Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Leveraging Web 2.0 Tools for Learning 2.0 Applications
January 29, 2008, 4:43 am
Filed under: Articles

I just finished reading an article from the Educause Review (January/February Edition). The article was entitled:
“Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”.

Any article that cites Tom Friedman is a favorite of mine! 🙂

The following quote seems to provide, in one sentence, the focus of the article: “The most profound impact of the Internet is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning.” For quite some time now, I’ve seen the real value of a course management system like Blackboard to enhance and improve the channels of communication between students and instructors. Indeed this notion is also a best practice in undergraduate education in “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” where by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda Gamson describe 2 key principles related to the use of technology to: 1) encourage student-faculty contact, and 2) encourage cooperation among students. Technology can provide the leverage needed to fully engage these principles in a “social” academic setting.

The article also mentions various opencourseware initiatives, where content is becoming freely shared and available. I think about our own GRCC YouTube Channel as a way to share knowledge and course content from our talented professors here and our popular lecture series.

I agree 100% with the articles view on the important social aspects of learning. That is, the ability for students to learn together and participate with each other and to interact with the content is uniquely possible using all sorts of web based tools. From instant messaging tools like Wimba Pronto, to content sharing tools like Blackboard Scholar, to collaborative tools like the Learning Objects Wiki or Blog and Google docs – the learning process is more about the social aspects of learning. That is, not only can we review content as an individual experience, but we can also share it, tag it, comment on it, and embed it. We can take “action” on the content. It’s about providing the ability to create connections with others and with the content which allows students to be fully engaged in their learning.

New possibilities… I can’t believe all of the unique tools that the web provides. From online libraries, to professionally generated video content, to learning object repositories, to mapping tools, to language conversion utilities… all with the ability to use them in a social context. The web is a robust set of resources that are waiting for us, as educators, to be used in our courses.

The difficulty with technology seems to be the time it takes to filter through all of the “noise” to find those real world applications that provide good pedagogical applications. Learning together as professionals in academia is the key. We need to discover new ways to help each other. The article has a great graphic that supports this endeavor:

Illustration from
“Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”, Page 28

The article also includes the following quote: “The demand-pull approach is based on providing students with access to rich (sometimes virtual) learning communities built around practice.” I think also this is where technology can be leveraged. The ability for a student to receive information through “push” technologies can be very effective. Technologies that come into play here are tools such as the Wimba Podcaster and the Podcast LX tool from Learning Objects Inc. These tools, combined with GRCC’s YouTube Channel via RSS, and GRCC’s iTunes U site can provide a suite of technologies that increase access to course resources by “automatically” sending students content through subscription channels. Combine this with the ability for a student to engage with the media through social channels and you’ve got an effective learning experience.

Enter the social network. Tools like CourseFeed from ClassTop Inc. allow students to receive updates regarding their course in Blackboard in Facebook. So while students are using Facebook they are 1 click away from accessing announcements, content, and collaboration possibilities such as a “course wall”. I’m sure there is much more on the horizon that can more effectively provide a combination of a traditional course management system with the tools of a social network.

Another social “micro” blogging tool that has been gaining in popularity is Twitter. In fact, there was recently an article in the Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled: “A Professor’s Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom“. In this article David Parry (who I am now following on Twitter) describes using Twitter to enhance the social aspects between the students in his class. He is using Twitter to build a more effective learning community in his course. This community provides a higher degree of comfort and rapport that allows students to more freely share with each other and learn with each other within the context of his course – and beyond.

In closing, I’d like to cite another key statement in the Educause article. It points to the real power of a mix of face to face and especially online technologies for learning, collaboration, and communication, all combined with a student’s true “engagement” in the learning experience.

“It is passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make or perform something.” – From “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”, Page 30

This article was probably one of the best I have read the places a real focus on the value of using technologies to enhance and facilitate more effective learning.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I thought the article was one of the best I’ve read on the topic of “open” education and Web 2.0 technologies in teaching. I love the term “passion-based” learning! I use Twitter and would love to try to engage students with it. However, I’m skeptical about their adoption and the resulting noise.

Comment by gbrand

Your readers may be interested in an LMS-SN. It combines the academic features of an LMS (like Blackboard) with all the social networking features you’ve described above – and more.

Check out Scholar360, the first to combine the two.

Comment by Cathy Garland

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