Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies – More thoughts

I thought that this was an interesting attempt, even if I would not subscribe to it wholeheartedly. The author takes the formal dimensions of traditional learning – objectives, time, measurement, improvement and content or knowledge – and maps them to Learning 2.0, defined loosely as a combination of social networks, collaboration, and the rest. I think that the main problem is that there isn’t going to be a simply mapping like that. It’s like when people ask, “how do i use blogs to teach English?” Blogs aren’t a teaching tool, and you shouldn’t just expect to use Web 2.0 tools to do Learning 1.0 tasks.

Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies? ~ Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes

Thanks, Stephen for your review. It has spurred on a few more thoughts.

So what happens if we step away from the technology itself for a bit (blogs, wikis etc) and look at the five basic components of learning – goals, time, measurement, improvement and content/knowledge.

My main assumption was these are generic to learning – whether traditional learning or learning 2.0 – and I want to test that assumption.

To start off, Goals. Are there learning activities that do not have a goal? Certainly in the mind of the teacher, the goal is well-defined. If I want to teach someone how to install a particular software application, I would sequence a set of activities for the learner that I think would enable her to meet that learning goal. If the learner was to try and think what those activities would be at the outset, these activities may not be apparent. Rather these activities would be “discovered” as the learner collaborates and gains more knowledge.

For example, when I started out trying to understand learning 2.0, my starting point was Stephen’s article. As I moved through the article, clicked through on links, researched terms on Google, saw related presentations on Slideshare, videos on YouTube and joined blogs relevant to the domain, I began to piece together an understanding of the space that is continuously validated and critiqued by the community that views my posts. Along the way, I learnt many things incidentally which are now “filed away” in my repository and may come in use in another context for another learning goal. Were blogs a source of learning for me? Certainly. Would I use blogs or voicethread to teach? In certain types of activities, why not?

What is interesting is that I am limited by what I can access and experience. Even with all the tools, such as being able to ask the community for an answer, social bookmarking and those around folksonomies, there are limits to what I can access (what I find) and experience (what all do I really get my community to respond and mentor me on). Kind of reminds me of when I created a content management system for egurucool, tags were a window or a view of a cross-section of the huge content repository that we had.

In the entire process, the learner may achieve “discovered” goals, but not till the end of this achievement be potentially able to really demonstrate how the learning goals should have been met.

This also takes me to Time. Any learning activity, depending upon context, will either be or not be constrained by time. These constraints may be internal or external to the learner, such as the need to learn something so as to solve an immediate problem or the need to demonstrate proficiency in a given learning context. The ability of the learner to meet a learning goal in a constrained period of time is a function of the path that she has to take to meet those goals and how easy or difficult it is to achieve that. Lots of learners would perhaps say, “just tell me how it is done”.

Measurement.  There is a measure attached to everything we learn, whether by ourselves (self-assessment), by our community (peer reviews) or by our performance (external assessments, certifications and scores) stakeholders. The measure could be satisfaction levels (I got that argument right!) or could be a high SAT score (I topped the rankings!) or any other measure. How we measure it in the workplace or at school has been the subject of many discussions? How we measure it effectively has been the subject of countless others. However, there is a measure.

Improvement. Is this a generic factor too? I believe that it is fundamental. I can’t think of a learning situation that does not have scope for improvements in learning. In fact, we continuously improve all the time. Here is where I feel 2.0 has a distinct edge though.

Content/Knowledge. Can any learning context not be associated with a structured base of knowledge. Yes, it can. Can any learning context not have an informal base of knowledge? Yes, it can. Can both be true? No.

I feel fairly comfortable that my assumptions hold and as I wrote, are applicable in different ways to both 1.0 and 2.0 modes. So lets get the technology into the picture.

Why cannot we use a 2.0 technology in a 1.0 world to accomplish “1.0 tasks”? Is there something about 2.0 technology that restricts it’s use there? Or is it simply that it is inappropriate to use for a 1.0 task? For example, would I use SAP to store kitchen recipes (perhaps it would be inappropriate :), and SAP may not be able to do it anyways).

Certainly some types of technology are better suited for a specific context than others. But the goal should be to harness the right technology for the right learning context as far as possible. Technology is an enabler and not the end point.

