What really interests me all this while had been how we learn. Each one of us clearly learns differently. I have to admit that I’m not one who was the attentive learner in class at school. My mind would wander off to something or somewhere else the moment the teacher opened his/her mouth but this wasn’t the case for all the subjects. I tend to be more attentive on certain subjects like history and geography (perhaps both requires a lot of imagination, so my mind couldn’t wander off to a another realm) and also perhaps different teachers deliver differently. I have always wondered if our education system these days have done enough to engage students, to keep their level of interests and motivation high enough to be able to perform academically.
The success of institutional learning is really on the transformative process. It requires the environment to play the all-important role of stimulating cognitive development. We owe no small gratitude to Vygotsky for this foresights. I am particularly interested in the collaborative learning concept. Dr Michael Moore first defined the this in his transactional distance theory back in the 1970’s rooted in Vygotsky’s and Dewey’s thinking. It defines the role of environment in the cognitive development of a learner, the interactions among the different players in the environment – learners with learning materials, learners with teachers/instructors and learners with learners. Monica Zhang (2003) added the fourth element – interactions between learner and online interfaces which makes the concept much more relevant in the age of online learning environment.
The interaction with the learning environment is particularly important considering the new and emerging ways of learning – we are no longer bound to the brick and mortar education process anymore. We have multitude of learning opportunities through various means and platforms.
We learn vicariously (the word that I acquired in Business Law during my first year of my degree many years ago in “vicarious liability”). We learn from Wikipedia, Youtube, Facebook and Reddit to name a few. I no longer buy newspaper (nor online newspaper anymore) because I have the Twitter feeding me daily news update. That said, while the emergence of new platforms and apps over the last two decades has exponentially changed the way information is channeled, our education system is still relying on the traditional way of teaching. And while there are more information to be learned now than ever before, we are also faced with the challenge of fake news and pseudosciences (flat earth as an example). So we have both extremes coming together at the same time.
Collaborative learning is about having a distinct and clear objective of making students cognitive development more effective through interpersonal interactions, within groups and communities supported by a nurturing environment. The is therefore key that this distinct objective is achieved through a well-planned design of the learning and learning communities.