ObjectiveTonight I would like to introduce you to an old concept that through technology has grown in many new ways that can be used to greatly enhance your learning, as well as the learning of the students in your classroom and workplace. DefinitionLearning Communities has a very broad definition. It essentially breaks down to: “any group of individuals who work together to learn from one another on a central topic or area of interest.” Inclusion in educational system“The Learning Communities approach to education addresses the needs for students to deal with complex issues, figure things out for themselves, communicate and work with people from diverse backgrounds and views, and share what they learn with others.” – Bielaczyc and Collinns Our world is getting more interconnected, and our students need to understand that the person they may be working with in the future will not necessarily be sitting next to them, let alone in the same hemisphere and on the same continent Development using technologySome of the descriptive phrases I encountered when preparing this presentation for our class, in regards to technology include…•Software and hardware are only vehicles in the creation of an environment that is conducive to learning•In a virtual learning environment, the teacher truly becomes the “guide on the side”; students play a much more active role in their learning; collaboration is essential to this success.•The need for social connection is a goal that almost supersedes the content-oriented goals of the course.•Technology should not drive the course!•Instructors in the online arena may find that the time needed to deliver this type of class is two or three times greater than F2F (dependent on the tolls being used.) When using technology to design a learning community, the technology should not be the driving force behind the learning community. The technology must compliment the learning goals and objectives, and not be a hindrance to the learning experience of the audience.
What do you think of when you hear the words “Learning Communities”?Learning Communities is a concept that has been used by many civilizations in many eras to increase educational learning and personal growth.Historically speaking the great civilizations have based their education systems on learning communities, or slight variations thereof:GreeksRomansChineseIn the 1980 & 1990’s Education ion America headed back to a community type learning environment that focused on group goals and outcomes. The idea of the community good, was in some ways emphasized over the mastery of facts, because the information age was taking off and the amount of informational facts was continuing to grow exponentially, so simple memorization and paper pencil tests were giving way to hand on learning and project oriented evaluations.Technology todayThere are an almost unlimited number of learning options these days for our technologically advanced (haves) to connect with groups and students in the next room, next state and around the world.
Here are some examples of various technological and non-technological learning communities today.
The learning community is designed to bring together people of different abilities and experiences to help facilitate the learning. The common interest (goal) is the driving factor. The learning experience is not necessarily the same for every participant; the idea is that everyone learns from each individual in the group. In an ideal learning community grades do not exist.The idea is that the people will become “life-long learners”.Depth - The largest advantage is the opportunity to “dive deep” into a specific topicCommon Goals/Interests – Those with common interests commit at a greater level to the group and increase the depth and breadth of the learning experience.Diversity – Many options give opportunity for quality debate and problem solving opportunities. Without a wide range of ideals and people the learning may have a very narrow focus, and short lived time frame.Use of technology – People tend to learn the technology, as they invest in the group activity. “Learning through the use of technology allows the participants to explore its use in more general terms. Students participating regularly in an online course cannot help but improve their ability to use technology with confidence.Global Connection – We all realize how much we are connected globally these days, just look at the recent crisis with the world financial system, and the way that it was, and still is, felt globally.
I like this quote – isn’t this true in any group or team activity – The sum is greater than each of the parts”. How much more do you invest in something when you feel a strong personal connection to it?
Technology assists learning – As I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, the technology needs to compliment the learning, not impede it’s progress. If the technological problems are too great – the learning community will not flourish. In addition, if the focus is on the technology it will not make for a comfortable group experience for anyone.Goal: More meaningful learning – Always keep this in mind! What do you want the participants to remember from this experience……wow that was a great experience I want to go investigate that some more. Or, glad that is done, I never have to do that again. I am sure you can all think of projects you have been a part of, or designed, that those sentiments and feelings still linger when that particular item is mentioned.Life-long skills/interestsThe goal for the learning should be that it is more meaningful than in a traditional classroom settling.
Here are many of the popular products being used today by educational institutions which include a place for learning communities.
These are many different types of open source options for learning communities – think of our class Intencyclopedia. How about your favorite blog? Why do you follow it? Is it connected to your job? Personal interest?Have you used a Wiki for a group project? Ever watched a Youtube video to complete a project? Listened to a podcast on your favorite subject?As you are probably familiar with the term Web 2.0 : here is a list of possible open source options to create a learning community for you or your classroom.Wiki’sBlogsPodcasts – Itunes U, Jpodder, etc.Video – YoutubeSocial Networks: Facebook, MySppace, etc.Twitter, Whispur, etc.
In conclusion the following four ideas seemed to be common threads through my reading and research.A Connection to the correct learningcommunityInterest/Challenge – in a specific subject area for youNurture/develop love of learning – through good methodology and teachersGuidance is critical – through both the selecting of communities, use of the technology, and most importantly in the instruction given!The future of learning is rooted in getting students connected to a learning community that interests and challenges them. It needs to be a place that they can have their love of learning nurtured and developed.Education needs to stay aware, and ‘on top of”,what is available out there, because if we do not develop and steer or students to good examples of learning communities they will find them on their own.
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