Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teaching: An Invitation to a Conversation

What is knowledge construction? Who does it? How do we know it when we see it? How do we promote excellence and critical thinking? What are the roles and responsibility of educators when so much information is available on the Internet and there is so much rapid change?

These are the questions before educators at all levels of schooling and across disciplines and professions. Today, it is digital media, telecommunications and the Internet that are major drivers of change and reconsideration of the answers to these questions.

I use metaphors and principles of complex systems theory to talk about disciplines, fields of study, as conversations and to talk about the roles of faculty and students in the construction of knowledge with technology.

So, let us think of any discipline, field of study or professional practice as a continuous conversation among those who wrote and taught in the past with those who teach, conduct research and write in the present, and students….those who are currently learning the vocabulary and habits of mind of any given field of study or profession.

In this scheme, the role of educators is to INVITE STUDENTS TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION. And, just as we use the tools of grammar and definitions to learn language, we provide students with discipline specific concepts and vocabularies for them to practice the new habits of mind to express their perceptions and experiences.

In this scheme, educators are guides on the side, rather than sages on the stage, where we co-learn with our students. For if we value and expect students to take the conversation seriously, we need to take them seriously as participants in the conversation. Students CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONVERSATION and CONSTRUCT NEW KNOWLEDGE.

As educators we become witnesses to the evolution and emergence of worlds created by NEW LEARNERS who bring their energy and experiences to a field of study or body of knowledge, and then recreate it in ways that make sense to them, within their world(s).

As the pace of Internet driven change accelerates educators are hard-pressed to convene and sustain the conversations with waves of learners more experienced with digital technologies. We and our knowledge base are on a treadmill, moving at speeds we have not set.

Coming next: What happens to excellence, critical thinking and quality scholarship in this scheme?

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