Effective Social Learning

Effective Social Learning: A Collaborative, Globally-Networked Pedagogy

Nathan Loewen
Christopher Duncanson-Hales
G. Brooke Lester
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Effective Social Learning
    Book Description:

    The ground of higher education is shifting, but learning ecosystems around the world have much more space than MOOCs and trendy online platforms can fill, and Loewen shows how professors have an indisputable pedagogical edge that gives them a crucial role to play in higher education. By adopting the collaborative pedagogical process in this book, professors can create effective social learning experiences that connect students to peers and professional colleagues in real time. Loewen moves beyond surface questions about technology in the classroom to a problem best addressed by educators in bricks-and-mortar institutions: if students are social learners, how do we teach in a way that promotes actual dialogue for learning? Designing learning experiences that develop intercultural competencies puts the test to students’ social inclinations, and engagement with course material increases when it’s used to dig deeper into the specificities of their identity and social location. Loewen’s approach to interinstitutional collaborative teaching will be explored with examples and working templates for collaborative design of effective social learning experiences. This is done by collaborative dialogue with G. Brooke Lester and Christopher Duncanson-Hales. As a group, Loewen, Lester, and Duncanson-Hales create a text that extends pedagogical innovation in inspiring but practical ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8952-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 The Approach
    (pp. 1-19)
    Nathan Loewen

    Two teachers meet at a seminar on intercultural learning. This is no joke, but there is a punchline. One teacher is from Montreal, and the other from Moscow. Both teach on the topic of religious studies in their respective institutions, and both wish to find ways and means to enrich their classrooms. Within minutes, they hatch a plan: they will connect their classrooms in real time using Skype to discuss common themes in their courses. During lunch, they have a casual conversation about their research interests and goals for teaching. Business cards are exchanged and the teachers return to their...

  5. Chapter Response I: How Did We Get to Here?
    (pp. 20-22)
    G. Brooke Lester

    I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t see the fork in the road at the time I take it. It’s typically only looking back that I can say, “Huh. Made a choice there.” Or, occasionally, “Huh. Made ameaningfulchoice there.”

    As 2008 slid into 2009, a recent addition to the rank of PhDs and already-longtime member of the adjunct-faculty class, I read a blog post—I suppose for me in that year it must have been a blog post, rather than a tweet, or a Facebook status update—by Dr. A. K. M. “Akma” Adam, recommending his...

  6. Chapter Response II: Finding Your “Plan B”: Asynchronous and Synchronous Technology
    (pp. 23-24)
    Christopher J. Dunanson-Hales

    In 1994, Dale Hubert began the Flat Stanley Project in Ontario, Canada. This literacy project was an asynchronous, pen-pal-type project where children would create their own Flat Stanley paper cutouts and mail them to friends and family around the globe.

    At the time, my mother-in-law was teaching kindergarten in Mindemoya, Ontario. Mindemoya is a small village on Manitoulin Island that is approximately a four-hour drive from the closest major population centers. By mailing and receiving Flat Stanley and, more importantly, maintaining a journal of Flat Stanley’s adventures, Doreen’s students in this relatively isolated, rural Ontario community were able to connect...

  7. Chapter 2 The Collaboration
    (pp. 25-41)
    Nathan Loewen

    My first job after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies was as an apprentice electrician. Within months, I was filling sixty-to seventy-hour workweeks with learning about building codes, wiring techniques, schematics, and the complex dynamics of a fast-paced worksite. Over the next five years, I quickly realized why apprenticeships are central to a tradesperson’s education: seeing something in action is an effective means of learning, particularly when the learner is expected to follow the demonstration correctly from then on. To do otherwise threatened my job or my safety.

    In comparison to the worksite, college classrooms are typically generic...

  8. Chapter Response I: Facilitating Virtual Community
    (pp. 42-44)
    G. Brooke Lester

    Community: it’s the thing we all know we’re supposed to cultivate and preserve. Community in the classroom. Communities of inquiry. At seminary, perhaps worshiping communities. Instructors who doubt the possibility of “community” in digitally mediated learning, and instructors who testify to its experience, talk past one another across a seemingly intractable demilitarized zone of differing presuppositions.

