It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Social Media and Open Learning ~ My thoughts so far… October 20, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831 — Jamie @ 12:04 am

In preparation for this week’s class, Alec asked us to reflect on the following four questions:

  • What are your thoughts so far on open & networked learning?
  • What are the pros and cons of this type of learning experience?
  • How can we improve this learning experience?
  • Does any of this inform the way you teach or learn (or could/should teach and learn)?

As many of you are aware, I have had a hard couple of weeks.  I have had to evaluate my commitments and my learning environments.  Some of these reflections melded very well with these questions.  So, here we go:

  • What are your thoughts so far on open & networked learning?

When I started this course, I had no idea what open and networked learning was.  I actually thought that this course was still called “Computers in the Classroom!”  As we got into the course and I started reading the suggested readings and watching the suggested videos, as well as through the discussions arising from Twitter and blog posts, I have come to understand a little of what open learning means.  It is about working in community towards a common goal.  It is about creating networks to answer our personal needs.  It is about asking for help and sharing our knowledge.  It is based on the belief that we will learn more and go further with others than we can on our own.

  • What are the pros and cons of this type of learning experience?

Some of the pros of this type of learning:

  1. No more re-inventing the wheel.  Why research the same things, create the same lessons, do the same things as others all the time.  If we are willing to work together and share, our time commitment to our jobs will decrease.  Here is one example of how this has worked for me: I wanted to teach a science lesson on revolution and rotation.  I wrote a tweet asking for ideas.  Within 30 minutes I had links to lessons, videos and several ideas in my mentions box.  With very little effort on my part, I had my lesson prepared with several back-up activities in case the first didn’t work for my students.
  2. Ideas form, shape and solidify themselves through interactions with others.  We all have thoughts, ideas, plans…  By bouncing these ideas off of others, they become more clear, more solid, more useful…  Social and network learning allows us opportunities to work through these ideas with others.  We can take bits and pieces of what we hear from others to make our own ideas better.  This happens quite often through blog posts.  For example, in my blog post What Gets my Goat, I expressed an opinion.  Through the comments, I have been able to clarify my opinion.  This social learning allows us to see points of view that we are unable to see on our own.  It allows us to be presented with problems or concerns with our ideas that we can’t see ourselves.
  3. When learning is open, we are saying that it is meant for everyone.  There are no secrets.  We all know where we are going and why we are heading there.  It becomes transparent.  It saves time when we are all on the same page.

One major con, and one concern I have:

  1. One major con hit me with a vengeance this week.  When you open yourself up to this type of learning, there is no way to control the amount of information flow that happens.  You can get lost in the mountain of knowledge.  So, if I am opening my students (or myself) up to this type of learning, I also need to be equipped with the tools to handle it.
  2. One concern I have about open learning is that I don’t quite know where the line between collaboration and cheating is with regards to curriculum.  How do I know when my students are collaborating on a project and when one students has just copied from the other.  This was brought to light the other day when I was watching CSI: NY – “Unfriendly Chat” .  (I wanted to include the scene here, but couldn’t figure out how to capture it.  If you know, please let me know! So instead, here is a picture)  The episode was base around a website where people could log in and get connect with different people for a video chat.  At one point, the main character Mac Taylor links up with a boy of about 12 yrs old, sitting in front of books.  The boy ends up asking Mac science questions.  At first Mac answers them, but then changes tune and says that he will not help the boy cheat on his homework.  I think that it is an excellent idea to take advantage of experts through the use of social media.  However, when does it become the expert’s work and not their own?  Or, I see lots of wikispaces created my students who are asking people to add information for a report on an animal, for example.  If it is everyone else adding information, how does the student demonstrate their learning?  I’m hoping that we can broach this topic during the final classes of this course.
  • How can we improve this learning experience?

So far, I can’t think of anything.  There has been lots of explanation, guidance, support.  There has been lots of talking, collaboration, and I particularly appreciate the mentoring.  It has been very helpful.

  • Does any of this inform the way you teach or learn (or could/should teach and learn)?

I have tried to incorporate more opportunities in my classroom for my students to create their own learning networks.  I have tried to highlight my students for their strengths so they know who they can go to with their questions.  I am trying to shift the idea that I am the sole source for information in my classroom.  I am trying to incorporate some inquiry and project based learning in my classroom, although, as I said above, assessment remains my big question.


So, there are my thoughts so far.  I am looking forward to hearing what others think tonight.


5 Responses to “Social Media and Open Learning ~ My thoughts so far…”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul McKean, Jamie F. Jamie F said: In preparation for tonight's #eci831 class: Social Media and Open Learning ~ My thoughts so far…: […]

  2. Shelley Says:

    Great, reflective post!

    I especially liked your question re: how do students demonstrate their learning? You might enjoy posts by Joe Bower ( and Shelly Blake-Poch (

    Thank you for learning out loud.

  3. Fascinating post in general.

    Really musing on the idea of collab vs. cheating.

    Wonder if a student that ‘learns’ form a teacher in a classroom is in fact ‘cheating’ since the teacher did the work to become an expert. Seems that any student that is willing to ask an expert for ideas/experience is doing ‘research’ and therefore learning. And the networking impact is a brilliant life skill, too.

    G’luck with the firehose!

  4. olabakri Says:

    Great post Jamie. I agree with you on what you said especially the project part. I think when I was collaborating with one of my classmates in a project we used to write our names on the paper. The teacher always ensured that both of us work by following what we were doing and our ideas so that both of us actually work.

    I so agree with you Jamie that this course is eye-opening. It has opened many learning opportunities for us to learn by using many tools that we did not consider to use before whether in our classrooms or social life.

  5. Muise Says:

    I love what you wrote about assessment. This is so true. What is collaborating, and what is cheating? I look forward to reading more…I’m just wading through this myself.

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