Monday, August 27, 2007

Reflections on Konrad's lecture and myself as an online learner

I listened to the lecture again and was astonished at just how much I hadn't 'heard' the first time. Will need to listen a few more times as I felt my attention going a couple of times even when aware of the danger. Just how much do students in lecture theatres or classrooms miss? They don't hear it again. I realise how useful podcasts of summaries or key points from classroom lectures can be for on campus and off campus students.

I had heard that 'snacking' was proving effective for learning in some US trials, where students were able to listen to six or 12 minute summaries from lectures. This sort of learning (in frequent short bursts) is ideal for language learning, and the triallers in the States believed it was appropriate for the learning and lifestyles of many of their students. Te Ara Poutama at AUT is also developing podcasts for students of Maori language and dance.

The use of podcasts seems to have gone beyond snacking in some cases though:

Lectures. Podcasting is becoming more widespread, allowing students to download audio of class lectures and listen to them whenever or wherever they want. University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Arizona State University in Tempe and Temple University in Philadelphia will be able to podcast every lecture in every classroom this fall using software company Anystream's Apreso Podcast.

I have not read the full article for this link, but the abstract is interesting in itself. -

and the findings in this article are also interesting. You can download the article:

I appreciate the concept that blogging/online learning opens up possibilities for students to access resources that are relevant to their interests. This endorses my own approach in the last few years in my work with autonomous learning/reflection/e-portfolios. By allowing students to venture out (open the barn door) and apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom, they become more engaged in their learning, and their motivation is increased because what they are doing has more relevance. As a consequence, they are also able to reflect more meaningfully on the learning process through this experiential learning, and end up discovering things themselves that would not have been possible to cover in a lecture.

Access and linkages - I really like Konrad's ideas for making the community and activities clearly visible to everyone. Perhaps this is because I am a 'global' learner - I like to know where I am, how to get to places and what is expected of me so that I can plan my time. I don't mind layers that I have to explore, but not if time is limited. My students are likely to be in the same situation.

How am I doing so far? I realise that for me, online learning means I have to be very organised and methodical or I will get left behind. I am already having to catch up as I started late - and although this is not a comfortable situation to be in, it is a good experience as I am now more sympathetic to students who start courses late. I need to really manage my time carefully: log on and do something frequently, and plan what it will be and when eg Mondays read resources, Tuesdays read other students' blogs and comment on them, Wednesdays listen to lectures again and write up my own blog. I also think it would have helped had I had a buddy to work with. The disadvantage might be that the staff members might not be able to monitor my progress so clearly - although I could always record it in my blog. But it would help to get to know someone on the course, and if they live in the area, perhaps to phone each other or to use Skype to talk things through? It feels good when someone makes a comment in my blog or in response to an entry in the discussion board. Someone is interested enough to read my thoughts, and this brings a sense of belonging.

Another thing I have realised is not only do I have to feel comfortable in the online environment, but my physical environment must also be conducive to learning. I use a laptop at home but the wireless was not working so I had no choice but to sit at the computer in my study. I prefer to be able read or write in different places - for example where the sun is coming through the window - which I could do with paper, pen and a book or article. Having to make myself sit at the computer in the study was creating a sort of physical and psychological barrier. I have now got a new router and the wireless is working. It means I can log on anywhere and even listen to the lectures while cooking! I can add to my blog as the ideas come instead of jotting them down on paper and writing up later. This means the course is more accessible and fits in with the snacking idea too.

My next challenge: RSS.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why I am doing this course, and reflections on first two weeks

Having joined late, it has taken time to find my way round the site. Still a little confused still about where to find things and where to post things. There seem to be lots of layers.

As with most people in education, there is an awful lot going on at the moment for me:

  • preparing two papers for a conference in Tokyo in early October (and I will be overseas for three week approx from 2 - 22 October); one paper is on use of e-portolios for learning, and one is on activities to foster reflection, self assessment and deep learning.
  • developing and teaching this new Intercultural Competence paper - only level 5 but still demanding - although very much related to language teaching in that language and culture are inseparable, it means going 'back to school' to familiarise myself with relevant models, theories and frameworks.
  • developing in a team, online beginners language papers - hence the reason for doing this course.
  • plus we are in the process of restructuring the school, so . . .

Why enrol for this paper? The main one is I need to learn about online communities and experience online learning as a student. The beginners language papers will target intermediate and possibly high school teachers, business people, and possibly university students who have timetabling problems. We will need to cater for different learners and different needs.

The other reason is, my research interests are autonomous learning, which takes in learning strategies, motivation and reflection. This paper links in very well with my interests and the readings look very relevant.

How am I doing so far?

I am achieving my first aim - finding out just what it feels like as an online student who is not really into technology. I happily use email, and wikis and blogs (but set up through Blackboard so haven't ventured out yet into the wider world), have heard about RSS but have no idea how to use it, nor blog links. But I now understand why I would want to use them to make life easier. I go along with Stephen Downes when he says it is easy to focus on the technology and we should let the learners choose their own technology. But at the same time, we need to remember that some learners are like me - they don't know what choices they might have, and it is wise to set off on familiar ground - possibly just an email forum and a blog already set up ie scaffolding. Part of the problem is not having the time to explore and play with things and it is frustrating. But there is a huge sense of achievement and motivation when you achieve something small.

I will deal with my learning styles later but it is clear that although I would say I am an autonomous learner, in this new environment, I am right back at the novice stage and appreciate guidance until I get my feet. Having said that, I am enjoying the challenge, and the exposure to the different approach to learning.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Spurred into action

Having reflected on my own experience, trying to find my way round this course, I decided I needed to go into a course on Introduction to Intercultural Competence (IIC) I have set up this semester and really make things explicit for students. In week one they were introduced to an e-portfolio which has three sections: generic capabilities, IIC, and Basic Spanish (most students are doing a language major in Japanese or Chinese, and some no language at all. Spanish is there as a 'common' language). They were also introduced to a wiki for their personal learning log (PLL), to describe, interpret and evaluate an intercultural issue or incident. Both the e-portfolio and the wiki are only accessed by the student and the lecturers.

Some students tried to engage immediately with the PLL but did not really know how to differentiate between the three sections; not many took up the e-portfolio. In week three (last week) I introduced wikis for group project work/presentations which they are starting now. And I introduced blogs which can be accessed by all, for students to introduce themselves. All these tools are set up for the students on Blackboard, accessible through clearly labelled buttons.

Confusion. Some students are using the blog instead of the wiki, some have not made any entries in the PLL . . . I understand now why some of this has occurred. Even though they have time in the computer room with me once a week, not all attend, and I did not actually insist they make an entry of some sort so that I could help them with content.

When you design something yourself, you are too close to it and don't appreciate the problems that students can have.

Self Introduction

Hello everyone. I enrolled just this week and am trying to find my way round the various sites and trying to find out what I am supposed to be doing in each one. I use blogs, wikis and e-portfolios in my teaching but it is still a challenge with the sheer volume of information all at once.