"Thinking is now distributed across minds, tools and media, groups of people, and space and time." --Chris Dede in "Web 2.0: Helping Reinvent Education"
Yesterday I re-read the Dede journal article entitled "Enabling Distributed Learning Communities Via Emerging Technologies" Part One and Part Two. I read it more carefully this time and soon realized that the characteristics that describe a distributed learning community also describe our class: diversity of expertise, advancing collective knowledge and skills, learning how to learn, and sharing what is learned.
I don't know why I didn't realize before that Dr. Z isn't simply teaching an online course, he's shepherding us into a distributed learning community.
This course is fascinating, challenging, and very different from any course I've ever taken, and not just because it's an on-line course. Dr. Z's teaching strategies guide us in the direction we need to go but then we are encouraged to roam and discover and synthesize and contribute. Our classroom is the whole virtual world, not a room with four walls and a textbook with a finite number of pages and a multiple-choice quiz at the end of the chapter. It's exhilarating and exhausting.
As the Dede article describes, a learning community "is a radical departure from the traditional view of schooling, with its emphasis on individual knowledge and performance..." That explains why this course is taking us out of our comfort zones, as Bill, Cathy and Gabe have described---Dr. Z is trying to get us to "unlearn the beliefs, values, assumptions and cultures underlying schools' standard operating practices." He's nudging us away from "passive assimilation of information to active construction of knowledge." He's serving as a facilitator and interpreter, commissioning us to mine "knowledge sources embedded in real-world settings."
He's "walking the talk" so that we can do the same.
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