Trust The Children

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeschoolers using Social Media

The world is my educational Oyster!

The traditional view of education is one where students "go there" to get "it". They leave home and go to the school much like an employee going to his place of employment. Each day, at school (the learning place), education happens. Once out of school the rest of life, happens. While at school, teachers are there who have been given a curriculum, i.e. gathered material in behalf of the student, filtered it and prepared it and present it, so that students are one step removed from the actual material they need to learn. School is an interpreted environment. Rather than the student engaging with material of their interest where motivation to learn is natural, often much of the "school experience", (not all) could be defined as teachers engaging, interpreting and telling the students what the material means and what they need to know.

We might think of the teacher as a aggregator. This is a new term for many, but it means simply a person who gathers or aggregates material, synthesizes it and then shares the shorter version with others. In today's world of technology, even computers have algorithms, (forumlas) that "read" information and aggregate it, and then pass on the summary the computer produces to us. For us older folks, its kind of like "Cliffnotes", the short and to the point version of a much larger information set.

It is not uncommon for each of us to rely on and use people around us as aggregators. Whether we know it or not. We attend Sunday School, and someone is aggregating or interpreting information for us, and passing it on. We read a blog on the internet or even read the newspaper and in all of these places, information is being summarized and shared for our consumption.

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, in a very small sense, and the world of blogs, in a much larger sense, serve the purpose of aggregation. A parent or a child, can search the internet and find blogs or topics in Facebook or even people in twitter, who have a natural interest in a topic. Once found, we can study it, and even share our views on that topic if we want, entering into a useful dialog or discussion, which we can learn from.

All of us, parents and children, can, as students, use the work of these people and their sharing on the internet for our own custom educational purposes. Over time, if we find these resources, and the people who share them, trustworthy, we can leverage their natural interests to augment and inform our own. Some people call this a Personal Learning System. I took the time to draw out this example.

This is a more adult example, but still you get the idea. It's all free and it doesn't take 6 hours a day. And it is like school, in that you are depending on others to aggregate information for you. It is like school in that you interact with others, albeit online instead of face to face. It is different than school in that you as the student learn from "teachers" or aggregators of your choice, instead of those chosen for you by the school system.

And if you like, you can create a facebook group or join one already there, and share information with others in areas of your interest. In other words, "teach one another out of the best books". You can find "discussion" places on the internet, on about any topic, by just entering these words in Google, "Blog Sailing" or "Blog Quilting" or whatever your interest is. Once you find these places bookmark them in your internet browser, or better yet, have someone help you create a topic folder named "PLS" (Personal Learning System) right in your browser, and under that topic, put the links to the stuff you want to follow and are interested in. Then in one place you have your own "School" of sorts, easy to find and use.

Your homeschool kids can do the same thing. Of course you might want to have a Parental Control Filter there and create custom permissions for the right stuff for your children, and block them from the bad stuff. (On Apple computers this is a standard feature). The world is your oyster when it comes to learning these days. It's free, it's easy, it's convenient and only requires an internet connection and your desire to read and think. You say, you don't have time ? Well, that too is your problem to solve. If you study one topic for one hour a day for a year, possibly two years, you can become the world expert on that topic according to some experts in education (Who read about education for one hour a day for a couple of years). All it takes is the vision and the will to become the educated person you want to become. And help your children do the same.

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