The Net has created a context in which students are being transformed into empowered learners. These learners demand quality learning experiences- they know what learning is and what learning they need. Harold Ashe picks up the transformational aphorism “people formerly known as …” developed by Jay Rosen to strike an evocative manifesto for these connected learners. He writes:
The people formerly known as students are those who were on the receiving end of an oligopolist educational system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and few options, and accredited institutions competing to speak their truths while the rest of the population learned in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all. Harold Ashe 2006
To expand these into a listing of particular demands related to efficient, effective and empowered learning, I note that:
Connected learners (the people formerly known as students) demand:
Empowerment: Empowerment is individual and psychological and sociological construct that has a long research history and has been variously associated with a variety of component sub streams or dimensions constructs. Dewettinck, Singh & Buyens (2003) identify four as meaningfulness, competence, self determination and impact.. Obvious learners need to insure that the leering content and activity either externally or internally meaningful if they are to feel motivated to expend the necessary time and energy to attain the learning outcomes. Second is competence. Empowered learners believe and are able to demonstrate their competence both in attaining the learning outcomes and in utilizing the tools, techniques and activities necessary to do so. The third dimension of the empowered learner is self determinism – learners acquire the skills and self awareness to commit work to the task at hand, not only because of external motivation derived from a teachers demands, but also through their confidence in their own ability to succeed and to chart their chosen path through learning activity. The fourth component of empowerment is impact – the capacity of the learner to effect both the content and context of their learning experience.
· Engagement with the learning activities – Active Learning is associated with motivation, perseverance and enjoyment of learning (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991; Grabinger & Dunlap, 2002). The net offers a host of learning contexts from games to immersive environments, to simulations and exploratory activities, to massive online libraries and mountains of text. Some have decried the supposed lack of attention span of connected learners and a related refusal to expend energy at the receiving end of one-way media. Others note the powerful learning that happens at twitch speed (Prensky,2001). Connected learners know that there are many ways to learn, and each is configured by culture, finances, time and commitment. Yet, they also recognize that learning, like any other accomplishment, is accompanied by work and active engagement.
· Social experiences enrich personal networks and allow for growth of social capital. Learning is hard work and can be expensive. Many learners enroll in formal learning experiences do so with a desire to experience new friends, lovers and activities. Most connected learners want these to take place both on and offline. Further, they expect that encounters in one domain will spill over and support deepening relationships in the other. The phenomenal growth and interest in a host of new social software applications attest to this interest and inspire connected educators to create contexts in which cognitive and social presence can flourish.
· Guidance – In a learning network, an infinite number of paths and resources present themselves to the connected learner (Koper, 2005). Attested paths through learning activities that guide, suggest, mentor and test connect the connected learner to the connected teacher.. Given the cost and necessary time commitment involved, connected learners are very reluctant to waste time either on activities that are not effective or otherwise productive. Thus, they expect that guidance in the form of learning paths, remedial assessment and help, advise and mentoring will be able available to them. They realize that such guidance is not free and that some form of exchange or payment may fairly be demanded in exchange. This guidance may come from professional teachers and educational institutions, but services such as Google Answers and informal online and place bound community connections are also used extensively for guidance by connected learners.
· Good Tech: Fortunately the cost of the necessary technology to be an empowered connected learner continues to decrease. Although beyond the mans of the majority of learners alive today, the efforts of groups such as MIT’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association with their $100 laptop and related efforts at increasing connectivity by Green Wifi promise a not distant future where good tech is accessible to all. In any case connectivity to the Net remains the technical foundation upon which connected learning is grounded.
Connected educators, (the people, formerly known as teachers)
Returning now to the other half of the formal education context, we find a transformational effect of the Net on the people, formerly known as teachers. These connected educators also have their demands for effective professional life.
· Empowerment: Much of the empowerment research literature focuses of empowerment on employees. There is considerable evidence to show empowered professionals are more satisfied in their job, demonstrate increased loyalty to their employers and suffer reduced work related stress (Pearson & Moomaw, 2005) and some, but not as clear, evidence of increased employer productivity (Dewettinck et al., 2003). As above, connected educators demand meaningfulness in their day-to-day activity. They also need opportunity and support to develop their competencies, and especially those that result in reduction of activity that lacks meaning or value by themselves, administrators or learners. Educators have long enjoyed high degrees of self determination especially in those education systems with recognition of academic freedom. Connected educators seek to expand the scope of this capacity for self determination through all aspects of their employed and social lives. Finally, connected educators have impact – not only on learners, but on their institutions and the wider connected world that they are creating. The dimensions of freedom noted for connected learners also apply to connected educators.
