Authentic Learning in a Virtual World – Article Review

Assignment OISE CTL 1799 – Article Review

Clark, D., and Anderson, P. Beyond the Keyboard: Facilitating Authentic Learning Experiences in a Virtual World.

I chose this article because of my interest in constructivist applications using computers and project-based learning, both of which involve creating authentic learning experiences.

With the widespread appeal of new technological tools the authors begin by reminding us that human connection “is essential for learning, not just nice-to-have”, and follows with a review of the theoretical principles behind how we learn and then how this relates to online learning and the formation of communities of learners.
Four main principles are addressed:

“Knowledge exists in Community and is situated in specific contexts”.
The article refers to the work of Lave and Wenger and to the earlier work of Vygotsky in relating that learning takes place in a social context and that knowledge must be shared with others or applied to real life situations in order to be meaningful. Knowledge does not exist in isolation, inside our own heads.

“Knowledge resides in a DISCIPLINE, therefore effective teaching introduces learners to ways of thinking within the discipline”.
There is a relationship between novice and expert that must be nurtured in the learning environment. A community of more expert learners introduces a novice to the ways of thinking that are unique to the discipline and the implication here is that the instructor can be a participant in the learning community but that students can also learn from each other.

“Learning is SITUATED, therefore effective teaching provides authentic experiences by engaging learners in real problems”.
Context is an important determinant in how a learner will solve a problem and in order to gain expertise a novice needs to be provided with real problems within a variety of contexts in order to encourage the transfer of knowledge to other situations.

“REFLECTION is vital to deep learning, therefore effective teaching embraces reflective practice”.
Novices will become more expert in their thinking when they involve metacognition and begin to reflect upon how they are solving real problems, what kinds of unique thinking the discipline promotes, and they begin to develop an understanding of the challenges faced by experts within the discipline.

“The situated learner is ENGAGED, therefore effective teaching inspires deep learning”.
When learners are given an opportunity to work socially there is more of an opportunity to learn from experts in the solving of an authentic task. This creates engagement, and the authors explain that the deeper the engagement, the deeper the learning.
In reflecting upon these theoretical principles, the authors outline how they applied these theories to the creation of their online graduate courses in the area of social ecology, providing these suggestions:

  • instructors model ways of knowing unique to the discipline
  • instructors allow students to learn from each other
  • instructors establish a sense of community by allowing students to get to know each other as individuals (introductions, informal chat areas, open-endedness, modeling of formal and informal responses)
  • instructors create authentic projects – “real dilemmas”
  • instructors give students choice about what issues they may choose to study or discuss
  • instructors establish avenues for reflection and self-assessment about achieving expertise

Our course has begun quickly to embrace most, if not all of these recommendations and I will look forward to learning more about the discipline of holistic education as our collaborative and individual project ‘dilemmas’ emerge!

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