This spring, I’m participating in a free course at P2PU that focuses on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. I don’t study education formally in an institutionalized program, but I am really passionate about opening learning to people like myself outside the university context as part of my free culture advocacy. In the case of CSCL, the field is new enough that not all education programs have courses specifically focused on it and haven’t entirely adapted current curriculum to account for it.
As I noted in my notes from reading DIYU by Anya Kamenetz, I was often (though not always) disappointed in my university undergrad study by the inefficiency of class proceedings, by how little exploration of the subjects took place compared to what I felt was possible. Then, after completing my degree, I took an open online course about open education and found an approach that used time efficiently, offered an incredible amount of personalization and engagement because students’ work was by and large open to one another. Instead of dozens of people writing papers at the end of the term that only one professor would ever read, blog posts spread around as discussion progressed, informing further discussion. The online meeting sessions, though quite early in the morning in my time zone, were unusually productive compared to many lectures. The advantages I noticed in my experimentation with CSCL were not exclusive to “open” education outside of the university context, but convinced me that discussions of how open techniques can inform education must include this evidence of how much better CSCL can be than learning without collaboration (and without peer connections) instead of focusing simply on possible cost savings.
I hope to explore and understand how collaboration can create better education this term. I’m excited to get started, even though adding another thing on top of my existing writing projects and wedding planning and full time work is going to make things quite busy.
Goals for the course:
- To learn about CSCL
- As Stian said in his intro video, to bring fields of open education and CSCL together and increase conversations between people focused on each.
- To try out CSCL; The course itself is an experiment in open education and computer supported collaborative learning.
Example: We’re testing a badge method of peer assessment to gauge completion. We’ll get a diploma signed by everybody who completes the course.
It’s non-hierarchical; it’s not based on a expert broadcasting his or her knowledge model, but on collaborative learning among peers.
About the course mechanics, for anybody else reading this who is interested:
- It will run for 8 weeks on new.p2pu.org. Schedule posted on the site (developing in 2-wk chunks)
- There are two levels of engagement: Participants and “Followers” – Course work is done in the open; people can see what is going on and participate from the outside, for example, by posting tweets using the course hashtag #csclintro
Course Materials for Week 1: (and a couple notes on each). This week’s readings provide broad-based background on some educational theory the course will rely upon to develop the concept of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.
- Intro video by Stian
- The goals he mentions in the video roughly inspired my own above. 😉
- Communities of Practice on infed – the encyclopedia of informal learning
- I was interested in the consequences understanding communities of practice has on how individuals are assessed.
- The summary of communities of practice mentions a critique of “systems oriented to individual accreditation”. Focusing on individual learning to the exclusion of analyzing how learning takes place throughout the group will inevitably miss some.
- As fellow course participant Martin says in his first #csclintro blog entry, Individual accreditation is necessary. I think this is true partly because people will move between different CoPs throughout their lives. Businesses hire people based on their skills (as understood within their profession) and also their potential to join an existing institutional community of practice. Martin points out that in the case of doctors, assessment should describe their ability to perform tasks expected of them within their CoP. I think that a CoP-literate understanding of how doctors are assessed should recognize how well a doctor is integrated into the network-based knowledge determined essential by the hospital’s CoP. To do “an arterial blood gas and interpret it” requires integration with the appropriate tools, language/concepts, and range of possibilities developed by medical research. I think the key in this case would be to understand that medical knowledge exists within a broad community of practice that spans the entire medical profession and specific knowledge exists in localized CoPs, such as within one hospital. I agree with Martin that individual assessment should not be abandoned, because doctors need to know their stuff, and those who employ them need to have confidence in that knowledge.
- Individual accreditation should not be abandoned by those who begin to understand CoPs but should be adapted instead to take group learning into account. Individual assessment can’t be dropped, because it’s necessary in order for individuals to move and advance within their professions, but part of the assessment should include an account of their role in CoP learning. It should recognize that learning that developed withing one community can be spread into new CoPs through individuals’ connections.
- When McDermott (1999) says, “Learning traditionally gets measured as on the assumption that it is a possession of individuals that can be found inside their heads… [Here] learning is in the relationships between people”, besides prefiguring Connectivist Theory (See Downes and Siemens)
- People build up their own Personal Learning Networks, through which knowledge is developed, and they can provide access to this network knowledge to those whom they become connected. If they are to be assessed on their knowledge, an assessment that incorporates understanding of how an individual’s knowledge is spread throughout a network would describe what they could bring to a new CoP via their previous connections.
- Constructivism on EduTechWiki
- I feel I have a basic understanding of Constructivist thought, though I am more partial to Connectivism because I think learning is clearly a network phenomenon and Connectivism’s insistence on that as a foundational principle rings true to me. Nevertheless, I read the Constructivism article so that I’ll hopefully get any references to it within later course discussions.
- Importantly (I think), constructivism implies that as a theory of learning, it is how learning will occur, no matter whether or not a learning experience is designed from the constructivist point of view.
- If you are trying to teach with an understanding of constructivism, letting learners develop their understanding through interaction with the topic, perhaps “hands-on”, is the way to go.
- You don’t use textbooks and lecture as much.
- This goes along with my belief that a “textbook” is a more natural outgrowth of the development of learning through a course rather than something that you start with. This is a notion I developed after I finished my undergrad and took my first open online course, though even in school, I had started to try to use Google Docs to create collaborative study guides with classmates in advance of tests. Professors noted this with tacit acceptance, but didn’t try to help directly. Now, in my roles as participant or coordinator of open online courses, I try to create collaborative “textbooks” by the end of courses to distill the learning that occurs into an artifact that is available as a reference later on. It’s much easier to create this kind of resource as you go instead of going back later to try to create a summary of the knowledge you developed in a subject. (I have learned this whenever I dig into my boxes of old school notes and become dismayed at the disorganization and decontextualization of the notes.). Building a “textbook” through participation in a course fits with Constructivism, and particularly Constructionism, which “asserts that constructivism occurs especially well when the learner is engaged in constructing something for others to see.”
- “Trivial Constructivism (basic point): “ Knowledge is actively constructed by the learner, not passively received from the environment.”
- Socio-constructivism: Perhaps the most relevant section of the Constructivism Wiki page to this class, this face of constructivism addresses how the theory responds to recognition that learning is a social process
- Constructivist teaching tries to cut down on the separation between the learning (school) context and the context in which knowledge will be used (“real world”)
- Knowledge is cumulative – it is built on knowledge already developed and the processing of previous experience.