Sun, 27 April 2008
Are you "learning to learn"?
This is a question that evolves from the basic phrase "learning to learn" that several leading experts in education are pitching around right now. This concept bears some attention: it calls upon us to evaluate what we truly believe about learning.
A foundational construct for our discussion is that we agree that leaders are learners. After all, if a leader were not learning, what would become of that person, over time? Would you like to work for a leader who had decided to stop learning? Would you enjoy being around a leader who found no joy in learning? So, we can agree that great leaders are eager learners.
Will Richardson purports that leaders who are learning not only create situations in which learning is facilitated, but that aggressive, effective leaders will ensure that all in the organization are provided means and mechanisms for connectivity. The real power in the learning comes largely from the power of the learner's network.
Consequently, one of the premier avenues for connected learners is via social networks. No doubt, all readers of this treatise are familiar with the banter about social networks. If you work in a school, you probably have heard the network administrator dictate that no social networking at all will be allowed on the school network. This mandate is reality, even in the face of voluminous documentation that social networking, employed meaningfully and effectively, then monitored by personnel in charge, yields amazing, positive achievement results. In addition, the quality of student work is much greater, as a result of collaborations via social networks. The question becomes, "Why would a network administrator, classroom teacher, or school leader deny student learners the opportunity to expand their education via social networks?"
Perhaps, a surface-level answer could be, "They have stopped learning how to learn." Thus, the students are the ones whose minds are held captive in the lockdown-mentality schools.
So, what are these students--and their teachers--to do, especially when they know the power of social networks and media? The only recourse they have is to conduct their meaningful education activities when they leave the school. Ludicrous, isn't it?
Well, in defense of the school network police, they are often cautioned by superiors to ensure that students are kept safe from dangers that come from being left "open" to the wiles of the Internet. Predators are alive and well--and prey on innocent children. Nasty, filthy content proliferates online. Hate-promoting and race-supremacy web sites can be found quite easily. So, with all the responsibilities of a school technology coordinator, s/he finds it easiest to just clamp down the network and let only the minimum of information through the filter. Sometimes, these coordinators don't like having to block ninety-percent of content available online any more than the students and teachers. However, they perceive that a lawsuit is, metaphorically speaking, lurking around the corner if they allow a single student to be ensnared in some kind of techno-trap.
What do we do about all this? Wring our hands? Disconnect school computers from the Internet, totally? Fret? Fuss? Blame each other? Nurture an environment of suspicion?
That brings us back to the topic of this posting: learning to learn.
In research conducted by the National Center for Technology Planning, the findings revealed that social networks are disallowed from schools based, predominantly, from ignorance by decision makers! Decisions are made, often, as a result of overhearing a conversation about the bad stuff online--or how terrible Facebook is, since it's a breeding ground for teenagers to gang up on other teenagers and engage in cyberbullying.
The effective leader will engage in study of the social media opportunities available to the people in the organization. This process is not merely learning for learning's sake. Rather, this is an advanced process: we must begin, afresh, a process of learning to learn. This takes more time, focus, and critical analysis. Flippant decisions are off-limits. Casual attitudes are cancerous. Devout learning is the vitamin of success.
Join me in a fresh commitment as we learn to learn!
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Category:text blogs -- posted at: 8:10am CDT