Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How authentic is authentic?

It's Dome Day Tuesday, the one day of the week where I forget uni, the housework, the kids, Lee (except on the rare, lovely occasion when he joins me), head down to Dome and do nothing but drink coffee and write.


Well, except, this morning I'm drinking tea (English Breakfast) and thinking about uni. Or, more precisely, authentic learning. I'm hung up on it. I know I believe in authentic learning. I know I do. And yet, for some reason, every time I read or hear someone talk about it, I find myself thinking of opposite arguments.

I partly know why. Lee and I have discussions about all sorts of things from writing to religion to the kids to world events to the presence of aliens. Over the years, to keep the conversations going, we've both fallen into the habit of taking an opposite stance to the one raised. This week I'll raise an argument for the implementation of religion in the school system, so Lee will automatically pick up the debate against. Next week, out of nowhere, he'll think of an argument for my side, raise it and so I'll look at the other side. It's part of our communication process and it makes for more interesting conversation than "Which toilet paper should we buy?"

For some reason I have taken this stance into my uni learning. The lecture shows why authentic learning is best and I immediately come up with reasons why rote learning is better or where what seems authentic for me is not authentic for you. Or you.

Take, for instance, an incident that happened last year. We had an assignment for our maths unit where we had to show how we would work with decimals, percentages and fractions in real life.

Straight up I came up with a decimal example - money (we had to work with .40). I made my case, showed an example and moved on to fractions, specifically 5/13 as shown. I more or less stated in my essay that this was not authentic as I had gone throughout my house, my work and my life and could not find one authentic incident in which I would use 5/13. It was a ridiculous notion that was not supportable in real life. I then moved on to percentages.

The following week, when handing back our essays, Barry talked about our use of real life cases. He said that while pretty much everyone had used money to depict the decimal example, only one student had used it authentically. Me. As a bank teller it was a requirement for me to enter money onto my computer according to its decimal value. We don't do this in every day life; ie a shop assistant doesn't ask for .40 of a dollar. They'll ask for 40 cents. Only me, with my bank telling, was able to enter money as .40. I also got marks for making a case against fractions in (my) real life. I have a large family (anywhere up to 9 people in the house at any one time) but I would never use a fraction like 5/13.

So, what does authentic mean? In my upcoming assignment we'll be constructing a teaching plan using various forms of technology. My group and I are using mobile phones to take photos (authentic, seeing as how my mobile takes better photos than my whizz-bank camera), emails for correspondence (authentic) and the iPod/Pad for podcasting. I don't see this as authentic. My husband is a pod-cast published author and he doesn't use the iPod/Pad for this. Maybe I'm missing a step in the process. It's probable I'm about to learn something new (as I did with my previous assignment). However, there is the possibility that podcasting could be this week's Ping, full of possibilities at first glance, but lacking any practical use whatsoever. Did I mention I hate Ping? I hate Ping.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on Ping. It is not one of my favourites. Having said that it was your social resource assignment that taught me how to use it :) However I don't see much point in it as most people will buy the music they like. Humm on the other hand if I wanted someone to buy me music it might be useful - I can't remember if I had the option to say if I already owned it or not (shelfari has this option for books). I might have to go back and investigate it further - could be good for Xmas presents.
    I've enjoyed reading your blog Lynette.
    Regards Jenni