Learning Repositories

Above is a 4 minute video on Social Syllabus, an online teaching and learning platform in development by John Kuiphoff that promotes the democratization of course content through the use of social media.

Our discussions thus far have touched on communities of practice that facilitate our formal and informal learning experiences and the significance of Web 2.0 as an easy-to-use platform for users to connect, create and collaborate.

In this week’s materials, Thomas Friedman talks about the convergence of various ‘flatteners’ that now allow “individuals to more equally compete, connect and collaborate globally” and the critical role liberal arts play in this new, flat world. In his K-12 Online Conference 2010 keynote, Diego Leal challenges us to examine the pedagogical, social and technological hurdles that continue to divide us and, using the web as a platform, invites us to collaboratively and collectively address these issues. In Open for Learning: The CMS and the Open Learning Network, Jon Mott and David Wiley call for an alternative to the widely used vertical information silos familiar to most in higher ed as course or learning management systems.

Some questions to jumpstart our discussion on this week’s materials if you wish:

  • As more secondary and post-secondary institutions adopt and engage in more open and collaborative learning exchanges, how could this impact our programs, our research and our students?
  • What are some of the barriers to learning that impact you and your students? Based on what we’ve explored thus far, does this shared, networked platform offer potential solutions? Any challenges?

On Thursday we will continue our discussion in an online environment, the details of which you’ll receive on Tuesday. I look forward to learning with you!


13 Responses to “Learning Repositories”

  1. Karen Zook Says:

    I think the thing that jumps out to me the most from today’s material (especially Thomas L. Friedman’s talk) is that, in a “flat world,” everyone has something worthwhile to contribute. It’s a learning community that explodes the traditional educator/student hierarchy; in promoting this type of learning in our classrooms, we’re actually ensuring that our students will have more to contribute, as they become increasingly comfortable with sharing/collaborating in a digital classroom environment.

    The long version.

  2. carsten01 Says:

    What struck me on our discussion last week was what Barbara said about the lecturer -I forgot his name- who posts the content of his lecture online prior to it. The shift of thinking here is that the person who has acquired knowledge shares it and with that stimulates pre-session/lecture-reflection which then caused the discussion to be -most likely- more fruitful. Thus a better “product” is achieved. Whereas the old idea was that someone had acquired knowledge inaccessible to you or before you have had a chance to acquire it yourself and then offers this knowledge to you. But in the (western)world knowledge is accessible to almost anybody and you have the possibility through learning communities to cover various fields of knowledge in little time. So, the idea of “I know it first and I teach you what I know” seems to be outdated.
    Yet, is this not how most classes are structured? And is there not a risk in saying “Learn about the Pavlovian-Reinforcement from the web?” Sure, some information is out there, posted by someone. But do we know about the quality of whatever is posted by whomever?

  3. claudiopi Says:

    I think that open and collaborative learning would change things drastically. I can see that nowadays this mindset is especially spread out in higher-level education, that is, in the university environment, where an open and critical attitude towards the subject matters studies is required. However, this approach is also having strong effects on lower-level education, which definitely aims at breaking the good old system that sees the teacher as the only reliable source of information. The web is definitely not just a chance to go in deep nor a way to make things more fun to learn (and this is mostly what the web meant for me in high school). Therefore, Thomas Friedman and Diego Leal make very important statements, explaining very well the point of their thesis. However, I sort of noticed that the latter puts everything in a too extremist point of view. Breaking our past and go beyond the copy-and-learn educational system is important, but in my opinion we don’t have to forget all that. Technology must be used smartly and without a purpose of giving too much information, thus confusing. If used cautiously, it would definitely help to create a more critical approach to subject matters. Social platforms are then an excellent idea to widen students’ mind and see that learning also means learn from the others in a broader communicative context.

    • qadmon Says:

      Hi Claudio!

      Funny thing: I really don’t like to go to extremes, because I think they are not really constructive. 🙂 I guess my point is that copy-paste education (different from copy-learn, if you ask me) is not good enough for our times, and definitely not meaningful/useful for every single person.

