Tuesday, May 29, 2007
How Learning Theories Help Us to Understand the Value in Using Web 2.0 Tools
Formal education has traditionally relied on the objectivist view of knowledge. This view assumes that knowledge can be imparted from teacher to learner through transmissive deliveries. Teaching and research driven by this philosophy discourage different views and understandings, disregard different contexts and experiences of individuals, and regard individuals as passive recipients of knowledge. Although lectures may be affective for some individual learning styles, their continued use as a dominant pedagogy has allowed limited recognition of diverse preferences of learning.
Limited learner participation and interaction in the objectivist view has also disallowed pedagogues to realise the need for learner control during the process of learning. Learning in this context rather places emphasis on teacher-control and learner compliance. Gulati (2004). The idea of selecting tools to support the teacher’s style, as asserted by Brown, in Cillay (2003) reflects this objectivist environment in his statement ‘Before selecting the tools that will make up a course, educators should identify where their own strengths lie and what type of experience they want for their students’.
By contrast, the constructivist approach places learners central to the experience, actively constructing their own knowledge. Vygotsky (1962) in Gulati (2004) highlights the importance of social interaction and dialogue in learning which leads to our understanding of social constructivism. Connectivism, has emerged as another learning theory that accommodates the complexity and rapidly altering foundations on which modern learning is based. (Siemens, 2005). Key features of connectivism, as summarized by Siemens (2005) include: the critical aspects of learning capacity; diversity of opinions; linking information nodes; nurturing connections, connecting concepts; decision–making as learning and commitment to currency.
Web 2.0 provides many social constructivist and connectivist affordances to support and enhance our contemporary learning environments. Tools such as wikis, blogs, instant messaging and webcasting support these approaches. Maor and Zariski, (2003) contend that the tools cannot be separated from the learning experience and that the technology and pedagogy are mutually supportive and reinforcing. Teachers become adept at staging learning episodes and selecting the modes of delivery. The emergence of web 2.0 tools, however, challenges this approach because of the vast array of technologies and because the learners are now empowered to reach beyond the walls of the classroom (Thonpson, 2007).
Connectivism addresses concepts of chaos, networking, and self organization and provides for a new age of personal media. Web 2.0 tools promote the creation of new knowledge through connections and interactions. Students need new skills in synthesizing and recognizing patterns and evaluating information. Siemens (2004) describes connectivism as providing ‘insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era’.
Web 2.0 tools support the concepts of Siemens’ theory of connectivism. Examples include tagging and folksonomies as processes supporting links to specialized information sources and evaluative decision-making; wikis and blogs support diversity of opinions; podcasts and vodcasts use tools that are facilitated by other tools; while all, including social software such Facebook, champion up-to-date information.
The educator is in the unenviable position of selecting appropriate tools to deliver course content and high quality learning that is underpinned by sound pedagogy. Further to this students in first world countries have come to expect learning on demand. Students are unafraid of technology, multi-taskers, less tolerant of passive activities, and use technology to stay connected. The educator is therefore forced to adopt new technology and new pedagogy ( Deubal, 2006)
Three educators, Jennifer Bergh, Cathy Hynes and Trudi Shine, representing a diversity of formal learning contexts explore personal educational dilemmas with reference to Web 2.0 technologies and pedagogical approaches with a clear focus on learner needs. ( See next post)
What do you think?
Are all students unafraid of technology and expect on-demand teaching? Are there not some students who prefer the traditional frame of teaching? To what extent will educators have to adopt new technologies?
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