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Monthly Archives: July 2012

What does the future hold?

We talked and read a lot this week about what the future of higher education might look like.  We also talked about what our own future of teaching will look like based on what we learned in this class.  Since I don’t currently have a teaching practice to modify, it’s hard for me to say what I’ll do differently, but I do feel that I have quite an arsenal of tools at my disposal now.  I don’t think there is much doubt that the future of higher education will be changed by technology, but the question is how and to what extent will technology change it?  A recent study from the Pew Research Center echoed this sentiment:

Tech experts believe market factors will push universities to expand online courses, create hybrid learning spaces, move toward ‘lifelong learning’ models and different credentialing structures by the year 2020. But they disagree about how these whirlwind forces will influence education, for the better or the worse.

Two parts of this finding that I really like are hybrid learning spaces and ‘lifelong learning’.  Being back in class this past week solidified my (current) preference for a hybrid construction for classes.  Our four-week online module proved to me how much I can learn in an online environment and how much collaboration can exist without being face-to-face.  However, nothing in those four weeks came close to the rush I felt after two and a half hours of discussion in class on Tuesday and Thursday night.  Maybe that kind of lively discussion can take place on a wiki or in a Google hang out, but I haven’t experienced it yet.  It is that peer-to-peer interaction that, for me, defines my graduate education experience.  It’s realizing that when I walk into a room at the beginning of the semester, I am meeting, or more often now re-connecting with, a room full of instructors from whom I will gain contextual learning from perspectives I never imagined — nurse, doctor, army officer, corporate executive, academic staffer, teacher, community activist, IT guru… the list goes on and on.  This semester may have demonstrated for me how the teaching and cognitive presences work online, but I am still struggling with replicating the social aspect I get in a face-to-face class.

The second part of that opening quote from the Pew report that resonates with me is the trend toward lifelong learning.  When I enrolled in this masters program in 2010, that’s actually what I set out to become — a lifetime learner.  This is where I definitely see technology and the internet continuing to play a major role in my education, coupled with my understanding of connectivity as a learning theory.  I have long understood the idea of networking in my professional life, and now I am beginning to build another network, or rather a tangent off that professional network, that includes some of the same people, but also includes people I’ve never met and resources I have yet to investigate fully.  I have deepened and broadened my online presence and have started to understand these networking tools in a whole new, educational light.  Some of my new favorites, like Twitter and Pinterest, didn’t even exist 5 years ago, which makes me excited to think that my favorite and most valuable networking tool might be on the horizon, even though I cannot image what it will be.

For me, this is what the future holds… the anticipation of the next new technology, the next new connection.  By being a lifelong learner, you are open to unlearning what you know in favor of learning something you can’t even imagine now.  And yet, it’s not just about the technology.  As a would-be educator, I will need to understand how technology can be used to excite the learner to want to learn… and want to learn more… and how technology can make it easier for them to access the information they seek or share the knowledge they have.

In order to be successful in lifelong learning, I will need to remember there is no “I” in learner.  I started to come to this realization earlier in the program when I took “Groups & Teams.”

Surely at this point in my life I had all the skills I needed in order to learn.  What I wasn’t taking into account, however, was that when you learn as a team, you get more context and meaning behind the terms and ideas.  You start to understand them from a number of perspectives, and that can increase the likelihood that you’ll retain that information and be able to apply it in more ways than just the situations you are familiar with yourself.  …Thanks to the Fab Four, I no longer feel learning has to be an individual endeavor.

I believe this will be the future of eLearning… facilitating the connections between people and information.  Technology will provide the tools to foster connectivity and communication, but people will be responsible for creating learning.  Technology will never replace teachers because we, as learners, are ourselves teachers, too.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Sipping Kool-Aid

The past four weeks have been exhilarating and exhausting. I have learned a lot about learning and collaborating online, and I’ve learned some things about myself, too. At the beginning of this semester, I was curious about what the 4-week online portion would be like, but I was apprehensive and still clinging to my desire for a traditional classroom. After week 1 of the online module — with all its trials and tribulations — I felt that apprehension slipping away. As a team, we had literally weathered the storm and developed our first online training session using 100% online collaboration. Granted, the subject of creating a PB&J sandwich wasn’t rocket science, but with our success, I began to think there was really something to eLearning.  I started to get so excited about it, I wanted to sing the praises of learning online to anyone who would listen. I was filling up my Diigo account with all sorts of articles for our online project, and we were hanging out via Google+ to talk about how we were going to present our topic.  I was drinking the eLearning Kool-Aid.

