Teach yourself with Google?

“It’s becoming ever more clear to me that formal learning materials – interactive self-study materials, papers, etc. provided by so-called experts – are increasingly peripheral to the process of online learning, and in many cases could be unnecessary. Students can and do find the information that they need using Google and by calling on each other’s help and experience. What they come up with is far more precious than a piece of CBT or a handout because it is their own. A course wiki, developed by students themselves, is a tangible output from an online learning activity which students can take great pride in. It’s also likely to be relevant, practical and up-to-date (more than you can say for the average textbook).”

-Clive Shepherd on his
Clive on Learning blog

I’m not so sure this would work in Maths or other heavily discriminated-by-difficulty-of-topic subjects (sciences, engineering, aspects of economics). My experiments with Wikis and level 3 science students were mainly around building lists of usefulWeb sites and trying to become more critical in the selection of Web sites – we never actually got to the depth needed for ‘self-linking’ of wiki pages or using topic search and category wikinames. There was a bit of re-editing and some shift from forum mode to document mode, but only on short bits of writing (less than 300 words final).

I’ll be using wiki pages heavily for the ‘theoretical’ part of a Resource Based Learning module for Cert/Ed participants over the next academic year: we shall see what happens. I’ll need to seed the wiki somehow, but perhaps I’ll keep the seeding light. I would like to introduce the idea of a ‘pattern language’ for learning interventions (like the original wiki did for one style of computer programming) based on the experiences of the participants. Then perhaps we can see how the same patterns could arise with resource based learning.

I think that people who can explain the basic principles of a subject in writing in a structured way will

  • Be in demand for some time to come
  • Still want to get paid for the sweat that good writing needs
  • Won’t be putting large amounts of premium content out onto the Web for a bit

More student discussion about methods and types of argument in Maths (in the classroom as well as online) is definitely something I will be working on next year however.

Comments are closed.