After reading about Daagu and complexity pedagogy, I was reminded of the importance of non-western forms of learning. The Daagu e-learning platform emphasizes the collective learning experience over individualism. For most eastern cultural groups what strikes me as fascinating (and very powerful) is the idea of communal obligation to share knowledge. As Americans, we are so individualistic when it comes to learning that we only focus on our own educational goals. I admire eastern civilizations, like the Afari people, and their ability to focus on their collective learning and engagement with diverse perspectives. Sharing mutual responsibility for learning is definitely something westerners struggle with, and I enjoyed reading about a new learning theory that highlights eastern cultural practices. Collective communication is particularly important to online, distance learning because online discussion groups are characterized as being discussion-oriented, authentic, inquiry-focused, and collaborative (Huang, 2002). The authors of complexity pedagogy argue that “it is the engagement with diverse perspectives/knowledge that unsettles, complicates, perturbs and calls for further conversation” (Mitchell et al., 2016). Complexity pedagogy moves learners away from the teacher as expert toward “learning collectives of persons” who complicate previous ways of knowing and create new meaning structures.
What resonated with me the most when reading about some of the issues with constructivism is the possibility of social isolation and lack of humanity. I can attest to the fact that after a while communicating through a computer instead of a real person makes me desensitized to human emotion. Perhaps the biggest benefit of face to face instruction and learning is the relationship building. I can quickly pick up on a student’s facial expression, tone, body language which is telling me a whole lot more than just the content of our discussion. Expressing physical emotion makes us human and I think this is what online learning continues to struggle with. I’ll try to add a human element and build social context in my online module through my icebreaker activity. If I can gather important student information like experience or topics of interest, I can use this to lead and facilitate discussions with other students that make it more personal and valuable to them. I will admit though that I struggle with creative ideas on how to supplement online relationship building with face to face instruction. Perhaps this is because I still come from the position that eLearning can’t replace the benefits of face to face interaction.