If a teacher were to use a blog to teach English and asked an expert for that, the expert may find the right way to construct such a blog. However, it may not be the best way to teach English and the teacher should be encouraged to understand why and when to use a particular technology (or not at all).

I completely agree that the “keeping up with the Joneses” is detrimental. Just because a technology or tool is gaining hype and currency does not mean that it is the best use in your scenario and Stephen does well to remind us of that!

More to follow in my next post. I am particularly intrigued by a presentation that George made and believe it ties in to this discussion very well too. Thanks for your interest!

Sequel: Part 3: Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies

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3 thoughts on “Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies – More thoughts

Add yours

  1. You make some excellent points. It’s important to think before you leap when making a commitment to using 2.0 tools for learning. I just think that there’s potential for good use, but it takes some time and creativity to think of useful and powerful applications. Too offen, at least in the business world, we’re compelled, sometimes by our managers, to act on what’s new and innovative. We don’t get the time to think things through as we should. On the other hand, sometimes you can’t learn without making mistakes. Also, I shudder to think what “SAP” would do to my recipes. 🙂


  2. Viplav,

    This is a very interesting discussion, I think, because you and Stephen represent well two different perspectives on 2.0 technologies.

    You are have an instructional background and are looking at 2.0 technologies through an instructional lens and asking, essentially, Is it possible to relate these 2.0 technologies to the core elements of teaching (i.e., instructional teaching)?

    Stephen, on the other hand (in my humble opinion, from reading and hearing him), doesn’t particularly like to look through the instructional lens. The instructional lens looks for objectives and measurement and the delivery of content and so forth, and Stephen (again, in my opinion) finds these elements stifling and control-oriented and one-way.

    Stephen prefers to look through a network lens in which people are contributing information and finding information of interest to them, regardless of whether anyone has established an objective and regardless of whether it is measurable.

    I think this is an important discussion and I don’t think it’s just semantics.

    As people in the teaching/training profession — who have instructional backgrounds, instructional lenses, instructional roles — look at 2.0 technologies, they understandably ask, How do these technologies relate to teaching?

    But people who have a more purely Internet/networking sensibility and who do not feel tied to instruction, want to say something like, “Forget teaching. This isn’t teaching. These tools allow something new. Something different. Forget the objectives and the measurement.”

    So it’s a conceptual issue: do we expand the concept of teaching/instruction to include this 2.0/networking stuff? Or do we say, There’s teaching, with objectives, measurement, and so forth, and then there’s this 2.0 stuff, which really needs to be called something else?


  3. Thanks, Natalie and Tom. I responded to Stephen’s response here – Part 3: Learning 2.0 Formal Methologies.

    Tom, absolutely! This is not just semantics. I am trying to find a meaningful way to apply the new 2.0 style in the context of business or academic needs. In fact, it is not just me who is trying to do this. Many of my customers are asking us to demonstrate the connection between what they are doing and how they should leverage this new style to get better effectiveness. And I believe that some of the needs of the digital natives/digital immigrants/new generation of learners and corporations/academia are best met with this style.

    Natalie, I think we absolutely should use Web 2.0 tools for learning and do so in creative ways. Each new wave of technology brings about questions of how applicable it is to our domains, but I do not have a single doubt that this is something that can be leveraged.

    What learning 2.0 has given us is a way to direct our learning as individuals in a social community, something that was, prior to web 2.0, difficult technologically at least (you still had tools like forums, chat and those around communities of practice).

    But is it a new way (2.0) of learning, or is it just a style that has been enabled by technology. For example, if someone devised a way to teach a whole generation of learners who have a high musical intelligence quotient, would it qualify as a revolution in learning? Everyone would still not learn that way, right, just those with a high musical intelligence quotient? And organizations may not see much sense in developing content for those groups within the organization because of the cost factor.

    On the other hand, what if this is really how people learn and not by 1.0 styles? Then it would be revolutionary. And this what seems to be the belief that rationalizes the “2.0”.

    Be that as it may, learning and development divisions of organizations still need to experiment and work with these new technologies because of the apparent benefits. And, I think it is up to us to see how we can facilitate parts of that process.


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