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Seventh/eighth grade teacher Clarence Fisher has an interesting way of describing his classroom up in Snow Lake, Manitoba. As he tells it, it has “thin walls,” meaning that despite being eight hours north of the nearest metropolitan airport, his students are getting out into the world on a regular basis, using the Web to connect and collaborate with students in far flung places from around the globe.
there is still value in the learning that occurs between teachers and students in classrooms. But the power of that learning is more solid and more relevant at the end of the day if the networks and the connections are larger.”
But, what happens when knowledge and teachers aren’t scarce? What happens when it becomes exceedingly easy to people and content around the things you want to learn when you want to learn them?
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given these opportunities for connection that the Web now brings us, schools will have to start leveraging the power of these networks. And here are the two game-changing conditions that make that statement hard to deny: right now, if we have access, we now have two billion potential teachers and, soon, the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips.
The kids have made contacts. They have begun to find voices that are meaningful to them, and voices they are interested in hearing more from. They are becoming connectors and mavens, drawing together strings of a community.
What happens when we don’t need schools to manage the delivery of content any more, when we can get it on our own, anytime we need it, from anywhere we’re connected, from anyone who might be connected with us?
And it’s not so much even what we carry around in our heads, all of that “just in case” knowledge that schools are so good at making sure students get these days. As Jay Cross, the author of Informal Learning, suggests, in a connected world, it’s more about how much knowledge you can access.
If you’re seeing a vision of students sitting in front of computers working through self-paced curricula and interacting with a teacher only on occasion, you’re way, way off. That’s not effective online learning