Weeks 3 and 4 of the online module are a blur.  I stopped feeling connected to anyone in class outside my triad because I couldn’t find time to read their blogs.  I was spending several hours a night and much more than that on the weekends on school work, but I was still behind on the readings.  The instructor feedback chain seemed to dry up a bit, or maybe I was just getting needier because we didn’t have the face-to-face time.  Whenever anyone would ask “how’s school going?” my response would be “this semester is kicking my @$$, but I love it.”  I was addicted to the eLearning Kool-Aid.

Despite asking the question about whether we could meet as a team in person to work on the project, I am pleased to say that all of our efforts were done online — whether by email, Google Docs, hang outs, or the shared editing tool within Prezi — and I am very happy with how our project turned out.  But the day after we posted our project, I emailed my team and said, “I’m done.”  I needed a night to unplug.  To spend time with my dogs.  To get more than 5 hours of sleep.  I was crashing.  I needed a night without Kool-Aid.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to getting back to class on Tuesday night.  I can’t wait to see everyone again and talk about the past 4 weeks and about our projects.  The different approaches each team used to present their program are fascinating, and the tools I learned about creating our project helped me understand how learning online can be as engaging and effective as face-to-face.  But I also learned that my obsessive compulsive tendencies are magnified in a completely online learning environment.  My work-life-school balance is still a work-in-progress.  It will help when I can better align work and school, and I started down that path in the last couple of weeks by reconnecting with people who may be able to help me make this career change.  What that has shown me is that I am absolutely on the right track with teaching and training with technology, but I need to remember the adage “everything in moderation.”  So bring on these next two weeks in class, and bring on the next two semesters of Digital Media and Design Challenges.  I will learn how to sip the eLearning Kool-Aid.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Show your work!

Remember back when you were taking Algebra and you’d get dinged for not showing your work, even if you got the answer right?  Back then, I thought a good assessment of my learning was getting the right answer.  Those memories came back to me as I was reading about Authentic Assessment and how it should provide direct evidence of learning, meaning that it demonstrates you understand “both the products and the  processes of learning.”  That feels right to me, the adult learner, now that I wonder if there ever is one, right answer to most of the lessons I encounter.

The first time I reflected on assessment was during my first class in the program, and I used the MAT test as an example of a recent assessment I’d taken.  In that case, getting the results back did not provide any useful feedback, but at least the test was a means to get me into grad school.  Even at that early stage in my journey toward my degree, I was thinking about some of the concepts we read about this week.  I just didn’t know they had fancy names like formative, authentic, and CTA.

Assessment is also a concept that I’ve blogged about as having connections between my current career (marketing) and my desired career (training / adult education).  In marketing, it’s usually called testing, and you want to test your new programs to make sure they’re achieving the desired results.  Ideally, you use what you learn in your testing to tweak the program to hit your mark.  This is very similar to formative assessment and the classroom assessment techniques we read about.  Yes, I am a geek, but I love how I can keep making these connections!   It helps me stay focused on my goal of a career change while reinforcing that the skills I have are highly transferable.

I also get a kick out of making connections between learning from one class to the next.  Assessment was obviously a big topic of discussion during ADLT 606 — Instructional Design and Delivery.  This was where I first learned about what McDonald (as referenced by Mueller) calls planning backwards.  I never thought I’d feel this way, but I actually agree with teaching to the test… but ONLY when the test demonstrates that the students can construct and apply knowledge instead of simply recalling and reciting information.

