Friday, December 5, 2008

YOUNG LEARN BETTER ON THE WEB THAN ADULTS THINK

Marshall Kirkpatrick, Read Write Web - The ways young people use the internet everyday are transforming learning in ways that adults often fail to understand but represent major new opportunities that need to be taken advantage of by supportive educators. That's the conclusion of a major new study by 28 researchers over three years released today by the University of California at Berkley and the MacArthur Foundation. . .

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Series, the research [finds]:

New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in classroom setting. Youth respect one another's authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.

Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technological skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning. Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access "serious" online information and culture. Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.

Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads. Such learning differs fundamentally from traditional instruction and is often framed negatively by adults as a means of "peer pressure." Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting "learning goals," particularly on the interest-driven side, where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.

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