Our reflection about: A Typology of Social Forms for Learning

Software supports different types of social forms. There are groups, nets and sets and these social forms are distinguished by different roles and aims.

In sets, the individuals do not necessarily know each other but are joined by similar interests (eg. Pinterest)

In groups, individuals join others with common goals (eg. MOODLE)

In nets, individuals are bound together by connections and through which we can benefit from knowledge and diversity (eg. Facebook)

Another type of form is collectives which provide us with ways to make sense of sets, in particular. These collectives tell us for example what to do, who to trust, what is stimulating.

It is important to keep in mind that such social forms are not mutually exclusive and although a particular system usually has more characteristics of one form than any other, characteristics of other social forms may still be present.

A wiki page about a particular subject with the aim to help students learn means that students will be brought together through a common goal; to learn in a different and exciting way. They will also be encouraged to contribute to the wiki so that the other students can view what they have learnt or discovered. Even their parents or guardians could know what students are doing in class. This indicates that such a wiki can take on the role of a group, especially since in a group, norms and behaviours are usually identified which are to be followed by all group members.

However, some characteristics of a net may still be present in such a page. This is because the students all share similar roles without any particular hierarchies. Such a social network may be identified as a community of practice and are usually common in workplaces.

Reference: https://www.um.edu.mt/vle/1516/pluginfile.php/35541/mod_forum/intro/03_Dron_Anderson-Teaching_Crowds.pdf


Our experiences with MOOCs

A MOOC is a course available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.

One of the most important advantages of MOOCs is that you can access it from anywhere and hence you would be able to continue the course whenever you want and at anytime. Moreover it does not restrict you to contribute with a deadline, therefore it encourages you to continue it whenever you have time. If you want to work on it at midnight so to speak, you can. When following such a course while we are still studying, it would be much easier to work on it whenever we want so as to not add to our workload. Another advantageous factor is that after the course completion, one can still access the whole completed course and can even find and download the necessary resources for future reference.

On the other hand, MOOCs still encompass some challenges.One of the challenges that arise with MOOCs is the fact that you have to be self-disciplined to continue the course and actually complete it. Another drawback is that if you wish to be acknowledged for a course that you completed for the sake of finding a job, some of the courses offer certificates of completion against a fee. Such a fee might discourage people who are still studying and might not have an income.

Even though we believe that such courses should not be done just to earn a certificate, we are in a situation that requires such an acknowledgment in a CV when applying for a job. However in the future we would still be interested in enrolling and completing different courses without the need of being acknowledged.

One of the MOOCs we came across was FutureLearn. There are specific courses which interests us as Mathematics teachers. One of the courses looks at three types of maths puzzles, exploring their history, meeting the puzzlists who created them, and studying and practising problem-solving techniques. This course does not have any requirements but is there for those who enjoy solving puzzles and crosswords. In our case we could also use such activities in our classroom to make our lessons more fun.

Another course which caught our eye was Assessment for Learning (AFL) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teaching. This course provides a clear understanding of AFL in the mentioned subjects as well as how teachers could use it in their classroom. Additionally, the course also provides the opportunity to submit an AFL question which it is then evaluated by other educators for feedback. We all enrolled and completed this course and we found it very practical since it included teachers implementing approaches which we learned about but did not experience. Also the fact that we had to submit a short assignment helped us in improving our way of using AFL.

Another MOOC which we found and completed was a course at Friday Institute. This course was about helping students understand fractions. It included a video each week of a student working a fraction problem but had a difficulty in it. Our work was then to evaluate the working and comment about how to help the student understand his/her misconception and move forward.


Moreover, MOOCs can also serve to help us inform ourselves about more general issues of teaching and learning rather about only our subject. For example, the course Technologies for Creative Learning, offered by the Massachusetts Institute of technology, helps the participants explore different software and technologies to make learning more interesting in class. As a result, we believe that such MOOCs are a great tool and can serve important roles in the regular update of our professional knowledge.


Creative Commons

Creative commons is a non profit organisation that permits people to make use of and share resources online in a free and legal way. CC is used to share your work online and if published under a CC license, you would be acknowledged when others make use of your work and give them the opportunity to change them according to their necessities. There are different licences under which one can license the work.


The first basic license is the one which applies to every work licensed under CC and which attributes the creators of the resource and the source is linked to.


The non-commercial sign lets others distribute the work but only for non-commercial purposes.


The no derivative works license does not permit adaptations or changes in the works. The resource should be used or shared as it was originally created.


The Share alike licence allows others to remix, adapt and build on the work, but only if they distribute the derivative works under the same the licence terms that govern the original work.


Moreover, these two or more of these licences could be combined together to create different responsibilities for the users of the works.


