Education experts say the future of learning will be determined by students

3 05 2010

WWW 2010 - "The Future of Learning is the Web." From left to right: Negar Mottahedeh, Mark Anthony Neal, Tony O'Driscoll, Cathy Davidson. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker.

Though they discussed a wide array of topics, the Future of Learning Panel centered its conversation on one theme articulated by session Chair Cathy Davidson: “How do we make the most of traditional institutions and unite worlds that are not always part of our institutions as traditionally conceived?”

The panel consisted of five professors from Duke University:

  • Cathy Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC – the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory
  • Laurent Dubois, a historian of French colonialism and the Caribbean
  • Negar Mottahedeh, a highly respected academic author who staged the first-ever Twitter Film Festival
  • Mark Anthony Neal, the author of four books, a frequent commentator for National Public Radio and contributor to several on-line media outlets
  • Tony O’Driscoll, author of “Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration,” with Karl M. Kapp.

In addition to discussing the future, the panelists talked about some of their individual experiments with  technology in the classroom. Mottahedeh spoke about her experiment with the Twitter Film Festival in her introduction to film studies class. Students posted video clips to a class blog and Tweeted about them with links to analysis. The effort attracted more than 300 followers from all walks of life.

Dubois is currently working on a project called the Haiti Lab that will link Haitian students with faculty through the Internet to continue education while the country is still in a state of disrepair.

WWW 2010 - "The Future of Learning is the Web." From left to right: Laurent Dubois, Negar Mottahedeh, Mark Anthony Neal. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker.

“There’s a need for the university to be a space of rapid reaction,” he said. “Haiti needs an immediate plan and action.”

Davidson drew national press attention by writing a blog post titled “How to Crowdsource Grading,” which encouraged educators to use peer learning to evaluate students’ work and make it public. Now that the end of the semester is approaching, Davidson said her class did surprisingly well, producing a high caliber of work and motivated by the fact that it will be published.

O’Driscoll is teaching a class in which students put all deliverables into the creative commons and evaluate one another’s work. He said students held one another accountable for the material they produced, even asking to use his criteria to assign grades.

Neal has used his classes to take students’ knowledge into the Durham community through live webcasts, one of which drew 10,000 viewers. He also posts prompts to his exam questions publicly to employ generative learning.

Much of the panel’s spirited discussion was generated from audience questions, addressing issues like the use of Twitter during class, the ways technology affects student attention, and computer games as motivational learning.

“To allow students to be on their blackberries and computers is giving up a lot of power associated with being in ivory tower,” Anthony said.

WWW 2010 - "The Future of Learning is the Web." Cathy Davidson. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker. Creative Commons rights

Though some argue that electrons distract students rather than enhance their experiences in the classroom, Davidson pointed out that just because students stare at their instructors does not mean that they are paying attention.

Some of the panelists felt that the use of social media during class could actually enhance the student experience. O’Driscoll said he uses a class hash tag to monitor student interest and questions, as a replacement for the “note card technique” of collecting questions. There are even filter applications available to help determine the most relevant questions.

“Teaching does not exist in a pristine way,” Davidson said, noting that learning will continue to change as technology advances.

O’Driscoll said he hopes that more educators will follow the example of a game-based school called Quest to Learn that uses the “magic circle” method to enthrall students. He said teachers need to find “the magic between solid instructional design and the magic circle, and ground it deeply in good, solid pedagogy.”

Mottahedeh ended the discussion by noting that it isn’t the technology that will determine the future but the students.

“Students are the difference in the world, and we’ll figure out together how they will make that difference,” she said.

- By Rachel Cieri

ADDITIONAL DETAILS FROM THIS EVENT…
Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
http://bit.ly/imaginingtheinternet
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

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