On our Learning Theory and Pedagogical Use of Technology -course we have been going deeper into the three theoretical viewpoints on learning: self-regulated learning, collaborative learning, and learning of expertise, and discussed also the possibilities to support such learning with technology. I’ve discussed all of the three theoritical viewpoints in my previous posts also, but I would like to highlight some issues that I’ve recently been pondering more about.
Learning is a social process
Learning is a social process, because learning is affected by the environment and other contextual variables that might strengthen or hinder learning of the individual. People learn in participation with others in social systems, whether formal or informal. Learning requires social support, like modelling, scaffolding or other types of support like strategy use, metacognitive monitoring and information processing.
PLE’s supporting self-regulated learning
PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) can be applied in order to enhance learners’ self-regulated learning. Student can be gradually introduced to PLEs.
In the first phase a PLE works as a personal information management tool (or more specifically, a collection of tools) that the student can use as a personal information production platform, a private learning environment, where she can rehearse setting goals and planning. In the next phase, social interaction and collaboration is added to the mix. The student begins to communicate with others, and the private learning environment is turned into a social learning space. In it, the student can rehearse self-monitoring and help-seeking. In the third and final phase, the PLE develops into information aggregation and management tool in which the student is practicing self-regulation and self-evaluation and adapting her learning.
So, PLE promotes collaboration and social networking, as well as informal learning in addition to formal learning. Along the way student develops into an active and engaged learner who is responsible for her own learning, which is the aim of becoming a self-regulated learner.
Advantages that technology provides for collaborative learning
Contemporary technology can provide means that enhance learning, and collaborative learning in particular. Firstly, it removes the traditional barriers of time and space. It also provide similar opportunities for all learners. Learning can be synchronous or asynchronous, asynchronous being especially helpful for the students to learn at their own pace. By technological means, same skills can be rehearsed and learned as in face to face situations, such as negotiation, critical reflection, and consensus building. Also, learning through technology is social.
Collaborative learning is successful when group members are able to negotiate and agree on a joint task and they are all committed to work together to achieve the socially agreed goals. Group members should be equal and have mutuality in influence. Everyone should be motivated and committed to the jointly agreed goal.
There can be a range of challenges in collaborative learning from motivation, emotions, communication, to working styles, learning habits, even cultural differences, but if the group members are aware of this, and are able to negotiate and compromise, they are likely to succeed.
I think to be successful in collaborative work, one needs to be a good self-regulated learner as well. A self-regulated learner can set herself learning goals, and choose strategies how to reach those goal. During the learning process, the learner is aware and regulates motivation, emotions and cognition, and also monitors how she is progressing. If there are problems, the student can adapt the strategies. When the learning task is done, student evaluates and reflects on the learning progress and outcome if she was successful or not, and can readjust strategies in the next task.
Being a self-aware learner helps also in collaborative learning situations, and probably the learner is also able to regulate her motivation, emotions and behavior in collaborative learning situation, but most likely also others (co-regulate and engage in socially shared regulation).
What I think is crucial about Web2.0 tools and how they can affect learning, is that they promote social interaction and learning through building knowledge together. The important thing is how the given technological tool(s) affects the learners’ thinking and engage them in progressive information processing and aggregation, and problem solving.
You can take a look at this video that I came across in YouTube to get a better idea of what I’m on about:
Learning of expertise
I was talking about progressive information processing and aggregation as well as problem solving. These are features that I think marks the experts.
Experts differ from novices on how they approach new information or challenging problems and what they are trying to do with it. An expert tries to understand the nature of the new information or problem, see beyond the obvious, and try to extend her existing competence in order to find the best possible solution.
Experts approach new information with an open mind, thinking that there probably is more to learn that you could imagine in the first outset. They assume that there are important things to learn, though they yet would not be able to distinguish what that is. They are also aware not to make simplistic assumptions, but watch for the complicating factors. So instead of relying on the best-fit match, experts rely on a sort of a knowledge-building schema, a frame for progressive solving of knowledge problem which results in new knowledge and deeper understanding.
Rarely in today’s world an expert can work alone. In work life there are expert groups who solve problems together, create new knowledge and innovate. Experts learn from each other when joining forces, and can solve very complex problems together that they probably could not alone. This is the same in education as well, people (students, teachers, and other interest groups) have different expertise, and combining this, they can learn from each other, deepen their knowledge, and create new knowledge.
During this course I have come to the conclusion that self-regulated learning, collaborative learning and learning of expertise have a strong correlation, being intertwined and each supporting the other. Adding technology into the mix (especially highlighting how it promotes social interaction and can affect people’s thinking) opens up a new dimension for learning, offering both vast opportunities but also, not to forget, its own challenges.
To finish my deliberation on a lighter note, I want to leave you with a video we did on a small group, which summarises the themes (SRL, CL and learning of expertise) on our Learning Theory and Pedagogical Use of Technology -course.
Jingle bells, jingle bells…
Bereiter, C. and Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: an inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago : Open Court, cop. 1993.
Dewiyanti, S., Brand-Gruwel, S., Jochems, W., & Broers, N. J. (2007). Students’ experiences with collaborative learning in asynchronous computer-supported collaborative learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 496-514.
Järvenoja, H. & Järvelä, S. (2009) Emotion control in collaborative learning situations: Do students regulate emotions evoked by social challenges? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 463-481.