Hello. My name is Keith Kirkwood and I am a lecturer in the School of Language and Learning at Victoria University in Melbourne Australia. Specifically, I am in the Student Learning Unit, an academic unit involved in developing university-wide strategies to support and enhance – and understand – student learning. The title of my paper for this conference, “Student agency, peer authority and participatory learning” reveals a particular pedagogical orientation, and I will be discussing today how this pedagogy and today’s social media technologies can combine to create a new paradigm of teaching and learning at our universities.
I like to use Wordle to show people what my papers and presentations are about. If you don’t know Wordle, you just paste your text – in this case my whole conference paper – into the Wordle webpage and this word map is generated based on the frequency of words in the text. And you can play with the colors and fonts and so on. But it can reveal to you – and others – what are some of the dominant ideas in a text. So as you can see, my paper is first and foremost about learning . And it is about students . As this is the International Conference on Learning, that’s probably a good start. It has a theoretical focus, rather than a practice or research-based focus. It’s about: Knowledge Student engagement Content collaboration Community practice Academic strategies Software environments Yes, it is even a little about teaching And it is about how “universities become students” What do I mean by that? I mean that 1) universities become learning institutions and learning communities, and 2) that students – and learning - become, once again, the raison d'être of universities. So in a word-shell, that’s what this presentation is about.
But more specifically, and in a more traditional outline form, the presentation takes a look at: [click] What student engagement means from the perspective of those, such as George Koh, who head the National Survey of Student Engagement (the NSSE) in the US, or the Australian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) (notice that the Australians just had to stretch that acronym to make it spell ‘Aussie’). Secondly, what are some of the pedagogies that support learner agency, and some of the information and communication tools that support these pedagogies? Third, what do we mean by learning community? Who has authority and control in learning communities? And how can we support students to develop peer authority? Fourth, what is participatory learning, why is it important, and what are some of the ways that students can be substantially involved in designing their own learning?
The NSSE and the AUSSE use the term ‘student engagement’ in a way that is linked to their learning, not just to their social activities on campus. To quote: “The concept of student engagement is based on the premise that learning is influenced by how an individual participates in educationally purposeful activities .” This participation is key.
Another quote from the AUSSE: “…active learning is defined as the extent to which students are involved in experiences that involve actively constructing new knowledge and understanding . Engaging students in these forms of learning is at the heart of effective educational practice.”
But let’s back up for just a minute, and ask: why active learning, and why participation and engagement? You tell me what is important about this kind of learning. [Elicit from the audience]. Let’s spend a few minutes thinking about it and sharing ideas…. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with. [click] The world is changing rapidly. Not only are we daily meeting unprecedented social and environmental problems that need to be solved, the pace of information generation has increased at an astounding rate. We need to cultivate in our learners the ability to make sense of these changing social, environmental, and informational landscapes. And not only make sense of them: create wise solutions. Old styles of teaching are no longer relevant. The ‘sage on the stage’, teacher-centred style of teaching engenders what I call a culture of passivity in our students. And we do not need passivity. This is not a healthy graduate attribute. Unless the future is dystopian and totalitarian, what we need are citizens who are critically engaged, creative thinkers, and empowered to develop themselves and society. According to US Digital Ethnographer and “Lecturer of the Year” Michael Wesch, universities are in a ‘crisis of significance’. The social and informational affordances of the Web, the ability for it to enable learning and sharing communities such as we have seen on social media sites like Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, YouTube, have outpaced our learning institutions, leaving many students to wonder what is the point of sitting passively in lectures listening to content that lacks currency. It’s a good question.
