This week for our blog posts we've been asked to reflect on our "ideal graduate student community and why?" as related to these points:
- With whom would you want to talk to in the field?
- What kinds of interaction would you find helpful studying at a distance and why?
- Thinking outside the confines of "the course", how would you design a learning environment that supports graduate community? For example, consider when you like to discuss ideas with people. Is it after you've thought about it a lot yourself or is it in the formative stages as you are working things out, etc., with whom, how frequently, and why.
- How would technology support any or all of this?
I'll address each in turn:
I'd talk with those who have a sense of the theoretical foundations of their pedagogical practice. Ideally some of these "real world" individuals would be holders of degrees earned online.
Getting a chance to relate practice to theory would be informative. It might afford the opportunity to:
- consider whether or not a given theory is valid
- decide if you agree that the theory "fits" -- in terms of conception/implementation/integration and the given situation
In terms of the types of interactions which are valuable in online environments, I think OISE/UT needs a student run edCommons. In a previous iteration (circa 2001,02) the edCommons was really onto something. At that time they had, among other resources, a series of "how do I know what I don't know" PDF assessments posted online.
These were the perfect tool for helping beginning users ("newbies" as they're affectionately known) both assess or guage their own level of proficiency with computers and get suggestions for remediation. An "open forum" with some form of "metamoderation" scheme with volunteers would be easy to get up and running and maintain and would benefit "young and old" (in terms of relative online experience) learners at OISE/UT, or any institutions which offers graduate degrees online.
Regularly scheduled chats are a good idea too. I've noticed that colleagues at OISE/UT, for the most part, have become more inclined to participate in synchronous chats. We're still a long way from the comfort levels that have been seen with telephones as a communication medium; however, text-based chats are much more likely to happen this semester than they have been in some past.
We've been introduced to Breeze from Macromedia this semester. It's a powerful application to be sure; however, in my experience it's not often used for more than text-based chats. I used the "record a meeting" function to archive a meeting and it seemed to work well. There's been some talk of arranging a "virtual wine tasting event" using Breeze, we'll have to archive/post some video evidence if we can make that fly >;-)
I like to "discuss ideas with people" at all points in my learning; however, I'm probably most like Dan from my course in that I learn/decide on an individual basis and then take that premise "to the table" in terms of knowledge building with colleagues. As with most things, this is by no means an absolute and is dependent on a number of factors including how strongly I feel about the topic of dicussion.
Technology can support and enable all of these types of interactions. The key comes from providing a variety of options and giving students the ability to maintain a "dynamic knowledge base" to build knowledge and get/provide peer support that's not "bounded" by a given course.