISTE, vouch for a curriculum design from the ground up. The latter argues that it is inefficient to try to fit digital age tools into teaching models that are more than a century old, as the learning paradigms are so distant. Furthermore, the connectivism theory proposes a new role for teachers, as in the connected digital world, they are no longer the middle man between students and content.  Instead, teachers should model how to establish connections for learning, how to organise, curate and synthesise content, how to determine its validity and value, and how to share it, so others can benefit from the new content that has been produced through the student’s work.

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Taking all this into account, I believe concept-based curriculum is more relevant than ever. By not having mandated content, as educators, we can choose the context in which to immerse the students so they can explore the concepts set for the unit. In this way, we can create an environment for the students to engage in their own quests to construct information and knowledge, providing opportunities to learn and practice finding, curating, evaluating, synthesizing and sharing information that can help them and others expand their conceptual understanding. Now that I am preparing for a new unit, I was considering how to bring this to live in my classroom.

 

Storing and Sharing Findings

I see value in my students getting into the habit of saving, annotating and sharing sources that they have found useful or interesting. Frequently, I have students who would say, “I remember reading somewhere about that!” but are unable to recall which source, or even the source type, as they never bookmarked it or did anything with it.  The thing is, the source, at that very moment, might not have been of urgent value to them, but if they found it interesting, by saving it and tagging it in a bookmark sharing site, for instance, they are curating content in a basic way, which can help them and others find and connect information later.

We are about to embark in an Interdisciplinary Unit through which we will explore global interactions as the key concept. One of the summative assessments is to investigate a specific global issue of the student’s interest, looking at how different groups are taking positive action, and how the student him/herself can contribute in the local community to mitigating the impact of the global issue.

At the start of the unit, I plan to have my students join Diigo. I have been using Diigo for many years and this is why I like it:

  • You can bookmark any site and tag it as you wish
  • You can highlight and annotate any site and PDFs within a site
  • When annotating, you can create private notes or notes to be shared with one of your groups.
  • You can choose whether you wish your bookmark to be private or public
  • You can choose to share a bookmark or multiple ones with a group
  • When you set up a group, you can make it public or private and the ability to add or edit can be managed
  • It has an extension that can be installed in most browsers that allows you to bookmark, highlight and annotate with one click, without having to go to the Diigo site.
Image by Pettycon on Pixabay

The goal is for students to collect sources for their own research, but also to collect other resources that might not be directly linked to their research questions, but that are related and that they have stumbled upon during their investigation.  I want the students to create groups based on the different global issues chosen by them, so they can share relevant resources.  By bookmarking and tagging their sites and making them public, the students are improving the chances of other people searching on Diigo to find more targeted information. Likewise, my students will be able to search on Diigo using those tags for information to help with their research. By sharing in their own groups, they will be contributing to expanding the information pool for their topic, and they will benefit from being able to access previously selected sources from their peers. It’s a win-win for all.

So, how is this different from what I have done before? In previous years, the students were using Evernote to share information with the group. Although Evernote has its own advantages (i.e. recording voice notes, creating notes with text, images, videos all in one place), the sharing and learning from others was reduced to whoever they shared their note or notebook with. By using a social bookmarking site in addition to Evernote (they will still use it), they can share and use information from a broader platform.

Although this is just one little thing that I am going to do in my upcoming unit, I hope that this will make students aware of the power of sharing, and of ways in which they can share and take advantage of the wealth of information that has already been curated and is available to all. Basically, I’m trying to make a ripple in the sea.

 

Featured image by rawpixel on Pixabay

 

5 thoughts on “Not Just a Tweak: Reimagining Teaching and Learning in a Connected World

  1. What I really enjoy about this read is how you are modeling the skills that you want your students to develop. You are an active Diigo user and so you can model best practice. We are actually trying to get all students and teachers to use Evernote for research purposes but it’s a big task and it doesn’t work if teachers just say “clip it to Evernote”. Building these habits and skills is not easy! Do other teachers also use Diigo? Are you seeing students use it for other subjects too?

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    1. I’m trying to get my teaching team for this IDU to use Diigo so we can easily share resources amongst ourselves and with our students. I have created a teacher group where we can all share bookmarks and annotations. Individual teachers can then decide how to share the resources with their own students. I will let you know how that goes.

      We have been using Evernote for a while here and something that has been useful is to have teachers share how they have used it. We usually do this as a single skill-share session (1 hour). It’s not compulsory but the opportunity is there. The sessions are really practical and usually spark ideas in other teachers.

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  2. Hi Lina. Really interesting to see how you are using theory (connectivisim) to inform the teaching and learning in Units. Having students curate tagged, shared Diigo repositories will add lots of value to their learning, I’m sure. I can see the benefits over / in addition to Evernote in this use case too.

    I guess you might need to work with students on what makes a website / article “Diigo worthy”. I wonder if their default setting might be to bookmark first and consider the validity or usefulness of the website later, rather than the other way around? A great conversation to have though about how you verify the truthiness of information online.

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    1. I was thinking about that too. I love this unit because the students will be provided with some curated resources, and they will also need to find other resources on their own. While looking at curated resources, we usually have conversations about their OPVLs. These conversations work as models to the thinking that the students will have to do when they look for their own sources of information. As part of Criterion B in Humanities (Investigation), the students have to reflect on their sources, how they were useful to answer their research questions, and why they can trust them. As a result, for this particular unit, I will actually let the students choose whether they bookmark first, evaluate second or the other way around.

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