Monday, 14 February 2011

#cck11 social media in education - too early to tell?

Larry Kahn posted at
New Things New Ways
what is probably a fairly representative account of attitudes of skepticism with regards to technology in schools, with the difference that at his school, the outcomes are mostly positive, both on a personal and community level.

 I do share his optimism about social media, but my hunch - based on anecdote, rather than hard evidence is that learners (particularly younger learners) are not first and foremost engaging with this technology for learning purposes. Pupils might use live chat to find out what homework was set, or if there is a test scheduled for the next day, but not in a truly connected way.

Coming from the old school of set curricula and hierarchical learning I imagine there needs to be more instruction on how to use these tools, apart from the warnings against plagiarism (copy and paste) and making sure  kids know that they can and should venture beyond  wikipedia to collect material for presentations.
Countering this perhaps wrongly perceived need, Sugata Mitra's experiments in self-learning show that kids are incredibly resourceful if they want to be. And that's Indian village kids and slum kids, with virtually no access to formal education or a guiding hand in negotiating cyberspace.

On the more critical side regarding the significance of social media as a learning tool, Neil Selwyn from the Knowledge Lab/IoE makes some powerful points in favour of set curricula - and acknowledges the fact that not everyone can be a self-directed learner.

Personally I am interested in social media and distance learning via the web at the HE level, particularly in classical music. I also like the idea of harnessing a peer-network for feed-back and direction. This is for several reasons, but the main ones are concerned with accessibility and improving the methodology and quality of teaching. The teaching model of a conservatoire is firmly rooted in the 19th century. Curricula and methodology would benefit imo from an overhaul and technological additions.

Many participants of cck11 have commented on the fragmentation of knowledge and the aleatoric/conncetivist element of learning in a MOOC and online in general. I feel that once exposed to a medium or learning environment,  learners are able to judge for themselves where the quality is. In fact crowd-sourcing and 'density' of traffic and links will be a fairly good indicator of quality content. (speculation on my part).

Whatever the eventual shifts, I also agree with Neil Selwyn that it is still very early to tell in which direction we will be progressing. Was it Mao, who when asked to comment about the French Revolution, replied: 'it's too early to tell' ?


  1. Your hunch that young learners are not engaging with this technology for learning purposes is in synch, for the most part with my observations and with the data obtained by the McCarthur Foundations extensive study on teens.

    That said, things are beginning to change. I'm finding that the younger students, ages 8-10 are more open to using these tools for academic reasons than older students.

    I suspect that that is due to the fact that older students have learned how to be successful at school in the old way. As such, they know the rules of the game. They know how to get top marks using the old educational model and are suspicious of any teacher who is changing the rules of the game so close to when they are ready to go off to the university. That said, there are a few exceptions, such as this blog created by two 15 year old girls who are readers:

    The younger students, however, are connecting. They love Skyping in authors and experts to their classrooms. They are blogging and using other web 2.0 tools. I expect that as these students grow up that they will continue to keep learning by connecting whether their teachers use these tools in their practice or not.

  2. A friend just pointed out that the comment about the French Revolution was Zhou En Lai - no time to check on wikipedia right now ):