Frustrated Researcher Part Deux

The three areas that I am interested in studying

  1. Understanding the effectiveness of online/distance learning in the higher education environment with a particular focus on cognition and technology
  2. Understanding how administrative decisions (or lack of) are guiding online education
  3. Understanding how instructor training of online education and instructor identification of his/her personal curriculum theory influences student satisfaction and learning

are varied, which leads me to believe that I will need to distill and define what I ultimately want to research for my EPP. With that said, I will discuss why I have a keen interest in cognition and technology, online administrative decision-making, and instructor training. Before I begin, however, I must first state that although my focus is about the online educational environment, I have found that criticisms and claims can be supported for both online and face-to-face teaching methods. For instance, I typically hear people criticize and compare the worst concepts of online courses to the very best of the face-to-face courses. Rarely, do people openly discuss the failings of the face-to-face methods when bashing the online teaching environment. We tend to create distinct separate silos for online and face-to-face, which I believe is an error in the overall goal to promote innovative education opportunities.

Cognition and technology in education needs to be desperately studied and I am very interested in knowing what works and what does not. When the brain is presented with several levels of sensory input, what does it select to use and retain and why? When we know that there are limits to the brain’s working memory, how can we create environments that support this limitation? How can the understanding of this information help

brain

educators make wise decisions when creating online courses, or selecting software tools to license. We cannot fully trust the marketers of these products to rea

lly know what the student needs. We must have a basic understanding of how our brains function for optimum learning in order to make informed decisions for our students.

Yes….there is a part 3 coming…

Thoughts about education

classroom

Places please! Sit in your seats! Be quiet. The play is about to begin and I am ready to play my part as an eager, attentive student. The teacher plays the leading role and her students play their supportive (or not) cast of characters.

I loved getting positive feedback from teachers. Any nod of approval and I was in heaven. And I learned that I was able to get good grades by following the formula. Good grades=Listen + Do the Homework + Be Attentive. I really did like school, but I think I liked the attention more.

I certainly felt that I could not show that I liked school. It was not “cool” to like learning. School was something to be dreaded. When many people were groaning about something, I was usually secretly excited.

I even noticed this sentiment when I took my first doctoral class last spring. The students were tiiirrreed. Because it was my first class in a few years, I was very motivated to have the opportunity to be in this class. I had energy and they were clearly exhausted. Not everyone, of course, but many. I felt guilty for having so much enthusiasm. But I did not let this interfere with my momentum and I forged on to have a great learning experience.

Yet, I learned the most about learning when I was a teacher for the FIRST Step Program in Wilmington, Delaware, in the early 90’s. “My” students were obligated by the State of Delaware to attend high school equivalency classes in preparation to take the GED test because they were on public assistance.  It was in this electrified emotional environment I realized that the curriculum needs to meet the person not the person adjusting to curriculum. With significant effort I was able to create multiple levels of learning on just about everything we did. Our time spent together was more of an evolutionary process as we developed a strong community.

I believe that everyone can learn and that this learning can provide opportunities. Unfortunately, education is only one piece of a complicated puzzle. Several of my students were battling various kinds of issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.  Other women were clearly controlled by the men in their lives. These adults were the children who were seen as difficult when they were in elementary and middle school and eventually dropped out. They felt that teachers did not care about them and because they were dealing with a less than supportive home-life, they chose the path of least resistance.

paulo freireIt was during this time that I learned about Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and how society can be changed by creating a community of learners.

I think the most important step in any educational activity is finding and igniting passion and a sense of exploration that is not dogmatic and tied to some artificial timeline. Preconceived notions of deadlines are the antithesis of true learning.

Beginning….again

Back to It

spa

I am back from my hiatus. I recharged my batteries and am ready to start again. I decided to drop my winter class and take a break, which was a great decision. I am refreshed and very excited about spring semester.  The two classes I am taking are Curriculum Theory and Analysis for Educational Decision Making. Scott Richardson is teaching Curriculum Theory and I cannot wait until our first class next Thursday. After only reading a few chapters in his selected text, Curriculum Theory by William Pinar, I know this class will be worthwhile.

