This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

How important is trust and honesty?

Its week 1 of ocTEL.  The introductory week 0 was turbulent, chaotic and almost overwhelming but exhilarating as well. Things seem to have settled down a lot now, although that may just be because like many others Ive switched to an email daily digest rather than a live real time feed.

There is lots to think about this week based on the suggested material and other participants posts. Ive gleaned three big ideas to work with.  Big idea #1: George Siemen’s idea that cMOOCS create a “long trailing social interaction structure in individuals own spaces” that potentially results in continued interaction between participants beyond the duration of the course, some of which may be learning related. I can relate to this because, as posted previously in a reply to Oliver Coady (#ocTEL where MOOCS and MOOCS differ) “[our] University policy is to discontinue student LMS accounts once they have graduated. However we allow our graduates to maintain their accounts on the course wiki and are using it to build an alumni community.”

Big idea #2:  Sugata Mitra’s stories about self organizing groups of circa 4 school age children discovering how to use new technology on their own and using it to “teach themselves” ie find information to answer questions.  No great new insights there really in as much as we know that small groups can work well (maybe not for everybody), that enquiry based/problem based learning can be fun and highly motivational. Again this seems to be similar to what we are doing here on our MA Photographic History course at De Montfort: a mixture of individual working and small groups of circa 4 students working together to carry out tasks introduced and supported through the course wiki but presented and discussed in class, so a kind of flipped classroom I guess. Activities set in the wiki require students to research a subject for a particular purpose (eg. to prepare a research poster, or to contribute to an online exhibition). To get students started I often list a variety of different subtopics on the wiki in a table. They have to bag one of these by writing their name in alongside the topic online. Once a topic has been bagged its no longer available to others, so theres some incentive to get in early to have the widest choice. Or they can add a topic of their own to the table. Follow up activities include presenting findings individually to an audience for critical appraisal and synthesising the individual results into a group product such as a Website design. Phil Tubman makes good point I think about the importance of explaining teaching methods when introducing constructivist learning activities for the first time. “First impressions count, and can take much longer to shift. Lecture 1 is the sweet time when the students are listening and eager as pups. Get your enthusiasm for the topic and pedagogy out in this time period and the rest will follow more harmoniously.” (ocTEL week 1 forum on Eric Mazur).  I agree with Phil that the introduction is important.  I think starting with an enthusiastic introduction in which you explain to students your teaching methods and the reasons for them combined with an invitation to suggest and try out alternatives is a good way of demonstrating that learning is a collaborative and generative activity in which we  are all participants and all have something to offer.  Which leads me on to ………………

Big idea #3: Learning is more interesting when the learner is in control, discovering and constructing their own knowledge.  But there are some caveats around this.   Phil posted a useful link to Donald Clark’s critique of Mitra’s work in GraphDesProject’s blog on “Collaboration is key? My thoughts on 4 cases” highlighting the need for sound research data and the dangers of accepting “feelgood” stories at face value.  One further thought on this was prompted by Helen Keegan’s presentation of her Augmented Reality Game (ARG) based approach to the design of learning activities which I found quite uncomfortable to watch.  She seemed to me to be reveling in the privileged power being a “puppet master” gave her while the students were deliberately deceived about what was happening.  Do the ends justify the means?  Is thinking you are in control the same as actually being in control of your own learning?  How open and honest should we be with our students? It seems to me that to create the conditions for a genuinely social constructivist learning environment its important to strip away as much as possible the power differences between teacher and student and to build a collaborative relationship founded on trust.

Ex-OU, EX-BT Distance Learning. Currently Visiting Fellow Centre for Distance Education, University of London , Head of School of Media and Communication, De Montfort University, Leicester and Professor of Learning Technologies.

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