Facts or Learning


In light of yesterday being the 4th of July and Independence Day in the United States, as I drove along the Detroit River and gazed westward, I dug back into the recesses of my memory and came up with:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

and then I started guessing.  Hmmmm.  Can I do better this side of the border?

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick

Oh yes, that was easier.  Much easier.

Maybe it was prior years’ education kicking in; maybe it was my silver dollar collection to celebrate the Centennial; who knows?  There was a time that I recall having to memorize all the provinces and states upon the Confederation of Canada and the Independence of the United States.  It was seemingly important at the time and I think I did well enough on the test or quiz that followed.

To validate my memory, I decided to check up on my facts.  My history textbooks have long since been turned in.  Now, I have the internet.  In a heartbeat, I found these links.

In fact, my internet search returned more accurate and quicker results than these important facts that I had learned at one point.  These are actually pretty important things to know, even if you’re not a historian.  Not only can I find the facts, but I could go ahead and do an image search and  find pictures of these original documents.

Even more obscure other than naming the original provinces and states was why Canada and the United States became a Dominion and a Republic.  You would think that this would be rather important and worthy of remembering.  But it wasn’t for me.  I do remember the history textbooks – they were very big and heavy – and we did a lot of reading from them and did a great deal of question answering.  Apparently, that’s where the learning ended for me.

There was a great deal of buzz at the NECC Conference about the quality of learning and how web enabled classrooms have the potential of digging deeper and making learning more relevant.  In light of the direction that California is taking with respect to textbooks, I can’t help but think that this particular lesson would have been much better taught to me via the web.

What’s the point of being able to memorize and recall the original four provinces?  Using the web, I can see the actual documents and I can explore the real reasons for this historical event.  I can easily track when each of the provinces and territories entered Confederation.  Hey, I can even easily determine what the difference is between a province and a territory.  I even did a little tangental learning during my search and read up on the Magna Carta.

Reading through a textbook can be a rather passive exercise and not liable to have that sort of long term learning for me.  On the other hand, put control of learning what I need in my hands through internet research becomes a very active task and I’m now in charge of things.  I can do a search and differentiate the reading levels by the resources that I find; I can search for images or video; I can see different sides to the same issue; I can just do so much more.

As we truly take a look at the promise of technology and information in our lives, when it’s properly deployed, the potential for deeper understanding is paramount.  Why wouldn’t we be looking for these types of opportunities?  With a portable connected device, the bar room trivia activity of naming the original provinces and states becomes a very mundane task.

Real learning should be so much more active and engaging.

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links for 2009-07-04