Using the Community of Inquiry in online learning environments

I’m in the process of putting together a workshop for the  facilitators of one of our modules that we’re restructuring in order to use a blended learning approach. Here are the notes that I’ve been putting together on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) for the workshop. Bear in mind that these notes are my attempt to get a better understanding of the CoI, and so lack academic rigor (i.e. there are no references). Finally, I apologise in advance for any errors or misinterpretation of the model, especially where I’ve given my own examples for our participants. Feedback, as always, is welcome.

The Community of Inquiry is a framework developed by Garrison and Archer (2001) as a way of describing favourable conditions to stimulate learning in online environments. Since a lot of the Applied Physiotherapy module will be conducted online, the CoI is a useful framework to guide our understanding of interactions in the social network we’ll be using. The CoI suggests that in order for meaningful learning to take place in online spaces, there needs to be evidence of 3 types of “presence”:

  • Social presence
  • Cognitive presence
  • Teaching presence

Social presence is about encouraging purposeful communication in a trusted setting, and developing interpersonal relationships by projecting personality. There are 3 categories of social presence;

  • Affective response: humour, emotional expression (e.g. emoticons, “lol”)
  • Open communication: recognition, interaction, reflection
  • Group cohesion: use names, greet students, use inclusive pronouns (e.g. “Hi Sue. This is a good question that we can all learn from”)
Social presence is an essential component in online learning, in that students who perceive that it is lacking (i.e. they don’t feel welcome and safe) demonstrate low levels of cognitive presence. Some of the ways in which social presence can be enhanced is by communicating in ways that are perceived by students to be “warm” (think; a caring attitude). Participate regularly, respond quickly, use chat when possible. In other words, create a sense of “being there”.

Cognitive presence refers to an ability to construct meaning through sustained communication. There are 4 practical components to developing a sense of cognitive presence, which are similar to Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning:

  1. Provide a triggering event or problem that is indicated by a sense of puzzlement. The idea is to create a conflict between a students perceived understanding of reality (“This is how I believe the world to be”) and a realisation that the evidence doesn’t support their perception (“The world is not how I believed it to be”).
  2. Opportunities for exploration of the problem. This is achieved by creating an opportunity for students to understand the nature of the problem (“How or why isn’t the world the same as my mental construct of it?”), find relevant information (“What evidence can I find that will help me to understand this problem better?”), propose explanations (“If this is true, then it means that…”), and exchange information (“Hey guys, here’s some information that will help us understand this better”). You can see from these examples that this is similar to the process we want to stimulate in our cases.
  3. Students must try to integrate the new information through a focused construction of new meaning based on the new evidence. They do this by connecting new ideas and concepts to old knowledge that they already have. An understanding of the Zone of Proximal Development would be useful here.
  4. There must be a final resolution of the problem i.e. it must be solved.

There are 6 practical suggestions for how cognitive presence can be facilitated in online spaces. I’ve tried to explain each of these suggestions in terms of how we might implement them because it turns out the when facilitators model the behaviour we want to see in students e.g. critical discourse with each other and constructive critique, students tend to do similar things. The idea is that if we succeed in doing things like what is outlined below, we create the favourable conditions for cognitive presence in the online space:

  1. Discourse. We should aim to be active guides by posing questions that are relevant to emerging topics of discussion. Be aware of entering a discussion and “breaking it” by being an authority figure and / or using “academic” language that students may not be familiar with. There’s little point in students’ continuing a discussion when one of us comes in and provides a definitive resolution (i.e. an “answer”) to whatever problem they’re discussing, or when we say things that they don’t understand. Remember that we want to stimulate a conversation for them, not end one they’re already having.
  2. Collaboration. Groupwork should aim to involve generating, sharing, critiquing and prioritising solutions. There are 2 key elements; availability of the facilitator and the intellectual engagement of the student with the content.
  3. Management. Students begin to take increasing control of the learning activities e.g. suggesting and developing their own projects, with feedback from the larger group guiding their implementation.
  4. Reflection. Students tend to spend more time deliberating on their reflections when they know that what they write will be read and commented on by others. This is why we will use “public” reflections online and students will be expected to read and comment on each others’ reflections. Reflection, simply, is forming relationships between your abstract view of the world (i.e. how you believe the world to be) and how the world actually is (i.e. the congruence between your belief and what actually happens in the world). Try to use language to help students make connections between the cases and personal experiences.
  5. Monitoring (self-assessment). Rubrics can be used to help students grade their own progress and understanding. They take responsibility for making judgements about their work, which is what self-directed learning is. In the professional world, it is rare that we have someone else telling us what we don’t know. It’s up to us as professionals to evaluate our skillset and make decisions about where we’re lacking and what we need to do to fill gaps in our knowledge and skills. We need to enable students to make judgements about what they know and don’t know. Peer- and self-assessment is one way of doing this.
  6. Knowledge construction. Students must make personal meaning (i.e. “sense”) of the information they gather. They must identify the problem (“The patient can’t weightbear on the ankle”), collect data related to the problem (ROM, history of the incident, functional ability, etc.), create an hypothesis (“I believe that the lateral ankle ligament has a grade 2 sprain”), test the hypothesis (send patient for stress test under X-ray), confirm hypothesis or collect more data if necessary, make a conclusion. This process is more effective in terms of “deep learning” than memorising the signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle.

