Monday, August 04, 2008

International Conference on Teaching and Learning with Technology: Day 0

The Seminar title was promising enough, "Web 2.0: The Power of Learning in a Networked World". But it looks like even Web 1.0 has yet to kick off in this region. Here's an analogy straight from this afternoon's experience: When I walked into the conference this afternoon, there were already some people seated, waiting for the event to begin. We were all individually scattered, keeping as much physical distance from each other as possible.

In a "networked world", the idea is that we'd walk into an environment that we'd find information about each other very quickly, establish common grounds with each other and begin trashing out ideas and opinions almost the instant we met each other. That wasn't happening. Instead, we sat apart, kept doing our own things trying not to attract attention to ourselves until a familiar face walked through the door, and only then to cluster into a node of discussion. Turned out that me, Kev and Wan became the noisiest node (imagine that!) simply because three of us came from the same institution, whereas everyone else came either alone or in a pair at the most.

Because physically we weren't networking as a whole, it was obvious that no one was networking online either. With the exception of yours truly and his little blog, I suppose. And even then, I'm not much of a networker, either. So instead of me learning from more experienced Web 2.0 users, it became more of a session where our speaker, J Connell, tried to convince the rest of his audience to at least get started with a personal blog, and see what happens from there.

Connell also showed us some other useful tools as well, such as RSS aggregators and other means of sharing information amongst a smaller, personally defined audience rather than jumping straight into the wild and wooly world wide web itself. So at least out of this afternoon, I got a clue about some new toys I could start playing with.

Don't know what the situation will be over the next couple of days at the Conference, but I gather so far that I am one of the pioneers in the transformation education is about to undergo now that human knowledge is shifting to occupy an increasingly electronic space. I still have a lot to learn about this promising medium, but because we already have the infrastructure, we might as well figure out how to use it to its best advantage.

To me, that best advantage is to let each learner create his (or her) own "learning environment", sourcing their own materials, experiences, and mentors for whatever it is they want to learn. From the diversity of experiences, a class -- whether physical or online -- becomes a home node for a group of learners who teach and learn from each other. That of course means that the teacher can no longer be the "source" (and we'd be deluding ourselves if we think we still are in this day and age), but an orchestrator of the learning that goes on in the class. That'll be a major task for us, in keeping flexible enough to work all that cacophony into some kind of music that everyone can make sense of.

With the web, there is no more need for content, just relevance and coherence, tempered with strong values. We're rewriting the entire book of pedagogy, and for me, it's cool to be starting on page one.

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