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:

OTL101 – Post 5

In Post 2 I discussed an application of the practical inquiry model. The example I described was from an online course from 2002. Although online courses were relatively new at that time, the course design went well beyond what might be termed “an electronic version of a traditional correspondence course”.  Although a little strange in the early days, it proved to be an effective model of learning and produced some meaningful discussions when the topic was of interest to the students.

The two most important ideas or concepts presented in the course so far relate to the practical inquiry model providing student feedback. The practical inquiry model provides provides an approach to adult learning that  is quantifiable, both in terms of available research and in my own experience with adult learners. The relevance of the student feedback information presented in the course resonates as it reflects both changes in the student and in the delivery medium.

The questions that arise for me from the course concern measurement and evaluation of learning. Do we know enough about online teaching to effectively measure student learning? And what portion of those measurement tools can be automated?

Two specific goals that I would like to achieve are:

  • Developing relevant skills for providing specific feedback to online students
  • Explore more recent research related to the Community of Inquiry model of learning particularly in terms of what the model can measure  in regards to student learning

OTL101 – Post 4

Providing direct feedback to students about the “correctness” of a task is (or at least should be) second nature to most teachers. In some cases, feedback should be worded in such a way as to encourage a student that appears to understand the task to be performed, has not yet complete the task. I was surprised in reading Hattie’s recommendations as to the levels of effectiveness when student feedback is properly delivered. As well, the concept of assessment as means of informing students of their current state is a good distinction to keep in mind.

Understanding and adapting to cultural variation in feedback is one way an instructor can provide feedback that is more effective. Another area to effect improvement concerns the situation where students receive feedback on initially incorrect answers – student performance improves dramatically after receiving feedback. As well, correcting constructive verbal feedback from peers is another way to provide effective student feedback.

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