… and so this happens…
Or this. This is from one of Mike Wesch’s popular YouTube videos: A Vision of Students Today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o
Malcolm Brown, Director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, distills from a group of authors’ inputs some conditions for generating active learning that can be used as strategies for designing for student engagement. These strategies form the foundation of the discussion in following parts of this presentation. Students need to become knowledge creators, to be empowered to join in developing with each other and with the teacher the subject’s target information and knowledge. 2. Producing work for a larger audience makes the task more meaningful and authentic. For example, students can be involved in writing a Wikipedia article, or they can share blog posts with each other. 3. And blogs are a good way to introduce an informal element into the learning process as well. The importance and prevalence of informal learning has been highlighted in recent research, and designing informal elements helps draw what is being learned into students’ everyday lives and awareness. 4. Allowing alternate modes of expression allows for different learning styles and different personalities to come to the fore in different ways. One student may thrive on Twitter, while another may feel more comfortable creating a video, or a traditional essay. 5. It is important for students to get the sense that what they are learning is indeed relevant and transferable to their ‘real’ life. I still recall how my Organic Chemistry professor was able to bring the subject alive for me by simply revealing common applications to the molecules and processes we were learning: how the configuration of the Teflon molecule created a non-stick surface, or how bicarbonate of soda neutralized the acids in the stomach, making it the simplest and most effective form of antacid. 6. Much of this presentation emphasizes this 6 th point. We have the opportunity through the read/write web to create effective learning communities of practice, so that students feel they can easily turn to each other, and to peer mentors, for mutual benefit. 7. And if they are allowed to help steer the learning, either by negotiation during the class or by being directly involved in curriculum design, a real sense of ownership and understanding and appreciation of the teaching and learning process will develop.
So we come to the second part of the presentation where I want to look at some of the pedagogies and technologies supporting student engagement and agency.
Primarily what new technologies afford is the ability to create e-learning communities of practice, and to put into practice social constructivist learning, in which participation through working with information together develops knowledge and understanding in the learner. This is a departure from the still all-too-common knowledge transfer mode of teaching, the ‘sage on the stage’ approach.
McLoughlin and Lee talk about Pedagogy 2.0, for which, they feel: [click] Students need to become ‘active participants and co-producers rather than passive consumers of content, and learning processes are participatory and social.’ They suggest: [click] increasing socialization and collaboration by working with experts, community, and peers – in other words, in communities of practice – [click] and in fostering real-world global connections. You will see that there is a confluence here with many of Brown’s strategies for learner engagement.
The read/write web, by its very nature, enables ‘Pedagogy 2.0’, with its emphasis on: user-created content, online community and the extent to which user agency is tracked and magnified, and collaborative exchange of information and ideas.
Here is a summary of pedagogies supported and enabled by the read/write web. I have not mentioned yet George Siemen’s Connectivism, and Cormier’s related ‘Rhizomatic education’ – the idea that knowledge is embedded in the network itself, and that the nodal nature of the network depends on actively developing connections. Community is at the core of the online learning process.
For example, many of you will be familiar with this learning community. Does anyone recognize where this webpage comes from? Wikipedia is all about community-negotiated knowledge.
Social media sites and follksonomies depend on user-created tagging to make collective sense of the site’s content. For an excellent discussion on this I recommend David Weinburger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous.
In this next section I want to look at the issue of control and authority: if learner-generated knowledge and learning communities are enabled through read/write technologies, it means teachers need to cede some control over the learning process and let learning happen in potentially unexpected ways. Social learning environments designed with these principles may also develop with their own unanticipated emphases. How much are we willing, as teachers, to cede our control over the anticipated learning experience?
According to the NSSE: “ Students who engaged in learning activities with their peers were more likely to participate in other effective educational practices and had more positive views of the campus learning environment. ” What is central to this discussion is the power of peer learning, and the evidence-based acknowledgement that peer learning works to keep students engaged and participatory.
There have been several very interesting Social Learning Environments popping up on the Web over the last few years. Here is one I have been developing for my university, which have called SNAP, which stands for ‘Social Networking for Academic Purposes’. The focus of this site is academic skills development, but it based on the principles of peer learning, social constructivism, and learning communities of practice. Pedagogy 2.0. It contains a number of read/write tools: student blogs, wikis, study group formation, personal profiling and a modifiable personal learning page, messaging and a Facebook-like Wall, personal and group tagging, modular pushed information and exportable RSS feeds, commentary and rating systems – as well as more formal, searchable resources.
The focus on SNAP is on peer learning and peer authority, and the many student mentors we have working for us also act as stewards of the site. This is our Students Supporting Student Learning strategy. There are other Cloud-based Social Learning Environments that have been developed by other universities, as I mentioned. These include OpenStudy, GradeGuru, Mixable, and FinalsClub. As you can see, Victoria University is in some prestigious company in developing such a platform.
