e-Learning: Introductory Session

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Following the first session of my elective unit in technology enhanced learning I thought I would summarise a few of the things we covered during the session.

Some unit tenets: 1. Openess – Try to assume that technology works. It’s easy to complain about glitches and tech problems in e-learning but problems also occur in real life teaching. Spaces are inappropriate, plans go wrong and so on. My thoughts on this is that while this is all true, technological problems in e-learning have a greater chance to completely derail a session. Real life teaching at it’s simplest just requires two people and a space. 2. Experimentation – Play with technology, appropriate tech to context, don’t turn pedagogy and technology to fit the technology. My thoughts are that this is again true but to some extent the specific characteristics of these technologies force teaching plans and classroom experiences into certain contortions because of what the technology allows (or disallows). Blackboard, the platform I’m most used to teaching with, provides an example. The nature of the audio stream means multi-participant conversations can’t occur as they do in real life and classes and activities have to be planned accordingly. Inversely the platform allows other things that wouldn’t be possible in a physical classroom, like a constant flow of feedback and comments via the chat box without interrupting the main lecture or conversation. 3. Documentation – Document and reflect on the unit and what is learnt through it, something I’ll primarily be doing here on this blog and also to some extent through a Workflow profile which will eventually exist here.

Workflow: We had a brief introduction to Workflow, an online portfolio platform which will form part of our assessment. One feeling coming away from the session is the slightly overwhelming proliferation of technologies demanding time, energy to learn, maintain, update. Unlike some others in the group who seem more anxious about approaching new technologies, platforms, and services, I feel generally undaunted by them, but I am very aware that it takes time and energy to learn new interfaces, populate platforms with even minimal content and then to maintain them on ongoing basis. I’ve already put my primary photography blog in stasis in order to free sufficient time to work on my teaching and learning blog, and adding workflow to the mix and it starts to feel like once again like too many platforms to pay proper attention to. This is something to keep in mind in my own teaching and comes back to the title of this blog to some extent, the feeling that whether as learners, teachers or just as citizens we are under a significant burden from the various technologies we employ. As much as feeling empowering they can also become a persistent nagging presence that demands our attention, and they can generate a sense of resentment and guilt as much as a sense of empowerment or learning.

Mapping our online footprint: We also did an exercise to start thinking about our online activities and engagement with different platforms, using the grid below. We started to think about the extent to which personal and professional lives overlap (or don’t) on different platforms, and also the extent to which we use different platforms to engage in different ways, behaving socially or simply lurking, acting variously as residents or visitors. We each mapped this for ourselves briefly:

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MOOCs: Lastly we had a brief introduction/discussion of MOOCs or Massively Open Online Courses. These are something I’ve been interested in for a while and I’ve participated in a couple as a student. We discussed some of the background to them, a few notable examples and also some of the issues arising from them. For me a particular question is the motivation of universities in providing these courses, there is a sense of public good will at the idea of these free courses (Harvard university for example recently got a large amount of positive press when they put photography course materials online) but what exactly are these institutions getting in return?

Author: Lewis Bush

Photographer, writer, curator and lecturer. www.lewisbush.com www.disphotic.com

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