Friday, April 17, 2015

E-Learning: Bringing It Together--Developing the Characteristics of Practiced Discernment

If under a new model of education the purpose is to educate digital learners to become creators of new knowledge and skill sets, to truly usher in an age and culture of innovation by being agents of change, we need to help mentor learners in a new way of thinking about solving real world problems. One step in changing the pattern of thinking for these digital E-Learners is to introduce them to a habit of the mind I called "practiced discernment". Discernment was defined as:

"...the ability to obtain sharp perceptions. It involves going past mere perception of something and making nuanced judgments about its properties or qualities.."

Discernment is not a skill set that comes naturally to everybody, especially the young digital natives of this century. It requires guided mentoring and practice in order to overcome the patterns of thinking orchestrated by the industrial model of education. Some of the great minds of history such as Leonardo da Vinci possessed this habit of practiced discernment as he was able to see the world around him with heightened perceptions and from this clarity, some of his greatest works came to light.


 The Problems Faced By E-Learners

Some of the problems faced by this generation of digital e-learners whose purpose is to use the web to further their education are the following:

  • Learners need to understand that not everything posted to the web is necessarily valid. They need to understand how postings on the web need to be evaluated and examined for bias and unsubstantiated points

Credit: Lee DiGeorge
Consider the complicity of social media in compounding this problem for the E-learner. For example, an idea that is first tweeted on Twitter in social media can be re-tweeted many times in an uncritical fashion and reach many people globally. Something repeated enough times without first being critically examined for validity can be postulated as fact rather than conjecture.

" In 2014, it was reported that Twitter had  64 million tweets a day!"

Social media when focused on social issues ranging from school bullying to hot button environmental issues can be used to not only put forth uncritically examined positions but also force acceptance through such tactics as:
  1. Censoring the right of others to express contrary points of view
  2. Using ad hominem argumentation
  3. Using emotionally charged language to dismiss opposing points of view
Uncritically examined ideas can be "dressed up" in flashy visuals, charts and authentic looking logos but when probed below the surface, can be revealed as fraud. With the use of multimedia tools of the web, fraud can look pretty authentic.

This is what the "cut and paste" generation of E-Learners face. This in not thoughtful engagement and in order to encourage thoughtful engagement, practiced discernment as a critical literacy skill set is essential!

"So, for the E-Learning student, what would practiced discernment look like?"

The following is a suggested pattern of thinking to introduce and nurture practiced discernment for the E-Learner:

  1.  Setting a Clearly Defined Task: Given the nature of the World Wide Web, the opportunities for distraction are great in number. We live in a time period where the people of many societies are highly distracted. The ability to focus on a clearly defined task has been hindered by a myth that multitasking is a worthwhile way of approaching the completion of tasks. I have found from experience that multitasking leads to mediocrity in all tasks attempted and students do not have the self-discipline to recognize that some tasks are of such great importance and value as to require a single minded devotion to arriving at solutions that are excellent.
  2. E-Learners Need to Be Mentored On How to Ask the Right Questions: When E-Learners have a clearly defined purpose to guide their research, it is not enough just to Google to retrieve results. Many E-Learners have poor skills in understanding how to refine and focus their search to arrive at truly relevant results. Once they find sites, they need to proceed with the same tenacity as an investigative journalist. 
"Students need to be taught how to ask the right questions when they come across information on the web. the search for the truth value of information must be a focused probing".

Using Blooms' Revised Taxononmy in the context of E-Learning will take them into many different databases that exist in the web. They must be able to harness skill sets from many disciplines in order to effectively solve real world problems.

Next post---Continuing the thinking pattern

No comments: