The Ethics of Learning

During the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several textbook distributors. I’ll be honest with you — I hate textbooks. I think they limit student creativity, and do for the student, albeit to a much lesser degree, what our students should learn to do for themselves — that is create personal learning environments.

Not that I think a text is a personal learning environment; it’s not.  Instead, it’s usually a prepackaged summation of all the content someone has decided our students should memorize.

However, in our current digital environment students need to be able to critically evaluate resources and collate the best in a way that facilitates and supports their learning.  Using wikis, blogs, or any other digital platform students can create their own texts complete with videos, notes, links, pictures, etc, tailored to their learning preferences.  A far cry from the standard textbook.

Yet few students have teachers who know how to facilitate this type of learning and others may choose not to.  How do we begin to bridge this gap?

Many textbook distributors offer on-line versions of their text that allow interactive material and student choice. In math, students can access videos and other interactive media that help explain or further explore a concept.  One of the distributors showed us the online version of their English texts. Every section contains on-line supplemental material that allows for student choice and  is frequently updated.  Students can further explore the concepts they are interested in, putting control where it should be — with the student. While I don’t think this is as good as a text custom created by each student, as one of my colleagues wisely states, it’s a start.

Yet here’s the question. How do we get these resources into the hands of students?  Often resources are vetted by teachers.  And too often resource selection is based on teacher’s personal preference, one that likely perpetuates a teacher-centerd classroom, rather than what might be best for student learning.

I wonder if there’s ever a point, as an administration or a division, when you choose to bypass the teacher and directly offer the choice to students — after all it is their learning. Do we choose to offer resources that are student-centred and provide student choice and control?

I also wonder how long it will be until students rebel and demand the education and resources they deserve.

About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. Furthermore, I am Buck Institute for Education National Faculty member
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7 Responses to The Ethics of Learning

  1. when my 7yo saw my 9yo’s math text for the first time….this was the conversation:
    7yo: “what is that” “it sure is big”
    9yo: “it is a math text” “it has all the questions that i need to understand in it”
    7yo: “that thing can txt? who do you txt with it…..i didn’t know u could txt with a book, cool”
    9yo: (eyes rolling)…. “whatever”

  2. Shirl says:

    Hi Shelley,
    Would you mind sending me the textbook company that offers the online English class resources?
    Also, I’ve been talking to my school in South Korea about creating inquiry-based projects where the students will research topics and then decide what it is they need to read, etc. It’s just an idea right now because not all literature is available online, yet, but it is my hope that students will research areas of inquiry and then choose some texts they need to/want to read and download them. Each year, even if the same questions are posed to students, different texts may be selected.
    Also, just an fyi, South Korea has mandated their education systems will become textbook-less by 2015. Now, this does not mean teachers/schools won’t use online textbooks, but they won’t have paper textbooks any longer.

  3. Shelley – Great questions. I have been thinking a lot about this topic as well and agree strongly that we need to be supporting students as they curate their own learning learning resources that are based on their interests. On the subject of students rebelling, I saw an article on some students in Detroit who were suspended for demanding better conditions for their education While the context may be a bit different than what you were thinking, I am wondering if this is just the start?

    • I wonder that too. I think once students realize that this really is their learning, and because of that, they should have a voice,they should be the loudes voice, in what their learning looks and feels like, they’ll begin to rebel. I only hope that day comes soon!

  4. Pingback: Week 8 Reflection: The Ethics of Learning | Karns in the Classroom

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