    But what is a “community”? How do we know if some body of individuals can be said to experience “community” with one another? What are the constituent elements of “community,” and how do we recognize them when they occur? In this chapter, Loewen describes...

  9. Chapter Response II: Finding the Courage to Teach Dialogically
    (pp. 45-46)
    Christopher J. Duncanson-Hales

    In this chapter, we are introduced to a philosophy of teaching rooted in Derrida’s philosophical understanding of hospitality joined with Bakhtin’s concept of dialogical expressions as a promising approach to collaborative networked teaching and learning. While the overall orientation of this book is practical, some pedagogical theory is unavoidable if we are to be effective and reflective educators. One of the great advantages of the Seminarium series is the opportunity it gives me, as a reader, to join my own reflections with those of the primary author. As I was introduced to Loewen’s philosophy of teaching, I reflected on my...

  10. Chapter 3 The Foundation
    (pp. 47-61)
    Nathan Loewen

    My introduction to collaborative course design involved learning the hard way. My first-ever teaching assignment was at McGill University, where I was to team-teach a course for the Faculty of Religious Studies on “The Ethics of Violence and Non-Violence.” This was my co-teacher’s first time, too. Although the course was set to begin in January, we set about our planning in August. We began by compiling a massive bibliography based on a list of topics we thought were relevant; then we worked through hundreds of readings to create our “best of the best” course pack. By November, we divided the...

  11. Chapter Response I: Preparing for a Cross-Cultural Classroom Experience
    (pp. 62-65)
    G. Brooke Lester

    Back in chapter 2, Nathan Loewen expresses a goal that, by networked classrooms, we create conditions for students to undergo a cross-cultural experience. Here in chapter 3, preparations are underway to facilitate that experience.

    In biblical studies, we often encourage our learners to see reading the Bible as a kind of cross-cultural experience. Toward that end, we sometimes help students to come to better understanding of their own social standpoint through the use of the “Student Self-Inventory on Biblical Hermeneutics,” often simply called the “Gottwald Self-Inventory” since it first appeared (with its history) in an essay by Norman K. Gottwald.¹⁵...

  12. Chapter Response II: Considering Learning Disabilities in Collaborative Learning Environments
    (pp. 66-72)
    Christopher J. Duncanson-Hales

    Nathan Loewen introduces us to a process for collaborative course design, beginning with his reflections on the challenges he encountered with his first collaborative teaching experience. As one who is a relatively new teacher, I can relate with the learning required in one’s approach to pedagogical formation. Indeed, as mentioned in chapter 1, one of the great strengths I see in his pedagogical approach is the opportunity it allows for mentorship among faculty from diverse institutional, and perhaps disciplinary, perspectives.

    Loewen takes a risk in beginning a chapter on course design by describing his first teaching experience as “a train...

  13. Chapter 4 The Content
    (pp. 73-89)
    Nathan Loewen

    A former, younger version of myself was a self-employed bicycle mechanic. I paid my way through college by toiling away in the rearward recesses of big-box stores, assembling bikes and repairing the most heinously crooked wheels that clearly had been subjected to adolescent abandon. The process of “truing” a wheel requires patient attention to the whole and the parts. Each spoke is related to the others, and so the art of big-box-store bicycle maintenance is an iterative process of doing evaluation, adjustment, intervention, eyeballing, measuring, and applying experienced intuition. Here is the punchline of the vignette: I cannot imagine what...

  14. Chapter Response I: Teaching Online: The Bad News, the Worse News, and What to Do about It
    (pp. 90-91)
    G. Brooke Lester

    So wrote @savasavasava, as she fought for her life over a weekend of “Twitter vs. Zombies.”⁹ The organizers simply wanted an occasion for learners to embody a “lightning-fast version of a connectivist MOOC,” to “build a community” of realtime game developers, “learn more robust ways to use Twitter.” What broke loose is the kind of happy heck made possible when novel learning environments prompt us to summon the courage to loosen our gripeven a biton our habitual classroom activities, and ask: “Okay . . . what do I want to happen in the learner? Forget the ‘what?’. What...

