Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Don’t do more

August 5, 2010
Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently blogged about Wikimedia as “a sort of social movement“. Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Interesting question.

What sort of social movement is Wikimedia? If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia as a social movement. If you search the Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Wikimedia Foundation Trustee, Matt Halprin: “The Wikimedia Foundation is a critical player in the growing social movement toward greater transparency and openness.”

Gardner wrote, “Our goal is to make information easily available for people everywhere around the world – free of commercialism, free of charge, free of bias.” If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia bias. If you search the Wikimedia Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Doron Weber, Director of the Sloan Foundation’s Program for Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge about Wikipedia: “…Wikipedia represents a quantum leap in collecting human knowledge from diverse sources, organizing it without commercial or other bias…..”

How does the Wikimedia Foundation measure up for transparency and what about bias in Wikipedia? Wikipedia allows anonymous editors to publish biased information about living people. For example, on March 8, 2006, an anonymous Wikipedia editor created a Wikipedia biography article about a university professor. That anonymous Wikipedia editor violated Wikipedia’s rules that are designed to keep Wikipedia free of biased biographies of living people. When a colleague of the university professor sought to correct the biased Wikipedia biography, he was blocked from editing Wikipedia and his user page was defaced and locked. Rather than follow Wikipedia policy and correct the biased biography, a gang of Wikipedians attacked and harassed the person who tried to correct the bias.

The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians, not content to simply block their fellow Wikipedian who had tried to keep Wikipedia free of bias, stalked him to his personal blog and subjected him to vile online harassment. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians also followed Moulton to Wikiversity and harassed him there, with the stated objective of getting Moulton banned from participation at Wikiversity. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians was successful by gaming Wikimedia Foundation Board member Jimbo Wales into violating Wikiversity policy and imposing an infinite duration block on Moulton, a block imposed against consensus and with no public discussion of the block. The decision to impose this policy-violating  block on Moulton was made by a few Wikipedians acting in secret. So much for the “transparency and openness” of the Wikimedia Foundation. Moulton, who only tried to help Wikimedia, is still subjected to continuing harassment by Wikimedia functionaries. Why are a few “special” Wikipedians and anonymous editors still allowed to force their personal biases on the world by using Wikipedia as their publishing platform? What is the ethical nature of an organization that allows anonymous editors to publish false claims about living people? Why are honest Wikimedians like Moulton harassed and driven away when they try to remove bias from Wikimedia? Should anyone take Sue Gardner seriously when she talks about the Wikimedia Foundation having a goal of being free from bias? (related blog post)

In 2010, a Wikiversity community member created a learning project aimed at finding an ethical means to improve Wikimedia projects. The Ethical Breaching Experiments learning project was deleted by Jimbo Wales, without community discussion, in violation of Wikiversity policy and against community consensus. The creator of the learning project was blocked from editing by Jimbo Wales, in violation of Wikiversity policy. In an effort to impose his misguided disruption of Wikiversity on the community, Jimbo Wales threatened Wikiversity with closure. Sue Gardner threw her support behind the misguided actions of Jimbo Wales.

Sue Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Yes, Sue, why don’t you? Why did you support Jimbo Wales in his misguided disruption of Wikiversity?

Community discussion at Wikiversity

July 12, 2010

Ever wonder how a group of collaborators in a wiki community can reach consensus about contentious issues? The Wikimedia way is to block a wiki participant who disagrees with you. If your block stands, it will intimidate everyone who does not agree with you. Below is a recent community discussion at Wikiversity, presented in wikitwit format.

A community discussion at Wikiversity

A community discussion at Wikiversity.

Background. In 2008 the Wikiversity community was invaded by a wiki-hitman from Wikipedia. The hitman created a puppet account and declared his mission to be getting another Wikiversity participant banned. The hitman was successful and was even rewarded by being made a Custodian. I’ve previously blogged about the way Moulton was banned from participating at Wikiversity.

When a gang of thugs from Wikipedia invaded Wikiversity and tried to get Moulton banned, he objected to the false claims that were published about him by that gang. Moulton’s common practice is to use the names of people who persistently publish false claims about living persons. Some of the invaders from Wikipedia objected to Moulton’s use of the real names of other editors, although doing so was not against Wikiversity policy.

