Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reflections on elearning and the final project

I love elearning.

I just do.

The meeting of a variety of folks, comfortably from my home. Better than sliced bread.

Learning in this environment has been fascinating, this is my fourth online course that I have taken. Two have been synchronous, and two asynchronous.

What I like about learning in the synchronous classroom: having a live feed with the instructor, visiting other websites with the class, meeting in the breakout rooms, talking to each other, sharing ideas.

What I like about learning in the asynchronous: having the class be self-paced and signing on when I want, as often as I want, when I can. Viewing videos. Love the freedom. Love the discussion boards, and joining the conversation when I want, as often as I want, when I can.

Teaching in the synchronous environment is fun for me. As a teacher, I like talking, sharing, encouraging others to reflect out loud. Chris is a great teacher too, we met in the online teaching course last semester and I am looking forward to our presentation.

Collaborating on the final project will be interesting, our greatest challenge will be to keep it short!!! I can see how easy it is too want to include too much content in the synchronous classroom. You need to balance content with interactivity, so the material makes sense. Otherwise the class material does not sink in, and not enough content gets absorbed. The interactive elements help in the absorption of material. Engagement leads to memory, which makes for a more memorable session as a whole.

A fine balance is needed in the synchronous classroom, and a deep sense of knowing which learning objectives can be taught in what amount of time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

If learning is based on experience...

I really enjoyed chapter 3: Rethinking Learning Theory Within the Online Class. It raised many significant points and a few questions for me. Not being a trained educator, but coming to mentoring and teaching from industry, I never gave learning theory much of a thought. I loved what I did, was asked to teach it and how I did it, and a teacher was born. Reading Bender's theories and her descriptions of Blooms taxonomy, Gardiner and Dewy's theories fascinate me.

What especially gave me pause was the idea that if shared thinking in a group leads to socially constructed meaning, than we as a group either accept that meaning or we reject it. We have the opportunity to create a new meaning if the experiences of the group support a new conclusion. Our experiences of the world will determine our thoughts and conclusions, because thought cannot exist in isolation from the real world. Thought itself is a construct based on other constructs. So if you break that down into component pieces, you can reform it, like a jigsaw puzzle to create a new idea or thought, or shape. Like an art work. I love that.

For example, I teach creative entrepreneurial strategies to artists. It involves knowledge - giving them information to memorize such as the types of outlets for their work and where they are located, comprehension - understanding how the art world works though discussion of its rules and customs; application comes in when they then take that information and create a marketing packet to introduce their work to that market; analysis - based on their prior steps figuring out which is the right market and identifying good fit partners; synthesis - creating a strategy that can include traditional markets and new alternative exhibition opportunities instead based on what they've learned about the art world and its restrictions, and then evaluation - they judge what is right and wrong with the market, the value of their work in each market, and how can they individually or in a group create new ones.

What I found surprising in the reading was learning that knowledge did not imply understanding, they were separate pieces. And a good teacher needs to be aware of how her students think to impact their learning. So if I am teaching alternative strategies for artist's career paths, I have to know how they view the current state of the market, if they value it or not, or I cannot impress on them the need to be creatively alternative. To be creatively alternative, and an entrepreneur is part of the class, so that information would be important. I hadn't thought of it before.

Dewy's ideas came out in 1910! That blows me away. I especially loved "think about a new idea, experiment with it, experience what is occurring, and reflect on the process" - that is active learning. I find that to be really exciting, and can see how that could happen in the online class I'm designing on meditation and career planning. The more I reflect on it, the more excited I get. I look forward to using that as a formula for my upcoming class in Career Mysticism.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First reflections - online learning

As I study and practice the roles in the online learning experience, I am finding how different it really is from the classroom experience.

In the classroom the teacher presents, the learners are more passive, and the resources are brought to the classroom for students to take home and absorb through homework or practice. You can gage the absorption of the material through eye contact, body language, and Q & A and adjust the content accordingly.

In the online environment, you need a tremendous amount of preparation of content that is visually engaging, and incorporates audio or video and a great deal of interaction so as to reach a vast array of learning styles and attention spans. In addition to being a subject matter expert, you need to be an engaging interpersonal communicator. Much more so than in the classroom it seems to me.

And then there are the tech needs, the instructor needs to be tech saavy as well as the learners in the online environment. You have to make sure everyone can access the system and can get through to the urls, and understands how to function and use the materials - mics headphones, video) for ease of learning. For an older teacher like myself, its a bit intimidating and exciting to be honest.

To help people relax in a classroom you can be welcoming, tell a joke or two, and people relax. In the online environment to help people relax, you also need a good sense of humor, but you have to help them want to engage with the system and want to engage with the content. Comfort zones become part of the experience, and the teacher has to create emotional engagement with each person and help them be comfortable, or s/he will loose them from the beginning.

So the teacher needs to know what the learning environment is for each student, work or home. And the demands of that environment need to be considered and the instruction tailored accordingly.

Interaction activities have to be a major part of the lesson plan, in both synchronous and asynchronous environments. And that fascinates me. And was a surprise. I'm really looking forward to figuring out how to create interactive moments in my classes - because I can see how the benefits of interaction reinforces the content through active sharing and comparing, and intensifies the bonding of the learners the absorption of the material, and the engagement with the instructor. What fun - I hope!