How has the web enabled new theories of learning? Concise overview from @fredgarnett

This is one of a series of posts under the title “From Education to Learning; A Brief History of Open” by Fred Garnett. Here he begs to differ from what he sees as a complacent view in an interview: “I wouldn’t say there are any profound changes in the way we should be thinking about theories of learning”. The excerpt below is his response. Browsing is learning, and the knowledge is in the connections of the network. In the full post (click through to see it), Fred goes on to argue that “more and deeper change is coming”.

in terms of pedagogy there can’t have been a richer 15-year period since books were permanently unchained from University libraries 500 years ago. During this time we have moved from theories of knowledge transmission to models of the co-creation of learning (partly by putting context into knowledge). We can identify discussion groups, communities of practice, collaborative learning, formative assessments, open learning, social learning, learning design, participatory learning, co-creation and knowledge creation, amongst areas of pedagogic change. The Machine is Us/ing Us but we are both a complicit and dynamic element in that process. As James Dalziel says we need to use pedagogy to design the technology, which has increasingly been the case in the past ten years.

In terms of online education enablers, we have seen a shift from Access to Content to Context; in the 1990s access to the Internet was the major concern, followed by distributed virtual learning environments (coming out of an instructionally-based training tradition and so qualitatively different to the learning pedagogies that come from distributed networks), resource exchanges (FERL) and Communities of Practice (TeachMeet), Open Course Ware initiatives, folksonomies and cloud-based aggregators. We now Like+1 being Digital by Default in emerging social personalised networks. Whilst GLOW in Scotland (driven by their Curriculum for Excellence) are doing interesting things in the managed learning environment world, if you read the work of Graham Attwell, or Su White you could describe the last fifteen years as seeing a move from VLE’s (which themselves moved from rigid classrooms in the sky to the contextualised drag & drop constructions of Moodle) to Personal Learning Networks. In this world there is an ‘ecology of resources‘ available differentially for learning, depending on how you set the institutional ‘filters’, as Rose Luckin and her doctoral students have been mapping out. The work of George Siemens (Connectivism), Stephen Downes (e-learn 2.0) Caroline Haythornthwaite (New forms of doctorates), and others, all theorise these possible learning changes in profound terms, leading to MOOCs #ds106 and more distributed fireside models of learning.

Since Seymour Papert’s Mindstorms, LOGO programming and the Year of IT (1984) when the BBC Micro was launched we have had a range of novel learning techniques and approaches, all of which in some way might be seen as growing out of the sixties Home Brew Computer Club and Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib.  Diana Laurillard’s great book Rethinking University Teaching (1993) almost pre-dated the web but was already investigating new approaches to education that new media and new theories offered, around concepts of conversational scaffolding. The Web allowed many earlier niche theories on Computer-Mediated Communication  and Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning approaches to develop and be adopted, and many new technologies further enable novel learning techniques and approaches. Most significant of all perhaps might be Bernie Dodge’s discovery that ‘browsing is learning’ and his creation of WebQuests as a result; which the School of Everything has extended in part. Perhaps the most obvious one is mobile learning which, as Mike Sharples puts it, disruptively brings informal learning into the formal environment of the classroom. Now, with the rise of smart phones, mobiles become a multi-function tool accessing a range of resources on the move which can now become context-responsive. Meanwhile a generation brought up on games will be expecting immersive learning experiences and whilst Second Life has proved limited,
World of Warcraft has had a profound effect. Many games now provide toolkits for developers to embed learning and in the UK places like Dundee and John Moores Universities provide degrees in Digital content creation of various kinds. As smart phones get smarter and the cloud becomes the new platform for apps further novelty and new pedagogical challenges are promised.



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