Friday, June 13, 2008

Axel Brun’s Pedagogy 2.0

One of the chapters in Axel Brun’s latest book, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond (2008), is about how learning and education need to be changed in order to prepare people to participate effectively in the Web 2.0 world. He suggests that that learners need to develop five capacities—creativity, collaborative, critical, combinatory, and communicative. As I noted in my own recent recommendations about topics for my upcoming course for developing family life educators, there are some overlaps in my topics and his.

Communication. One of my topics was “writing for the web” which is similar to his communication, but I can see that my focus has been on text and words. Clearly, this could be broadened to include a broader range of communication tools that would include visual, audio and video tools. Effective communication seems like a core capacity that students must learn.

Collaboration. Developing the capacity to work with other people in teams is another topic that was included on both Brun’s and my list. Here the skills and needs are for people to develop both the ability to lead people as well as to work effectively as team members. There is an important body of literature, particularly in training social service providers to deliver services to children with disabilities, that has much to suggest about what skills to teach in this area and how to develop these skills. Additionally, there is an emerging body of work related to online communities (See Leadership at a Distance) that is identifying some of the unique challenges of working together online.

Creative. I did not specifically identify “creativity” as a topic in the course I was developing. In many ways, graduate education in general it focused on developing students’ ability to be creative scientists and practitioners, but I have rarely seen “creativity” included in a course syllabus. However, in my course and in many other courses, students were expected to produce their own projects and activities. Also, at least in part, I was encouraging them to read the scientific literature to identify places in which they could identify topics or opportunities to develop educational materials.

Critical thinking skills. In my particular course, I focus the development of critical thinking on how to analyze the research literature on children, youth and families in order to extract information that can be useful to help families function more effectively. I also encourage review existing family life materials to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these materials. My “Framework for Family Life Education” article in 1994 was created to provide guidelines for thinking critically about family life education materials. Another key part of the course I am designing is a process in which the students provide each other with feedback. This peer feedback effort is also designed to help students develop critical thinking about each other’s work.

Combinatory. Here I think Brun’s is thinking about mashups and other uniquely web-based activities in which people are putting various materials together in new ways. More broadly in education these are the skills of “integration and synthesis,” that is, linking ideas, text, sounds, pictures, and so forth together in new ways to create new materials. It has occurred to me lately that this is a skill that I know less about how to teach. I can design projects for students that require this skill, but I am less sure how to engage them in the rudimentary tasks that will help them develop this skill.

In my course, I am going to make these five capacities more explicit to the students as a way to help them organize and focus their learning of each of these elements.

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