Pinar talks about using an autobiographical technique to challenge how we teach. His second chapter is entitled, “Autobiography: A Revolutionary Act.” How cool is that? Looking at our lives and telling our stories can shed light to our own interiors and our own personal journeys, in addition to informing society and moving it forward. Pinar blends philosophy, psychology and human rights into our educational pursuits. I think he sees education as a way to free society and bring balance into our existence.

 

The journey begins….again

The Age of Aquarius in Professional Development

Let’s chat for a minute about what you need to be successful at work. Is it online training seminars, more webinars, more workshops? Maybe… but you probably need a little bit more than that.

Professional Development is much more than what workshops are offered and when.

1st Dimension: Training

There are many spheres or dimensions to development. On the surface we think about training objectives/topics, presenter skills and engagement activities. All of these are very important strategies during training. However, the absolute key to any seat-time experience, whether it is online or f2f, is what happens afterwards.

How do we transfer that learning back to our work environments, our offices?

2nd Dimension: Knowledge Transfer

“Wow, that was a great workshop! The speaker was awesome, the handouts spectacular. Now I am going to put it all in a folder in my drawer….oh, no.”

What does it take to bring that new knowledge into our practice? Maybe we just need time at the end of the session to consider how the information we just learned can impact our current situation. What if, when the training concluded we were given 10 minutes to complete a worksheet or engage in a dialogue that would outline how we could integrate this new knowledge into our practice. If we can’t integrate it for one reason or another, then can we at least list a number of colleagues who may be interested in this information and then pass it along?

3rd Dimension: Fostering Connections & Contributions

The previous two dimensions are important, yet I believe they mean very little without this third dimension.

To be successful, people need to feel that they can actively contribute, engage with their peers, and develop professionally.  I found a great audio excerpt about the Essentials of Engagement which is located at the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) site.

This mini-podcast references the one segment of the following book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James Harter.  When we feel that our workplace promotes these concepts, an engaged and active, thriving environment emerges.

  • I connect with the vision and mission of my employer or division.
  • My opinion matters.
  • I have the opportunity to grow professionally.
  • I am recognized or praised for my work. I am appreciated.
  • Someone at work encourages my development.

So, yes, I need to focus on training strategies that can engage people during the workshop, but I also need to find out how I can support the broader engagement of our staff.

Connectivism in Action Part 2

My dance with  National Council of University Research Administrators-NCURA’s social web network.

courtesy of aka_serges photostream on flickr

I first looked at their Twitter feed and found that the majority of tweets (and I mean almost all) were pointing followers to their “YouTube Tuesday” sessions. The second most tweeted subject by NCURA was about conference dates and conference related things.  OK- on the surface really good stuff, but not immediate texts and links that I am interested in. Now I dig a little deeper and look into their 456 Followers.

Note: this is where the idea of Connectivism gets real. I am taking a respectable organization’s twitter account and peering into their followers AND I am allowed to. I am not hacking, this is public knowledge. Wow! It is like looking into someone’s contact list.

Behind Door Number 1: Trustworthiness

I see that  John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is following NCRUA, but decide that this Tweeter is focused more on health related topics and not general research related ideas, which is what I am searching for. So, although they are incredibly trustworthy, they do not meet my “follow” criteria.

Door Number 2: Lacking Tweets!

I click on another follower of NCURA’s tweets and see that this person has only tweeted 3 times, which again, does not meet my criteria. The tweeter I want to follow from this group will be an active twitter allowing me to learn something or attempt to build a professional connection.

Door Number 3: A winner! Trustworthy & Lots of Tweets that meet My Professional Needs

Next up is HarvardOSP or the Office for Sponsored Programs at Harvard University. At last, real potential. They only have posted 58 tweets, but it looks like this is a new account and is very active for September.

