Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Liveblogging ELI: "Teaching Learners to Take Charge of Their Education: Small Pieces, Loosely Joined"

Woohoo! Barbara Ganley and Barbara Sawhill and I just applauded because a quote from Laura (aka Geeky Mom just flashed on the screen! "The point is you now have the ability to be learning for yourself." (Strange glances from all quarters.)

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. . .

with Martha Burtis, Steven A. Greenlaw, and Gerald Slezak, all of University of Mary Washington (which is one of the many academic institutions I've attended, BTW. I only lasted there a semester, for those who are keeping track of my perigrinations.)

The story of a first-year seminar at UMW.

Question: Can the tools of social software be employed to create a genuine learning culture?

Nominal subject of the course was globalization.

Too often, new students see college as being 13th grade, hurdles to be crossed in order to attain accreditation.

Developed a seminar to introduce students to the pursuit of intellectual inquiry in a serious way. Not about easing the transition from HS to college--bigger than that.

After teaching not so much skills as intellectual processes or habits of the mind.

How to create an authentic community of learners?

Students need to know that knowledge creation is a collective effort. "Critical reflection is 'thoroughly social and communal'" (Lipman 1991).

Decided to give students a toolkit and to use different social networking tools as pieces of that toolkit: Wordpress, Bloglines, MediaWiki, flickr, del.icio.us.

In this talk's title, the students are the small pieces; the joining is where the learning happens.

Ownership: institutional vs. individual. Focus on individual ownership in a space beyond just the university. Encouraged students to use these tools in their own lives for purposes other than learning. Hoped to show students that learning doesn't begin and end in the classroom or when they study.

Used tagging: "fsem100j" was the course code and a unique tag. Allowed them to aggregate the various RSS feeds. Through tagging, students learned to think about making connections.

Web-based, free resources. Aggregatable, "RSSy." Individual expression and social communication and participation.

Speakers provided a demo of the online course space.

Themes for discussion:
- "Freshmen can't do that." (reflection, discourse, collaboration)
- You CAN take it with you.
- There's a right tool for every student.
- Technology disconnect

(dialogue below is summary, not a direct transcript)

Q: How did these technologies enhance the content of the course (globalization)? Were you just using the tools to try them?

A (from Greenlaw): Some of the tools were new to me. But I wanted students to interact with others in the class and to work informally. The social bookmarking was great for people bringing in evidence to their story that someone else may not have found.

Q: What about student privacy and the fact that their work is in the public space? Did students know what they were getting into and was there any resistance?

A: We spent a good deal of time talking about what were were doing. Only one student, who was interested in politics, was worried about what he might write as a freshman in college and the archive of that.

Q (from trillwing): I was a freshman at UWM 13 or 14 years ago. Students seemed divided socially, culturally, and politically by race, religion, and class. Did you sense any difference in how the different kinds of UWM students came to the technologies and used them? And did the social aspects of these technologies bridge some of those gaps of experience and culture?

A (from Burtis, who was also a freshman at UWM at about the same time): Maybe not the same kinds of divisions today at UWM--not sure about the student dynamic. But these technologies could bridge gaps or augment them. These are social technologies, and people bring their social and cultural baggage with them.

(I'm interested in this not only because I harbor some, er, ill will toward the institution for the scars inflicted by Fredericksburg and the college on my 18-year-old self, but also because of my own experiences at my institution, where I deal with students from very diverse cultural backgrounds.)

class and cultural backgrounds: how did students take to the technologies? and did the technologies help bridge gaps in students' experiences?

Q (from Barbara Ganley): I too teach first-year seminars with these tools. And one of the questions I have in my own practice is what happens to these students after they finish the class. And then they go out into the university, and they slowly go back to the old ways of learning because that's what's being reinforced in the other classes they take.

Technorati tags: ELI2007, ELIAnnualMtg2007

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