Web 2.0 tools like blogs, Wikis, and podcasts are new to the vocabulary of language acquisition. Teachers and students who take full advantage of these emerging tools will participate in more dynamic, immediate, and communicative environments that provide opportunities for meaningful experiences through social constructivist learning. This chapter aims to bring perspectives rooted in educational theory to a domain too often dominated by the technological implications of its tools and argues that social constructivism is the pedagogical paradigm for learning and teaching facilitated by the next generation of Web technology. It reviews basic theoretical tenets and discusses their implications. Social constructivism lays the foundation for learning environments that foster the participation of students and teachers in today’s knowledge and information-based society to their full potential.
Many educators consider correspondence education the precursor of distance education. Correspondence education developed in the mid-19th century and this was the only way to reach students who were physically separated from their instructor. By the mid-20th century, education models had evolved to computer systems built to also increase the efficiency of instruction by delivering learning packages to a large number of students, for example via PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) (Berners-Lee & Caillau, 2000, p. 85). In the late 1960s, a computer-assisted instructional system called TICCET (Time-shared, Interactive, Computer-Controlled Educational Television) was developed by combining computer with television technology to deliver large amounts of individually controlled instructional material to students. It was not until the 1980s that progress in the areas of speech recognition, machine-assisted translation, Artificial Intelligence and generally Natural Language Processing was made to a significant extent. While computers became more available to the average consumer and the World Wide Web was invented they didn’t enter the public sphere until the early 1990s. From this the first generation of the Web as an environment for learning emerged, giving teachers the tools to create and disseminate electronic and digitized learning materials in more efficient ways much like correspondence courses once did with print-based resources. The learning paradigm as such remained unchanged.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Flexible Learning: This term describes a learning design perspective deeply rooted in the needs of students, with the main objective being to provide them with the most flexibility about the learning content, schedules, access, and learning styles as possible. A flexible learning design customizes learning environments to meet the needs of learners, using both technological and non-technological tools. Flexible Learning is closely related to Blended Learning and Distributed Learning.
Blended Learning: The term Blended Learning describes the design of a learning environment from the viewpoint of how the delivery of learning materials to the students is best accomplished by a variety of means available, be they technological or non-technological in nature. By choosing the appropriate vehicle for the student to access the learning content, a number of different strategies are used to provide hybrid learning environments. Blended Learning is closely related to Distributed Learning and Flexible Learning.
Wiki: This is a Web-based environment designed to enable readers to become creators of content and editors of previous entries. Wikis are paradigm examples of Web 2.0 tools that are effectively used to design constructivist learning environments and engage learners in collaborative learning environments. Much like blogs, wikis integrate different types of media from audio to video files, which can be played on demand, as well as podcasts to vodcasts, which readers can subscribe to. Wikis can be an integrated part of a larger learning management system.
TICCET: This stands for Time-shared, Interactive, Computer-Controlled Educational Television. The project ran at the same time as PLATO and was funded by the University of Texas at Austin and Brigham Young University. In place of expensive hardware, the system used television technology with minicomputers to deliver interactive educational content.
E-Learning 2.0: The term e-Learning 2.0 refers to the second generation of eLearning making use of the social collaboration and information sharing tools embedded in Web 2.0 environments. It describes a new generation of e-based learning environments that allow students to create content, and collaborate with peers on the creation of content distributed by technological tools. e-Learning 2.0 provides a new learning paradigm naturally unfolding collective intelligences.
Distributed Learning: This term refers to learning environments that use a mixture of tools to navigate the distance between teachers and learners. From a design viewpoint of a learning environment, building a variety of connections between the participants and the learning content is the main objective, as is allowing patterns of participation to develop between teachers, students and learning materials. Technological tools allow these connections to be made easily. Distributed Learning is closely related to Blended Learning and Flexible Learning.