It's an open question. Think about today's in-class discussion, ask yourself what you really want out of this semester, and then comment to this post with your decision and at least one reason for it. (NOTE: As Benjamin Franklin famously observed, "We all hang together or we all hang separately." We won't move forward unless all of us agree.)
I've created an approach to learning in which students use 2.0 tools to create their online identity, express themselves, and demonstrate what they can do.
I call the model Open Source Learning: "A guided learning process that combines timeless best practices in with today's tools to create paths of inquiry, communities of critique, and a portfolio of knowledge capital that is directly transferable to the marketplace."
Last year students used Open Source Learning to create a wild variety of personal goals, Big Questions, ventures (several of which are becoming actual businesses) and online portfolios of work that helped them get jobs and college admissions. You can see their course blog here and their personal blogs here.
Some of them are aspiring filmmakers. They made this video about the experience:
In an era when it seems like all you hear about school is how much it
sucks, it's nice to see student achievement make positive waves-- check
out this interview with Howard Rheingold, the man who invented the term "virtual community."
The defining characteristic of Open Source Learning is that there is no chief; all of us are members of a network that is constantly evolving. Another defining characteristic is transparency. What we learn and how well we learn it is right out there in public for everyone to see. And it's Open. That means we're not limited to one source for curriculum or instruction. A mother/daughter team in another course is presenting a lesson on Dickens & Dr. Seuss. If we read something that makes an impression we can email the author. We already have a full slate of online conferences scheduled, including authors, authorities on the Internet and social media, entrepreneurs, and others. As you get the hang of this you'll come up with your own ideas. And when you do, see how you can use the Collaborative Working Groups and Project Infinity to your greatest advantage.
No one knows how learning actually works--what IS that little voice that tells you what you should've said 15 minutes after the conversation?-- or what we should learn about. Maybe that's why we use the term "learning experience" to describe a moment that kicks us in the butt when we least expect it. Open Source Learning provides an outlet for self-expression that shares thought processes, not just assignments. This way you can learn about how you and others learn, while you're in the act, and you can fine-tune your game accordingly. Improving your own mind, in addition to mastering the core curriculum, is the highest form of success in this course of study.
As you well know ("Put that phone away or I'll confiscate it!"), many people are worried about the use of technology in education. They are rightly concerned about safety, propriety, and focus: will learners benefit or will they put themselves at risk? The only way to conclusively prove that the benefits far outweigh the risks is to establish your identities and show yourselves great online. If we move forward on this you will learn how the Internet works, how you can be an effective online citizen, and how you can use 2.0 and 3.0 tools to achieve your personal and professional goals. You'll also learn a lot about American literature and the habits of mind that make readers and writers successful.
Because Open Source Learning is a team sport, this is all your call. You have to decide if you want to pursue this new direction or if you prefer the security of the traditional approach. There is admittedly something comforting about the smell of an old book (even if it's a thirty-pound textbook that spent the summer in a pile of lost-and-found P.E. clothes). My opinion may be obvious, but I'm just one voice. Please add yours with a comment below.