Education in the digital age: new resources and learning

Posted December 14th, 2012 by Sylvia Morris and filed in Blank

A week or so ago Jason Lodge posted an article on The Conversation blog entitled Education in the information age: is technology making us stupid?

Lodge’s post is well worth reading so do follow the link, but one of his conclusions is that the age-old model of teaching based on a group of students absorbing knowledge directly from a teacher within a space dedicated to learning, may be disappearing fast.

Most discussions centre on the future of university teaching. A consortium of British Universities led by the Open University under the name FutureLearn have just announced they are entering the field of delivering Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) which have been in use in the US and Australia for several years. These online courses will be available free of charge to anyone from around the world. Some have predicted the death of the lecture, or even the end of the University, and it seems certain that a rethink is under way. A spokesman for the new company suggested “think of it as the democratisation of education.”

Going back to Lodge’s article, his main point centres on the widely-held feeling that “While information is everywhere, knowledge is declining and technology is to blame”. When information about every subject under the sun is available in seconds through our smartphones, why bother to learn?

Of course people still need to learn, but different things (how to operate a smartphone, for one). Ever-changing technology itself challenges us to keep learning: just think how much you have learned about how to operate new generations of computers and software over the past decade.

Professionally I’m a librarian, a job which I’ve always seen as being an intermediary between information and potential users.  Accessing and digesting information by thinking leads to learning and knowledge. Even the most creative of people depend on some kind of spark coming from information. Technology now supplies us with an infinite amount of information from multiple resources and the challenge for many of us is filtering and selecting from these resources. Having more resources doesn’t make us stupid, but can make us confused. I’m particularly interested in resources for independent lifelong learners, who are often not well served by university and even publicly-funded library, archive and museum sites, though the good news is that this is gradually changing.

I worked at the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive, where up to a million images relating to the staging of Shakespeare are held, in particular the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Having met many teachers during my thirty years there, I am aware of how valuable images can be in teaching Shakespeare’s plays in a range of settings. There are a whole range of issues relating to making images available online, which I’ll be going into in a future post. One problem is simply that organisations tend to protect their own image resources so each site has to be visited separately: and these can be difficult to find. Some are now cooperative to form massive picture banks while maintaining the integrity of the holding institution.

For now, if you’d like to catch up on some of the many online image resources available online, as well as links to a recent JISC conference on learning in a digital age take a look at the latest post on The Shakespeare blog. Most of the resources don’t relate directly to Shakespeare but that doesn’t mean that creative teachers won’t find inspiration for their lesson-planning among the riches on offer.



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