Two interesting posts this week at e-Literate that dovetail nicely with my ruminations about â€œopen learning networks.â€
First, Nathan Garrett launches a critique of the â€œmodern CMSâ€ with a picture of a young man sitting watching a video monitor (looks to be circa 1965). Garret asks: â€œIs this our modern course management system?â€ Garrett bemoans the fact that CMSs are primarily about one-way information dissemination. Alternatively, he argues that we should encourage the use of social software which promotes the ideals of student creation and ownership of content, peer learning, and public review of their work.
In another post, Glen Moriarty argues that todayâ€™s CMS/LMS falls short of its true potential because of a hesitancy to leverage the â€œWeb 2.0 strengths of the Internet.â€ Moriarty is the CEO of Nixty where he intends to â€œcreate applications that intrinsically motivate people to learn and teach others.â€ Building on Googleâ€™s OpenSocial, OpenCourseWare and OpenID, he believes we can create an infrastructure which will â€œamplify learning for people and institutions around the globe.â€
In my estimation, both critiques of the â€œmodernâ€ CMS and the proposals about where to go from here are right on the money. If we persist in simply automating what happens in the classroom (predominantly lecture and information dissemination), weâ€™re not leveraging the power of the tools available to us. (As an aside, wouldn’t it be great if you could authenticate once into your institutional learning environment and be simultaneously logged in to Google, your Blog, etc. Or vice versa?)
But how do we convince others to change? That change is even necessary? How do we encourage administrators, faculty and students to make the kinds of changes, small and large, that will move us toward these ideals?
The challenge before us is a social and cultural one, not a technical one. As observers like Garrett and Moriarty rightly point out, we already have the technology before us to facilitate better learning. So why donâ€™t we use it more and more effectively?
If youâ€™ve read my previous posts (or even the title of my blog site), you’ve probably gathered that my philosophy of learning technology is more focused on learning than it is on technology. By this view, itâ€™s actually backwards to start the conversation by talking about technology. In fact, with many of our colleagues we should avoid talking about technology (especially specific technologies) as much as possible, particularly at the outset. We should begin by talking about what we want to students to be, to become and be able to do.
Do we want students to be more literate? More capable of expressing themselves cogently and persuasively? Using a variety of media? Weâ€™d be hard-pressed to find anyone in higher education answer â€œNoâ€ to any of these questions.
Do we want students to feel more confident creating their own content, be that content text, graphics, animation, video, whatever? Do we want them to learn the value of testing their ideas (their â€œcontentâ€) in the market place of ideas, seeking and responding to othersâ€™ thoughtful responses to what theyâ€™ve created? Again, the answer to these questions is an emphatic â€œYes!â€
I concur with Garrett and Moriarty that Web 2.0 technologies and social software can be used to significantly transform and improve learning. But not everyone sees (or even sees the need for) such a future. As technology thought leaders in the academic community, we bear the responsibility of bringing others along, helping them see the proverbial light. As the old saw goes, â€œYou catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.â€ As enamored as we can sometimes become with technology, the real â€œhoneyâ€ we must use to convince others is the passion we share with them for learning.