Daily Archives: May 18, 2013

Learning 2.0?

As we start digging into the course content this week, I am most struck by how more people have more access to learning materials than they ever had in the past.  Perhaps through Web 2.0 technologies, we can move even closer to true universal education for all.  Ideally, open courses and the ever-expanding Internet could be the missing link for creating learning opportunities in communities everywhere.

According to Brown and Adler, learning occurs whenever learners interact with electronic materials inside or outside traditional classroom settings, especially through activities that involve a social aspect.  “The emphasis on social learning stands in sharp contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning—a view that has largely dominated the way education has been structured for over one hundred years” (Brown & Adler, 2008).  Without a doubt, social learning can be beneficial for some learners , but by focusing on learning within group situations, I feel like the authors, as well as many other learning theorists, are forgetting that some learners do not react well to such group pressures for many different reasons.  Are we forgetting that some subjects or materials might best be learned by some learners through individually focused instruction or through more traditional direct instruction models?

During my undergraduate years from 2000-2004, I grew very tired of always hearing “Facilitator of Learning” over and over again from my professors.  It was so obviously their favorite bit of educational jargon and integral to their program’s philosophy.  We were told that we should move away from thinking of ourselves as lecturers, as distributors of knowledge, and instead think of ways to encourage our students to figure things out for themselves.  I think that can be an incredibly useful and vital concept in learning, especially when considering how uninspiring and dull it is to be stuck in an educational rut, but I think we sometimes lean too much on group work with or without technology in an effort to be cutting edge.  I’ve used Wiki sites for both individual assignments and group projects, and it is certainly an interesting process, tracking any changes and adding content while knowing that my process is open to the scrutiny of my other group members or even the class as a whole.  “In this open environment, both the content and the process by which it is created are equally visible, thereby enabling a new kind of critical reading—almost a new form of literacy—that invites the reader to join in the consideration of what information is reliable and/or important” (Brown & Adler, 2008).  I think it is important to think critically about all aspects of information gathering, preparing and sharing.  Even so, I question the idea that everyone’s opinion on any given topic is valid.  There is a certain amount of self-policing involved in larger online communities where the cream rises to the top fairly quickly, but what about in smaller environments like required classes?  If we are going to be basing learning around what the students think is important, class may be more fun for them, but are they learning everything that they need to know?

One thing that everyone definitely needs to know is summed up in the following quote:

“What I want to suggest, though, is that the new literacy, the one beyond just text and image, is one of information navigation. I believe that the real literacy of tomorrow will have more to do with being able to be your own private, personal reference librarian, one that knows how to navigate through the incredible, confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable and located in doing that.  So navigation will be a new form of literacy if not the main form of literacy for the 21st century” (Brown, 1999).

In short, everyone needs to be able to consider information critically and independently, and an emphasis on this new literacy would have profound effects on learning environments.  By shifting away from the traditional misconception of librarianship as information gatekeeping, we can build a society of lifelong learners who are fully capable of interacting with information in their chosen learning environments in new and interesting ways.  These ideas can be found manifest in libraries that have added Information Commons to their library footprint.  The reference librarians are there to offer any assistance necessary, but the learner/patron is at the center of the space, not the reference desk.  It is much more learner focused, and patrons can use the libraries on their own terms.

The readings this week make me think about the many ways we all learn, and I wonder how much our individual learning styles have impacted our teaching styles as well.  It is always important to think outside our own likes or dislikes and not get bogged down in one mode of teaching.  I think I have a lot more to consider about how to connect social learning through technology with my own learning preferences.

Web 2.0 Puts Students at the Helm of Learning

How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?

Knowledge is constructed by the learners. Social interaction plays a prominent role, as they learn from one another’s insights, questions, and answers. According to the article, Minds on Fire, “we participate, therefore we are.” As far as I agree that social learning occurs, I want to acknowledge that there are other types of learning such as constructivism. Furthermore, social learning is not the all-encompassing way of learning. For instance, the strength of the learner plays a major role. Benjamin Franklin taught himself much of his knowledge by candlelight while sitting up in the room above the printing press where he worked. The effectiveness of study groups, however defined (large group instruction where we learn from peers’ questions and answers or small groups of four or five students huddled around a table working through their chemistry lab), cannot be understated, as social learning plays a major role in the formation of knowledge for me personally. I am keenly aware of my teachable moments when in conversation with knowledgeable friends and how my former way of thinking can change based on their input. Speaking of online communities that extend a person’s social networks for constructing knowledge include wikis, blogs, and tagging sites.

What are the differences in the role of the learner and the facilitator as compared to ‘traditional’ learning environments? (Do you consider these roles and processes viable/valid given your philosophy of learning?)

Students are the future, not teachers. Guide on the side versus sage on the stage is my preferred philosophy of learning. Have I already attained the art of teaching my classes this way? I have a lot to learn before I can go that far. Nonetheless, I aspire toward this newer model of teaching because I believe that students need to have ownership of their learning. If they construct it with one another, it becomes more meaningful to them. The role of the teacher as a facilitator, one who sets up a challenging and stimulating learning environment with the necessary resources for exploration and learning to occur, is appropriate toward the goal of educating lifelong learners. In a more traditional learning milieu, on the other hand, students take on a passive role. Teachers are the experts who deliver the content; students listen and ask a question or two.

What implications do these shifts have for how we think about designing learning environments?

John Dewey eloquently described one alternative in reaction to these kinds of shift when he talked about “productive inquiry.” As defined in the article Mind on fire, productive inquiry is “the process of seeking the knowledge when it is needed in order to carry out a particular situated task.” For this reason, students need to be the active participants in knowledge construction. Teachers need to design instruction so that students are learning by doing as they pursue solutions to relevant problems with attainable challenge. Giving students access to one another, as well as other contributors in the field such as researchers or foreign-nation peers, needs to be a key ingredient in the learning environment in the Web 2.0 era.

Week 2: Learning and Web 2.0

Shifting the idea of how people learn, especially students, is a hard task to accomplish in a nation that already has their philosophy set. As mentioned in the article “Learning, Working, and Playing in the Digital Age,” these digital natives learn best through self-discovery and constant interaction/communication. Students should be able to communicate openly and freely with various sources throughout their learning experiences. Students collaborating with one another or with experts in the area of interest proves to both be instrumental in fostering deep connections that brings this style of learning to a higher level. In the article, “Minds on Fire,” it reinforces the concept that it is not about what the students are learning but about how they are learning. I had read an article before called, “Changing what and how children learn in school using computer technologies,” that stated that learning happens through, “active engagement, peer interaction, interaction and feedback, and connections to real world contexts.” All of these areas are key to helping students of today learn. With this in mind, educators need to be willing to change the traditional practices that are embedded so deeply in our country.

As an educator, I believe that when shifting to an approach of discovery based learning, the role of the educator changes dynamically. Instead of the teacher being the head of the classroom, they must instead become more of a coach/advisor to student learning. Students should have the freedom to research and complete projects in an area that is of interest to them. As mentioned in the articles, there are various projects already started where students can actually participate in submitting valuable data as part of research and development of new findings in science. Beyond the mentioned sources in the articles, I have also heard of a program called GLOBE which allows students to collaborate with scientists to help collect and evaluate data for different science experiments. When taking this approach, students are able to demonstrate their learning in a manner that best suits their learning style. Keeping in mind the idea of multiple intelligences, teachers could best embrace this by having student’s independently complete Web 2.0 tasks that meet their needs. Students could be creating presentations, videos, music, etc. to help demonstrate their understanding of the subject they are learning. This approach motivates student learning and allows them to actively engage in their learning.

Educators would need to help foster a community that collaborates with each other and safely with the outside world. The first examples that came to my mind that would benefit communication and collaboration safely in an educational setting were blogs, wiki’s, Edmodo, and Google Docs. Through all of these tools, students can talk and collaborate on tasks to help enhance their thinking and create an environment of effective learning. With Edmodo, students could even have interaction with their teacher as well as to discuss questions about the core content being learned in class. Blogs, Wiki’s, and Google Docs all are built with the understanding that more than one person can work at a time on a given project or task. Students can edit, share, modify, enhance, etc. each other’s work in order to make a more cohesive project that demonstrates thorough understanding of the concepts being presented.

As we start to move from the traditional teaching environment to more social and discovery based learning environments, we need to keep in mind that many administrations will have a hard time changing from teacher-centered lecture style classrooms. With the constraints of testing and the demands for high scores, administrators are not as open to changing learning styles unless bountiful research backs this approach. We would need to be okay viewing a classroom as a working, non-structured area where students are talking, researching, doing different projects, etc. Also, the constraints of allowing students, especially in the primary grades, to access these Web 2.0 tools would need to be eliminated in order to best meet each students learning need.



Week 2: Sometimes it’s hard for teachers to “let go…”

  • How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?According to “Minds on Fire,” student learning increases when students are allowed to view each other’s work, work collaboratively in groups, and see the feedback given to each other. When student’s can see each other’s work, a sense of collaboration, but also competition is created.  “Minds on Fire” mentions a course where students were able to see each other blog posts after a few weeks – and when they did so, their standards of work increased.  Our competitive nature kicks in and sometimes boosts our willingness and eagerness to learn.With all of the different ways that students learn, Web 2.0 tools provide a variety of ways to reach every student in the classroom, no matter what their learning style.  I really liked the example of using the web to like older generations with the young kids in school today.  Teachers were able to get a message across that may have been lost had it not been told by someone who lived the era, a generation removed.
  • What are the differences in the role of the learner and the facilitator as compared to ‘traditional’ learning environments? (Do you consider these roles and processes viable/valid given your philosophy of learning?)The learner must take more responsibility for themselves and their education in these types of settings.   The teacher can facilitate but can not be the basic source of knowledge for students.
    Students must seek to interact with their peers and continue discussions on the topics outside the tradition classroom. This is the way learning should always occur, whether “traditional” or not. Learners are living in a “demand-pull” world where resources are rich and expectations of learning are very high.  With so much information at their fingertips, learners must recognize their abilities to change and add to their knowledge at any time.Facilitators, according to Brown, must understand that today’s digital learners are constant multi-processors. We must then teach them in the new way that they learn. And because their are no established sources of information on the web, we must teach our students to question and rethink all sources of information.
  • What implications do these shifts have for how we think about designing learning environments?These shifts allow us to create learning environments that are conducive to all student learning.  These shifts, especially web dependence,  change what is expected of students in the 21st century.  Brown alluded to the fact that because students are expected to know more and problems solve better, we need to consider the “new normal” when creating learning environments for these “web-based” learners.Brown also points out that our students are “do-ers.”  They want to see what is being done around the world via the web and then try and out do it.  We need to challenge them to continue this practice!
  • Courtney Blackhurst

Week 2: Learning and Web 2.0

Week 2: Learning and Web 2.0
Within the context of Web 2.0, learning occurs in a vastly different way than it has in the past. Understanding is reached not by simply consuming knowledge, but by interacting with and participating in discussions and activities which provide knowledge. Connecting with individuals who have similar, as well as different, experiences from the learning in order to build an understanding of a concept is a key difference in learning in this day and age. It is also an incredible means of learning about less “popular” subjects as anyone can post anything about any arbitrary subject to the web with ease and without expertise.

The shift to Web 2.0 has caused a change in the role of the facilitator in many ways. Prior to the Internet, learning was all done through the facilitator, teacher, or expert. As much learning and understanding has shifted to the Internet, the facilitator is no longer the sole resource for learners to access in order to acquire information. Learners may access information from various organizations and people from across the world. Most of today’s jobs require employees to access information and problem-solve without much guidance or direction. As children progress through school and become adults, it is imperative that educators prepare them for the jobs they will have upon completing their formal education. Web 2.0 allows educators to provide students with the practice participating in the Open Knowledge Exchange Zone by allowing students to combine knowledge from multiple sources, use knowledge to learn from others’ knowledge, and to create representations of knowledge (Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 by Brown & Adler).

In designing appropriate learning environments for the 21st century learners entering our schools today, it is important that we are considerate of the shifts occurring in the way students learn as well as the shift in the jobs coming into existence. We must consider the end result we anticipate for our students, what they will be expected to do upon completion of their formal education. Flexibility, initiative, and a basic understanding of various subjects are required of most employees nowadays. Therefore, we must create learning environments using the resources Web 2.0 provides in order to fulfill the current needs of students as well as prepare them for their futures.