#cck11 Week 4: Waddayawannaknow? I dunno.

I watched and listened to about two-thirds of Neil Selwyn’s session from earlier today before I lost the sound on my Macbook. I checked out the geek forums and it’s not looking good. I feel paralysed; unable to access crucial content and have a share in one of the key experiences of the course. It’s funny, because today I was facilitating a guest speaker session on diversity, equality and disability in higher education, which opened my eyes a bit to the experiences of students with all sorts of access difficulties. Now, being rendered deaf until Monday – at least in terms of the audio-based content in #cck11 – I get to have my eyes opened a bit wider still.

I found it really interesting to think about the range of people ‘pushing’ the use of social media in education and what might be driving them to do so. I found it difficult to identify with any particular one of the categories Neil presented; I love learning, and I have a leaning towards online social learning because, while I love talking with people, I often feel much more comfortable when I’m at a distance from them. Learning online, with people I don’t really know and who don’t know me, has worked for me, so I believe in it. Mind you, I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘pusher’ of social media in education. I’ve experienced its challenges as well as its benefits.

In fact, it’s a wonder how these ‘pushers’ maintain their belief in their own agenda, if they’re immersing themselves in this world of open-minded, reasoned debate, sharing and discussion. You would have thought the rest of the connectivism brigade would have beaten them back onto the fence where we all belong…

Another interesting point Neil came out with was that people who are ‘good at learning’ can learn anywhere. This is a refreshing take on it; no ‘multiple intelligences’ or ‘learning styles’ but a continuum that extends from being ‘good at learning’ to, presumably, being ‘not good at learning’. This, to me, resonates with John Biggs’ ‘Roberts’ and ‘Susans’. However, Biggs – and the rest of the deep/surface learning crowd – stress that ‘Robertness’ and ‘Susanness’ does not have to be innate in the individual, but can be influenced by several factors that we, the educator, have control over. I guess we *have* to believe that, otherwise we’d all go crazy with the futility of it all, but it doesn’t fit brilliantly with this idea of the ‘good at learning’-‘not good at learning’ continuum.

Regardless, I agree with Neil that, whether someone is, or is being, good at learning – or not – there is still value in – sometimes – being told what to read and what to listen to (provided your audio is working). The danger of entirely discovery-based learning – as Neil said – is that “people don’t know what they don’t know”. All my PG Cert tutees have, at some point, alluded to this as a core anxiety they have about their learning. Having someone who’s further along in the journey to point out where they might go next, is really, really useful.

My own interim conclusion on the social media front is to carry on going with what my students want to do. I’m not going to start making them use social media, or even recommending it, but I’ll continue to encourage open debate on the benefits and challenges, and if they are interested in giving it a go I’ll give them all the help and advice they need.

12 thoughts on “#cck11 Week 4: Waddayawannaknow? I dunno.

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  2. Hi Lindsay,

    Great post. I’m with you. Contrary to what most would expect, all of our students aren’t into social media. Also, there is the occasaional malfunction. What do you do when the audio goes out? You need good “Pre-social media skills, namely, “let’s talk with one another”. Loved your post, Cheers, Thomas

    • Ha ha ha…. Many of our students couldn’t be *less* into social media!! I think one of them described blogs and twitter as ‘symbolic of everything that is wrong with the world’ 😀

      They *do* appreciate talking though. At least I think they do!

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  4. Hi Lindsay, it would be interesting to know if you think of me, or the Learner-Generated Contexts Group, as being ‘pushers’ of social media, as we talk about it a lot. If you look at the Open Context Model of Learning we don’t mention technology.
    I get the sense that you are slightly overwhelmed with the requirement to use social media, which may be on a push basis from the institution perhaps? Whereas I think that we have developed good ‘pedagogic’ strategies based on years of practice (or the Craft of Teaching as I call it) which enables us to use social media as part of developing a co-creation of learning approach.
    I think the good-at-learning bad-at-learning is very unhelpful, unless you are an elitist. Certainly if you are interested in socially inclusive learning you develop techniques that enable inclusivity, usually around differentiating each learner, identifying their interests and enabling them to manage their own learning.
    Here is a useful presentation of how you might use social media for learning;
    Sugata Mitra believes in a *just say yes* approach and his granny cloud is about positive re-inforcement, but if the organisation demands increased outputs and is interested in using social media in order to scale learning to reduce costs, you just get overwhelmed educators.

    • Hi Fred – nope, I don’t think I’ve expressed myself very clearly there – there’s definitely no push on me that I can determine from my institution regarding social media; if anything it’s me and a few other renegade colleagues who are doing the pushing. I do what I can to try and encourage my PG Cert participants to dip their toes in the world of blogs and twitter, as I do with any other approach to sampling new perspectives and engaging in dialogue. I just struggled to identify myself with any of Neil’s categories when it came to analysing my agenda in doing so. I agree with you about the importance of differentiating for learners and supporting them in learning the way they choose – that’s why I would be reluctant to describe myself as a ‘pusher’!

  5. Using social media in a classroom is a bit strange, why use twitter when you can speak directly. But social media can be a help connecting people outside the classroom. There is a lot of interesting stuff outside the classroom. Maybe some students would like to explore the possibilities of that for you?
    regards Jaap

    • Hi Jaap – thanks for the comment. I was definitely referring to using social media to connect *beyond* the classroom and the institution. I teach Academic Practice/Learning & Teaching at postgraduate level to Art, Design & Media teachers, where there is a real mix of perspectives and experience of online communication. The participants have both the opportunity – and sometimes the motivation – to connect with each other online but, for those who are ready and willing, I also want to do what I can to open their eyes to new and beneficial connections. Another blog post coming up with some initial ideas for how to put this in practice – watch this space!

    • Social media is useful for large sections of a class.
      As an undergraduate I took an intro to computer science course, in an auditorium, with a hundred students. If the instructor stopped to answer everyone’s question, it would make the class not progress. Using things like twitter and a hash-tag, one can see an overall sentiment on something that is being said/taught/shown. If many people don’t get what is going on, it can be addressed then and there. After class the instructor can really address issues that weren’t addressed in class.

      • Sure – however, there are also low-tech/no-tech ways of getting a similar degree of feedback from a large group that require less ‘working memory’. Twitter, and even text messaging, is anathema to many of my PG Cert participants, and besides this they generally like to focus on one thing at a time. Fortunately at the moment I’m only having to work with between 35-50 participants in one go – although give them a decent topic to get their teeth into, and the questions and discussion could go on forever. However, it’s still easy to assume that everyone is bumbling along happily with the goings-on when they’re not. I’ve started using traffic light cards – a bundle of red, orange and green cards – one of each colour for each person – and encouraging them to wave the amber and/or red cards at me if things start getting a bit sticky. It also means that I can pause and ask for feedback from the entire room on a particular point or topic; whether to gauge understanding, agreement, comfort or some other parameter. This was a little trick I picked up while teaching secondary science 🙂

  6. Interesting post!
    My 9 year old Mac PowerBook has the same problems: the sound card isn’t working, the microphone isn’t working, video can be slow (since I have to boot into safe mode). This means that I consume most of my media on my handheld. This has made me more aware of issues with eLearning in general. Flash-based programs don’t run on my iPhone, audio from elluminate sessions needs to be cleaned up in order to be listened to (you can only increase the volume so much on a portable device) and most eLearning content that has spoken content doesn’t seem to have closed-captions or a transcript.

    For me the solution is simple: buy a new computer, however I get by well with my iPhone and my PowerBook (regardless of its state of disrepair), but what happens when people actually have a condition that they CAN’T fix by buying new equipment? Something to think about for all of us designers and educators 🙂

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