Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning

In introducing Dr. Roger Powley, professor of Distance Education at the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University, I thought that I would present a short introductory video of the technologies he would be addressing.

Here is what the video is all about:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Moving Toward Dynamic Technologies



As an instructional technologist and a scholar practitioner of educational technology, I see myself in the middle of the static and dynamic technology continuum. However, from the concept map above, I seem to have a strong lenience towards where I am coming from, static technology. I have been fully involved in the use of the static technology examples shown on the map, both on the job, as a mathematics/technology educator, and as a student, within the last five to ten years. I am more comfortable, however, working with the collaborative and content static technology tools, than I am with some of the communication tools. I have produced several WebQuests, a few videos, but less audios. I would say podcasting is my weakest link on the ‘chain map’ above. I think this is so because I haven’t had much opportunity to produce audiocasts, which I think is due partly to the teaching of mathematics. Mathematics, for it to be understood, has to be visualized by many students, so that allows me to do more video clips of my lessons than audios. When I embarked on my master of science degree in instructional technology, again, videos dominated my courses.

Since my graduate degree, I have been exploring dynamic technology, but mainly in the content and communication areas. From a content perspective, I have been involved in problem-based learning and online library research more so than I have been in the use of mind tools. As a graduate student, I used the problem-based learning strategy in some of my courses, but never as a teacher, because my current position does not allow for online collaboration, as I teach face-to-face. I have also used, and is still using online library techniques and skills to manage my research life. Mind tools have been used, but not quite often, due to my traditional way of learning. My intention is to be more independent in my thinking, thereby creating the needed knowledge, for my well-being as a future educational technology scholar practitioner. The communication tools cited on the map are well within my comfort zone. I have used them both as a student and as a graduate student. In recent times, I have using digital games in my geometry classes for better understanding of the concepts being taught. One such game is pool geometry, where the students learn about angles in a practical way online. I must admit that my weakest area on the concept map is dynamic collaboration. Virtual worlds are relatively new to me; I have just started to do my own research on this technology innovation. From the little that I know of the multiuser environment, I would think that increase knowledge in this would be advantageous. Simulation is similar to the multiuser environment, in that my knowledge of the tool is limited.

Having done several online courses in my graduate degree program, and now in this advanced degree program. I have never been introduced to the details of an online distance education (DE) program before now. I have learned a lot about the principles surrounding DE, and will be able to utilize what have received so far, as I move toward the dynamic end of the “static-dynamic continuum”. This part of my journey is crucial to my success as a scholar practitioner whose ultimate goal is to accomplish my task on becoming a social change agent.

The blogs that I found most interesting are Mike's and Karen's. Mike's idea of putting his charges first is quite interesting. We need more teachers like him nowadays. Great job Mike. With respect to Karen, the fact that she does not use the collaborative tools at this time in her classes, but 'strife for analysis, contribution, reflection, synthesis and discussion among my students' is well worth her not using these technology tools. However, I hope that some day in the future, she will tag these tools in her lessons. Keep doing what you do best, my fellow mathematics teacher.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Engaging Learners with New Strategies and Tools

Learning can occur anywhere and in any situation, but formal learning tends to occur in a classroom setting. Prior to the era of modern technology, formal education only occurs in the traditional face-to-face (F2F) classroom, where the teacher/instructor stands before a group of learners, who is expected to receive all the knowledge, where possible, from that individual. The way people learn is changing, as the F2F classroom is not the only setting in which learning occurs, online learning, a feature of distance education, is becoming prominent among learners, as well. Durrington etal., in their article, Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment, said ‘during the past decade, distance education has grown from a phenomenon offered by a few institutions to an almost universal option that students expect’. With this phenomenon, comes the ideology of learner engagement. The engagement process is very important to the learning environment, and it begins with the presence of the learner. Palloff and Pratt (2007) said ‘learning in the distance education cannot be passive. If students do not enter the online classroom, the instructor has almost no way of knowing whether they have been there.’ Once the learner has established a presence, he/she needs to be engaged in the process.

Durrington, etal., and Siemens postulated ideas as to the engagement of the learner online. The former discussed four strategies in which the online learner can be engaged. These include (1) structured learning environments, (2) interactive discussions, (3) peer-to-peer interactions, and (4) problem-based learning (PBL). The latter, on the other hand, proposed, what he called, ‘curatorial teaching’. This, according to Siemens, is where the instructor, likened to the keeper of a museum, creates a platform on which the learner is expected to be engaged. These two ideologies of engagement are great, and can serve as the basis on which new strategies and tools of engagement can be enhanced. However, for the process of this blog, I will focus mainly on one of these two ideologies, as I include new strategies and tools in the engagement process.



