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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trends in Technology and Learning: NMC Summer Conference Plenary Stresses Contextual Constructivism

The opening plenary address of the New Media Consortium (NMC) Summer Conference stressed the importance of community and context when developing educational programs, particularly those using innovative technologies. Delivered by Dr. Diana Oblinger, President of EDUCAUSE, the speech took place on the campus of Princeton University, host for this year's conference. The New Media Consortium (NMC) is a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums, and research centers. The NMC stimulates and furthers the exploration and use of new media and technologies for learning and creative expression.

In keeping with the goals of the NMC Summer Conference (June 10-14), Oblinger's address focused on where and how Web 2.0 and "Learning 3.0" will bring new opportunities for learners that will accommodate preferences and the need to work in a collaborative dynamic.

Stressing the notion of "contextual constructivism," Oblinger discussed how students now expect to connect with each other and to participate in experiential learning activities. Learning takes place as much in informal settings as in the formal "classroom" (face to face or virtual), in those situations, social networks are of paramount importance.

Learning environments have changed, asserted Oblinger, and models of ideal instruction have followed. For example, instead of passively reading texts, students prefer to work with the information. A culture of participatory knowledge creation has emerged, and amateurs are often accepted as authorities (wikis, etc.), and information is viewed as something to be mashed up and integrated with web applications.

While the new paradigm has truly opened new opportunities for learners, it is dependent upon access, cautioned Oblinger. America needs a broadband policy in order to assure universal access.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus - NMC Summer Conference, Princeton, NJ

After Dr. Oblinger finished her presentation, Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC announced a few special events in addition to the full schedule of workshops and breakout sessions. One event included the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, available for conference participants who wish to learn about some of new trends in multimedia and immersive / collaborative learning.

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