This post reviews the article  : Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (prepared for the International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning).

According to Wien, (2008, in pp. 184-185, Churchill, 2011)  emergent learning  occurs when “participants bring  genuine responses to the topic and collaboratively create the course to follow out of these multiple connections”. Emergent learning is a collaborative process, with foundations in the approaches of Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism and the philosophy of Reggio Emilia (p.184, Churchill, 2011). This is not a new phenomenon and some degree of emergent learning can occur in any classroom as a part of a normal lesson.  However, integrating emergent learning with the multifarious collaborative possibilities of Web 2.0 creates such a wide scope of eventualities that the need for analysis has arisen.

Schools, teachers and students have increasing access to Web 2.0. Yet Williams, Karousou and Mackness argue that Web 2.0 accessibility does not in itself guarantee “sufficient conditions for learning.”  (p.40, 2011).  Accordingly,  it requires specific management by teachers skilled in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The paper identifies the need for scaffolded approaches to emergent learning in the Web 2.0 medium, such as  “constraints and inclusive values” without which learning can deteriorate to a prejudicial and intolerant environment. (pp.50-51, 2011).  In such an environment, qualitative learning cannot occur. Suitable constraints do not deter from the openness that is integral to emergent learning but rather facilitate the  process with parameters that ensure an inclusive  environment.

In applying this to my future classes, I see the need for scaffolding in both virtual and physical learning environments, especially as I hope to foster a social constructivist atmosphere. I also believe that teaching mutual respect and appropriate collaborative practices in either the virtual or physical environment will have mutually beneficial results so that students will partake responsibly no matter the medium.

Also integral is the teacher’s ability to deal with “troll behaviour” from  disruptive participants (p.51, 2011). Photobucket

(Image courtesy of

Again, this is not singular to the online medium – many of the suggestions for effective use of Web 2.0 for emergent learning are imported from physical classroom management techniques.

Emergent learning requires a teacher to facilitate and scaffold a collaborative and adaptive environment. Emergent learning in the Web 2.0 domain, requires a teacher with the confidence to operate in a complex and dynamic learning environment, whilst affording control to the students, who can then navigate the content and ensuing knowledge. In doing so, the use of Web 2.0 becomes a qualitative educational resource that encourages an emergent curriculum.

Our students need teachers who are adept in the new technologies, and willing to explore new technological pedagogies, to better facilitate their path to adulthood in the digital age. Current pedagogy and learning theories can and should be applied in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The below diagram is an informal look at how schooling might develop during the digital revolution, in comparison to the industrial revolution and also, which of the GRAD DIP course provocations might apply. The findings are  informed by, and quoted from the reading. Let’s call it Jodi’s Hope for the Future Digital Classroom.


Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (2011), International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 12.3, March 2011.