A week before, I was asked about what I expected to achieve, to learn, in this current course -EDTEC 467. To be honest, I didn’t know what to answer. I was just wandering how it would be, I mean the organization of the course, the work I would have to carry out… Now I think that have an answer, although I guess that I would have to wait for the following weeks to see if this is the final answer.
Internet is widely recognized as the largest information repository, where documentation about almost anything can be found. This became to be so due to a number of factors. Internet quickly began to be the best way to share information, and a new concept arose: the information superhighways.
Later arrived the broadband, and technology allowed media content, with audio or video streaming and podcast.
More than content
But Internet is not only a repository. Actually, it is much more than that. As J. S. Brown says in “Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age“, Internet is not only a broadcast media, “but also way a two-way reciprocity like in mid-cast“. That’s the clue! Let us see why.
Taking ideas from other article (Minds on Fire, by J. S. Brown and R. P. Adler), traditional learning was learning about. This learning happened both individually or in a group of students. However, work was mainly individualized, and for the group case, it usually adopted a hierarchical topology with an one-way broadcast communication (from teacher to students). Of course, students also talk, but there is a principal information source and it mainly flows in one direction.
Three important changes
This enhanced conception of the web -Web 2.0- adds to content sharing, two-way communication. This leads learning to change its traditional model in several points:
- Work can mainly be collaborative instead of individualized, as far as Web 2.0 tools make it possible.
For instance, Google Docs compare to the traditional text editor. The former allow even simultaneous edition of the same document across the Internet.
This is an example related to text edition. From a wider perspective, any web application in the Cloud would be a good example whatever it be about (music, accounts, programming…)
- The group topology changes from a hierarchical organization to a dynamic network, like neuronal interconnections.
As it happens in a network, not all nodes are equal. In this sense, there is a very interesting concept in Minds on Fire: the legitimate peripheral participation. This is an idea taken from historical apprenticeship programs, where an apprentice carry out simple tasks under a qualified supervision. As the student learns, complexity grows and supervision decreases, up to have learned to learn.
Here, I found interesting to point out that every student has something that only her or him can bring to others.
- Teacher’s role changes also. Most probably, she or he continues being the most important node in the new network, but as far as supervision decreases, thus it happens with her/his importance. The teacher acts as a model or reference for the apprentices. This means that she or he not only teaches about, not only explains, not only gives information… More crucial than that, the teacher teaches how to be part of this network.
Furthermore, in this group, the teacher becomes an student, and students become teachers. As is said in Minds on Fire, “one of the best ways to learn something is, after all, to teach it to others”. A good teacher would learn reading his/her students works, their answers, with the way they understand and even with their questions. All these is the best material a teacher has to improve his/her work.
Brown and Adler express this in an accurate way: “Mastering a field of knowledge involves not only “learning about” the subject matter but also “learning to be” a full participant in the field”. Thus, “the emphasis is on building a community of students and scholars as much as on providing access to educational content”.
This is the key of success in Learning 2.0: to build and manage a learning community like that. As examples of these successful learning communities let us mention Open Software, developed on the basis of distributed programming; and Wikipedia, that has been compared with the Encyclopedia, paradigm of the Illustration in the XVIII century.
Some questions arises in the K12-education context. As Brown points out, this new learning approach is “characterized by a demand-pull rather than the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads”. Student’s interest is the engine that moves to learning. Is always a student interested and pulling for learning? In problematic situation, what others tools or ways do we have for moving students’ interest? I would like to discuss about this slowly…
Anyway, I have an answer to the first question: I would like to know how to build and manage a learning community. At the moment, I think that I am beginning to participate in one. And I find it exciting!