Archive | March 2013

OLTD 504 – Personal Learning Environments

This blog post is a response to the article “Web2.0, Personal Learning Environments, and the Future of Learning Management Systems”

I found this article interesting and agreed with a lot of the things that it said.  I do not see how the LMS systems used by universities can hope to keep up with the advances being made by different web2.0 companies, and I think it is unrealistic to expect them to do so.   Instead, I feel like schools need to be incorporating the tools that students are already using, and build resources that can integrate these tools into their courses.  Many students have already created Personal Learning Environments cobbled together from the many different social resources on the web, and it seems easier to me to work with these tools, than to try to design something completely new.  Don’t try and reinvent the wheel.  Having said that, it you are going to create a self-contained social site through Ning or another social network creator, I believe you will get more buy in if you have your new site able to connect with the otherweb2.0 tools that your students are using. As Clarence Fischer says in the article:

“The multiple systems accessed through a web browser model encourage learners to draw the best from every environment.  They also arguably reduce the institutional risk of a single point-of-failure, where a crucial system such as the LMS of authentication system going down can mean that all student-facing systems are inaccessible. “

The one down side of this that Fischer mentions is that spreading your work across multiple platforms requires you to remember multiple addresses and passwords to gain access to you work.  A lot of sites now allow you to log in using your Google, twitter, or Facebook login, so this is starting to get more streamlined, but it can still be a pain at times.  It would be great to have a dedicated site that manages all of you logins and passwords.  Now that I think of it, I’m sure there is somewhere.  I will have to investigate…

504 Week 3 – Trials and Tribulations within my LMS build.

Well, its nice to have the D2L presentations done and start putting all of that great learning into practice.  My head has been swimming with all the information provided, and I’m slowly synthesizing it all into a workable D2L LMS.  Working on this project has really brought home to me how important design can be in communicating ideas, and making the information provided user friendly.  Joe Sparano’s quote “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” has been ringing in my ears as I move around modules and activities in the D2L environment.  It occurs to me that during my past VIU courses I haven’t really thought about how the content has been organized and presented to us students.  I know I will not look at it the same way after having the opportunity to “look under the hood” and see how everything fits together.

Working on my course has been at times both frustrating and rewarding.  I tend to learn best by just jumping in and figuring the tools out as I go.  It was great to have the presentations fresh in my mind as I explored, but feel that most of my true learning came from making mistakes and fixing them as I went.  At this point I think most of D2L site is there, I just need to go through it all and make sure it is working!  Feels good to know that each subsequent D2L build will be faster and smoother!

504 Week 2 – The joys of a dynamic calendar

I have really enjoyed exploring the ins and outs of the calendar function in D2L this week.  I’ve never really used the calendar on my iPhone, and I really should be, as I constantly have to schedule the many schools I am at in my itinerant TOC life!  I used to literally take pictures of my home calendar when I went out to work to remind me of what I needed to do in the coming week. It was not the best way to coordinate and pre-book upcoming shifts.  The dynamic nature of the calendar function has been more of a game changer for me than I thought it would be in my ongoing quest to become more organized.  Just the thought of electronic reminders, and events organized in colour-coded boxes brings a smile to my face!  I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to make the switch in the coming weeks, and do away with my bad scheduling habits.

Challenges and Opportunities in realizing my philosophy of education in an E-Learning Environment

This post will be answering this guiding question:

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the realization of your philosophy of education in the evolution of eLearning as we know it?

I find that my philosophy of education is in a constant state of flux as I gain experience as a teacher, and progress through the OLTD program.  While many of the details of my philosophy are shifting, my core belief has settled into a (hopefully?) coherent statement.  If it could be boiled down into a tweet it may read:

 Students should create meaning through content that influences, and is influenced by their learning community, and utilizes their inherent skills, challenging them to think critically about their world.

201 characters with spaces.  Not quite under the 140 limit, and not fully representative, but hopefully robust enough for the purpose of this post.

I think the opportunities to realize my “philosophy of education” are almost endless, and growing by the day.  Reading through Stephen Downes blog post, I was amazed to see that the post was written in 2005, eons ago in digital terms!  It reminded me of an article I recently read on the guardian website that talked about the staying power of web 2.0 tools, and the importance of network effects and “stickiness” (the extent to which users will return to the site). It made me wonder how many of these companies Stephen mentions are still operating, and while clicking through the hyper-links, found that most of the sites are still around, although many more are now competing in this arena.

What excites me most about this new frontier of learning is how new it is.  I never really thought I would have a “when I was younger” story to share as I got older, but I seem to be uttering these words to my students more and more with regards to the internet and mobile technology:  “we had to use encyclopedias for research”, “we had to memorize each others phone numbers”, “We had to use the phone book” etc.  And I’m not even old! It’s a testament to how fast things are moving, that our students are growing up in a completely different world than the one we did.

I like the fact that we have so many tools available to us to aid in creation.  I love music, and have always been interested in recording music.  When I was younger I used to spend more money than would be considered reasonable on renting or buying audio recording devices so that I could make songs with my friends.  Today better versions of all of these technologies come pre bundled on any new computer you buy.  Money is no longer the obstacle it once was.  I think we will soon be at a place where students are more limited by their imaginations than by any other factor, and that is an environment that I want to foster and take part in.

The main challenge I see has little to do with the qualities of e-learning, but with the rate at which it is adopted by schools and teachers.  The tools are available to create personalized learning environments for our students, but they are still used mainly by early adopters.   E-learning will continue to evolve and become more malleable to the needs of its students, but it is the evolution in its adoption that seems most important to me.  As Downes states in one of his blog posts :

“Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services, …With rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts”

At each of the many schools that I sub at there are a small amount of teachers engaging their students through e-learning methods, and as these approaches become successful, I expect them to become more ubiquitous.  As attitudes shift, and successes occur, the amount of students learning through Web 2.0 technologies will increase, strengthening this network of peers, and enabling more opportunities to connect, share, and create together.