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The Snap! Platform: Social Networking for Academic Purposes, Peer Learning, and Communities of Practice
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The Snap! Platform: Social Networking for Academic Purposes, Peer Learning, and Communities of Practice

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A presentation about a learning support platform in development at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia at the ICICTE conference in Corfu Greece, July 9-11 2009

A presentation about a learning support platform in development at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia at the ICICTE conference in Corfu Greece, July 9-11 2009

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  • Yes, SNAP has gone live now at my university. In it's pilot phase between July and November 2010. Check it out at http://snap.vu.edu.au.
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  • Very nice!
    - does this snap system exist or this is only a concept?

    thanks!
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  • Now what I am going to talk about today is an online learning platform I’m currently developing for the School of Learning Support at Victoria University in Melbourne. In this School we are a group of academics who help students develop their academic skills. I call this learning platform SNAP! , or Social Networking for Academic Purposes, because it attempts to change the teacher-student dynamic by encouraging and enabling students to support other students’ learning directly. It may seem odd therefore that I am presenting in a session that has more to do with teacher ICT competence, when what I am really talking about is students. So I want to talk about the pedagogical backbone of this learning platform, then show you some of its functionality, and then finish up by talking politics. But first I will give you some background as to how the idea for this platform came out.
  • One of the ways we support students is by having one-to-one consultations with them about their academic work, which you can see an example of here. I mention in my conference paper how, in these consultations, I might see students over a day or a week who have similar topics of research or similar questions, and how I wish there were a way for them to meet and discuss these things with each other. In other words, to network for academic purposes. Facebook is a social network for social purposes. But how might we develop an platform that encourages academic networking, and that makes transparent the learning communities of practice that could, and do, naturally form at our universities?
  • Here, if you will, is an illustration of our students with their learning tasks– not really quite sure of the rules of the game or how to play. Think of the children’s card game SNAP!, where, when a card is revealed, all players with the same card yell SNAP! They then become aware of each other. So through my SNAP! Platform, students can find out who has similar learning tasks and questions, and that they can work together to help each other learn. I’ll return to dogs playing cards later.
  • <Read slide> … And these are communities with fluid and informal memberships, where students come together in a just-in-time manner to solve problems and learn skills and build knowledge. It is a platform that is designed to facilitate and encourage participation – and to turn on its head what I see as the deeply embedded culture of passivity that most of our students are not only subject to in much of their formal education but help maintain apathetically. As I see it, this student- or learning- centered approach to education is supported by both new and old pedagogies…
  • I am certain we have entered into a new phase of humanism in education - though I'm sure modern educators would not wish to pin that label onto their lapels! -click- But it is a humanism that has evolved from Rogers and Maslow, and goes by different names. Rather than being student-centered in a sympathetic, pastoral care sense, it is empathetic and is about getting into the head of the learner and how the learner learns (by the way, I feel one of the best ways for a teacher to achieve this kind of empathy is to continue to BE a learner). Rather than being about a student's self-actualization – -click- and there’s Abraham rearing his triangular head! – it is about a student's self-empowerment, about reach one's full potential.
  • I am certain we have entered into a new phase of humanism in education - though I'm sure modern educators would not wish to pin that label onto their lapels! -click- But it is a humanism that has evolved from Rogers and Maslow, and goes by different names. Rather than being student-centered in a sympathetic, pastoral care sense, it is empathetic and is about getting into the head of the learner and how the learner learns (by the way, I feel one of the best ways for a teacher to achieve this kind of empathy is to continue to BE a learner). Rather than being about a student's self-actualization – -click- and there’s Abraham rearing his triangular head! – it is about a student's self-empowerment, about reach one's full potential.
  • I am certain we have entered into a new phase of humanism in education - though I'm sure modern educators would not wish to pin that label onto their lapels! -click- But it is a humanism that has evolved from Rogers and Maslow, and goes by different names. Rather than being student-centered in a sympathetic, pastoral care sense, it is empathetic and is about getting into the head of the learner and how the learner learns (by the way, I feel one of the best ways for a teacher to achieve this kind of empathy is to continue to BE a learner). Rather than being about a student's self-actualization – -click- and there’s Abraham rearing his triangular head! – it is about a student's self-empowerment, about reach one's full potential.
  • Modern learning- centred pedagogies are roses of other names, and I don’t have time to belabour them here, but: I would encourage you to read George Siemen’s interesting ideas regarding connectivism… and jump on the Googler and check out Mike Wesch’s Youtube and Netvibe pages. These are some of the pedagogies underpinning the strategy behind SNAP! (only if there’s time – alternative lines) heutagogy (an unseemly name for all but those who enjoy welding together Greek morphemes into English monstrosities), is championed by a couple of Aussie antipodeans in a paper on self-directed learning. connectivism is a learning theory that is gaining in popularity – and it’s well worth paying attention to George Siemen’s ideas (his blog elearnspace is better than his twitter feed!) And Michael Wesch is a modern hero of mine, one of last year’s recipients of Lecturer of the Year in the US and one who is doing some fantastic things with his 3-400 students in a lecture-hall : jump on the Googler and check out his YouTube and Netvibes pages, under the moniker mwesch. These are some of the pedagogies underpinning the strategy behind SNAP! : in the development of an academic culture of participation and empowerment.
  • As is the strategy of Peer Learning Primacy. Authors of a recently-published paper in the first issue of the Australasian Journal of Peer Learning ask the question: “ Is it time to consider a paradigm shift from teacher instruction to peer-learning primacy?” We feel it is.
