Moving From Analogue to High Definition e‑Tools to Support Empowering Social Learning Approaches
Keywords:Video-based web conferencing, guided social learning, learner agency, identity and knowledge construction
AbstractTraditional educational and training settings have dictated that the act of learning is an activity that is motivated by learners, directed by a teacher expert and based on information transfer and data manipulation. In this scenario, it has been assumed that learners more or less acquire knowledge or develop sets of skills as a result of such activity. With this model in place, learning ends when the training activities cease â€” and implies that repeated doses of similar training are required over time. Various computer technologies, as they have been generally integrated into educational settings, have taken on the role as tools to support such a model. In some cases they are used to replace the teacher in these contexts although not without serious implications for learners and their learning it has been argued. During the last three decades, a growing movement in educational research, based on the theoretical support of Leon Vygtosky and Mikhail Bakhtin, is advocating that the traditional conceptualization of the learning process is misconceived. From the perspective of this movement, learning is understood as a life‑long, social act of constructing knowledge in a dialogic activity with others. Within this model, social interaction is the precursor to higher order thinking rather than the reverse. The challenging question emerging for many educators is how new technologies can support knowledge and skill building in social constructivist‑based learning settings. And a corollary to this question arises: Depending on the particular technology chosen, what are the implications for learning and identity construction? In this paper, we describe the Language Learning Through Conferencing project (LLTC) in which an affordable video‑based web conferencing technology and desktop computers were used to conduct language learning sessions via the Internet. The project description, project content, and the experiences that took place over a sustained period, as well as the potential future for this approach to distance learning in a variety of fields are presented. The aim of the Language Learning Through Conferencing project (LLTC) has been to exploit a particular Web 2.0 technology to connect language learners internationally between Canada and new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and more recently in the public sector in Canada. More specifically, the project was a means to respond to learners who faced challenges in finding opportunities for language learning both in Europe and in Canada. Outcomes from ongoing qualitative and quantitative findings gathered by the respective authors are indicating that these dialogic opportunities are also having a powerful influence on learners' professional, linguistic and personal identities as well as their views of technology and learning.
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