Chapter 2 is adapted from “New Learners? New Educators? New Skills? ” in the Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning by George Siemens and Peter Tittenberger and is about Blended Interactions .
I especially liked the section on The Role of Educators in a Networked World. Four educator were included:
- John Seely Brown’s notion of studio or atelier learning
- Clarence Fischer’s notion of educator as network administrator
- Curtis Bonk’s notion of educator as concierge
- George Siemens’ notion of educator as curator
It’s best to read the linked chapter on Blended Interactions to read about these in depth. What I found to be important was that in every case
the established expertise of the educator plays an active role in guiding, directing, and evaluating the activities of learners.
The second part of the chapter introduced me to Techno Expression by Kevin Kelly and Ruth Cox.
Their main advice is to keep interaction in the front of your mind. The instructor should not be concerned only with uploading materials. Even though I have been teaching online and blended courses for many years, I got a few new ideas from here. One is asking students to review the syllabus, which is always done. But, then, ask each student to write one or two things from the syllabus which address their goals. Or, they could be given the opportunity to discuss the overall course outline, particular components of the course which interest them, etc. This assures they are familiar with the syllabus and that they relate it to themselves. I intend to do this the next time I teach my blended course (in January, 2013).
Other ideas about online interaction are more familiar to me and I use them regularly and usually recommend to faculty I am working with as an instructional designer. Students should share information about themselves, often in some kind of introduction discussion forum or in an ice breaker activity. Students may work in online groups to solve problems. And, of course, students will take part in substantive discussion forums about the subject of the course. In all cases, instructor feedback is essential. I believe it is essential for student learning and it is essential for retention. Students need to feel connected. Instructors need to do more than read what’s going on in the online sections of a course. They also need to post, offering suggestions, help, direction, and more.
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I am an instructional designer and my job is to help faculty who teach online courses, mainly, but also blended courses. I teach a blended course too. I first taught it in a blended format this past summer, have improved it for the fall and hope to improve it again for the spring term. “Creating a blended learning strategy is an evolutionary process.” (Singh and Reed, 2001).
There are many things to consider in this chapter. One which especially resonated with me is this tip:
“Begin with relevant metaphors for learning. Often the language commonly used to describe e-learning dismisses the notion that learning with technology is a valuable experience in its own right. When we speak about “distance learning”, “covering course content”, and “delivering courses” we are imposing an intent and framework for learning that calls for little involvement from the learner.”
Learning with technology is a valuable experience in its own right. This was mentioned several times in chapter 1. I find that this is true. When activities are designed so that students can use technology to learn on their own or with others, the learning is often richer and, I hope, more lasting.
Let me give an example of how this worked in one of my recent activities. I teach a course called Introduction to the Internet & Web Authoring. A small part of it requires that students know something about the development of the internet, that is, its history. I assigned them to visit any (or all) of several websites and read about this, look at images, watch videos, and so on. Then in the face-to-face class I gave groups randomly ordered index cards which included events in the development of the internet. They did not have to know the dates; instead they had to put the index cards in order, a much higher level skill than memorizing dates, I think. I was thrilled to hear how much conversation about the history of the internet occurred during this activity. At the end, the students wanted me to post the correct order because they wanted to KNOW.
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I have signed up for the Blended Learning Toolkit, a course (MOOC) from University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.
Part of the course includes posting responses to a blog. So, I am able to “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak. I can participate in the course and I can get back to posting on my blog. Stay tuned for my reflections…
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