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What about the online learner?

January 8, 2011

Oblinger and Oblinger talk about the millennial learner, Prensky speaks of the digital natives, but can we really categorize such general groups?  We have moved from mass media to individual media.  Advertising is changing from targeting groups to analyzing and targeting individuals (me and you) online by showing other products we are likely to want based on our individual personal choices to date!!   The convenience of describing a group vs. the importance of dealing with the individuals.  This is one more question that we need to deal with in online education.

Each online learner has a specific set of skills and developed competencies, each will also have very specific expectations about everything.  Each will have some personal, specific knowledge and expertise – what are they?  What are they for each individual and how does that play out in the work group?  Individuals are just that: individuals. Each is unique and all are different.

Understanding what each brings to the table and what each expects to achieve within the context of an online course defines the nature of the course as well as the role of the teacher, or at least where the true mentor will intervene. 
  Now, lets make good use of personalized “Genius” side bar for our e-learning opportunities – build in aggregators…….

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Wrong question…

December 30, 2010

Are we going to learn better with technology? Did we learn better with educational TV? With computers? With the Web? With multimedia? Are  test scores increased by the use of computers? Are achievements increased with the money we spend on computers in the classroom? Does putting a laptop in the hands of every child increase their learning?  And most recently, does online education work?

Why aren’t we asking if learning in classrooms with one teacher per 25 kids works?

Because all these questions are mostly political, from an outdated market model and not pedagogical. They reflect a corporate (and behavioural) view of education – a need to tabulate the input vs. the output, or, how many resources ($) are we allocating for each graduate that comes out of school, with the added measurement of how he/she is received (valued) by the employers. The questions relating to any use of technology in education should aim at understanding the context and the process changes – the black box between input and output.

Learning is about living through experiences, reflecting on these, adapting and changing our understanding of … everything!  It is an individual, internal cognitive process that occurs while the sentient being is evolving through a context, a world, a society, interacting with all its elements and other beings. The classroom, the teacher, the other learners, the technology and the online environment are all but pieces of this context. They are all part of this world in which the being evolves, and they all are part of the experience, they all affect the experience in some way or other. But they do not affect only the learner and his/her learning. They affect each other. They change the context. They can affect the relationships between ALL the elements and the beings…. and obviously the experiences!!! It is what we, as learners and teachers, do with these experiences that affects the Learning. It is our teaching actions and our learning actions that affect the learning process and therefore the “results”!!

Learning or teaching online: who’s home and who is the visitor?

December 28, 2010

In the context of distance education or online education, we have moved from delivering content to programed learning to now a more synchronous, sometimes mobile concept of e learning. We sometimes even speak of a “virtual classroom”!! A tremendous amount of time effort and money is being poured into these virtual environments, but is the perspective changing? When we create such a virtual classroom, one question begins to raise itself…. are we bringing the remote student into “our” predetermined structured online classroom, or are we invited into their home, into their private environment or space through technology? The answer we individually give to that question determines our perspective that in turn probably sets up how we individually view our selection of tools that will comprise the learning environment. Is it the prof’s or the student’s? More importantly, how does this change our expectations, the student’s expectations and finally, the way we interact?

Last course: true online collaboration

August 1, 2010

Just finished my course Friday. As we wrapped up four weeks of examining and discussing the general concepts of “teaching”, “learning” and “knowledge”, we attempted a construct analysis exercise to explore what these graduate students saw as being important in their online learning experience. Without getting into the scientific validity of the exercise, the concept of collaboration was clearly evident as being the most important reason for using any of the available technologies. In this course, about a dozen students attended a daily “class” in a multipoint videoconferencing environment from their respective homes. In spite of the distance between them, a sense of belonging seemed to build over the four weeks as they discussed, collaborated in small groups and even at the end surprised me with a wonderful “thank you” presentation. What amazed me, was the fact that this was done by a group that only met online.
So if the change to Web2.0 is all about social networking, it would, seem that learning is going about a similar change. I would suggest that learning 2.0 will be a concept that will become socially acceptable when we are ready to recognized that learning is a collaborative activity, not a competitive one, that it is done by a community that is not connected by geographical proximity but by proximity of interests and by a shared intellectual culture.
This course is done and I must take this with me as I prepare form the fall semester!

In-canoe/online learning!

July 27, 2010

Today I taught the beginning of my class, while paddling my canoe on the lake. The students were at home as usual, and we were videoconferencing… almost as usual. Not only did it work flawlessly from the technical standpoint, it was a way to initiate a reflection on mobile-learning if you wish, but mostly on the concept of learning – as it is now totally separate from the confines of the classroom, the school, and even the teacher. Learning, as a cognitive process, is also now an accepted social activity that is totally breaking free of systems and institutions. All we have to do as educators, is to recognise this and that as learners, we can participate in this now global party!