Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Random Walk in Learning

Those with keen eyes and having been visiting my blog will notice that I have made a slight change in the title of this blog: from "Random Walk in eLearning" to " Random Walk in Learning". This small change reflects a BIG change in my way of looking at technology and learning.

I have gone through several cycles in my career. I started as a Physics teacher, mainly reciting all the information I have from the textbook to the students. I then got a teacher-training and specialised in "learning technology". At that time, it was all about audio recording, overhead projectors, slides and so on. I have been as the learning technology coordinator for the schools where I served ever since - until the last day of job.

At the meantime, I became more and more interested in motivating students to learn rather than dealing with the subject matter itself. At one point, I even stopped a lesson when all the students were motivated and waiting for me to deliver the content. I saw those eager eyes looking at me, begging to know the answer. I stopped and asked them to find that out themselves from the textbook! (How cruel I was!) The class was in dead silence. Then someone opened the textbook and started reading. Gradually, these children were all reading. Then a hand went up. I allowed him to ask me a question which he could not understand just by reading. I asked him to come forward to the bench and explained in details to him. I can still see the joy of this young fellow with that special treatment. Then more hands came up. The class had just found out that they COULD ask me question to get individual attention. I knew I was in trouble! It would not be possible to explain to 45 kids one by one!

I came up with a scheme. The students were allowed to discuss while I was not talking to the whole class. If they had any question, they asked their friends first. If three of them have the same problem, they could ask me!

OK, that would have reduced the number from 45 to 15. But it would be still too much for me. I also found out that they did not have the same kind problem at the same time. Some would ask a question on one aspect. But other would ask a question on another aspect, or from another angle. There were still too many questions to answer.

I came up with another scheme. I would only answer a question only once. I used a notebook to record who asked what questions. When another group came and asked me a similar question, I would refer them to the students who had got an answer from me. I called this scheme: "First to question, first hand answer. Second to question, second hand answer". One unexpected side effect of the scheme was that as the first hand group was questioned, they needed to produce the answer. This answering of the questions to another group itself helped them to understand better. It was a win-win situation.

This was my first cycle. I started as information shoveller to a guide, a helper and an organiser.

Fast forward to the second half of my life.

I started working on eLearning as a technical specialist to EdNA dealing mainly with issues related to resource discovery, learning metadata standards and so on.

Fast forward to the last couple of months.

I am now coming to say that resources, technologies are NOT the focus of our effort to help people learn. Resources are information. We use them when we need them. The focus is NOT to memorise all the information. Technology is tool. We should use technology to help learning. Technology is NOT the focus.

To reflect this significant change, I decided to take out the "e" in my blog title.

From now on, I will random walk in learning and bring you whatever I encountered in my journey - including of course, how technology has helped people learnt!

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