Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Knowledge changing the face in learning

Recently learning has had a huge transformation in the classroom. There has been movement from traditional approaches to modern approaches, especially in the area of knowledge. In the past knowledge was stored by the individual and the main sources of information came from books, or people we knew. Today due to the integration of E-learning, knowledge is shared in a collaborative global environment. There is no age restriction as to who can share knowledge. An example of this comes from my class blog. The blog shows examples of student's writing presented as podcasts and movies. This site can be a great source of knowledge to Teachers in New Zealand and Overseas. If a teacher was not sure how to teach the structures of Haiku poems or limericks, then the blog would be useful as it would contain exemplars written by students. If other students want to learn how to speak clearly, fluently or to explore genres of writing, then the blog would be a valuable tool in meeting these areas. There are exemplars for everyone to view and to learn from.

Another sample of knowledge sharing is when students are doing inquiry learning. They may use a Google search to find information on their topic of interest. The student may find the answers through an expert in their field of interest online. The expert may not need to write a book on their subject, but can share their knowledge, expertise and experience online so it is accessible for children and adults. Also students could use a number of sources to get information on their topic such as: email and Skype. They could also create forums which invite people to contribute / share their ideas

In the classroom there is an emphasis on the process of learning. Learning is one long journey. Learning tends to focus on the how and why. An example of this is in the area of maths. In the past when I was at school the emphasis was on answering the questions correctly from the text book and to get as many exercises done within the time limit. Now, the focus is on encouraging all students to share their strategies (How did you you get that answer?) with their maths group and with the class. There is no right or wrong strategy as long as the student can justify their understanding. Through students' sharing their answers individually it enables others to try out their strategy and it also allows students to have a range of strategies when they are solving problems. The onus is no longer on the teacher to give out all the answers, but the teacher's role is to guide the students' thinking and reasoning. I believe that what I am doing in the class room relates to the new work order as described by Gilbert (2005).

Gilbert's article on Catching the Knowledge Wave compares the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Age: Capitalism old and new. Gilbert highlights a number of themes that I feel strongly about:

* Knowledge is something produced through the relationships of others and that relationships are the essence to an organization
* Successful organizations are those which focus on learning as an integral process and promotes learning together
* Bosses to be seen as "Knowledge Managers":-who ensure the workers are given knowledge and skills to be innovative
* The sharing of knowledge and circulation of ideas and implementation of new knowledge within the organization
* Utilizing contacts:- this includes corresponding to the wider community through Internet and communications technologies. Contacts may not necessarily be in the same profession but they could be used excellent sources of knowledge.

An area I feel strongly about after taking three leadership papers is on the area of Relationships. Relationships from all parties e.g. Principal, Deputy and Associate Principals, Teachers, Support Staff and Students are critical, if there is to be a knowledge sharing environment. If there are relationship issues e.g. staff members feel threatened if their idea is put down by senior management or students feel scared of the teacher, then knowledge would be stored and not shared with others. We are all great sources of knowledge, but for it to be shared the environment and morale needs to be positive.
I also believe that it is up to the Principal of a school to initiate the knowledge sharing and to ensure staff are equipped with adequate knowledge in keeping up to date with modern teaching practices. An example of this could be sharing of ideas in literacy in staff meetings, where staff bring along samples of student/teacher modeled work, or it could be sharing of ideas in teaching practice. Teachers can gain a lot of new ideas from each with their teaching practice, if knowledge is shared. Another aspect of knowledge sharing is reflection. Reflection is just as important as it promotes thinking skills such as questioning, evaluating, synthesizing of ideas etc. When an idea is reflected upon changes could be made, areas of it could be explored further and new ideas can be developed from it.

The utilization of contacts outside of education are great sources of knowledge. This could easily be through social networking or setting up forums which invite people to contribute their ideas. An example of utilization of contacts relates to my own personal practice, more the face to face variety. Back in 1996, my class were studying the topic "Around the World in 80 Days". My classes country was Scotland. At the time there was an advertisement in the paper wanting members to join the Scottish Country Dancing group. I rang up the group and asked them whether they could perform to my class. The group consisted of retired people whose love was of the country Scotland. When they arrived they bought posters, wore their cultural uniforms, bought some home made Scottish shortbread for my class to sample, sang songs, shared stories, performed in front of my class and actually got my whole class to dance with them. This was a valuable experience because it was adding reality to their learning and the children could see that the best sources of knowledge came from the visitors who were from Scotland and had lots of experiences to share.

Reference: Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave: The knowledge society and the future of education (pp. 23-46). Wellington:NZCER

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