I want to discuss one word with you. Slack. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines slack in the following ways:
: not stretched or held in a tight position
: not busy : lacking the expected or desired activity
: doing something poorly because you are not putting enough care or effort into it
I want to add a third definition:
3. student-centered LMS for a 21st century educational context
The Slack application has been around since late 2013 and is essentially a messaging app for teams. Here is a video that gives a brief overview of how it works:
In April 2015, Mathias Elmose posted his thoughts on the app known as Slack on his blog. Up until recently, Slack has mostly been associated with business platforms, but Elmose is promoting its use for education. In my previous blog post, I mentioned how “technology needs to serve a need and not the other way around.” Elmose believes that Slack can do just this – that will be able to “support learning by default.”
I believe that learning happens when educators provides experiences that give learners opportunities to engage meaningfully in activities that promote peer interaction. This brings into the forefront two learning theories – constructivism and connectivism. Both of these theories help to engage learners in a 21st century learning landscape – one that takes the teacher off the stage and encourages digital networking. (Click on the graphic to see it better)
A little more on the theories:
Social constructivism holds the belief that reality is constructed through human activity, that knowledge is a human product which is socially and culturally constructed, and that learning is a social process.
Connectivism suggests that “the most important result of a learning situation is the ability of the learner to make connections between distinct ideas using social capital and the affordances of digital networks.”
Slack is an interactive environment where you can post, comment, and share ideas. Elmose believes that “it is collaboration” and it will help to shift from teacher-centered to a student-centered learning context – it will help to build a community of learning in the classroom. These communities of learning are necessary to promote opportunities for students to take owner-ship of their learning.
The current learning landscape still holds the instructor as the transmitter of information and the teacher of skills. However, Jody Donovan, in her blog, states that:
“students are not passive receptacles to be filled with information, instead, they are active learners. Being a member of a learning community means engaging in reciprocal learning activities, soaking in new ideas and sharing perspectives and experiences to make meaning of the information. Learning happens through discussion, reflection, collaborative teamwork, and most importantly, taking initiative and responsibility to listen, question, and think critically within the community of fellow learners.”
It is crucial for the 21st century teaching and learning context to build in such facets that this type of peer learning can be supported and thus engage students to become active learners, to reach out to their peers, and to initiate their own learning paths. Elmose sees Slack as a vehicle to do just this, and I have to say that this idea is definitely a promising one.
On a side note…here is an infographic that posits what the educational technology landscape will look like in 2020 and 2030. A quote I found especially intriguing from it is: “65% of today’s grade school kids will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”
(click on the graphic to see it more clearly)