Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Web 2.0 in Education: is it worth it?

I have been overcome by enthusiasm for Web 2.0 and social networking in education since my own experience over the last six months has led to amazing learning and networking opportunities. I have come back to work at Otago Polytechnic determined to introduce social networking as a wonderful means of learning to the midwifery students.

Leigh Blackall told me today that it was his experience that only 10% people engaged with social networking. So is all my time and energy better spent in other projects? How effective is social networking in education? Is it just another fad soon to be replaced by another one?

How can I encourage students to engage with social networking; to see past the library and physical classroom as the only place to learn?

What do you think?

Image: 'Think Pink'


Anonymous said...

maybe build it into an assignment in some way - so they have a reason to delve into it and beyond that they can make their own decision about whether it is useful or desirable?

Lead a group of "e nerds" who already identify with the "e zone" and support them to recruit peers.

I have noticed over the years that some students cope with the demands of being a student - or the student phase in their lives - by trashing the staff who are genuinely there to support and challenge them in their learning - sort of a "cool group" thing or maybe a hangover from learned schoolyard behaviour where students are cool and staff must therefore suck - so you could suggest it as an alternative avenue to exchange ideas to what the faculty staff might offer.

Leigh Blackall said...

a couple of things to keep in mind I reckon is that this way of learning is working for you. Right there is a success in itself. For me, this way of learning is far far more effective than any other way I have tried.. so if this is how you feel also, then that in itself is something significant.

But how do you take it to your students? Like me, it sounds as if you want them to learn to learn this way also.. that's fine, but I would keep your expectations low. Like 10% low. Socially networked media is not commonly used in formal learning, so you'll have a lot of things to over come before your students learn to take it seriously. And, like most things you're trying to show them, they probably won't start taking it seriously until they're out on their own anyway...

Alternatively, you could use your way of learning to simply bring more and better information to your students. Play good movies for them in class, hand out good diagrams and activity sheets, play good audio recordings..

Another thing, hang out more with the EDC and other local NZ teachers using these techniques. Maybe even drop in on the course: Designing for Flexible Learning Practice and get a few ideas on how to implement new approaches to learning.. NB, link is to a work in progress.

Anonymous said...

I think if you want students to engage with social networking as a part of their studies and learning, that it needs to be introduced and integrated as part of the curriculum if you want to call it that - as part of the papers they are doing. I agree with Rae's comments that maybe having it as part of an assessment and hopefully from there, it will continue to grow and become a bigger part of the student experience, thus allowing students to see past the library, paper materials and the physical classroom.

This medium of blogs, social networking etc. is a very new thing for a lot of people who have maybe only used a computer to check email and do a little bit of internet surfing

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for your input, everyone. From what I have heard time and time again is that to get students to do anything involving social networking of any sort eg email discussion communication, it has to be part of summitive assessment.

The trouble is, for several reasons, I am unable to do that this year. So I think I I am at the stage that Leigh talks about - using tools to present information, encourage thinking and critique and role modeling use of tools.

So what I'm thinking of doing is running some very short, informal lunch time sessions and slowly introduce students to things like del.icio.us and do things in very small sessions - 10% sessions!!

Leigh Blackall said...

one other thing Sarah,

Although most people don't realise it, EDC has students too. Just because those students are teachers doesn't mean they are somehow not students when they join us in our courses.

As you know, we use this technology in our courses. And I guess you could look at it that we have intergrated them into the curriculum. Instead of requiring students to submit essays, double spaced etc, we ask for blog posts with links and media... etc

Now, the majority of our students have not had any prior experience with these forms or info and communications. In the past we have tried to teach people how to use these before we begin the courses. Bad idea, it chews up so much time, and we don't get to look at the real topics of learning.

But these information and communication tools are extremly important. Knowing how to use them is as important as knowing who to use the library, and knowing how to read and write at a tertiary level. In other courses in other areas of the Poly where they still use the library and require various types of academic outputs (essays, reports, presentations) there is learner support external to the department. People who struggle with academic writing for example can obtain student services to help them, but it is extra to their core studies.

So basically, we are wanting learning support for an "academic" or more advanced use of the Internet. We have courses that are requiring people to use these tools for learning, and to use them with more sophistication. Therefore, we should have learning support services in place. NOT IN THE COURSE as it would eat up too much time.

So, EDC, Massage Therapy, Travel and Tourism, and others are asking teh Community Learning Centres, Library and the Learning Centres to prepare for supporting students who need help setting up a blog, creating hyperlinks, using multimedia etc.

So perhaps you could join us in lobbying the various services to build up their support capacity. That way you can simply require that students set up and maintain a blog - knowing that they have access to support if they need it.

Carolyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I feel that these tools will not become components of courses until they are required to be so. This requires a commitment from the institution to move in this direction. I have been looking at some of the things coming out of the University of Leicester [http://mymidiblog.blogspot.com/2008/01/gilly-salmon-talks-about-designing.html ]on this topic and it seems that there is a whole culture there around using diverse online means, along with designing courses, to incorporate this. Trying to bring these tools in without the institutional culture is virtually impossible I think. However there is no reason why we cannot use them as additional material. Somewhat as Leigh suggests here. Use them as repositories for material which may be of interest to the students, which they can access if they wish. Also invite the students to comment in the blog about questions they have or items they have found on the topic or anything at all really. This is what I intend to do this year and see how it goes. When our new curriculum arrives we will have an opportunity to design our courses to incorporate these tools. This is where the skills we have been developing recently will be really useful I think Sarah.