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May 2008


Mainstreaming Vs. Inclusion


Mind Mapping as a Pedagogical Tool

Feature for Specific Learning Disabilities

Case Study
Digital Pedagogy: Using Social Media to
Tool Versatility as an Indicator of
Support Gen Y Learning Inclusive Education: Introducing
Derek E. Baird, M.A. Opinion
As e-Learning designers, information architects, and educators, we need to be aware of the symbiotic
relationship between technology, knowledge transfer, social interaction and learning. Inclusion as a Viable Framework for
Differently abled Learners
The Social Life of Learning

“Perhaps our generation focused on information, but these kids

Educator Training and Structured
focus on meaning -- how does information take on meaning?" -
Support in Delivering Inclusive
John Seeley Brown
Recently I’ve been re-reading one of the seminal works on
knowledge management and social learning--The Social Life of
Reading Difficulties and Visual Stress
Information, by John Seeley Brown and Paul Duguid. Early in the
book they point out that, “learning requires more than just
information, but also the ability to engage in the practice.”

Call for letters

Brown/Duguid further illustrate the active nature of learning by
outlining the (action-oriented) steps required for a “newbie” to
effectively utilize, integrate, and understand a knowledge base
existent within a Community of Practice (CoP) or learning

● Become a member of a community

● Engage in its practice (1 of 5)1/3/2011 2:27:23 PM

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● Acquire and make use of its knowledge

When learners fail to be actively “engaged in the practice” they will, in turn, be excluded from the “local
topography” of the practice, as well as the opportunity to “understand the CoP from the inside out”—both of
which are crucial in the transformation of information into meaning.

Supporting Digital Learning Styles

“Shifts in students’ learning style will prompt a shift to active construction of knowledge through mediated
immersion.”- Chris Dede

Constructivist learning, according to Dr. Seymour Papert, “is grounded in the idea that people learn by actively
constructing new knowledge, rather than having information 'poured' into their heads.Moreover, constructivist
theory asserts that people learn with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally
meaningful artifacts."

Today’s learners have grown up surrounded by the digital world, and as a result have developed new ways of
understanding, learning and processing information. As a result, there is a dissolving line between frontline and
online education. This current generation of students, more than previous generations, approaches learning from
a “what’s in it for me?” perspective.

These student directed learning styles have made the “drill and kill”teaching model less effective and relevant.
Students have grown up with digital and social technologies, and are used to picking and choosing how,what,
where,and when they will learn.

Social media and other technologies can be woven into a course design that provides avenues that allow Gen Y
learners to engage in a social, collaborative, and active learning environment. An effective and multi-faceted
approach that blends current adult learning theory and social technologies are the most effective in designing
online courseware and teaching.

Social Media as a Pathway to Learning

“Sharing knowledge is a lovely thing.” –Jamie Oliver

Under this new “digital pedagogy” learners tend to construct knowledge via self-directed and collaborative
project based learning (PBL) activities, using asynchronous media, weblogs, social search communities, and
synchronous technologies such as real time textual chat.

As students go through process of choosing, utilizing, and integrating technology—social search communities,
making QuickTime movies, creating podcasts, mobile technologies, interactive web sites, e-portfolio’s, Flickr,
blogging, computers, multiplayer gaming, or p r o g r a m m i n g Lego/Logo—into their projects, it provides
opportunities for them to be actively engaged, as well as acquire, share, and make use of community knowledge.

In addition, technology and socially rich projectbased learning environments help students develop critical
thinking and problem solving skills—both essential skills for students to compete in a global knowledge-based

This shift in learning styles will have an impact beyond the walls of the classroom.As Seeley Brown points out, this
trend has the potential to effect “not only to educators, but also…human resource departments, strategists, and (2 of 5)1/3/2011 2:27:23 PM
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marketing folks.”

Designing Social Learning Environments

Critics of e learning often characterize online classrooms as neutral spaces devoid of human connection, emotion,
or interaction with instructors or peers. Social media provides course designers with the ability to interject
emotion in the online space, thereby providing opportunities for students to connect with classmates just as they
do in the ‘real time’world of the brick and mortar classroom.

The importance of students being able to make a social connection with their peers cannot be underestimated.
Recent studies have showed that there is a direct link between social interaction and student retention in online
learning environments. The key to a successful online user experience is to help students find ways to construct
relationships with their peers, while simultaneously meeting their digital learning styles.

