Learning Online

On August 1, 2011, in Teaching, by Colin

When I was a teenager I learned to play the guitar a little. Back then, in order to do that I had to go and buy a guitar and then hire a teacher to teach me. Now you don’t even need to have a guitar to learn to play one. Admittedly, it would help but there are apps for smart phones that simulate musical instruments enabling people learn something about playing the guitar without even having one. If someone was going to take it a little more seriously and had invested in a guitar then thy certainly don’t need to have lessons all they need to do is search ‘learn guitar‘ into YouTube and lessons will appear, like this one.

I like cooking and couple of months ago I wanted to know how to de-bone a chicken. This is a complicated procedure where all of the bones are removed from a chicken leaving just one big piece of meat. It would be difficult to learn this from a book as it is essential to see how it is done. So I looked on YouTube and found this:

I think that this is how the majority of learning is done these days, not just in YouTube but by pursuing one’s interests through the vast amount of information that is available. It may not follow a set syllabus or meet our teaching aims or lead to a qualification but in terms of the transfer and acquisition of knowledge, learning online is highly effective.

A teacher and a classroom just can’t compete with what is out there and we shouldn’t even be trying. We should embrace and integrate the more effective mediums by removing ourselves from the learning process a little. I appreciate that that could be controversial and many teachers may feel threatened by it. So let me explain what I mean. I am not saying that we should just throw in the towel and tell students to stay at home and surf the internet rather that we should reinvent the classroom as a place to practice and reflect on what can be learned more effectively elsewhere instead of a place where we try to do that initial transfer of knowledge. As teachers, we would act more like guides and advisers asking students to tell us and the class what they have learned and found interesting by learning online. This style of learning and teaching needs to be led by the students interests. So as teachers we need to try to encourage our students to follow their interests and to make our classes relevant to them. Motivation is a precious thing and should be nurtured and treasured.


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