This week we have turned back to learning foundations, with the guidance of Chris Dede, from Harvard. And so, I feel the same inquietude about Classical education in contrast with Web 2.0 Learning.

He notices a shift at two stages: The first is related to learning content in the Internet, where there is a movement “from the presentation of material by website providers to the active co-construction of resources by communities of contributors.” After this, he mentions a deeper shift, a shift in the epistemology, a shift in how learning happens.

I am going to try to illustrate such change in a shift on the vocabulary used when speaking about learning. This perfectly fits with the continuous claim for concepts revision. In fact, it would not surprise me if one of these days I find that a College of Education has changed its name to College of Learning.

Let me proceed with a two column table to compare expressions:

Classical Education vs Web 2.0 Learning
Formal Education Formal/Informal Context
Academic Areas Any area of knowledge
The long tail
Systemic causes
Factual Truth
Collective Agreement
Curricular material
Knowledge Transmission Knowledge co-construction
Authenticated by Experts Validation based on peer-review
Unbiased research Debate-based learning experience
Undisputed Disputed & Undisputed
Encyclopedia Britannica Wikipedia, Open & Free Encyclopedia

I came up with this table while reading Chris Dede’s article. It seemed to me that his article concentrates ideas and thoughts by carefully choosing the words. In addition, such change in language can also be observed in many of the articles we have worked on. A change of mind usually reflects in a change of words.

There are several things that I have liked in Dede’s article, but my favorite is his point of view about balance. As Mary Anderson says in a comment, “there should be a balance of both“, Classical and Web 2.0 epistemology. What is more, the article finish with a suggestion that I find most advisable: “Perhaps some similar synthesis about the nature of education can likewise bridge the Classical and the Web 2.0 views of knowledge, expertise, and learning–providing a smooth transition over this seismic shift in epistemology.” It would be an error to demonize the left column. I think that probably we even need that side in the table to reach the benefits on the right. We also need to learn how to incorporate the new learning uses to our classrooms, and we will learn it as we try out. So, what about “College of Learning & Education”?

Fluid epistemology and connectivism

In this transition, a main point is making learners infer knowledge instead of giving it to them. The benefit lies in a more internalized knowledge, due to the inference. On the contrary, giving knowledge usually has the problem of unassimilated or superficial and memorized knowledge.

In addition, the connectivism fits perfectly inference, because inference in a networking community can go quite further.

In a traditional classroom, the idea about inference could be formulated like “don’t give the solutions to the students but make them complete the task by themselves, find the information by themselves, reach the solution by themselves”. Analogously, The idea of connectivism could be expressed like “assign different parts of the problem or topic to each student and later make them discuss, compare, combine and synthesize their results”.

In the everyday classroom routines, this approach may lead us, for example, to construct wikis and validate information instead of using textbooks. This would require the teacher to provide sources, to guide students and -many times- to fill the lack of results with his working like one of them, teaching skills more than a specific content.

A final note about learning theories

I find that -more or less- all the learning theories discussed in and Dede’s epistemology shift might be both limited or useful depending on the circumstances. Although connectivism is currently the more accurate -from my point of view-, the other approaches certainly add some light. I don’t think that we could have only one valid theory for all situations, nor that we could make an anthropology from these theories. However, I find them quite practical and useful, as shown in the example above about connectivism + validation + collaboration vs. textbooks.

Regarding connectivism, one reason why I think that this theory is currently the more accurate is that it gives us a reference model for creating and shaping learning communities, and so, for turning our class into one.

Turning our class into a Learning Community
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6 thoughts on “Turning our class into a Learning Community

  • October 27, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I loved your chart, and how you distributed this information. It was very clear and easy to see the differences between the two learning types. I appears to me that we are building upon classical education and taking the learning process a step further with the Web 2.0 learning.

    I also liked your statement about a college becoming known as A College of Learning rather than education. It shows the shift nicely and really captures what we are trying to do in the field of education.

    I also think the word community is a great way to look and view a classroom. It sounds more “homey” if you will and like we are building a safe and comfortable learning community. I think this is something many of us strive for anyway!

    • October 28, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Happy you liked the chart, Sharray. However I guess that it is still under construction.
      And regarding the College of Learning, we will see what it shall be!

  • October 27, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Your table is a great illustration between the differences between classical education and web 2.0 learning. I don’t see myself as an expert very often, but I can totally see myself as a contributor!

  • October 27, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    “In such transition, one tendency should be making learners infer knowledge instead of giving it to them. The benefit lies in a more internalized knowledge, due to the inference. On the contrary, giving knowledge usually has the problem of unassimilated or superficial and memorized knowledge.” This is hugely important in the work that we do in residence life. Recall of information is such a lousy way of educating students. We often need to start there when it comes to policies and such, but it’s the transformational learning opportunities that I look forward to providing.

  • October 28, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for your insight and the great comparison chart!

    As I think about the chart, it seems like items that are more respected are part of the classical view — maybe it is because of my indoctrination of classical education over the years. That being said, I appreciate the value of Web 2.0 Learning: I think that more categories could be added that highlight the aspects of learning where Web 2.0 shines – perhaps things like cutting-edge current information or access to current research findings. Dede did not highlight features like these in his article, but I am curious to read more about how to compare the new learning we have been exploring with the classical views.

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