In my last blog post I showed Isaac Asimov’s pre-internet vision of the impact that computers might have on education. Asimov was skilled at using bricks-and-mortar learning resources such as libraries. He had a personal interest in astronomy and although he never had formal classroom education in the area of astronomy, he wrote books about astronomy, sharing with the world what he had learned during his personal exploration of astronomy topics. I suppose that Asimov imagined computers would provide a kind of super-library where vast amounts of information would be instantly available to people around the world through computer terminals.
In the Bill Moyers interview, Asimov spoke about a two-tiered educational system in which there would still be conventional bricks-and-mortar educational institutions, but individual learners would be able to use computer-based learning resources and freely explore their own personal learning interests.
World-wide use of the internet began to explode in 1993 upon availability of the Mosaic web browser. Since Asimov died in 1992, he never had a chance to see the emergence of new internet technologies that are now available to facilitate online learning. Exactly how do people use computers and the internet to pursue their learning goals?
One of the ideas mentioned by Asimov in the the Bill Moyers interview was the possibility that computers could provide a learning experience that would be similar to having a personal tutor. Is that a reasonable expectation? I’m interested in the idea that rather than a one-on-one learner-tutor experience, learning on the internet might instead be heading towards a one-among-many kind of learning environment where people with similar learning goals come together and collaboratively help each other learn.
With the on-going explosion in growth of the internet, can we come to any conclusions about how online learning is actually taking place? I want to start trying to answer that question by looking at some published ideas from researchers who study online learning.
I’m going to start (in my next blog post) with a discussion of some of the ideas presented in Making the Transition to Ubiquitous Learning. “The reach of new media beyond classroom walls and beyond formal learning contexts challenge the boundaries of education, transforming learning from a managed activity to an ubiquitous – anywhere, anytime, with anyone – and continuous part of daily life.”
Ubiquitous Learning: An Agenda for Educational Transformation by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (see their website)
Ubiquitous learning, ubiquitous computing, and lived experience by Bertram C. Bruce. “We feel that ubiquitous computing technologies help us solve problems, create/access knowledge, and build community.”
Ubiquitous Transformations by Caroline Haythornthwaite. “Experts in the form of information professionals and teachers are bypassed in the expedience and convenience of retrieval and learning from the web. Peers and other learners become information sources and teachers.”
I’m particularly interested in the social dimension of online learning and the idea that the internet can facilitate the formation of communities of learners who come together and through their online activities (learning projects) pursue their learning goals and personal interests.