Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year and special wishes to the many the world over who have been affected by last week's tsunami in Asia.

As the scope of the tragedy becomes increasingly apparent more and more aid is being sent from around the world. By all accounts, cash donations are most needed.

The gang at Google have put together a list of agencies helping those afflicted.

Visit their tsunami relief page for links and more information.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Bounded Communities

Back with another reference to readings from CTL 1608.

Bounded Community: Designing and Facilitating Learning Communities in Formal Courses from the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning is a very interesting article that provides a blueprint -- for both instructors and students engaged in online learning.

Bounded Learning Communities (BLC) are: "groups that form within a structured teaching or training setting, typically a course.... Teachers contribute to BLCs by establishing a sense of teaching presence, including an atmosphere of trust and reciprocal concern." (p.1)

The authors assert that "in contrast to classic communities-of-practice formulations, substantial supports for course-based communities can and should be designed ahead of time by the instructor, anticipating the learning and collaborative needs of students. They cite the work of Ludwig-Hardman (2003) and suggest that "seven features that seem to facilitate course based communities":(p 4-7)

  1. Shared Goals

  2. Safe and Supporting Conditions

  3. Community Identity

  4. Collaboration

  5. Respectful Inclusion

  6. Progressive Discourse Toward Knowledge Building

  7. Mutual Appropriation

N.B.: Ludwig-Hardman is one of the authors of the article the first reference --Case Study: Instrcutional Design strategies that contribute to the development of online learning community -- is cited as an "unpublished doctoral disseration, University of Colorado, Denver"; however, Learner support services for online students:scaffolding for success is available online.

The authors go on to assert that a "sense of community" and the notion of closure (i.e., the end of the class/semester) are key components of BLCs (p. 15-16).

The article also includes an instrument ("not yet validated") for measuring the "sense of community" in a given instance.

It mirrors the seven characteristics listed above and is essentially a checklist for ensuring that each of the "components for success" is present. The authors indicate that the instrument is "designed for routine use in e-learning and face-to-face classes" (p.16) and point to "Roval, Lucking, and Cristol, 2001, for a more rigorous measure."

Very interesting stuff. I look forward to tracking the progress of CTL 1608 as it evolves and grows as a BLC.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Educational Blogging

Educational Blogging is the name of an article by Stephen Downes in the September/October of the Educause Review and it's also one of the readings for CTL 1608.

Regular readers of this forum will know that I'm big believer in the efficacy of blogs as a learning tool; however, I also know that most likely says more about me and how I like to learn as it does about the medium itself.

I think it's imperative that blogs be "ground up" as opposed to something that's directed "from the top" (i.e., by a teacher, or as a course assignment). That's not to say that there's anything wrong with having blogging as part of a course (after all, weekly blog entries are part of my "current" course); however, I think the point is missed unless learners/students "get it" vis a vis blogs.

I've always enjoyed writing and that, I think, is part of the reason for the longevity (nearly three years) of this blog; however, as Downes indicates, blogging is more about reading than writing (see below).

While this forum has been at times more personal and professional than academic, it really does provide an excellent interface for reflection as well as a great spot for posting links and rants ;-)

Indeed, being able to revisit posts from years ago can be very informative (as well as humbling) in terms of how "learning" has served to better inform, or change entirely, one's views.

As Downes says in his article, "the jury is still out" on blogs, but he makes the point that blogs are more about "reading" than "writing." Furthermore, it's about:
reading what is of interest to you: your culture, your community, your ideas. And it is about engaging with the content and with the authors of what you have read -- reflecting, criticizing, questioning, reaching

Monday, December 27, 2004

Assignment #1

Back with some thoughts regarding the first assignment for CTL 1608:

What do you currently understand learning to be--for yourself and for your students if you teach?

I understand learning to be the assimilation, or synthesis of knowledge and experience within the context of social interaction and interdependence.

I think I'd call myself a "social constructivist" and would describe my view of learning as an amalgam of Constructivist/Constructivism, and Social Development. What this means for myself as a learner, and for my students, is that I understand the importance of supporting online learners (providing "scaffolds" or encouraging "zones of proximinal development" as Vygotsky calls them) and providing a "safe" environment for learning. This is especially difficult to gauge in online learners and one needs to be vigilant to ensure "inclusiveness" in online environments.

Why do you hold those views, both for yourself and for your students?

I hold these views because it seems obvious to me that learning is something that takes place in social settings, be they face-to-face or online and that "social connections" between teacher and student, and among students, is where "real learning" takes place.

What role does knowledge play in learning?

I view "knowledge" to be the "building blocks" of learning. While there's no escaping the importance of knowledge itself, I think it is something that needs to develop within the social context of the course or "thing to be learned." I believe that experience also plays a role in how "knowledge" is synthesized, or incorporated into "learning."

What role do others play in your learning

I think it is truly impossible to underestimate the importance of "others" in any learning environment. Indeed, without others I think it is impossible to effectively validate "what's been learned." Indeed, I'll go as far as to say that learning requires if not the input, at least consideration of others.

As you can see, I've got a bit of work to do before I submit this assignment to the course discussion space for next semester's section of CTL 1608. The good news is that I have until the 17th of next month to get it "ready for prime time."

As always, watch this space for details....