e-help Seminar 7 The new paradigm: learning by sharing connected knowledge
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005
The new paradigm:
learning by sharing connected
Teachers are called to change
their attitude to ICT, which
should not be considered a tool
but be integrated into their
teaching. Michael Young, the
founder of the UK Open
University, saw teachers as
educational companions who
accompany students on part of
their learning through life. The
stress is less on the content of
learning than on the learning
process itself, which must teach
young people to become expert
learners. The final target is
learning to learn and the
quality of the learning process
is more important than the
quantity of knowledge imparted.
INFORMATION TO KNOWLEDGE
We are living in a Knowledge society, in which connectivity allows
us to access all kind of information at unprecedented speed and in
multiple format (Michelle Selinger - Executive Advisor Education
Connectivity is our present and our future: young people know that and
are used to living in a digital, web-based world in which they are
constantly in contact with other people and communicating via emails,
SMS text messaging, chats, etc. They are also naturally multitasking and
able to write an email while watching TV, listening to music, etc.
However, the way we get information raises several issues concerning its
quantity and quality.
We are being overloaded with an incredible amount of information, from
which it seems difficult to select what we are looking for. Besides, not
always can we immediately assess the value of the information we get.
Young people in particular tend to move from one screen to another,
whether it is a TV screen to a PC screen, without making great
distinction between them: at the same time the differences between
virtual reality and non-virtual reality seem to be less definite, the
boundaries between fiction or game and reality are less clear, so that
it may become nearly impossible to separate them.
In this scenario the main task of school is to teach learners to:
locate relevant information and judge the credibility of sources,
become experts learners,
learn how to think critically.
Rather than thinking of cognition as an isolated event that takes
place inside ones head, cognition should be looked at as a distributed
phenomenon, one that goes beyond the boundaries of a person to include
environment, artifacts, social interactions, and culture (E.
Hutchins & J. Hollan)
According to one of the principles of distributed cognition, in our
world cognitive events are not encompassed within a head but happen in
the interactions among many brains. Consequently, distributed cognitive
processes are the key to select information and build knowledge.
Connectivity accelerates the process through the volume of interactions
which can be activated. If the Web is a shared medium linking each type
of contents, the Internet enables one-to-one, one-to-all and all-to-all
connectivity to be used for sharing knowledge.
The process is:
connective but not collective,
intersubjective, involving direct person-to-person interactions,
collaborative rather than competitive,
promoting autonomy within the connection.
The process is at the origin of Virtual Communities and Forums, where
often firsthand information is shared in order to acquire real knowledge
through exchange and collaboration.
THE NEW PARADIGM OF LEARNING
WHAT, HOW AND WHY ONE NEEDS TO KNOW (J. Hollan)
The sentence could originate the following question: What, how and why
school needs to teach in order to reflect the world outside?
1. THE ACTORS OF THE LEARNING PROCESS
All trends go into the direction of:
connected intelligence, because computers make minds work together;
learning communities of learners, experts, tutors, open and enlarging
outside schools to include institutions, cities and countries;
new roles: schools as learning hubs and teachers as knowledge
no age-related or grade-related but competence-related classes
curricula developing through a community need rather than a national
dictate. In particular European curricula seem to be possibly developing
along two paths, one concerning the whole European community, which
involves discovering the fundamental values on which European identity
and the idea of Europe was born, the other taking into consideration
local aspects. The Oral history project, where local people act as
oral sources, is an example of how local human resources can be
integrated into the curriculum.
2. THE RESOURCES
They should have the following features:
multimedia: ICT makes it possible to examine and also analyse
simultaneously different representations of the same content, which can
be presented in various formats on different multimedia supports (texts,
pictures, photos, diagrams, maps, timelines, statistics, videos,
graphics, audio documents, etc.).
incompleteness (or unfinished state): the education resources
published on the Internet should be shared and accessible also to be
modified, updated, corrected, developed, widened.
flexibility: the content should be made available in small units, and
filed into a database. So it would be possible to organize it according
to a plurality of criteria of pertinence and recover it also in a
nonlinear way through different approaches. The content could be
assembled either by the teacher or the learner.
interactivity: information is not presented but knowledge is
discovered. Interactivity is not identified with the physical
activities like clicking, dragging or typing in required when using ICT
material, but with the mental activities involved. Learning by using ICT
implies a lot of mental processes which help develop mental attitudes
and skills. Presentations require the ability to have a clear view of
the global content so as to be able to organise it into segments.