What I learned in 606 about not leaving the planning of your evaluation until the end is validated by this idea of planning backwards.  Determine what you want the students to be able to do and then work backwards to create the content that will teach the necessary skills.  In her book On Teaching and Learning, Jane Vella touts the role of assessment early on in the instructional design process.  “Getting an honest answer to the Why? question… controls your responses to all the design questions that follow…  Inattention to this step in the design can result in inappropriate or irrelevant content.”  Mueller says it more succinctly, “assessment drives the curriculum.”

Now, I wonder, how does this fit with my new-found fascination with connectivism?  If “the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality” and “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today” (Siemens, 2004), at what point can we accurately assess learning?  I think I can start to see where these seemingly disparate concepts can come together.

Kerka writes that “Authentic assessments are adaptable, flexible, ongoing, and cumulative, depicting learner growth over time.”  This would address the “nebulous environments of shifting core elements” in which Siemens says learning takes place.  If, for example, you were to use a portfolio as your assessment tool, you would see examples of learning at different times and in different formats — blog posts, essays, instructional plans, and research papers.  You might even find examples of where the student connects her own learning as she revisits topics throughout her portfolio.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

“Often unpredictable, absolutely unrelenting, and, more often than not, terribly unforgiving.”

Three guesses as to what that title refers to… anybody? Some might say the weather after the recent storms and heat wave, but this quote comes from an article about The Five Moments of Learning and refers to change.  Most people have probably used the phrase “the only thing constant is change,” but how many of us deal well with change?  Be honest.  I know I’m not always good with it.  Yet in this age of instant access and the explosion of social media, change seems to be happening faster and faster.  How, as teachers, can we help students be prepared to manage this constant state of flux?

Alvin Toffler

The authors of the Five Moments article offer another quote that I think begins to shed light on this question.  It comes from futurist Alvin Toffler in the book Rethinking the Future.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

First off, let me just say I love this quote.  I feel that it gets at the heart of lifelong learning.  What really struck me about it, though, is that what this means is that teachers not only have to help students learn, they also have to help them unlearn.  This idea of unlearning can also be thought of as breaking down stereotypes or beliefs.  Such has been the challenge of Dr. Watwood this semester as many of us came in on the first night of class with a not-so-favorable impression of online learning.  When he changed the syntax of that phrase from “online learning” to “learning online” I think many of us started to understand a meaningful change in semantics, too.  The fact that so many of us were approaching eLearning from a skeptical stance — and yet had chosen technology as our track in this program — shows a desire on the part of at least this group of educators to embrace the change we see in our field.  Yay us!

Team Merlot has grappled with these ideas of change and the new 21st century literacy in our work on the online project this past week.  We’ve been trying to understand the “online teacher” and how s/he is different from what we think of as a traditional teacher — one who teaches in front of a class, face-to-face.  In some respects, much has not changed.  Teachers still need to do things such as plan out their instruction, guide students through the content, and provide some level of assessment.  One thing that has changed is the plethora of tools now at the teacher’s disposal to source content, as evidenced by the lengthy list of resources we had to review for class this week.

In my research for the online project, I came across a number of items that discussed how students can become unengaged in their education because teachers are not embracing the wealth of current resources available.  In the case of Dan Brown, he became so disillusioned with the education he was receiving at the University of Nebraska (apologies, Dr. Watwood) that he dropped out of school.  In his Open Letter to Educators, he says that education should not be about memorizing and regurgitating facts, but should be about “stoking creativity and new ideas [and] empowering students to change the world for the better.”  He dropped out of school, not because he wasn’t motivated, but because he says, paraphrasing Mark Twain, “my schooling was interfering with my education.” (See my previous blog post about that quote from Mark Twain.)

Dan describes for educators what he sees as the outcome if they do not embrace change.

You don’t need to change anything.  You simply need to understand that the world is changing, and if you don’t change with it, the world will decide that it doesn’t need you anymore.

That sounds “terribly unforgiving” to me.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Start with online. Add structure. Stir.

I understand that part of the appeal of learning online is the flexibility to work it into an adult’s full and hectic schedule. However, I also know that deadlines work well for me. What I need to do is blend these two ideas together to create a good working plan to get me through this month.

