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Keynote given at ICWL2014 – The International Conference on Web-based Learning

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Scaling Informal Learning and Meaning Making at the Workplace

The nice thing about this keynote is that (I think) I managed to integrate some of the issues we face at the Learning Layers project revolving around the use of social media in informal learning with ideas around how shared meaning can emerge in social media. The second issue is addressed in the MERITS project thorough a number of experiments and computational modeling of socio-cognitive processes.  In this presentation, I drawn on ideas of a cognitive ecosystem. I introduce results from a classroom experiment in which we were successful to instill different levels of semantic stabilization in four groups of students by means of a very simple manipulation. What happened was quite unexpected for us though …

I got quite some nice questions from the audience as well. Here are some of the ideas I picked up from that discussion:

  • The connection of formal and informal learning: I think the Learning Layers project has a great strength in being able to cross different contexts. Going from a formal school or training setting into the workplace and the other way around. I think this should remind us educators that for the learners, there often is not really that big of a distinction between “formal” and “informal” as we like to think. Students just have to make sense of the different things they encounter in different contexts. And this is what you then call “learning”.
  • What if the learning in a group stabilizes around some misconceptions rather than what is the “right thing to learn”: I get this question a lot. And of course many examples of what comes out of social media conversations shows that this is really a problem. The experiment was not really meant as a “good practice” or blue print of how to run a course. It was merely to study some phenomena that are interesting from a learning perspective (I think) and the means to influence them. The cognitive ecosystems view suggests that we as teachers should be a bit more humble in how strongly we can influence the whole learning process. But the experiment also shows that artefacts introduced into the learning process can have quite a significant influence. So there is hope for us, I guess …