At the time, I proposed that the dispute over using real world names be dealt with by crafting a Privacy Policy. It is now two years later, and there is still no Wikiversity policy against using the real name of a fellow editor. Indeed, the professional academics on the site routinely call each other by their real names.  Of course, lack of a policy does not prevent a few Wikimedia functionaries from erratically imposing policy from Wikipedia upon the Wikiversity community. On that basis, Jimbo Wales banned  Moulton from editing at Wikiversity. I view the banning of Moulton as unfair and disruptive, depriving the Wikiversity community of Moulton’s expertise and knowledge. I view the persecution of Moulton to be a serious violation of Wikiversity policy. It is against the civility policy to call for unjustified blocks and bans.

Recently there was a fresh initiative to make the Privacy Policy an official policy (so far it is only proposed). I was participating in the process of developing that policy and it was natural to discuss the need to protect Wikiversity participants and other living people against the publication of libelous claims by anonymous wiki editors. I said, “Wikiversity participants need common sense protections against the unsubstantiated claims of the anonymous editors“. I also made this point: “Calling IRC chat ‘private correspondence’ is false.” In the context of these issues arising from the proposed privacy policy, I mentioned:

“The main problem is a gang of abusive sysops who make unsubstantiated claims about honest Wikiversity participants. When the honest Wikiversity participants object and challenge the unsubstantiated claims, the abusive sysops ignore the objections or impose blocks and censor community discussions so as to silence the objections.”


“The problem is that #wikiversity-en has been systematically disrupted during the past two years by abusive sysops who misuse their channel operator power.”

Another Wikiversity participant objected to my mention of how Wikiversity sysops have previously abused their power and he blocked me from editing. Rather than come to my user talk page and discuss his concerns, he blocked me and posted accusations about me on a page that I cannot edit. This situation is what prompted the ludicrous discussion illustrated in the figure above.

The discussion. During the discussion (see the figure above) I was forced to post my comments on my user talk page while other editors used another page. During the discussion, Moulton tried to participate, but his contributions to the discussion were reverted by the sysop who had blocked me from editing.

I think that Moulton was improperly blocked and should be allowed to edit at Wikiversity. I view continuing efforts to ban him from Wikiversity as a serious violation of Wikiversity policy. I don’t believe that the “block” tool should be used to end discussions at Wikiversity, but it would have made more sense to block the wiki-hitman who attacked Moulton. Moulton and I preferred to study the wiki-hitman’s behavior.

I think the Wikiversity community still has much to learn from the events of the past two years. In particular, Wikiversity policy needs to be developed so as to protect the Wikiversity community against invaders from Wikipedia. Doing so would allow the Wikiversity community to return to its roots, the peaceful community of collaborating learners, as it existed from 2006 to 2008.

Wikiversity:Community Review/Problematic actions

First Response from the WMF Board

April 13, 2010
Samuel Klein

Samuel Klein

The Open Letter to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees (shown in my previous blog post) was built around the good faith assumption that there was some truth to the claims made by Mr. Wales after he deleted the Wikiversity Ethical Breaching Experiments project (a copy of the main project page is here). When asked about his out-of-process page deletions, block of Privatemusings and emergency desysop of SBJohnny (see timeline of events), Mr. Wales claimed, “I have the full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” and “This is a Foundation matter“.

The Open Letter has begun to shake out some information from the WMF Board of Trustees. Samuel Klein wrote that Mr. Wales “was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any ‘Board authorization of an intervention’.

Can the statements by Mr. Wales and Mr. Klein be reconciled or is it safe to assume that Mr. Wales did not accurately characterize his level of support from the Board? Did Mr. Wales incorrectly claim to have support for his actions from the Board in order to prevent his personal actions from being reviewed and over-turned by the Wikiversity community? Did Mr. Wales’ claim of  “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” only mean that he told Sue Gardner that he was going to deal with a troll at Wikiversity and she said something like: have fun with that?  The WMF Executive Director does not have the authority to grant Mr. Wales permission to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity.

