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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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  1. Sorry to fill this up with the same content, the reply utility doesn’t seem to like hyperlinks.

    Hi Helen, great posting. Have you thought of becoming the MOOC critic for some famous newspaper chain? If nothing else to be learned, I’ve learned to be patient and wait for your reviews so I’ll know where to jump in:-)

    Liked the idea of designing your own learning rather than relying on ready made explanations. Not sure if you saw the Enstitute article at the Pedagogy First Facebook site. I found reading through I could identify learning inducing activities without reference to naming them in terms of theories–my own names were fine.

    Do we limit ourselves in naming things? What does it say about teaching when students are expected to answer from a set of fixed answers? I remember my wife brought over the cohort from her Master’s course just after they’d gone through a seminar on what colour learner (or something) they were and it was quite funny to see how liberated they felt knowing their “style” after years of self-reflection. Maybe they should tried their horoscope too.

    Think I’d go for Problem Based Learning mixed with reflection to bring out learning moments. Just started “Studio Thinking” (studio habits) by Lois Hetland and as an art college drop out I still appreciate the mix of discipline and every moment/mistake a learning step. So nice to be free of right and wrong and have everything contribute to moving forward. To reside within a process of development without end. Maybe you are the type of learner that doesn’t have a finish line? Was that on the list?


    • Hi Scott, glad you liked the post. I wasn’t too sure the post had anything to say. I was just glad to signal that I’d been participating in the course, just largely in the shadows. Thanks for your reply, from which I picked up two great gems that will add to my learning.

      First, your phrase “to reside within a process of development without end”, I just loved that. It’s so poetic. I’d be minded to add the word autonomous to that of development, and then it’d encapsulate, pretty much, what I’d think of as learning nirvana. And, you’re right, a finish line doesn’t come into it. After all, who wants nirvana to end.

      Then, the article that you mentioned, with the link that didn’t paste in, that was very interesting because it’s emphasis on apprenticeship and “learning by doing” connects nicely with my previous post “meet your maker”, which are my initial thoughts and practical attempts to understand web literacies and the “Maker Movement”. The article spells out in what direction such notions hope to be heading. The article’s parting shot also had an impact on me, “code speaks louder than words”. Hard not to forget that one.

      I managed to paste the link here:

      Thanks for that Scott, appreciated.

  2. Hi Helen, I applaud your legitimate peripheral participation (in fact – let’s be permissive – I would applaud it even if it were illegitimate!). As one of the course designers, we absolutely wanted to encourage that. The question that forces itself into my head is, Isn’t this an example of an individuals being able to design their own learning pathway?

    • Thanks, David.
      “To reside within a process of autonomous development without end”. That’s the new mantra I’ve just picked up courtesy of Scott Johnson (see comments above) and yourself. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. always a treat to pick up checking in. this time two – “legitimate peripheral participation” and “to reside within a process of autonomous development without end.”

    and to top it off, I just made the acquaintance, in a mooc spawn group, of a distant, previously unmet relative

    some days are more serendiptitious than others

    • Glad you dropped by, Vanessa, and glad that there was something to take away on your serendipitous day. Yes, the internet is great for connecting with all sorts of people – distant relatives in particular 🙂

      • Both phrases distilled important insights memorably ~ not unlike the pre-Twitter “bumper sticker” writing exercise.

        I also appreciated the excellent recap, possibly the best I’ve read since Dave Cormier did weekly ones for PLENK2010

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    • Thanks, your comment made me smile, especially as I just found it in my spam folder, so apologies for that, and all the best with learning lots. The web is the best place for that 🙂

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