Where’s the Beef?

 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?”

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6 thoughts on “Where’s the Beef?

  1. Thank you for your post- I must admit that I myself am amazed at how fast others are able to blog, tweet, add to the discussion board as I am just trying to listen, take notes and reflect on what has been said but it is changing as I am getting better able to multi-task. I think all of this relates to how I was “taught to study.” I believe that those younger than me will be better doing all of this as that grade 7 student’s explanation of her personal learning environment was truly amazing. Now I only wish I had a grasp of it all like she did–maybe I should try Evernote it seemed to work for her?

    • kjehman says:

      That was a fantastic video wasn’t it – a true example of student led inquiry – where we need our students to go.

    • lbechard says:

      I signed up for Symbaloo immediately! I also have Evernote but my favourite is still DropBox for keeping my files… Evernote will likely take over, but I need a day or 2 to invest in playing with it first.

  2. mickpanko says:

    The process of taking all of the information in this class in during the online session is overwhelming…I have found myself revisiting the recording and spending literally hours looking at the links etc that come out of the “backstream” – there are some brilliant people in this class and I find myself learning a pile but do not really know how to put it in practice in my role as an administrator – any thoughts on that?

    • lbechard says:

      I usually have an email window open (to myself) and copy and paste links into it during the session and have that serve as my note taker. Generally after the session, my mind is a bit full, but I now block off time in my calendar at work on Wed mornings to explore the gems in this email! As this course is very relevant to my job, it is acceptable work-related behaviour to explore new tools and read education related blogs as many get shared with instructors and staff we support.

    • kjehman says:

      Yes Mick, I agree – having those links accessible on the recording is very useful; I also started to add them to my favourites during the live session so that I can revist later.

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