[iDC] iCollege

Trebor Scholz scholzt at newschool.edu
Tue Jun 22 16:08:07 UTC 2010

Like Ian, I link students to my peers outside the university sometimes. 
Today's social milieus of the Web make that ridiculously easy. There are 
more ways of connecting more people and I am happy to detail some of my 
learning experiments with Zoho, Seesmic, Skype, Second Life, and soon 
http://n-1.cc, in a future post.

George broad up the costs of institutionalized learning. Currently, 
there are fierce debates about education in Germany and it seems as if 
the introduction of high tuition and student loans is immanent. In the 
US, colleges and universities are placing so much hope in online courses 
because their institutional budgets get tighter by the day and this 
"distance learning" is profitable. But while this is *not* an argument 
against online education, let me be straight. I do not think that we 
should inculcate new social media to do everything faster, more 
effective, and cheaper. Qualitatively high online courses are often 
expensive because they require various facilitators to be engaged. 
Horizontal connections among learners are necessary but they are not 
sufficient. Institutions of higher learning are based on conceptions of 
centralized expertise that seemed justified for centuries. The model of 
people grouping around our elders under the tree of knowledge is 
antiquated but expertise still matters. And let's face it; online 
facilitation and tutoring can be just as soporific as a bad two-hour 
Powerpoint lecture. Courses that are exclusively taught online, I think, 
can be good at empowering people who are already passionate about 
learning. From my experience, however, it's trickier to motivate people 
to dedicate themselves to the mighty goal of learning without a 
memorable learning event and their whole body being on the line.

But surely, the failures of learning institutions led to disgruntled 
learners! No doubt about it. So, let's do something. First of all, I am 
not interested in creating novel technologies for the sake of developing 
them. What we need is innovation in the university. I suggest a blended 
approach to learning that relaxes the boundaries of the institution, a 
balanced diet for us as learners. If it comes to emerging ways of 
knowing, some are holding on to social media for their life but that's 
the wrong place to start.

First, we should collectively get our values straight. For me, that 
means 1) A dedication to making an unprecedented openness of learning 
resources and scholarly material the default. 2) Innovating formats for 
discourse. 3) Meaningful collaboration. 4) A commitment to engaging 
learners. After we are all clear about our values, we can think about 
long-term plans and finally we can discuss tactics, which also involve 
specific tools.

How do YOU instigate the process in which people learn from each other? 
Which values would you propagate? What are some practical steps that 
help you to carry your educational values to the net? And finally, what 
are some sure ways of engaging learners through social media?


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