Creating Engaging Learning Experiences
One of my classmates shared this slideshow on how to make online learning into an engaging process for students and I thought I would share it here. The presenter uses the Moodle platform, but the principles apply to many different environments.
First Thoughts on Sydney!
Social Media for Learning
This week of learning through social media created a sharp contrast between the utility of the LMS (Learning Management System) used by my school and the free platform we enjoyed this week. If it were not for the convenience of grading tools, organizing assignments, and maintaining consistency of student experience, I would choose to learn via social media just about every time.
Social media is designed to be social. Information gets lost so quickly in the discussion boards on Canvas and Blackboard. The social media platform that we used (Schoology.com) brought forward the posts that I needed to see into a convenient newsfeed and was simple to navigate. It was also much easier to follow the threaded posts and upvote those things that I thought were important or interesting.
Notifications showed up whenever there was something new I needed to take care of and it was easy to interact with others in the predefined spaces. There was no boundary separating the information from the conversation. To me this seemed to create a more integrated learning experience.
In addition to these basic functions, it was simple to navigate to resources, easy to edit my profile, and there were other additional functions like blogging that were available if needed.
Despite all of this, I still feel like it will take some time for social media to overtake the entrenched learning management systems as the dominant platform for online learning. The reason for this is outlined in one of the thoughts we discussed this week:
It seems to me that there is a divide between learning and education. From our other discussion thread, it looks like many of us use social networks for learning on a personal level. When it comes to a more formalized learning experience, however, there are so many things to quantify that the simple interactions allowed by social networking tools are not sufficient for the classroom. Perhaps if learning facilitators could let go of the idea that every learner must go through the same experience and be measured by the same benchmark standards, then social networking tools could really be leveraged in a formal group learning setting. Until this changes, I think LMS will continue to dominate the distance learning scene.
A Majority Vote
“Does anyone realize what just happened?”, I wondered silently from the sidelines as the crowd in the auditorium slowly rose to their feet. Within minutes the applause had died down and the audience resumed their happy Sunday morning chatter. Nobody seemed to realize the decision they had made as a community to stay true to certain ideals would be just one small piece of an argument slowly assembling to challenge and perhaps change the political scene in their city and perhaps their nation. For a moment, the majority voice shouted a unison of ayes and no one dared speak up to question the decision. No one opposed the movement. In a decision so momentous shouldn’t there some question about the proper direction, said me disagreement, some sense of uncertainty?
Race and Education
I think that in dealing with the subject of race most of us will run into the problem of defining our terms at some point in time. It is clear that there are differences between people, whether this is skin color, height, or age. Whether or not it is possible to argue that they are a result of genetic history or geographical history, physical variations do exist. The issue under question is one of how we respond to these differences.
This is a difficult task for individuals who inherit a historical and cultural context in which wealth and opportunity are often divided along the lines of certain physical features. For example, certain studies have shown that taller men have greater earning potential. Tall men who make more money and are able to afford a healthy lifestyle will most likely give birth to more tall men and pass on this genetic advantage. Similarly, individuals whose families have lived in cold parts of the world and adapted to this environment over the centuries will probably have an advantage in outdoor sports like skiing where their bodies can focus on performance and not simply on staying warm. If we lived in a society where skiing was the only mode of transportation and it was always cold, individuals with a certain genetic history would probably end up in control of resources and opportunities. Does this mean that people who don’t know how to ski are in some way less human? No. However, they are at a disadvantage to participate in a society that revolves around skiing.
I would like to suggest a logical transition from this scenario to one of our own. Individuals who grew up in a tropical jungle may find it difficult to adapt to the corporate jungle. This does not make them inferior, but if they attempt to compete in an environment they are not familiar with, they are at a disadvantage…and vice versa. The corporate individual would be at a disadvantage trying to survive in the jungle. Does this mean that there is a problem with the jungle or with corporate America? Not necessarily.
