The article, Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age
, by Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia) bears reading by all of us “internet boosters.” He makes great points about the need for individual learning (as opposed to collaborative learning), memorization, and books. He concludes with an apt warning about the nature of the “hive mind” leaving us open to manipulation. We should heed his message, and indeed, I think we already do, as independent schools continue to hold up the ideals of a liberal arts education. I don’t think this is an either/or argument; in fact, I think we need all of the above (individual and collaborative learning, internet facility and perseverance through long books).
I think this article gets at why some of our faculty are reluctant adopters of certain technology. In his conclusion, Larry has done a good job expressing the danger of shallow thinking. We need to discuss how we continue to instill deep and critical thinking in our students while our students are playing with tools that make it all too easy to flit and flutter across the internet and produce "learning artifacts" that may look flashy, but hold little depth. Do your teachers' rubrics for PowerPoint presentations include categories for demonstrating depth of knowledge and skill at thinking on one's feet?
I don't think that we internet boosters (on this network) are advocating a shift in pedagogy to put collaborative learning at the core, but I would advocate
to put project-based learning at the core, because I think that within PBL we encourage deep, thoughtful, and critical learning experiences that have the potential to give students a love of learning, with collaborative and individual pursuit of knowledge. Basically, I agree with Larry, and share some of his pessimism about the future [witness the current state of politics in this country], so it's all the more important that we continue the good work we all do to hold up the ideals of independent, critical, reflective, and human-connected thought.
I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on this...
ps. full disclosure: I have a tangential relationship with Larry as a panelist for his new site: www.WatchKnow.org