We have had many visitors to the Forum ( 38 ) but still not many contributions
to the discussion. It occurred to me that we, are actually engaged in a little
experiment that reflects the larger issues we are to discuss:
1. To all of us the Virtual Workshop is a completely new environment. The
EUN Web Team which designed and set it up dedicated a lot of thought to have
all the necessary functions in place for supporting online learning:
- A non-formal space called the Bulletin Board.
- The alternative for one to one and one to many mailings with CMAIL;
- Online synchronous chats that can be established from accessed from the
list of members
- The opportunity to upload documents and create a library of resources
by the moderators and the participants;
- A Links Treasury where we can suggest interesting links and comment on
- The main Forum where we can make observations regarding the questions
being proposed; propose new issues; develop threads of discussion.
2. We need to master a task similar to that teachers have when confronted
with the need to incorporate ICT in their work: experiment, explore the new
environment, try alternatives buttons and see what happens, what works and
what doesnt and so on.
3. In such new environment, most of us is lead by mixed motives. We are afraid
to blunder; perhaps with unintended consequences; it is not clear if the time
needed to master the environment is worth the trouble and so on
4. If we overcome these initial anxieties we may discover that we are able
to map the functions of the new environment; discover its rationality; to
become able to transform an unknown place into an area full of tools that
may be employed and to relate through them to the task at hand and with other
people with similar concerns.
5. The seminal author regarding curiosity and exploration is Berlyne, see:
Curiosity is the motivation to discover new knowledge when faced with
an unfamiliar situation (Berlyne, 1971). It promotes self-directed learning
by rewarding behavior that results in the assimilation of new knowledge.
Berlyne, D. E.: 1971, Aesthetics and Psychobiology, Appleton-Century-Crofts,
New York...things are boring if either too much or too little is known about
them (Schmidhuber, 1997). Schmidhuber, J.: 1997,
What's interesting? Technical Report TR-35-97, IDSIA, Lugano, Switzerland.
The common element among the 135 persons registered for our Virtual Workshop
is their professional involvement with issues related to innovation in education,
Quality in various contexts, ICT in education. Many of us are participating
in other fora dealing with the same issues. Prometeus; CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies
Workshop; the OECD working groups on ICT and the Quality of Learning; the ETB
team; the EUN network and others.
Will we be able, following the expected give and take in this virtual environment
to make the transition from a loosely assembled community of users of a Web
space into a more substantially focused team with an agenda that includes the
various aspects of Quality of Web-based learning resources and the related areas
of the development of norms, resistance of change, the development of communities
of practice and work teams, the concept of knowledge
I. Are the expectations from
teachers too conflicting and demanding?
The background document for
the workshop on “Teachers Role and Teacher Training” (EUN Conference 2000)
“…teachers are not just called
to change or adapt their classroom practice. They are called to get to
grips with a ‘culture of change’, that requires new learning skills and
roles for both teachers and students. (…)
Training entails the notions
of professional accountability as well as self-fulfillment and development.
This is linked to a general problem of teachers ‘professionalism’ as defined
by the multiplicity of stakeholders in teacher’s work. In our societies,
teachers are meant to be serving the pupils, the parents, the local community,
the schools, the whole society, ending up with some kind of ‘need overload’,
if not conflict, tension and anxiety. (…)
It has been argued that increased
intensification of teacher’s work, the increased demand for continuous
professionalisation as well as de-/re-skilling have led
to a situation that deprives teachers of essential control of their work
and the ability to respond to or initiate change. (…)
consequence of the demands for innovation and change made on teachers
by different and contradictory constituencies lead to a conservative
II. The context of quality
The dominance of values for
innovation and change versus those perpetuating existing traditional practices
in an ICT rich environment may be related to the context in which the
evaluation of the resources takes place.
The paper “Web-Enabled Communities
by Martin Roulleaux Dugage presents the following diagram prepared
by Dirk Mahling (firstname.lastname@example.org).
that a community of practice is very different from a community of interest
or a geographical community, neither of which implies shared practices
and learning. The diagram positions different types of communities according
to organizational reach and member cohesiveness. Work teams
are focused on a common mission; communities of practice
are gathered around common tasks and processes. Members actually share
their experience, methods and techniques with a common objective, which
can be (1) to provide a problem-solving forum for community members. (2)
to organize, manage and service a body of knowledge (3) to innovate and
create ideas, knowledge and practices.
Best practice communities
are more loosely tied together. Members share knowledge as a benchmarking
exercise with the expectation that others will put it into use. Communities
of interest assemble people with different and possibly conflicting
goals, with different work processes and different language. An
Economic Web is what e-portals and e-marketplaces call their “community”
- typically a customer base of people who regularly visit the site for
Dugage puts the three core
questions related to the definition of a community of practice as being:
(1) What is it about (2) How it works (3) What it produces. If those dimensions
are made clear to participants such communities can thrive. This means
that communities need to be managed.
teachers, while voting anonymously on their preferences for educational
resources in the Internet express conservative and traditional preferences
adequate to their usual mode of teaching? On the other hand, while working
in work teams or communities of practice with a task defined as the incorporation
of the Internet in their curricula, would they express innovative tendencies?
references on Communities of Practice:
Gavriel Solomon (http://cybercon98.harvard.edu/wcm/sal_article.html
) addresses the (1) Nature of the learning outcomes expected from novel
constructivist learning environments (2) The kind of mental organizations
of knowledge students are likely to prefer as a consequence of constructing
(3) The possible effects of navigating the information avalanche of the
Internet on the construction of knowledge.
“Knowledge is believed to be
actively constructed, tightly connected to the individual’s cognitive
repertoire and to the context within which this activity takes place,
hence it is situated. Accordingly the learner is more a maker than
a spectator.“ (…) knowledge comes to serve one’s organization of the experiential
world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality (…). While
the Piagetian cognitive development approach, emphasizes the individual
and the way he or she construct knowledge, a socio-cultural approach emphasizes
other aspects. (…It) is concerned mainly with the social process of interaction
and participation, the socially-based appropriation of meaning, that is
– with the way the situative social system, not just the individual,
interactively operates to construct shared knowledge (…).
Salomon asks what learning
outcomes may be expected in a constructivist environment. Granting the
reciprocal relations between the cognitive and the socio-cultural approaches
to such environments, one is still left with the question of what learning
outcomes – with the learning environments and of them are
we to expect and evaluate? He alerts that with a few exceptions we tend
to fall back (…) on the domesticated version of constructivism:
The application of constructivist pedagogy to attain traditional goals.
(…) limit constructivism to its practical delivery and technological aspects.
It may be argued that one of
the most important and interesting outcomes of constructivist learning
environments might be students’ improved ability to work in a team to
solve new, complex and ill structured real-life problems, showing their
coordinate abilities to access information and turn it into viable knowledge.
Knowledge, then, would not be something possessed for its own sake, but
rather something accessed and constructed when needed to solve a problem
or design something useful.
Activities such as constructing
a hypermedia or multimedia product are of particular interest because
exposure to the web-like, non-linear organization of information of hypermedia
may be isomorphous to the way information becomes organized in one’s mind.
(…) Meaning among other things is a function of the density, complexity
and organization of such a cognitive web. The denser and better organized
the web, the more does it function as a web of meaning. (…)
The Internet offers a
seductive flood of information. (…) For the educator with the Internet,
the whole world looks like a well of infinite knowledge. But does a flood
of randomly accessed information aid in the construction of
knowledge? Not very likely. Fascinated by the information highway,
and quite unknowingly, we are drawn back to greatly esteem factual information,
assuming that it is the major source of knowledge.
Additional references on