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Web 2.0 and the trend towards self directed learning environments - page 4 / 16

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McLoughlin and Lee

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the challenges of the 21st century. The iClass system runs an Internet based platform and takes learners through three stages: planning, learning and reflection, with teachers acting as mentors at each stage. Aviram et al. oppose the rigid divides between structured learning and open, non-formal and incidental learning; between formal learning and solving authentic, real-life problems; between institutional (school, college, university) learning and lifelong learning; and between learning and human development generally. They posit that these issues have to be systematically addressed in the framework of revised pedagogical thinking that combines personalised learning with self regulated learning (hence self regulated personalised learning, or SRPL), empowering learners to actively define, create and shape their own learning content, tasks and hence their own learning trajectories. SRPL also includes the provision of adaptable and flexible learner and task scaffolding.

Both PLE models challenge university and college teachers to harness the many resources that exist outside the formal spaces of the institution, to create opportunities for authentic learning that is personally meaningful and relevant to learners, and to capitalise on the interests and digital competencies that learners already possess. PLEs stand in stark contrast to institutionally controlled, content-centric CMSs and VLEs as they provide learners with contextually-appropriate toolsets by enabling them to adjust, select, integrate and use various software, services and options based on their needs and circumstances. The result is, ideally, a model where learner needs, not technologies, drive the learning process (Attwell, 2006b, 2007). Nevertheless, both PLE models allow learners to make decisions about how to choose tools and configure the learning environment to best suit their learning goals and needs for networking, knowledge construction, social interaction and collaboration. In addition, both challenge traditional pedagogies where the teacher is the celebrated expert, dispensing knowledge and prescribing learning resources and activities.

Rethinking pedagogy and the role of content

Educators and institutions are increasingly beginning to recognise that the philosophy and ethos prevalent in the Web 2.0 world in which we live are highly incongruent with the control culture of education, where teacher-designed content and syllabi dominate. Today’s world is characterised by social mobility and diversification of life trajectories, where individuals are expected to have multiple career paths and engage in reskilling at various stages throughout their lifespan. All of this signals a need to reconsider our notions of pedagogy so that learners are envisaged as active participants and co- producers of learning resources rather than passive consumers of content, and learning processes are participatory and social, supportive of personal life goals and needs (Brown & Adler, 2008). There is a clear imperative for educators and students to move towards a social and participatory pedagogy rather than one based on the acquisition of pre-packaged facts. Siemens (2007a) is also critical of how institutions of higher learning operate and states that they “need to change because of the increasing complexity of society and globalization. Schools and universities play a dual role: accommodating learner’s [sic] method and mode of learning and transforming learners and preparing them to function in the world that is unfolding” (para. 6, emphasis in original).

A further driver of change are the students themselves: their preferences, needs, social habits and technology choices. Along with the uptake of mobile devices and the rise of social media, tertiary student profiles indicate that a large proportion of students now

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