Posts tagged ‘socrato’

Learning the Web 2.0 way (1/2)

When I was in primary school, the most intolerable subject I had to endure was something called Needlework. Only girls had to take this class while the boys did woodwork. The hour-long weekly lessons involved learning how to stitch buttons, knit with those two chop-stick-type objects, and sew little cushions – skills that were apparently necessary to our education. Apart from the fact that my school perpetuated the sexual division of labour and tried to socialise girls into being “good housewives” one day, my point is that this type of education was archaic and boring. The teacher sat at her desk in the front and tried to demonstrate a backstitch, while the rest of us tried to stay awake and not prick ourselves to death.

Thanks to the new OBE system, Needlework no longer features on the list of skills that students need.

And thanks to Bill Gates and the rest of the techno geeks for new educational tools like Showslides and Moodle that have moved into the mainstream. E-learning is becoming increasingly acceptable and popular among students and teachers, and so too is the use of social media in education. In this post, I review a few (almost brand new) e-learning resources, and in the next, I’ll discuss the use of wikis in education.

LearnHub, which launched last month, is a social network for students and teachers/lecturers. It’s made up of a range of user-created communities around a specific topic, like Mathematics or Photography. Students can interact with other students and with educators. They can join a community created by a “lecturer” who teaches a course by posting lessons (including powerpoint presentations) and tutorials, and initiating debates. The “lecturer” can also set tests and track students’ progress. What’s most impressive is the site offers real-time tutoring through live video, voice and document sharing. All of this is free, but teachers can charge a fee for their courses and for tutoring in the LearnHub marketplace.

The more I use LearnHub, the more I’m impressed by it. While the line between student and teacher is blurred through this mode of learning since anyone can teach a course or offer a solution to an equation, what makes LearnHub an effective educational resource is that many professional teachers and experts have joined the network and are offering courses. The information on the site then is, for the most part, trustworthy. LearnHub also has a reputation system for users to rank other users’ answers/courses. The higher your ranking, the higher your authority on the network. It’s a great way for students to find credible sources, and for teachers to market their expertise or offer it freely.

In the words of its developers, Socrato is a “web-based test preparation and assessment platform”. Professional teachers can use the application to post multiple-choice tests, which their students then take online. Socrato boasts analytical tools that tracks students’ progress and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. Students can also create study groups and share content with their peers. The application is currently in its beta phase and freely available to the public, but will become a pay-to-use service soon.

Unlike LearnHub and Socrato, this social network is aimed exclusively at students. While professionals can sign up, skoogO automatically links all students to each other. Based on the profile information you provide, it connects you to other students at your university/school, or those from around the world who are doing a similar course, or even using the same textbook as you are. Students can then ask and answer questions relating to their course, and engage in online peer-to-peer learning this way. Although skoogO aims to be an educational resource for students, they seem to be using it more as an alternative to Yahoo!Answers or the local Answerit, rather than for purely educational purposes. (Questions range from “Is it better to be feared or loved?” to “What shampoo and conditioner is best for naturally curly hair?”).

I’ve e-mailed my younger siblings the links to these sites because I think they really can be valuable and useful to them (and me). While e-learning resources are not a substitute for face-to-face education, they can augment students’ learning and provide them with a variety of knowledge that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. I’m not saying do away with classroom-based education, I’m saying that if a teacher wants to engage with his/her students, he/she should use the technological medium that most appeals to them. This way, they’re less likely to doze off in the middle of a lesson – or prick each other with needles, they way my friends and I did in Needlework class.

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24 April, 2008 at 2:37 pm 4 comments


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