For three decades and longer we have heard educators and technologists making a case for the transformative power of technology in learning. However, despite the rhetoric, in many ways and at most institutional sites, education is still relatively untouched by technology. Even when technologies are introduced, the changes sometimes seem insignificant and the results seem disappointing. If the print textbook is replaced by an e-book, do the social relations of knowledge and learning necessarily change at all or for the better? If the pen-and-paper test is mechanized, does this change the nature of our assessment systems? Technology, in other words, need not necessarily bring significant change. Technology might not even represent a step forward in education.
But what might be new? How can we use technologies to innovate in education? This course explores seven affordances of e-learning ecologies, which open up genuine possibilities for what we call New Learning – transformative, 21st century learning:
- Ubiquitous Learning
- Active Knowledge Making
- Multimodal Meaning
- Recursive Feedback
- Collaborative Intelligence
- Differentiated Learning
These affordances, if recognized and harnessed, will prepare learners for success in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital information flows and tools for communication in the workplace, public spaces, and personal life. This course offers a wide variety of examples of learning technologies and technology implementations that, to varying degrees, demonstrate these affordances in action.
- Module 1 - Course Orientation + Ubiquitous Learning : We begin this module with an introduction to the idea of an "e-learning ecology" and the notion of "affordance." We use this idea to map the range of innovative activities that we may be able to use in e-learning environments – not that we necessarily do. Many e-learning environments simply reproduce the worst of old, didactic pedagogies. We then go on to explore the notion of "ubiquitous learning," the first of seven "affordances" in computer-mediated educational applications and environments that we examine in this course.
- Module 2 - Active Knowledge Making + Multimodal Meaning : This module examines two more e-learning affordances: "active knowledge making," or the right and responsibility of learners to take a degree of control over their own knowledge making; and "multimodal meaning-making," or the tools learners now have at hand to support their thinking and to represent the knowledge they have gained – including, for instance, text, image, diagram, animation, simulation, dataset, video, audio, or embedded web media.
- Module 3 - Recursive Feedback + Collaborative Intelligence : Two further e-learning affordances are explored in this module: "recursive feedback," or the rapid and repeatable cycles of feedback or formative assessment now available, including machine feedback and machine-mediated human feedback; and the "collaborative intelligence" fostered by the very social nature of Web 2.0 and contemporary e-learning environments.
- Module 4 - Metacognition + Differentiated Learning : We come now to the last two of our seven e-learning affordances: "metacognition," or the process of thinking about thinking – a second order, more abstract, theoretical, and generalizable way of thinking; and "differentiated learning," addressing learners' different needs and interests. Together, these seven affordances become a tool with which to evaluate the scope of an e-learning technology and its application.
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