Linking and mindmap building develop the ability to organise, classify,
summarize, connect pieces of knowledge, find solutions.
virtuality: teacher and learner can meet in flexible (not fixed)
virtual time and space in addition to traditional classrooms and
tutorials. Besides, also real learning space inside schools should be
differentiated: there should be lecture theatres for talks to large
groups, classrooms where it is impossible for teachers to take centre
stage, small group rooms and quiet rooms.
3. THE LEARNING PROCESS
It tends to be:
active + cooperative = interactive;
connected (not isolated) and networked (but not collective);
based on intelligence instead of memory;
in the form of an open project or a discovery, with no predetermined
creative, involving students as designers and producers of teaching
cyclical (not linear): open and developing like an enlarging spiral,
to include more LEVELS of skills, knowledge and expertise according to
the level of competence of the learners as in video games, where
different levels of competence are required to progress. Knowledge is
enlarged along two dimensions: in depth - from simplicity to complexity
- and in width through links. This type of structure should be
reproduced in the resources provided on the Internet;
cross curricular: it might involve the blurring of subject boundaries;
personalized, differentiated and flexible, so that learning can be
tailored to meet the different needs, taking account of different
learning styles and learning preferences or interests, but also of
different learning paces.
ICT TO EDUCATE FUTURE HISTORIANS?
Under electronic conditions, the delay between project and
realization is shortening (Derrick De Kerchove)
With a descriptive, not prescriptive approach the following tools could
simulations, to be realized also by means of videoconferences, chats,
which would make them even more interactive;
a preponderance of open projects, with no predetermined correct
solutions (project area).
Learning through open projects in particular would be really
student-driven and could be organized according to the following
history would be discovered by teams of learners who would produce
material in order to share their discoveries with the learning
community. This would increase the motivation of the students, who would
have a really active role in the learning process;
students would have to analyse sources, evaluate and select
information, check its truthfulness, produce their own material. This
implies the availability of a great amount of resources, but requires
that they practice personal information processing through analysis,
evaluation and synthesis, which leads to the development of critical
the work plan would include the following phases:
- providing basic/essential input /information;
- activating learning through cooperative discovery;
- providing more information on demand;
- publishing the end result.
From a behavioural point of view, this pedagogical model encourages
participation and collaboration and promotes autonomy and
http://www.malignani.ud.it/WebEnis/aer/sezione/index.htm is an
example of material realized after the model described: students were
given the main task (presenting the Aeronautical Engineering Department
of their school) with the list of the required content and technical
specifications. Apart from the preliminary phase, when the project
coordinator collaborated with the students to form the groups and
identify the persons responsible for the whole work and for the work of
each group in a pyramid-like structure, the whole work was managed and
realized by the students autonomously under the tutorship of their
teachers who were ready to provide additional explanations and advice.
Working by projects takes time at first, which may come into conflict
with the necessity of covering the whole syllabus. Alternating normal
teaching with project activities can be adopted with the aim of
introducing new teaching models gradually. The time spent will be
recovered when students learn how to discover knowledge, develop
critical thinking and become more autonomous.
Education should focus on learning outcomes that are measurable and
demonstrable but it shouldnt lock schools into a rigid curriculum
structure. Exams where students have to write about topics could be
replaced by the presentation of their education products: the stress
would be more on doing than on writing. It seems anyway important to set
minimum/basic objectives in terms of skills, knowledge and competence.
Technology should be accessible, appropriate and reliable and there
should be teachers or technicians available to troubleshoot and maintain