The problem comes when individuals have no opportunity to learn how to survive and compete in environments they were not necessarily prepared for. This is where education comes into play: offering individuals the opportunity to overcome the natural disadvantages they inherit that are beyond their control. How can a short man learn to stand tall? How can a jungle native learn to develop a fashion sense and table manners? Through education. Education is the key by which these individuals can open access to experiences beyond their reach. But if education as a system is designed to only serve the needs of individuals who are properly prepared, it has failed in its responsibility to society. It has become an inaccessible outcome rather than a process of preparation. The question I am left with from this week is how to create an environment of education in which individuals from any background can prepare to succeed in the real world?
Using Wikis in Education
As part of my class on learning and technology, I had the objective of creating a learning experience for my classmates that introduced them to wikis and blogs. With this wiki project, my partner and I wanted to give students the chance to experience building a wiki. If someone decides to use a wiki in their teaching field, we thought it would be important for them to understand what their students will go through. After working together building the wiki, we can understand the process our students go through in using wikis for their learning.
After choosing a popular wiki platform, the challenge was how to design a week of learning that would be both accessible, but also valuable. We also wanted the project to have residual value to encourage a deeper level of participation. This reflection demonstrates the difficulties and hurdles we encountered in making this a successful project and includes some suggestions for future projects.
Looking back on the learning experience, I think it is possible that we made the project a little bit too complicated for the week-long time frame. Additionally, we were not necessarily prepared for the psychological hurdles that individuals would have to overcome to participate.
There are plenty of details on how to build a wiki, but very few on the thought process behind it. Participants in developing the wiki project incorporated information on how to create a successful wiki-building culture. However, this was an aspect that first escaped our notice. This is one benefit of the wiki: that it can expand organically in ways outside the scope of the initial authors.
Another challenge turned out to be that individuals have a very difficult time relying on their own judgement to delete the work of someone else and replace it with something better. It is difficult to create a strong enough objective to empower individuals to do this.
Another challenge of using a wiki is that it forces every individual to take ownership of leading the project. There is no one individual who has more editing and creative power than anyone else. This may indicate that before a wiki can be successful individual class members need to be comfortable with their ability to work together toward a common goal.
Because of this, our class easily learned how to navigate the new platform for discussion, but did not have the necessary cultural background or thought process to make the most of the wiki functions. Yet despite this hurdle, everyone became familiar with the challenges and benefits of using a wiki for teaching.
To view the wiki project, please click here.
Colors of Desire
In silence, my heart is changed. My mind ceases to run and begins to consider another way. Amid the dreams of greatness, a dream of quietness begins to grow. Or that I had never seen before.
Why have I assumed that only one direction may be called the right and every other less? Perhaps the many were the right and very few the less.
What if I make the choice to be a person less than everything defined by life as greatness I could be?
Is that not what my heart has begun to wonder?
There is a blessing and a freedom in poverty that is unknown to those of wealth privilege and responsibility.
Where the endless pursuit of security destroys the blessings that it might secure.
A less admired, yet not more lovely life could be the one unknown by man or king. Whose simple existence none could bear save few that fall within the silent square.
Where the living by right of life find joy and pleasure. Simply to be. Pursue the joy of food, of fire, of drink. Perhaps of laughter, the reward of friendship, and skill, the reward of practice.
Is it that I long to feel the earth beneath my feet and hear the sound of water or the air running through the trees? Not knowing what tomorrow may bring. The adventure for survival, the search for something beautiful, moments of peace, the sweat of work.
Here in this imagined place, I am one with what I am made of. My spirit loosed from the chains of civilization, the bondage to society, the slavery to survival.
Yet lost in time the great rewards of love of sacrifice that can only be wrought when one must live a life among others of this world. Perhaps it is not the pursuit of such rewards, but the careful crafting of such nature as could win them should fate blow their need my way. Simple care to be the best in this moment of time, to take what I can from what I am given. To dreaming given only as to a dream, never living where I must only wonder.
How do I take and find the way between these many varied colors of desire? The simple life, the one of fame, the love and responsibility with the joys of friendship, the deep beauty of solitude. That which is unrecognized does not have less value. Perhaps my light could run another way, uncelebrated, effective, beautiful, and well loved by one. If ever by more, only of their choice, no greater value bestowed on that already found worth living. Alone.