The mind map (graphic organizer) above focuses on the interactivity of the learner as he/she experiences the four categories of the online learning environment postulated by Durrington etal.

First, the structured learning environments allowed the learner to experience the instructor’s input in the learning process. The instructor created foundation strategies on which the learner builds. These strategies range from brainstorming to problem-solving, to the instructor’s guidance of mentorship. These are established learning environments, some of which have been used in a F2F situation, and are now being used online. For example, a learner may obtain guidance from an instructor, who may be his/her mentor. This is beneficial to the learner, as professional guidance is always welcome in any learning environment, be it online or F2F.

The interactive discussions’ strategies include the learner’s response to the technology tools that aid in the learning process. These tools include the use of Internet search engines, web page or web site references, or WebQuest, to name a few. Here, the learner interacts with the knowledge presented by these tools. For example, the learner can use the search engine to look up needed information for a project assignment without making a direct link to the instructor for information. In this situation, the learner tends to be the creator of knowledge, not a dependent of the teacher.

Another set of strategies that the learner depends on is the peer-to-peer interactions’ strategies. The strategies see the learner collaborating with fellow learners in the environment by means of blogs, wikis, threaded discussions, and so on. These collaborative technology tools allow the learner to build knowledge in a group setting among his/her peers. A case in point is this blog assignment. Each member of a learning community reads each others blog then critique constructively, making suggestions for improvement, where necessary. This is a way of recognizing the deficiencies and strengths of each member of the learning community, and being able to correct each others deficiencies, and build up each others strengths. Most times this occurs during collaborative assessments, a feature of online group assessment.

A final set of strategies that the learner relies on is the problem-based learning (PBL) strategies. This set of strategies allows the learner to be able to create the learning environment suitable for his/her own success in the learning environment, of course with the aid of the instructor. This set of strategies sees the learner designing steps on which to create a learning platform; being involved in collaborative assessment, part of the overall assessment of the instructor; and utilizing generic skills needed to succeed in this type of learning environment, among other strategies in this category.

These categories, I believe, are not exhaustive, even if they are coupled with Siemens curatorial teaching ideology. There is room for improvement and/or creation of new focuses; only time will tell.


Reference

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching , 54(1), 190−193.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Instructional strategies online http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/intera.html
Instructional strategies for online courses http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/instructionalstrategies.asp

Discussion – Online applications http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/onlineteach/instructionalstrategies/interactiveinstruction/discussion.htm

Peer-to-peer collaboration http://designing.flexiblelearning.net.au/gallery/support/peer_to_peer.htm

Problem-based learning http://designing.flexiblelearning.net.au/gallery/activities/problem_based.htm

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Assessing Collaborative Efforts

In the traditional classroom environment, assessment is usually done by the teacher/instructor. For most part, this assessment is of individual student effort. As education develops and changes are made, this type of assessment is becoming more and more obsolete. Replacing this assessment is what many educators now called ‘collaborative assessment’ This assessment occur in a collaborative setting of a learning environment. Such an environment is to be found online distance education.

Online learning has revolutionized the way many individuals learn and are assessed. The traditional individual learner who was once the master of his/her own destiny in the traditional classroom, is now a part of what is called, a learning community. This setting, according to Siemens, is the reflection of what society now entails. He further said that ‘the individualistic model of education does not reflect society and the network age we live in today’. The real world consists of people living and working in a labor society, and so to mirror that image, today’s learner need to replicate that pattern of behavior. In their blog, http://elearningindex.wordpress.com/academic-work/teaching-and-learning-in-online-distance-education/online-collaborative-work-and-motivation/ the e-learning index said ‘through social interaction, collaborative work can give students access to ideas, material, and emotional support that may otherwise be absent in the traditional classroom’. This helps to create an atmosphere for the new learner to online education.

