Learning and Web 2.0

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

There were several words that were repeated numerous times in the articles assigned for this week’s readings Minds on Fire and Learning, Working, & Playing in the Digital Age.  These words were social learning, sharing, collaborating, and participation.  I believe that a few words can really say a lot, as these words do, when describing how learning occurs within the context of Web 2.0.

The Minds on Fire article discusses open courseware initiatives that were launched by MIT in 2001 and I just read recently that they have improved upon their original platform and plan to roll out MITx this spring. (MIT launches online learning initiative, 2011)  Now users can track courses and eventually they could earn certificates of completion for the courses that they complete.  I think that this is an amazing service that they offer.

Web 2.0 tools have created a new way of life in the way that people use and incorporate the tools into their daily lives.  It is not a stretch to see why these tools can be useful for learners.  Just as people share information on Facebook and Twitter they also have begun to share ideas and participate in forums of common interests.  It is in these platforms that social learning occurs.  In the professional world LinkedIn has become a common way for professionals to network and share knowledge by joining groups that relate directly to their interests and field of expertise.  Users can ask questions of their peers and a lot of expert knowledge gets shared that way.

A few years ago I wanted to learn how to knit.  So I looked around on the Internet for resources that would “teach” me how to knit. I had looked at text books to try and learn but I am a person that learns by doing.  The article Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age describes this as tacit knowledge, “the tacit lives in action it comes alive in and through doing things and in participation with each other and the world.”

I came across Ravelry – a free website for knitters.  This online forum contained a wealth of information from others that enjoyed the craft.  By others I am talking about millions of other people around the globe that really enjoyed knitting.  In addition to the access to almost 70,000 free and pay for use patterns, there are forums that contain information on how to knit, where to purchase knitting supplies, you name it and you can find it there.  What I came away with from the site were YouTube videos that showed me the basics of knitting and an understanding of the craft.  I have since learned a lot about knitting and have knitted hats for my children as well as several sweaters.

These types of sites are available for just about anything a person could want to learn about and this is possible with Web 2.0 tools.  I find it fascinating and I am constantly amazed at the change in the Internet since we first got Internet when I was a senior in high school in 1997.

What are the differences in the role of the learner and the facilitator as compared to ‘traditional’ learning environments? (Do you consider these roles and processes viable/valid given your philosophy of learning?)

My philosophy of teaching and learning fits into this new social learning role quite well.  It is my belief that teachers should be facilitators that guide their students. I think the days of teachers standing in front of the classrooms talking while students listen is an outdated form of teaching.  I think of teachers as additional tools in the learning process.  They point their students in the right direction and help them if they get off course, but really they should be guiding the student, not exactly telling the students what to do and how to do it.  The learner then has the responsibility to take that guidance from the teacher and apply it to learn the assigned topic.

Based on what I have read in the articles, this philosophy fits into the new social learning models.   In Minds on Fire it says that under the Cartesian premise of I think, therefore I am that “knowledge is something that is transferred to the student via various pedagogical strategies” but the social view of learning says “We participate, therefore we are”.

By using social learning tools teachers are no longer just standing in front of their classes and attempting to transfer knowledge to the students by just talking.  Students are getting on the computer and participating in discussion boards with their peers.  They are providing knowledge and gaining some in the process.

What implications do these shifts have for how we think about designing learning environments?

Because of the shift from the Cartesian view of knowledge to the social view of learning when we think about designing learning environments we should think about designing them in a sharing and collaborating environment that encourages learner participation.

I look forward to the shift of learning by doing.  There have been quite a few courses that I have taken while pursuing my degree that after the semester has been over I’ve thought to myself, well that was interesting theory but that still does not help me when I get to work.  The theory of a benefits or compensation plan is good, but I still have no idea how to design a plan.

The Minds on Fire article talks about the demand-pull approach which I find to be interesting.  I like the concept because it is based on learning how to do things rather than learning about how to do things.  As the world changes and jobs change as the article speaks about people need to have solid usable skills.  By being able to learn skills by doing in a social learning environment that is designed around teaching those skills, workers will be able to learn about new technologies and processes from others that have the skill sets.

Brown, J. S. (2000, December 31). Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age. Retrieved January 21, 2012, from Serendip: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_edu/seelybrown/

Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008, January). Minds on Fire. Retrieved January 20, 2012, from EDUCAUSE Review: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume43/MindsonFireOpenEducationtheLon/162420

MIT launches online learning initiative. (2011, December 19). Retrieved January 21, 2012, from MIT News: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/mitx-education-initiative-1219.html

Ravelry – An Online Community for Knitters and Crocheters. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ravelry.com: http://www.ravelry.com

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