Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Short Geology Lesson - And "24/7 Learning"

Inspired in part by Wes Fryer's recent post comparing print and digital reference materials, this morning I searched Watch Know for videos about New Zealand. While I didn't find anything comprehensive on the political history of New Zealand, I did find an interesting video on the geological history of New Zealand. The video is embedded below.

In The World Is Open Curtis Bonk talks about the diverse, on-demand, learning opportunities that are made available through the web. What I did this morning in searching for videos about New Zealand demonstrates the availability of on-demand learning opportunities. I read Wesley's post, thought to myself "I'd like to know more about New Zealand," jumped on the Internet, and in minutes I had learned a short lesson about the geology of New Zealand.

Now compare my learning experience this morning with the same scenario fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago I was fifteen and didn't even know anyone who had an Internet connection. If I had read an article in a magazine that mentioned New Zealand I would have had to go to the local library, during their open hours, and hope that they had a book or two about New Zealand. I grew up in a fairly large suburb that had two large public libraries so I probably would have been able to find information about New Zealand. But what if I lived in a rural town, as I do now, that only has a very small library? I may have had to wait days, a week, possibly longer to get some books through a library loan. As a fifteen-year-old I didn't have that kind of patience and I don't know how many fifteen-year-olds do. Fifteen years ago the experience I had this morning wouldn't have been possible.

So then, because our students have nearly 24/7 access to information, how has our job as teachers changed? I'm especially interested in the perspectives of those you reading this that could have been my teacher fifteen years ago.