Friday, February 25, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Will Richardson wrote:
Learning online is not about finishing the course requirements a few days early or answering the questions that the text or the teacher dictate. It’s about finding our own path through the material. As I asked in a comment on the post, do students practice inquiry in these settings? Are they able to ask their own questions? Are they assessed any differently? Do they create any new knowledge in the process and, if so, is that knowledge shared anywhere? Does their experience in the course replicate real life in any new way? Does it teach them how to learn on their own? To go deep? Not that any of that shouldn’t be taking place in face to face classrooms as well, but if you’re going to suggest something as different…
My point is that if this vision of online learning is being touted as reform, why? What’s really different here? Obviously, I’m a big believer in the value of online networks and communities to support lifelong and lifewide learning. The work that Sheryl and I and our amazing colleagues have been doing with PLP attests to fact that there is another way to learn online aside from digitizing a curriculum. We have goals and outcomes for our participants, but we don’t say to them “here is the path, work ahead if you like, and your grades will be posted online.” We let them find their own way, supporting and prodding as needed, trying to keep them moving in the general direction of shift. With any luck, they experience the change in their own way, on their own terms.
Not saying there isn’t any value to offering classes online. But if we do, let’s make sure they take advantage of the online piece to let participants develop the connections that will sustain them far beyond the class. Or, if not, let’s call it what it is…online coursework, not learning.
Martha Writes:
This blog entry really hit home for me. During my college years, computers were way off on the horizon. As they began creeping into our daily lives in the eighties, I was firm in my resignation that I worked with people, not machines. I refused to embrace the technology for most of the decade. As the nineties came into play, computers came into the home. My live-in boyfriend spent hours, often late at night, in front of the screen. I was actually jealous of a machine taking up all his time.
As my children progressed through school, computers became more and more a component of their learning environment. As a classroom volunteer first, and then a substitute teacher and finally a “regular” teacher in a classroom, the computer provided an opportunity to keep the often advanced students occupied while you spent extra “face” time with the students who were slower and needed more help. Soon, much of the reading program was “online” and other subjects were also creeping onto the computer screen.
In the college learning environment, I can’t help but feel like online learning first came into play to assist with the students who either had a distance disadvantage, or a scheduling disadvantage. Suddenly, learning could be done in the middle of the night, or whenever the baby was sleeping. A typical semester-long course could be completed in a few weeks. This was, of course, considered a good thing, although its legitimacy as a “bonafide” education was initially questioned.
In this new economy, the majority of college classes are being “taught” online. Some of this still is the answer to convenience, but it is also the answer to cost. It is much more cost-effective to run a course online than to offer a face-to-face environment.
In summation, “let’s call it what it is…online coursework, not learning.”, as Will Richardson ends this blog with is the crux of the argument. How much learning is going on? For me, this EDU255 is my only online class. I couldn’t imagine taking anything else outside of the “traditional” classroom. I’m predicting that as people of my generation pass on, so will the “old school” learning and online learning, like online working will simply be how it’s done.
I can still name all my grade-school teachers from kindergarten through high school graduation. I can give you a graphic physical description of each person, as well as their personalities. I don’t envy the new learners and students of the convenience that online learning provides. As a teacher, I still enjoy jumping around a classroom, raising my voice, telling a joke and getting a compliment on my earrings. The most memorable moment is, of course, seeing the face of a student when she has an “ah ha” moment.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The opportunity that is Education

I graduated from my first seventeen consecutive years of formal education with the traditional toss of the mortarboard. For the next twenty-five years I attended the occasional class to maintain my teaching credentials or other various certifications I possessed including those of a lifeguard and Red Cross Swimming Instructor. Recently, I re-upped my CPR certification and was excited to learn that the procedure had changed rather profoundly. Instead of laboring through chest compressions and head-tilt breathing and a confusing array of ratios for the two, depending on the age and size of the victim, it was simple. Chest compressions only to the tune of the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive”. Anyone could remember that and this simple change had already increased the survival rate by almost 40%.

Last weekend I visited the new Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix. The MIM is the largest museum of its kind in the world and well worth the $15 admission fee. Housed in its 76,000 square feet are instruments from over seventy-five different countries spanning thousands of years. You can see the evolution of a simple single bowstringed stick to the modern stratocaster, and everything in between. Each exhibit includes an audio track that magically changes as you meander through the cavernous rooms. It is a musical education not to be missed.

I’ve spent fifteen weekends over the last year with a now twenty-month old little boy. When I first met Christopher, he was crawling. Now, of course, he races around everywhere and you try desperately to keep him from injuring himself. He is an only child of older, very educated parents. They have asked me to speak Spanish with Christopher. His mother has taught him sign language from his infancy. He is an absolute sponge, learning constantly, sometimes by trial and error himself, and sometimes very purposefully by an elder. Occasionally it will be six weeks between visits and I will be astounded at the change in this little Einstein. I look forward to true conversations with him in the not too distant future.

Thus my philosophy of education is that there is opportunity to learn something every day. More often than not, it is exploring the world around you and not the formal classroom that provides the education. I am saddened by the hours people spend in front of the television and ashamed at the content that passes for entertainment these days. Little wonder we sit 27th in the world in education these days.
Get out! Go someplace new! Get learning!