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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Validation and Trepidation

Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements — not entirely under the control of the individual.  George Siemens

Several of the learning theories we discussed this week were familiar from previous classes — behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.  Connectivism was new… and yet familiar.  New in that I had not encountered it as a learning theory before — the idea that having connections and knowing where to go for information is a form of learning.  As I have been progressing through this Masters program, I have come to rely more and more on learning from my classmates as much as from the professor, but I still felt as though it was my learning.  Connectivism seems to take this one step further in saying that “learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity” (elearningspace.org/Articles/connectivism).  We as a class are learning from each other and with each other, tapping into all of our various networks to pull in new information, and relying on our hub — that would be you, Dr. Watwood — to “foster and maintain [the] knowledge flow.”

The familiar part of the theory of connectivism is its relation to chaos theory.  I have written about my affinity for the idea that life is not a series of “meant to be” episodes, but rather a continuum of random chaos (see blog post entitled The Spice of Life).  Siemens writes that in chaos, “meaning exits — the learner’s challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden.”  With connectivism, everything is connected to everything, so one small change will have widespread consequences, much like the Butterfly Effect Siemens references in his blog.  This theory makes so much sense to me (is it an oxymoron to say that about chaos?) because with so many decisions being made by so many organisms at any given point, how can the outcome be known ahead of time?

Connectivism also seems to fit with my interest in the teachings of eastern religions.  As this excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace illustrates, you should be willing to let go of what you think you know today and be open to new learning.

(Thanks to my sister for “randomly” posting this on Facebook earlier this week.)  This seems in line with what Siemens cites as one of the principles of connectivism.  “Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.”

So, I am feeling validated in that there are foundations for my affinity for chaos.  However, the sense of chaos I feel as we head into these next four weeks of class online is causing me trepidation.

Time management has never been one of my strengths.  My current nemesis is the vast array of information provided by this connected learning environment.  Instead of having just one or two reading assignments from a textbook, I have that plus online articles or blog posts (which often contain related links) plus “additional resources” I can read… next thing I know it’s way past my bedtime.  Oh, and don’t forget the course library and my classmates’ blogs!  I’ve also become addicted to several daily digests that lead me to find even more things to read.  In looking back over the “advice for online learners” offered in our second night of class, I doubt I will have any trouble committing 4-15 hours per week.  My problem will be making a schedule and cutting it off somewhere around that maximum time frame.

With a F2F class meeting, I felt a sense of deadline and natural transition to the next topic, but without those, I worry that I will have trouble making my own deadlines.  I think I need to go back and take to heart Siemens notion that “the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.”  In other words, I need to recognize that I cannot know everything about the topics we’ll cover in these next few weeks, but what I can do is read enough to have a basis of knowledge and to build the necessarily connections to sources of information.

Okay, so now I’m back to feeling validated.  This theory of connectivism can keep me sane as I embrace the chaos.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Let’s Get this Party Started!

Two years ago, I started a blog entry about eLearning by saying, “When it comes to distance learning, I still have a long way to go.”  Now, with my first two class sessions of Theory and Practice of eLearning behind me, I still have a long way to go, but I’m much more excited about the journey!

I admit to hanging on to my preference for traditional classroom learning.  I love being on campus and having the face-to-face interactions with classmates and the professor.  I appreciate the effective use of technology in the classroom, and I am addicted to the myriad information online that supplements my learning.  But… technology AS the “classroom”?  I’m still warming up to that idea, and for that reason, I’m glad this semester’s class is a hybrid class.  Ease me into the transition.

My experience with learning online to date consists of required compliance training for work and professional development webinars for which I have chosen to register.  The former has been mediocre at best — typically a lot of wah, wah, wah wah…

The latter, as I’ve come to realize this past week, has been rather MOOC-like, with the ability to submit questions to the facilitator but lacking any interaction among the participants.  Both experiences have left me feeling there must be a better way to learn online.

One of the keys, I think, can be found in the acronym TPACK.  My courses in this M.Ed. program thus far have helped me to think about different teaching methods and to understand the relationships between content and pedagogy.  Now, I hope to learn how to integrate technology into that equation as well as discover “the new kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections” of content, pedagogy, and technology.

Along the way, I will continue to make connections between my current career path in marketing and my desired future career path in adult education.  One such connection happened while reading one of the blogs assigned for our second night of class.  Tony Bates wrote about his predictions for eLearning trends to watch in 2012.  Bates’ first trend discussed the rise of tablet use in teaching and learning.  In my current role at work, one of my areas of responsibility is to manage our email marketing campaigns, and the growing use of tablets and other mobile devices among the professionals we communicate with is changing the way we think about our email program.

Another trend Bates writes about is the increasing emphasis on learning analytics.  Not a week goes by at work that I don’t get an invitation to register for a webinar or download a whitepaper on the best way to measure marketing efforts and how to use those analytics to inform and educate senior management about the success of the programs.

A third area of similarity is the move toward using social media as part of the learning process — much as many companies are trying to find ways to use social media to foster and manage conversations about products and services as an effective marketing tool.

And so I stand ready to join the party, where I continue to construct new knowledge from the strong, parallel foundation of my professional career, and where learning online becomes fun and effective.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Extreme eLearning

You’ve heard of extreme sports — bungee jumping, skydiving, rock climbing.  Activities that make you wonder, “why would they do that?”  That was the same question I had during class last night when we talked about MOOCs… massive open online courses.  Why would any professor want to teach thousands of students?  HOW could any professor teach thousands of student?  The Chronicle of Higher Education asked that question, too, of several different professors, including Curtis J. Bonk, professor of Education, Indiana University at Bloomington (http://chronicle.com/article/Building-Different-MOOCs-for/132127/).  In his comments, he talks about several of the elements discussed in the chapter we read for class including assessment, interaction, and communication.  You can read other professors’ thoughts on teaching MOOCs here.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in ADLT 640