Stuck at home this weekend while sick, I’ve been further exploring the extent that learners engage with their ideas and one another in online spaces. As the academic meat in the sandwich, I’ve been mentoring my Year 12 students in the writing of their Hamlet essays while emailing back and forth revisions of my latest Education Masters thesis to my supervisor (and mentor). Being a learner in the middle has its own unique advantages – and I think I’m well-positioned to understand the way that online interactions enhance learning on a number of levels.
The tools I’ve been using include:
- my scanner
- comments features in both Google Docs, Open Office and Word
- track changes
- integrated email accounts on Mac mail
- revision history snapshots
- my mobile (for those rare occasions I’ve been out)
What’s emerged from my dependency on these tools is a better understanding of how ideas evolve through web-mediated dialogue and, most importantly, that education rarely has to involve either/or relationships with different communication media. What’s more important is generating meaningful connections and being open-minded about the form that these take. There shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach but all too often the face-to-face classroom coupled with the necessity of performing well in high-stakes tests seems to encourage the “sheep dip,” where students are treated as exam numbers and it’s our job to churn them through the system.
At the end of it all, what do we remember? We remember the ideas that mattered and how others allowed (and even encouraged) us to connect them with the world.