Will we ever know what constitutes “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation”? We need to know the details of how the Foundation authorized the deletion of a Wikiversity learning resource that was aimed at improving Wikimedia wiki projects. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to impose blocks against participants at Wikiversity, participants who never violated any policies or rules, blocks imposed without any prior discussion or warning and apparently without any chance for the Wikiversity community to object. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to perform an emergency desysop procedure when no emergency existed.

Exactly what authority does Mr. Wales have for use of his “founder” tools? When Mr. Wales was being stripped of his Stewardship, he wrote, “Please take no action until we have finished with a mailing list discussion.” What mailing list discussion? He wrote, “I would support the creation of ‘founder’ group”.  Initially the creation of the Wikimedia “founder” user group was attributed to a request from the Board. However, while Darkoneko initially let that statement stand, three days later he did not agree with that assertion. Thus, it appears that Mr. Wales suggested that he be given special user rights (“founder”) that would give him the powers of a Steward and he was given those rights. Was there any public discussion of this grant of user rights?

It appears that people who were critical of the “founder” rights were “faked” into going along because of the claim of Board involvement in the decision (see).

Similarly, at Wikiversity, Mr. Wales’ claims about “full support” from the WMF were used to prevent the Wikiversity community from over-riding Mr. Wales’ actions (example). Has Mr. Wales ever been given more authority than a Steward? If not, his recent intervention into Wikiversity affairs was a violation of procedures that must be followed by those who are given Stewards tools. Does the Board intend to allow Mr. Wales to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity while claiming that his actions are Board actions?

Privatemusings has now started a new learning project. The entire Wikimedia Ethics project is an example of action research. Action research is a way for members of the Wikimedia community to study their community and seek ways of improving the community. Such action research is a normal part of participation in Wikimedia wiki projects and requires no special oversight or review beyond those already provided for in Wikiversity policy. What does it mean when a few members of an online community try to prevent other members of the community from participating in action research? Have action research projects at Wikiversity been disrupted by Wikipedians who fear having their actions studied?

Image. Photo of Samuel Klein by Flickr user Joi (source); image license CC-BY.

Social Networking Sites as Silos

March 2, 2010
Learn button

Learn Buttons

I previously blogged about the distinction between open-to-all learning communities and restricted access communities. Beyond limits on participation, most software-based communities have a problem with the free flow of information between communities.

One of the popular tools for helping to prevent online communities from being information silos has been content syndication. The first “feed reader” that I used was Bloglines. Many social networking sites allow participants to aggregate feeds and share those aggregates with other participants. One of these that I recently started experimenting with is Tumblr. There now exists a confusing collection of makeshift solutions to the problem of sharing information and social contacts between online communities. Can there be widely-adopted open standards for social networking?

One attempt to create such standards is the DiSo project. Look at the slogans for the DiSo (dee soh) project (“creation of open, non-proprietary and interoperable building blocks for the decentralized social web”):

  • Open, Distributed, Social.
  • Silo free living.
  • Information, Identity, and Interaction.
  • I hope that a coherent set of software tools will become available for helping us organize our online social networking. There seems to be a large gap between the needs of online learners and the desire of internet social networking companies to make a profit. Even non-profit organizations that are dedicated to online education struggle to facilitate the social aspects of learning. It will be interesting to see how online social learning networks continue to develop. I suppose things were just as confused when the first bricks-and-mortar schools were created. Most building were used for other things besides facilitating learning. With time, people figured out how to make specialized buildings that were well-suited for learning. At this time, most social networking sites are very much oriented around entertainment and commerce.

    If we are going to have efficient social networking tools for learning we need more than “like” buttons. In particular, I want something along the lines of a “I don’t understand X” button. That would be the foundation for for getting help for navigating a learning path through a collection of linked online communities.

    Emergence of what?

    March 1, 2010

    "Your social dynamics suck."

