Recently, I have been thinking about learning places, not only physical spaces, like our schools and classrooms, but also digital places like Google and Twitter. Seemingly continents adrift, I find myself asking, what is the proper coalescence of virtual and physical spaces for engaging modern learners?
Marc Prensky contends digital natives, those born after 1980, speak a different language, meaning they learn differently than digital immigrants because of technological immersion since birth. His recommendation, published in 2001, is for educators to learn the language of this century by listening to, and understanding, the native dialect. The digital native versus digital immigrant narrative became a favorite topic of debate for the next decade. However, the explosion of social media coupled with the constant evolution of digital technology has caused Prensky, and others, to reevaluate the relationship of age and place upon modern learning.
Dave White takes a different view, suggesting our use of digital tools slides on a continuum between visitor and resident. A visitor, for example, regardless of age, may perform dozens of Google searches each day, but not engage with others, or create new learning destinations. Conversely, a blogger will post reflections, and other artifacts of learning, while engaging with others in a digital place. A learning residence becomes established. It is this application of geography that I find interesting.
White, like Prensky, recommends communication and deeper understanding to close what is perceived to be a learning divide. He recommends the following three steps to achieve this deeper understanding:
- Map the Virtual Learning Places - the instructor plots the use of digital tools on a horizontal continuum between visitor and resident, and the vertical continuum between personal use, and institutional use.
- Student Mapping - students then follow the same process of plotting their digital places using the same set of axes.
- Compare and Contrast through Conversation - with individuals, or small groups, discuss the mapping process. Discuss the similarities and differences between the instructor's map, and the student's map.
Months ago, after seeing how other members of my PLN (personal learning network) were visibly indicating their Internet residency, I created a blog page showing my primary residences on the web.
|Sharing Map - Robert Schuetz|
My initial attempt at mapping would lead to a rather shallow discussion as it does little to indicate my "mode of engagement" with the illustrated tools. Creating a more meaningful map, using White's continuum, requires review, analysis, and reflective thought. Like Pangea, my Internet map looked different last year, and will likely look different next year. Those who study plate tectonics tell us land masses are floating, some drifting apart, and others encroaching. At a glance, one can more accurately interpret the significance and the context, of my web presence; where I reside versus where I visit. Over time, I can see how "where I go" impacts how I grow.
To fully appreciate the process of mapping virtual learning places, you have to try it for yourself. My map was created by publishing a Google Drawing because it has gone through several iterations in the past few hours. Maps have always fascinated me. This mapping process deepened my understanding of my "modes of engagement", and my learning experiences on the web.
Why should we ask students to map their use of the Internet?