Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities

Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities

Catherine McLoughlin (Australian Catholic University, Australia) and Mark J.W. Lee (Charles Sturt University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch023
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Learning management systems (LMS’s) that cater for geographically dispersed learners have been widely available for a number of years, but many higher education institutions are discovering that new models of teaching and learning are required to meet the needs of a generation of learners who seek greater autonomy, connectivity, and socio-experiential learning. The advent of Web 2.0, with its expanded potential for generativity and connectivity, propels pedagogical change and opens up the debate on how people conceptualize the dynamics of student learning. This chapter explores how such disruptive forces, fuelled by the affordances of social software tools, are challenging and redefining scholarship and pedagogy, and the accompanying need for learners to develop advanced digital literacy skills in preparation for work and life in the networked society. In response to these challenges, the authors propose a pedagogical framework, Pedagogy 2.0, which addresses the themes of participation in networked communities of learning, personalization of the learning experience, and learner productivity in the form of knowledge building and creativity.
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How Social Software Tools Impact On Learning And Ways Of Knowing

The affordances of Web 2.0 are now making learner-centered education a reality, with collaborative writing tools (wikis, Google Docs & Spreadsheets), media sharing applications (Flickr, YouTube, TeacherTube), and social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Ning) capable of supporting multiple communities of learning. These tools enable and encourage informal conversation, dialogue, collaborative content generation, and the sharing of information, giving learners access to a wide raft of ideas and representations of knowledge.

The attributes and affordances of the new software tools and services also make possible an expanded repertoire of online behavior, distributed collaboration, and social interaction. Mejias (2005, p. 1) observed that “… social software can positively impact pedagogy by inculcating a desire to reconnect to the world as whole, not just the social part that exists online,” referring to the isolating and decontextualized experience of much text-based traditional education. Many social software applications straddle the virtual and real social worlds, as they entail both online and offline interactions and visual/verbal connectivity. These new affordances are being harnessed for knowledge sharing, development of ideas, and creative production, while allowing for personal sense making and reflection.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Personal Learning Environment: See PLE.

User-Generated Content: A term that refers to Web-based content created by ordinary people or users, e.g. pictures posted on Flickr or encyclopedia entries written in Wikipedia. Such “Read-and-Write” applications are key characteristic of the Web 2.0 movement, which encourages the publishing of one’s own content and commenting on or augmenting other people’s. It differs from the “Read-Only” model of Web 1.0, in which Web sites were created and maintained by an elite few. See also personal publishing.

Architecture of Participation: A term that describes the nature of innovation in the open source movement, whereby individuals can share, create, and amend software, thereby participating in the creation of improved forms of software. This can help turn a good idea, tool, or application into a best-quality product as many users and developers can adapt, change, and improve it.

e-Portfolio: An electronic collection comprising self-assembled evidence demonstrating a learner’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, including learner-generated artifacts in multiple media forms that showcase both the products and processes of learning. e-Portfolios are excellent tools for facilitating students’ reflection on their own learning, as well sas serving a variety of purposes in assessment (including recognition of prior learning) within an academic course or program. Lifelong e-Portfolios are also increasingly being used for professional purposes such as certification/accreditation and career advancement (e.g. promotion).

Personal Publishing: A process in which an individual actively produces his/her own content and information and publishes it on the World Wide Web. For example, the maintenance of a personal blog as an online diary is an instance of personal publishing. See also user-generated content.

Knowledge Creation Metaphor of Learning: Unlike theories that emphasize learning as knowledge acquisition (the acquisition metaphor) and as participation in a social community (the participation metaphor), this third metaphor foucses on mediated processes of knowledge creation that have become especially important in a knowldge society. This view focuses on mediated processes of knowledge creation that have become especially important in a knowledge society.

PLE: Personal Learning Environment. A system, application, or suite of applications that assists learners in taking control of and managing their own learning. It represents an alternative approach to the LMS, which by contrast adopts an institution-centric or course-centric view of learning. Key PLE concepts include the blending of formal and informal learning, participation in social networks that transcend institutional boundaries, as well as the use of a range of networking protocols (RSS, peer-to-peer [P2P], Web services) to connect systems, resources, and users within a personally-managed space. See also LMS.

Pedagogy 2.0: Digital tools and affordances call for a new conceptualization of teaching that is focused on participation in communities and networks, personalization of learning tasks, and creative production of ideas and knowledge. McLouglin and Lee’s concept of Pedagogy 2.0 is a response to this call. It represents a set of approaches and strategies that differs from teaching as a didactic practice of passing on information; instead, it advocates a model of learning in which students are empowered to participate, communicate, and create knowledge, exercising a high level of agency and control over the learning process.

Learning Management System: See LMS.

Object-Centered Sociality: A term coined by the Finnish sociologist Jyri Engeström to describe the phenomenon whereby shared objects are the means by which people connect to each other to form social relationships and networks. According to this concept, links are created not just between people, but between people and objects, or around objects. Engeström claims that the problem with some social networking services is that they focus solely on people and links, ignoring the objects of affinity that those linked people share. He invokes the concept of “object-centered sociality” to explain how the inclusion of shared objects including but not limited to photos, URLs, and events can enhance online social networking.

Connectivism: A “learning theory for the digital age” developed by George Siemens, based on an analysis of the limitations of behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism. It employs a network with nodes and connections as a central metaphor for learning. In this metaphor, a node may be any entity, whether tangible or intangible, that is able to be connected to other nodes, including but not limited to information, data, feelings, and images. Learning is seen as the process of creating connections between nodes to form a network.

Collective Intelligence: A form of intelligence that results from the cooperation, collaboration, and/or competition of a large number of individuals. See also wisdom of crowds.

Wisdom of Crowds: A concept that relates to the aggregation of information in groups and communities of individuals. It recognizes that the innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities of the group are often superior to that of any single member of the group. The term was used as the title of a book written by James Surowiecki, published in 2004. See also collective intelligence.

LMS: Learning Management System. An integrated suite of software tools designed to manage learning interventions. Commercial examples are Blackboard and WebCT, although many open source alternatives, such as Moodle and Sakai, exist. In addition to the provision of online learning content and activities and the facilitation of online assessment, LMS’s typically support a range of administrative functions including learner enrollment, workflow, records management (e.g. reporting of assessment results/outcomes), and resource management (e.g. instructors, facilities, equipment).

Student-Generated Content: Content that is produced by students, often for sharing with peers or a wider audience on the Internet, as distinct from instructor-supplied content such as course notes and textbooks. It is arguable that the main benefits to be gained from student-generated content lie in the process of content creation and knowledge construction, as opposed to the end product itself. See also user-generated content.

Prosumer: A portmanteau formed by contracting word “producer” with the word “consumer,” signifying the blurring of the distinction between the two roles in today’s knowledge economy.

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