From the following link, we were able to search for several resources which are licensed under the Creative Commons and which we can use in our mathematics lessons,



Two of the resources which we found are linked below. Both of these resources are licensed by the attribution and share alike licences, which means that the work can be shared and adapted but the creators of the work should be attributed.









Why did we find open sources useful?

“Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” (Suber, 2015). It is primarily used since it addresses intellectual rights issues (hence the “unrestricted” part of the definition) (Geeky Artist Librarian). “Open access, often in concert with Creative Commons licenses, makes work available for access, copying, distribution, and reuse.” (Geeky Artist Librarian)

“Open source refers to exclusively to software. It means that the source code for that software is openly available, thus allowing for modification, and that the software may be redistributed freely. Much open source software is free of cost, but some applications do carry licensing fees” (Geeky Artist Librarian).

During our Teaching Practice we made use of a numerous resources without even being aware that these were open sources. We found these resources highly helpful especially during the start of our teaching practice when time was limited and it was not possible to build and design our own resources. Furthermore, these open sources offered us a vast range of ideas upon which we continued to build and modify.  These resulted in our own resources according to our students’ needs.

Our research was focused on our subject area – Mathematics – to help us for future reference.

Taking for example: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources – This website “is dedicated to supporting the world’s teachers … [their] mission is to enable great teaching by helping educators find the tools and technology they need to excel, supporting them throughout their career and professional development” (TES). We found plenty of resources which were highly useful for our teaching experience as well as for our own knowledge.


Another suitable resource is: http://www.geogebra.org/ – GeoGebra is an open Mathemtical software which brings together various topics. “GeoGebra is a rapidly expanding community of millions of users located in just about every country. GeoGebra has become the leading provider of dynamic mathematics software, supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and innovations in teaching and learning worldwide” (GeoGebra). Moreover we found plenty of open resources which are interactive as well as dynamic and hence were highly helpful during explanations. These resources using the GeoGebra software can be found at: http://tube.geogebra.org/



Pros and Cons of OERs

“Open Education is a collective term that is used to refer to many practices and activities that have both openness and education at their core. First and foremost, open education is about removing barriers to education.” (Open Education Handbook)

However, Wiley and Green (2012) suggest four implications that one can implement when using OERs, which are referred to as the 4Rs. These are:

Revise—adapt and improve the OER so it better meets your needs.

Remix—combine or “mash up” the OER with other OER to produce new materials.

Reuse—use the original or your new version of the OER in a wide range of contexts.

Redistribute—make copies and share the original OER or your new version with others.”



OERs offer several benefits and challenges to learners:

By making use of OERs, the teacher can help students to take control over their own learning; “and teachers act as facilitators, supporting learners through their different pathways by scaffolding, tutoring and coaching” (Masterman & Wild, 2012). It will also help the students become more informed by using a number of “rich and diverse resources” (Masterman & Wild, 2012) and (Open Education Handbook).

One of the largest OER is YouTube; one can either deliver a lesson in the traditional way or record oneself giving that lesson and upload it for the students. An important point is that students would have better management of their lesson in the sense that they would be able to rewind the teacher as much as they need and/or pause the lesson if they did not understand. This is also a great benefit for those students who happen to miss the lesson as they are offered another chance to review the lesson that went on in class.

OERs offer several benefits and challenges to teachers:

To have a much better result of using technology, teachers are encouraged to collaborate together (M. B. Postholm, 2007). When the teacher is making use of ICT in class, he/she “need[s] to have computer literacy to manage to create and thus organize good learning situations and to be able to help pupils in these settings”. “This means that while ICT offers many possibilities for teaching and learning, it also places heavy demands on the teacher to fully manage to exploit these possibilities in the classroom” (M. B. Postholm, 2007). Moreover, when using OERs it is important for the teacher to be well informed about the use of these open resources.

In our opinion, one of the most common disadvantages of using OERs in the learning process is that students can choose to access non-requested websites by the teacher. Moreover, spending lots of time on social networks would result in students losing direct communication with the outside world and also posing several distractions. Instead of face to face interactions and expressing feelings directly, students are communicating more through the internet rather than personally.


Masterman, L. & Wild, J. (2011). OER Impact Study: Research Report. JISC Open Educational Resources Programme: Phase 2. University of Oxford. Accessed 14 February 2016 at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearning/oer/JISCOERImpactStudyResearchReportv1-0.pdf

Open Education Handbook 2014, Retrieved from http://booktype.okfn.org/open-education-handbook-2014/about-this-book/

Postholm, M. B. (2007). The advantages and disadvantages of using ICT as a mediating artefact in classrooms compared to alternative tools. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 13 (6), 587 – 599.

Wiley, D., & Green, C. (2012). Why openness in education? In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Game changers: Education and information technologies (pp. 81–89). Washington, DC: Educause. Accessed 14 February 2016 at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub72036.pdf