Thoughts on Self-directed & Collaborative learning

Singapore’s Ministry of Education has just rolled out the latest Masterplan for IT in Education (aka mp3). In it, the focus of the learning of our pupils will begin to shift to these two areas. Self-directed and collaborative learning. These strategies will be implemented in 5 key strands.

  1. ICT in Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
  2. Cyber Wellness
  3. Professional Development
  4. Research & Development
  5. ICT infrastructure

At first glance, the end goal of the masterplan looks very exciting. Pupils will be develop skills to be self-directed and collaborative learners. They will develop skills that will enable them to survive in a fast-paced, high-tech world. It will empower them with the ability to learn on their own without the need to be spoon-fed information.

However, though the destination looks exciting, the journey seems arduous. In my opinion, the challenges of self-directed and collaborative learning is two-folds.

Teacher Readiness

We talk about self-directed and collaborative learning and look at the role of ICT. Honestly, the infrastructure is more or less ready. We have high speed broadband, fast computers, numerous Web 2.0 resources all free to use that allows for self-directed and collaborative learning. So what’s stopping our pupils from becoming full fledged self-directed and collaborative learners?

I feel one reason is that our teachers are simply not ready. We, teachers, are still making that transition from our world into the digital world. Many of us frown against the use of ICT in the class citing various reasons about why ICT is a bane rather than a boon.

How ready are we to let our pupils go and learn on their own? Are we ready to take a back seat in the classroom and be just mere facilitators? Do we know how to facilitate a self-directed or collaborative learning environment? Are we confident that our pupils will benefit more from each other rather than from us?

Pupil Readiness

The next question, are our pupils ready to face a brave new world of learning? Do they have the skills necessary to do their own learning? Are they able to collaborate effectively? Do they have the social skills needed to collaborate with their peers without hurting each others feelings? Especially when it comes to collaborating with people from other countries, do they have the language to interact meaningfully with them?

Are these questions valid? Are our pupils more than ready for self-directed and collaborative learning? Are schools and teachers the only thing holding them back from fully using ICT to learn, discover and create a world of their own?