Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Challenge of Adapting New Technology to E-Learning--Part II

In a past post, it was mentioned that technology must be harnessed to serve pedagogy. Just to make sure that we are all on the same page in regards to pedagogy, the following will suffice. Phylise H. Banner in her blog post entitled: "The Pedagogy of Learning Design: A Translation of Pedagogies" defines what we are talking about and list some essential elements. In the realm of education, the word pedagogy is used when talking about this designed approach to instruction and the alignment of learning elements such as objectives, content, activities, and assessments. She suggested that we need to focus on three key elements in effective e-learning: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence.

Social presence focuses on creating a welcoming setting that is open and inviting so that our learners will want to engage with each other, the facilitator, and the learning content. Social presence is fostered by activities, methods, or approaches put in place to break the ice, build trust, and facilitate interaction with those around you.
  Teaching presence focuses on three major functions that we take on as training and learning professionals: design, facilitation, and direction of the learning experience. We build teaching presence by designing learning events that guide participants through learning materials, reinforce key concepts, foster critical thinking skills, provide opportunities for formative feedback and support, and evaluate progress throughout the learning experience.

  Cognitive Presence focuses on critical thinking skills. We want our learners to be active learners – to be actively integrating key concepts into their own worlds, exploring related resources, and adding new ideas and new knowledge. Cognitive presence is, in essence, the scaffolding of learning  as we move from the initial stages of knowledge and comprehension toward the critical learning stages of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  

In terms of E-Learning, we assert that in the relationship between technology and pedagogy, technology can not and should not be the driver to effective E-Learning.

With that understanding in mind, there is an important question that needs to be answered which is:

"If learning is to be set more and more in an online environment, what opportunities does the web offer to transform our pedagogy?"

If one of the skillsets we really want to nurture is "collaboration", then what does the web and its associated technologies offer that will transform collaboration from a closed, localized area for interaction to one that incorporates the global outreach that the web is capable of?

If a goal is to have the power to draw together a collaborative team from around the globe, either ad hoc or permanent, tasked with using their skillsets to come up innovative solutions to a complex real world problem, what technologies will allow us to do that?

One thing that we have learned from the study of how we learn is that problem based learning and experiential learning lead to the greatest engagement of the learner and a sustained deeper learning where the learner is intrinsically motivated to transfer learning and apply learned skills  to novel tasks.
In an online world, the focus needs to be on the higher order thinking skills as illustrated in Bloom's Revised Taxonomy rather than being focused on the acquiring and repetition of content as the digital skillsets have moved from being just a nice add on to something that are essentials to ensure deeper sustained learning.

The analyzing and evaluation level are crucial in determining the authenticity and validity of information on the web since anyone can create a website and use flashy visuals to present corrupted or discredited information as truth.

Technologies and Pedagogy in the Past

In the past, the use of a variety of web conferencing technologies such as Go-To-Meeting, Skype, Google Hangouts...etc attempted to make effective online collaboration possible. They allowed audio and visual presence with the possibility of sharing documents out so that a group could edit them in real time.
The introduction of Second Life as an immersive collaborative environment went a step further. it created virtual meeting places in which individuals could collaborate. In this environment, it was not only audio and video presence that was made available but all emotional presence. This was a step forward to the goal of making learning personalized in an online environment. The irony found within their approach is that when it came to actual classrooms in Second Life, they were still designed in age old industrial model format of the "sage on the stage" and the learners in seated rows.

With the introduction of Minecraft, the concept of problem solving and experiential learning was again emphasized. The ability of being able to act on objects, rearrange them and build things collaboratively from a concept for a particular purpose again appealed to the sense of presence.

Next... Augmented technology and E-Learning

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