Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

New Learning Communities: Collaboration, Networking, and Information Literacy

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

New Learning Communities: Collaboration, Networking, and Information Literacy

Article excerpt

CNI's New Learning Communities Program brought together pioneer teams from higher education institutions. These teams, often including faculty, librarians, information technologists, students, instructional designers, and others, developed new courses and curricula that used networking technologies, involved collaboration, and placed an emphasis on the use of networked information resources. Through a series of workshops and conferences, a videotape, and a Web site, CNI supported the pioneer teams and disseminated the lessons learned from their projects to others in the higher education community.


CNI's New Learning Communities (NLC) program was developed to support pioneers in education who use networking and networked information to support student-centered teaching and learning. The program focuses on the convergence of three trends: the increased availability of computer networks in higher education, specifically the Internet; the need for students to develop information literacy skills as part of a curriculum; and the increasing importance of collaboration in both teaching and learning and the technological society. At the heart of the project were two conferences that brought together a total of twenty instructional teams that had developed innovative curricula in their institutions. A number of other activities and products were associated with the program, including workshops and conference sessions designed to broaden the impact of the work done by the pioneers, and a video and workbook to be used on campuses that wanted to start their own New Learning Communities programs.[1]

NLC began in the early 1990s with sessions at three consecutive Educom annual conferences. These were conducted under the auspices of CNI's Working Group on Teaching and Learning, led by Susan Perry and Philip Tompkins. Responding to the Call for Participation issued by CNI, institutions described their innovative projects using networks and networked information in teaching and learning. The best projects were selected to give presentations at Educom annual conferences. Some of the projects showcased at the Educom sessions provided a preview of a new generation of students who would later appear on campus with high expectations for network connectivity.

Three of the interesting projects CNI reviewed in those early days involved elementary schools. The students who participated in those programs are our college students today, or will be shortly. One project involved cultural understanding between two school districts--one poor, one wealthy. The students wrote stories together, taught each other Spanish, and shared information on their daily lives. They developed a sense of community through networked communication. In a project called "The Virtual Trip," children in two states took a trip together using maps and information they discovered on the Net; they even bought a car for the trip online! In "Kids as Weather Scientists," a worldwide project supported by the National Science Foundation to explore whether schoolchildren could actually use the network for teaching and learning, children participated in weather data collection. The project included an assessment component, and the results demonstrated that the children understood the material better than they would have if they had learned it through traditional means.

Pioneering New Learning Communities Teams

In reviewing the project descriptions submitted by institutions for the Educom sessions, the CNI leaders began to notice that many of the best projects had been developed by multisector teams from institutions. Those teams often included faculty, librarians, IT professionals, instructional technology staff, and multimedia developers. The CNI Working Group leaders felt that it would be timely to bring together leading-edge teams to discuss their work. These pioneering teams often felt isolated and we felt that their members would benefit from interaction with colleagues. …

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