      I agree that conservation (as Postman would put it) is a very valuable thing. Maybe the challenge is to find ways to keep an eye on the past (conservation) while we learn/build for the future. I agree it’s not about forgetting, but about enhancing, about broadening our views. It’s also about global responsibility, in my view.

      Charles Leadbeater wrote earlier this year a very interesting report addressing what he calls ‘Learning from the extremes‘, which includes a good argument about why educational reinvention is important, but not enough. It’s a nice reading.

      By the way, thanks to Barbara for including the keynote as part of your resources! 🙂 I’m glad it helps!

  4. Eleonora Boscolo Camiletto Says:

    I think the two lectures, Friedman’s and Leal’s, made both a good point. The “flatness” on the new 3.0 puts the individual and its imagination, as to say its talent, in the center. What networked platforms do is destroy the former vertical system in favor of a more democratic and collaborative horizontal one. If we apply this to education, to our programs, our research, our students, we can really feel the change. We are surprised sometimes when students come to class and know things we didn’t expect them to know already. Our surprise (and here I am talking about my personal experience but I think some of you might recognize yourselves in this too) lays on the fact that we still think of education in the traditional way (as Carsten was saying), where the teacher who has learned from his/her teacher is now going to transmit his/her knowledge to the students. What happened though is that students / individuals already have a “teacher” that knows more than all the teachers in the world put together, because it probably is all the teachers in the world, all those individuals that took advantage of the “flatness” of the world by participating, by co-teaching on the web.
    In a flat world, that is to say open, our challenge is to learn to exploit and use wisely all this information we are offered.
    In or case, as teachers, we might rethink our role not as the person who transmits the knowledge but the person who filters the information, and finally who encourages the students to become those co-learners, co-teachers individuals.

    • aljarrash Says:

      Yeah,I agree with you.When I was a student I had less information than my teachers had ,but right now it is different.The teacher comes prepared to the class and has a lot of things to give students and in the class he discovers that students may have more than he wants to give and this is cause of technology.I didn’t go to the library or to the net cafe unless I was asked by my teachers to do a research.Nowadays,students may read more than teachers do.Networking is the best solution for teachers to get more knowledge and expand what they already knew.I was wondering if we could share information with each other and with those teachers overseas and let them know how technology helps in developing teachers abilities .When talking about what we use here ,we should think of the way we can bring all what we learned back to our countries.

  5. ntrax84 Says:

    I totally agree with Karen when she says “in a ‘flat world’, everyone has something worthwhile to contribute.” This is important for every classroom. The teaching should not be the center of every classroom activity. He should be a guide and faciliator instead of an instructer who tries to get information into everybody’s brain. The students have so many thinks to share and can learn from each other. Rather than lecturing, the teacher should create collaborative learning enviroments where in which the students can communicate, exchange thoughts and ideas and most important: learn from each other. Technology can help to provide the platforms and tools to do that. I loved to see the videos on youtube Barbara showed us in our online session. Students shared their results and ideas with people from all over the world. For language classrooms this offers many possibilities. With help of the internet learners can communicate directly, inexpensively and conviently with other learners or speakers of the target language or subject. Teaching is not one-to-one anymore, there is also one-to many. With social networking tools students can share their knowledge with a small group, the class, a partner class or an international audience.
    But of course, you should never use technology for the sake of using it.

  6. melinaanne Says:

    I have a confession to make. I’m afraid that I am guilty of what Mott and Wiley talk about in the article, in terms of instructors not using programs like Blackboard to the fullest of their capacities. Furthermore, I will admit to feeling even intimidated and a little overwhelmed by all the buttons and functions and tabs of a CMS—which continuously remind me that I am only using (and maybe am only capable of using) a select few of them. I could come up with a million excuses: I’ve never had proper training, I don’t have the time to teach myself, and foreign language teaching is really about speaking in class, right? It certainly is true that a CMS helps us to be more organized—and I do believe that an organized instructor is a more effective teacher. The question is, though, whether it’s the teacher’s use (or lack thereof) of a CMS that is problematic, or if the instructor-centered nature of the program is the actual source of the lack of improvement in learning that has been documented since the introduction of programs like Blackboard in universities and schools. It’s also true that a CMS for a given course is erased from one semester to the next, which is yet another reason to use it minimally. Who wants to invest time in creating something that can so easily disappear? I am intrigued by the solution that Mott and Wiley propose of using a combination of a CMS and a PLE to establish an open network. I am fairly certain that my students are more adept at using all forms of technology than I am, so why not let them be responsible for adding content and sharing files in an open network? It not only gives them a sense of responsibility and propriety towards the course, but it also takes the pressure off the instructor to “fill the void” and dictate whether or not a given CMS or similar program is used to its fullest. I am consistently surprised and impressed by what students create when given an open-ended assignment, and I can only imagine that allowing them to be creators of content in a course would make the experience richer for everyone.

