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Category: Learning Technology

The (dodgy) foundations of technology enhanced learning #ocTEL

Ooh, this is sneaky. After three weeks, I’m jumping back into the #ocTEL MOOC. I’m fortunate in that this week the course comes to the end of Part I, the Foundations of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), so I’m just going to quickly post about the brief interactions I’ve had and the insights that I’ve gleaned through my “legitimate peripheral participation”.

Legitimate Peripheral Participation: #ocTEL MOOC.
Legitimate Peripheral Participation: #ocTEL MOOC.

Week 1: TEL Concepts and Approaches

The challenge for week 1 was to see what doing a course, or taking up a learning opportunity feels like, and to get a feel for the learning landscape and the underpinning theories of TEL.

I was intrigued by Helen Blunden’s post where, having looked at the learning activity graph, she identified herself as a ‘social autonomous’ learner. What struck me, when I looked at the learning graph, was that it seemed to be the activities that helped to define the type of learner. I would have said that I’m a social autonomous learner too, but looking at the activities it had me pegged in the individual autonomous learner category. Blogs, dissertations etc., yes, that’s me alright. However, the activities denoting a social autonomous learner were pitched as collaborative commentary on resources, group projects and problem solving; well, I can do those too. So I’m not too sure that the social – individual binary is that big a deal; it looks to me like it’s a matter of context. In my opinion, what’s more important is the difference between directed and autonomous learning and where one is on that journey. I’m glad that I read and commented on this post because a useful discussion developed as Phil Tubman joined in as well. He made the point that assessment often drives the type of learning activity.

Week 2: Understanding Learners’ Needs

This week was all about understanding learners’ needs. As the introduction made clear, “the centrality of understanding learners’ needs is obviously not unique to Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), and some of the principles in this area are common to all teaching. However, TEL brings with it new contexts that make additional demands of learners”. Some of the key issues to consider being:

  • technical competence and a set of aptitudes often bracketed together under the ‘digital literacy’ heading
  • language and culture, from understanding of the jargon of a domain to different cultural norms about interacting with individuals and groups via the medium of technology
  • individual sensory, motor or cognitive impairments that affect what is accessible via technology
  • learning preferences and disciplines, such as the ability to schedule self-paced learning

Getting down to business, the “if you only do one thing” activity was to take a look at one or two questionnaires that claim, or should that be aim, to predict whether a prospective student is ‘ready’ for online learning. I’m already familiar with one or two of these instruments from my Program for Online Teaching course, so I wasn’t inclined to explore this particular topic much further. I was happy to read the thoughts of others. In her “mini blog”, Jane Challinor noted that the focus of the questionnaires seemed to be largely in terms of access to technology, motivation, time management and computer literacy. She also went on to wonder

whether we shouldn’t use something similar [pre-course readiness questionnaire] with all students on conventional courses as I am pretty sure that some do not appear prepared for the experience! 🙂

Definitely! I’m all for a pre-course readiness questionnaire, or initial assessment, and not just in terms of gauging access to technology and time management skills either, but to gauge actual levels of skill; that is, skill in relation to computer literacy, digital literacy and academic literacy. Initial assessment would be used to indicate general levels, but what I think would be really fantastic is then to carry out further diagnostic assessment and really identify a student’s specific skill set; that is, can they demonstrate basic use of a range of tools and sites for finding and recording information online, can they cite in text references etc. That way, you’d get a better picture of an individual, often with what amounts to a ‘spiky’ profile. Furthermore, you’d not only know where the majority of the class was starting from, but you’d also know their individual strengths and weaknesses too. Be it online or face-to-face, I think this would be really helpful to both lecturer and student alike. After all, a readiness survey is a bit late once you’ve enrolled on a course. And it can’t be a surprise that I advocate this type of readiness questionnaire/initial assessment because it’s common practice in adult literacy teaching, where you just don’t know where individuals are starting from.

Week 3: Designing Active Learning

This week’s topic centres on designing active learning, with the “if you only do one thing” activity, asking “what is learning?” In order to answer the question, you’re asked to think about the last time you learned something; describe what you learned; how you went about learning it and what strategies you used. A table, with an overview of categories of learning “suitable for instructional design planning”, was provided to help stimulate thinking. Well, I’m happy that I’ve caught up with the course, but as yet I haven’t browsed the comments of others this week, and I’m wondering if anyone else, like me, is struggling to clearly decipher and be inspired by either the table or the question.

Never mind, a quick look over this blog in recent weeks and months is enough to tell you that I’m an individual/social self-determined learner. I’ve learned facts and concepts (know that), I’ve learned procedures, picked up inferences and made deductions (know how), I’ve learned how to participate in online environments (knowing in action) and I’ve identified learning goals and have strategies in place to achieve these goals, and I can also reflect on my learning (elements that could intervene in all the other categories). I have learned to learn. I think what’s bugging me about this question is that there’s an assumption that it’s up to someone else to design your learning. Wouldn’t it be better if more emphasis was put on learning to learn and individuals were able to design their own learning pathways. Imagine that!!

Reader, yes, I know. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I wonder if I’m the only one. Anyway, I’m off now to more seriously engage with the reading on active learning, and get ready to participate more fully from next week onwards. I’m also going to look back over the last three weeks’ resources, especially the concept of heutagogy, and build on these somewhat ‘dodgy’ foundations 🙂

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Learn About Literacy, Learn About Technology? #ocTEL

As part of my learning odyssey, I’ve just embarked on the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL. This week is week zero. It’s designed to ease participants into the course, and it sets out by asking you, in terms of technology, what’s your “big question”?

In truth, I wasn’t planning on doing anything major this week as I’d prioritised other things, but I was drawn into the “big question” activity when I happened to comment on Helen Blunden’s post and use the phrase “putting pen to paper” and then when I noticed this tweet from Allejandro Aremellini

Alejandro’s big question is, “how can we get rid of the ‘T’ in technology enhanced learning?” He goes on to explain why in his blog

The question could be re-phrased as: how can technology become transparent, invisible and normalised? Something is normalised when it has become part of the norm, when you no longer notice it. If we are talking about enhancing learning, do we really need the technology in front of it? Do we ever talk about BEL (book-enhanced learning) or PEL (pencil-enhanced learning, or even paper-enhanced learning)?

What’s so different about TEL, then? Just as a reminder: books, pencils and paper are all technologies – arguably with bigger and more dramatic impact on learning than many of the modern tools that TEL usually refers to.

Immediately, my thought was, ‘understand it as literacy and understand literacy’.  Literacy, after all, is technology in use for learning.

Then, as I looked through the filtered Twitter questions, I noticed a couple of other intriguing “big questions” whose answer seemed to beg an understanding of literacy.

Roger Gardner asks, “how best develop staff digital literacies, especially awareness, practices and attributes as opposed to access and skills?” In my mind, an understanding of the implications of literacy as a social practice would be helpful here. It would also go a long way to answering Tim Herrick’s question, “who is it for?” However, an understanding of the ideological model of literacy, I think, might throw more light on this.

So, it looks like my big question is going to be, “would thinking of TEL/eLearning from a literacies perspective answer a lot of questions?”

I have to say that my thinking here has been largely influenced by the work of Robin Goodfellow and Mary R. Lea; their book  “Challenging eLearning in the University: A Literacies Perspective” makes a lot of sense to me.

I’m looking forward to learning lots about technology on this course, especially about technologies that can support social learning 🙂

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