edtech podcast #5: are we teaching or training?

Inspired by last week’s learning design community meeting Brian & I debate the quality of online learning. Can we create online experiences that equal face-to-face classroom experiences? Is online learning being used as an economic cop-out? How much of learning in either realm is training and how much is actually teaching?

edtech podcast #5: are we teaching or training?

Sources cited:

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edtech podcast #4: baby & the bath water

There is a current movement calling for the abolishment  of the learning management system. Sure there are limitations but are these reasons enough to get rid of the whole system? How much of the dissatisfaction is really due to teaching practice & not an inherent flaw in the LMS itself? Brian & I explore the nature of the LMS, how it’s used, and where we see its future. We also discuss two of the more provocative take-a ways from Clay Shirky’s keynote at the Symposium this past Saturday. As always, comments & feedback welcome.

Ed.Tech Podcast #4: The Baby & The Bath Water

a new reality

In its original incarnation the World Wide Web was much like television: primarily a one-way mechanism for broadcasting content. A site owner posted content to a static web page in the hope that others would visit. Social websites were discussion forums centering around a single topic or theme. To participate in the conversation individuals were required to join the site, acquiring a unique user-name and password. For example, I am a runner. I like to run marathons. When I joined a community of marathon runners I was known as runnerjeff243. Sites such as these were similar to the segregated communities in which we participate in everyday life. They were virtual versions of clubs and social groups serving as places we could go and share only a single facet of our total identity. Yes we did talk about other things as we got to know each other but, what we knew about each was primarily filtered through a single lens–we were runners. That is how we knew each other. Our identity was as Goffman described it, “context specific” (1959). Web sites were destinations; places we could go and highlight a single aspect of our self. Then around 2003 things changed. The web shifted from being destination-centric medium to individual-centric one.

Several factors combined to cause this shift in perspective. First, the Web replaced the computer as the platform where software applications resided. No longer was a computer, in the traditional sense, needed to access the Web. All that was required was a device capable of getting you there. This meant we were no longer required to be in a specific place, such as the office or home bedroom, to participate. We could be anywhere in the world where there was WiFi or cell phone coverage and access the Web on our smart phones, tablets, any device that possessed the capability to access the Web.

The advent of new coding languages, such as Asynchronous Java Script and XML (AJAX) among others, made it possible for data to be uploaded and downloaded faster because a full page reload was no longer required. New coding languages (PHP, Ruby, ColdFusion, Perl, Python, JSP, and ASP) meant data could be formatted in a manner (XML, RSS, JSON) that allowed applications and websites to freely share information with each other. Developers began exposing their code making it possible for others to offer enhancements to the existing application or develop complimentary applications of their own. Which is what happened.

Software developers took advantage of these new coding languages to create applications that were conceptually open in nature, referred to as social networking technologies. Gunawardena et al. (2008) define social networking technology as “tools that facilitate collective intelligence through social negotiation when participants are engaged in a common goal or a shared practice” (p.5).

Social networking technology led to the creation of social networking websites, defined as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (boyd & Ellison, 2008, pg 211). Social networking sites are places where individuals could not only consume information but also create it, and exercise some control over how that information was displayed and accessed. The sites were blank slates where the site owner provided the framework and relied on individuals to supply the content. By design these spaces were not topic centric but instead revolved around the individual fundamentally changing how we represented ourselves, shared information, and formed communities.

In contrast to the first generation Web (1991-2003) which was primarily a content consumption vehicle, the social web is characterized by its open and participatory nature where people share their perspectives, opinions, thoughts and experiences. “Early public online communities such as Usenet and public discussion forums were structured by topics or according to topical hierarchies, but social network sites are structured as personal (or egocentric) networks, with the individual at the center of their own community.” (boyd & Ellison, 2008, pg 219) Instead of separate communities of practice, such as my marathon community, we now had places such as Friendster (2002), LinkedIn and MySpace (2003), Flickr (2004), YouTube (2005), Facebook and Twitter (2006). The age of social networking had begun.

Gunawardena et al. (2008) define the act of social networking as “the practice of expanding knowledge by making connections with individuals of similar interests.” (p. 4) With the advent of social networking, the web moved from being an alternative to reality to becoming an extension of reality. Social applications, defined as systems that enable users to interact and share information, transcend conventional notions of time and place. This has enabled people to self-organize around common interests regardless of geographical constraints into what  Wellman B., Boase J., Chen W. (2010) describe as networked individualism where “boundaries are more permeable, interactions are with diverse others, linkages switch between multiple networks, and hierarchies are flatter and more recursive” (p. 160). The social web not only blurs online-offline boundaries but also blurs the lines between communities as well. The luxury of a segregated audience has evaporated. No longer can we be comfortable knowing that what we say and how we act will only be seen and heard by those we intend to see and hear it. But If we are no longer bound in large part by geographical location how do we define ourselves? What do we draw upon to form our sense of identity in relationship to the world in general, and our community in particular? How do we navigate, gather and share information when our unintended audience is always greater than our intended one?

EdTech Podcast #3: Real or Real Like?

Episode #3: Real or Real Like?

Is the experience of enjoying The Monkees any less real to the person individual because they do not meet the traditional understanding of a music band? What about learning experiences? Are they different to the end user because they are delivered by other than authentic, experiential means? I’m really struggling with the notion of authenticity. What is authentic? In this episode Brian & I discuss the philosophical meaning of a 60s pop phenomenom and what it means to education.

As always, comments most welcome.

what’s real?

I can still hear you saying those words that never were true,
Spoken to help nobody but you,
Words with lies inside,
But, small enough to hide till your playing was through..

sung by The Monkees. Lyrics by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart

Tomorrow’s EdTech podcast topic concern’s authenticity in learning. It’s an interesting topic for several reasons. At the base level, it gets to the heart of the teaching & learning process. Is teaching about something the same as teaching something? For example, does my learning about accounting make me an accountant? What about engineer? doctor? teacher? In other words, how much of learning should focus on being in lieu of learning about? Is that the approach we take? Does it matter?

What about how we use the mediums we use when we teach? Do media such as Second Life offer real experience or real-like experience? What about Rock Band? It’s used as a teaching tool but, what is it teaching? I’m not being cynical asking a rhetorical question here. I am genuinely interested in what is gained from the experience. We’re learning something, but what?

I wonder if I’m asking the wrong question. Looking backward instead of forward. A common counter-argument I hear for the use of media such as Rock Band in music class is that we’re not really teaching music, how to play an instrument, notes, etc. But what if we’re missing the point? What if these are the new instruments?

Finally, is it just a matter of perspective? We’re going to open tomorrow’s podcast with a discussion on the 60’s music phenomenon The Monkees. Were they a real band or not? By waht definition? Also, does it matter? Is the experience of the kids who enjoyed their music any less real because it was The Monkees and not The Beatles? Who’s to say?

EdTech podcast #2: Media is crap?

Hi Everyone,

I hope you enjoy the podcast. Comments & feedback most welcome. As are questions.

EdTech Podcast #2: Media is Crap?
Brian & I look at the role media plays in teaching & learning. How does the choice of media shape the meaning of the message? How does media influence pedagogical strategy? Does it matter which form of media is used to deliver content?

informal learning and the social web

(This is another excerpt from my dissertation. Fits in with our EdTech podcast theme)

Lave and Wenger (1991) define communities of practice as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passionate about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.” These communities were places we could go where one aspect of our self was highlighted because our audience was bounded by others sharing a similar interest in the context. It was a place where it was safe to fully display a specific aspect of our person. An aspect of our self that was flawed, inquisitive, changing, and growing. We could take this risk because of the bounded nature of community as we knew it.  However, now we live in a world of networked individualism where “boundaries are more permeable, interactions are with diverse others, linkages switch between multiple networks, and hierarchies are flatter and more recursive” (Wellman, et al., 2010, p. 160). The social web not only blurs online-offline boundaries but also blurs the lines between communities as well.

John Dewey (cited in Bruce & Bishop, 2008) stated that communities developed “through reciprocal processes of individual and community inquiry” (p. 710). That the individual and the whole reacted off one another with each being molded and doing the molding along the way. In this manner and by working on real-world problems that were important to them each individual in the community learns and grows while simultaneously adding to the collective body of knowledge within the community. In other words, learning takes place in the context of the culture of the community. A context that is now compromised.

Learning is also influenced by culture. (Vygotsky, 1978; Bruner, 1974) “Learning takes places  in a context that is specific to the environment and content information” (Young, 2008, p. 328). “Learning is context sensitive (Bruner, 1974,  p. 6) It follows that learning takes place in a context situated from the learner’s cultural perspective or a cultural context” (Young, 2008, p. 328).

But how are these communities transformed now that they are exposed and overlapping? Can an individual still freely share if the community is open to everyone in their network? Can they still remain passionate about the context if there is risk of consequences from the unintended audience?