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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).

How-Google-Affects-Memory-and-Learning-Infographic-620x1643.png

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? 

 

Resources

 

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

 

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Collective Intelligence: A Liberation from the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I am participating in a MOOC entitled ‘E-Learning Ecologies” from the University of Illinois. This week’s topics covered the themes of recursive feedback and collective intelligence or ‘social learning’. These two topics are the dominant reasons why I chose to pursue a doctorate in the field of instructional technology, so I am particularly passionate about them. As an educator and a graduate student of Education, I always felt unsatisfied with traditional methods of assessment. On one hand, they say that educators should be as objective as possible; using rubrics, and grading individuals based on milestones rather than personal attitude or efforts. This, however,  still facilitates a ‘normative’ standard for which only a few may find success and/or satisfaction. Paulo Freire’s work in critical pedagogy (http://www.freire.org/paulo-freire/) portrays an image of a citizen that is used as a depository, and the teacher the depositor. He proclaimed that this style of teaching and learning was institutionalized by governments in order to keep the masses automatized, and complacent,rule-followers and non-dissenters. It also ensures that only a select few succeed and join the ranking of those who then go on to make the decisions for the rest of us– a “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1972).

“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them.” -Paulo Freire (1972)

What the new ‘E-Learning Ecologies’ allows for is social learning, in which we work collaboratively as a group and as such become smarter than any individual. This could be referred to in some ways as ‘crowd sourcing’ ( Cope and Kalantzis, 2016). This concept has also been referred to previously as ‘Communities of Practice’ , or ‘Situated Learning’ (Lave and Wagner).In a community of practice each member of the community sources from the other which negates the need for a ‘single expert of all’ but instead facilitates an environment for ‘many experts’ which collectively work together to create a group that functions as a whole, much like the way that groups of humans used to function long before the concept of the ‘modern’ classroom emerged (E. Wenger-Trayner, O’Creevy, Hutchinson, Kubiak, B. Wenger,2015).

Thomas Malone at MIT discussed in an interview his research which focuses on “how people and computers can be connected so that they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer ever has before” (McCarthy, 2016).He has found in his work that the group is much more powerful than the individual because the factors that have the most effect on performance is not the individual intelligence of the members, but elements such as ‘social perceptiveness,’ ‘participation’, and ‘gender’ (McCarthy,2016). In other words, interpersonal skills, are much more significant than individual scholastic abilities when it comes to collective problem solving. This is the world in which the ‘holistic qualitative’ becomes the norm (Cope & Kalantzis, 2016).

 

Perhaps this has been known and understood for a long time, and may be why policy makers, administrators, and society seek to subdue, prevent, and even disqualify these kinds of environments. Take for example the social stigma surrounding online learning, which perseveres in the face of the 6.7 million people which are now taking an online course (Allen and Seaman, 2013). Or those who may discount the information obtained from social media or oppose the use of social media for communication/collaboration altogether. For many, the only acceptable form of learning is still one that is in a traditional space in which one expert deposits their selection of information into the minds of its automatized participants.

We can also speculate that attempts to restrict internet usage and rights at the federal level may be an example of the suppression of ‘collective intelligence’(restoring internet freedom,2017). We have seen many examples of social networking resources being restricted or completely shut down in moments of political crisis in countries such as Turkey by its government (Bulman,2016). With these ideas in mind, it is imperative that we ask ourselves what is it about holistic assessment and collective intelligence that seems to dismay our leaders and perturb our citizens? What are we all afraid of?

 

Bibliography

Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2013, January). 2012 – Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the united states. Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/survey_report/changing-course-ten-years-tracking-online-education-united-states/

Bulman, M. (2016, November 04). Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp blocked in Turkey after arrest of opposition leaders. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/facebook-twitter-whatsapp-turkey-erdogan-blocked-opposition-leaders-arrested-a7396831.html

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

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

McCarthy, A. (2016, November 14). Harnessing the power of collective intelligence. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from http://ilp.mit.edu/newsstory.jsp?id=22621

Restoring Internet Freedom. (2017, June 12). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom

Wenger, E., Fenton-OCreevy, M., Hutchinson, S., Kubiak, C., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Learning in landscapes of practice: boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. London: Routledge.