Disruptive innovations, blended learning and convergent journalism

The blend in blended learning is a very rich metaphor. It’s not just about blending face to face and technologically mediated learning it’s blending a whole range of learning experiences and interactions. It’s blending communications, it’s blending connections and it’s facilitating and encouraging blended – or integrated – meaning making.

Part of why it is so powerful is that shifting the focus of the learning site or environment from a classroom-only focus, shifts the focus from teacher to learner. It also shifts the focus to learning in a “networked world”. The four models of “educators in a networked world” presented in this week’s #Blendkit2014 readings also point to the fact that this process involves some fundamental shifts not just in technology use but in the way we conceive learning. The four models discussed are:

As the Blendkit Reader emphasises:

The four models presented above share a common attribute of blending the concept of educator expertise with learner construction. The concerns of instructivist and constructivist education are addressed in the focus on connection-forming in learning. Whether seen as master artist, network administrator, concierge, or curator, the established expertise of the educator plays an active role in guiding, directing, and evaluating the activities of learners.

It is this facilitating, connecting role, which the different blends of the blended learning process bring into focus.

I was struck that this movement in education, from teacher as instructor to teacher as facilitator of connections is very similar to the shift in journalism from journalist as authoritative deliver of news to journalist as key participant in a broader convergent news ecology.

Certainly each of the models of educator I referred to above could equally be applied to journalists. And the notion of journalist as curator has been widely discussed by key journalism innovators

Cindy Royal a journalism educator has recently written about why journalism educators need to think more seriously about what it is that technology is doing to news and news making. She writes that the major value of news comes from it’s being shared. So one of the major tasks of a journalist is to make it sharable: to facilitate the new web enabled participatory cycles of communications. This involves both a commitment to this new model and an understanding of the multiple technological means available to make it happen. So it’s both important to emphasise that this process is about more than technology but it’s equally important to ensure that the possibilities technology can enable and the full dimensions of it’s impact are also deeply understood.

The key question that the affordances of the web forces both journalists and educators to ask is: how do I make everything I do more sharable? Importantly this isn’t just about product or information it means making the processes of journalism and education transparent and sharable. Changing from a delivery model to a co-creation model. Changing from a simple transmission model to a complex ecological model.

Journalism and education are both industries that are facing technological disruption a process management guru Clay Christenson has described as “disruptive innovation”.

Both industries are torn between innovators who have embraced the new models which technological web-based interactions make possible and those who either ignore or actively resist them.

It is only in recent years that there has been a broad  institutional realisation in both the media and the education sector that these changes are not a matter of choice they are a matter of survival.

If one of the key metaphors in education innovation is “blending”one of the key metaphors in journalism innovation is “convergence”. And as Henry Jenkins has pointed out convergence isn’t about everything coming together in a one size fits all delivery system. It’s about participatory culture. Jenkins writes:

convergence represents a shift in cultural logic, whereby consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections between dispersed media content. The term, participatory culture, is intended to contrast with older notions of media spectatorship. In this emerging media system, what might traditionally be understood as media producers and consumers are transformed into participants who are expected to interact with each other according to a new set of rules which none of us fully understands. Convergence does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers. Yet, each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information we have extracted from the ongoing flow of media around us and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives. 

We might easily rewrite that to apply to blended learning:

Blended learning does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Blended learning occurs within the brains of individual learners.

But I would want to take it one step further and this is certainly in keeping with Jenkins broader ideas on convergence:

Blended learning does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Blended learning occurs within the brains of individual individual learners and in and through the participatory communities that they gather around themselves.

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