Friday, December 21, 2007


I wish to begin by thanking Hajer for her post to my previous blog. I hasten to add that I like its genuine nature. What Hajer seems to be doing is to put part of the blame on students themselves for being lazy. I would like to take issue with this interpretation. My impression is that at our students are every bit as serious and as studious as students in many parts of the world. When they are not focused on my online course, it doesn't mean that they are wasting their time, doing nothing. Quite the contrary, they may be reasoning as you have in the following way: 'Well, this teacher's course notes are available. That's all I need. What I got to do is make sure I collect other course notes in the meantime'.
Though I understand this attitude, I sort of feel short-changed, for when I make my course notes, readings and assignments available online and on paper, I reason in a different way. Between myself and my soul, I say: 'Let students have the full course from the very beginning. Why should I trickle this course, one lecture a week or something. My students will be better off because they won't have to wait for my next lecture. They can read the whole thing, do the assignments, complete the readings, and further search for additional information to make them ahead of the teacher, and ahead of the game.' If things happen otherwise, it unfortunate but understandable.
I think the whole point of e-learning is that learning is not about what the teacher makes available for students, by way of lecture notes or even readings. Lecture notes on any course that you can imagine are now widely and freely available. Just click on MIT open courseware, and you will find an array of courses all free, for all students and people all over the world. Other universities have followed the steps of MIT. In a word, knowledge is available, everywhere. What matters is not only the acquisition of this knowledge, but also, and more importantly the ability for students, teachers, and regular citizens to contribute to this knowledge. Thus, it is not through learning by heart the notes that I have made available for you that I am going to be able to make a difference in my students' lives, but through imparting unto them the message that they too have knowledge, that this knowledge is worthy of being shared and formalized.
In order to reach this goal, you as well as I have to understand that the ultimate goal of the schooling enterprise as we know it has changed. Over are the days when the teacher came to school with two or three pages of notes that he/she shared with students and went home, 'happy and content', as we say in Arabic, that the job is done, and that the students have had their dose of knowledge for that day or that lecture. The new goal is now such that learners, young and old, have to do apply a measure of independent learning through seeking knowledge and information from all possible and available sources. This is the first goal. The second will be, henceforth, to work toward producing and authoring knowledge, and as we shall see in a future blog, this is being done, more and more, with online and offline collaboration, working on your own and within a group, to generate new knowledge that is reflective of what you collectively and individually know at this point.

No comments: