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.

5 thoughts on “Web 2.0 Puts Students at the Helm of Learning

  1. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Week 2 | Emerging Learning Technologies

  2. jaf378

    I’ve often used the phrase “sage on stage” but have never heard “guide on the side”…but I love it! I think it perfectly describes this shift toward more self-directed/problem-based learning. Rote memorization and recitation of facts can still hold value, but I think there is far more value in teaching students how to think rather than what to think. A former professor of mine used to remark about how even in history books, where events happened in a very particular way at an exact time, are subject to bias and propaganda. He would often remark about how the story might appear in a Japanese textbook when discussing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This always stuck with me because even in something as factually based as historical events there is interpretation and discretion. Acting as a guide on the side allows students to discover and create their own interpretations. Obviously, a teacher is there to facilitate the learning process and ideally provide follow up and feedback to the process, but the learning is guided more by the students in this process. While I’m not a teacher, my role as an adviser for several student groups put me in a position to help them learn and grow. My philosophy was somewhat like an athletic coaches: I can create a broad gameplan, draw up the field on which they needed to play, but it was up to them to develop their individual plays and execute them. It wasn’t total freedom from my input, but it put the students in the role of teacher/facilitator as well as being a student. I saw far more excitement and ownership of their learning than when it was strictly a “sage on stage” environment.

  3. jmm5032 Post author

    Hi Marie and Eun,
    Thanks for commenting!

    Marie, I, too, strive to create discovery-based instruction. Because we tend to teach they way were are taught, I too often find myself fearful of leaving my old standby of direct instruction. In order to ween myself from this less effective style of teaching, this year I have created plan B note sheets that follow this outdated mode of instruction. Next year I plan to transform a few lessons in each chapter into problem-based learning, for example, where I act the role of facilitator. With the note sheets as backup, I’ll have greater peace of mind if I fail. I can always resort to the note sheet to clarify the goals of the lesson. How you plan to use your experiences in this course to help you design more student-centered learning is very exciting and I think you’re heading in the right direction – don’t turn back!

    Eun, I would have to agree; I’m much different than B. Franklin as well. 🙂 I strongly supported the other types of learning because they were under represented in the article. I’m personally a socially-wired learner and benefit from the Web 2.0 experience. Regarding the phrase “guide on the side versus sage on the stage”, I like the way it describes the role of a teacher as the facilitator of students’ learning. How does this role look like in an every-day classroom? The students are engaged in finding answers and creating their own solutions to personally meaningful problems, and whenever they are really stuck on part of the problem, the teacher merely offers suggestions and provides additional resources as necessary to help the student become autonomous, or self directed, again.

  4. exp939

    I also like your explanation about the effectiveness of group studying. I agree that there are other types of learning such as constructivism. Yet, I am assuming that we might more focus on learning based on Web 2.0 in this question. Speaking of Benjamin Franklin, can I say he is different from a normal person like me? For example, I usually feel I am learning and improving myself when other classmates help me and get some feedback from them. I easily feel frustrated if I am not sure I am going in the right direction. I prefer to asking questions. From my experiences, interaction is the key role of the Web 2.0.

    Could you please explain your quote “guide on the side versus sage on the stage”? I understand the overall your ideas and your responses are very interesting to me. However,since I have some language barriers, I would like to ask you to understand it. One of the reason I want to know is the first commenter’s response!!

  5. mlc400

    First, I would like to comment on the idea of social learning and interaction being an important part of the learning practices of today’s students. I like how you pointed out the success of learning in study groups where students are able to work through material together. I know for me personally, I often was a shy learner. I would wait to be called upon to share my thoughts or reactions to material being presented by teachers. However, with this approach, those shy students are more apt to express their knowledge to their peers because of the lack of pressure from talking solely in front of a group. Using Web 2.0 tools like Edmodo, Wiki’s, Blogs, etc. all allow each student to have a voice. This empowerment leads to self-motivation of learning and in turn causes higher learning to occur. I liked that you pointed out this factor in the beginning portion of your blog post.

    Also, I thought your quote “guide on the side versus sage on the stage” was a very interesting way of stating your philosophy. Time and time again, I wish I could take that approach but I often find myself being the lecturer because of teaching such a young age. I know that in our district, the administration is constantly looking for evidence that the students are taking ownership of their learning. Now that I have read these articles, I am thinking that by using Web 2.0 tools to facilitate a discovery-based, social learning classroom, I may be able to bridge what I am currently doing with what kind of classroom I should be exemplifying. It still seems to be a challenge when trying to figure out how to execute that when there are restrictions as to what my kids can access and post in the web because of their young age!

Comments are closed.