Learning and Collaborating Across the Space-Time Continuum

‘Differentiated Instruction’ and ‘Personalized learning’ are made possible in new and important ways today because of technology. Traditional classrooms required all students to be on the same page at the same time. This concept of ‘synchronicity’ across time, space, and cognition was created to make managing groups of people accessible, and their output more easily quantifiable (Cope and Kalantzis, 2016). Despite the fact that differentiated learning is not a new concept, we could never expect it to truly exist when the overarching goal is homogeneity. What if we omitted the need for everyone to be on the same page or even topic at the same time, and we allowed learners to watch, listen, learn and interact in a truly personalized way?

One of the affordances of E-Learning is that learning can be personal-at the pedagogical level. Without the restrictions of space, time and quantification, learners can create their own experiences while still meeting core goals and acquiring complex knowledge and skills. If traditional approaches to pedagogy were from the perspective of the teacher managing groups of people, then an E-Learning environment would allow for the individual or small groups of learners to decide how they want to manage themselves; resulting in new pedagogical methods and practices.

Dictionary.com defines ‘pedagogy’ as “The art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods” (2017). If we view this definition from the perspective of the single manager of interaction and learning of a group of people (i.e. the traditional classroom teacher) then this definition makes sense in one way. But if we replace that concept with autonomous learners who have open access to unlimited resources, producing artifacts with as much or as little collaboration with others as they prefer, and then submitting those artifacts to be reviewed by peers, suddenly that definition makes sense in a whole new way (Cope and Kalantzis, 2016).


This infographic, by Google, helps to explain the ways in which technology is changing, not only the way that we process and store new information, but also the ways in which we access it, and exchange it. It also challenges our antiquated cultural perception of ‘memory’ (How Google Affects Memory and Learning Infographic, 2014).


Google products help us to work autonomously, collaboratively, and interactively all in an incredibly personalized way. Just recently I collaborated on a project from my office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while my colleague worked from his office in Seoul, South Korea. We used Google Hangouts to have a first face-to-face meeting, and then relied on google docs, google drive and Gmail chat to collaborate for the duration of the project.We shared resources, ideas, edited each other’s work, left comments of review for follow-up and feedback. In that time we created 40 weeks of curriculum plans for primary school EFL learners in China, 2 infographics for each section, an in-depth rationale and course guide document, and a sample lesson plan. This proposal package will be presented to Chinese public school administrators by a Singaporean Education Company next week. The four parties involved in this product never needed to be in the same time or space for the design to occur.


If you google “distance collaboration for companies” there is no shortage of resources recommending tools, apps, and techniques on ‘managing groups efficiently across distances (Cole,2015) . It seems that we have accepted, to some degree, that business can be done from anywhere in the world, and company meetings no longer need to be face-to-face. Why then, do we still seem reluctant to accept this crossover into the world of education? And why do some still insist that online education is ‘ok’ for some’ skills, and not for others?

Here is a very informative Ted Talk titled ‘A vision for Radically Personalized learning’ by Katherine Prince. She starts by asking the question “Why do we all need to learn the same thing on the same day and with the same age?”……really… why? 




Cole, S. (2015, February 11). How 5 Remote Teams Use Technology To Make Long Distance Work. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3042237/how-5-remote-teams-use-technology-to-make-long-distance-work

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2017). E-Learning ecologies: principles for new learning and assessment. New York, NY: Routledge.

How Google Affects Memory and Learning Infographic. (2014, January 14). Retrieved July 26, 2017, retrieved from http://elearninginfographics.com/how-google-affects-memory-and-learning-infographic


8 thoughts on “Learning and Collaborating Across the Space-Time Continuum”

    1. Technology is currently all around us. Moreover, it is hard for anybody to live without technological tools such as a cell phone, computer, or MP3 player, and even if traditional tools are still used in the classroom (such as pencils, books, and paper),technology is more effective in increasing learning and motivation. In addition, technology is not limited to a particular age but it is a positive tool that is available to everyone. Adults have had concerns about technology, especially its impact on children who are more interested in these tools and may use them too much, but that technology engages children because they use them as toys so learning becomes much easier. As technology is a proven effective educational tool, educators should be paying attention and using this technology as much as possible. Integrating technology into the classroom should not be difficult since students are likely to already understand how to use these programs. Technological tools engage people and give them more opportunities to improve their learning, working, and business. In your technique which is using Google products is one of the most significant collaboratively tool to make your meeting so interesting and engaging by face-to-face meeting.


