recettes2lise from Flickr
During the 80’s, the Wendy’s slogan “Where’s the Beef” became a cultural metaphor for where is the meat, the substance, the authenticity? Earlier this week, participating in an online session consisting of 53 adult learners exploring the nature of community and open learning, I found myself musing where is the beef? Can 53 very different people linked by one common class and instructor create an authentic learning experience? How can such a MOOC be an inclusive experience for all learners? When we discuss authenticity in a learning environment what do we really mean?
According to Oblinger (2007) as well as Herrington, Oliver, and Reeves (2002) in Patterns of Engagement in Authentic On line Learning Environments authentic learning is one that replicates real life experiences. These authentic learning activities lead to a bigger learning event which according to Oblinger (2007) provides “cognitive capacity to think, solve problems, create.” For this to happen the learner must also be engaged, a difficult task in large on-line learning environments.
I owe my colleague, Alison Seaman credit for first raising the question of community on her blog. As I read and listened to Dr. Richard Schweir discuss the attributes of community I was not surprised that among the many were authenticity. As a digital immigrant who is admittedly more of a tourist, I fully admit my limitations in multitasking. Not unlike Alan Lowrie who questioned in his blog whether anyone could really multitask, I found myself overwhelmed, baffled and amazed at the efficiency of fellow learners who tweeted, blogged, engaged in the backchat discussion and inserted links in seemingly effortless fashion. I, on the other hand was attempting to listen, read, scroll, minimize and maximize, not to mention internalize the myriad of information bombarding me. I felt incompetent and frustrated. I was attempting to ingest information, but unable to digest it, all the while feeling as though I was dining alone! I wondered how do students in MOOC environments manage the volume of information and how do they internalize the message? In otherwords, where is the substance, where is the beef? The New Media Literacies clip this week only highlighted these concerns, in particular for the digital natives sitting in our K -12 classrooms. Although they likely will not be overwhelmed by the technological skills required to navigate and consume media, are they critically analyzing what they consume? If not, how can they ever be creators and producers of media; how can the learning ever be a truly authentic experience leading to greater cognitive capacity?
As the week progressed and I had the opportunity to go back over the information and research it occurred to me that I was in fact engaged in the learning. In fact, I was simply using inquiry and creating a personal learning network that allowed me to chew, swallow, digest and ultimately nourish my own hunger for understanding. I discovered with a great deal of relief, that the discussion was merely the invitation to peruse the menu and order the beef! The questions and confusion spun my hamster wheel brain prodding me to question, explore, discuss, and evaluate and reevaluate my own biases and understandings. Although I am relieved, for my momentary feeling of accomplishment, I recognize that I am a motivated, professional learner! My question remains as an educator in an era of fast food education how do we motivate our kids to ask “Where’s the beef?”