Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Good session from Christine Borgman, who chaired the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning, which produced its report in July 2008 entitled Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge

She started by outlining the Task Force’s vision of cyberlearing in 2015. We were asked to imagine a college student, Katie, in the year 2015. She has grown up in a world where learning is as accessible through technologies at home as it is in the classroom, and digital content is as real to her as paper, lab equipment, or textbooks. In high school, she and her classmates engaged in creative problem-solving activities by manipulating simulations in a virtual laboratory or by downloading and analyzing visualizations of real-time data from remote sensors. Away from the classroom, she has had seamless access to school materials and homework assignments using inexpensive mobile technologies. She continues to collaborate with her classmates in virtual environments that allow not only social interaction with each other but also rich connections with a wealth of supplementary content. Her teacher has tracked her progress over the course of a lesson plan and compared her performance across a lifelong “digital portfolio,” making note of areas that need additional attention through personalized assignments and alerting parents to specific concerns.

So, the question was, how are we going to get to this vision. The Task Force made a number of recommendations:

The first involved building a vibrant cyberlearning field, promoting cross disciplinary communities of cyberlearning researchers and practitioners. This will require a partnership of IT technical specialists with educators.

Interestingly the second recommendation was around instilling a platform perspective with shared, interoperable designs of hardware, software and services. New technological innovations need to be incorporated and supported. Multiple course management systems and platforms lead to duplication of effort

Thirdly, the transformative power of technology should be emphasised. Information and communication technologies can allow interaction with data, visualisations, remote and virtual laboratories and experts.

Finally, the report suggests that open educational resources should be promoted. Materials should be made available on the web with permission for unrestricted reuse and recombination. Need to be able to pull things from different sources mash it up, combine and use in novel ways. In this respect, the creative commons was cited as an example of good practice.

In making these recommendations it was suggested that we are a long way from the vision - students can’t move seamlessly between school and home and are using new technologies for everything but learning.

Is that really true here in the UK? I think not!

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