How the Crowd Can Teach

How the Crowd Can Teach

Jon Dron (Athabasca University, Canada) and Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch001
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Understanding the affordances, effectiveness and applicability of new media in multiple contexts is usually a slow and evolving process with many failed applications, false starts and blind trails. As result, effective applications are usually much slower to arise than the technology itself. The global network based on ubiquitous Internet connectivity and its uneven application in both formal education and informal learning contexts demonstrates the challenges of effective use of new media. In this chapter the authors attempt to explicate the effective use of the Net for learning and teaching by differentiating three modes of networked social organization. These are defined as the Group, the Network and the Collective. The chapter explores the consequences of this perspective, observing that each has both strengths and weaknesses in different contexts and when used for different applications.
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Web 2.0 technologies are becoming increasingly pervasive in e-learning, particularly those that might be characterised as social software. The motivation for using such systems is often pragmatic, the benefits they offer clear and intuitive often relating to increases in access. However, many existing uses of social software in education and informal learning contexts lack distinct theoretical foundations, instead drawing from work in computer mediated communication, science, psychology, sociology and related disciplines. We also note the confusion among communications and psychology theorists (Postmas, 2007) as to the extent to which the Net follows classical media theories such as clues-filtered-out (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976) and the observations that deep personal relationships and affective interactions can and do develop (Walther, 1996). We suggest that this confusion results from trying to understand and explain the myriad forms of net-based social organization through a single lens. Rather, different forms of social organization have developed on the Net and each affords unique education and learning opportunity.

We also note that our interest in social software in education is grounded on an assumption that distributed education systems offer significantly enhanced forms and degrees of learner freedom in many dimensions. Paulsen (1993) itemized these dimensions in his Law of Cooperative Freedom. In it he postulated that systems that support learners’ freedom to negotiate not only the place of learning (as characterizes all forms of distance education) but also freedom to negotiate the time, the pace, the content, the technology and the media will more likely cater for emerging learner needs as the barriers between formal education and lifelong learning disintegrate. To these Anderson (2006) added the freedom for learners to negotiate the type of relationship with other learners and teacher, partially in response to the growing affordance of social software to support a variety of learning relationships. In our own context at Athabasca University we find these freedoms of particular relevance in that, unlike most other distance and open learning organizations, Athabacsa offers all of its undergraduate programming in unpaced, continuous intake model – affording freedom of time, space and pace. Bearing these concepts of learner freedom in mind we devised a definition of educational social software as ‘networked tools that support and encourage individuals to learn together while retaining individual control over their time, space, presence, activity, identity and relationship’ (Anderson, 2006). This and other broad definitions are perhaps a little over-encompassing, including such applications as email and traditional forums. However, the broadness of definition reminds us that social connectivity predates the Net and other communications technologies. There is a variety of other definitions of social software (see also Chapter X, this volume) but it is clear that the problems that social software addresses (meeting scheduling and documentation, building community, providing mentoring and personal learning assistance, working collaboratively on projects or problems, reducing communication errors and supporting complex group functions) have application to education use, and especially to those models that maximize individual freedom by allowing self pacing and continuous enrolment.

Social software may have the capacity to effectively leverage the knowledge contained in the minds of others in ways that easily adapt to individual and collective needs. As Bryant (2003) notes “the value of Social Software is its embedded economies of scope.  The ability for an asset to adapt to new uses (its environment) without large transaction costs.” With a lower overhead in terms of top-down design, it develops a structure through the interactions and activities of its participants. For example, the use of profiles makes it easy to find like-minded people, link sharing and tagging leverages the collective discoveries of the crowd, blog posts supply a natural structure to discourse surrounding them and wikis can grow into complex documents with relatively little input from a central designer. Because the structure is determined by individuals within the community, it naturally adapts to that community’s needs and interests, at least as long as communities are not too large and diverse or where their members have poorly aligned foci.”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web 2.0: A term referring to the trend to more interactive, user-generated Web sites. No different technologically from Web 1.0, it is about the ubiquity of user involvement rather than any particular technological change.

Group: The traditional kind of Many used in education, exemplified in the classroom. Many: A generic term describing a collection of individuals.

Network: A looser aggregation of the Many, with weaker ties and ever shifting membership, common across the Internet. Social Software: Software enabling communicaion between people in which the Many plays an active role in structuring the environment.

E-Learning: Learning mediated through electronic means, usually over the Internet.

