Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week 2: Reflections Part II

1) Anderson cites studies that claim that effective instruction is learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Given these dimensions, what impact does technology mediation have on instruction?

I would say that technology mediation positively affects instruction in these areas, for both hybrid and purely online courses.

Through technology mediation, we can have community centered learning, where every student can have access to the class's public forum and participate, in a democratic fashion, in the class. They analyses, thoughts, and opinions on what has been read or discussed can be freely posted. These posts can then be read and responded to by fellow classmates and the instructor. In this sense, it's sort of like sitting in a big circle and having a discussion, but not having to worry about place and time constraints as much. In a f2f environment you have 180 minutes per week, in an online environment you have the whole 15 week semester to view and comment on something that you found interesting.

Learner centered learning also benefits from technology mediation because, I think, that the learner has potentially more contact with the instructor. In a f2f environment you see the instructor for those 180 minutes, but you also have the ability to go to the instructor's office (during office hours). Technology mediation allows for anytime, anyplace contact (given sufficient interest by the student and the instructor). The instructor can help each student individually, without detriment to the rest of the class. If one student is slower at processing a certain subject than the rest of the class (for whatever reason), the instructor can have one-on-one time with them. On the same token if some students have specific interests, the instructor can point them in one direction and provide them with resources that are relevant to them, and not so much to the rest of the class.

Technology mediation also affects knowledge centered learning. There is no doubt that there is a plethora of sources out there (books, audio tapes, CDs, podcasts, ezines, magazines, journals, ejournals and so on) for what ever research (or practical) area interests you. Technology allows you to quickly find, and retrieve sources, and quickly decide if they are of use to you in teaching /learning or not.

Finally, on assessment centered learning, technology allows, at the very least, for some expediency in grading tests. Grading tests though is not fully utilizing technology for assessment centered learning. Virtual labs and simulations are just two types of technologies that can be used to improve learning. In a supply chain management class that I had a year ago the professor used an online simulation that allowed us to modify factory production, product distribution, and shipping methods to see how modifications to those elements improved (or worsened) our supply chain. Our modifications were not made willy-nilly, they were based on concepts learned in class, in supply chain theories and mathematical models. This simulation would be a good assessment tool (along with a narrative) to see if students really got the concepts of supply chain management, or if they were just going through the motions in class.



2) What do you think of Terry Anderson's model of online learning (p. 49)? Do you find it a helpful way to conceptualize online learning dynamics?

I find the model helpful in visualizing learning in general. I think the model can also be applied for f2f classes, and in my experience has been applied for f2f classes by students. The student-student interactions and synchronous/asynchronous communication (left hand side of the model) has been done informally between various student groups in my classes (and sometimes the whole class) without the instructor mandating it.

Students often met before or after class and they discussed materials, and there was often an asynchronous component (often over email), that allowed students to clear things up with the content of the class, and offer opportunities for peer to peer teaching. The model is quite helpful, but it's pertinent for all instruction.
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