Learning 2.0

Screenshot from Richard Miller's 2008 MLA President's Talk

During our first session we discussed some of the learning and teaching challenges of walled garden environments, in particular, course management systems. In this week’s materials, Michael Wesch talks about how new social media environments have amplified what he refers to as “the crisis of significance” in education; where in a world of “nearly infinite information” we should be teaching subjectivities, not subjects. Richard Miller challenges us to “push ideas into our culture”, by placing them out on the web, thereby “showing the world what the university is for and that’s for ideas that belong to no one. ” Alex Reid expands on Miller’s talk and suggests what needs to happen for digital humanities to thrive. John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler envision a new form of apprentice learning in which open, online social networks leverage the power of social learning for all participants. Finally, Graham Stanley provides some rationales for using open and accessible ‘web 2.0’ tools for language learning.

My question for you now is: In what ways, if any, do these print and video selections for this week make sense to you in light of your own experiences, pedagogical philosophy and future?

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9 Responses to “Learning 2.0”

  1. sondrus Says:

    I’m very intrigued by Miller’s comment that composition will change as a result of technology, incorporating both audio and visual. So for a composition one might include one’s own pictures, music, links, digital images, interviews, movie clips, newspapers, as well as one’s own written responses. I am wondering how this might impact the standard required composition class. Presently it seems we are in the model of a detailed thesis statement with a five paragraph essay. Is this new mode of composing perhaps more free form, less rigid? I worry about the transition to such composition. It will be hard for us teachers to change our own perceptions and expectations of what constitutes learning and composing. However, it is very convincing to hear how students’ writing actually improves when put in a public forum as noted by David Wiley. This must stem from giving students responsibility, but I wonder what psychological explanations there might be as well.

  2. chenwenh Says:

    I would agree with Michael Wesch’s argument that students need to be taught the “how” and then the “what”. We as teachers have to bear in mind that they are the generation born with Web 2.0, not even Web 1.0. The issue of authority Wesch pointed out is very interesting. I could still recall 4 years ago while I was still doing my master studies, I was told that we instructors must make sure students not simply citing online sources such as Wikipedia due to its unreliability. And I could also remember how resistant and confusing students were when they were told to curtail their use of online sources. I myself used to be completely deny the reliability of online sources such as Wikipedia and trust only printed materials, or books. However, if “information is authorized through discussion” and participation, as Wesch indicated, can we as educators, who were trained and educated in the old fashion, still hold on to our old belief in the authority of print and the authority of instructors? Even if we adopt technology in our teaching, do we still focus on content? How do we encounter this “ubiquitous digital technology” without pulling our students backward to learn as we did ten or even twenty years ago? I guess, Alex Raid’s prophecies concerning Miller’s MLA dream definitely give us something to think about. If the forms of materials are new, the way to teach them must be different from that which has been used before.

    I guess Suzanne’s worry refers to the issue of authority, too. I also share the anxiety over the floppiness of online writing or online works, but it is clear that more and more attention is given to the quality of online materials while the quantity reaches a record high. That’s why students’ writing improves when posted in public. Also I think new kinds of materials require new sets of evaluation standards. The way to define good quality composition made with the web itself must be different from that we have been taught and are teaching now.

  3. castan46 Says:

    Considering the fact that collaborative tools and web sites such as Facebook and Twitter are frequently used by my students, I see the papers we read and the video selections we saw as an incitation to reconsider my teaching style which has been centered on my expertise and performance in class. However my main questions are: when should I use these IT technologies for my class in the most appropiate way (is it mostly outside the class as homeworks assignments?) and before all what can I do to improve my students’ skills without being too “naive” considering the results… As someone who has to teach a W class this semester I decided to banish the use of the computers for the writing of the first draft (because of the possibility of copying/pasting from other web sites, the use of translation websites, etc.). But for the final draft when my students have to type their essays, I would be tempted to ask them to do more than turning in their typed papers. Could blogging with them to try to analyze their spelling mistakes from a linguistic perspective be a possibility? Could I suggest some creative writing activities linked to the themes we are going studying? There is something in addition to what I am doing that can be done, but I am not sure what that something is…

  4. layspan Says:

    Educator 2.0

    Up until the 1980’s, many psychologists agree, that logical, analytical, rational Left Brainer thinkers commanded our world. I am not going to theorize on how the change happened or exactly when, but the subjective, intuitive or random Right Brainer thinkers started to take over. I belong to that generation. As we grew up, we encountered ourselves with a system that, though sometimes with some difficulty, started to change with us. However, Academia resisted this change as much as possible. Now we are the grown up teachers with the vision of the future and the tools from the present, in the classrooms of the past.
    How do I see myself as a Spanish composition teacher? How do I face my students and expect them to enjoy the printed page in a world that is constantly telling them that a piece of paper is a thing of the past? How do I, a child of this same generation, merge my Right Brain ideas with my Left Brain teaching expectations? How do I use the tools that are in my hands to make my students understand that (yes!) paper will become obsolete, but the Webpage is still a white space that can be filled with their ideas?
    Maybe an answer is “use what you know the students know as well”. Blogs, wikis and podcast, like the ones Graham Stanley presents, are webtools that my students know and use. Incorporation of those in our classes should not be the exception. My students write already! They text constantly, and they give their opinions in Facebook® or Twitter®. Therefore, my new role as an educator 2.0 is not to teach them how to write; but to base my teachings around what they believe, write and post. My responsibility is to cooperate with them, share and unite our ideas in a more organized way so that their university experience becomes more than a classroom one: it should become a holistic experience. And maybe, just maybe, the duel between the Left Brain and the Right Brain will also be a thing of the past.

