Posts Tagged ‘social learning’

I believe we have to seriously think about what open-ness means for Indian education.

There are many dimensions to being open that extend beyond merely making data available for public accountability and transparency. For example, if we do not provide appropriate redressal of grievances that emerge from an analysis of the data, we are not truly open.

The thing about being open is that it threatens to disrupt tightly closed systems. In our schools, for example, the dominant mindset seems to be to stifle and restrict the voice of students and parents; and in most cases even teachers. Free unrestricted communication aided by technology threatens the image of the school, it seems. This is because the school no longer has control over opinions being aired publicly or even within closed school networks. This is for fears that are sound (for example, obscenity), but even more deeply because it unites parents in opinion making and acts of dissent. However schools do not appreciate (or simply ignore) the virtual back channel of conversation and collaboration that open social tools have enabled. It is almost as if what they cannot see or control, does not exist. For schools to allow open communications is almost taboo. And this is not about Facebook pages either.

The other dimension is teacher-student interaction. So long as the school maintains secrecy about what transpires between a student and her teacher, it protects itself from scrutiny and accountability. For example, the open text-book assessments, which is a graded case study based approach for grades 9 and 11, mandates that there be proper reflection and discussion on the case study prior to the assessment – something that I have not witnessed happening. Perhaps schools may not like to expose shortcomings in their teaching learning processes or the abilities of their teachers to communicate effectively in open online environments. The latter is a particularly sad testament because what are teachers without effective communication skills whether online or offline.

Another dimension is the responsibility that students and parents have in an open environment. Each school may collaboratively build a culture and community that adopts its own model code of conduct. This is not easy so long as there is mistrust or irresponsible behaviour on the part of any stakeholder. Being a cultural shift, this is not going to be a one time activity, but there are responsible parents, teachers and administrators who can lead this on an ongoing basis – they just need empowerment. There are also issues that are specific to online networks that need attention in order to protect the interests of the community itself. Essentially, the community has to self-govern if it also wants to be open.

Yet another dimension transcends the individual institution to reflect in practices of school chains, consortia, unions and even organized governmental policy making. Is CABE or mygov.in truly open? Or is the CBSE, UGC or AICTE? Practices behind closed doors often mask incompetence and intention. In most part, attempts at open-ness are really half-hearted (at least at scale, in online collaborative environments). Perhaps it is policy that leads the way. But then perhaps it is better it does not – that the change happens in a more organically emergent manner, from local to global.

Will these challenges to open-ness (not merely restricted to India, not merely to schools and colleges) stifle the growth of social collaborative learning? Will they ultimately stifle India’s equity and growth aspirations?

I believe they absolutely will.

Read Full Post »

When I think of the term under siege, it reminds me of Steven Seagal, a master chef, on board a US Navy battleship taken over by terrorists in the 1992 movie by the same name. Of course, he fights back and defeats the terrorists. Doubtless somewhat of a stretch of imagination here and completely unrelated, but I think that Instructional Design as we know of it traditionally, is under siege.

I wrote a post on eCube on Indian Education, contrasting the challenges in developing countries such as India with the remarkable developments in social learning worldwide. In that I refer to George Siemens’ article where he refers to the changing role of the instructional designer in the new milieu. From being an expert in applying design techniques on a body of content for a specific kind of learning experience and target audience, the designer is seen more as a guide and facilitator in bring animate (human) and inanimate (computer, device) networked knowledge closer to the learner and fostering learning through active reflection and search, more so than just (and in addition to) relying on traditional design activities such as content sequencing.

What becomes of the carefully and painstakingly created user learning experiences with emphasis on language, defined control imposed by corporate styles & standards, exclusion of irrelevant content, step-by-step elaboration, elaborate understanding of the target audience, pilot evaluations, focused group feedback et al?

How does the social learning experience address these aspects of design? By its very definition, the network is autonomously constituted, with no formal controls, with little or no accountability to ensure adequate coverage (or quality at this point) of any piece of the curriculum, but one where potentially the benefits of active reflection, learning engagement, expediency of learning and scale of community participation may far outweigh the traditional system. A designer who can simply point or piece together these resources, may be compelled to discard entirely useful contributions to knowledge just because the form is not conducive for presentation or there is too much redundancy between two critical but related articles. Obviously, without these interventions, research and reflection may take on too much time to prove useful in situations of learning immediacy (read workflow learning). One of the things that may work, perhaps, and that is that the designer provides the tools and frameworks to allow for an ever growing landscape of content in ways that she can make intelligible for her learners in a participative manner.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: