Entering Week Eight

Hard to believe, but my IM554 class is entering its eighth week, and I am still a bit lost in this e-learning environment.

Last Monday, several peers made presentations on the interviews they conducted. When talking about the learners, I was able to follow along quite nicely. How others learn and what helps them learn are subjects in which I am interested. I am most curious about the effect of e-learning on students and if it actually helps students learn and retain information.

However, talking about some of the Web 2.0 tools taxes me. I am not very adept at using them, and I don’t quiver with excitement or anticipation when others discuss them. I get the same expression on my face when someone talks about Wikibooks as I did when my son was younger and he would obsess about the X-Men. (Picture me with eyes glazed over, nodding and grunting, “Ugh, huh,” at random intervals.)

Still, I do enjoy hearing about what my classm did and how they approached their inteviews. I am learning a lot and that is always a plus.

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IM554 challenges

I am slowly becoming acclimated to the world of online learning. Peers and my husband are thankfully helping me with some of the technical things I need to learn, and I’ve been doing lots of research outside of class. However…

All the information we’re given in class shows that even though schools are becoming more adept at providing e-learning, there’s still a long way to go. Several articles assigned to us note that retention of online learners is less than that of those who attend classes in person. There’s a sense of isolation, loss of community and loss of identity for many online learners.

I can speak about the loss of community and identity first-hand. While I like to go off and “do my own thing” when doing research or a project, I do miss the interaction and camraderie of classmates in a classroom setting. The interaction is immediate and more responsive than that online.

Although my classmates are slowwwly starting to work together on some things together, there still is no real sense of community — there’s no cohesion yet. I want my face-to-face back!

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Creating a New Comfort Zone

My old Web comfort zone was surfing the net searching out arcane trivia; playing time-wasting, mind-numbing online games; emailing my friends and deleting all the newsletters to which I’d subscribed but never read; and scoping-out-but-rarely-posting on Facebook. But look — I’m actually blogging, and you can now skate in Heck.

Now that I’m starting to feel more comfortable in this new zone, I  “shared” a photo of my son and his new bride with others on Facebook. And I wrote on some people’s walls. Pretty soon, I may start editing chapters on Wikibook… (Ugh, no, that’s not really likely.)

I’m certainly not the Web pioneer in my family: My nephews and nieces Skype, Flickr, Snapfish, Youtube and Wiki all over the place; heck, even my 80-year-old mother is on Facebook, and my seven-year-old granddaughter can navigate parent-sanctioned, age-appropriate websites with ease. She is also a proficient texter and DSL game player.

It’s a brave new online world and Web technology usage is only going to keep expanding. While I can see so many possibilities and opportunities, I worry about the digital divide and how those persons without access to the resources or who lack the technological skills will keep up. Some of my clients use outdated computers with dial-up services, and those without computers can’t always get to the library.

Ahhh, but those are worries for another day and another blog: Today I’m in the Zone — my new comfort zone — using Web 2.o technology. (And you can put your skates on anytime you want…)

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The World is Open

I was able to meet with Dr. Curtis Bonk, The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education author, last Thursday. I felt pretty good because we were going to be an hour early to our meeting. Of course, we were on Minnesota time and he was on Indiana time, so we were actually a half-hour late. Still, Dr. Bonk was very gracious and skipped a meeting to continue talking to me.

He also gave me the names of other resources and books to read to foster my understanding of  online learning. Check out his website, www.worldisopen.com, and his blog, www.travelinedman.blogspot.com. Dr. Bonk is very enthusiastic about online learning and it shows.

This week, Dr. Bonk’s online class will be reading one of the articles Dr. Park already assigned us: Emerging Technologies: Teachers Speak Up. I was glad I had read the article so that I sounded somewhat credible when discussing its implications for education.

In fact, all the articles Dr. Park assigned to us prepared me for the interview with Dr. Bonk. The articles have also been connecting the dots for me regarding our IM 554 class. Set up the way it is, our class is building community and collaborating on getting our assignments done. Way to go, class!

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Talking to the E-learning Expert

For our Information Media class, Developing Skills for Online Learning, our class is supposed to interview someone who has knowledge of or familiarity with online learning.

I figured that the best person for me to interview is someone who has written about this new teaching technology and who comes highly recommended from Dr. Park, our instructor: Dr. Curtis Bonk.

Dr. Bonk wrote the book, “The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education,” and a prequel, “Sharing … the Journey.” Who better to answer my questions about the challenges this teaching strategy poses for some of the less tech-savvy learners?

Fortunately, Dr. Bonk has agreed to let me interview him in person or over the phone. I’m very excited and grateful for the opportunity to talk to the expert on the “web technology that is revolutionizing education.”

My proposed project timeline:

Selection of topics (challenges, learners, supports, strategies):     Done

Resources: Book: “The World is Open”; “Sharing … the Journey” prequel; articles: “E-Learning’s potential is hampered by misuse, critics say”, “Continuing Debate Over Online Education”; and the American Distance Education Consortium’s “ADEC Guiding Principles for Distance Teaching and Learning.” Studying resources — in progress.

Interviewee information: Done

Interview questions and processes: In-person interview – September 17; plus telephone follow up for any clarification

Analysis and writing: Week of September 27

Paper due: October 1, 2010

Is this too ambitious? We’ll see. I think the second week’s readings for class connected some of the dots for me in how web technology influences learners’ education, their thinking and even how they think; I also learned how consumers affect how the technology is used or supported. It’s all pretty thought provoking, and I am relenting on some of my reluctance to online learning…

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Online Distance Learning critiques

According to Anderson’s, Towards a Theory of Online Learning (2008), students value the freedom and independence that online learning provides. I have to admit that while I extensively explore the Internet researching different ideas and articles that interest me, online learning is not the style I prefer.

I like connection to my fellow students and immediacy in our communication. I get a better sense of what is being said by body language and tone of voice and can respond accordingly. If clarification of a response is needed, it is more efficient to communicate in person. Tone and context are important in meaningful communication; over the web, misunderstandings often happen and they may be difficult to resolve. Witness all the posts to our D2L site trying to clarify what the actual requirements are for our online learning class posts. I still don’t think there is any consensus on what we’re supposed to be doing.

There is also the problem with feeling that my link to the Internet has become more of a ball-and-chain and less a tether. Posting a question or response — and then having to wait for a response — can take hours or days, if one is even forthcoming. It requires checking in often and sometimes to several different email accounts and websites for answers.

And for those of us who have a life based in real-time, online learning takes a lot of time and effort. I work a full-time job, sit on several committees, volunteer, garden, work with immigrants and refugees, and have a family. If I had a campus-based class, I would block out the time, attend the class and arrange any meetings necessary according to my availability. I don’t have time to keep checking the computer for updates.

This is my rantings for now — more to come later as I explore the world of online learning…

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New to this blogging thingy…

My journey to the dark side of social media is almost complete:

I’m on Facebook;  I created a blog; and I soon will be tweeting! Billboards and bathroom stall ads are next, I guess…

MCC

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