Monday, September 22, 2008

1.1.2: Learner-centred psychological principles

I have blogged on these before... The American Psychological Association released 14 principles of learner-centred education in 1995. The principles provide a wonderful background for educational decisions, and the subsequent application of e-learning approaches. We do not need to use digital technology to educate within the APA learner-centred framework however various of the principles do seem highly congruous with e-learning techniques. Personally I am still in favour of a subject-centred approach (as advocated by Palmer, 1997), but the APA list continues to be a valuable point of reference.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

5.*: ePortfolios in education

Many thanks to Derek for alerting me to a fresh report from the JISC regarding ePortfolios. JISC reports are invariably authoritative and have a wonderful sense of combining theory with case study-based practice. The lack of reference to Mahara, our own home-grown product, is disappointing - particularly because it has the very features needed for flexible, user-centred ePortfolio experiences.

The six-step model in the report (PDF) is valuable, and the entire report serves as a very useful introduction to what ePortfolios are and what is involved in their implementation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

3.4.6: Desiging authentic problem-based learning opportunities

In researching for the fourth E-Primer, I read an article by Herrington, Oliver & Reeves (2003) called "Patterns of engagement in authentic online learning environments".In it, ten principles for generating authentic learning environments are listed:

  • Authentic activities have real world relevance:
    match as nearly as possible the real world tasks of professionals in
    practice rather than decontextualised or classroom based tasks.

  • Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity:
    inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to multiple
    interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of
    existing algorithms. Learners must identify their own unique tasks and
    sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.

  • Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time:
    are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours.
    They require significant investment of time and intellectual resources.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity for
    students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a
    variety of resources:

    The task affords learners the opportunity
    to examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical
    perspectives, rather than allowing a single perspective that learners
    must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather
    than a limited number of preselected references requires students to
    detect relevant from irrelevant information.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate:
    is integral to the task, both within the course and the real world,
    rather than achievable by an individual learner.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect:
    Activities need to enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.

  • Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain specific outcomes:
    encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable students to play
    diverse roles thus building robust expertise rather than knowledge
    limited to a single well-defined field or domain.

  • Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment:
    of activities is seamlessly integrated with the major task in a manner
    that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate artificial
    assessment removed from the nature of the task.

  • Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else:
    Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.

  • Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome:
    allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of
    an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by
    the application of rules and procedures.

Clearly these are worthy criteria for developing activities, defined in E-Primer 3 as "working with knowledge in an applied context" (p.21). Recently on the Henderson Laidlaw campus we had a visit by Dr Terry Stewart of Massey University. Terry won the 2008 DEANZ award for his work on problem-based learning and the SBL Interactive tool (Scenario-Based Learning). It is easy to see the value of Herrngton et al's criteria as a framework for using SBLi!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

5.*: Net Gen focus

The blog 'Net Gen Nonsense' is committed to exposing the myths surrounding the Net Generation. The latest post by Iain reports on the use of Web 2.0 technologies by staff and students (presumably at the University of Auckland). The result: they "are not making use of the web 2.0 tools in any great way in their personal lives".

This is not to deny that such tools can make a contribution to e-learning, just that they should not be sold as inevitable or compatible with how students prefer to collaborate. Pedagogy should always be the guiding factor - pedagogy in terms of applying educational interventions based on their actual effectiveness for teaching and learning, rather than a notion of student preference or technological progress. As more and more actual research is conducted, more and more doubt is cast on the optimism surrounding the Net Generation and the application of Web 2.0 in education. The bubble is bursting.