We hear so much about students using social networking to enhance and expand their interactions with their friends, and why not. Bebo and Facebook and the plethora of them out there are achieving something valuable – if not, why would people spend so much of their spare time on them?

I’m particularly interested in how the tools can be used to support learning and education. Here’s an interesting example. The key is Connectivism – the idea that we learn by interacting with others to form our own knowledge.  The learning takes place in a socially networked environment – with emphasis is on the student being active in their own knowledge creation.

It’s a far cry from the transmission model of learning where the all-knowing teacher comes in and talks for an hour and then leaves again. First of all, there is no textbook. Instead web 2.0 tools are used to source and manage the incoming knowledge. A synopsis –

  • Google Scholar (and college online library) to find articles

  • Bookmarks them on Delicious

  • Find other people who have bookmarked the same articles, lots of mutual intra-sharing

  • Search for blogs on the topic – with an open mind reflecting that blogs aren’t always the hard cold facts, make some comments on them, manage the plethora of blogs with a reader

  • Write it up in own blog with space for others to comment

  • Other sources of interest –  Itunes U gives access to top professor’ ‘insights without having pay for them, email these top guys and a response is sometimes forthcoming – people love to share their expertise and it cant hurt to ask

  • Final product could be a video or an audio or text, on a wiki perhaps, so others can learn from it and enhance it

On a scale of 1 to 5 how far removed is this from your experience of school / college?  It’s light years away from my student learning. Welcome to the 21st century.

Time was when the knowledge was either embedded in books or in the heads of lecturers / teachers. But now, the internet has expanded the sources of knowledge significantly. Tracking down and managing those sources becomes a significant part of the learning.  The important thing is that the student is at the centre of this knowledge management process.

They have to actively search out and sift through sources of knowledge, actively processing it as they go. Result – there is a better chance of some of this content sticking, as opposed to the “in one ear and out the other” mode of sitting passively in class.

So, if this is all so wonderful why isn’t everyone doing it?  Why are classrooms with teacher at the top of the room still hugely dominant in our schools and colleges?  Ok, the shift is so dramatic, it’s too big a jump to make in a single leap. Old institutionalised ways of doing and thinking are hard to shake off. But it does make you think………!


Posted on December 14, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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