  • The School of Learning Support at VU has matured over the years in its provision of learning support to students; we have multiple approaches to delivering this support –one of which is the one-to-one consultation that you saw earlier. But we have also developed a strong student peer learning strategy that incorporates several faculty-based Mentoring programs, a just-in-time Student Rover program in our Learning Commons, and so on. And now we will have the SNAP! Platform, which we are calling the VU Learning Community. -click- Another rationale for this kind of approach is in terms of support ratios ….Rather than having 1 Learning Support staff to 400 students, you can potentially have the whole student population engaged in helping each other. And we have also observed, again and again, the immeasurably powerful synergistic effect of a student helping another student learn, and modeling the processes and skills of effective learning behaviour.
  • The School of Learning Support at VU has matured over the years in its provision of learning support to students; we have multiple approaches to delivering this support –one of which is the one-to-one consultation that you saw earlier. But we have also developed a strong student peer learning strategy that incorporates several faculty-based Mentoring programs, a just-in-time Student Rover program in our Learning Commons, and so on. And now we will have the SNAP! Platform, which we are calling the VU Learning Community. -click- Another rationale for this kind of approach is in terms of support ratios ….Rather than having 1 Learning Support staff to 400 students, you can potentially have the whole student population engaged in helping each other. And we have also observed, again and again, the immeasurably powerful synergistic effect of a student helping another student learn, and modeling the processes and skills of effective learning behaviour.
  • So here’s a simple diagram of what the SNAP! Platform will look like, and the different Web 2 functionalities it will have. As you can see it has a three-column series of windows to various kinds of information: blogs, tagclouds, calendars, booking systems and so on - as well as all the commentary, rating, tagging, and RSS feed functionality common to Web 2 platforms. In a central position it has a YouTube-like video player (“VU”Tube), that will present a repository of student-created learning skills vodcasts, an example of which, if we had more time, I could play for you. But you can see the thoroughly modern-looking skin: wide-screen, plasma TV!
  • So here’s a simple diagram of what the SNAP! Platform will look like, and the different Web 2 functionalities it will have. As you can see it has a three-column series of windows to various kinds of information: blogs, tagclouds, calendars, booking systems and so on - as well as all the commentary, rating, tagging, and RSS feed functionality common to Web 2 platforms. In a central position it has a YouTube-like video player (“VU”Tube), that will present a repository of student-created learning skills vodcasts, an example of which, if we had more time, I could play for you. But you can see the thoroughly modern-looking skin: wide-screen, plasma TV!
  • The idea behind the tagcloud resource links is to provide students with an easy and visual means of accessing academic skills resources on a particular topic. The Delicious tagcloud will provide a way for our staff, mentors and interested students to bookmark Web-based resources they think might be helpful for students.
  • If you’re not familiar with tagclouds, here is an example of one made from the text of my conference paper. In a tagcloud each of these words would be linked to a set of resources tagged with that particular word; the bigger the word, the more resources are tagged with that word.
  • The multiple blogs would be written by Learning Support staff, Peer Mentors, and Student Rovers, and would contain informal entries about learning ideas, resources, reflective thinking. The discussion forum would be an open forum for students to post questions about academic skills, and receive answers from staff and other students in return. As I say, students would have the opportunity to subscribe to the RSS feeds of any of these blogs or resources.
  • Upon authentication to the platform, students would also be able to personalize a widget page, by turning widgets on and off or potentially even adding their own that they could share with other students.
  • Now that I have mentioned the bugbear word “authentication”, I want to quickly show you how I propose the SNAP! Platform will sit in relation to other enterprise components – in particular to the main VU website and the student authentication portal, or Personal Learning Environment (PLE). The platform will be Web-facing from the main VU website. Students will be able to login from the platform itself to gain access to their personalized pages, as well as to other enterprise e-learning platforms such as our e-portfolio, Elgg, and so on. But the platform will also sit as a link from within the PLE, so that students will have already logged in. It is important to have this platform available both pre- and post- login, though this concept has proven to be one of the biggest headaches in terms of coordinating with the IT Powers-That-Be at the University! And that provides me with a neat segue into the ‘politics’ I promised you earlier.
  • “ The world is run by those who show up” That’s why it’s in such a mess: most of us are lurkers: it’s not representative. The ideal of the Greek polis has not eventuated. I see engagement as an essential academic - and life – skill. We need to encourage our students to be savvy, critical, and participatory. And I am not alone in this…
  • As some of you may know, the Obama administration has initiated a call for greater transparency and open government, and has created online tools for public participation and collaboration. But there is a force that may hinder this brave new world of Participatory democracy. (And no, I don’t think there’s a George Bush the Third biding his time on some pig farm somewhere).
  • It may be that “We the People of the University” may, in fact, stymie this open initiative - by which I mean both staff and students. The culture of apathy, passivity, and nasty politics is deeply engrained in our institutions – we all know it. It often looks like this…
  • Here are the teachers, administrators, managers, ITS business analysts, and bureaucrats who are involved in a game of institutional politics (some more than others). Political sharks that would rather play their power games than do what they are ultimately there to do: help students learn and learn how to learn. We need to guard against this, or else our institutions will lose their potential and their relevance. We need a Hippocratic Oath for our learning institutions that goes something like this: “ We swear by Apollo that we shall serve in the best interests of our students, do all we can to keep alive in our students the ‘desire to learn’, -click- and help them in their effort to reach their full potential - as empowered and critical-thinking members of the next generation - to govern this poor human-embattled earth better than we have ever been able to ourselves.”
  • Here are the teachers, administrators, managers, ITS business analysts, and bureaucrats who are involved in a game of institutional politics (some more than others). Political sharks that would rather play their power games than do what they are ultimately there to do: help students learn and learn how to learn. We need to guard against this, or else our institutions will lose their potential and their relevance. We need a Hippocratic Oath for our learning institutions that goes something like this: “ We swear by Apollo that we shall serve in the best interests of our students, do all we can to keep alive in our students the ‘desire to learn’, -click- and help them in their effort to reach their full potential - as empowered and critical-thinking members of the next generation - to govern this poor human-embattled earth better than we have ever been able to ourselves.”
  • Thank you!
  • Transcript