In a digital ethnographic study conducted by Goldman- Segall (1997) pointed out how social media tools can create
a constructivist learning environment which allows people to build interpretations of their data and utilize their
individual life experience, multiple intelligences, while still working as part of a collaborative team. The use of
current and emerging social media technologies offers Gen Y learners the flexibility and ability to create learning
communities, and revisit content as needed.

These emerging technologies are clearly moving education closer towards Tim Berners-Lee’s ideal of using the
web as” an information space through which people can communicate…by sharing their knowledge in a pool.”

Social Media & 21st Century Course Design

In this world of increased web-based social interaction, meeting the unique needs of Gen Y learning styles are the
bottom line. Today’s students expect interactive, engaging content and course material that motivates them to
learn through challenging pedagogy, conceptual review, and learning style adaptation. This approach offers Gen Y
learners’ flexible, self-paced, customizable content available ondemand. Interactive and engaging content
motivates students to learn through the course materials and apply them according to their own intrinsic learning
goals and styles.

Instructors will need to increasingly address the needs of the Gen Y student, those born after 1982, when
integrating technology into their course design. An effective course will need to mash up the “traditional”
learning theories of Mager, Gagne, Knowles, and social learning theory with the reality of today’s 24/7 digital

The current generation of learners is ‘hardwired’ to simultaneously utilize multiple types of web-based
participatory media. This is a technologically savvy generation of learners who have no concept of using the 26-
volume set of encyclopedias. They have grown up with the web, are ‘alwayson’, and expect to utilize technology
in their learning. Students, especially on college campuses, are perpetually connected to their peers, professors
and course content through laptops, social networks, PDA’s, and iPods.

In many ways the instructor needs to design courses around the core idea that students are an “end user” who will
be conducting most of their learning outside the traditional classroom. In the 21st Century classroom, the ‘always
on,’ student will control the how, what, and when a task is completed. Moreover, instructors should understand
how the integration of learning communities and social networking technologies into the course design has a
positive influence on student retention and self-regulation in online courses. (3 of 5)1/3/2011 2:27:23 PM

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The key is to design courses with these new learning styles in mind, creating content that allows students the
flexibility to work as an individual and as a member of a group, while embracing the ‘always on’ reality of today’s
student.Towards that end,an instructor’s ability to integrate social media technologies as a tool to support
learning, while understanding the unique digital learning styles student’s is vital.

The learner-initiated structure of the relationship requires the user to mediate their level of interaction within
the hierarchy of the peer-developed community of users. In this approach the end user acts as a bridge mediating
their interface with the social network. In an online learning context, this bridge provides students with the
freedom to negotiate which social media will help them enhance their own experience, support multiple learning
styles, increase their range of skill, and ultimately meet their intrinsic learning goals.

While the use of animation, simulation, and other social media tools can greatly enhance the online user
experience and provide students with opportunities for full social interaction within their learning community, it’s
vital that their use be closely tied to the course learning objectives.

In this digital pedagogy model students have “personally tailored” learning paths, picking and choosing from
multiple sources of media, resources, projects, or other curriculum content which they can then bundle together
to meet their individual needs and learning styles.

Effective e-learning design should provide engaging content that allows the user to draw connections between the
context of the learning objectives while utilizing multiple sources of web-based media; maintaining the users
ability to mediate their level of communication within social networks, or similar interactive environments. Most
importantly, online course designers should be careful not to use social media for the sake of using social
technology, and should keep in mind how the use of any type of technology element can support student
learning-- individually and as a collective group.


Social media engages our Gen Y students into the content and allows them to be included as an active participant
as they construct a learning landscape rooted in social interaction, knowledge exchange, and optimum cognitive
development with their peers.

One thing is clear, as these students move from the classroom to the workforce, it will be increasingly important
to deepen our understanding of these burgeoning digital learning styles and prepare educational and training
programs (online and off) to meet their learning styles.

Derek E. Baird, M.A. is an education technologist specializing in social media, Gen Y, e-learning, and educational
media. He has designed online communities for clients in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. He has
published articles on ed tech, social media, and online community in several journals including Campus-Wide
Information Systems, TechLearning, and The Journal of Education Technology Systems. Derek received his M.A. in
Education Technology from the Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) at Pepperdine University, and
has taught in the Education Technology programme.

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