Stable thought or thirsty horses?
Posted October 17, 2013on:
About a week or two ago, I read a digest on school-related news with a equal measure of amusement and dismay.
Unnamed teachers lauded the yet to be named online portal of 2016 that promises to provide customizable content for learners. Even though “portal” is overused or sometimes improperly used, it was not what amused or dismayed me.
What did was the fact that teachers believed that the officially-sanctioned resources would promote self-directed learning (SDL) among learners.
These were press reports, of course, and you cannot expect non-teachers to understand that SDL is a continuum of behavior. Heck, I know that some teachers think that SDL is limited to them directing students to read something outside class on their own time.
I was dismayed that SDL is still misunderstood. I was mildly amused that some teachers think that a portal is a solution.
The expectation around a portal is that it is a place and that “if you build it they will come”. If you make it really good or seem very important, then even more will come.
But this was the promise of schools subscribing to content and learning management systems. Such technological systems have been used in old ways (repositories) or relegated to the periphery (e-learning days). I hope that from the CMS and LMS we have learnt that “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink”.
The horse will only drink if it is thirsty.
SDL is tied to mindsets, motivation, and methods. It could be driven by the individual learner or by heutagogical practices of a teacher. A portal is not necessarily going to incentivise it or guarantee it.
Only thirsty learners are going to find the water and drink it. Responsible educators are going to show them how to find and drink from good sources of water. A portal is not going to create that natural thirst or provide that metacognitive skillset.