Last module I spoke about Dr. Tony Bate’s conception of a “knowledge-based society” and articulated some hesitation I feel as an educator in an increasingly tech and practical skill driven world. The truth is practical knowledge is not my weildhouse; academic knowledge is. I often fear that emphasis will be “placed on the utility of knowledge for commercial purposes,” (p. 2.7.1) instead of on the importance of knowledge for knowledge’s sake – knowledge being integral to critical thinking skills and active citizenship. Dr. Bates assuaged my fears, however, in suggesting that focusing only on practical knowledge is “a mistake, even in terms of economic development,” (p. 2.7.1) and contending that academic and applied knowledge are, and should be, deeply integrated.
So how best could I integrate applied knowledge into my academic curriculum, I asked myself? How could applied knowledge actually better support academic development? What types of digital tools and environments are out there to support both individual and collaborative learning in and out of the classroom?
Part of integrating practical and academic knowledge involves tearing down the classroom walls. Students should engage with their academic subjects in practical ways in their own time. The online textbook is a great way to do this. It allows students to intellectually explore as they use practical-internet based skills to best interact with their textbook.
In my own AP U.S. History class we often suggest that our students use the companion website for our textbook, America’s History (2007), at http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/henretta7ehs/#t_771262____ The website offers students several resources integral to learning at home. The website offers an e-book version of the textbook, should a student want to virtually interact with its contents, as well as section and chapter reviews and practice quizzes. The site also includes resource guides that point students towards additional online resources. Instructors can also enjoy in the site’s resources – they can check out its supplemental primary source materials and lesson plan suggestions, and can even check in on student interaction with the website.
Another part of pairing practical and academic knowledge is asking that students collaborate on learning projects. Google Applications for Education, https://www.google.com/edu, is a widely-used practical tool that enables students to engage in collaborative activities and projects. Students can simultaneously edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more, as they interact with a site integral to the commercial workplace. Google Applications for Educators also allows for a great deal of instructional oversight, as teachers can create accounts for their classrooms. They can check in on student collaboration outside of the classroom, and offer insight and guidance from the privacy of their own home.
The trick, of course, is to keep thinking on ways to incorporate digital tools that may someday be integral to the commercial workplace into the academic setting. We can focus our energies on academic knowledge while simultanously teaching our students practical skills that support both individual and collaborative learning in and outside of the classroom walls.
Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (2). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.