On becoming digital learning collaboratives

Unless we possess interdisciplinary knowledge and skills as individuals, we cannot fully address our needs to improve teaching and learning through the strategic use of digital resources.

For those of us whose primary professional background is in IT, we may feel that we are ideally suited for leveraging our technology-based skill set to improve digital learning, but we also need to be informed of the nature of learning and the needs of learners to properly apply these skills to improve our teaching practice.

Conversely, practitioners and teachers in other fields may be able to inform teaching practice of the nature of learning and the needs of learners, but often do not possess the understanding or skills to be able to create successful educational innovations that are technology-driven.

Usually our own teaching experience in which we use digital resources to support learning (hybrid courses) or rely on them as the platform for learning (online courses) is the best method to understand learning and learners, especially when we use evidence provided by the performance and feedback of our own learners.

However, we are often restricted in our understanding when relying on what we learn from our own practices.

We can broaden that perspective and find new insights from the understanding we develop through collaborative online learning platforms with shared content and discussion.

We can also broaden our perspectives and understanding through conferences and publications that focus on educational research, development, and practice.

The Web with its ever-expanding, interlinked content, increasingly sophisticated search tools, and social networking and media sites is a powerful resource to support our learning and teaching.

For example, an online search for advances in research and resources to support digital learning could lead you to a blog post entitled, Data, Evidence and Digital Learning.


This blog post describes a draft publication by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology entitled Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in A Digital World. The report is available as an online document in Portable Document Format (.pdf) on the US DOE Web site:


It presents research, best practices, resource lists, and recommendations for action, as well as a useful conceptual framework for all educators using digital resources to support online learning.

The report and blog post make an important call for “learning technology developers, researchers, and educators to collaborate with and learn from one another as a means of accelerating progress and ensuring innovation in education.”

After reading the blog post and the report, I was left with some questions and ideas about our endeavors to improve learning support within our teaching and other professional practices.

Are there intrinsic limits to what we could learn from each other within our respective domains of practice that are preventing us from acquiring the kind of interdisciplinary knowledge that would best inform our teaching practice?

How much are we sharing our insights and best practices among professionals within our domains of practice (among educators) as well as across domains of practice (between technology developers, researchers, and educators)?

What could we learn of value from teachers and other professionals in other disciplines (especially fields that would provide needed insights, such as educational technology, educational research, information technology, etc.)?

What digital resources and techniques could we use to realize a fruitful exchange of ideas from research and best practices across disciplines and domains of practice?

What constraints would exist on scalability of online collaborative professional development learning of this kind?

Under what circumstances would (or should) we operate on a local scale as well as on more global scale (such as realized in the growing trend of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

Addressing these and other questions might help us find more productive ways to tap the power of our diversity of knowledge and online internetworking to enable us to more fully realize our goals in a new wave of professional development as digital learning collaboratives.

I welcome your comments on this topic and in response to these initial questions.

Thanks for sharing,


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