Thursday, March 13, 2014

Strategic Design in Online Education: "The Cascading Ideas Effect"


Picking up from the last post, I draw your attention to the example that I gave in regards to robotics at the end of the last post. In order to consider creating a culture of innovation within the online education environment, what happens after something is created whether it be new knowledge, new skills...etc is important. What the students exhibited is something that we should strive to achieve with all our students across all curriculum lines. Why? The "why" is really quite simple.We end up with a generation committed to laying the industrial model of education to rest and a generation committed to the positive advancement of our societies by believing that they have something positive to contribute in building the future.

The "Cascading Ideas Effect" that I proposed can best be explained by using an analogy.

When you look at a waterfall, what do you really see? What you see are streams of water cascading from a height in a linear fashion. If you introduce a small obstacle into the flow of the waterfall, the following results may occur:
  • the stream may be diverted into two different paths before coming to rest at the end
  • the water impacting on the obstacle, may cause a chain reaction of collisions of water droplets which then go on and continue to impact others resulting in changes of directions that increase exponentially
If we change this to refer to what happens when students create something, as the robotic students did, the small obstacle in this case is just one student saying "but wait what if we did this with our finished product...? This would be what you might call the tipping point in which a cause and effect pattern occurs and student collaboration begins again.
If the stream is diverted into two different paths this would mean that the collaboration would be divided into two different approaches as to where the finished product takes them. In both instances, the cause or catalyst is the created product. A larger obstacle could produce multiple approaches along multidisciplinary lines.

If this "Cascading Ideas Effect" is to really work in the online classroom what needs to be done?

  1. First, the teacher should introduce and model this attitude in all that he or she does. In other words, we are talking about the teacher sharing what he or she has created and the process that he or she followed to produce the created object, skills...etc. Teachers should be innovators and explorers. This is not meant to be an "add on" for teachers but should be an "instead of" because teachers work hard enough as it is. The education terminology that would apply is the term exemplars.
  2. Secondly, the course designer in an online environment should design his or her courses with relevant skill streams in which introduced skills are constantly and consistently built upon with the goal in mind of helping students to build a solid repertoire of skills that engage the mind and the heart in encouraging a culture of innovation.
At this point you might be thinking that I have got to be dreaming if I think that this will work. Yes, I am not dreamy but I am a dreamer but let me come back to the waterfall and ask you this question: "What happens if the waterfall is damned at its source?" The answer is that the flow dries up or stagnates with very little movement. This is what you can expect if we continue to embrace an industrial model of education which puts its highest priority on making everything standard and every student fitting the same mold.

Next...Strategic Design in Online Education: Designing Online Courses

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