Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
Global v local, wired individualism v real communities
February 24th, 2009

Dean Groom has written a thoughtful post on infinite learning and the need for information literacy and schools that prepare students for the infinite world of information given the advent of the Internet. He writes of the Florida Virtual High School and its programme of personalised instruction. Dean mentions that perhaps a virtual HSC High School could be established here in New South Wales. Dean’s post prompted me to comment…

Dean, the Florida Virtual High School is an interesting concept. It has evolved from a distance education background and it certainly delivers a significant number of courses each year.

I cannot help but feel that “Personalised instruction” should be labelled “Tailored instruction”. Personalised instruction for me would be face to face tuition.

eLearning is an excellent vehicle for distributing knowledge and skills for those willing to learn. It allows opportunities for further education, particularly for those unable to travel or situated in remote areas. eLearning can also support existing face to face instruction.

A learning environment that is entirely online suits some, not all. Experience with eLearning programmes involving organisations such as the University of Wollongong, Nokia, Singapore Airlines, JPMorgan Bank and others illustrated for me the pros and cons of 100% online delivery of courses. I feel that face to face instruction is an important facet of the socialisation process of our youth. Schools provide opportunities to acquire skills in interacting and coping with your peers.

A virtual HSC High School that augments face to face instruction, supports students in remote areas and facilitates subjects with very low enrollments is a good idea yet I feel that students should still be engaged in a significant face to face component as well.

Infinite possibilities, true. Infinite learning? Infinite memory? Not so sure about that. I sometimes get the feeling that we are filling our lives with too much stuff. Endless streams consisting of immediate moments of gratification and tenuous connections. Too many choices in today’s world. information literacy should focus on instructing students how to filter out the unnecessary stuff and how to focus on media that can facilitate lifelong growth, community connections and local benefits.

Local is broken. It needs fixing. Global connections are fine yet let’s not lose sight of local, community, real neighbours. The infinite possibilities that are now available can be used to try and regenerate local connections and people stuff. Local is becoming the poor brother of global.

Wired individualism versus real communities.

Cheers, John.

2 Responses to “Global v local, wired individualism v real communities”

  1. Dean Groom Says:

    Thanks John, I was thinking as I looked at Gmail today, and then at Photobucket, just what the numbers that spin to indicate ‘new’ and ‘more’ actually represent the fact that there is not ‘end’, no ‘maximum’, what we can store, and what we can retrieve gets bigger and bigger. Not better, just bigger, more of it, faster, more mobile. So much is duplicated, the same ‘thing’ is loaded into thousands of other places, waiting to be discovered.

    I think that there is room for Virtual HSC Classroom, and I think that there would probably be many teachers willing to add to it, for all the reasons you mention. I’ve posted before about my belief in ‘learning centred design’ and how we need to blend instructional with exploratory and socially constructed learning.

    I can’t see that it will burst into every classroom, but there are now emerging Virtual Classrooms that represent a maturation of educational technology. I am not at all sure that Florida is ‘the model’, but it is interesting to think that we could be constructing these for students here. Perhaps for distance students, indigenous, gifted or special needs. If we are not yet ready to see reform on any scale in the mainstream classroom – I can’t see why we cant extend the ‘open university’ to the ‘open high school’. An optional, measured approach to supplement, not replace face to face and local – would allow schools to un-burden staff and at the same time give students access to greater experiences. I think that schools could make choices and limit the risk, but selecting classes or students to form ‘the open high school’ classroom. We used to do it with radio (and maybe we still do), logistically it does not seem that hard, and certainly should be at least on the table as an option for Mr Rudd’s revolution. 500 students, receiving voluntary assistance for the HSC online … surely we could manage that?

    Thanks for the reply – always love to read your work.

  2. John Larkin Says:

    Yes, Dean, I agree. Thank you for your comment. An ‘open high school’ that caters for those in remote situations, isolated by illness or simply seeking an alternative route to the current bricks and mortar model. The ‘open high school’ could be peopled with experts, far and wide, tapping into a skill and knowledge set that may not be available in a single institution normally. Such a school(s) could augment existing structures as well.

    At the same time change needs to happen with the bricks and mortar schools that surround us all. I am not sure to what extent but change in some form is needed. The local school is an important aspect of society and I hope this ‘local’ aspect is not lost in this rapidly changing world. I was heartened to see how the local schools acted as rallying points for the locals during the Victorian bush fires.

    More than 500 HSC students could receive it if it was set up properly. Yes.

    Global is staring us in the face. I just hope that local and community does not come out second best.

    I am always keeping an eye out for that Kombi van on your blog header.

    Cheers, John.