Thinning the classroom walls

‘Emergent Technologies in Education’ Seminar
Melbourne, Australia
23-25 November & 8-9 December, 2011

I’ve recently finished running another iteration of the Emergent Technologies in Education course, this time in compressed format for the Library at Victoria University in Melbourne. What really struck me this time is the extent to which social media are increasingly ‘thinning’ the walls of the classroom. One participant revived an old blog as a place to keep a set of hyperlinked, multimedia notes on the seminar; it’s called Librarian’s Web 2.0 Travels. Another created a Libguide called Web 2.0 Examples to showcase some of the technologies covered and to disseminate ideas to other VU educators who were not attending the seminar. Two participants set up brand new blogs – Cameron’s Space and Wiki Thoughts – to give them a space in which to reflect on the lessons they’re learning as they develop their online resources for the final presentations session in February 2012.  And, after most people had signed up to Twitter, we experimented with three live display formats – Monitter (a simple, easy-to-view linear display of the most recent tweets), Wiffiti (a dynamic display which shows the most recent tweets) and Visible Tweets (a dramatic, dynamic display showing a selection of recent tweets, one at a time) – over the last couple of days of the seminar. While the decision wasn’t unanimous, and while most people agreed that context would dictate which service was most appropriate, participants generally preferred the less distracting Monitter. So we used Monitter for backchannel feedback during students’ initial presentations on the last afternoon; you can check out the discussion under the #etvu11 hashtag.

The walls of face-to-face classrooms are getting thinner and thinner, allowing educational conversations to spill into the blogosphere and onto Twitter, encouraging the easy dissemination of ideas, promoting the building of links between course materials and the wider web, and inviting external commentary and feedback. Education is, less than ever, an isolated enterprise, but rather feeds into and is fed into by the world outside the classroom. And that, I think, is a good thing.

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