Saturday, March 5, 2016

Re-designing E-Learning with Systemically Designed Collaboration: Specific Suggestions

Based upon the impressions of the last post, there are a couple of points I would like to be abundantly clear:

  1. This type of re-design is not limited to the STEM area of learning activities. Even though I used a STEM example, if we believe that solving complex real world problems requires a cross disciplinary approach, then collaborative groups must involve more than just the sciences. STEAM projects might be the bridge to hybrid collaboration. The key to thoughtful engagement is to focus on real world problems and feedback should not be simply a self-quiz or exam at the end of a learning activity but should be on-going throughout the learning experience and should shape on-going decision making during the learning experience. This provides a wealth of information for the learner and can also result in a growing self-confidence in themselves as dynamic learners with a purpose.
  2. Experiential learning and project based learning take center stage in such a re-design. Design thinking as a skillset becomes a focal point and one that is consistently encouraged in the learner consistently.

Education: Specific Changes to Promote Effective Collaboration

  1. Moving Away From Content Focused Pedagogy:  One of the great realities of 21st century learning is that knowledge and information are expanding across the disciplines in an exponential rate. The advancing changes in technology based on a revised understanding of Moore's Law have not only accelerated the advancement of information and knowledge but also the time of globally communicating these expanding waves of information and knowledge has quickly grown shorter and shorter. As a student aptly put to his teacher in 2016:

    "I can find more information and knowledge on the Internet than you could teach me in your life time as a teacher!"

    Whether we like it or not, Moore's Law is being re-written by the advancements of technology and the growth of information and knowledge. This in turn impacts the shape that education should take. The past focus on educating students to acquire more and more information for the purpose of repeating it back to satisfy the industrial economy mindset, no longer fits with the needs of 21st century society.

    Credit: Ray Kurzweil and
    With the new start up areas in the Internet of Things, the skillsets required go beyond the simple acquirement of knowledge. The focus needs to shift to the higher order thinking skills (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy) and purpose driven innovative thinking.


    So, if we move away from a content for content's sake pedagogy, then what do we move to?

    In order for us to really build effective collaboration in a sea of information and knowledge, information and knowledge is not solely our end goal for the learner. More importantly, the re-design of pedagogy needs to emphasize the following skillsets:

    1. Learners already know that there is a huge repository of information and knowledge on the Internet but one of the skills that they need to be mentored on is how to effectively search for information that will be useful for sharing with partners with the common end goal of solving complex real world problems. The great realization that learners need to be led to is that not all information on the Internet is true, real or valid to a particular problem. The fact that the Internet has become an outlet for any person who has web access means that there is a need for "thoughtful discernment".
    2. Learners need to be able to collaboratively analyze a problem and be able to see that problem from a cross disciplinary perspective. This is where having an honest assessment of each others gifts and talents will help make the approach to solving complex real world problems easier. For example, a collaborator who has a solid gift for mathematics is able to contribute to the process by analyzing the problem from the point of view of mathematics and can also help in the search by being able to distinguish between shallow mathematics interpretations from those who are valid, real and hold promise for shedding light on the problem.
    3. In order for true collaboration to take place, networking with outside specialist learning communities must be established and facilitated so that relationships are developed between the collaborative learners who need to authenticate the knowledge that they find and those who are in the best position to validate what they find in their searches. This relationship is beneficial to both groups. For the learner there are the relationships that are formed between themselves and representatives of disciplines that provide impetus for future professional career directions. For the varied professional learning communities, they are given insight into the potential future growth of their profession. Another very unusual but real benefit for professional learning communities is that they have the opportunity to "step outside entrenched routines and see problems from fresh new approaches.
    4. A greater emphasis on the skillsets of synthesis and creativity is needed. With the exponential growth of knowledge, it is easy to become swamped by all that is out there.The learner's ability to analyze and then to synthesize information and knowledge so that it is focused on enabling the production of a host of innovative solutions. This is a discipline of the mind and like any other discipline it requires a commitment to "hone or fine tune" it with an eye on excellence.

    In a nutshell, it is not about learning all the content for the content's sake but it is about how to search for tasked content, how to authenticate that which is true, real and valid to the task and reject everything else, how to take a huge body of knowledge and through the skill of synthesis make it manageable so that you have the most current, authenticated cross disciplinary knowledge that can be shared and used to arrive at innovative solutions to complex real world problems that to this point have defied solution


    2. Create a Global Learning Contract Between Education and Professional 
                  Learning Communities

    The learning of future citizens living in our global societies is no longer just the responsibility of the educational communities in an age of information and learning. All of society has an important stake in how education of learners progresses because the focus is to create agents of change who can effectively deal with very real complex real world problems that are increasing. The professional disciplines as well as global business are stakeholders because they are greatly affected by the results of education. Education needs to establish what I would term a "global learning contract" between themselves and the other stakeholders. This means extensive collaboration among the learning communities with a powerful purpose of supporting those who would become agents of change in our societies.


    How are business organizations and professional learning communities affected? More in the next post and the idea of using collaboration in learning assessment.

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