Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Mid-Week #edcmooc thoughts & reactions

Take one blog, mix with others, add own thought
and see what happens
Over the past couple of days I've been reading what fellow participants have contributed to the blogosphere on #edcmooc.  I've watched the week 2 videos (more on that in post during the weekend), and I am slowly reading (or re-reading) some of the food-for-thought articles posted for week two.

To keep things manageable, I decided to devote only 3 days to fellow participant's blog posts, so I can move forward with other materials well.  In this blog post I wanted to react to a couple of things I read from fellow participants in the last few days.  First off, we have the Sage on the Stage (SoS). I was reading this short post on why the Sage is likely here to stay.  Interesting post, and it's got a couple of comments. I highly encourage you to read and think about it as well.  The gist of the post, from what I read into it, is that the Sage on the Stage instructor is here to stay because (1) people want to be instructed and (2) there needs to be teacher presence (see community of inquiry model).

Now, it's true that in educational or instructional settings, be they higher education, be they professional education, or be they athletics, people seek more knowledgeable others in order to gain from their experience.  We tend to associate this with the title "professor" or "instructor," and of course, what these individuals do is to "instruct." The fallacy, in my mind, is that we seem to associate instruction with a didactic  or "sit down, shut up, and listen."  This isn't the only way to instruct someone. Furthermore, teaching presence means different things to different people.  I take my "traditional" online course as an example.  Usually this course enrolls 15-20 students per semester. There will be students this this course that will need more frequent interaction with me as the instructor, and there will be students who won't need as much.  In a regular (15-20 student) environment it's easier to figure variable this out and to be able to address those student needs. In a MOOC, well... not so much.  Just because something doesn't conform to one way of interpreting teaching presence, that doesn't mean that there isn't teaching presence. So, sure, the sage isn't going anywhere, but the way we use SoS approaches will vary depending on where we need to apply this technique.

On a related note, I think courses are a good opportunity for students to come our of their comfort zone and expand their horizons a bit.  For example, if you have a student that always strives to get that attention, they need to be able to work and learn successfully in environments where they won't get it in quantities that they want it.  If students don't like working with peers, they need to stretch to be able to work with peers when necessary.  No one likes group work because it puts us at a disadvantage. We lose that flexibility of the home court advantage, and we need to communicate with others, and negotiate the outcomes. It adds overhead, for sure, but it does add value to the learning experience by exposing students to a variety of views. This benefits the learner in the end, if the learner is open to such differing views.

The other post that got my brain going this morning was Agata's post on her reactions to Noble.

4. In general, to me, this article misses the point. It gives example of students opposing online education - [emp] especially [emp] when purchased as a part of obligatory fee. In fact, that is the reason why in 1998 online education could not have had such an impact on learning at it does now. People did not have such easy access to different technological channels of information. Since they has to pay for everyhing - they were against. Since parents had to pay - they were against. It is surprising how invalid the arguments of the article are now - in the times when access to the internet is ubiquitous (thanks to wifi) and most people have twitter and facebook in their phones.
Perhaps the validity of this paper can be kept with reference to the developing countries? I wonder how they relate to the accessibility of online education in Europe and the USA.
I actually brought myself back to 1998, when I was an undergraduate studying computer science.  Back then I did have a really fast 56k modem (wow!) but I really didn't get online often from home because it cost a lot, and it was slow.  I did most of my browsing and downloading from campus where we had access to really fast internet.  In those days having an LMS was something that really wasn't useful because we didn't have the ubiquity of access that we tend to have today.  That said, even back then, there were technology fees that I paid to my school every semester (or was it every year?) regardless of access to an LMS for my courses.  This technology fee was used to keep the computer labs up to date, to provide for classroom infrastructure, to provide for classroom technology and so on.  Having to reallocate funds from one spending account to another doesn't seem like such a big deal if the technology fee doesn't increase.

The one thing that we should think about for developing countries is that developing countries are not what our "developed" countries were 10-20 years ago. One of the things that seems to be big in developing countries is mobile access.  So, if access to mobile broadband is cheap and ubiquitous, that's a really important variable that is different between them now, and us then.  This important variable can be used in ways to provide meaningful pedagogical tools that are enabled by technologies now. Back in 1998 we only had CSD (circuitry switched data) at 9.6kbps on some mobile phones. Not much you could do with that; but if developing nations have access to cheap 2G or 3G mobile networks, technology can play a part in meaningful technology enriched pedagogy.

Your thoughts?

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