    • sondrus Says:

      I liked what you said about seeing your job as a teacher being to base your “teachings around what they believe, write and post.” This reflect stressing the affective domain. When a personal connection is made then students actively and deeply engage. I can think of an example from teaching Composition where students read texts about the developments of malls or on cyberspace. With these texts there was much discussion and the use of personal examples. However with more theoretical texts such as Foucault’s the Panopticon students were only able to parrot examples.
      Yes making the university a holistic experience where students can see their learning reaching out in different ways is how we can emphasize that university learning is not insular, but dynamic. It seems that there are a lot of people who view education as something to just get through, instead of something that stays with you, as something that can connect with various interests and careers. This idea of a teacher as collaborator is sadly something which we do not see much of. It seems that there are still many narrow views of how to define knowledge, who holds it, how it manifests… Teachers should be open to receiving and looking for knowledge and information anywhere. This does not mean accepting everything or giving all information the same ranking, but it means at least considering and taking in more.

      • kemen528 Says:

        To contribute on what is being touched upon in this thread, I think that the some of the best examples that we have of incorporating the notion of “knowledge-abilitity” and having students be “co-creators” (all terms Michael Wesch uses) are the LTL classes that are offered. As many of you who taught one of these courses already know, the instructor builds the syllabus with the students. The first day of class the syllabus starts as a blank canvas that the instructor allows the class to paint in order to gage what each student wants to get out of the class. The role of the student as “co-creator” is a critical one in the classroom because it helps the instructor create student-centered activities, not teacher-centered activities, which spark students’ interests and really contribute to their “knowledge-ability.” I think that the problem is that the majority of the instructors out there do not want to let go of the “reins” in the classroom because this teacher-student hierarchy has been ingrained in our pedagogical philosophies. I myself found that when the students feel like they are collaborating with you, the classroom experience is more fruitful overall. In addition, going along with what Graham Stanley was pointing out in his video, as well as what Lay was highlighting, I think it’s important to collaborate with our students on Facebook and Twitter not just for pedagogical purposes but to learn about each other as human beings. I think that when students and teachers see that they each have families and lives outside of the classroom setting, it can facilitate the collaborator atmosphere and it can facilitate conversation, of course, all while setting the proper boundaries to avoid any inappropriate behavior.

  5. sarahmelvine Says:

    I don’t necessarily think that a lecture style presentation of material has to be antithetical to active learning and critical engagement. I think that a professor in his or her lecture can use technology in a way that enhances or expands the opportunity for debate and collaboration; however, student interaction is just one element of pedagogy and should
    not be considered the new standard of information dispersal. Professors and college level instructors are rigorously trained in their fields and it is important for students to be exposed to not only the topic but also the way in which this information is organized into a framework and conceptually interconnected in a manner that is not possible if one were to eliminate the central role of the professor as it is today.
    That being said… I do see the value of Web 2.0 as a pedagogical tool to supplement classroom work and I think that it adds dynamism to a traditional college setting. In consideration of what Richard Miller points out, the Humanities does need to carve itself a niche in this new approach to education—but I would hesitate to collapse the use of technology in pedagogy with a complete metamorphosis of the compositional form. If we turn compositions into multi-media presentations are we still asking students to think more about the form than the content of their arguments?

    • kemen528 Says:

      Sarah, I completely agree with your observation that a lecture style presentation of material doesn’t necessarily have to be “antithetical” to active learning. I have experienced this in my ltl parent course where the professor does speak for a majority of the time, but there is time allotted for student participation in form of group discussions about the material presented. In addition, she utilizes youtube and other web 2.0 tools to present her materials in a different way from the typical powerpoint lecture. At the same time, I share this concern: has education become more about entertaining than educating?

  6. christopherlaine Says:

    I mentioned in our virtual class today that I don’t see a need to reduce course content in order to teach students how to approach the material, and I wonder if anyone wants to continue this discussion. I think we’ve all had reading requirements that were so excessive as to actually impair our ability to critically engage it (like reading War and Peace in 2 weeks, for example), but I’ve seen it done so that a rather large amount of content was presented in a way that approached texts from multiple angles and related them to a universal theme. Yes, many students complained that it was too much; since it was a 101-level course they thought they were signing up for an easy A. Sometimes they would have to read as much as 100-120 pages per lecture (2 lectures per week), but other times it might be as few as 50. Some of these texts were long and would be read over a couple weeks, so the professor had time to talk about historical context as well as abstract and relate it to contemporary concerns. For the longer reading assignments he also suggested techniques for filtering out the less important parts and focusing on what mattered most.

    My experience as a student was one of frustration at being given fragments of texts and then having to make claims about them in class without knowing the whole thing. This actually makes you more dependent on the instructor, since you have less material with which to think critically about the way they frame it. The situation is different for second language teachers, since whole novels in a 4th semester-level course would be unreasonable. But for introductory literature courses, you could never hope to assign works of any size without pushing the students a little beyond their ability such as it is when they begin the class. This could be thought of as any physical training program: a muscle doesn’t grow unless it hurts a little, while too great a strain would hamper the student’s progress.

    While the how is certainly important, I don’t think we can say it is more or less important than the what. Sarah mentioned medical students today: in this case there is more or less a set curriculum and it all has to get covered. Its similar with a Greek Civ course: you’ve got Homer, the historians, tragedy, comedy, Plato: they all refer to one another, and without the whole constellation, each loses something. This is a case where “knowledgeable” trumps “knowledge-able”: the more you can keep in mind, the more you have incorporated and can recall, the more facets each item will gain in meaning.


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