Saturday, April 18, 2009

Collaboration in Learning and Teaching

Listening to a recent Stephen Downes presentation and reading a recent report has progressed my thinking around collaboration, personal learning networks, virtual learning commons and efolios - and led me to try something new.

The 2009 Collaboration in Teaching & Learning report is a great read for several reasons. It's well researched, broadly informed and comes at a time when some clear directions - or at least some clear choices - are emerging and is therefore a very timely and useful document.

I also appreciated the format of this Australian Government publication with Creative Commons copyright, references bookmarked at and illustrative videos highlighted in the text.

The report's discussion of the options we have for ICT enabled collaboration also informed my thinking in a range of areas including those I listed above.

Stephen's April 16 presentation Providing Learning in Social Networks describes a journey to eLearning 2.0 that I found very familiar having used some of the tools and approaches he mentions including games and simulations, Moodle, Elgg and a range of Web 2.0 services.

Closed learning management systems, closed social networking learning environments and open web 2.0 services all have their pros and cons. How do we include the best of these and transcend - or at least alleviate - the disadvantages of each?

The part of the presentation that I found particularly interesting was the notion of a "distributed online course" and the idea that each student's personal learning spaces and network could be aggregated and re-mixed as a kind of RSS 'class stream'.

Stephen mentioned using Yahoo Pipes to bring each student's course work together and then re-publish them as an RSS feed. I teach a class at the moment (Student-Directed Inquiry - SDI) that uses Moodle as the central focus for information and tasks. Students are using Twitter as an 'activity log', blogs for their journal and various other web 2.0 services chosen by the students such as Flickr, Wikis and online galleries.
Yahoo Pipes enabled me to aggregate the RSS feeds from these various sources and apply some filters to sort the output in date order and remove any items that were published before the course commenced (a number of students have been using their online spaces and networks for some time).

I was then able to publish the 'class stream' Yahoo Pipe on my own class blog as a widget. I also put a link in the class moodle so that each student can not only view the work being published by every student but can also easily subscribe to the class stream in the aggregator of their choice or display it on their own blogs/journals or class websites. Each item retains a clickable link to the source for reading and comment.

In the picture above I have placed the class stream in a Mahara portfolio 'view' - I'm currently playing with Mahara as an option for student efolio publishing. This 'view' has my personal class journal on the right hand side and the class stream on the left. My next task is to create another pipe that will aggregate all the comments that students make on each others journals and other places.
Towards the end of the presentation Stephen suggests that the re-mixed and published class RSS feed might have other timed content automatically injected into it. This sounds like a fantastic idea - although it might be beyond Yahoo Pipes... Hmm... actually perhaps I just need an RSS source with items that are dated for publishing in the future... a little clumsy perhaps but it might work until I find something better - or Stephen and others make one :-)