    “although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not” – Isaac Asimov

    In my last blog post I mentioned SpaceCollective as a learning community that did not adopt the “open to all” community structure that has been adopted by other learning communities such as Wikiversity. In Fiction and Learning, I mentioned Isaac Asimov’s imagined planet of the future, Solaria, where advanced technology and a global communications system did not result in people cooperating with others, rather, each individual pursued their individual creative endeavor. I asked, “Will the internet bring humanity together or will we all self-segregate into warring internet tribes?”

    In an essay called The Natural Asymmetry of Infocologies, there is discussion of the idea that within our expanding internet-driven infosphere the relationships between individual learners, “are fundamentally and increasingly becoming more and more asymmetrical.” These “asymmetries” among social learners take many forms including the fundamental fact that, “not all aspects of my infocology are of relevance and of interest to another mind”.

    Here is an analogy for the natural asymmetries of social interactions in the infosphere: Several tens of thousands of years ago modern humans spread outward from Africa. Human languages and other cultural features diverged and we are still reaping the “rewards” of cultural incompatibility and tribal warfare.

    In this analogy, I’m comparing the spread of human cultural groups over the surface of our planet to the proliferation of divergent information ecologies across the infosphere. My intuition suggests that the infosphere is vastly wider than the surface of Earth. The question becomes, will we find social networking tools that keep us all together as collaborators within the infosphere or will the distances between us grow, resulting in a new era of mutually incomprehensible tribes?

    I’m not happy with the idea that, with time, the infosphere will spontaneously develop the technologies that are needed to keep us unified. It seems a leap of faith to say, “the optimal distance is an emergent property of innovative infocologies“. Faith in emergence of a happy outcome sounds like saying we could have prevented tribal warfare if our ancestors had better used smoke signal technology to communicate about their common interests.

    Online social networks for learners

    February 26, 2010

    Learn by doing.

    In my last blog post I used a few of the major social networking websites as examples for the “state of the art” in social networking. In this post, I want to review some examples of social networking tools that have been used specifically for education.

    The major social networking websites are for-profit and in my experience they are heavily slanted towards entertainment and advertising. Elgg social networking software is open source and has been used by educators to create social networks for learners. For example, Eduspaces is a learning-oriented social network powered by the Elgg software and one of the content sharing features is blogging by members of the social network.

    An online learning-oriented community that I have personally experimented with is Wikiversity. Wikiversity is powered by the open source MediaWiki software platform that powers Wikipedia. The basic content format is the wiki page, a webpage that can be edited by anyone.

    Wikiversity traffic.

    Based on Alexa statistics (see the graph, above), Wikiversity gets a significant amount of traffic because of its association with Wikipedia. Many online educational sites are niche communities and seldom grow beyond a limited size. Like Wikipedia, Wikiversity aims to be comprehensive in its approach to providing online learning resources. Unlike Wikipedia which is oriented towards providing printed documents to readers, Wikiversity aims to functioning as an online destination for learners where they can participate in a community where “learn by doing” (mostly “learn by webpage editing”) projects provide “hands on” learning opportunities.

    Many computer-facilitated learning communities are closed and intended to serve one particular bricks and mortar educational institution. It remains to be seen to what extent Asimov’s dream of making all the world’s knowledge available via computer-mediated access can become a reality. Will our cultural momentum keep bricks and mortar educational institutions in control of some types of educational resources or will a new ethic come to dominate by which everything will be freely available by way of the internet to every learning of the world?

    Image. Learning by Doing by Brian C. Smith

    Learn by doing

    February 23, 2010

    John Dewey

    John Dewey

    This post is a continuation of my review of “ubiquitous learning” and the idea that Asimov’s dream of computer-facilitated learning for all has been achieved by the ways that the internet has transformed learning. In my last blog post I discussed a critique of ubiquitous learning by Caroline Haythornthwaite in which she expressed concerns about online learning environments where peers and other learners become information sources and teachers.

    In Ubiquitous Learning: An Agenda for Educational Transformation by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope they wrote: “we need to guard against any reduction of the richness of person-to-person or hands-on activity,” and they insist on the importance of keeping the needs of learners in control of the computing technology that learners use.

