Much of the information below is from //Web 2.0 and Learning// (requires you to register to access the content). This is part of a series sponsored by HP that appears in //Tech & Learning// magazine.

The 4 C's of Digital Learning:

Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Community

The four terms Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Community provide a useful structure for thinking about the key elements of cyberlearning and the technologies to support it.


New technologies extend the use of traditional tools of creativity like pen, paper, musical instrument, and camera; they also give us new ways to combine different media (e.g. web pages); and even provide new ways to create. Examples include digital music, digital photography, digital video, and web design.


Education has always been about communication. Written reports, classroom discussions and spoken presentations have been staples of the classroom for decades, if not centuries. However, new technologies greatly expand communication possibilities, including new ways to facilitate student-student, teacher-student, teacher-parent, classroom-community, classroom-classroom, and parent-school dialog. Students today in fact have an easy to way to communicate with the entire world. New technologies include email, online discussions, blogs (think shared diary or ongoing conversation that can be authored by individuals or groups, and allow for comments), microblogging (via services like Twitter, where messages have a maximum limit of 140 characters) and podcasting (recording audio or video, and making it available online through standard services like iTunes, and playable on mp3 players like the iPod.


Collaboration builds on communication, and involves working together towards a product. Collaboration requires a medium for sharing work-in-progress. In the past, this required either face-to-face proximity, or a time-expensive back-and-forth. The Internet and other tools have created a digital space where members of the learning community can work together in a timely way across distances. New technologies include wikis (like this one) which provide a way for members to share work, comment on other members' work, and even edit other members' work towards generating a truly collective product. Another example is shared documents via services like Google Docs, which allows members to share a document, like a spreadsheet, presentation or report online where each collaborator can add to or modify the document.


As people create, communicate and collaborate, they begin to build a community. Successful education requires a vibrant learning community, and the tools of communication and collaboration ease the creation of virtual and online learning communities. The new tools also facilitate the strengthening of real-world communities by providing tools for researching neighborhood conditions, communicating with neighbors and responding to events in the community. Community is not limited to those physically close by, because distance is not a factor. Students, parents and teachers can easily be part of a global community. In addition to many of the tools listed above, social networking sites are another way of building online communities.

Plus Research

The 4Cs above leave out an important dimension of "cyberlearning": the opportunities afforded by the Internet to do research.There are of course powerful tools to search through material that has been made available online. The Internet has also become an important publishing medium (e.g., the Public Library of Science).