Not a silly bus, but it does get you to your destination with a smile

Both the Ko text and the video focused on the syllabus in its role before and during the class-to help students understand the flow of learning activities; to find relevant resources that demonstrate or represent one view of a topic for discussion or to understand the expected interaction between learners and instructor with regard to time, effort and a number of other variables.

One area that seemed to be downplayed was the role of the syllabus in assessment for credit transfer or prior learning, two activities that are growing among today’s learners both online and off.

In both cases the syllabus serves as a key starting point for the advisor or assessor who is attempting to understand what might have been learned in the course and how it might have been assessed. Having an interactive syllabus that links to key resources located on the web can provide an even more valuable tool for the assessor.

However, if that syllabus has been developed in a tool like Blackboard or another LMS it be impossible, or at best difficult for the assessor to gain access to it. As I read the text and watched the video, both of which highlighted the benefits of an interactive syllabus, I realized that at least one tool could provide the best of both worlds.

Adobe Acrobat.

Acrobat can provide the benefits of a print document (portability, intuitive use, ease of annotation) with the benefits of an interactive syllabus (inclusion of multiple media and hyperlinks, permitting non-linear content browsing and in the case of a pdf portfolio, including multiple documents in multiple formats within one pdf document.

I would suggest that these documents would support learners in two ways: 1) by providing them with strong learning support and resources during their time of study and 2) by making it easier for that learning to be recognized later on should the learner pursue additional studies and choose to seek recognition.

I don’t think I could have articulated that argument before this Week’s learning, but now that I understand it, it only makes sense to me to make the explanation of learning as rich, clear and appealing as the learning is supposed to be, and interactive syllabi do that job well.

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Week 4 in Review

While I recognize that this late post might not benefit me in terms of meeting the certificate requirements, I still believe it to be useful to document what I’ve learned this week.

It is a good thing that I was able to get clear on my online teaching preferences last week as I’ve been asked to do some sessions that could benefit greatly from an online component. I’ve been asked by a post-secondary institution to take a number of faculty and staff through an introduction to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) I’ve taught a few times previously. I’ve avoided online pre and post sessions because of thought of them in terms of very directive instruction which is so contrary to the nature of PLA.

With some of the insights I’d gleaned I want to have them do some online research and form some conclusions to discuss with the other participants as part of the learning process. Then follow up with a discussion session and additional research and shared reflection.

Dave Raggett’s HTML Intro was good (although he should have had examples of the results in the text) but I am already familiar with HTML (Had to teach a course in HTML 1.2 many years ago where there were no web browsers on the machines-did it with a combination of WordPerfect reveal codes and HTML Pictionary-bizarre but it worked) so it wasn’t particularly new. What did amaze me was his explanation of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). While I’ve been able to use them in the past, it’s always been in a very mechanical, copy-and-paste sort of way. Now I feel like I can actually be proactive with them and decide what I want instead of choosing the least problematic look. HTML has proved useful in “tweaking” blog posts, doing quick mockups of how something might look and fixing bad code that has been automatically generated by something like Word when converting a page.

Likewise with Prezi-I am familiar with it, but unlike HTML, I don’t make use of it as it is not particularly welcome in my circle of influence. So I look mot to the Presentation Zen concept of Garr Reynolds to get beyond the limitations of PowerPoint.

I’ve also come to love the practical guides produced by Onlignment-these help you to produce content that is well-designed and engaging. I’m looking forward to sharing some thing here on the blog in the near future.

Lastly, I loved this video by David Crystal. He blends together the major communication advance son the Internet in a very engaging way and then begins to get one thinking about how typical activities will be transformed by providing provocative examples. It has certainly gotten me thinking about change that could come in teaching and learning.

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A Hat Trick in the 3rd Period

Just before this class week ends, let me post the goals I’ve decided to challenge myself with as a result of the insights I discovered that are mentioned in the previous post.

(1) Given my interest in Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), I’ve decided to begin my next teaching/training session with a discussion of reflective tools, then share the learning outcomes I’ve developed (as discussed in Ko) and provide the learners the opportunity to reflect on and narrate their previous experience through ways such as annotated bookmarks, a reflective blog post, narrated desktop video using something like Screenr or whatever other combination of tools and activities they might like to try. This will help them identify their prior learning and help them to develop an overall strategy to learn the information they are the least familiar with.

(2) For that training I will develop at least 3 online pieces of content to help support learners and to model good practice per the 7 practices document. Should learners base themselves too much on these, we will discuss it and find a reasonable resolution.

(3) I will share this content using social media to benefit others and to show learners how their work and actions can impact and benefit others. To this end, per the 7 practices document I will encourage them to share what they produce in order to receive new evidence of achievement as people respond and interact with it.