Collective: The loosest aggregation of the Many, an amalgam of algorithm and individual activities, exemplified in tag clouds, collaborative filters and rating systems.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jennifer Preece
Stylianos Hatzipanagos, Steven Warburton
Chapter 1
Jon Dron, Terry Anderson
Understanding the affordances, effectiveness and applicability of new media in multiple contexts is usually a slow and evolving process with many... Sample PDF
How the Crowd Can Teach
Chapter 2
Chris Abbott, William Alder
Although social networking has been enthusiastically embraced by large numbers of children and young people, their schools and colleges have been... Sample PDF
Social Networking and Schools: Early Responses and Implications for Practice
Chapter 3
Eleni Berki, Mikko Jäkälä
Information and communication technology gradually transform virtual communities to active meeting places for sharing information and for supporting... Sample PDF
Cyber-Identities and Social Life in Cyberspace
Chapter 4
Werner Beuschel
Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The... Sample PDF
Weblogs in Higher Education
Chapter 5
Mark Bilandzic, Marcus Foth
Web services such as wikis, blogs, podcasting, file sharing and social networking are frequently referred to by the term Web 2.0. The innovation of... Sample PDF
Social Navigation and Local Folksonomies: Technical and Design Considerations for a Mobile Information System
Chapter 6
Rakesh Biswas, Carmel M. Martin, Joachim Sturmberg, Kamalika Mukherji, Edwin Wen Huo Lee, Shashikiran Umakanth
The chapter starts from the premise that illness and healthcare are predominantly social phenomena that shape the perspectives of key stakeholders... Sample PDF
Social Cognitive Ontology and User Driven Healthcare
Chapter 7
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Central to research in social psychology is the means in which communities form, attract new members, and develop over time. Research has found that... Sample PDF
Social Identities, Group Formation, and the Analysis of Online Communities
Chapter 8
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. The exploration of the... Sample PDF
The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks
Chapter 9
A. Malizia, A. De Angeli, S. Levialdi, I. Aedo Cuevas
The User Experience (UX) is a crucial factor for designing and enhancing the user satisfaction when interacting with a computational tool or with a... Sample PDF
Exploiting Collaborative Tagging Systems to Unveil the User-Experience of Web Contents: An Operative Proposal
Chapter 10
Utpal M. Dholakia, Richard Baraniuk
Open Education Programs provide a range of digitized educational resources freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for... Sample PDF
The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs
Chapter 11
Sebastian Fiedler, Kai Pata
This chapter discusses how the construction of an adequate design and intervention framework for distributed learning environments might be... Sample PDF
Distributed Learning Environments and Social Software: In Search for a Framework of Design
Chapter 12
Yoni Ryan, Robert Fitzgerald
This chapter considers the potential of social software to support learning in higher education. It outlines a current project funded by the then... Sample PDF
Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education
Chapter 13
Kathryn Gow
This chapter focuses on the identification of a range of competencies that entry level workers, and thus graduating students, will need to acquire... Sample PDF
Identifying New Virtual Competencies for the Digital Age: Essential Tools for Entry Level Workers
Chapter 14
Jerald Hughes, Scott Robinson
This chapter examines interaction-oriented virtual religious communities online in the light of sociological theory of religious communities. The... Sample PDF
Social Structures of Online Religious Communities
Chapter 15
Helen Keegan, Bernard Lisewski
This chapter explores emergent behaviours in the use of social software across multiple online communities of practice where informal learning... Sample PDF
Living, Working, Teaching and Learning by Social Software
Chapter 16
Lucinda Kerawalla, Shailey Minocha, Gill Kirkup, Gráinne Conole
With a variety of asynchronous communication and collaboration tools and environments such as Wikis, blogs, and forums, it can be increasingly... Sample PDF
Supporting Student Blogging in Higher Education
Chapter 17
Lisa Kervin, Jessica Mantei, Anthony Herrington
This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web... Sample PDF
Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community
Chapter 18
Jennifer Ann Linder-VanBerschot
The objective of this chapter is to introduce a model that outlines the evolution of knowledge and sustainable innovation of community through the... Sample PDF
A Model for Knowledge and Innovation in Online Education
Chapter 19
Petros Lameras, Iraklis Paraskakis, Philipa Levy
This chapter focuses on discussing the use of social software from a social constructivist perspective. In particular, the chapter explains how... Sample PDF
Using Social Software for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Chapter 20
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The aim of this chapter is to investigate the potential role of social software inside business settings in integrating knowledge exploitation and... Sample PDF
The Potential of Enterprise Social Software in Integrating Exploitative and Explorative Knowledge Strategies
Chapter 21
M. C. Pettenati, M. E. Cigognini, E. M.C. Guerin, G. R. Mangione
In this chapter the authors identify the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) pre-dispositions, skills and competences of the current effective... Sample PDF
Personal Knowledge Management Skills for Lifelong-Learners 2.0
Chapter 22
Sharon Markless, David Streatfield
This chapter questions whether the shift from the Web as a vehicle for storing and transmitting information to the new Web as a series of social... Sample PDF
Reconceptualising Information Literacy for the Web 2.0 Environment?
Chapter 23
Catherine McLoughlin, Mark J.W. Lee
Learning management systems (LMS’s) that cater for geographically dispersed learners have been widely available for a number of years, but many... Sample PDF
Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities
Chapter 24
Alexandra Okada, Simon Buckingham Shum, Michelle Bachler, Eleftheria Tomadaki, Peter Scott, Alex Little, Marc Eisenstadt
The aim of this chapter is to overview the ways in which knowledge media technologies create opportunities for social learning. The Open Content... Sample PDF
Knowledge Media Tools to Foster Social Learning
Chapter 25
Luc Pauwels, Patricia Hellriegel
This chapter looks into YouTube as one of the most popular Social Software platforms, challenging the dominant discourse with its focus on community... Sample PDF
A Critical Cultural Reading of "YouTube"
Chapter 26
Ismael Peña-López
The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge... Sample PDF
The Personal Research Portal
Chapter 27
Andrew Ravenscroft, Musbah Sagar, Enzian Baur, Peter Oriogun
This chapter will present a new approach to designing learning interactions and experiences that reconciles relatively stable learning processes... Sample PDF
Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software
Chapter 28
V. Sachdev, S. Nerur, J. T.C. Teng
With the trend towards social interaction over the Internet and the mushrooming of Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube in the social... Sample PDF
Interactivity Redefined for the Social Web
Chapter 29
Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Perril, Kate Pullinger
Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the 21st Century. It is not a new behaviour but has been... Sample PDF
Transliteracy as a Unifying Perspective
Chapter 30
Martin Weller, James Dalziel
This chapter looks at some of the areas of tension between the new social networking, Web 2.0 communities and the values of higher education. It... Sample PDF
Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education
Chapter 31
Steve Wheeler
The use of group oriented software, or groupware, encourages students to generate their own content (McGill et al, 2005) and can foster supportive... Sample PDF
Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education
Chapter 32
Scott Wilson
This chapter describes the mechanisms of presence in social networks and presents an ontology that frames the purpose, content, methods of... Sample PDF
Presence in Social Networks
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