  1. In my opinion, e-learning is not as affective in courses such as mathematics or science, because these courses require a great deal of practice and there is ample room for mistakes. Students need to be able to discuss and criticize one another’s work to learn from their mistakes. At a distance, it is difficult to reflect on each other’s answers and strategies to arrive at a solution when dealing with context-rich problems and highly-involved mathematics. As for pedagogy, I agree that students should have access to unlimited resources to produce artifacts and submit them to be reviewed by their peers. Regarding Katherine Prince’s question, I agree that in some cases, students can learn different things on different days with different ages. However, some subjects are rigidly structured so it would be impossible for students to learn, for example, the Pythagorean Theorem, before learning other concepts such as finding the sides of special right triangles.


    1. This is very interesting Nichole and you make good points. I am certainly experiencing this in our Stats class now(lack of ability to reflect in real time)! I recently had a conversation with someone in the Duquesne University ESL department who said that while Math WOULD be a good content for learning online, a language would not be. I have also heard the same argument for science. Take for example nursing or medicine in general- I often wonder about getting a medical degree 100% online.


  2. I can see both advantages and disadvantages of online learning. As Nicole mentioned in her comment, learning science and math becomes bit of challenge when it is online, and I agree with her to a certain extent. Having taught science for three plus years the biggest advantage of online learning to me is the ability to differentiate the instruction as needed by my students. When technology was not involved and I had 30 students in my class, it was very difficult to help struggling or overachieving students while keeping pace with the curriculum. Now, I use a class website with extra resources on it that scaffolds the material for my struggling students, and provides extra learning opportunities for my achievers. Some students even work ahead, on their own pace, as they know they have these resources available to them.
    Furthermore, Christie I agree with your example that online platforms allow us to collaborate and make learning more social. I also use Google products in my classroom and have seen how “correct” collaboration leads to improved learning. What I mean by the correct type of collaboration is collaboration in which every participant is aware of the requirements. When you and your colleague was working together on the plan, you both knew the requirements and had an end objective to work towards. Similarly in an online classroom students should be aware of these requirements and the end goals to engage in a high level of collaboration. When there is a breakdown of this process that is when a student begins to become frustrated, and we hear “I HATE ONLINE CLASSES!!”


    1. I agree with your comment about ‘correct’ collaboration, Mihiri, and it also talks about that in Chapter 23 of our text “The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning”. On page 561-562, which begins the explanation of the third ‘Collaboration Principle’ the authors review literature which states that “..collaboration is a complex activity. This is because it requires students to interact with group members in two dialogical spaces; the content space and the relational space of collaboration.” I think that collaboration in any environment, but especially online requires special care in its design; perhaps with even the same rigor and attention as the design of the content facilitation. This is something I definitely would like to see more of in teacher training programs.


  3. For me, one of the best benefits of technology use in instruction is the resources that Internet offers to me as a language teacher. I am a technology-dependent teacher who frequently uses the internet for a quicker search for lesson activities that meet different goals of language learners, uses technology for better and convenient communication with the students and colleagues, and substantially depends on technology to interact and support the learners as well as their parents. Nevertheless, I have not yet made any attempts to replace the face-to-face instruction and have only been using it to supplement traditional teaching. First and foremost, teachers enough training not only on the implementation of technology in the classroom but also understanding theories of technology in education.


    1. Training is important Tasnem! I think that one huge gap is that today most teachers are expected to use technology (or even teach online!) without any formal training in that area. One area in which training for learners (as well teachers) is also necessary is with regards to ‘autonomous learning’. Autonomy on behalf of the student can have many benefits, as was discussed in the TED talk. Autonomy, however, can also have some pitfalls as it requires learners to be active, and have an intermediate competence of self-regulation. As most learners have been conditioned to passively just ‘show up’ for class and have the instructor ‘deposit’ all of the content, procedures, etc. into their brains, when learners are expected to do more, they are often surprised, caught off guard, and/or may lack the skills and strategies to facilitate that by themselves. In short, while 100 % autonomy, may seem like the ‘ideal’ for the future of education, it is going to take a lot of effort to get learners used to doing things for themselves.


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