Wednesday, November 9, 2011

?Week 10 - Why do I want a website, I've got a blog?

For the past 2 years I have been sporadically blogging; usually depending on which course I am completing. When I considered the option of a website I was a little confused as I don't have a business to advertise or promote, I am just a person, why do I need a website?I have a blog. then I took the time to watch Pilar's video on Google sites, how easy is it to create a site, and with the assistance of 'templates' I could see why and how I could use a blog.

 This time next year my family (my husband, 2 sons aged 8 yrs and 2 yrs) and I intend to travel from the east coast to the west coast of Australia, over a 3 month period. The details are still coming together but my plan is to support my son in keeping a blog as a daily or weekly record of where we travel and what we see, this way our friends and family back home can see what we are doing. When I saw the templates on Google sites I realised that we could have a website, that would serve to house photos, show a map record of our journey, countdown the days - the possibilities are endless!! and we could have our blog feed into the website.

It never ceases to amaze me at how creative people can be when you give them the opportunity. Often in my job I will be in a discussion with someone about a project they are working on and I will say that I saw a great tool that I think would work really well for them in what they are doing. I am slowly realising that you can't give others your vision, you have to put stuff (tools) out there and let them take what they need, when they need it. following on from what I have just said, and considering this weeks reading re:online activities I think that an important thing to remember when developing or creating online tools is to maintain a level of diversity and variety in the activities as different activities might suit different learners at varying stages in their development, so the trick is to not get stuck on one 'tool or technique' like - discussions (as I considered in my previous post) but rather mix it up and trust that some activities will be liked 'less' than others but perhaps this makes the preferred activities all the better.

So in consideration of this weeks task - What might be the advantages and disadvantages of using a class blog or student blogs for your class? Could a Google Site or web page make a good welcome for students?
A web page, class blog or wiki are all effective tools to welcome and layout a clear path for students to commence their learning journey. I think a key point is to gauge the level of pre-existing skill and exposure a particular learner has had to the technologies being used and then introduce the tools gradually, as we have been exposed to various tools over the weeks. I think that having a fabulously busy website with a plethora of technologies could be overwhelming for some learners and as we all agree put the pedagogy first and don't get caught up in the fancy tools and technologies. Try new things and see what works for your content delivery but also remember that new learners may respond to new tools so always be open to something new. The nature of change in our society is fast paced and as presenters of information and learning we need to 'keep up' with what's new. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 10 - Focus on discussions

Image: Nuvola apps discussion

Of the several activities that Ko & Rossen outline in chapter 7 I am going to focus on discussions, as I have been thinking a lot about this over the past few days.
When I facilitate in a face to face environment with learners who are usually new to the concepts that I am delivering, I find that I can tell them or get them to read but often it is not until they verbalise the concept themselves that 'the penny drops'. This may relate specifically to their learning style, but it is a very neccessary part of their learning. Discussion is a key component in face to face training and I have seen some trainers sabbotage the learning by taking over the explanation and delivering the answer, rather than letting the learner think it through (out loud) which leads them to the answer.
Whilst I am familiar (& comfortable) with discussions in a face to face learning environment I have been thinking about how(& where) these discussions would take place in an online environment.
There are 'discussion boards' available on CMS (course management systems) which I have used before and have found them to be very useful if the facilitator interacts regularly and draws out the ideas and discussion going on.
Social Media such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter provide a forum to conduct discussions. Many groups will conduct synchronous 'tweetchats' which uses a particular hashtag and they meet regularly at a specific time and communicate on Twitter using this hashtag. I have not seen many egs of this lately. Using a hashtag always allows for an asynchronous chat, but I think the synchronous sessions allow for a more lively discussion.

On Saturday I participated in the Blackboard/Collaborate session presented by Eric Robertson on how to use Twitter. He showed us how to sign up for Twitter, Tweet using a hashtag, Retweet and direct message. The session was very participatory and allowed for an active discussion within the chatroll. I always find the opportunity to ask questions and comment in the chat to be very 'comfortable'. You don't need to run audio checks to ensure your mic is working and constantly worry that you have not muted yourself. So there is another forum for discussion. During this chatroll discussion I commented that I have been using Twitter more to read tweets, since I have it available on my phone, rather than tweeting myself. I was asked why this is the case, and it made me think of an answer. I know that last sentence sounds ridiculous but it was actually very relevant to me as I realised that this is another benefit of a discussion - you are actually asked questions, which stimulates your thinking. It stimulates your thinking more than if you were provided with a list of questions that have to be answered before or after a class/learning session.
I have considered many times studying using OER course schedules and pacing myself through the readings and answering the questions in ordder to solidify the 'stuff' (information) into my head, this is so static.I always seem to come back to MOOCs or online courses that offer some form of group interaction, and now I have a better understanding as to why....because it is interactive, engaging and it is 'lively' or 'alive'. The group that participates in the learning brings the material 'to life' by sharing their thoughts and interpretations, commenting on each others blogs and asking each other questions. Therefore I believe that 'discussion', in whatever form the facilitator (or the group) decide - whether synchronous or ashynchronous, is a key component for any online course.

As an aside....
Currently there is a lively debate going on about discussions conducted within Change11 MOOC. Several podcasts that I subscribe to (COOLCast & EdTech Weekly) have raised the issue. I have found this interesting and it has made me consider how I will conduct 'discussions'. From my limited understanding there is debate about which platform is the most appropriate to use when conducting weekly discussions with (guest) facilitators and multiple participants (as I understand it sometimes up to 70 people). I do not expect that I will ever have to contend with participants in excess of 20 in a course, so this is an interesting debate to watch develop as it could determine the success of MOOCs going forward.

Note: I still have not addressed this weeks requirements ....What might be the advantages and disadvantages of using a class blog or student blogs for your class? Could a Google Site or web page make a good welcome for students?

I am very taken by Google sites and am very appreciative for Pilar introducing these, I still really have to play around with the tools that Google offers and I know they have some great tools for discussion forums too.
This is my next task but I had to get the above blogpost published as it has been swishing around in my head. 

Image: Flywheel by Creative commons licensed