December 4, 2014

Striving for New Ways to Learn How to Learn

Categories: Edtech, Educational Practice
mia zamora quote co-learning heart of connected learning

Much hope, promise, and cash has been invested in technology for the classroom, yet this hype has often set the stage for nothing more than technologically-powered traditional content delivery paradigms masquerading as innovation. The course of magical thinking that continues to celebrate “ed tech” often ends up replicating the same systemic problems that existed before the advent of new tools. Can technology serve as a transformative force for equity and justice? Many of us in the classroom know well that technology is by no means a quick fix for the shortcomings of education today.

I have found myself pondering a pretty basic question lately: In what environmental and cultural contexts can technology actually transform and facilitate learning? I believe the answer (and the hope for institutional change that matters) lies in the potential of “open” in a co-learning context. Co-learning facilitates a freeing experience rooted in the connections we make. As a part of the Connected Courses community, I have had the recent honor of exploring the topic of co-learning with many colleagues and practitioners throughout the world. Of all the topics we considered tackling when designing the Connected Courses “spine,” this one seemed to me at the heart of our collective desire to identify transformative learning.  

But co-learning is not a simple switch. A changing relationship to authority and hierarchy in the classroom is no small or easy feat. The questions keep coming:

    • How can the master teacher drop the mastery impulse and open up the classroom to what is untapped and unapparent?
    • What exactly does empowered co-learning look like and what paths do we take to get us there?
    • What role does the technology play in co-learning?
    • How can we conceive what constitutes learning itself in the Information Age?
    • What is “open” for?  

In a connected co-learning environment, learners are subjects rather than objects of technology. The four walls of the classroom dissipate as the world is literally at our fingertips. The role of open design in the evolution and adoption of new technologies is crucial when striving for a transformed learning context.

Yet, open design on the open web often yields anxiety for teachers. We must unlearn the hidden curriculum of compulsory command and right and wrongs plain to see. We must cast aside prescribed outcomes and let there be space for what is unforeseen.  For what we are speaking about is a practice of “unlearning” as much as a careful cultivation of both strategic risks and a culture of openness. And, we must understand that vulnerability actually is the true seed of knowledge and growth.

With co-learning, what we are really striving for is new ways to learn how to learn. And, in many ways this issue is urgent as we try to envision our collective future. “Pedagogies of openness” are foundational to that shared future. For these are the approaches to learning that allow for new voices from the margins to be heard in the name of real social change. Students learn to network in an open context in new ways that prove significant both personally and academically, leading to previously unanticipated futures and new networks of action/support. A connected co-learning model is essential to reimagining education and realizing democratic aspirations.

For further consideration of how the pedagogies of “open” engine true transformation in a learning context, watch these inspiring conversations:

Co-learning in Open Community

Co-learning and the Negotiation of Authority

Co-learning in Action — Best Practices