    Kalantzis and Cope list seven features of learning that takes place within a learning environment that is created by computing technology:

    1. collapse of the spatial and temporal boundaries that characterize traditional education institutions
    2. blurring distinctions between teachers and learners
    3. recognition of the diversity of learners who each are empowered to follow a unique learning path
    4. increasingly diverse, cheap and accessible modes of information transmission such as digital video
    5. a requirement that learners understand and can navigate the digital information environment
    6. knowing where to go for needed facts is more important than keeping those facts in the learner’s mind
    7. a need to create and utilize collaborative learning communities that empower learners

    That final emphasis on, “skills in building learning communities to ensure inclusivity and that all learners reach their potential,” seems like a keystone for the entire online learning phenomenon if it is truly a revolution in education. “The journey of ubiquitous learning is only just beginning. Along that journey we need to develop breakthrough practices and technologies that allow us to reconceive and rebuild the content, procedures and human relationships of teaching and learning.”

    If we conceptualize the “we” of that last statement to mean everyone who is engaged in creating the learning communities of the internet then we can ask: what form do those communities currently take and can we imagine improvements to our online learning communities?

    In Ubiquitous learning, ubiquitous computing, and lived experience by Bertram C. Bruce, he wrote about ubiquitous learning as what happens when we live our lives: “learning becomes part of doing”. Bruce argues that given the current ubiquity of computing technology, “Dewey’s dream of schooling that links the mind and the body, theory and action, or disciplines and ordinary experience seems more realizable than ever.”

    A. S. Neill

    A. S. Neill

    “We feel that ubiquitous computing technologies help us solve problems, create/access knowledge, and build community. We feel that they do it in a way that links work, family and friends, learning, and life. “

    I think the perspective provided by Bertram Bruce is useful. Rather than view online learning communities as “virtual communities” that are distinct and detached from the “real world” we can instead view online communities as technology-enabled extensions of our off-line lives. We learn by doing in all parts of our daily lives and internet technology simply allows us to continue our natural social learning in the virtual online world.

    Every time we upload internet content (email, blog post, a video, a comment in a discussion forum, etc) we can function in the role of “teacher”, every time we seek out and explore online resources we can function in the role of learner. The online people who we link ourselves to through networked blogs, shared wiki editing projects and all other social internet tools become parts of our personal learning community. Our success as an online learner depends on our skills in using internet technology to search out and connect with like-minded people who share our interests and who can propel us along our individual learning paths.

    Online learners will naturally gravitate towards online social interactions that facilitate learning. Are educators leading the way in the creation of new online learning tools or simply looking on in awe as the internet expands and learners adopt the tools that they find useful? Can we concisely describe and summarize the current best online learning tools or is the pace of change so rapid, the options and individual learning paths so diverse that codification is futile?

    Internet learning resources

    February 22, 2010

    learning cycle

    Learning cycle

    In my last blog post I mentioned the idea of a two-tiered educational system that includes both 1) conventional bricks-and-mortar education and 2) opportunity for individuals to pursue their personal learning goals by making use of learning resources that are available on the internet. If we accept this model then there should be an effort by educators to 1) teach students how to use the internet as a learning tool and 2) make sure that there are good learning resources on the internet.

    What is the “state of the art” in using the internet as a tool for learning? I want to approach answers to this question from the perspective provided by Isaac Asimov when he imagined learners using computing resources in order to pursue their personal learning goals. So, I am leaving behind the use of computing and internet resources to complete mundane assignments for formal courses. Let us imagine the internet from the perspective of a learner who is exploring a personal learning goal outside of the machinery of conventional educational institutions.

    Do our conventional educational institutions adequately prepare learners for the challenge of using the internet as a personal learning tool? What learning resources exist on the internet? How easy is it for learners to find and use those resources? To what extent do internet learning resources encourage the “Asimov ideal” of empowering individuals to discover and navigate their own learning paths? Does online learning work best as a personal search for useful learning resources and individualized consumption of information or as a creative social process of exploration and discovery within a community of like-minded learners?

    Ubiquitous Transformations

    In Ubiquitous Transformations by Caroline Haythornthwaite, she wrote about, “Internet-based trends that emphasize contribution, conversation, participation, and community,” and how those trends impact on learners. Is there much relevance to the über-scholar model of an Isaac Asimov, the lone learner who, feeding his own delight for knowledge, digests libraries full of information? Is that how most people are using the internet as a learning tool?

