Saturday, June 27, 2009

Design, reflection and open learning

Just wanted to jot a couple of thoughts down in response to this podcast "Teaching outside the limits of space and time" which I listened to while running along the waterfront in Auckland a couple of days ago. The podcast features the EdTech Posse who pretty regularly have entertaining discussions around a whole heap of aspects of ICT enhanced learning and teaching. (They have a laid-back, pretty unstructured approach, sometimes featuring pub-settings, and often with guest appearances by the just have to listen :-) )

In this particular podcast a lot of what they were saying hit a note of accord and I found myself grinning like an idiot (not a good look at the best of times). Some of the key topics they covered were designing programmes and what (if any) is the optimum duration for a course for effective learning, and aligning assessment (types as well as content with course design) - i.e. if you have a course that encourages open learning, then more traditional forms of assessment are unlikely to measure the effectiveness of the learning that has taken place. They also mulled over the importance of building learning networks, but that these too need time to develop, and that it is hopeless to try to force a community to develop. The final point was about podcasting - taking offline conversations and putting them online...but in a forum where futher discussion from disparate voices from around the globe is encouraged.

I did think there were a couple of points I'd like to add into the mix. For example, when they discussed the optimum length of a course, one aspect that I don't think was mentioned directly was motivation (extrinsic or intrinsic), although there was discussion about how interest in a subject can shape the learning experience (irrespective of duration). Alongside this factor is the notion of whether a learner is 'ready'...if they have developed the necessary cognitive framework that can be built upon with this next set of thinking and/or skills. If the learner is in just the right spot then an hour may be all it takes to turn the tide; something that just falls into place that makes sense of everything else. I think that this may be the case irrespective of whether it's a content based or process based course.

The other thing that really struck my imagination was the embedding of one discipline with in another that really 'smokes the tyres' of the learner. The example was the art class with embedded math. Awesome. We did something similar (but not as sophisticated) at Dubai Men's College where we had a project-based ICT enhanced blended-learning programme over 40 weeks. Math, English, academic literacies, ICT literacies, and Arabic were all integrated into the incremental, experiential learning course. Students would gradually produce one artefact over 10 weeks, building cumulatively another 'bit' each week, and the focus was very much on the process - the learning journey - rather than the end product.

I reckon I've drivelled on for long enough. I'd highly recommend the podcasts as thought-provoking and entertaining.

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