Friday, April 16, 2010

The Inside-out Knowledge Network

In my last post I advocated helping our students learn to build personal learning networks by encouraging them to seek specific information to their questions in real time from real people. I think that this should be done "inside-out" by guiding them to familiar resources within their schools, families, and local community.

In Five 10th Graders Jump Outside of the Box, I think I demonstrated how authentic and self-directed this can be. In Rewiring the Learning Networks for Schools, I shared a video which shows how students can "cultivate their curiosity"* by asking nuanced questions to experts and then expressing the experience through multi-media.

Now, granted, at a college prep school like ours we teach students to write research "papers" with formal annotation using vetted sources from academic journals and the like. I am not demanding that we abandon this age-old "college prep" system for culling information and synthesizing it to support a thesis. But in terms of guiding our students to authentically learn about topics and get their real questions answered, why aren't we networking them with real-time experts and real-time persons? It would be ironic to suppose that the teacher down the hall is only an expert on her subject when she is assigned to teach a certain set of students a certain time of the day. To heck with the schedule. Let's make her available to any student in the school.

Then, let's build this network "inside-out". Let's add folks within the reach of our school community to our grid. Whenever I've brainstormed with classes of students about finding "experts" we've always identified parents, friends' parents, or persons these parents know. We have alumnae who are experts in all fields imaginable. In virtually every instance, whenever a student has approached one of these persons for knowledge, they have enthusiastically welcomed this. Why can't we start collecting persons like these in a database so that we can tap them with an email question, an interview or even invite them to one of our classes as a speaker?

And don't you dare shoot this idea down by suggesting that I am trying to replace a school library or setting up these "experts" to be barraged by inquiries. Our conceptual framework of research is so far removed from this at the present time to render these concerns absurd. Besides, we would not add someone to our grid without his or her explicit permission.

Yes, I have very definite ideas about approaching this exciting challenge. In my next post I am going to explain (drum roll, please) The M-Hub Project--
"A knowledge hub project designed to leverage new technologies in order to facility authentic learning experiences for Marlins of all ages."

Screen shot of 6th period "Teen Rights" Wikispaces page
*From Tony Wagner's "The Global Achievement Gap"


WillKnott said...

I am the guy not down the hall, and I approve this message.

Ann Lusch said...

Before I started teaching Justice and Peace this year, if I encountered people I know that I thought might be good resources for the course, I would ask about their willingness to be consulted in the future. But I had not formulated a plan about how I might tap into their expertise or connect them with students beyond the obvious of inviting them to the classroom. I like the thought of collecting contacts, with permission, for a database that students can access when they are researching topics. I might have gotten around to that for my class, but it's so much better to centralize this information along with that of others for the benefit of the whole school.

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