“experienced teachers draw on a mixture of common-sense knowledge, in which learning usually means acquiring factual knowledge that can be memorised and reproduced in written forms, and much more elaborate psychological accounts, which emphasise that learning is a search for meaning that is built upon pre-existing knowledge and is often realised in a social environment rather than something that simply takes place ‘in the head’ of the individual.”
Many students find that their learning is most effective when they actively construct knowledge during group social interaction and collaboration. Characteristics of such approaches also include: an awareness of multiple perspectives, provision of realistic contexts, a sense of ownership and voice, learning as a social experience, an acknowledgement of multiple modes of representation and a sense of self-awareness (metacognition, or learning about learning). These approaches are variously called social constructivism, social learning, collaborative learning or aggregated learning. The theories of social constructivist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social constructivism) epistemology and Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Vygotsky) provide a rigorous underpinning for such pedagogies.
ICT technology centred around the intranet and web are also in a process of evolving from a ‘place’ into social and collaborative platform in which many are rapidly developing a voice and an awareness of multiple perspectives. Publishing information on the web no longer requires programming or web design skills: anyone can do it with the new sites that are emerging. Some are calling this “Web 2.0” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web 2.0) and it is having an enormous impact on how we get things done, and is much closer to Tim Berners-Lee’s (http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/) original conception of the Web as a read-write medium. As Ross Mayfield of SocialText (http://www.socialtext.com/weblog/) recently said in his blog:
“[Users now] Google, Flickr, blog, contribute to Wikipedia, Socialtext it, Meetup, post, subscribe, feed, annotate, and above all share. In other words, the Web is increasingly less about places and other nouns, but verbs.”
For example news gathering is now performed by individuals at the scene and posted by them on the web directly, rather than being the territory of the traditional press and media. Furthermore, students are increasingly familiar with using technologies such as the internet, email and the web in these ways collaborative ways, often for social or recreational purposes but also on issues of group importance.
Bringing these two developments together creates the ability to facilitate the social constructivist learning exemplified by the best classroom practice through ICT. This provides new, more effective ways of teaching and learning, beyond the traditional constraints of time and location. With this approach, the focus is moved from the technology and media itself, to the communication and collaboration which forms the heart of the learning experience.
ICT used in this way enables educators and students themselves to rapidly create and publish their own content, and enables the shared construction of knowledge artefacts and meaning, thus moving into the realm of social constructionist. Such creativity happens without the need of technology experts,