Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2010, 26(1)
juggle work and study, expect constant Internet connectivity and web based services, and view social networking tools as being central to their lives (Windham, 2005). Conole and Creanor (2007) report that students “have high expectations of how they should learn, selecting the technologies and learning environments that best meet their needs with a sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate these to their advantage” (p. 11). As Web 2.0 is participatory and collaborative, enabling connection globally with multiple social spheres, there is an increasing gap between the formalised interactions that occur in educational establishments and the modes of learning, socialisation and communication that youth experience and engage in. In particular, in the dominant tertiary education paradigm, students are presented with resources that have been created by teachers, instructional designers or developers, and are expected to demonstrate that they have absorbed the content therein through assessment tasks that rely on recall of information rather than on application, initiative or creative endeavour (Sener, 2007).
A number of authors (Hirshon, 2005; Boettcher, 2006) agree that there is a need to re- evaluate the role of content in courses, and have advocated, for example, a greater focus on process (as opposed to product) and personal skill development. As the value of the traditional textbook is being questioned (Fink, 2005), the open educational resources (OER) movement is rapidly gaining momentum worldwide (Couros, 2006; Breck, 2007; Blackall, 2007; Brown & Adler, 2008; Schaffert & Geser, 2008; Keats, 2009) and e-learning content is becoming ‘Napsterised’ through peer-to-peer (P2P) file and media sharing services (Clark, 2003), we are witnessing a growth in emphasis on content that is produced by the learners themselves.
Sener (2007) contends that although student generated content has been a part of the education system for many decades, its role has been highly marginalised and its forms restricted to highly academic artefacts used exclusively for assessment purposes, such as essays and reports. In order to increase engagement, to promote self directed and self regulated learning as well as collaboration and knowledge sharing, and to encourage the development of products of value beyond the assessment or grading process, there is a need to expand our vision of educational content so that greater value is placed on student created products as a primary content source, In this way, students become active as both producers and consumers, or ‘prosumers’, of knowledge, ideas and artefacts.
In joining community of learning and practice that includes their classmates, teachers, past and future student cohorts, as well as others such as professionals and experts who may be external to the formal education environment, students not only must engage in “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991) to develop their own mastery of knowledge and skills, but also have a responsibility to play a part in the continued advancement of the community’s existing body of knowledge, as they move toward full participation in the socio-cultural practices of this community (Lee, Eustace, Hay & Fellows, 2005). In such a knowledge-building community, members are managers, or ‘curators’ of the community’s knowledge artefacts (Eustace & Hay, 2000; Lee et al., 2005), intent on making responsible decisions in addition to generating novel and innovative contributions to benefit the community as a whole.