Being human in a digital learning age

One of the reasons I’m taking e-learning and digital cultures (edcmooc) is that I’m interested in being an effective educator. The world is changing fast as technologies and channels of communication evolve and I’m interested in adapting and riding the wave of opportunity they represent. I’ve trialled things like VLEs and websites in various forms, I’ve made audio and video podcasts, played with pdfs and had students submit homeworks in any number of forms including video, audio and even labanotation. I’ve learned several things.

  1. Personalisation and choice is important
  2. People think differently and communicate differently
  3. Some things take time and effort to understand
  4. Replay is powerful
  5. Good things happen when people meet and talk
  6. Learning is possible in anarchy

These point to several crucial factors for the learner.

  1. I want to learn what I’m interested in.
  2. I want to be able to think it through, over and over if necessary, until I understand it.
  3. I need to be in control of my learning resources.
  4. I need stimulus.
  5. I may need encouragement and support.
  6. I need access to a civilised environment.

Through all of these points, I see the role of technology in terms of providing access to resources on the learners’ terms: asynchronously, in a medium he or she is comfortable with, replayable, searchable, indexable, clippable ad aggregateable. I see the role of the learner as whatever he or she needs it to be, for his or her purpose. I see the role of the teacher to provide stimulus; resource; challenge and support and to facilitate meetings – ideally real but virtual if there’s no other way – between learners of the same material who can respond to the teacher’s prompting in order to develop further learning.

This describes for me a model of learning in which there is structure, content, challenge and assessment within a very human context – socially constructivist, if you like – which is made available through the enabling channels provided by technologies. These technologies offer recording and playback, tagging and organising by the teacher and the learner.

I think this model of learning is called, “blended learning” and I think it’s here, in the room, now. You might have noticed that I have not included peer commentary here – I’m not convinced that it’s necessary although I can see that it’s helpful.

3 Replies to “Being human in a digital learning age”

  1. Might you add to your list of learner factors, “I get interested in (or am more likely to get interested in) that which I’ve learned something about.” It’s worth thinking about because on-demand, just-in-time access to information has been lauded as a transformative feature of learning in the digital age. Just something that struck me.

    Also (being an American – ha ha) I’m curious to know more about what you mean when you say that the learner needs access to a civilized environment. What is meant by “civilized” and what aspects of a civilized environment facilitate learning, or are needed by the learner? i I’m interested, because one of the more popular metaphors that has emerged from this MOOC is that of the Digital Viking, a concept that seems to suggest that a certain degree of lawlessness conduces to navigating digital communities, and learning in the process.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Krissa. I agree with you and think that the idea you suggest adding is implicit in the idea of “stimulus”. Here is one of the important roles of the educator as facilitator of learning: to stimulate new areas of interest which follow from new learning. I’m grateful to David Hopkins for his post at:

    in which Asimov talks about the learner who, initially interested in baseball, discovers a new interest in mathematics. The educator can provide guided discovery within the context of following the learner’s interest to introduce new vistas to explore.

    The “civilised environment” is meant to portray a forum or place in which the learner may talk and listen with his or her peers in an environment which is non-threatening and without unnecessary stresses – where respect allows open development of understanding. I would see this as a classroom or tutorial, perhaps, or an online forum in which tolerance reigns.

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