Friday, September 08, 2006

Web 2.0 and revolutions in learning, teaching and assessment

Aficionados of web 2.0 and social software in learning and teaching might be interested in a set of slides from Scott Wilson of CETIS, presented at the recent (finished yesterday) ALT-C conference in Edinburgh.

I wasn't there to witness / take part in the workshop where Scott made his presentation, but I'm sure that it was all excellent stuff. I'm looking forward to someone posting the audio from this talk.

Passingly, I might mention a recent Don Hincliffe post on web 2.0: All we got was Web 1.0 when Tim Berners-Lee actually gave us Web 2.0. The point that Hincliffe is making that web 2.0 is really about us and our use of the Web, rather than just being predicated on technological advances:

"But is Web 2.0 really about the Web, or us? The rise of architectures of participation, which make it easy for users to contribute content, share it -- and then let other users easily discover and enrich it, is central to Web 2.0 sites like MySpace, YouTube, Digg, and Flickr. But this is still just another aspect in the way that we, ourselves, have changed the way we use the Web. Not only have we gained 950 million new Internet users in the last ten years, but a great many of them use the Internet differently now too, with a hundred million of them or more directly shaping the Web by building their own places on the Web with blogs and "spaces", or by contributing content of virtually infinite variety."

Independently, I have been thinking about the consequences of the read-write web (aka web 2.0) for education, particularly in the light of my own experience of trying to reconcile a course which uses massive group participation with an aging degree validation process. There is a faculty constraint that the marks contain a significant assessment of individual student work; sometimes less easy to supply when one is, as I do, teaching a rather unconventional course.

I posit that we are on the verge of a mass rise of architectures of participation in education, such as web 2.0 based PLEs. These in turn will enable a far more social constructivist style of education, and will take aspects of our educational systems to a point where there has to be a revolution in how education views individual achievement and its assessment.

Yet think about this: "Besides being competent, John got a 2.1 for his degree, so let's employ him" Clearly, too much hinges on the accreditation outputs of our education systems to just throw individual accreditation away. But if our educational institutions are to retain their accreditation role there needs to be a revolution in assessment that bridges near-future educational transformations with the demand for individual accreditation.

There are some starts in this direction, including peer assessment of individual contributions to group work. I'm interested in trying this in the next academic year, while running my own assessment system alongside peer assessment.

But individual experiments aside, I can see that a crisis is coming for assessment and accreditation unless we start to seriously consider new directions for assessment.



Blogger Mark van Harmelen said...

I found an interesting treatment of assessment in a Futurelab report that touches on assessment, from about half way down on this page.

Mon Sep 11, 12:01:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Catherine Kell said...

Hi Mark
Interesting to come across you after 25 years (Stoneleigh Street 1980). I like the way you're using your blog - it has a lot more interesting content to it than most of the blogs I read at the moment. I'm finding them incredibly narcissistic, overblown and lacking in content and a sense of context. Coming from the field of literacy studies, whcih has used anthropological and ethnographic methods to study literacy as social practice rather than as universal, transferable skill and the technologies of literacy as mediational means in social practice I am finding much of what I see in the current proliferation of blogs incredibly and naively technologically determinist. The kinds of changes in the wider landscape of higher education are not emerging as a result of new technologies (of course those play a very important part) but as part of much wider reconfigurations and the 'capturing' of education by the market, the overthrowing of the high priests that have ruled the academy since the enlightenment etc. Anyway, you raise some good points about assessment, as if these are new
but these are basically issues that many educators have been raising for years outside of new technologies. Of course the new technologies give rise to a huge range of new dimensions and challenges - but let's keep them in their place.

Email me at if you like. (I only have a blog in gestation at the moment).

Fri Sep 22, 01:30:00 AM GMT+1  

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