    • 1. Keith Kirkwood School of Learning Support Victoria University Melbourne Australia
    • 2. Learning support consultation
    • 3. © 2007 los vegas lass http://www.flickr.com/photos/7415612@N06/721645301/
    • 4. SNAP is
        • Peer learning
        • Active learning
        • Student participation
        • Personalization
        • Communities of practice
      A learning support platform, with Web 2.0 functionality and flexibility, designed to support:
    • 5. A new humanism
      • Sympathy empathy
      • self-actualization full potential
    • 6. A new humanism
      • Sympathy empathy
      • self-actualization full potential
    • 7. A new humanism
      • Sympathy empathy
      • self-actualization full potential
    • 8. Supporting pedagogies
      • Heutagogy (Hase & Kenyon, 2000) – non-linear self-directed learning
      • Connectivism (Siemens, 2004) – knowledge in the network; conceptual connections essential
      • Multiliteracies (Huijser, 2006) – incorporate textual, visual, video media in critical analysis
      • Media Literacy (Wesch, 2009) – student participation in content creation and knowledge making
      • Collaborative learning (Godwin-Jones, 2006) – learning opportunities for sharing, creating, reflecting
    • 9. Peer learning primacy
      • “ Is it time to consider a paradigm shift from teacher instruction to peer-learning primacy?”
      • “… shifting the balance from an instruction focus of learning support staff
      • to facilitating or supporting peer learning
      • is a timely response to the context of mass education
      • and technological developments.”
      Van der Meer, J., & Scott, C. (2008). Shifting the balance in first-year learning support: From staff instruction to peer-learning primacy. Australasian Journal of Peer Learning, 1 , 70-79. Available at http://ro.uow.edu.au/ajpl/vol1/iss1/9/
    • 10. Students supporting students learning at VU
      • Peer mentor programs embedded in faculty-based courses
      • Student rovers in the Learning Commons
      • Writing centre for reading and writing support
      • The SNAP! Platform = “VU Learning Community”
    • 11. Students supporting students learning at VU
      • Peer mentor programs embedded in faculty-based courses
      • Student rovers in the Learning Commons
      • Writing centre for reading and writing support
      • The SNAP! Platform = “VU Learning Community”
      Ratios of potential learning support: 1:400 LSS/student ratio 40000:40000 student/student ratio
    • 12.  
    • 13.  
    • 14.  
    • 15. “ Tagcloud” made from the text of my conference paper (made with www.wordle.net)
    • 16.  
    • 17.  
    • 18. SNAP! and university ITS infrastructure Outward-facing Pre-login Inward-facing Post-login VU website VU PLE SNAP!
    • 19.
      • “ The world is run by those who show up”
      • (Robert B. Johnson, 1999)
    • 20. Transparency and Open Government
      • “ My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration . Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
      • President Barack Obama
      http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/
    • 21. We the People of the University of <insert name here>
    • 22.  
    • 23.  
    • 24. Selected references
      • Farmer, M. (2009). LMS architecture proposal, parts 1-4, Meanwhile, back at the farm... Retrieved April 7 2009 from http://michaelfarmer.info/blog/?tag=lms-proposal
      • Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. UltiBASE . Retrieved from http://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm
      • Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. elearnspace . Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
      • Staley, D. J. (2009). Managing the platform: Higher education and the logic of wikinomics. EDUCAUSE Review, 44 (1), 36-47. Retrieved from http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/ManagingthePlatformHigher/47934
      • Wesch, M. (2009). From knowledgable to knowledge-able: Learning in new media environments. Academic Commons Retrieved 24 February 2009, from http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/knowledgable-knowledge-able

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