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May 2008

Perspective Mainstreaming Vs. Inclusion

Insight Mind Mapping as a Pedagogical Tool Feature for Specific Learning Disabilities Case Study Tool Versatility as an Indicator of Inclusive Education: Introducing Clicker Derek E. Baird, M.A. Opinion Inclusion as a Viable Framework for Differently abled Learners The Social Life of Learning “Perhaps our generation focused on information, but these kids focus on meaning -- how does information take on meaning?" John Seeley Brown Recently I’ve been re-reading one of the seminal works on knowledge management and social learning--The Social Life of 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.” 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 community: Letters Call for letters Features Reading Difficulties and Visual Stress Interview Educator Training and Structured Support in Delivering Inclusive Education

Digital Pedagogy: Using Social Media to Support Gen Y Learning
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.

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Become a member of a community Engage in its practice

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Welcome to Didacticsworld.com -::- November 2007 - Feature
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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 society. 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
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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 world. 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 26volume 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.
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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. Conclusion 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. Back to top

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