Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Student Skills in A Virtual Education Environment: Part I

Up to this point I have indicated to you that what is needed is a revolution in education that will fit with the online education environment. I have implied, directly and indirectly, that transposing the present system found in "brick and mortar" schools won't cut it. What we need is a defining vision and mission that will capitalize on the potential opportunities of educating students from a global perspective. Such a position demands a re-examination of the skills that students, teachers and administrators will need in order to make the experience of education enriching not only for the stakeholders in education but ultimately for the future of our societies.

Based upon my experience as an online educator for teens, the following skills that I identify below are essential and do not come naturally to students, even though, they are digital natives:

  1. Self-Discipline: Unlike the programmed school day that dictates where a student needs to be and when, the online environment gives students a level of autonomy that they have never known. Time management is an essential skill mainly because the teacher or administrator is not going to constantly prod the student to access and labour at his/her chosen course of study. Many online schools do have a time limit in which to complete a course of study but it is still up to the student to organize his/her time around other aspects of their daily life. The fact that many online schools operate 24/7 for 365 days of the year allows for a customized, individualized plan but the planning still lies with the student. Having said that, it should be pointed out that online education is not for every student. Careful and honest introspection is necessary before making the decision to embark on virtual education. For example, students have to ask themselves whether or not they can maintain the necessary focus without being sidetracked to Facebook, Twitter or IM which become the same distractions found in the brick and mortar school. The difference is that there is not going to be a well meaning adult, other than parents, who will get you back on track.
  2. Discerning Judgement: The Internet is a world that is ever expanding and the amount of information on a myriad of topics is growing exponentially. Not everything that is posted to the Internet has value, not everything has truth value and most is posted from a particular worldview that very often reflects a bias that appeals to specific global groups. The student needs to be able to judge what is verifiable and valued information and what information is in reality disinformation posted to persuade people to accept a particular point of view uncritically . In broader strokes students should have the skill of being able to judge which websites are valid and useful and which ones are not. There does exist checklists for judging the intrinsic value of websites that can be found on the Internet. Other skills that are implied here are being able to judge facts from opinions, to be able to judge arguments from non-arguments, to be able to evaluate evidence offered in support of arguments made and to be able to construct effective arguments.
  3. Emotional Reasoning vs Logical Reasoning: One of the problems that students have is that they can easily be manipulated by emotional presentations that are designed to elicit affirmation of a viewpoint without taking the time to examine all points of view and the evidential support of all sides in the issue. What should be the case is that after examining all sides and the evidence, a decision is made in support of a particular point of view and then a passionate presentation is reasonable and valid. Too often students receive an emotional presentation on an issue and are then manipulated to accept the point of view before closely examining the presentation for bias, evidence that is verifiable from a reputable source and false statements.
More later.....

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