Co-learning…hard work!


Co-learners: the Timechecker, the Taskmaster, the Writer, the Reporter.

Collaboration, co-operation and co-learning are crossing my digital-tracks a lot at the moment, in both my interaction with Howard Rheingold and with my participation in European Schoolnet’s, Future Classroom Scenarios (Module Three).

Rheingold is promoting his upcoming course “Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory” (here), while the Future Classroom Scenarios module was examining an Innovation Maturity Model (here) where Level Five (the highest) describes the student as “a co-designer of the learning journey.”

The latter is quite a challenge – the Future Classroom Scenario requires a high level of technological agility that plays away in the background with a motivated and willing learner in the foreground.

Rheingold spells out what he expects from a co-learner “I’ve created the structure within which we will co-learn — but making sense of it is up to all of us. So don’t expect to passively enjoy lectures and read texts. Students and instructor will collaborate through video and chat, asynchronous forums, personal learning blogs, wikis for self-organizing assignments, and mindmaps for trying to get an overview. 

Sometimes there is a view that technology in the educational process will make things easier – that may be true with some aspects of research.

The reality is however, that critical-thinking and creativity in a milieu of collaboration and co-learning requires dedication, time and a willingness to share and perhaps more importantly to understand the importance of the sharing, in the co-design of learning.

Image: Screengrab from The Interactive Classroom 2 Italy on Vimeo here.

Informal learning


I think every teacher has seen or heard (of) a disengaged student become really interested in some activity, whether within or without school, during the years they are attending it.

It might have been during a school-musical, on the football-pitch, wherever…sometimes it may even be his / her parent telling you as a teacher, in a hope that you accept their child as good at something.

The pity is, we have few ways of capturing that informal interest and allowing credit for it. In the video we are offered a way forward

  • giving the child freedom of expression
  • leveraging technology to capture learning
  • showcasing work in the school and through the Cloud
  • allowing teachers from a variety of disciplines (and not just the child’s class-teacher/s) to accredit the childs’ learning on the evidence presented

Its a simple enough process at many levels – the pity is that it is called a future classroom scenario. Why not start now?

A relevant comment via Twitter…


Credit: The video is an iTEC scenario: Recognizing Informal Learning from European SchoolNets Future Classrooms Scenarios Course which is taking place at the moment (here).

Curation & Validation


(Image from

There was an interesting discussion (here) on Irish national radio between broadcaster, Marian Finucane and Stephen O’ Leary, lecturer in online journalism at Griffith College, Dublin. The theme was the pressure to fill twenty-four hour news channels and how this affects journalism.

The conversation dealt with social-media and the importance of filtering for example Twitter-streams, in order to find out who is a reliable source for journalists.

“Authoritative” was used in the discussion, as in for example, the work of the “traditional court-reporter.”

O’ Leary’s phrase “area of verification” resonated with me, as he spoke of opportunities for student journalists, as they seek to find a valued role in the landscape of reporting amongst the mass of information churned out by social-media.

This conversation tied in nicely with a Tweet from Anne Looney of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment here in Ireland. She has spoken previously about trusted teacher-tweeters who are effectively curators in their specialist areas. This time Looney tweeted a link from DK (see comment below)  Douglas Karr called Curation As An Emerging Skillset | A 5 Step Guide (here).

Karr’s five steps are

1. Find : Track other digital curators to emulate / learn from.
2. Find : Deliberately forage content from many sources.
3. Follow : Click those inspirational digital breadcrumbs.
4. Focus : Sharpen the sights and cull the chaff to find the good stuff.
5. Frame : Context is king so reposition & tell stories with the new found ideas.

I find his fifth point encouraging since it is out of the valued social media content that we rework our ideas. This is not straightforward however and it takes time to give a level of reflection that builds on the already generated ideas. DK puts it well “Follow the plan and basically suck the juicy wisdom out of the web then humanise it for good.

The work humanise is so important – it is as important as the verification and authority mentioned in the radio conversation above. Quality content that has meaning for people will gain respect.

We need to move with this into the educational sphere – I occasionally have a Twitter hashtag of something or other in the foreground of my classes – normalising social-media and using it purposely in teaching and learning is in its very early stages – teachers who approach this though in a spirit of verification, authority and for the benefit of people will have a lot to offer, in the inevitable debate as to best how to embed these ideas across our class and staff-rooms.

Picture credit: By Stefan Krause, Germany (Own work) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons