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.