Interlocking wood

“Technology, Colleges, and Community.” The theme for this year’s conference was “Blending Community and Multimedia in Ubiquitous Learning.” I have to admit that not too many people explicitly talked about “ubiquitous” learning; there were presentations on Web 2.0 tools and Second Life, some on accessibility and learning theories, and a few on working and teaching virtually. Now that I’m looking back and trying to sum up what I’ve learned, I can see some pattern in it though.

The conference home page says this:

E-Learning is passé. U-learning is the new wave globally in higher education. Ubiquitous learning encompasses e-learning and emphasizes learning anytime, anywhere and anyway in both formal and informal lifelong learning environments.

Of course, my first thought was “D’oh! I hope I don’t have to change the name of my blog!” I don’t really agree with the statement though. E-learning may change and transform, and we may use new terms to identify it, but it certainly isn’t going away. And really, they are certainly saying that e-learning is part of what learning is becoming; it just isn’t all there is. I see many of the Web 2.0 tools as potentially being part of the e-learning experience. Wikis can be great for group work in online courses. New synchronous and asynchronous tools pop up nearly every day, and we can integrate some of these into the rest of what we do. I can certainly see value in having a more traditional e-learning course at the center of a formal learning program, but supported, enhanced, applied, and reinforced through blogs and a peer learning network.

At it’s heart, perhaps “ubiquitous learning” is about all the myriad ways we learn. It can’t be just one thing; it has to be the formal and the informal, the virtual and the face-to-face, the synchronous and the asynchronous. It’s about reaching as many learners as we can, bringing the content to them in whatever format we can provide it, plus providing the opportunities for the learners to create their own content to share. All of it will interact and interlock to build something bigger and better–hence the “interlocking” image.

This conference provided 1 to 4 speakers every hour for 8 hours a day for the last 3 days, so there were plenty of choices. I attended 17 different presentations. My brain feels quite full right now! I’m sorting through pages and pages of notes and trying to collect a few things that I learned and ideas I found interesting.

Snippets and ideas

From Amy Bruckman in “Constructionist Online Learning Goes Mainstream”: I loved the image of “Technological Samba Schools.” In Brazil, communities form samba schools where everyone learns, everyone teaches, and everyone participates in preparation for the Rio Carnaval. Technology can help us create environments where we can all learn and teach each other.

From Melinda Roberts in “Promoting Active Learning in the Online Classroom through Innovative Course Design”: When designing course activities, think about whether you could do the activity just fine if no students were present. If the activity would work without them, don’t do it! Students should be active participants.

From Bobbe Baggio in “The Implications of Anonymity in Cyber Education”: Where is the balance between accountability and anonymity? Americans equate privacy with freedom; this is not always the case in other cultures.

From Nancy White in “New Horizons for Online Interaction: the Individual and the Group”: A great presentation with very effective use of images. A few quotes stand out:

  • “The positive development of a society in the absence of creative, independently thinking, critical individuals, is as inconceivable as the development of an individual in the absence of the stimulus of the community.”–Einstein
  • “All groups are networks, but not all networks are groups.” –Nancy White (although I think she may have been quoting someone else)
  • “Networks are magnificent containers for groups.” –Nancy

How do we learn how to shift from individual –> group –> network? How do we even know when to shift?

Nancy also touched on the concept of “Community Technology Stewardship”: leaders with experience who help others make good technology choices.

From Karl Soehnlein in “Effectively Using Technology to Increase Interaction and Collaboration in the Online Asynchronous Classroom”: An environment conducive to collaboration has familiarity, openness, trust, and respect. Work to move from adversarial discussion to collaborative dialog. As an instructional designer, I can work to include some discussion boards where students are joint problem solvers with a single goal to achieve rather than only using discussion board assignments where the individual opinions are the main focus. One way is to have students define the problems and goals mutually while they discuss rather than defining the problems for them before they have a chance to start.

What I have learned about Second Life will have to be another post; this is already getting quite long. Kudos to anyone who actually read to the end of the post!

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