In Brendan Lea's 11 September 2011 post, "Connectivism: Questioning the role of the teacher in a connected world
" Lea briefly addressed the way in which modern technology is changing the role of the teacher and education in general. The internet has become the encyclopedia of everything. In the past, a student would need to spend hours or even days (gasp!) scouring over texts at the library in order to research any given subject. To show a contrast between pre-internet research and current research, I will share my own research history.My family did not purchase a computer until the end of my senior year of high school. While most of my friends were utilizing Microsoft Encarta and the internet as a means of researching a subject, I had to:
- Since I was in class Monday through Friday, I had to set aside an entire Saturday (or two) in order to conduct research.
- Drive an hour to the county library
- Work nonstop from open-to-close in order to gather enough information to get started on my assignment
- Spend a small fortune making copies of texts
- Drive an hour back home
- Pass out from exhaustion
- Wake up Sunday morning and realize I didn't have enough information
- Panic because the library is closed on Sunday
- Beg and plead with my weird aunt and uncle to let me use their computer to find more information
- Agree to an absurd trade, like a month of house-cleaning in exchange for an hour of computer use
- Pay them a small fortune to print out resources
- Find just enough information in the allotted time to complete my assignment
Today, sites like Google and JSTOR do all of hard work. Instead of meandering through aisles of outdated library books, I can simply type in a few keywords and press enter. What would have once taken me 12 hours to complete, can now take an hour or less. Since I grew up researching the hard way, I often feel guilty about how little time it takes to research, resulting in gathering way too much information in order to feel like I spent a proper amount of time in this phase of preparation. In other words, students are more inclined to just Google a topic and accept what is provided. The ease of internet research also limits the abilty for the student to create connections. Researching at a library often requires branching out from your original topic in order to gather enough information. If one were researching contemporary art, it wouldn't make much sense to just grab the first book labeled Contemporary Art
and call it a day. Books on modern art, aesthetics, semiotics, philosophy, popular culture, -place country here- history would probably be necessary in order to build up a decent paper. With the internet, each Googled resource is sort-of a dead end. Since students are not building connections, teachers should step in as the arbiters of connections. When given the chance to learn about a new subject, students need someone to teach them how to put together the puzzle, not just someone to point to the pieces and say "figure it out." In order to keep up, teachers need to be willing to accept that education is no longer about rote memorization, about the final output. It's about gathering pieces in order to see the whole picture.