A self-directed learner looks similar to a ‘digital learner’ as described by Heather Wolpert-Garwon in an article titled Seven Digital Learning Tips for Students obtained from a blog at Edutopia
An abbreviated outline of those tips are as follows……
1. You have to have a sense of self. Successful learners online have an awareness of metacognition — self-motivation, self-starting, and ownership of one’s actions. In other words, they reflect on how they learn as well as what they learn.
2. You need to be able to manage your time wisely. They must be able to lay out their tasks with a critical eye, plan them accordingly, and follow them through to fruition — many times without someone looking over their shoulder.
3. You have GOT to know how to collaborate. This is a biggie. More than an understanding of technology, more than a perfection of writing skills, the ability to collaborate is one that must be used comfortably online.
4. You need to be able to set goals for yourself. Being able to see the target and backwards plan towards that target is vital.
5. You need to communicate well in writing. The entire online community is based on the language of words and how to communicate them effectively. One cannot use texting language and expect to be heard. A student needs to use their best level of writing.
6. You must follow the community norms. Just like a classroom has a set of rules, so does an online class. A student must function within the norms and rules of netiquette set up by the instructor (or, better yet, agreed upon by the class itself).
7. You must be your own advocate. As slam poet Taylor Mali once wrote when asked if they would be tested on the material, “If not you, then who?” So does it go with being one’s own advocate. If you won’t ask the questions, take control, and make sure your voice is heard in a positive way…then who will?
Therefore, a digital learner is a student who has a sense of self, is able to manage their time wisely, collaborates, set goals, communicates well in the written form, values their role in the community and is assertive enough to advocate for one’s self.
The conclusion to be drawn is that a student who is a digital learner is one who can manage and direct their own learning. Those schools who have the goal of developing students to become self-directed learners, need to capitalise upon the relative advantage of technology through student-centred pedagogies to achieve the end goal.