Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Control and Autonomy

Control and autonomy seems to be the issue all around - both for those of us who would like to implement change and use "unsanctioned" technologies and for the student who wants to be in a position to make their own decisions -
How we can support use of social software to allow community cohesion without our presence creating the Hawthorne Effect? My use of Elgg is winning more acceptance within our Masters in Communications technology program - but I'm struggling to identify the degree of required intervention that is necessary to position students to connect and share, and having to constrain myself from being too involved in both the design and the delivery of the learning experience.While a self organizing environment is not necessarily an effective learning environment, the opposite can also be stated.
I grapple with the unknowns- can an independent, commited community of learners evolve from an instructor controlled learning experience? does learning continue without the direct intervention or even guiding hand of the instructor? can an instructor be just one of the learners at any point in the learning continuum? can we impose our technology on a users experience?
I think social software has great potential to not only allow us to advance a degree of cosntructivism but to allow the evolution of learning from an instructor led institutional experience into a learner directed journey. Too much of what we do now is built around confinement - I want to see what learning can be like when it is truly a freebase journey, where students dip into and out of formal learning experiences, meld it with their own informal and nonformal experiences, worklife and social life and maintain a record of reflections, connections and artefact development over the time of their lifelong continuous learning. But then having taught high school I know we don't create independent learners -we stifle them - and then I foolishly think they want freedom in higher education. In a society predicated on credentialism, most students just want what they need to know to get success and money. But those are just the environmental challenges we face.
As a learning designer I often speak about how I represent the interests of the learner in the face of institutional and professorial expectations. But until the advent of social software, and the unbundling of learning management systems I've never been able to actually act on my ideals. Now I can - to a degree - and it is daunting and challenging at the same time.

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