Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Changing culture of learning: Mobility, Informality, and connectivity

To teach is to learn
This is the second live blog post I'm making from DEANZ 2012. Kwok-Wing Lai is a professor of education at the University of Otago, and I remember reading one of his books when I first started being interested in eLearning about 12 years ago. Today Kwok-wing started by talking about knowledge, skills and soft-skills that students require to be successful in society. In NZ students are seen as "lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved" (The NZ Curriculum, 2007, p. 4). NZ students are to become "competent thinkers and problem solders....actively seek, use, and create knowledge" (p. 12). Developing human agency in this way requires a change in culture around learning and teaching.

On average 8 yo 18 year olds spend 25% of time using social networking. A survey conducted by Kwok-Wing looked at the learning characteristics that young learners have (for example, working in groups etc). Michael Wesch "a crisis of significance" - his findings indicated that his students were struggling to find a meaning in their learning. To develop agency in learning it needs to be situated, authentic and personalised. Kwok-Wing showed Michael Wesch's video A vision of students today. to indicate some of the aspects of learners today. He then looked at informal learning as:
  • Spatial - learning across space (anywhere)
  • Temporal - learning across time (any time)
  • Cognitive - learning across domains (any topic)
"....there is no teacher, no defined curriculum topic or concept". We are already doing it. 18.5% of learning happens in formal learning environments. Informal learning includes using technologies to find things of personal interest, connecting with friends, and as a distraction.

Many teachers do not see informal learning as they domain. But there is a semiotic relationship between formal and informal learning "The emphasis is on sharing, working together, and using a wide range of cultural references and knowledge..." (Sefton-gree, 2004, p.33). Mobile learning, Wing-Lai referred to as mobility in physical space, technology, conceptual space, social space, and learning dispersed over time (Sharpes, Arnedillo-Sanchez, Milrad, & Vavoula, 2009) = agency in learning. Mobile learning, therefore, is a set of attitudes, dispositions, and "habitus of learning" (Kress & Pachler, 2007). Knowledge is not fixed, not transmitted by authority, and we are constantly creating knowledge. There is a shift in control via ubiquitous access to learning resources, and in turn, the learners produce knowledge. This person is a mobile learner...and the whole world is mobile...the whole world is our curriculum. The goal of knowledge building is "the production and continual improvement of ideas of value to a community" (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003, p. 1370). And the role of the teacher is to support students to ask questions.

How can we use technologies to make learning more connected, more mobile? In Knowledge building students work in a community, investigate a topic, ask questions, conduct research, and self-assess progress. They also engage in face-to-face and online discussions to share, critique, build on, and synthesise ideas that are new to the community. It is a way of advancing personal and community knowledge.

Kwok-Wing then moved on to talking about 3 initiatives currently underway in NZ including a postgraduate course on teacher development, The Otago University Advanced School Science Academy (OUASSA), and with senior secondary school students. The question about how this approach might be applied within a school curriculum was then addressed, with particular reference to the OUASSA project.

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