Sunday, January 17, 2010

Anything, Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

1. In the introduction to our weblog it was suggested that because of Web 2.0, “Anyone can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere, at anytime”. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? If you agree, then what role do schools and formal education play in your learning? If you disagree, then what gets in the way of learning?

Yes, I do agree that anyone can learn anything from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. However, I think that physical schools, teachers, and classmates are vital to learning. For me, there is something about learning from a real life person that betters my learning. Explanations are easier understood when given by a real person for a number of reasons. First, they are spoken rather than read. Secondly, visuals that go along with the explanation are happening right in front of you. And finally there are hands on activities (like the scary clown one) that you can do that really give you a good idea of how whatever you're studying pertains to the real world.

Some might say that all of this can be given through the web, but not in the same way. You can get verbal explanations along with visual aids through videos. There are plenty of learning activities through the web, and a social network of people that act as teachers and classmates, however, you cannot stop a video in the middle and ask what's going on, and commenting back and forth on blog posts to clear up something you don't understand could take weeks. Though the internet is definitely a huge aid in learning and teaching, I don't think the web could ever replace real human interaction. Not only this, but with the internet, there is always a question of validity. Though this exists to some extent with people too, it is much harder to tell if the information you are getting off the internet is right. Though this is not math related, think about foreign languages: an online translator could never give you the same results as a real person. Yes, you can get a real human to translate a language for you through the internet, but they cost money. And why would anyone pay for that when we have Dan Pittz?


  1. Totally with you on the value of human interaction. I want to push you in two different directions.

    I want to add that I often learn the most when I get to explain things myself, I immediately start to see holes in my own logic when I hear it out loud. The internet sort of offers a forum for this - this website, perhaps allows you guys to do this to a certain extent. You pointed out though that responding back and forth over something like this could take weeks, and feedback is really important too.

    So I want to suggest a possible different solution. Someone was telling me that the internet game Second Life, which is an online role-playing game where you have a little avatar and you go around doing things is starting to allow people to have conferences online. So everyone going to the conference gets an avatar, and there are lectures on the computer given by avatars, and then they can go out of the lecture and talk to other conference participants and network, just like a real conference. Would this solve some of the problems you talked about? What new problems might it introduce?

  2. Your post touched on many debated points about online learning. The content obtained from the internet must be scrutinized for it validity. This requires each person to read with a critical eye and to analyze with an open mind. This will become an increasingly important skill for digital natives of the 21st Century.

    I agree with your assessment that the internet could never replace the human connections provided by face-to-face learning. Schools provide the opportunities for social interaction which develop collaborative and interpersonal skills needed to live and work within a group. Relationships established with classmates and teachers create a community in which everyone is learning and growing together.

    Your comment about the blogging conversation being a slow way to clear up misunderstandings got me thinking: would our blog benefit from the addition of a chatbox so that people could carry on a learning conversation in real-time? What do you think?

  3. kwad, I'm not sure I fully understand SecondLife. You said it's a game, but do people use it to talk to other about work and school and such too? Certainly a conference would elimiate the lag time with internet communication, but even with instant messaging or texting I feel it is very hard to express yourself fully through wrting, expecially when you are writing about math. Then of course, there are video chats like skype that might eliminate that problem.
    Bru, I think that a chatbox would be great. Although it would be weird to have an instant online conversation like that with someone when you don't know who they are. But still very cool.

  4. Secret, you asked for it...
    Be the first one to try it out!

  5. Hey, you can read more about second life here:

    The second life wikipedia page is pretty fascinating too:

    It talks about strange stuff that has happened online in the game - a governor has given a speech "in second life", really crazy things.

    I don't know that much about it. Online worlds are really fascinating to me, though, the author Neal Stephenson writes strange futuristic science fiction sometimes about things like the internet. A good book by him about an online community is called Snowcrash.