Upon browsing educational quotes, I came across one that really made me stop and think:
"The individual learning model is a foreign territory for most Net Genres, who have grown up collaborating, sharing, and creating together online." ~Don Tapscott in Growing Up Digital
I have not read his book, but it would appear to be that the Net Genres would be the students of today who have grown up with the genre of internet (net) as a key aspect in their lives. Or perhaps 'genres' is an abbreviation for generation, but either way, it refers to the students we are currently teaching.
Some may question how much our students know about and use technology. Allow me to provide you with a few examples. During the summertime I nanny children of a variety of ages. One household I work with there are two boys, ages 3, and 5. Their television is hooked up to an external hard drive, has wireless access, and is also used with a play station 2, a Wii and a blue ray player. Yes, it took me a few times to master switching between the devices. Could I do it, yes, it just took some time and understanding of what wires went where in order for the device I wanted to use to be turned on and hooked up to the right sources of power. The three year old and the five year old can and do switch between systems at a rate much more effective than I can. Do they use technology? Certainly. Another child I sit for told me that he has a time limit of five hours a day of video game and online computer playing time. Five hours?! He is certainly using technology on a daily basis, much more so than I. One of my students asked to be my facebook friend the other day. While I politely declined her invitation I wonder what reason a 10 year old has to have an account on a social networking site. I suppose it is the same reason I have an account-to keep in contact with other people. Our students are using technology.
Thinking back to the classrooms I grew up in, the teacher was lucky to have a computer in the classroom. Many classrooms now have at least three computers, and this is a good thing. But are they being used? Using computers simply for students to take Accelerated Reader tests is a waste of such a resource. There are wonderful sites online that challenge students to learn by making learning fun, and bringing it back to a format they are familiar with. We no longer have to teach students how to read a website, they grow up learning that. We have to teach them how to read a newspaper and look up a number in the phone book, because those are the things teachers grew up learning, but students today lack understanding in.
Blogs are a wonderful avenue to express thoughts and exclaim in wonder over new-found knowledge. Obviously, I am using it as such, but do I take the time to show my students how to effectively blog? I could have integrated more of that into my student teaching. Had I more time, I could have made our blog into a conversation of literature, rather than a method of reporting. A blog can be used for both, that is part of the beauty of it. I would like to try that with my first class, provided there are resources available to do so.
I would also like to try setting up a classroom wiki with my students. It would be a page where parents could track what is going on in the lives of their children while at school, as well as a safe place for students to discuss educational related material with each other. The students of today need to be able to learn in groups, it is how they grew up learning, and will be a stronger method of learning for the majority of them.
Does this mean that individualized learning has no place in the classroom and should be entirely thrown out? Certainly not! Students also need to learn to work on their own, as life will require that of them at times as well (it certainly does in higher education). I value the individual learning model, so long as it is used in conjunction with the cooperartive learning that is likely to become the norm for students. Education needs a healthy balance of both to be effective. Who am I to teach solely one way when my students learn in so many different ways? It would be selfish for me to do so.