In education, to incite the mind into thinking deeply about a topic is to in fact learn. This has remained unchanged throughout the course of time, yet somewhere along the way educators lost sight of that. The education system began to place an emphasis on exams and regurgitated knowledge, rather than the actual experience of learning. In 2013 educational researcher Sugata Mitra decided to flip that by introducing SOLE within the classroom via Cloud based learning devices.
SOLE stands for “Self-Organized Learning Environment”. Within that, what is necessary for success includes collaboration between students, answerable introspective questions, an Internet connection and an educator’s influence. What entails is a learning environment wherein students not only learn through their spark of curiosity, but also gain insight on posing questions that develop their understanding. For instance, Mitra posed this question to a group of nine and ten year old students “Why do human lungs breathe? What happens to the air we breathe? What followed was an in-depth analysis of the lungs, diaphragm and respiration system developed solely through student research. In connection with the Cloud, these answers and developments would then be added to the pool of research, allowing for access amongst all Cloud-based education systems.
Designing a new future for learning at the elementary and middle school level allows for more advanced topics to be understood at younger ages, thus allowing for students at the university level to focus their learning/career path earlier. The purpose of the Cloud is to gather and hold all of the learning tools (i.e. the big questions, answers, development strategies, etc.), essentially SOLE’s provide the setting or atmosphere within a classroom and the Cloud provides the tools. Mitra’s vision of a cloud-based school took form in 2013 and since then has grown to five different classrooms across the U.K. and India, including an independent location in Korakati, India. The future of eLearning continues with the introduction of the School in the Cloud.
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Picture Credit: http://edtechreview.in/news/877-world-s-first-school-in-the-cloud-opened
In an article on The Chronicle for Higher Education, Casey Fabris takes a look at a study done on the differences between public blogs and private journal entries.
With the current hype about blogging, Drew foster, a doctoral candidate in sociology, decided to try them in his introduction to sociology course. He immediately noticed a higher quality of work than what he had seen when students submitted private journals. He then decided to see what differences there might be between the two formats.
Initially he had expected to find that blogs resulted in more thoughtful reflections, which didn’t seem to be the case. After looking through a large collection of journal and blog entries from the University of Michigan, he discovered that one format wasn’t necessarily better than another, they were just different.
It seemed that when students were writing for a public blog, where fellow students could see and comment, they took more intellectual risks, crafting complex arguments on controversial discussions. While students who where tasked with writing a private journal took more personal risks sharing their own personal experiences.
As an example, Mr. Foster mentions that a student discussing the American dream may use her own family’s socioeconomic status or financial struggles; however, she might hesitate the share something so personal on a public blog.
Ultimately, it comes down to instructors needing to decide what is best for their courses. Mr. Foster goes on to say, “It’s to our benefit as teachers and instructors to try and maximize the type of reflection and the quality of reflection that students are engaging in.”
In an article on Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning website Gleb Tsipursky examines the benefits of teaching using a new set of tools in our digital age, namely those that are available through the great invention of the internet. Today students are able to take advantage of website creation and artifact archiving to demonstrate the new information they have gained through their classroom experience. Tsipursky calls this phenomenon Class-Sourcing.
Class-Sourcing is the integration of technology into the classroom through the use of website creation, artifact archival, blog writing, video creation, podcast creation, or any other media related design used to express ideas, research, or content they have gained from the class. Class-Sourcing takes advantage of group activities to help promote team building and prompts students to get creative in their expression of information.
Class-Sourcing has many benefits to the students who take advantage of it. They gain skills in digital literacy, data management, digital design, digital communication, collaboration, and public presentation to name a few. Each of these skills proves useful not only in the classroom but outside of it as well. Our age is becoming increasingly tech-oriented and employers are seeking tech-savvy individuals to fill the limited positions available. Students are able to create content they enjoy whilst learning the ins and outs of website creation which will benefit them for years to come.
Here at the University of Washington we have already integrated Class-Sourcing into our classrooms. Through the use of Canvas, Catalyst, Google Sites and much more professors are now able to offer their students an alternative to classic pen and paper school work. Students are able to create their own personal media content that they can upload directly to their teachers. Many professors have abandoned the use of physical papers and have adapted wholly to the online resources available to them. Students can archive all of their work from their college years onto their own personalized website that they can reference for years to come. This proves useful for students who graduate from this University, leaving with a portfolio full of experience to show to potential employers.
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It’s no secret that higher education is expensive. It’s also no secret that higher education is important. It’s drilled into the heads of children from the time they enter the public school system that their main goal should be to attend a college or university. But as the economy continues to struggle, many people speculate as to the value of their investment in higher education when they graduate deep into debt and are unable to find a job. They paid a great deal of money in order to make a great deal of money, but for some their investment never returns.
Never in history has knowledge been so accessible. We are never more than thirty seconds away from an abundance of information since new digital technologies have transformed society for young generations. Some can speculate as to the point of spending thousands of dollars to sit in a classroom and learn something they could easily learn from their couch on their phone. Why should they go into debt over this? St. John’s College President Christopher Nelson has the answer to this question in his article on the Washington Post Blog.
The answer is simple: Universities should not be promoting the transfer of information, but rather the maturation of the student attending. That is the true point of attending a university. Anyone can learn anything, but the ability to apply that learning and use it independently is what you take away from your four—or five or six—years in college. This theory comes from St. John’s College President Christopher B. Nelson.
Nelson believes that by removing the economic lens from our outlook on a college education we can see the true ‘value’ of our investment. We can better ourselves and our ability to interpret and gather information through attending college, through working with caring teachers, through participating in extracurricular activities, through applying our knowledge in an internship, through working on long-term projects. College has so many more benefits than monetary ones, and as a society we should start acknowledging them.
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In a recently published paper by the University of Minnesota, researchers looked at how different designs and implementations of distance education courses affected student learning and satisfaction in these courses. The study involved identifying three different types of interaction in these courses: Student-Student, Student-Teacher, and Student Contact.
Student-Student (SS) interaction consists of individual students or groups of students working together in both dynamic technologies such as video conferencing or static technologies such as discussion boards.
Student-Teacher (ST) interaction also uses many of the same technologies involved in SS interaction in distance learning. Face-to-face interaction is also observed under both SS and ST.
Student-Content (SC) interaction is defined as “reading informational texts, using study guides,watching videos, interacting with computer-based multimedia, using simulations, or usingcognitive support software (e.g. statistical software), searching for information, completing assignments, and working on projects”.