The Classroom VS The Computer Revisited

How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?

It’s simple. Web 2.0 provides the availability of resources and the opportunity for interaction, which in turn support social learning and the constructivist approach. This is not to say that independent or individual learning cannot or does not occur online. It just means that there are now other options available. Interaction occurs with the material, with peers, with the instructor/facilitator (see Garrison’s Community of Inquiry Model) who acts as a guide and resource (as opposed to the content expert frequently found in the classroom).

It sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? There have been ample comments in the discussion pertaining to what Learning 2.0 should or could be and what it actually or usually is, however. Truthfully, I added that one of my most difficult challenges as a learner studying adult and distance education is reconciling the chasm between what is presented as best practice and what is provided for my own learning experience. To me, this divide is explained by change, by new and different.

Liberated from the limitations of time and place, Web 2.0 allows us to interact whenever and wherever access and a device are available. Learning is no longer confined to a classroom with an expert and provided only to those found to be acceptable candidates, which was previously seen as the only option available. Not only that, but information is no longer limited to print form – newspapers, magazines, books, libraries. When was the last time you picked up a phone book to look up a number or address? Do you even have a residential phone line anymore?

So, now that access and the availability of resources are no longer controlled(?), anyone (who wants to) can learn. The problem rests in assumptions. Assumptions that learning cannot occur outside of a classroom with a content expert. Assumptions that learning is the same online as it is in the classroom – that a recorded lecture can simply replace a live lecture – and that there is nothing more to consider. Of course, the next question we have to ask is how effective is that lecture for learning to begin with?

What’s missing in this equation is the leveraging of the unique capabilities of the online environment for the purposes of teaching and learning. Study distance education and you’ll quickly learn about the flexibility of the delivery method, as well as the complexity (and expense) of team design and the necessity to match technology to support learning objectives. An online component may add value to any program of formal or informal study. However, whether a single activity or a complete course, the design must reflect consideration of the online learning environment, both the capabilities and the challenges found there.

8 responses to “The Classroom VS The Computer Revisited

  1. Stephanie, this was my first experience with diigo and I have mixed feelings on it. While I agree that the ability to discuss within the resource has value, I kept finding myself revisiting the site and searching all of the content over and over for new comments. This was a very time-consuming process, but if people don’t return to the discussion, then we will never actually progress through to some kind of conclusion. I wish the functionality was a bit more like the asynchronous discussions in ANGEL, with notifications, search capabilities, and clear identification of unread posts.

  2. Stephanie Novotny

    Deb,
    I think a perfect example to your question that you pose of:
    “Is there a need to provide a lengthy summary of the material that has been read by everyone in the group? Personal interpretations should be concise and get right to the point.”
    I think one of the answers to that is DiiGO….
    I loved our first experience with the article Minds on Fire–how we could highlight parts of the article and place sticky notes on there to make quick points and pose questions to others.

  3. Ah, yes, the “chasm between what is presented as best practice and what is provided for my own learning experience.” We’ve all experienced it, many of us as both learners and teachers, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it described as eloquently as you have here! While I agree that it’s true of online learning, it’s certainly not unique to this new arena. One thing that compounds the problem when integrating technology into learning is that we’re dealing with so many issues beyond our control that could throw a lesson off at the last minute: will the server crash? Will half the laptops on the cart be uncharged? Will the comments section of your colleague’s blog be disabled?? :) On another note, I really enjoy your blogging style. I’m new to authoring a blog and am still struggling to find my voice. I’m afraid at this point I’m the one just summarizing the reading instead of sharing insights and personal connections, but I’m hoping the learning curve will be steep!

    • Thanks, Beth. I am still a novice blogger myself. I really like it for the inherent opportunities to reflect. Still, it’s a bit of a unique experience (at least for me) to find the balance between writing for personal reflection and writing for public consumption.

  4. You ask many great questions, John. When you think about the ubiquity of mobile devices on a global scale, the opportunities just seem to increase exponentially. This is truly an exciting era of growth for open education, I think!

  5. Debra, after reading your blog I find myself reflecting and asking more questions. The technology is changing so rapidly and schools seem to be absorbing this trend/revolution, rather than resisting. I sometimes wonder of the individuals who are falling through the cracks. Two groups come to mind are factory worker who has been replaced by robots or lost their jobs overseas. The second group is the high school drop-out. Today’s generation is technology driven. My guess is that a large percentage of the high school drop-outs are tech-savvy. My cell phone is probably outdated compared to what they carry. Combined with the anywhere/anytime features of distance education, I wonder if we will see more of those drop-outs eventually seeking some type of certification on-line. The factory worker might be a different story, as I tend to see this collection of people as an older generation. What jumps out in your blog is your statement that anyone has the ability to learn and we are left with assumptions. I guess I just went full circle as I am assuming this new generation will learn outside of the classroom. If in fact, they are knowledgeable, are they motivated? We might see a new development with government sponsorship or looking outside the box, an industry which is falling by the wayside may fill the void by reaching out to this segment of society. It is a whole new world of education, and I believe we are on the ground floor.

  6. Stephanie, I think you may have said it better than I did :-)

    The one thing that I would add about anyone having the opportunity to learn is that now learners need to be able to gauge the quality of their resources and information. Not only do they need to be aware of the existence of misinformation, but they need to become discriminating consumers in order to understand how to tell the difference (and with a fair amount of quickness). With other methods where the content is provided, there are fewer – if any – opportunities for the development of the critical thinking skills that this judgment requires.

    I really like the idea of blogging to learn when a few simple guidelines are set. It is important to remember that social learning will take place in the discussion that goes beyond shared content. Is there a need to provide a lengthy summary of the material that has been read by everyone in the group? Personal interpretations should be concise and get right to the point. Instead, build on that shared content by blogging about what you disagree with and why or your relevant personal experiences. In this way, orienting your comments by bringing in references from the original resource material and adding a complete reference will allow any reader to return to that content if they are interested in reading it in its entirety.

    What do you think?
    Deb

  7. Stephanie Novotny

    Debra, feel as though your post was true in many ways. I do believe that a great definition of web 2.0 includes that learning takes place beyond classroom walls…that ANYONE can learn. I think that is a profound statement. Nowadays, any topic can be accessed from the internet through search engines, online encyclopedias, non profit group websites, etc.
    The times are changing and as educators, we need to learn by doing (i think that is what we are doing now…). Your word press is a great start. I have learned that word press is the largest blogging site on the web. Why not get students to create their own blog and share their ideas, reflections and opinions on experiments they have done or lessons they have participated in at school? Why not let students comment on each others thoughts and ideas as they blog? Thats why we are doing this now. We are learning by doing. I think you made some great points about our world changing and how things may be challenging and different, learning through web 2.0, but in the end, it will all benefit us and expose us to new and innovative ways of teaching and learning, both as teachers and students.