Re: [xmca] E-Learning article from TC Record

From: Jay Lemke <jaylemke who-is-at>
Date: Sun Dec 16 2007 - 13:52:48 PST

I was pleased to see this issue raised by Luisa
Aires. Her message came just as I was
corresponding online with Cesar Coll in Barcelona
about visiting again with his project analyzing
learning from records of online university courses.

I also advised Ulric Bjorck in Sweden a few years
ago on an analysis of a similar sort. In both
cases some students participated both in online
learning and in face-to-face seminars in the same
course. In Australia, when I consulted for some
projects there (at Deakin University and
elsewhere), this mixed approach was then called "open learning".

Luisa asks how distance education and online
learning or open learning can be more responsive
to the perspective and interests of the student
(a la the Bologna ideals), and I think she is
right to signal the importance of online social networks and identities.

Too often, our online educational forums and
learning environments are simply "broadcast"
models -- a central controlling source, the
professor or course committee, puts out the
readings, the topics, the deadlines for
participation, etc. At most, the students may
raise unexpected questions, but they have little
initiative, and the whole activity is defined as
"work", not play, and so, in our dominant
(non-Vygotskyan) approach, as not "social" either.

But there is interesting research (e.g. by
Diepstraten and DuBois-Reymond in the
Netherlands) on alternate learning biographies,
which shows that many successful young (i.e. 20s
and 30s now, looking back) learners found formal
schooling an obstacle and the learning they
actually use in their lives came more through
their social networks. Today, we know, those
social networks are being formed as much or more
online as in face--to-face encounters.

Is it possible to design and conceptualize online
learning, whether at a long distance or a short
one, as PRIMARILY a social activity, which has
significant learning as just one aspect, almost
as a side-effect or an after-thought?

If you consider online communities like Whyville
(for learners at about age 10-15), which were
designed for science and math learning, but in an
informal way (cf. the offline 5th Dimension and
Clase Magica projects), research by Yasmin Kafai
at UCLA shows that social networking activity is
a predominant motivation and occupation of
participants, who also do online activities
whereby they learn some things our official
curriculum may value. In many other online
communities, like xmca, we find people as
interested in social contact as in learning. The
large communities built around computer games are
often like this, organized into "guilds" which
not only plan adventures together, but also serve
to apprentice newcomers and teach them how to play better.

Why do we imagine that learning goals must come
first, and that social relationships are then
brought in only secondarily in online learning?
Would it not be productive to reverse this (in
order to restore a more balanced dialectic for
change and development) and imagine that FIRST
one needs to build a social community to which
people come to participate in interesting
activities with others they like, admire, or feel
challenged by? And THEN we can expect significant
learning to ALSO happen, and start to think about
how it might be democratically shaped and guided within such a community?


PS. The Meyer article cited by Luisa is freely
available online, from 2005, and its official citation is:
Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 8, 2005, p. 1601-1625.
[I have some reservations about the Lakoff
approach to cultural metaphors, but it can
stimulate reflexive thinking about the biases
built into our common discourses on a topic.]

At 03:58 PM 12/16/2007, you wrote:
>Hi Mike & All
>Regarding the expansion of Internet, when we think about Distance
>Education we also think about online education and e-learning. This new
>way of Educating is suffering a fast diffusion and it’s usually seen as a
>business area. These two facts have strongly influenced the discourses and
>practices. There are several checklists suggesting ways to offer a
>successful online education; we can also find romantic perspectives, which
>consider that online education will solve all life long learning problems.
> However, these light points of view do not answer the demands of online
>education actors (the same way they have never answered to the
>expectations of face to face educational actors).
>Metadiscoursive analysis may help to deconstruct some myths related to
>online education. Katrina Meyer’s article “Common Metaphors and Their
>Impact on Distance Education…( points out some
>metaphors that show us another perspective about online distance
>In European Universities, “Bologna process” privileges the student’s role
>. But we can’t forget that these students belong to cultural and social
>networks that construct their identity. Therefore it is important for
>online education researches to be developed according to theoretical
>references such us CHAT and Sociocultural Theory. As far as Vygotski’s
>perspective is concerned it is important to explore how students learn, in
>which settings they do it and also their motives, tools… Theoretical
>source of neovygotskian research is a promising way to study online
>education. How can we reinterpret online education (in University) in a
>cultural historical view?
>Best regards,
>Luísa Aires
>(Universidade Aberta, Portugal)
>xmca mailing list

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
Website. <>
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Dec 16 13:56 PST 2007

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