    The “Asimov model” for online learning strikes me as a “web version 1.0” computer-amplified version of the kind of individualized library-based learning that he loved and practiced. Dr. Haythornthwaite’s article looks to “web 2.0” technologies that make possible “ubiquitous learning”: “a continuous anytime, anywhere, anyone contribution and retrieval of learning materials on and through the Internet and its technologies, communities, niches and social spaces.” I don’t think Asimov or anyone who lived in the pre-internet era could have anticipated the emergent properties of social internet spaces and communities that allow or even emphasize participation and contribution rather than simple resource consumption.

    Exactly what kinds of learning resources exist on the internet and which ones  are most popular and useful? Are most online learning resources simply transferred to digital files from conventional formats (print) or are there truly revolutionary and transformative learning resources online that could never have existed in the pre-internet era?

    Dr. Haythornthwaite is concerned about, “the work that devolves to the learner for critical evaluation of retrieved information”: are independent learners adequately equipped to sift through the information (good and bad) that they can access on the internet? Asimov went through a long formal education process and obtained a PhD, he rightly enthused over a coming computer-powered infosphere where self-motivated learners could all be, as Haythornthwaite says, “his or her own teacher, journalist, librarian, writer, and publisher”. I suspect that Asimov could have thrived on web 2.0, but what fraction of online learners are able to pull this off?

    Asimov extolled the virtue of leaving behind a written record of your learning path. What are the online equivalents of this kind of virtue? To what extent is it the obligation of an online learner to leave behind a written trail that can aid the learning efforts of others? Are blogs and wikis and discussion forums the epitome of technology for sharing the learning paths that we each blaze? Are the available internet tools for documenting and evaluating learning resources and learning paths adequate or are we currently experiencing the infancy of online learning communities that will evolve new strategies for guiding learners towards the best learning resources? Is the functional unit of online learning the individual or the learning community? Are communities of online learners up to the task of sorting through good and bad sources of online information? Do we need to invent and form and participate in new kinds of online learning communities?

    An underlying theme in Dr. Haythornthwaite’s article is uneasiness. Trained experts who have historically served as the gate-keepers of libraries are now watching the internet transform the universe of learning paths. No longer do the learning paths we blaze need to follow the carefully curated gardens of schools and libraries. Are experts like Dr. Haythornthwaite reduced to the role of simple observers of an internet that is beyond control?

    More about participatory learning: Learning in the Age of Web 2.0 by Caroline Haythornthwaite.

    Next: Ubiquitous Learning: An Agenda for Educational Transformation by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope.

    Online learning

    February 22, 2010

    Jean Piaget

    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.

    Seymour Papert

    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.

    Images. Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert.

    Asimov and learning

    February 22, 2010

    In my last blog post I mentioned Isaac Asimov. Here (below) is part of a Bill Moyers interview of Asimov. “If we keep turning science fiction into science fact, we may have to rethink what we mean by education.”

    “Anyone at any time can be educated in any subject that strikes our fancy. The key is, ‘strikes our fancy’.”

    “Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down. I just enjoy it so.”

    “If from the start, children are educated into appreciating their own creativity then probably we can almost all of us be creative.”

    Part 2

    “Once we have computers in every home hooked up to libraries where anyone can ask questions and be given answers about something you’re interested in…at your own speed and in your own direction then everyone will enjoy learning.”

    “Through this machine (computers), for the first time we will have a one-to-one relation between information source and information consumer. In the old days there was a tutor if you could afford one, but how many people could afford one? Now everyone can have a teacher in the form of access to the gathered knowledge of the human species.”

    “Each student can be the sole dictator of what he is going to learn.”

    “People think of education as something that you can finish. Anyone, any age, can learn by yourself…there is no reason why you should stop learning just because you reach a certain age. Make it possible for people to enjoy learning and they’ll keep it up.”

    It would be great if we could bring Asimov back and ask him if the internet is accomplishing the kind of revolution in learning that he had imagined.