Technology has many purposes. It can be used to inform, educate, create, automate, or just make the things we want to do more convenient. Technologies such as the calculator, the word processor, and the world wide web have had a revolutionary effect on what we can accomplish, what we can create, and how we interact with others and the content they produce. Perhaps the most important role of technology is to help us create. Constructionism, following the precepts of constructivism, posits that learning is facilitated when a person actively creates something. The creation process often involves inspiration on the part of the creator. Inspiration can be understood as the realization that something new can be made, and this new thing is beyond that which was previously unknown or was deemed impossible. History is filled with examples of inspired artifacts. The airplane, the telephone, the microchip – these are all the effects of inspired learning. This idea is supported by the viability of problem-based learning, where students are given real-world challenges and must create the knowledge necessary to understand what needs to change in a given scenario. These ideas, constructionism and problem-based learning, are facilitated by the technologies that have evolved into powerful tools that enable people to both create and problem-solve.
Cognitive Emotional Pedagogy posits that learning is enhanced when the learner has an emotional investment in the process and/or is applying creativity (Cognitive, n.d.). Technology can create the opportunity for learners to do both. Projects such as posters, videos, and websites force students to problem solve and create. Learners must master the technological tools to construct a project artifact. This process often involves working with others. When this occurs, the new knowledge that learners generate is socially situated and is likely more sophisticated and/or nuanced than would exist if the learner had worked in isolation. This “community of practice” is partially defined by the instructor and the technologist. As the learner’s beliefs and behaviors develop, he or she “becomes more active and engaged within the culture and eventually assumes the role of expert” (Situated, n.d.). As Vygotsky argued, this social interaction “plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development” (Social, n.d.).
As learners use technology, the technology evolves to meet the needs of those using it. Applications become more powerful, more sophisticated, and better understood. This creates a cycle of invention where limits are tested and eventually removed, furthering the community of practice and evolving the culture that it embodies. Nowhere is this more evident than the Internet and more specifically, the world wide web. As we watched the static websites of the 1990’s become ever more sophisticated web applications, the public became more and more involved with the generation of content. Tools like wikis, blogs, and podcasts allowed the citizens of the Internet to communicate with each other in ways that were impossible before. Social sites like myspace, facebook, and twitter redefined how people shared beliefs and perceptions with each other. What once took days, months, or even years, was now able to be done instantly. Old modes of information and content sharing such as letters and CDs were replaced by email, instant message and peer-to-peer networks. Today, we are seeing even the venerated places of higher education being threatened by cost effective online courses (some of which are completely free). Learners have become more sophisticated and more discerning about what constitutes value in terms of their learning. Education is now available to people who, for lack of money or distance from schools, would not have been able to participate in the sharing of information associated with colleges and universities. Technology has changed us, and has even changed what we mean when we say “us.” Hopefully we will know how to make these changes beneficial to our global community of practice.
Cognitive Emotional Pedagogy (n.d.) Retrieved November 14, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_Emotional_Pedagogy
Situated Learning Theory (Lave) (n.d.) Retrieved November 14, 2012 from http://www.learning-theories.com/situated-learning-theory-lave.html
Social Development Theory (Vygosky) (n.d.) Retrieved November 14th, 2012 from http://www.learning-theories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html