Why we work together – cheating as learning

I’m starting the second week of my Educational Technology and the Adult Learner course. The following is the start of the discussion for week 2 :)

Introduction
You are the curriculum of this course. The course is designed so that each of you will do your own work, but will be sharing that work with other learners. When we see and respond to your work we’ll not only understand your perspective better, but we’ll better understand how adult learners see educational technology. As we collaborate using the tools you’ll experience first hand what its like to use those tools and that should help you understand how you could use it in your own practice. As we start to work together, hopefully we’ll begin to rely on each other’s perspective to make our own better.

Why don’t you just tell us what to learn?
There are certainly some basics that I could (and have at other times) break down into basic steps, and then test whether or not you remember those things. In our first class you all tried to log into a new blogging platform, register, and post. I could have given you a step by step process for doing that… and we would have finished faster. But i don’t consider actually just ‘getting the job done’ to be the same thing as understanding. I’m hoping that after this course you’ll be able to see a new technology, get a sense of what it’s for and bet able to use it in the way you need to use it.

Uncertainty
And, truth be told, there aren’t a huge amount of real ‘best practices’ for using technology in education. Every situation is different. A quick look around our own classroom, with the different backgrounds and different levels of experience, gives you a sense of the flexibility that we need. You have to consider your context if you’re going to use a technology. Learning how to deal with uncertainty… with that feeling of not being sure what the right answer is and deciding anyway, is critical to being able to use technology for education.

Community as Curriculum
There are very few people in the educational technology industry who are able to understand the technology by themselves. We all rely on each other to help us learn and understand our work. I tend to think this is true of any industry. We used to have to turn to books to pass knowledge around but with the communications technologies that we have now, we can work with each other in real time to come up with the answers to our challenges. We can use these technologies for more than simply telling each other ‘things’ we can use it to negotiate ideas between us.

This video is one that I made last year to try to explain the way as see the community as the curriculum. It is also an example of a resource created to explain a complex topic.

The learning contract
One of the flaws that I’ve had in this approach in the past is that I’ve been lacking a way to bring a method of assessment to the course that reflects the philosophy of education I’ve been working with. The idea of saying that you understood 92% of the ‘right’ way of seeing something is the exact opposite of the way that I see this course. From a traditional perspective… I want you to cheat. I want you to ‘get the answer’ from your neighbour. I want you to tell me that you did that… but more importantly, I’m hoping that you’ll tell each other that. So the contract measures how much work you’re doing… How much you are contributing.

And, if you take anything from this course, is that making meaning, creating knowledge, is something that happens in public.

Notes
Here’s an article that talks a little bit more about collaborative theories of education.

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