    • beatebirkefeld Says:

      Watching Diego Leal’s presentation I can’t help myself but to think that my years spent sitting in elementary and high school were highly ineffective. The idea for a non-teacher directed class discussion or “handing over the keys to the students” did not exist. My second thought is: I loved going to school – most of the time. Ok, to be honest, I did not mind going to school as a kid. But I wish it had been a place to explore rather than a place to observe. Of course Diego Leal is not suggesting for children to stop attending school, but rather for a school transformation, or with Friedman’s words, “a revolution”. With all the information I can explore online, I should have the knowledge and wisdom of a 90 year-old woman. But who really has the time to consume and digest that amount of information, or rather select the information you want to know more about? How do online discussions differ from traditional class discussions in matters of socio-linguistics? How does it change our behavior? I believe that people are becoming increasingly numb to the things around them. They say that every brain neuron is connected to an experience. Words and expressions which I learn in a foreign language are connected to my own experience, a particular situation, books, and people. When I think of blue, I’m thinking of a bright blue ocean or staring into a hot summer sky. When I think of a kiwi, I remember the first time I touched a kiwi and tasted it. How do we ensure these learning experiences don’t get lost in the web 2.0 classroom?

  7. carsten01 Says:

    Dear all:

    The Institute for Teaching and Learning offers again this semester their “brown-bag” workshops. There are some that could be interesting for the content of our class.

    Here is the link: http://itlweb.uconn.edu/registration/seminar_schedule.php

    • Barbara Says:

      Thank you for sharing this resource, Carsten. Whenever anyone has resources related to our work here, please do post them on our blog. If you find any blogs or podcasts or web sites you want us to be aware of, feel free to include them in our blog roll on the right hand side here. We can look at how to do that in class, if you’d like.

  8. jarcastillo Says:

    Thinking about Jane Lave’s argument that “learning is ubiquitous in ongoing activity, though often unrecognized as such” has made me reflect on two challenges I come across while teaching Elementary Spanish: chapter organization of vocabulary and gaming as a communicative learning tool. It is no surprise that how chapters are organized in a language textbook is artificial, yet there seems to be no other way of “simplifying” and presenting a “cohesive” vocabulary for a specific topic. Active participation is something that we stress in the class in order for students to practice and retain what they are learning. At the same time, this personalized interaction with language (and their fellow classmates) is a way of them to build a community of practice without recognizing it as such. Perhaps by emphasizing the importance that the relationships they are building in class is part of the process of learning the language. Language courses lend themselves (more naturally perhaps than others) to use the student (and their lives) as the primary source of knowledge. In the first chapter, for example, the vocabulary focused on university life. While talking about school supplies or the things found in a classroom can seem artificial, once we began talking about the courses that each one of the students in class is taking the vocabulary became more personal. The chapter vocabulary could only cover so many (dare I say generic) courses; by encouraging the students to share what courses they were taking we were forced to learn other vocabulary. The second challenge I’ve come across is that of communicative activities seen as gaming and therefore some students do not see it as a learning process. I think that by being perhaps a bit more explicit regarding the process (i.e., pedagogical logic) behind some of our activities, some students would be more responsive/aware of the community of practice they can be a part of to enhance their language learning. Then again, this seems like a contradiction to the communicative method. If one has to be aware of our role within a community of practice in order to move from “legitimate peripheral participation” into “full participation,” how can we implement this as educator within the classroom?

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