Thursday, August 20, 2009
Reflective Synopsis of my e.learning journey
I have really enjoyed discovering what is available for use out there and considering their possible roles in the classroom. It has been a welcomed challenge and it excites and inspires me about what my future as a Learning Manager has the potential to hold. Of course there are going to be a number of set backs when I get there - primarily availability of computers and what tools can actually be accessed on the internet in regards to the school's policy and what is 'blocked'. However, these are battles I'm willing to face and I am sure I can be creative with what I do have when I get there.
Experiencing these technologies has really opened my eyes as to how ICTs can be used effectively in the classroom - that is for learning and not just to type out an assignment, find a picture on Google images, or put together a slide-show for an oral. There are so many tools that promote collaboration and communication, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving skills... all attributes we want our learners to possess. Apart from this, using such tools will engage our Digital Native learners like nothing else can (Prensky, 2001). Instead of taking them out of their world to learn at school, we are stepping into their world and providing them with meaningful learning opportunities.
There are a number of theories and frameworks that support the inclusion of ICTs in the classroom. These include, but are not limited to, Kearseley & Shneiderman's (1999) Learning Engagement Theory, Oliver's (1999) ICT Learning Design Framework, and Seimen's (2005) Connectivism. I will discuss these theories and frameworks that support the use of e.learning in the context of three of the most useful (not to mention brilliant) tools that I came across - WebQuests, Voice Thread, and Slide Share.
Firstly, WebQuests are defined as "an inquiry-oriented activity" in which most or all of the information to be used comes from the internet (Dodge, 1995 in March, 2004). It is not simply a web-based activity but is a scaffolded learning experience that requires learners to actively investigate an open-ended problem, processing and transforming knowledge rather than just regurgitating facts (March, 2004). WebQuests are an absolutely outstanding elearning tool that can be supported by all three aforementioned theories. An earlier post shows how is fits in with both Learning Engagement and Learning Design, so here I will link this toll to Connectivism. There are 2 principles of Connectivism in particular that relate to WebQuests - 1. Learning and knowledge rests in a diversity of opinions and 2. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill (Seimens, 2004).
Within the construct of a WebQuest, learners work in groups and are often asked to assume a 'role' - be it a business person or an environmentalist etc. These roles encourage learners to consider different perspectives from which to view the problem/question (March, 2004). Once each learner/pair/small group has thoroughly researched according to their role the learners come back together to discuss the 'diversity of opinions' before creating a solution (Seimens, 2004). Also, WebQuests require learners to transform information proveded via the web links into an entirely new concept or product; it's a 'transformative group process' (March, 2004). This means that learners need to be able to make connections between ideas and concepts to come up with a solution. For example, asking students to 'apply lessons from global problems to local issues' (March, 2004).
Secondly, Slide Share is a space where you can upload and share your PowerPoint Presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF portfolios (Slideshare.net). It even has the capacity to upload audio files to synchronise to presentations. This type of technology has the greatest potential in the classroom. In the way of Oliver's Learning Design Framework it could be used to both illustrate the Learning Task - much more interactive than a sheet of paper and appeals to more sensory stimulation - and as a Learning Support, where slidecasts give learners extra scaffolding (similar to short tutorials) if they need it to successfully complete a task (Oliver, 1999). These will be available to them to view whenever they need it and however many times they need it. As well as this, learners could create their own Slidecasts in small groups that could then be published onto a class wiki or the school LMS. For example, in small groups learners may write a narrative or short story expressing their ideas/conclusions/opinions on a specific topic, record it, create a powerpoint to 'illustrate' their narrative, upload these files and synchronise them, then publish this to a wiki or blog that is set up to communicate with an e-pal class. In this way, Slide Share can also be supported by the Relate-Create-Donate cycle of the Learning Engagement theory (Kearlsey & Shneiderman, 1999). Slide Share is a great resource in that it has a two-fold use - as a teaching aid for the learning manager, and as a learning aid for the learner.
Finally, Voice Thread has to be one of my favourite technologies that I have looked at so far. It is a 'tool for having conversations around media' and can host an 'entire group discussion on one simple page' (voicethread.com, 2007). There are a number of ways Voice Thread can be used effectively in classrooms, including use as a reflective learning tool, group task contribution discussions, a tool for analysing perspectives, a space to share images of learning experiences and comment on the learning that took place, and a place to share their learning journey with their parents/guardians and other relevant stakeholders. It is a highly interactive and collaborative Learning Resource that can easily be paired with a Higher Order Thinking Learning Task (Oliver, 1999). Such tasks would require students to Analyse, Evaluate or Create using Voice Thread (Frangenheim, 2006). Learners may be added to a voice thread and there post their own analysis or evaluation of what is presented there, taking into account the comments of others. Alternately, learners may create their own voice thread for the use of others. The second option can be structured around the Relate-Create-Donate cycle (Kearlsey & Shneiderman, 1999). That is to say that learners work collaboratively to create a Voice Thread in response to a real world 'problem' which can then be made public or uploaded onto a blog, wiki etc. This tool has such a diversity of uses, it is worth getting learners to master it so it can be integrated as a 'normal' part of school.
In this age of Digital Natives, who are crying out for us to engage them in education and not enrage them, learning managers really need to stop and consider these new frameworks and theories and the new tools available to them (Prensky, 2001; 2005). I know I have been challenged as I have been writing each post - each tool takes some time to explore and get used to, but really time is a small price to pay when it comes to truly being able to engage our learners and get them excited about their learning journey. In completing this Blogging challenge I am somewhat filled with a new inspiration and enthusiasm for a different type of classroom - a classroom full of e.learners...
Frangenheim, E. (2006). Reflections on Classroom Thinking Strategies. Loganholme, QLD: Rodin Educational Consultancy
Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Available from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm
March, T. (2003). 'The Learning Power of WebQuests' Educational Leadership, Vol. 61, N0.4. Available from http://tommarch.com/writings/wq_power.php
Oliver, R. (1999). Exploring strategies for online teaching and learning. Distance Education, Available from http://www.learningdesigns.uow.edu.au/project/learn_design.htm
Prensky, M. (2001). 'Digital Natives and Immigrants.' On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5. MCB University Press. Available from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Prensky, M. (2005). “Engage me or enrage me”: What today’s learners demand. In Educause Review. Available from http://www.net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0553.pdf
Seimens, G., (2004). 'Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age'. elearnspace. Available from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Slide Share (2009). available from http://www.slideshare.net
Voice Thread (n.d.) 'What's a Voice Thread Anyway?'. Available from http://voicethread.com/#u439917.b409.i848804