We are no longer on our own. In Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli’s book, Personal Learning Networks, David Wiley, a professor at Brigham Young University, expands upon the thought that there has been a shift from “isolated to connected”(16). There’s been a significant shift over the past decade from a world where information was only attainable via our immediate surroundings. We picked up a telephone, a phone book, or an encyclopedia. Other information was available but not without first crossing the barrier of “time”. Sending a letter and awaiting a response took time. Physically going to the library and conducting research took time. Our world has changed drastically to one of constant connectedness and instant information gratification.
At first glance this concept of connectedness appears to be freeing. It opens the doors of education to include a global presence in which to share an infinite amount of knowledge. Richardson and Mancabelli make the point that since we’re connected to the internet and have two million teachers, the “sum of human knowledge will be at our fingertips”(18). While this concept may sound great, it implores me to think about the immense responsibility that this type of “freedom” brings. How do we keep from experiencing information overload with so much access to anything and everything? How do we filter through the mountains of useless information to find the gold nuggets worth our time and effort? How do we preserve the importance of face-to-face communication in a world where we no longer need to depend on those we physically encounter?
I feel that these are all questions that need to be addressed in order for this “shift” to truly be a positive change. The authors in the abovementioned book agree that these questions are not easily answered and “require a deep understanding of the complex changes that are happening right now, and they also require a willingness to re-examine every aspect of our profession in that light” (32). I believe that part of the answer lies first in determining our own individual passions and using this connectedness to ignite and fan the flame of knowledge about a particular subject – this narrows the path and allows for clearer focus. But perhaps the most important aspect of adjusting to this shift of “isolated to connectedness” lies within how we choose to feel about it. I truly believe that our subconscious attitudes play a large role in our ultimate acceptance of change. We must be willing to explore the new opportunities of being so connected and expect positive results, rather than fearing negative implications. When we open our minds to change we step into an arena of infinite possibilities.
Will Richardson & Rob Mancabelli, Personal Learning Networks (Bloomington: Solution Tree Press, 2011)