· Manageable workload and Fair return for effort: Educating in a connected context has been associated with excessive workload for some time(Payne McLain, 2005; Jones & Johnson–Yale, 2005; Tomei, 2004; Lazarus, 2003). Much of this is related to surmounting learning curves, redundancy (doing things in both pre and post net systems), adherence to pre-net pedagogy, poor tech systems and a resistance to the merging of social and vocational that accompanies pervasive computing. But some connected educators (including myself) have difficulty in disengaging from this empowering connected context. Advice and tools (Gervedink Nijhuis G. & Collis, 2005) abound for effective time and task management, but connected educators (and their supervisors) must acquire the knowledge to know what needs to be done, the experience to determine what is just fun to do or no longer worth doing, the wisdom to do differentiate between them and the energy to do would must be done (to rather poorly paraphrase the AA prayer). Connected educators are professionals doing demanding work. Like other workers their efforts should be rewarded not by the excessive compensation of the successful entrepreneur, but by local standards that reward valued professionals for highly skilled and responsible labour.
· Supportive community: Continuing research on communities of practice (Wenger,2001) illustrate the need for and benefit from a supportive community – both online and offline (Schlager & Fusco, 2003). Assistance, guidance, mentoring and support is needed by all members of the connected community. The Net demonstrates as more evidence of failed communities as those that have sustained and prospered over the years, yet there is evidence of contin8uing interest in global and local online communities (can 80 million MySpace users be getting nothing??)
· Good Tech: As connected learners, connected educators need the tools to do the work. Many educators complain of the lack of tools supplied by their employer- yet they drive to work in very expensive automobiles paid by earnings garnered from these same employers. Employers should provide these tools, but the increasing spill-over and value add between professional and personal work and pleasure is so strong that connected educators find ways to acquire and maintain their tech –even in the absence of employer support.
To conclude the people formerly known as students, taught by the people formerly known as teachers each share a demand for empowerment, technology, community, fairness and support. Since each of us is both formerly and currently a – person currently known as a connected learner and a connected educator of others, we have much to learn and to teach in the connected context of the Web. Can the established educational systems meet these demands?
Dewettinck, K., Singh, J., & Buyens, D. (2003 ). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: reviewing the empowerment effects on critical work outcomes. Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series, 2003(29)
Retrieved Aug. 2003 from http://ideas.repec.org/p/vlg/vlgwps/2003-29.html
Gervedink Nijhuis G., & Collis, B. (2005). How can academics stay in control? British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(6), 1035-1048.
Grabinger, R.S.,& Dunlap, J.C. (2002). Applying the REAL model to web based instruction. In ED-MEDIA 2002 Proceedings: AACE. Retrieved Feb 08, 2004 from http://ceo.cudenver.edu/~scott_grabinger/downloads/REALWeb.v5.ALTC.pdf.
Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1991). Active learning cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.
Jones, S., & Johnson–Yale, C. (2005). Professors online: The Internet’s impact on college faculty. First Monday, 10(9)
Retrieved Sept. 2005 from http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_9/jones/#j2
Koper, R. (2005). Designing learning networks for lifelong learners. In R. Koper & K. Tatterssall (Eds.), Learning Design. (pp. 239-252). Berlin: Springer.
Lazarus, B. (2003). Teaching courses online: How much time does it take. Journal of Asynchronous Learning, 7(3)
Retrieved Dec. 1, 2003 from http://www.aln.org/publications/jaln/v7n3/v7n3_lazarus.asp
Payne McLain, B. (2005). Estimating Faculty and Student Workload for Interaction in Online Graduate Music Courses . Journal of Asynchronous Learning , 9(3)
Pearson, L., & Moomaw, W. (2005). The Relationship between Teacher Autonomy and Stress, Work Satisfaction, Empowerment, and Professionalism. Educational Research Quarterly,. 29(1), 37-53.
Retrieved , Aug. 2006 from the Academic Search Premier database.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw Hill.
Schlager, M., & Fusco, J. (2003). Teacher Professional Development, Technology, and Communities of Practice: Are We Putting the Cart Before the Horse? The Information Society, 19(3), 203-220.
Retrieved Jan. 2006 from http://tappedin.org/tappedin/web/papers/2003/TPDBarab.pdf
Tomei, L. (2004). The impact of online teaching on faculty load: Computing the ideal class size for online courses. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning , 1(1)
Retrieved January 20, 2004 from http://itdl.org/journal/Jan_04/article04.htm
Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice: A survey of community-orientated technologies. (1.3 ed.). Shareware. Retrieved Mar 12, 2002 from the WWW at http://www.ewenger.com/tech/.