I just want to show you the homepages of these sites so that you get a feel for what they are trying to achieve. OpenStudy, perhaps the most successful at the moment, focuses on the peer learning aspect of sharing information. It is open for all students to join and use – and this is what makes it so powerful.
Here is the logged-in interface of OpenStudy.
GradeGuru, from the educational publisher McGraw-Hill, is another peer learning platform.
And Purdue, famous for its OWL website, has created mixable. It is an application that makes use of social networks such as Facebook to allow Purdue students to interact with each other and share information in their Purdue subjects.
FinalsClub, an Ivy-League Social Learning Environment developed by Harvard, allows students to blog and share notes on their classes, and to create study groups. It has come into some trouble from academics who felt uncomfortable having their classes blogged about, and the last time I checked it had been the victim of a ‘denial of service’ attack and was offline ‘until Fall quarter’.
To recap then, three pedagogical approaches that are important in the Social Learning Environment are Peer Learning, Personalized Learning, and Participatory Learning. How far do we want to take student’s participatory learning is the subject of the next and last section of the presentation. Peas in an ipod image: photo by Krelic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15271532@N00/2488859080/sizes/m/in/photostream/
So to the last section of the presentation, where I want to look at participatory learning with respect to learner immersion in course design and curriculum development.
Jon Dron from the UK makes some interesting observations with regards to the transactional agents of social learning environments, maintaining that the group becomes a fourth class of actor on the platform, after student, teacher, and content. In this way the emerging community, the platform itself, begins to have an influence upon the other actors on the platform and to shape the learning experience.
In an excellent paper on the subject of virtual worlds, Cory Ondrejka observes that: ““ Within the possibility space afforded by virtual worlds, residents become engines of creation themselves, working as the producers of content in the world, designing and reshaping the space around their own ideas and interests. Developers no longer produce all of the content; instead, this task is given over to the residents of the world. ” The immersive nature of these platforms, along with user-generated design, develops a situation whereby the learners are building their own learning environment.
An example of this is a virtual world project I was a part of this year, as a virtual student of the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual Worlds course. My global peer students, 13 of us, planned and developed a virtual world in Second Life representing various aspects of Maya civilization. Here we are in the planning stages on the flat, bare island that was to be our canvass.
In 10 weeks’ time we created the island representing aspects of Maya mythology, astronomy, agriculture and aquaculture, language and writing system, music and medicine. The learning experience is now an immersive experience for visitors that includes role-play, discovery-based learning, game-based learning, and narrative, incorporates social media, and provides a glimpse into some aspects of Maya civilization. This is the extent to which virtual world learners can be involved in designing their own learning experience and the learning experience of subsequent learners.
But in the real world too, educators are inviting students into curriculum and course design, as co-designers alongside teaching staff and instructional designers. [click] Course design teams at Elon University in North Carolina have been doing this with great success for a number of years – involving even first year university students in first-year course design. [click] Third year students are designing virtual learning environments for first year students at University College in Dublin. The result is that both staff and students learn a tremendous amount from and about each other, and each other’s perspective as teacher or learner. It brings the academic and learning community into sharp focus. As one Elon university professor said [click]: “ We’re all learning through engagement with the subject and with each other.” … And that quote sums it up, to me. Engagement in the learning process should not only be the prerogative and domain of students. Teachers too need to learn how to re-engage – as lifelong learners – and re-orientate their teaching to the side of learning. And help develop the learning community. After all, we are all in this together.
Keith Kirkwood School of Language and Learning Victoria University 14 July 2011 Student agency, peer authority and participatory learning
“… active learning is defined as the extent to which students are involved in experiences that involve actively constructing new knowledge and understanding. Engaging students in these forms of learning is at the heart of effective educational practice.”
“ There is a need to expand our vision of pedagogy so that learners become active participants and co-producers rather than passive consumers of content, and learning processes are participatory and social, supportive of personal life goals and needs.”
