Cyberlearning: Technology Transforming Education

This entry is part of my research project for the class of Networked Rhetoric at Stanford University. For more information, click here.

When I read that this class was about the rhetoric of social networking, I really only thought about facebook pages and Twitter tweets. However, I’ve learned that these and other similar platforms are being utilized for a variety of social benefits. For my research project, I am focusing on how online technologies are being utilized to transform education and the ways through which we learn. More specifically, I plan to look into open courseware and social networking technologies.

The President of MIT refers to “knowledge as a public good for the benefit of all.” This is certainly backed up by MIT’s OpenCourseWare site, where materials for over 1900 MIT courses are available online, free to access by anyone with an internet connection.

The increased access to knowledge allows anyone to learn regardless of age, geography, or socioeconomic status. But these technologies don’t only provide opportunities to absorb new knowledge; they also provide platforms for an active exchange of knowledge. For example, forums on professional development sites for teachers allow individuals to discuss lesson plans or teaching strategies. In this class, video chat technologies will enable us to have a discussion with students in Australia. And blogging allows writing students in Texas to critique the research ideas of our writing class in California. I’m most excited to observe video chats because I think they provide the most dynamic example of an exchange of ideas. I’d like to talk to some of the participants afterwards about what they learned or shared and how that method is different from the ways they have learned and shared ideas in the past. Overall, these technologies are allowing us to cross boundaries to not only gain knowledge, but also to contribute new knowledge.

Research by the National Science Foundation and initiatives by institutions like MIT are evidence that there is significant potential in online technologies as educational tools. The full potential is far from being realized, but already it is noticeably changing the ways through which we can learn.

Yoshika Crider, Stanford University

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cyberlearning: Technology Transforming Education

  1. Emily Banse says:

    I agree, online technology as educational tools is a fascinating innovation and has almost endless possibilities right now.
    My first interaction with education on a social networking site was a group that my highschool Macroeconomics teacher created on Facebook and allowed his students to join. From here, the students could post questions that he would reply quickly too, especially on the nights before exams. This is such an easy, informal way to exchange educational information. By the end of the year, it was common to have several teachers as friends on Facebook, something that may have be seen as odd several years ago.
    Sometimes, however, these educational technologies can create problems. I’ve seen Facebook groups dedicated to cheating, where each student may post an answer to a physics assignment, etc. Some may call this just taking advantage of an easy forum but I believe it may be undermining the integrity of educational tools.
    I am also excited to begin my two online summer courses and see what that has to offer. These courses allow for college credit that is accessible to students at home, far away from their campuses. The ability of universities to provide this to students is astounding. After this summer, I will certainly be able to judge its effectiveness and potential.
    Good luck with your research and writing! It has been exciting to see the potential of these exchanges and the potential exigence of these innovations!

  2. ccrvisitor says:

    You talk about a lot of interesting things with online social education, but I can’t find what your argument is going to be. I think you need to pick an area to focus on within online education.
    It could be effectiveness of social network sites in education. It could be problems with having MIT’s open courseware available to everyone and how this affects the value of a college degree.
    It could be something else too, but I think you need to narrow it down to a research question. This will really help focus it more because while everything seems interesting right off the bat, it will be hard to actually make an argument about too broad of a topic.

    -Zach

  3. Jake Smith says:

    Something to consider is at what frequency these online technologies are being used for education and how they relate to education in the traditional sense.

    Is the majority of cyberlearning just a few nice supplements to the standard schooling, like the video chat sessions, but don’t have much of a presence beyond that?

    Or is the majority of cyberlearning something students tap into on a daily basis along with their clasroom studies like forums or course websites?

    Is there the potential, like in the case of MIT’s open courseware, for online education to replace the traditional face to face education by having lectures online?

    Jake Smith, Class of 2012, Stanford University

  4. ccrvisitor says:

    I agree with you that technology provides us with new edges in the social graph, which we can (and sometimes do) utilize to make learning better. However, I’m curious what you think about the negative consequences: for example, I have seen people who, having a hard math problem to do, just look it up online (because theorems that undergraduates are supposed to be able to prove are easily accessible), instead of wasting many hours trying different paths to come up with their own solution. Can we then blame technology for preventing us to get deep into something by ourselves and therefore limiting creativity?
    I used to watch things from OCW a lot, but I haven’t seen data on how beneficial it has been to people: for example, cases in which it has changed the life of someone or a community. I wonder if there is information about that.
    What I’ve read by you so far olooks great and I’m looking forward to seeing the final result!

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