Those are my goals. Do they seem lofty or modest to you? Any thoughts on how I can most effectively bring them into reality?

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Engels, Mcluhan and Voltaire walk into a classroom…

This week has been a series of insights beginning (appropriately) with the Beginners’ Questionnaire. A score of 9 made me feel like a bit of a socialist (my undergrad was in Russian studies). Like the image below, it seems like I am more interested in developing “The People’s Course ” with collective

construction and industry statue, Vilnius

submissions of content and shared insights to benefit all the participants.

I’ve always done this in my F2F teaching with learners developing projects relevant to them and providing examples from their own experiences to teach each other the course content.

My online experiences have been quite different, with my teaching style being borrowed from those I had experienced, heavy on instructor-directed activities and almost solely instructor-sourced content.

This has never felt quite right, and now I understand why. I also understand why I’ve had some reluctance to create online content-it has simply been a case of not wanting to “impose” on others. It is now rather exciting to realize that all of the social media tools I’ve enjoyed personally will support and encourage the same sharing that has marked my in-person training. I feel a lot more comfortable to create content to explain or demonstrate concepts knowing that my learners will do the same and I can make use of their creativity as well.

The Ko text in conjunction with the Getting Started Chart helped me realize that it wasn’t a question of familiarity with tools (I’ve worked with Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Elluminate, GotoMeeting, Adobe Connect and others) but rather using whatever tools are available (including WordPress, Twitter and Facebook) to deliver training in a collaborative with content developed by me and the participants.

I’ve been working on a concept for a distributed LMS around Facebook (go where the learners are) and as I looked around I discovered Insidious Pedagogy by Lisa M. Lane and an article on using WordPress as an LMS. I have previously used WordPress as an e-portfolio platform as a proof of concept in a Portfolio course I took showing how tagging could automatically create competency-based evidence summaries and provide a more effective e-portfolio navigation framework. These articles confirm for me that the idea of taking learning to the people is the next step we should take. (BONUS: If you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward and this Everything WordPress link is it.

Finally, I sat in on Alec Couros’ EC&I381 class last night and realized that a skill I get positive feedback for-being able to persevere online when some sort of crisis strikes (by redirecting, using other resources and using humour to keep everyone sane) can simply be a normal way to teach an online class-one that makes it much more interesting and engaging (important when the time difference has the class running from 10pm-midnight).

All in all, it’s been an enlightening week.

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Week 2 reflections

It’s good to be home, the weather has been sunny, and other than the chaos of returning to a full desk and some unexpected home maintenance, things are back to normal.

In contrast the material for Week 2 has been new and refreshing. I loved the Alec Couros video, especially the “attack ad”. Storytelling the benefits of online teaching and learn seems to be the best way to encourage non-adopters to give it a try. We need to provide safe and interesting ways for them to do so that provide immediate benefits.

Speaking of immediate benefits, the explanation of the “next” button that loads up the actual sites that are aggregated in Google Reader was a wonderful find. I’ve resisted using Reader much because I felt that I lost so much “serendipitous” content (comments, link widgets on the blog etc.) This is truly the best of both worlds-I’ve gotten to see all the blogs in the class and stay up to date on reading them.

Ko and Rossen was an enjoyable read-I’m typically confronted here with individuals who want orientations and training to be  done all F2F or all online. While blended learning is seen as ok for longer academic courses and programs, few have been open to it in the context of training staff to incorporate new technologies or processes.

After reading the text, I’m convinced that it’s the best way to do change management-by providing a combination of time together (both online and in person) and individual online resources, staff can find their own path to “get it”. Those who want to investigate in a more in-depth way aren’t constrained by a training format and those who need ongoing encouragement and support can provide it to one another.

It’s been a good week.

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franklearns…In the beginning

I’m happy to be able to post this blog for the MiraCosta Online Teaching program-I’ve been travelling the past couple of days and had promises of Wi-Fi accessible hotels turn out to be wishful thinking on the part of hotel management. Finally, I’m in a Ramada in Bangor, ME with great service and a great Internet connection.

I’m Frank Vandenburg and I split my time between the New Brunswick Dept of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and our Community College system. I’m looking forward to this course, in my work with post-secondary institutions in New Brunswick, Canada, I’m often working with groups of people to incorporate new strategies, or service delivery methods or some sort of new software into the educational delivery activities in the province. I’m finding myself training educators and other institutional staff and including more online training as a result.

So this course should provide some new connections, some innovative ideas and a chance to try some of the things I’ve been slowly incorporating into my work at a much more comfortable pace.

( And no Diigo problems to mention *fingers crossed* )

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