My Learning Journey: From Inspiration to Innovation

The NUS Teaching Academy’s Distinguished Lecture 2017 was held on 17th May at the University Hall Auditorium. Associate Professor Steve Wheeler, our distinguished speaker, shared about his Learning Journey: From Inspiration to Innovation, to an audience comprised of our Guest-of-Honour, NUS Provost, Professor Tan Eng Chye, Past and Present Academy Fellows, guests and members of the NUS Teaching community.

On 18th May 2017, Associate Professor Steve Wheeler conducted a workshop on “Social Media and Learning: Why technology will transform higher education” for the NUS Teaching community at the Global Learning Room in the Education Resource Centre at University Town. Although Associate Professor Steve Wheeler’s lecture began with a retrospective account of his learning journey, it was really an exploration of how “inspiration for a lifetime of learning” could be sustained. Assoc Prof Wheeler pointed out that curiosity would motivate students to explore and find their own ways to use technology, and that by listening between the lines and examining students’ user experiences, educators can discover surprises and inspiration as technology evolves.

A Review of the Distinguished Lecture

Written by Ng Cheng Cheng

Assoc Prof Wheeler posited that the search for dialogue and interaction drives students’ engagement in social media, and the degree of interactivity offered by any social media platform would determine its “power” and pervasiveness among young users. Students engage with others through social media to create and curate content, as well as share and connect through said content. Understanding how students engage through social media, and engaging with them through such platforms would allow for student-centred activities that can involve many students all at once.

The following are some suggested ways in which social media (such as live-streaming, twitter, facebook, blogs etc.) can be used as “back channels” for students to “perform learning”:

  • On Twitter: a unique hastag could be created to put up content related to a lesson/lecture, and students could then question and challenge points raised, and engage in live conversations about the lesson. Authors whose books or theses were being discussed could also be tagged and if they responded, there would be even more opportunities for clarification and debate.
  • On blogs: students could be asked to write blog entries to present their learning to an audience. Typically, students “up their game” when asked to present in this way, and there would be more crystallization of their own thoughts and more personal engagement with what they are learning.
  • On Wikipedia: more advanced students could be tasked to find a gap in knowledge and to write a wikipedia entry to see how it was challenged and how long the entry could remain before it was completely revised or taken down.
  • “Blimage” across social media platforms: people – students or educators, could be asked to respond thematically via blog-writing to images selected by others, e.g. educators could be challenged to write blog posts about learning in response to a random image selected by a peer. Unexpected insights and coorelations could result.

Citing David Warlick’s exhortation that “we must prepare students for a future we can neither describe nor predict”, Assoc Prof Wheeler demonstrated how educators can exercise the modern adage of “learning, unlearning, relearning” through using social media as a launchpad for remixing, reusing and repurposing content, individually and collaboratively. When students and educators engage in “Darwikianism – survival of the fittest content”, it was postulated that they would find inspiration to do well in the (likely technology-based) jobs of the future, as these will likely still require skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork and creativity.

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