Is virtual learning better than classroom face-to-face instruction? Are the benefits for learning at a distance as effective as those obtainable from a traditional in-class curriculum? Tough to say. Different researchers report different experiences and given sometimes the shallowness of their investigation or the limited numbers on which this data is often based, it is wise to move cautiously when making important claims relative to the new emerging learning paradigms.
Photo credit: Teemu Arina
Skepticism, questioning, verification and analysis of multiple diverse sources and research data, remains the best way to make sense of any similar fast changing topic as learning is today.
And this is exactly what I would think is most needed in our present educational institutions: tangible time and specialized resources devoted to grow your personal analysis and information investigation skills. How to verify information, where to find alternative sources, how to check for plagiarism, how to question and check for uncorroborated claims, and more.
But while our educational system still ponders and evaluates whether change is part of its future, and whether to replace notionistic lectures with explorative and output-focused group investigations, what you and I can keep doing, is to research and evaluate new information by always utilizing some degree of conscious, critical analysis. Much like educational technologies expert George Siemens does, by bringing to you this weekly digest of stories, issues, and resources he has found in his never-ending journey to make sense of new media technologies and of the fast changing times we're living in.
learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends
by George Siemens
I had an interesting experience yesterday - I presented to a group from Spain in Second Life. I spoke for 20 seconds and paused for translation. Then spoke, then paused. And then someone would ask a question and it would be translated to me. I would reply and it would be translated to them. The language aspect was interesting, but so was the venue. I have a weak tie relationship with Second Life. I go in every few months and play around for a while.
Virtual worlds are important. Lots of innovative teaching and learning happening there. For some reason, I just haven't fully embraced the experience. Chris Collins has just published a well-written article for people like me - Looking to the Future: Higher Education in the Metaverse:
"It’s almost unfortunate that we talk and think about virtual worlds as a kind of “technology” application rather than as an exciting new laboratory, or as a giant sandbox to test new theories, or as a way to step into our collective and individual imaginations in a manner that we have never been able to do before."
"Strickland discovered that there were few statistical differences between the effectiveness of a traditional course delivery method and a hybrid one."
This is likely true, but context is always the critical factor. I'm increasingly distrustful of research that is generalized after only one or two studies and with small numbers of participants. In a research project I was involved with last year, I found significant differences in learner satisfaction in comparison to blended vs. face-to-face learning. Learners didn't like the online portion.
Why? Well, it was due to context: their expectations, the curriculum, their experience with technology, and numerous other factors. Context. Context. Context.
I should reference where I found this site - 270 tools for your online business - but I'm clueless as to where I found it. The list includes a combination of free and for-fee applications. Includes tools for roughly every conceivable task: accounting, communicating, planning, brainstorming, project management, and on and on. Educators will likely find a few new tools in the mix...
Apparently, Farish is to receive the credit for initiating grade structures as a sharp departure from how learners were previously evaluated:
"When a student graduated, the most impressive thing she or he could share with a prospective employer was not a Grade Point Average (GPA) or even the name of the institution attended: it was the name of the teacher.(Postman also briefly addresses this in Technopoly).
Students of the great teachers of history often became famous themselves because of the thoroughness with which their mentors had inculcated knowledge, understanding, skill, and talent in them"
Everything starts somewhere (duh!). Most of us have been in a grade system all of our academic lives (as students, educators, trainers). It's difficult to imagine there was a time when grades didn't exist.
"The drawback of the journal process is that it doesn’t allow a space for public and open debate and discussion of ideas in a convenient and quick way. This isn’t necessarily their fault, that’s not what they are designed for. But there is a space in the scientific community for this kind of reviewing, commenting and evaluation of ideas, allowing groups of scientists to work together to refine and improve ideas."
I'm in agreement with the notion of needing an open space for the exchange and development of ideas. Last year, I posted an article - Scholarship in an Age of Participation - trying to make exactly this point. Change is multi-faceted. It is rarely complete in overwriting the existing system. As such, especially when we consider scholarship, we are adding to, not replacing, the intent of the traditional journal process. We still need the peer-review process of experts evaluating the work of others. But it's not a complete picture. Chaotic spaces of innovative thought are critical too.
Now, they are so common as to almost cease to exist as a unique entity. Universities use blogs to recruit students. Corporations use them for marketing. Activists use them for promoting their message. Blogs have become background noise in the rush to interactive social media.
Over the last few days, however, recent reports/posts have revived blogs as a unique concept. Consider:
The discussion didn't focus as much on the future as I would have hoped. I also discovered that I'm too long-winded to present ideas in 15 second sound bites! What I find somewhat discouraging about education reform advocates is the emphasis on hype; broad sweeping statements that may sell books and stoke conference invitations. Unfortunately, reform needs a firmer foundation. I'm troubled most by the current lack of experimentation with alternate models.
OECD has offered potential scenarios. But that's not enough. Experimentation must follow conceptualization...
We don't fully understand the impact of our transparent online lives. We haven't yet had a president or prime minister elected that used facebook or myspace. We reveal things in these online forums that we might not always want others outside of those forums to know about.
In the past, we had compartmentalized lives. I was a son, father, employer, husband, employee, brother, and so on. Now, those compartments of identity have imploded. If we're active online, we are increasingly the same to everyone. Our communications flow into other spaces - an employer reads what we said to a friend on the weekend. Or a friend might encounter our professional interactions on LinkedIn.
What are the ethical considerations of searching for information on a potential employee or applicant to an elite school? These are questions worth pondering. A growing number of schools are beginning to search social networks as an additional tool in determining enrollment suitability...
The joy of discussing knowledge is found in that it is a never ending discussion. This week in CCK08, our focus was on connective knowledge. Tom Whyte interviewed a few colleagues on their views of knowledge. I enjoyed this 7 minute video, expressing, from a nontechnical perspective, much of what many edubloggers have been talking about for years. Our ability to cope, function, and even make sense of change pressures is a function of our connectedness to others.
Looking To The Future: Higher Education In The Metaverse - Popsci
Effectiveness Of Traditional And Blended Learning Environments - MiddleSchoolWorld
Lots Of Tools... - Ricardo Alves
William Farish - The Joys Of The Grade Scale - Graça Victoria
Social Media Is Changing The Shape Of Scientific Debate - Andy DeSoto
Ghost Of Days Past: Blogs And Blogging - Technorati
Ethics Of Searching... - martin33
About the author
To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out www.elearnspace.org. Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".George Siemens -