Thursday, October 29, 2009

TLT presentation: Archive of "Reframing e-learning"

The archive of the second ASCILITE/TLT webinar is now available online. The TLT team was excellent to work with, and their work is well worth subscribing to.

Now I'm working on my invited session for the upcoming ASCILITE conference... It should be a great conference!

5.*: Google Wave and education

It is probably a little early to start speculating on the educational potential for Google Wave (after all, it's not actually released for general use yet!) But a blog post by Richard McManus called "Google Wave Uses: Education" provides an initial insight.

Like many Web 2.0 tools, it looks as though Google Wave might be best exploited by students rather than by the institutions they enrol in. I imagine some innovative educators joining in their students' backchannel discussions, and possibly even involving themselves in correcting class notes... but it seems that the potential strength of Wave for education lies not in a formal implementation, but rather through encouraging students to make use of it themselves should they want to. As such, Wave might become a valuable third place. If formal education attempts to harness it, to 'make it' into something educational, its value as a student-driven application may well drop. in E-Primer 5 I discuss this phenomenon as it relates to blogging and the use of wikis in formal education contexts.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

1.1.1; 2.3: 'E-learning' and professional development

In an early view BJET article called "Conceptions of e-learning and professional development for e-learning held by tertiary educators in New Zealand", Stein, Shephard & Harris (2009) report on a phenomenological investigation into e-learning professional development. Respondents included people from the university, polytechnic, PTE and wananga sectors. The authors identified five 'categories' of e-learning based on the responses:
  • A: E-learning as 'tools, equipment, hardware and software'
  • B: E-learning as 'a means through which learning interaction is facilitated'
  • C: E-learning 'is seen as learning'
  • D: E-learning reduces distance (enhancing flexibility)
  • E: E-learning as 'collaborative enterprise' (involving students, teachers, support staff)
These categories are all related:
tools (Category A) support and facilitate the interaction (Category B) and the 'meeting places' that bring students, teachers, courses, institutions together, no matter where they are (Category D). Collaboration (Category E) at all levels supports the functoning of the whole system. The ultimate purpose of e-learning is to enhance learning (Category C) (p.11). 
Nicely put, a rich blend of perspectives into a useful and comprehensive statement! The research also sought perspectives on what e-leanring professional development is about.
  • A: 'Training to use technologies/tools/equipment'
  • B: 'Opening up possibilities for using technologies for teaching and learning'
  • C: 'A collaborative exercise that can take many forms' (including case studies, seminars, etc)
  • D: 'Relevance and purpose' (focussing on the value-add possible through e-learning)
The authors here suggest that C is the process of professional development, A and B the content, and D the purpose. The authors note that the findings do not provide a solution to the problems faced by professional developers, but the insight and richness of the categories is certainly appreciated.

5.1.3: More on the Net Gen

Mark Bullen's blog Net Gen Skeptic links to a 2009 article by Neil Selwyn (Institute of Education, University of London) called The digital native - myth and reality. The terms 'exaggeration' and 'inconsistency' and criticism of methodology in Net Gen studies give some idea of where Selwyn's article goes. As a literature review Selwyn's paper gives an excellent summary of how the Net Gen's innate potential has been built up beyond reality. He writes that
much of the writing around the digital native theme is concerned less with documenting young people's use of specific digital technologies per se, than the general practices and dispositions that digital technologies support and facilitate within their lives (p.366).
Naturally, this approach leads to exaggeration and misleading conclusions. It's like suggesting we are all global travellers because there is a local airport. Selwyn is highly critical of the 'common sense' association often made with reference to Prensky's work. All of this is rather old hat now, but Selwyn's paper is a well-written piece that includes some useful argument related to the value of formal education. Pointers to studies based on more careful methodologies confirm the coverage in E-Primer 5:
If anything young people's use of the internet can be described most accurately as involving the passive consumption of knowledge rather than the active crewation of content - leading, at best, to what Crook (2008) terms a 'low bandwidth exchange' of information and knowledge, with any illusion of collaboration described more accurately in terms of co-operation or co-ordination between individuals... technology use at school or at home remains rather less expansive and empowering than the rhetoric of the digital native would lead us to believe (p.372).
In sum, the Net Gen needs guidance, even direction in their use of technologies for the purposes of education. Selwyn also addresses the 'guide on the side' vs 'sage on the stage' issue... all in all, a very worthwhile paper!