OTL301 – Post 6

Summarizing Your Learning

The most important lessons gathered from this course concern research in the area of social presence. This body of work is useful to OLFM’s in that it provides some pragmatic examples and suggestions that can be applied to improve the learning environment. Incidentally, this body of research in part refutes the claim of Marshall McLuhan that “The medium is the message.” In fact, there are indications that the academic purposes of the learning environment are more important than the medium itself whether that medium is text, voice or video.

I have a bit of a story to share. It’s about my early days as a classroom teach and my use of computers in the classroom. Hard to imagine a time when there were no computers, when classrooms contained chalkboards, and classroom handouts were printed on a mimeograph machine instead of photocopied or laser printed.

In 1980 in British Columbia, the Ministry of Education was running a pilot program to introduce computers into the classroom. I was part of that program. The computer we used was a behemoth – there was only one computer per school. It was an HP desktop machine with 4K of RAM memory that was wheeled from classroom to classroom. It had the computing power of a (very) small hand calculator – about 1/100000 of the memory in a modern computer. It came with an optic card reader and an attached printer that had clearly been adapted from an adding machine. Students programmed their assignment on optic cards and fed them into the card reader. Work could be save to standard cassette tapes or printed out on paper tape to be handed in for marking.

Fast forward a few years to 1985. At that time I was using Apple II computers with math and science practice programs in the classroom. These computers and associated software programs were being employed as learning aids to enhance learning in an face-to-face classroom environment. Classroom computers were being used as robotic tutors,drilling students on concepts and providing opportunities to undertake practice exams. I was also teaching Logo programming to groups of elementary school teachers as part of professional development workshops – definitely one of my most difficult teaching experiences.

All of this happened a decade prior to the availability of the public Internet and the beginning of online instruction. There was no training for these pioneering teachers. It was largely trial and error. We were almost totally on our own.

I’ve always been a traditional constructivist. A strong believer that students construct knowledge based upon their experiences. But social constructivism and the Community of Inquiry were new concepts to me. To be honest, some of it seems to be only half-baked. A work in progress, At present, more theoretical than practical. I wonder what John Dewey, always a pragmatist when it came to educational process, would make of the COI?

On the other hand, a good portion of what we have learned, in particular the concepts and techniques associated with social presence seems resonates well.  Some, like Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013) believe social presence is crucial to student success. I will definitely be introducing social as much as possible to improve my course delivery.

The WordPress platform represents a popular forum for two-way communication.  An early implementation of Web 2.0 technology. It’s a good way to experience the Web 2.0 paradigm and reach beyond simple text media and create mash-ups of text and interactive media. But WordPress is still just basically an enhanced text medium for those of us with limited creative skills.

Learning strategies are intended to enable students to become better learners. With adult students, including the students in this course, building upon the familiar context of work experience is a good way to acquire, analyze and summarize new information. Improving social interaction in the learning environment  is another good approach to enabling learners.

I’m all about enabling learners. For me, its the success of the student in the course is a large part of why I enjoying teaching. giving back to others in a meaningful way. I’m proud to be a lifelong learner and I desire to encourage the same in others.

A couple concepts that I would like to implement in my own practices are:

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David Kumka

David Kumka is a former high school teacher and college instructor who left teaching some time ago. After spending the last 30 odd years as an IT consultant, and stopping along the way to pick up and M.Sc. in IT and a Ph.D. in Information Systems, David has returned to teaching as an OLFM. And is quite happy to be back!

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