Sharing spaces

When Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky's concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) began to take hold in teaching circles in the 1980s, personal computers were still largely stand-alone, and the World Wide Web was little more than a twinkle in Sir Tim's eyes. Vygotsky was educated in the Stalinist USSR so his ideas of cognitive gain were inevitably tinged with communal ideals, resulting in a theory rooted in social contruction of learning. But how could teachers translate these ideas into authentic learning contexts? A seminal conference paper entitled PC is to Piaget and WWW is to Vygotsky revealed a glimmer of light. The paper was quite prescient, but also wide of the mark, because it was written in 1995. That was of course the year many consider to have marked the emergence of the Web into the mainstream of our consciousness. Yet it wasn't until the social dimensions of the Web began to emerge into mainstream use around 6-7 years ago that Vygotsky's social constructivism approaches began to be realised.

Now we see learners collaborating, corresponding, voting, networking and connecting using a bewildering array of social tools such as wikis, blogs, social networking sites, photosharing and videosharing services and mobile telephony. It has to be documented, and all of us are the ones who will do it.

Below, as I promised in an earlier blog, is my own small contribution - the first in a series of 60 second videos which will illustrate how students are using the social web to create shared learning spaces. In this video you will see that they are not only sharing spaces, but also tools and technologies (a sort of technological multi-tasking) which provides them with their desired and possibly optimised learning spaces. Learning is the same as it ever was, but thanks to the new tools I believe it is also subtly changing.


Dan said…

Good to see the video on the blog - although perhaps you could work on the audio, it is very quiet when the video of the students is showing; the commentary is difficult to follow.

You mention that sharing of technologies (such as an iPod) "provides them with their desired and possibly optimised learning spaces". This is interesting given that most schools have banned such technology in the classroom.

Was the careful inclusion of Homo Zappiens by Veen & Vrakking (2006) deliberate? If so, brilliant.. a book that talks about the nature of the new digital generation, to whom collaboration is second nature.
Steve Wheeler said…
Yep, fair criticism on the audio. The next vid will improve on this one. I deliberately included Homo Zappiens as you spotted - it is probably the most apposite book I could have had in the shot. ...and although some social web tools are banned from schools, I think it will not be too mush time when some are allowed in controlled situations, probably residing within VLEs.
Anonymous said…
Hello. Your stuff is really interesting. I work as an ESOL teacher and I'm interested in learner autonomy and to what extent it is possible within the constraints of existing systems, institutions etc. Your post on EduPunk on your other blog was really an eye-opener! I'm a musician myself and write/peform/ release my own stuff: punk/folk/hip-hop/bluegrass sort of thing! What sort of music are you into?
Steve Wheeler said…
Hi Cosmo - good to hear from a fellow muso. My own influences are rock and blues - I play electric and accoustic guitar and have been known to dabble with a number of other instruments during gigs, including keyboards, bass guitar, madolin and a number of woodwind instruments, but my voice is my main instrument - the louder the music the better! Wish I had more time to practice.
Anne Marie said…
Am I alone in finding the images in this clip quite sad? The students are actually physically together in the room and they could be actually talking to each other. Yes, together they are producing a document but what value will that document have? Will they refer to it again after this piece of work has finished? Or does learning emerge simply from its production.

It just seems to me that there is much more potential for interaction in that room than these images show.
Steve Wheeler said…
Hi Ann Marie
Thanks for your observations - you raise important questions. In response, I would say that I would agree with you if I didn't actually know my students reasonably well. They do actually do a lot of talking together (sometimes too much!) and they are under instructions to revisit the wiki pages throughout their module and also to visit and add to the pages other students/pairs are working on. The idea is that as a group they create a number of useful pages and links so that they can revisit later when they are writing up their assignments.
Anne Marie said…
Thank you for your reply. It's a great idea to try and make these recordings. I don't want to put you off! You do have the most cited publication on education and wikis after all:)
I look forward to more discussion and seeing more videos.
Anne Marie

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