social learning

Former SLT Student leads the way for using Learning Technologies in Building Construction


Education is no rocket science!!

Education is no Rocket Science!!!

A couple of years ago, a friend who is a doctor and have to say a bit up himself, asked me what I did for a living. We schooled together and there was a bit of a history between us. Anyway back to the question, what I did for a living – I answered, I am in education. My friend who shall remain unnamed answered back, It’s not rocket science is it? You work in, stand in front, talk and your job is done!

Well my reaction to his first question :-# – education is no rocket science – Damn right, it is Not Rocket Science, in fact it is harder than that and I went on to explain:

Every component in a rocket has a predictable behaviour and you know as a scientist exactly what you can expect from it – the exact outcome. It remains the same every time. Thus assembling a rocket is a simple matter of putting the components together carefully, making sure that the output from one component feeds into the the next that is attached to it the right information. However in education, each component (student) is uniquely different, they can not be controlled, as a matter of fact, they should not be controlled and the outcome from each is absolutely unpredictable! If I were to assemble a rocket using these components, it will be a damn hard task, don’t you think?

My friend – speechless! He it seemed had just landed from the land of arrogance and full of ego!

In my 8 or so years in education, I have to say that teaching is probably one of the most difficult job, if it is done right. Each student in the class is uniquely different, they have their strengths and weaknesses and each will react differently to a certain task. In my experience, just as a scientist has to build a link or relationship between each component he/she assembles, we as teachers have to do the same every time and everyday. A rocket scientists job is done when he/she knows exactly what the relationship is, however, a teachers job is never finished! He/she has to keep building and working on this relationship every given time. That is of course, the teacher is not just standing in front of the class talking as my friend perceived it to be.

The reason why I have written about this experience now and not when it happened is because earlier this week, I attended my institutes annual teaching and learning symposium and the keynote reminded me of the importance of ‘RELATIONSHIP’ in education. I don’t see the differences between the students as a weakness and that I as a teacher have to bring it to uniformity rather I see it as a strength that if nurtured in class could enable us to learn from each others experiences and knowledge and this action enables the relationships to be established. If these conversations were to happen frequently, you are assured that the links between the components will start to form and this will enable you to build a spaceship that is UNIQUELY different. Where each component is not programmed rather act on their own accord and regularly improve their own performance as they continue learning.

TPACK 2.0 – The framework for learning and teaching with Web 2.0 tools

TPACK 2.0 – The framework for learning and teaching with Web 2.0 tools

Competitive Social Learning (Competitive socio-constructivism)

A blog I started last year during Xmas, forgot to publish 😦

Over the Christmas holiday, while playing Xbox with my nephew and with my thesis at the back of my head, the concept of what I decided to call competitive social learning dawned on me.

Competitive social learning: creating, collaborating and communicating in groups, a community or in a network but with competition as a self-motivator. It is not to replace anything but to add to what we are already doing in social constructivism. Lets take a few social media currently being used: Flickr, it shows you how many times your photo(s) have been viewed or the number of times people have made it their favourite. Youtube, again the rating given by people who view your video, the comments left behind and the number of followers. Blogging, the number of hits your site is receiving and the number of people following you. Twitter, the number of posts you make, how many times has it been retweeted, the number of followers, the number of lists you appear in, and number of times it has been marked by someone as favourite.

The success to some of these tools, the uptake and retention can to some extend be credited to how good the platforms are at generating a competitive environment. Competitive social learning is using social media as a learning platform to nurture healthy competition using the ‘invisible’ competitive features already available. The same competitive concept can be used in LMS’s like Moodle, some great work has been done by Lewis Carr who has designed a Moodle meter ( and a Moodle Dashboard ( that promotes the invisible competitive capabilities.

A social media can be compared against a classroom, where the people using it are the students and social media itself is the classroom with no walls hence some of the challenges social media faces are the same as what a teacher would face in a classroom: retention and engagement. How does social media platforms manage to hold on to the users? Could one of the reasons be the “invisible” competitive nature of the systems that makes us come back to see what has transpired? No doubt the social connectivity and the potential that comes with it is a major draw card but is it as simple as that or is there more to it? Amongst all the reasons given for why games are so addictive, being challenged or competing against something or someone probably stands out or is well implemented. Could it be that a hybrid of competitiveness and social constructivism be a more effective approach?

A carefully controlled competitive environment could potentially be the best self-motivator and this could very easily be achieved on most social media. I have used the words ‘carefully control competitive environment’ because competition could also have a negative effect on students.

Knowing the vast hold video games have on the younger generation, could competitive social learning be the way forward. Competition is hardwired by the time kids reach high school (from playing games). It could be said that gamers and mostly the younger generation are well equipped to deal with and manage a virtual competitive environment. Could the transition from virtual to a real environment yield meaningful learning?

Emerging themes from student blogs.

Project I am involved in this semester.

The students create an eportfolio using Blogger. These are some of the themes I have identified so far emerging from the use of blog in learning and teaching.

Things that make your day!

I started a Web 2.0 project with Marine Technology students last week and had only spent 1 hour with the students explaining why we were doing things the new way. Got the students setup on Blogger, Gmail and gave them a quick overview of GDocs and Youtube. 

Picture: Student’s in the Marine Technology course doing a presentation this morning.

After the session last week and few days later, a student commented:


I’ve just started the 2011 semester 1 studies and something very diferrent is changing the “old fashion way” of teaching students at Unitec, I am saying that because I already been at Unitec on semester 2 2010, and we were tired of listening to our tutor talking for two hours every day doing the theory side, seeing my colleagues falling asleep, anyway to my and the others surprise Unitec had implemented a new tool called “ILearning” I have to admit I was a bit worried how would it end up, but now I really like the idea and I need to say since wed 16/03 when we had our first day of “ILearning” I am really impressed how the theory side became much more interesting, and we(students) are more involved as a team, I hope my classmates are enjoying as much as I am and together we will learn how to build our blogs. (Marine Technology Student, 2011)

What more can I say! They are willing to make the change, but it is how we take it to the student’s that makes a difference (no digital native assumptions!!). Also the acceptance of the teacher, he/she plays a huge role. I have to admit the staff I am working with is a STAR!

Creative Commons License this blog post by Vickel Narayan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand License.