It’s in the links

Over at TeachPaperless there was a post that I though was really interesting.  It took me back to my literacy posts and the discussion of wanting to be able to check things out for myself.  Anyway…

The post is called Owning Knowledge: Thoughts about the ‘Ethic of the Link.’ In discussing how sending a student to read something online is different from telling them to read a traditional text, he says:

But via links, the student enters into a Web of information navigable in an inviting way; personal interest and self-motivation is cued by curiosity and made accessible by simple access to more links. And, of course in the fluid and social world of links available via Twitter, Diigo, and the like, the student actually becomes part of the process of the creation of knowledge itself. The result is ultimately one of activating ownership.

The process of actively accessing sources of knowledge rather than expecting the passive reception culled from the distribution of knowledge is the defining feature of a successful academic mindset.

We want the student to own knowledge, not lease it until the exam is through.

That academic mindset is, obviously, something my university students need to have.  And to some degree they do, but I can help them to strengthen it.  And I believe that is part of my job in trying to help them prepare for expectations in US universities.

This idea that reading hyperlinked texts has some real value is an appealing one to me.  I believe it is true, but I have to admit I like it because it reinforces something I do anyway.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about my classes the last few days, and this came at a really good time.  I want to do more to make my classrooms look like what he describes:

Classtime itself should be a conversation, a debriefing, a discussion based on what the students found.

I think I still sometimes feel guilty that my classes don’t look the way I remember classes looking.  I don’t stand up there and lecture.  We don’t complete workbooks or worksheets.  We don’t have multiple choice tests.

What we do is talk and read and talk about what we read.  And then we write about it.  And, yes, there are times when I “teach” them things in a more traditional sense. But those times are usually few and far between.

I don’t know why I feel a need to legitimize what I do.  My students don’t complain.  But there is an element of insecurity in me.  So I worry.  And I take comfort where I can find it.  Like in the post on TeachPaperless.

So I am ready to go ahead with some of the ideas I have for fall, to use the blog and wiki more than Blackboard, to have students do their reading online, to use class time to make knowledge together.  I am excited!


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