I was reading Chris Sessums' blog post Driven to Distraction: Notes on Young Adults Living and Learning wi... and felt compelled to add my 2 cents worth:

Chris,

You raise some interesting questions in your article, but you also wonder "...how we can "measure" self-directed learning in this new media context?" and that's where the problem lies; we educators must justify what we establish in our learning spaces or classrooms through some form of assessment. So when students use social media or any form of 21st century electronic medium, they might be doing so within the confines of limited interests. Educators constantly attempt to expand their students’ limited interests, based mostly on the content they teach. We should always be teaching students how to learn, but usually we teach them what to learn. We often forget that learning a cumulative process, not necessarily something that occurs from the beginning of a unit (or semester) to its end. But the dictates of our profession insist that what occurs between beginnings and ends must be measured. We are expected to do this to justify ourselves as professionals and the salary we receive.

I've been teaching high school students for 32 years and still have difficulty coming to terms with assessing my student's success. Just because a student has received a grade doesn't mean the student has successfully learned anything more than how to earn a specific grade from me. It calls to mind columnist Sydney Harris's column "Things I Learned While Looking up Other Things". The column was based on learning something as a result of getting sidetracked. I suspect that using social media allows students to learn a lot more than we ever measure, but not necessarily the content we want them to learn, the content we evaluate through the various assessment tools we've learned to use.

Gary Latman

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