ED366 is the second shot that I have at running a ‘community as curriculum’ style course face 2 face at UPEI. It has some lovely qualities about it (has no follow up course, had no set curriculum when i took it over) and the response from the last one was positive enough to give me the freedom to take another shot at it.
I’ve tried to ignore the old syllabus while i’ve been thinking my way through what i want to do this time. I’ve had a number of really interesting educational experiences, talked to some very smart and experienced people and had some time to think about stuff in the last two years. I’d like to make three broad comparitive reflections, try and blend that into some of the things i’ve done in the last couple years and hope for some feedback from folks.
It’s about the technology. No it isn’t.
I wrote a little blog post a couple of months ago having finally framed what i think the position of technology is in what, lets face it, is a course entitled “educational technology and the adult learner”.
We can look at the methods and methodologies (and epistemic foundation) implicit in the machine and recreate those in our classrooms without the purchasing the brand [or the technology for that matter]. A wireless keyboard available in a classroom can work just as well [as a smartboard], as can simply having people talk to each other and write down the upshot of their conversation. The thing that makes the smartboard a challenging (if not a bad purchase) is that it suggests that that collaborative spirit, that idea of sharing is ONLY available with a smartboard.
My last course was naively trying to address the technologies in the local surrounding and ignoring the core beliefs that underwrite the course. Yes, there are technologies that allow us to leverage connective possibilities that would be very difficult if not impossible f2f. There are other things (graphics, archiving) that are undeniable… but. And this is the but that doesn’t show up in the original syllabus, it’s not about any specific technology, but rather, understanding the pedagogies implicit in them, the things that can be leveraged from them, and the ways in which we can be successful in using them.
So. Focus on the things that are important… let the technologies come naturally when they’re needed.
The network vs. the community
I am very sad to report that I now believe the community approach is a bit of windmill tilting. While the last course was very successful in creating community like feelings among the students (combination of good students, some lucky events and many of them knowing each other already) but that sort of thing is not likely to last. There are exceptions of course… but for a regular course it’s just not likely.
My focus this time, rather, is going to be about connecting students with their own possible networks. Rather than thinking about the course as an attempt to create a community, I’m thinking rather about giving people some experience with working in online networks, creating a simulated community, and to connect people with some possible actual peers that they may have out there who do what they do.
So. Networks good… communities still good, just illusory as an intercontextual goal.
The archival space
I still keep beating myself over how to balance respecting the work students do enough not to create a system where their work just gets thrown in the bin (digital or tin) and not wanting the be the ‘owner’ of the repository as I was on the last version of the course. I want students to be able to control their own work… and yet i want them to be able to work together.
This time, we’re going to live in the cloud. I want to open the whole process up and not have a centralized location for the course itself. I mean… i need a place to put a syllabus. I need a place to blog (oh wait… that’s here). But i want to give the students a network presence that they can continue to work with as they leave the course. I want to try and negotiate the course curriculum out in the open. We’ll see I’ve got googledocs accounts setup for all my students as a backup (in case they don’t want to live in the open) but i really want to see how far i can push this idea of jointly creating a curriculum but still leaving the content in the hands of the students.
On Bonnie’s advice, I’m going to rely on twitter. I think its a good idea, and i’ll take a run at it. It’ll have to be the glue that holds the ship together.