ED366 – Conceptual discussions for my course that starts next week

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.

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5 thoughts on “ED366 – Conceptual discussions for my course that starts next week

  1. Dave, I think I understand the idea you give us about how communities really operate and totally agree with the idea of the course as a way to connect students with their own networks. I must say I am a little ashamed to recognize that I have not been able to remain in two of open courses I have taken so far. The last one was led by you and George. However, both were excellent experiences to create my own discussions locally and even (during the last course) to produce a new comparative view of technology use and understanding in two different educational settings (your country and mine). I did not share it because this was not the objective of the course; however I was able to raise interesting an discussion with my colleagues about why it has become so hard for third world countries like mine to adapt technology to our own needs. Here you will find a graphic of some of things we discussed: http://bit.ly/awKQlc.

    But Dave, do not panic, I am not going to take this course. However, since you gave us the opportunity to comment on this blog, and I feel I already know you enough (virtually) I encouraged myself to share with you my impressions about open course experiences for us who live outside the US.

    First of all I think they are the best thing that could be done to spread knowledge, create interesting discussions and even create new knowledge. I followed some of the discussions posted on the Education Futures course and I noticed that some people just did not get it because they needed more direction and orientation. That made me think that probably this is not yet a learning solution for everybody. Some people dropped the course because they felt lost, others remained because they liked the experience and developed some sort of commitment to the course and to learning, and others like me did not get to the end, but participated during the course and created our own educational discussions locally. But don´t take me wrong, this was a one of a kind experience for me, probably because I was not interested in getting credits for the course but in learning without external pressure. However, it seems that formal courses, need more balance between what students receive from the facilitator and what they give to the course. Probably, that kind of course needs more direction in the discussions so that what is negotiated at the beginning of the course really happens (even if at the end, students learn much more than you all expected). On the other hand, I don’t know if it could be a good idea asking the students to write a little (five to ten lines) about the virtual spaces they created outside the course in a central forum or via twitter, and keep people informed about what they are doing and their advances. Sometimes we want to have all the important information in one place and not having to navigate away from the course to know what others are doing. Just a thought, something you surely have already thought about.
    Bye Dave.

  2. Reading your post and Silvia Garcia’s response I’m struck by the similarities to my own teaching experience. I teach technology courses to junior high students and, even though I try to encourage independence by taking a project-based approach, I continue to struggle to find the right blend between teacher presence and independent learning. I always struggle with how much and when to pull back and let my students learn themselves and from each other. I always thought this was particular to the way young people learn rather than adults assuming that my students require more guidance through the learning process because of their age compared to adults, who should be more independent learners.

    My own experience in taking courses online would suggest that this is not always the case. Yes, adult learners can be more independent, but that does not mean that they require less input from the instructor. I think it has more to do with the fact that some students will always require more from their teachers than others and this is something that is shared by both young and adult learners. I think a community of learners is important, but not a substitute for the active participation of the teacher.

    Some of the online courses I have enjoyed and learned the most from had an instructor that dipped their oars into the water regularly and knew when to take their oars out of the water when the boat had enough momentum. Knowing when to use the the oars is not always easy.

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