e-learning,  web 2.0

An everyday, modern learning experience

I had a modest, but telling, learning experience the other day. It isn’t remarkable in any way, but it hints at what might be achievable and how learning will occur more often in the future.

John Connell is one of my Facebook friends, although we have never met face to face, but we read and comment on each other’s blogs. I have added the virtual bookshelf application to my Facebook profile, and it displays Everything is Miscellaneous as the book I am currently reading. John saw this (I think this is what happened anyway), and posted a message on my wall suggesting I look at the David Weinberger/Andrew Keen face off at the conversation hub. I did this and found it very useful for crystallising some of the thoughts  I had been having around the RAE. I also watched the Clay Shirky video, and blogged about this.

An OU PhD student saw my post and contacted me about metaphor, we had an email exchange where I gave some references I had and they gave me some links too, with a paper in mind that I might write.

If you look back at that exchange there are lots of telling elements about this sequence, which I think will come to characterise much of how learning occurs:

i) It used a number of different technologies, which were of my choosing. Facebook (extended through my selection of apps), blogs, email – not a one size fits all system.

ii) It was largely informal, with hooks out to the formal.

iii) It involved people I trusted but who had never met.

iv) I didn’t feel like a student or a teacher at any stage, it was a peer dialogue, through which learning occurred.

This is a fairly trivial example, and one might argue that it is not ‘deep’ learning (whatever that is anyway). This is true to an extent, but view this is in a context that isn’t geared towards learning, and is still in its infancy. Imagine an environment (by which I mean a social environment, not a VLE), where the emphasis is much more on learning, where I am actively seeking knowledge rather than stumbling across it. The power of the network and these type of learning experiences then becomes much more substantial.


  • John Connell

    What I like about the sequence you describe, Martin, is the informality of it all. But what makes it a learning experience is the intent that each of the protagonists (you, me, the OU student) bring to our use of the various media mentioned. I wonder whether an environment with a specific emphasis on learning would be very much different from the mix of components we already use? Or would it simply be the expected intent behind the use made of the environment that would make it a ‘learning’ environment.
    You’ll be pleased to know I’ve been reading your own book – Virtual Learning Environments – and realising how helpful it would have been to me 3 or 4 years ago when I was wrestling with the spec for SSDN!
    Overall, though, there is still one aspect of the whole Web 2.0/social networking field (growing all the time, of course) that slightly bothers me, and that is the willingness of many of its proponents to forego the underlying power that can be brought to a learning environment by the implementation of an ‘enterprise-level’ identity management core. I think I’ll try to elaborate on this in a post.

  • Martin

    Yes John, I think the informality is at the heart of it. That it’s both its strength, in that it perhaps suits the medium better, and its weakness, in that it is still debatable that you can get the prolonged, in-depth engagement needed.
    Thanks for reading the book – like all things there are some bits of it I like better than others already.
    I’d like to see your thoughts on your last point. Do you mean the sort of benefits that can be gained from tracking activity across different tools, which is lost in a dumb integration? Or something else?

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