CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community — what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.
Mimi Recker is Professor and Department Head of the Department of Instructional Technology & Learning Sciences at Utah State University.
How did you get started in cyberlearning?
My first job out of college in the 1980s was working at SRI International on the nascent Internet (then called the Arpanet). This was my first glimpse of the immense potential of using networking technology to connect distributed groups of people, tools, and resources. This was also my first introduction to the power of building social and technical infrastructure to support human activities, because, in the end, that was what we were doing.
Fast-forward years later, and I am thrilled to see these same ideas taking fruition to support learning. The development of cyberlearning infrastructure around open platforms is enabling Internet-scale deployment of media rich learning opportunities. It is enabling a lively and participatory culture of teaching and learning around cyberlearning tools and content, thereby affording opportunities to engage in activities, design, and collaborations that were never before possible.
What would you like policy makers (e.g., Congress) to know?
I would like to see an expansion in the way policy makers view teachers and the teaching profession in general. Teachers must be viewed as accomplished professionals, who bring considerable skills, expertise, and passion to fulfill a very important role in society.
I would like to see policy makers engage with a vision of teaching as designing, in which teaching is seen as a process of designing and orchestrating engaging, authentic, and challenging experiences for students. I would love to see a world in which policy makers spend some time in classrooms so they can appreciate what the profession – and its myriad complexities – entails.
I am very grateful for the support provided by the state, federal, and private sectors. But I would also like these stakeholders to more fully appreciate the complexities in how this support can translate (or fail to translate) into meaningful impact.
What should the cyberlearning community be doing both within the community and as outreach to schools and teachers?
As previously mentioned, thinking of our work as developing infrastructure can be a game changer. Previously, lots of work in educational technology took place within closed environments – or, silos, which, unfortunately, led to lots of wheel reinvention.
Instead, we must think of our work as developing a layer that supports increased participation, design, and collaboration around tools, ideas, technologies, and methods. We must also involve all stakeholders, including teachers and students, as co-designers in this process.
I am greatly impressed with the work that SRI’s CIRL center is doing toward disseminating the great work taking place within the Cyberlearning community. I hope it continues to feature our great successes, but also the lessons learned from initiatives that did not work as intended.