“ increasing the level of socialization and collaboration with experts, community, and peer groups ”
“ fostering connections that are often global in reach”
(McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M., 2008, pp 11, 17) 2. Pedagogies and ICTs of learner agency
“ Students who engaged in learning activities with their peers were more likely to participate in other effective educational practices and had more positive views of the campus learning environment. ”
( National Survey of Student Engagement, 2010, p. 9 )
3. The locus of control and authority
Social Learning Environments (SLEs) 2. Pedagogies and ICTs of learner agency
Cloud-based SLEs 3. The locus of control and authority
OpenStudy (Emory University and Georgia Tech)
Mixable (Purdue University)
FinalsClub (Harvard) (Parry & Young, 2010)
OpenStudy http://openstudy.com 3. The locus of control and authority
OpenStudy – logged in 3. The locus of control and authority
GradeGuru http://www.gradeguru.com 3. The locus of control and authority
Mixable http://www.itap.purdue.edu/studio/mixable/ 3. The locus of control and authority
FinalsClub http://finalsclub.org/ 3. The locus of control and authority
‘ Transactional control’ – group dynamics on SLEs develop an emergent structure; collective participation shapes the learning process, so that the group becomes a class of actor in the system: student, teacher, content, group . Dron (2007a, b):
4. Participatory learning, immersion, and co-design Image: Dron 2007, p. 239
3D Learning Environments (3DLE) – Virtual Worlds
“ Within the possibility space afforded by virtual worlds, residents become engines of creation themselves, working as the producers of content in the world, designing and reshaping the space around their own ideas and interests. Developers no longer produce all of the content; instead, this task is given over to the residents of the world. ”
(Ondrejka, 2008, p. 229)
4. Participatory learning, immersion, and co-design
3DLE co-development: UWVW class of 2011 4. Participatory learning, immersion, and co-design
3DLE Co-development: Maya Island http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/University%20of%20Washington/114/139/27 4. Participatory learning, immersion, and design
Student participation in course and curriculum design
Elon University: ‘Course design teams,’ consisting of faculty members, undergraduate students and academic developers
University College, Dubin: ‘3 rd year students develop a VLE for 1 st year students
“ We’re all learning through engagement with the subject and with each other” – Elon University professor .
(Bovill, Bulley & Moss, 2011; Bovill, Cook-Sather & Felton, 2011; Mihans, Long and Felton, 2008)
4. Participatory learning, immersion, and co-design
ACER. (2011). Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) (Vol. 2011). Camberwell, VIC: Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER),.
Bovill, C., Bulley, C. J., & Morss, K. (2011). Engaging and empowering first-year students through curriculum design: perspectives from the literature. Teaching in Higher Education, 16 (2), 197-209.
Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., & Felten, P. (2011). Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16 (2), 133-145.
Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail, and learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43 (1), 16-32.
Brown, M., Auslander, M., Gredone, K., Green, D., Hull, B., & Jacobs, W. (2010). A dialogue for engagement. EDUCAUSE Review, 45 (5), 39-56.
Bruffee, K. A. (1999). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press.
Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum. Innovate, 4(5). Retrieved from http://www.innovateonline.info/
Dron, J. (2007a). Control and constraint in e-learning: Choosing when to choose . Hersey, PA and London: Idea Group Publishing.
Dron, J. (2007b). Designing the undesignable: Social software and control. Educational Technology & Society, 10 (3), 60-71.
Kirkwood, K. (2010). The SNAP Platform: Social networking for academic purposes. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 27 (3), 118-126. doi: 10.1108/10650741011054429
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. (2008b). Future learning landscapes: Transforming pedagogy through social software. Innovate, 4 (5). Retrieved from http://www.innovateonline.info/
Mihans, R., Long, D., & Felton, P. (2008). Power and expertise: Student-faculty collaboration in course design and the scholarship of teaching and learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2 (2), 1-9.
National Survey of Student Engagement. (2010). Major differences: Examining student engagement by field of study—annual results 2010. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.
NSSE. (2011). National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Retrieved 8 June, 2011, from http://nsse.iub.edu/
Ondrejka, C. (2008). Education unleashed: Participatory culture, education, and innovation in Second Life. In K. Salen (Ed.), The Ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (pp. 229–252). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Parry, M., & Young, J. R. (2010, November 28). New social software tries to make studying feel like Facebook. The Chronicle of Higher Education .