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.
Christine Forte is a doctoral student in Learning Technologies at Pepperdine University.
How did you get started in cyberlearning?
Technology has always inspired my learning. Over 20 years ago, I returned to get my master’s in library science, in part because I had this sense that digital resources were going to impact librarianship in a big way. Academic librarians are often early adopters of technology on their campuses, because much of their work takes place in the digital realm. In my work as an academic librarian, I could see that emerging technologies had the potential to transform education and my interest began to spread beyond databases. A myriad of tools kept popping up on the Web and I kept seeing ways that they could be used in the classroom. This idea of using technology to support students’ learning and help them share and contribute to a larger community took me outside what I’d learned in my Master’s program. It felt like conjecture. Once I realized that what I needed was a solid pedagogical foundation, I knew that the education and Learning Technologies program at Pepperdine would be a great fit. and I’m now working on my Ed.D. there.
What should the cyberlearning community be doing?
I’m interested in building bridges and forging connections between people and between people and resources. So looking at the the gaps between research and practice is super interesting to me. The connection piece of greatest interested at the moment is how to make the community of cyberlearning researchers more visible to itself as well as to those interested in learning about the research side of the community. The place I think of as NSF-land is vast. There are many pockets of cyberlearning beyond the NSF Cyberlearning Program that remain unaware of the work being done by other cyberlearning researchers. The CIRCL website is helping the community be more visible.
One of tension I see is that if a product of a cyberlearning project isn’t 100% perfect, or ready to go, the researchers are reluctant to share it with practitioners. Perhaps they also fear that when you start to scale up a project, it may be watered down. Although we are in a culture of learning in which things have a lifespan, it is important to realize that the field we work in is in a state of perpetual beta. So, it is important for researchers to consider ways to share these tools. For example, something practical like Edutopia––a resource that teachers often read––could highlight researchers and their projects.
Teachers talk about how they have really specific ideas about a particular lesson––for example, about an ecosystem––and they find it hard to find a technology tool to match that up with. As someone who understands education, it would be great if there could be better transfer from the cyberlearning community to educators. There needs to be more brought in from the researchers to the practitioners in order to make meaningful progress with technology in real-world education.
What is unique about your work?
I believe that my work is unique because my background as a librarian gives me a different perspective on learning that eventually led me to the question: How can an educator wanting to implement technology access the wealth of material, data, and resulting outcomes in order to drive cyberlearning forward? Looking into current practices in cyberlearning, I began to question if there is a more open, fluid way to access such information. Keeping my focus on fluidity and open communication, I am continuing to explore the concepts and tools of networking and brokerage in terms of accessibility in my graduate work. Although I am new to the cyberlearning community, I would really like to take on the problem of networking to make an impactful contribution.