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
|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”?
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.
I find that -more or less- all the learning theories discussed in elearningspace.org 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.