What’s the theory?

ocTEL Explorer Activity 1.4

Stories on how technology has enhanced learning

The two stories that interested me were Stephen Downes and George Siemens on MOOCs and Helen Keegan’s Augmented Reality Game. They interested me because their ‘daring’ approaches are thought-provoking and really challenge the traditional way in which we practice learning and teaching. Sometimes I think that these radical shifts are what we need rather than softly-softly steps towards reinvigorating education.

The George Siemens video describes a MOOC in which emphasis is placed on social media and technology affording participant interaction. Siemens’ is a connectivist theory which places the utmost importance on networks of people and knowledge. Downes and Siemens wanted the social interaction between participants to actually produce content. Some content, such as common texts and readings were provided, but the aim was to use these as a catalyst for discussion and interaction that would generate more content and ideas. The video was reminiscent of this ocTEL MOOC in that connections and reflections with other participants are a rich source of learning themselves. The other stated aim of Downes and Siemens’, that of creating a network of participants learning from and with each other that would remain long after the official course had ended, is hopefully an outcome of #ocTEL 2014. The ideas are ‘revolutionary’ in that they explode the traditional method of teaching, where one person imparts knowledge to a finite set of students at a specific location for a decided duration.

Helen Keegan’s inspirational, orchestrated Augmented Reality Game was radical and, by her own admission, unethical. She admitted that it didn’t suit all her learners, but what she undoubtedly achieved with her students was real engagement, excitement, a sense of heightened awareness and a willingness to look beyond the stated everday meaning of things. The course was Advanced Multimedia students so it could be argued that the subject lent itself to the use of social media tools such as tumblr, twitter, youtube, foursquare etc. However, the fundamental game-playing quest and problem-solving structure could be transferred to many other disciplines. Her experiment reinforced my opinion that games-based learning has a real place in education.

Recently George Siemens has been asked by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to head a Research Initiative on MOOCs where the goal is to get hard data to bear on specific questions about the efficacy and application of MOOCs.