It may come as no surprise to some readers that I have geek tendencies. In this post, I wish to talk about tech, libraries, elearning and pedagogy*.
What is elearning exactly?
According to Wikipedia, *gasp* it “comprises all forms of electronically supported teaching and learning. The information and communication systems, whether networked or not, serve as specific media to implement the process”.
or, if you want something a bit more scholarly, try this:
“Electronic learning (eLearning) refers to a form of learning in which the instructor and student are physically separated by space or time, and the gap between the two is bridged through the use of online technologies ” (Sanders & Udoka, 2010, p.512.)
I think the real definition lies something in between. It is true that student and teacher can be separated by space/time but I think elearning can take place withing an environment where both are present in the same space/time continuum.
Many of our resources and finding aids are now online, but I think our teaching related to these is still moving to the place where the possibilities proffered by elearning environment are truly taken advantage of. I guess what I’m talking about is the way that elearning can work when it is in a happy ménage à trois with student centred learning and constructivist approaches to teaching.
Training people to use our resources means we have to use the basic technologies of a computer with internet access – which according to the Wikipedia definition is elearning. But student centred learning is more than just the “click-here, click-here, hold my hand and I’ll take you” type of instruction. No matter how tailored the session is to the assignment questions of the students involved, a basic demonstration session like this still is very much an information transfer.
Constructivist approaches to teaching have been used as a pedagogical underpinning for the inclusion of technology in policy, but the reality of living out that policy is hard (Attwell & Hughes, 2010). The information transfer method is so easily facilitated by some of the technology available to us.
For example, at MPOW we create all kinds of screencasts on how to use our databases. This information transfer process (albeit using technology) facilitates visual learners, and learners who need to stop/start the transmission (e.g. language learners). These screencasts can be embedded into online course content and thus be where the student is, but they still aren’t (in my opinion) entirely student centred and constructivist.
Dolittle & Camp (1999) put forward eight principles of constructivist pedagogy. They say it “is based on the dynamic interplay of mind and culture, knowledge and meaning, and reality and experience.”
The eight principles are:
1. “Learning should take place in authentic and real-world environments
2. Learning should involve social negotiation and mediation
3. Content and skills should be made relevant to the learner
4. Content and skills should be understood within the frame work of the learner’s prior knowledge
5. Students should be assessed formatively, serving to inform future learning experiences
6. Students should be encouraged to become self-regulatory, self-mediated and self-aware
7. Teachers serve primarily as guides and facilitators of learning, not instructors
8. Teachers should provide for and encourage multiple perspectives and representations of content”
I would say that those aims marry well with the aims of our information literacy programs within our institutions. But so long as our training sessions are of the “click-here then click-here” variety we are not delivering those aims.
What to do?
What I would like to see happen is the exposé of the whole messy process of information retrieval and creation of content from that. Instead of standing up the front demonstrating some keyword search we’ve chosen why not have a conversation about the process? I have some embryonic ideas about how this might happen.
What do you think? Can we have a conversation about conversations?
E-learning. (2011, May 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:58, June 7, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=E-learning&oldid=431886478
Sanders, J. H. Sanders & Udoka, S. J., (2010) An Information Provision Framework for Performance-Based Interactive eLearning Application for Manufacturing. Simulation Gaming. 41(4) p. 511-536.
Attwell, G. & Hughes, J., (2010). Pedagogic Approaches to Using Technology for Learning. Literature Review – 2011 (Lifelong Learning UK, September 2010), http://www.lluk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/harnessing-technology-literature-review-january-111.pdf.
Doolittle, P.E. & Camp,W.G., (1999). Constructivism: the career and technical education perspective. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education 16( 1), http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JVTE/v16n1/doolittle.html.
* This post, while informed by my experiences at my place of work is not necessarily the views or opinions of my employer.