This interview is actually a nice bit of introduction to what I’m trying to do in my Introduction to Distance Education Systems course. I’m trying to situate the technology (and a fairly wide variety of technology) in meaningful practice. I’m trying to encourage people to be creative and generative and to reflect on both their generativity and the technology they used to accomplish it.
Where I’m still struggling is how to really encourage them to use the “cultural practices that have started to emerge that help us to navigate though those new technologies, and to engage more fully in participatory cultures” in a transparent manner so we can all learn and reflect on them together. Things like:
- deciding where it makes sense to pay attention
- scanning the environment looking for relevant data, digging deep, and engaging with it as needed
- seeing that we communicate information across multiple channels and in different information contexts
- working with multi-layered conversations, reading across multiple topics and trying to learn how to connect pieces of information together
Jenkins points out that:
those people who come to technology as adults are going to learn how to use technology when it is meaningful for them to do so, when it is embedded in a community practice that allows them to use the technology as a vehicle towards a set of meaningful goals. They’re not going to learn how to use technology when they’re asked to use technology in the abstract, and that’s where I think the panic comes in, “I’m not very good at technology.” And I have the same problem as most of the people I work with: If I presented a machine and said, “Learn how to use it,” my first question is, “Why? What is it I want to use it to do?” And that’s a totally legitimate question to ask. So for many of those people, it’s that they haven’t been exposed to something they meaningful want to do using this technology.
I’m seeing that reflected in some of the reflections the students are writing here at the end of the course. Some of them didn’t think they were “good at technology” but when they diagram their personal learning networks they see there’s a lot more virtual interaction and digital information mining going on than they realized. As they lay out what tools they’re using they also see how some tools have expanded from the academic area into other areas of their lives as they see the utility of it in various contexts.
I’m hopeful that one thing this class has done for most of the students is to provide a safe opportunity to explore some of the many options for researching, creating, collaborating, and learning that can be used in elearning.
How’s your Google-fu these days? If you have a question, how do you find an answer?
Better yet, how do you find an answer that you trust?
Social media is an ever-growing set of tools that allow you to build relationships with peers and with people that you may be too in awe of to ever approach in real life. That network of relationships provides insight and opportunities that you may never have known existed otherwise. It also allows you to share what you are doing to a wider audience who may be interested in collaborating, supporting, or just cheering you on.
At The Learning Generalist, Sumeet Moghe shares his thoughts on Mark Oehlert’s workshop on tools for the Social Learning Landscape. The tricky part is embedded in his suggestion that “you need to find the reasons why people will want to engage and will be interested.” Mark also mentions that it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure. Social media needs to integrate into work and build context around people’s work so it doesn’t become one more extra thing to do.
Both Tony Bates and Janet Clarey are thinking here about elearning but the discussion is applicable to blended learning and f2f learning as well.
When you begin to think about providing a structured opportunity for learning is it all about delivery? How am I going to present content? Or is it about interaction and collaboration? How are the participants going to work with this content and each other to learn to apply it?
To start, you may want to unpack “learner-centered social constructivist approach” a bit. (You’ll also see social constructivist referred to as sociocultural though there’s a bit of a difference I don’t nit-pick at this level.) To do this, I’d recommend reading what IMHO is a classic overview of the topic: Searching for Learner-Centered,Constructivist, and Sociocultural Components of Collaborative Educational Learning Tools (and not just because it’s by two people I know and have worked with).
Curt and Don note that “Theory certainly cannot operate within a vacuum. Views on questions such as the nature of mind are developed by considering not only philosophical questions like the form of underlying mental representation, but also the world within which learners function. . . . If learning is predominantly a sociocultural dialogue, then instruction should provide opportunities for embedding learning in authentic tasks leading to participation in a community of practice. . . . But [this] presumes the availability, in the world of experience, of tools and structures to support them.” (p. 26).
As an adult educator you’ll notice that a lot of this learner-centered social constructivist approach sounds like andragogy. While some of it is dated please read through to the second half for their take on theory, principles, and collaborative learning tools. Given the advances in technology since 1998, there are many more collaborative tools available for use in any mode of learning (f2f, distance, or blended). How can you design deliberately to support adults and how can you leverage social media and applications to connect them to a larger community of practice?