Furthermore, their content is exactly what I am looking to find : educational resources on the web, funding opportunities and critical issues in my field, news. I think this Tweeter would be a great one to do my next layer of connectivity research.

Door Number 4: Way off Topic

My next Tweeter to research was a woman with a very promising scientific profile. She also had 288 tweets. Awesome, or so I thought. When I dug further, many of the tweets were personal, some political and several had a lot to do with the Mars Curiosity rover, which is interesting , but not what I want to follow. So, she did not meet my criteria.

Door Number 5: Off Topic…again

Found a promising tweeter that is also followed by NCURA and HarvardSOP, so I thought,  “Perfect!” a real person I can follow. Unfortunately, his postings were a lot about sensationalistic news items and fewer references to research development.

During  my review of other resources/websites that I stumbled upon I found other golden nuggest of information and resources.

For some of these I know that I will have to  sift through the (yes, I have to say it) the Connections, I will find valuable opportunities to learn and connect with others in a way that I did not realize.

This is so, so, so very cool. I cannot tell you how much this assignment has meant to me, to my professional life.

Gold Mine for Sale!

My overall observation? It takes a lot of digging to find gold.

Connectivism in Action Part 1

“Tools are extensions of humanity, increasing our ability to externalize our thinking into forms that we can share with others.”  –George Siemens

courtesy of wlonline at Flickr

Completing this week’s blog assignment for Mathieu Plourde’s Social Networking class at UD #udsnf12, has taken me to a deeper level of understanding of the Internet’s capability to build bridges and expand my knowledge, to build my Personal Learning Network.

I have been welcomed into the rabbit hole and have found helpers along the way. I was afraid of the volume of information (still am a little), but now understand how to filter it and make it work for me.

And, now, thanks to this assignment, have seen the proverbial light by reading George Seiman’s artile on Connectivism. Matthias Melcher (who Seiman refers to in his article) even states that Connectivism is too broad of a concept to be harnessed with the restrictive label of a “learning theory.”  That Connectivism expands this parochial notion of education and pushes us to reach beyond the walls of an educational building, a teacher, a formal learning experience.

This is revolutionary stuff, my friends. This is MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), this is OER (Open Educational Resources) . This is the Web, or as Connectivism likes to describe this experience as the neuronal network, where uncertainty is certain and the paths are many. (At least, this is my current interpretation.)

I began seeing these connections when I started the first part of this assignment by researching professional organizations and their use of social media tools. The one I finally decided to review is the National Council for University Research Administrators (NCURA), which subscribes to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In.  Now for the fun part!

Struggling with web 2.0 and kids

Ok, I know most of you think that web 2.0 is awesome, and I do too! Really, I do. Yet…(in a sort of whiny voice) I am worried about when kids use it. This blog has started changing my mind. http://kathycassidy.com/2012/05/15/why-my-six-year-olds-have-digital-portfolios/

Thanks udsnf12! aka Matt & co.

 

Reflections on The Connected Learner in a PLE

Connected

Connected (Photo credit: steven w)

My reflections after reading The Connected Learner in a PLE.

Thank you Professor Plourde for posting this on our Pintrest site. I think articles that center around “connected learners” is a great direction for us to start thinking about HOW to use these tools. When I think of the possibilities I am a bit overwhelmed and feel that we need to have our own “Connected Classroom Learning Standards/Rules/Manifesto..etc.”

We need to address these challenges:

1. How do we navigate the infinite choices that change, break, get bought/sold?

2. In what ways should we use the tools of choice? What are the best practices?

3. What privacy issues need to be addressed by the school district, the parent, future stakeholders in this child’s life?

4. How do we address this ending paragraph from this site?

  • “As proponents for the use of technology, we also realize that the noise from myriad digital distractions threatens the cognitive complexity of learning. Learners need to have the skills to know how to self-regulate the use of these tools.”

I hope that we will begin to discuss some of these questions that keep me wondering about web 2.0.