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Web 2.0 and the trend towards self directed learning environments - page 10 / 16

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McLoughlin and Lee

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Moving towards the personalisation of learning environments also entails aiding learners in developing the fundamental skills that enable them to manage their own learning. The 2009 Horizon report (New Media Consortium, 2009) stresses that a critical challenge is to design learning experiences that scaffold the development of key competencies, including visual, technological and information literacy and the ‘soft’ skills of communication and teamwork. In the digital age, the range of scaffolds is varied and complex, and the learner must play an active role in negotiating the type of contextual, social and task support needed. The meaning of scaffolding is no longer confined to its original association of expertise provided by a knowledgeable other (Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976), but has expanded to include learner selected assistance, peer interactions, or could be embedded in technology.

The above having been said, despite the abundance of good practice examples there continue to be significant gaps in teachers’ espoused and enacted learner-centred pedagogies. In the Web 2.0 era, the need to close these gaps to achieve truly student centred learning is paramount, as learners, more so than ever before, desire and demand high degrees of autonomy, connectivity and socio-experiential learning (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008). Fortunately, Web 2.0 also equips educators with a rich repertoire of services and applications to address this challenge by enabling learner choice and allowing creative decisions about how to best to set learning goals and create learning environments that support those goals. The essential difference in the role of the institution is a move from delivery of content to a focus on designing experiences to facilitate personal learning, capability building and skills development, combined with a renewed emphasis on curriculum design that values the student’s voice and needs in shaping decision making.

Conclusion

In this article, we have argued for personalised learning spaces, resources and environments to be developed, supported and created through systematic design as well as by inclusion of both instructor and learner perspectives, as well as for the integration of Web 2.0 tools and strategies. As online or Internet based learning is now the mode of learning for many students globally, there is an often an expectation that students commence university study with reasonably high levels of digital skills to enable them to negotiate, interact and access resources independently (Lorenzo & Dziuban, 2006; Katz & Macklin, 2007). Also, as noted in many recent reports, the dispositions developed through engagement with Web 2.0 and social software technologies – i.e. communication skills, participation, networking, sharing – overlap with what are viewed as essential 21st-century learning and employability skills (Punie, Cabrera, Bogdanowicz, Zinnbauer & Navajas, 2006; Jenkins, 2007; CLEX, 2009).

Nonetheless we have made a case for stronger and more explicit scaffolding of essential skills and digital literacies as students may not have advanced knowledge of how to use the technology for academic purposes, and may not see the relevance of social media for learning. In fact, their day to day use of ICTs may have cultivated in them impatience and a desire for instant answers (Center for Generational Studies, 2007; Tynan, Lee & Barnes, 2008), as well as leading them to take a casual approach to critical evaluation, plagiarism and information ownership (CLEX, 2009). For higher education institutions in many countries, the development of digital literacies and independent learning is now high on the agenda. Universities and colleges are being advised to implement both the infrastructure and the curriculum changes to maximise

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