I started out on track this past week.  That lasted until Monday afternoon when the power went out at my house.  It’s now Sunday night, and I feel as though I’m still trying to make up for lost time.  Since my first week online didn’t go as well as I had hoped, I went back and reviewed the Advice for Online Learners (again) from the second night of class.

1. Make a schedule.  Yes, I know.  Number 2 needs to be stick to the schedule!

2. Collaboration is key.  Check!  As one of my teammates noted in her “lessons learned” comment, our team really did collaborate well on the PB&J project in terms of each of us contributing to the whole project instead of focusing on just one area.  Interesting, though, that we’ve decided to use the “divide and conquer” approach with the larger project, each taking a piece of the model to focus our efforts.  Maybe because it’s a bigger overall pie, and taking it in smaller pieces makes more sense?  I’m sure we’ll talk about it as a team when we hang out on Google+.

3. Don’t be perfect.  Okay, this one is going to be hard for me.  I think I understand this from the connectivist perspective that you cannot possibly know everything, and sometimes you need to rely on others and can’t always have the last say or the last review.

4. Demonstrate leadership and teamwork.  I feel our team did a great job on this one, esp. the teamwork.  In terms of leadership, it feels as though we’re sharing that role within our team as the need arises.

5. Be flexible and positive.  Check and check (with the exception of previously disclosed frustrations with Prezi).  The power outages forced us to practice these traits.

6. Proactively communicate.  Again, check.  Our team kept in close touch with each other during the week.  And I think as a class, we have all communicated via the “lessons learned” comments that we’re experiencing some stress during this transition to online.  There is some comfort in knowing I’m not the only one; however, I still need to find the solution that works for me.

7. Enjoy yourself.  I’m a geek.  I love school.  I got this one covered.  So.. why am I still feeling so stressed?

I think for me it really goes back to Number 1.  I need to take this wonderfully flexible offering and cram it into a schedule, even if that mean creating interim deadlines (and finding a way to enforce them on myself).

It’s similar to how I learned to cook.  When I first started getting into cooking, I only cooked from recipes, and I followed those recipes down to the letter.  As I got more comfortable in the kitchen and more confident in my cooking skills, I started making variations to recipes.  I even started making up some of my own dishes!  So maybe a similar approach could work with my studies.  Get comfortable working within a structured schedule and then start with small deviations.  Maybe even try something really different.  I’ll get the hang of this.  Probably right about the time we switch back to face-to-face classes!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in ADLT 640

 

Making Peanut Butter

Some say insanity is defined as continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I guess that means my sister and I were insane as children because I cannot tell you how many times we would mix butter and peanuts together and expect to create peanut butter!  To this day, we laugh about our numerous failed attempts, and yet I still find myself sometimes doing things over and over and expecting a different outcome.

This week, though, I tried something completely different.  I had no idea what the outcome would be.  And it was good.

In preparation for our larger project due in a few weeks, Team Merlot collaborated exclusively online for this week’s assignment to create a learning session about making the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  As the subject matter was familiar to us, the project provided much more learning for us, the designers, than for those actually “learning” about the sandwich.

We used Google+, which was a new tool for me, although somewhat familiar since I’ve used Skype. The coolest thing I learned about hanging out on Google+ is that you can patch people in via video or by phone.  This feature came in very handy given the spotty internet access we had because of the storms this past week.

We also used Prezi, which was a relatively new tool to all of us, I believe, on Team Merlot.  Prezi did give us a few hiccups, but frustrations and cursing aside, it was good learning to do now on a relatively small presentation to build our confidence in using it, should we decide it is the right tool for our larger, online teaching presentation later this month.

Technology aside, we also learned about each other and about our team dynamics.  We established trust that we can and will all contribute equally.  We provided ourselves the flexibility to reschedule or outright punt on a scheduled meeting in light of extenuating circumstances.  Maybe more importantly, we confided in each other about our fears, concerns, and stress over this transition to the online portion of this class.  We may not have written out a formal team charter, but through our work on the PB&J lesson, we have set the ground rules and expectations that should serve us well as we embark on our next team project.

Oh, and last but not least, I learned that not everyone uses a spoon to spread the jelly on their PB&J!  What do you use?

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 1, 2012 in ADLT 640