Within the rapidly expanding field of educational technology, learners and educators must confront a seemingly overwhelming selection of tools designed to deliver and facilitate both online and blended learning. Many of these tools assume that learning is configured and delivered in closed contexts, through learning management systems (LMS). However, while traditional "classroom" learning is by no means obsolete, networked learning is in the ascendant. A foundational method in online and blended education, as well as the most common means of informal and self-directed learning, networked learning is rapidly becoming the dominant mode of teaching as well as learning.
In Teaching Crowds, Dron and Anderson introduce a new model for understanding and exploiting the pedagogical potential of Web-based technologies, one that rests on connections — on networks and collectives — rather than on separations. Recognizing that online learning both demands and affords new models of teaching and learning, the authors show how learners can engage with social media platforms to create an unbounded field of emergent connections. These connections empower learners, allowing them to draw from one another’s expertise to formulate and fulfill their own educational goals. In an increasingly networked world, developing such skills will, they argue, better prepare students to become self-directed, lifelong learners.
Jon Dron is associate professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems and a member of the Technology-Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University. His current research concerns the social aspects of learning technologies, with an emphasis on methods and technologies that enable learners to help each other. He is the author of Control and Constraint in E-Learning: Choosing When to Choose.
Terry Anderson is professor and researcher in the Technology-Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University. His interests focus on interaction and on the use of social media in educational contexts. He is the editor of The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, the second edition of which won the 2009 Charles E. Wedemeyer Award.
“Dron and Anderson offer a refreshing perspective on social media, while providing current examples that are positive, enriching, impactful, and educational. […] The authors provide excellent definitions and aids to situate their ideas. What is particularly impressive about their contribution to the discussion of social forms of learning is their emphasis on the educational value of social media and/or social software. […] The book is easy to read and provides valuable information to contextualize and counter the ongoing debates and discussions often grounded in fear that undercut the educational value of social media.”