Over the past month or so I have been trying to read Disrupting Class by Clay Christensen. Very unintentionally I have gone about this task in a very non-linear, web 2.0 kind of way. As I started reading I came across an interview with Michael Horn on the Seedlings show that gave me some idea where the book was going. I then noticed that a Disrupting Class Book Talk group had been started on the Seedlings Ning and that someone else was posting reflections. I’m the sort of person that learns best when I can bounce ideas off of other people so this potential space for an online discussion really motivated me to really read and think about the ideas in this book. I’m sure this same process would work really well for certain kinds of students.
I haven’t quite finished reading, but these are my take-away ideas so far:
- The reason that technology has not had a significant impact on student learning so far is that it has been implemented within the existing school framework and as such it has managed to improve how schools do what they do (teach to the middle; motivate extrinsically; teach to certain intelligences) but it has not helped the populations of students that traditionally don’t do well at school. Christensen suggests that in order to for technology to transform education and truly help students individualise their school experience it needs to be introduced in the areas where the present framework doesn’t apply (what he calls the nonconsumers). It is here that the technology can come into it’s own, the glitches can be worked out and it’s true transformative effects can be showcased. Once they have proven their worth these technologies will work their way from the fringes into the center of our school systems, thereby disrupting the old paradigm. They see online/e-learning as the area where disruptive technologies will work their way into our school systems. This argument made a lot of sense to me and I wondered whether the same approach might work with teachers trying to use technology in their classrooms; if they first used technology to address a part of their classroom practice that they were unhappy with then they might be more willing to take a risk and try something new.
- In the future web 2.0 tools will allow everyone to be a teacher and everyone to be a learner. They envision a future in which the online tools for creating content are sophisticated enough to allow anyone to create content and share it online. This content would be modular so that different bits from different places could be fit together to create personalised lessons and courses that meet each student’s individual learning needs. They see this content as being produced by and for a “user network” that drives the creation of new content and rates existing content. This is a really powerful vision and I know that I haven’t done it justice. I really liked the idea that in this context students become teachers of other students. There was great quote along the lines of: “Teaching
something is the best way to learn because you have to format material in a
way consistent with your intelligence type”, that I really agree with.
I’ve been trying to figure out what this modular, user generated online learning environment could look like in the context of the tools available today, these are my ideas so far:
- Blog posts and Podcasts on certain topics could be aggregated into an online course assuming they are tagged in a way that they can be found.
- Mathcasts could be created by students in one class and rated could be used by other students to learn.
- Online flashcards like at Quizlet can be created by one user, improved by others and then shared with the rest of the community.
- Wiki pages on different topics can be created and shared by teams of students.
I have to admit I have found this vision of individualised learning facilitated by web 2.0 tools and user networks very compelling. The piece that is still missing for me is the motivation and study skills needed for a student to be successful in an online environment. This was really brought home to me recently when I read these blog posts by Ken Allen and Claire Thompson.