However, it is not always easy for this individual, so in the blog, http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/collaborative-learning-in-an-online-envrionment Suifaijohnmakk said ‘sometimes there may be conflicting views, arguments or strong criticisms between people, and such connections and interactions may result in alienation’. These are challenges that must be addressed if collaboration online is to be successful. Siemens suggested three requirements to support successful collaboration in an online environment if assessment is to be carried out effectively. They are 1) a high level of trust among members of the community 2) well-connected information sources, and 3) external connections to tightly knit groups. These will help to create an environment that is conducive to collaborative assessment.

Finally, Siemens suggested four models for assessment in this type of collaborative environment. If the three requirements to be met, then the four models of assessment will be well received. The models are 1) peer assessment 2) feedback reception from online communities like wikis, and blogs 3) instructor’s assessment based on students’ contributions to these online communities, and 4) the instructor’s assessment based on metrics from learning management systems (a time on task situation). However, he further went on to say that the individual student grade would be awarded mainly from the third model, as collaboration is an important part of community learning.


References:

Siemens, G. (2008). Assessment of collaborative learning. (Vodcast). Principles of
Distance Education DVD produced by Laureate Education, Inc., Baltimore.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning communities. (Vodcast). Principles of
Distance Education DVD produced by Laureate Education, Inc., Baltimore.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Elements of Distance Education Diffusion

Distance Education (DE) has come a far way from what it use to be prior to the current 21st century. In the previous century, and possibly beyond, DE encompasses technology tools like radio, network television, telecommunication satellites, cable television, and up to recently, the Internet. George Siemens, the theorist for connectivism - a learning theory for the digital age, and strategist and researcher at the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, identified three possible elements of DE: Global diversity, communication, and collaborative interaction.

In describing these factors, Siemens saw them as fueling the growing acceptance of DE. He briefly described global diversity as communication within the corporate world among businesses worldwide. Also, in a looking at communication; he said that its online increase stems from the practical experience gained by the many users of new communicative tools of technology. With reference to the collaboration factor, Siemens said that it’s a growing comfort with online discourse. These views put forward by Siemens are indicative of what’s happening in communicative technology in the 21st century. If this communication was to be removed, communicators would certainly be literally distant from each other, in both time and space, which would most certainly defeats the purpose of this type of technology.
These three factors are so important and relevant to the time, that it’s difficult for me, as an instructional technologist, to select one over the others. However, for the purpose of this blog assignment, I choose collaborative interaction.

Evolution of Collaborative interaction

Before examining the evolution of the element collaborative interaction, I’ll first explore its meaning. As can be seen, this terminology is a combination of two words. The first, collaboration, is derived from the word collaborate, which, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, means ‘to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor’. Interaction, on the other hand, according to dictionary.net, can be seen as a ‘mutual or reciprocal action or influence’. When combined, Ted Panitz, in his article, Collaborative versus cooperative learning – A comparison of the two concepts which will help us to understand the underlying nature of interactive learning, said that ‘collaboration is a philosophy of interaction and personal lifestyle where individuals are responsible for their actions, including learning and respect the abilities and contributions of their peers’. But how and when did this collaborative interaction started?

Collaborative interaction can be traced back to the era of Charles Darwin, the evolutionary biologist, naturalist and writer, who said ‘in the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed’. However, it was not until the pre-1980s that collaborative interaction really evolved. It experienced three phases of evolution, namely, messaging, network, and infrastructure. In the pre-1980s the first phase evolved with the use of e-mail or messaging technologies. The emphasis at this stage was on usage of the technology. By the 1990s, the collaboration for technology improved with the introduction of networking, as the second phase. Networking was more of an internal nature, as organization saw the need to relate to each other on this new platform. While this networking progress was being experienced, infrastructure was being examined. This new infrastructure, which is deemed the third phase, has a global impact on the technology. All three phases of the evolution could not have operated without the use of varying technology tools.

Online technology tools

As mentioned before, e-mail was the tool of the first phase of the evolution. Throughout the phases different tools became the main focus at times, both in the boardroom and in the classroom. Learners in both situations now have access to multiple tools, to not only enhance their technology skills, but to collaborate within the global village. This village includes the classmate or fellow employee that is either in the same town geographically, or thousands of miles away in another land. These collaborative tools in the 21st century includes Goffice, Zooos, wiki, blog, writeboard, and several others. These tools are used for collaboration in both the online classroom for learning and/or among employees for good job management at the workplace. It’s worth mentioning that the workplace can be from home as well.


Reference

Siemens, G. (2008). The future of distance education. (Vodcast). Principles of Distance Education DVD produced by Laureate Education, Inc. Baltimore.

