This post has been bubbling in my brain for about two weeks. Our group finally turned in our midterm project, so I have a little time to get these thoughts out of my head.
Before I start let me say something to my group. I am just using our collective painful experience to illustrate a point. If you disagree with anything I say, please leave a comment and set the record straight!
I am in a class this summer called “Designing Online Collaborative Learning”. To the best of my recollection, there were no technical prerequisites for the class. I took the class because I wanted to become more familiar with how the principles of group theory could be applied to a Learning 2.0 environment.
After completing a survey, we were put into groups to create a lesson that has learners define factors that make Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) successful, create causal maps, create a shared theory of CSCL, do research to support that theory, and finally create a web page.
Now my group are self-professed non-techies. And they really are not very technical (it’s true guys!!). About 75% of my time has been devoted to helping and coaching everyone to learn some of the social media skills needed to complete our project. We used a wiki, slideshare (which went down for most of the weekend the project was due!), polldaddy, meebo, and edublogs.
Now I’ve been using tools like this for about 12 years, so I can figure out the nuances between different sites. If you don’t use them all the time, those nuances are huge barriers. It takes time to figure them out. And if you want the project to look professional, it may take even longer!
My classmates became frustrated because they had to learn these web 2.0 skills PLUS the academic information. I am frustrated because I had to spend so much time coaching my teammates that I don’t feel I learned the academic information at all.
So how does this tie into my corporate life?
Learning 2.0 will not be successful unless it is implemented with good design principles.
Opening up collaboration and communication with the web 2.0 tools is not as easy as just pointing students to one of these sparkly tools and telling them “Go! Learn!”. Asking non-technical people to just learn a new technology places an unfair cognitive burden on those learners. It also places an unfair burden on the technical person in the class.
If the class truly becomes a collaborative group, and I feel mine was, the techie will try and bring the others in their group up to speed. That may take up all the time alloted for instruction – meaning the team learned to use a shiny toy, but did not learn the materials assigned to the course.
I think there is a lesson here too for those people who think Web 2.0 is going to save the world. You may have grown up using a computer, but there are many people in this country who can not afford a computer. There are people who can’t afford to pay for an Internet connection, or they can only afford dial-up. These people are entering the workforce too, and they don’t have the skills you have because they didn’t have access to the tools you did.
I have not heard much lately about the Digital Divide, but it’s still there. Aside from not being able to afford the Internet or equipment, there are lots of people who have to work 2 and 3 jobs to pay their rent. I can guarantee you that if they are able to be online, they aren’t worried with managing their brand. They get online to relax – play poker with their friends, play games, send stupid chain letters even though their techie daughter has told them a million times to look at Snopes first (ok off topic rant, sorry!).
What I am trying to say is, not everyone has the Web 2.0 skills because not everyone has access to the tools, and not everyone has time to get online and develop the skills. This has to be taken into consideration when creating training for a global audience.
I am NOT saying that we should avoid Learning 2.0 in our curriculum. I think these tools are powerful and should be harnessed. I AM saying this new way of instruction must be implemented thoughtfully.
We cannot afford to create instruction that requires the learner to learn how to use the instructional tools as well as learn the class materials. We either have to make the technology transparent, or we have to start teaching some of the Web 2.0 skills to our audiences.
Whew I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest! Let me know what you think of these ideas.