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.