Collaborate. In Merriam Webster dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collaboration

Interaction. In dictionary.net (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.net/interaction

Collaborative versus cooperative learning – A comparison of the two concepts which will help us to understand the underlying nature of interactive learning (n.d.). Retrieved from http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/coopdefinition.htm

darwin2009.no (n.d.). Retrieved from http://darwin2009.origonorge.no/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=6&MMN_position=16:16

Collaborative tools (2006) in Blog: Asynchronous Collaborative Learning Activities. Retrieved from http://acolla.blogspot.com

Collaborative writing tool - writely, writeboard, wiki (2005) in Blog: Asynchronous Collaborative Learning Activities. Retrieved from http://acolla.blogspot.com

Blog: The skill of collaborative interaction (2010). Retrieved from
http://www.mtdsalestraining.com/mtdblog/the-skill-of-collaborative-interaction.html

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Next Generation in Distance Education

My first encounter with Distance Education (DE) was when I did forty percent (40%) of my Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology. Prior to that, I have only heard of it, but never knew what it was about. I loved it then, and I still love it now. But, what is DE?
Several proponents of DE have defined it in a variety of ways. Dr. Michael Simonson, Professor of Instructional Technology and Distance Education, at Nova Southeastern University, defined DE as formal education in which the learner group (teachers, students, resources) are separated by geography, and sometimes by time or intellect. It’s formal because it is structured education that involves the three key players that he mentioned: teachers, students, and resources. The teacher or instructor is a vital link, as he/she is the main organizer of the other human team players (students). Without the resources, DE cannot occur. These resources involve the equipment needed for DE to take place.

DE, which has been in existence for a number of years through the use of different media, has also been analyzed, compared and contrasted, as well as critiqued by different scholars. Four such scholars are Drs. Moller, Huett, Foshay, and Coleman. They have written a three-part series on The Evolution of Distance Education: Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Web. For each part, they looked at the involvement of DE in the workplace, higher education, and the K-12 educational system. By examining these institutions; they are looking at the life of DE, as DE evolves from Kindergarten through to the working world.

In parts 1 and 2 of the series, they described key trends in training and development at the workplace, and the effect of DE in higher education, respectively. In these two parts, they also state the implications that DE at the workplace and at the higher education level, has for Instructional Design (ID). ID is simply the design of instructions by the educator, so as to facilitate learning via technology. However, as an educator, who has spent most of my life at the K-12 level of education, my versatility is within this scope. Therefore the remainder of this blog will focus on part 3 of the series.

In addressing DE at the K-12 education level, the writers see it as site-based. Students can be a part of a ‘brick and mortar’ institution, but simultaneously take courses at various levels, either to enhance their learning or to improve on their learning skills, or even to meet the standard set by the school or the district. Another type of DE mentioned, which I think is an excellent way to learn in this technological era, is Virtual schools. This type of school should be growing at a faster rate than it is now, as this is 21st century technology in education is taking education to a higher level. This type of system tends not to be widely acceptable by all educators, especially if those educators are from the traditional school of education. Technology is the way forward, so every educator should get involve in this new wave, or else they will be left behind as the 21st century moves on.

The writers further went on to describe the implications that the nature of site-based DE has on ID. Four impacts on K-12 DE were identified as follows: School/Learning population, researched-based approaches, lack of trained professionals, and organizational change. These four impacts are true implications of this level of the education system. With this growing population of the young, and rising cost of education, budgeting is important in preparing this group for college/university education. When compared, DE is less costly.
This method of education is not widely accepted, as there appears to be too little research done. As a K-12 instructor, it would be a good gesture to venture in that arena. Since there is little research work that causes DE at the K-12 level not to be widely accepted, there seems to be a lack of trained professionals. This too needs changing, if this method of learning in the 21st century is to be embraced by educators. These three impacts, when come together, will create an organization that will lend itself to change. This is the next generation of Distance Education – 21st century technology.

Reference

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 3: K-12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 1: Training and Development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, July/August). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 2: Higher Education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70.

Simonson, M., Distance Education: The next generation. Laureate education Inc.

Retrieved December 15, 2010, from WPN videos. Virtual schools on the rise: http://www.ask.blinkx.com/watch-video/virtual-schools-on-the-rise/_vZgQKeVYh829zwvpA7AZg