Recently, I participated in a group assignment in which the Instructional Techniques and Multimedia class co-created a wiki to illustrate what we have learned about technology and instructional activities.
This assignment has so much potential, but I’m not too sure how the end project will work out. The thing about learning collaboratively is that it IS the best way to learn, but it takes a long time, and needs a great deal of facilitation.
I was reminded of an incredible TED talk I watched recently. Tom Wujec explores how people share information. His premise seems simple – he gets people to explain how to make toast. The steps are as follows:
Step 1: people draw instructions for making toast on a piece of paper
Step 2: people draw instructions for making toast on sticky notes
Step 3: people draw instructions for making toast in groups
What can be learned from this activity is the following. Step 1 demonstrates that “drawing helps us understand the situations as systems with nodes and their relationships”. From Step 2, it can be seen that “movable cards produce better systems models, because we iterate much more fluidly”. Step 3 reveals the most important point: “the group notes produce the most comprehensive models because we synthesize several points of view”. What is most significant is that when “people work together under the right circumstances, group models are much better than individual models”.
I love this point that Wujec raises regarding the collaborative work of step 3. He comments: “It starts out messy, and then it gets really messy, and then it gets messier, but as people refine the models, the best nodes become more prominent, and with each iteration, the model becomes clearer because people build on top of each other’s ideas. What emerges is a unified systems model that integrates the diversity of everyone’s individual points of view”.
I believe that the wiki assignment has the potential for us to really create an extremely relevant and valuable resource that could be better than anything any of us could create individually. However, this will only happen if the circumstances are right. We need good facilitation, and to really communicate with each other appropriately. People should feel comfortable enough to focus on the learning itself. As Wujec points out in his talk, “What’s really important to know is that it’s the conversations that are the important aspects, not just the models themselves”. Similarly, with this wiki, the most important thing we should focus on is our learning, not the marks for the assignment. Unfortunately, due to time and other logistical constraints, I doubt whether this assignment will be as fruitful as it could and should be.
Wujec, T. (2013). Tom Wujec: Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_got_a_wicked_problem_first_tell_me_how_you_make_toast.
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