Saturday, August 11, 2007

Collaborative Service-Learning Projects

"3 helping one another will achieve as much as 6 working SINGLY"
Theron linked to a mind map image that he said remixed a presentation that John Seeley Brown gave at MIT. He also linked to a news story about the presentation. His post reminded me that I had read the story a few months ago. But now I see it in a new light. Seeley Brown cogently explains the approach I think we should take to building the networks for the new high school phase of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI details):

Rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These methods are closer to an apprenticeship, a farther-reaching, more multilayered approach than traditional formal education, he said.

In particular, he praised situations where students who are passionate about specific topics study in groups and participate in online communities.

"We are learning in and through our interactions with others while doing real things," Seely Brown said. "I'm not saying that knowledge is socially constructed, but our understanding of that knowledge is socially constructed."

In one example, architecture students work on group design projects in a public setting. A professor's critique of a project is instructive to others. Collaboration is valued and encouraged along with individual achievement. Perhaps most meaningful is the students' process in completing the project, he said.

"As you work shoulder to shoulder with other kids, all the work you do and work in progress is done in public. So others understand what you're thinking," Seely Brown said.

The evolution of the Internet can facilitate this approach, he said. Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs, make information sharing and content creation easier.

I have described the irony that students are using social networking tools and schools are blocking the sites. Let's build teams of teachers and students working together as we have started at OpenProject and aim for an even greater multiplier!


SC Spaeth said...

See Facebook two separate worlds, too.

Theron said...

Hey Stephen,
Thanks for this summary and the info about the mindmap link. Stephen Downes said John Connel linked to that map of the Seeley Brown talk in this post. Thanks for the follow up.

SC Spaeth said...

Stephen Downes said that Connel attributed the original presentation to Seeley Brown but Connel originally attributed the vaXzine's map to a presentation by Preece. I read the comment after 12:30 AM Sunday and see in the light of day that Connel apparently removed the reference to the mind map and the attribution from his post. I had intended to quote from Connel to show that he had gotten it right but now I can't.

Downes made a relatively small error but it raises the issue: What responsibility do we have to one another in these environments for learning to help each other to get things right?