  15. Chapter Response II: International Experiential Learning
    (pp. 92-98)
    Christopher J. Duncanson-Hales

    With the analogy of putting the cart before the horse in this chapter, Loewen presents a further refinement of backwards course design by introducing learning goals and objectives to the overall design of a course. Workable learning goals, he argues, “should speak clearly to your particular group of learners by asking them to demonstrate a specific skill or action vis-à-vis a specific context.”

    Loewen points out, the “question of context is partly solved because the sessions will be held in an online environment, but the question remains open when you and your partner think about how learning from the session...

  16. Chapter 5 The Plan
    (pp. 99-116)
    Nathan Loewen

    At 09h30 EDT (UTC: -4 hours), TeacherZ leaves her office for her classroom; but along the way, she stops in at her building’s IT center to pick up the mobile videoconferencing cart. Seeing someone familiar in the halls, she asks for help to guide the device into her classroom. By the time she arrives, there are people already filtering into the room, which itself has round tables that seat roughly ten people, and on each table are three desktop computers. After plugging in the videoconferencing unit and pressing the power button, she connects the cables in the manner shown to...

  17. Chapter Response I: Assign “Fails” to Find Digital Learning Wins
    (pp. 117-118)
    G. Brooke Lester

    In summer 2011, my school had a new “smart” classroom installed, including the capacity to live-stream presentations, invite interaction from viewers, and capture the results for later viewing.

    Here in fall 2014, it hasalmostbegun to work. (More accurately,somethingworks pretty well . . . just not what we installed.)

    So what happened?

    The initial rig involved a podium with a touch-screen interface; presenters could connect their own laptop, or simply use the “Mac Mini” built in to the podium. A ceiling-mounted camera captured the podium area and whiteboard, and could be swiveled to most other areas of...

  18. Chapter Response II: Minding the Divides
    (pp. 119-124)
    Christopher J. Duncanson-Hales

    Mark Graham, in his article “Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide,” recognizes that the increased attention being paid to “overcoming” the digital divide is based on misguided temporal and spatial assumptions underpinning common accounts of the divide.

    The positive social and economic effects of the digital revolution, Graham reminds us, are not new but, rather, have their antecedents in similar arguments circulating during the development and expansion of the telegraph and telephones. Graham recounts the opinion of Amos Dolbear, one of the inventors of the telephone who foresaw McLuhan’s global village, arguing that “any device...

  19. Chapter 6 The Details
    (pp. 125-144)
    Nathan Loewen

    A new academic term is just underway as I write this, and “the details” are emerging as teachers conduct their initial collaborative networked sessions. All the preparations described in the earlier chapters of this book are complete. Since most 126 collaborations already began their planning over the summer, there are already set in place activities that are derived from clearly defined learning goals. The classes know these learning experiences will be a part of their term, and the class sessions are building toward these exciting events.

    Now is the time when the details are to be looked after. And these...

  20. Chapter Response I: Creating a Community of Practice
    (pp. 145-146)
    G. Brooke Lester

    What you think you don’t have time for:Learning the technology.What you actually don’t have time for:Other people.

    Meeting with them. Bringing them up to speed on what you’re trying to do. Learning from them what it is that they’re trying to do. Figuring out how you might, sensibly, bear one another’s burdens. Everybody’s day is full. It’s hard for anybody even to know what anybodydoesall day.

    Not long ago, an experienced high school teacher “shadowed” a pair of students, each on a separate day.¹ For this instructor, who by his own account makes students sit...

  21. Chapter Response II: Creating Communities of Scholars
    (pp. 147-148)
    Christopher J. Duncanson-Hales

    In chapter 6, Loewen outlines some of the benefits of collaborative networked teaching and learning for a variety of stakeholders, including faculty, administration, students, and so forth. As important as getting the “buy-in” of our students is getting the administrative and other support of our colleagues.

    Since beginning this project, I have experienced a bit of what I call the Ford Tempo effect. Let me explain: when I was in high school, when it came time for my family to obtain a new car, my dad chose a silver Ford Tempo. The car was nothing special; however, I thought it...

  22. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 149-152)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 153-153)