Teaching presence is about directing the social and cognitive processes (see above) to develop personally meaningful and worthwhile outcomes. There are 3 categories of teaching presence:

  • Design and organisation i.e. developing and structuring the learning experience and activities
  • Facilitating discourse by maintaining student and facilitator interest, motivation and engagement
  • Direct instruction through “injecting knowledge”, dealing with issues around content and summarising discussions
There is a significant relationship between teaching presence and perceived learning / satisfaction with online courses. In the absence of synchronous, moment by moment negotiation of meaning available in the classroom, high levels of teaching presence in the online space is even more important, as it has a greater relative impact on cognitive presence when compared to students in a physical interaction.

Socialcognitive and teaching presence all interact / are dependent on each other. Studies have found that “teaching and social presence play a major role in predicting online students’ ratings of cognitive presence, and that teaching presence is strongly correlated with students’ satisfaction with the online learning experience and their sense of community. Furthermore, comfort in online discussion was the most significant factor in students’ perceptions of cognitive presence i.e. in order to develop higher order critical thinking, students need to feel comfortable with online discussion. It may be useful to ask students to reflect on their levels of comfort with online discussion. If they report low levels of comfort, further reflection on their part might identify why they feel this way and what might be done to improve their comfort levels, allowing facilitators to modify their approaches and / or the environment.

HELTASA conference, 2011 – day 2

 

Explaining, naming and crossing border in Southern African higher education
Prof Piet Naude

This was one of the most challenging presentations I’ve ever listened to. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Prof Naude said, but he made me question my own beliefs and biases.

Ontology: language is the house of reality (language shapes reality)
In political discourse, language precedes actual violent acts. In Rwanda, people called each other “cockroaches”, and it’s much easier to kill a cockroach than to kill a human being.

Crossing interpretive borders in higher education:

  • Utilitarianism: views universities as vehicles for the promotion of sectarian interests e.g. religious, political, economic → doctrines dictate the boundaries of science and denies the search for truth without fear nor favour (religious language abundant in university e.g. professor, sabatical, rector). University as a vehicle to continue the doctrine or belief e.g. when universities in South Africa advanced the notion of Apartheid in different fields (biology, politics, religion, etc.). “Truth” would be based on doctrine.
  • Scientism: views “real knowledge” on the basis of empiricist, quantitative assumptions and a correspondent theory of truth. Science is the future, Humanities is the past. Some scientists are blind to the social construction of scientific paradigms. Blind to the link between science and the power or use of science. Blind to the complexity of personal and societal development.
  • Liberalism: rests on presumed a-contextual and unversalist assumptions about the human person, rationality and knowledge whist actually reflecting post-Enlightenment, Western thinking. “Professional training is vicious”. I think therefore I am vs. ubuntu = I am who I am because of who we all are. “Vicious ideological nature of Western scientific thinking”. Are there non-empirical forms of validation that are equally valid as scientific ones? Are all forms of non-Western knowledge subject to verfication by Western evaluation practices?

If universities don’t exist for the public good, they become playgrounds for the rich. Commercial language can change the direction of education e.g. when a “vice chancellor” becomes a “CEO”

Crossing 5 metaphorical boundaries

  • Centre – periphery: where you are born will determine your ability to succeed in the world / geographical (in)justice
  • Conceptual – technical / applied (epistemic justice). People who work with their hands are not as “smart” as people who can “think”. In South Africa, we need a greater emphasis on technical / applied knowledge. More colleges, fewer universities.
  • Uniformity (globalism) – plurarility (glo-cality) (cultural justice): where everyone wears jeans, watches BBC and speaks English. Emphasise a system where I can function at a global level but remain true to my local context. What is the impact on language / culture of the homogenising effect of university?
  • Anthropocentrism – cosmocentric thinking (ecological justice): it’s a problem when science and technology seeks only to improve the lot of human beings at the expense of everything else.
  • Past / present – future (noogenic justice): the world is in a mess, we need to prepare students to improve the future. Challenge students to imagine a future that does not exist, and give them the knowledge and skills to create it.

 

Perceptions of PBL group effectiveness in a diverse pharmacy student population
Lindi Mabope

Study set out to evaluate student perceptions of differences in plenary vs small group work in a PBL context

4th years have better experiences with groups than 3rd years

Some students prepare only what THEY need to present in plenary sessions, whereas small groups mean that students must prepare better and more broadly

Students generally feel that the plenary sessions aren’t a “good way of learning”

Most students agree that working in small groups helps develop tolerance for language and cultural difference

Most students agreed that small group working helped them to work effectively

Cases in small groups helped students to clarify areas of difficulty

PBL seemed to work well across a diverse student group, perceptions were generally positive

Confusing / difficult conceptual work required the development of certain attributes e.g. communication, self-directed learning, tolerance

Some students found the small groupwork sessions frustrating and challening

Groups demand a large investment in time and energy, from students and staff

Problems must be resolved very early on

Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the PBL process is essential

Facilitators must pay regular attention of the changing needs of the students (students change and develop as part of the process, as do their needs, so facilitators must be aware of the changes and change the programme accordingly)

Use the positive benefits of diversity, rather than merely work around it (how can student diversity actually feed into the programme, encourage students to bring themselves into the cases, share their own life experiences in order to enrich the module)

Supporting and enabling PG success: building strategies for empowerment, emotional resilience and conceptual critical work
Gina Wisker

What are the links between students’ development and experiences: ontology (their sense of being in the world) and epistemology (how they construct knowledge)
Why do students undertake doctorates and what happens during their studies to help / hinder them?

Conceptual threshold crossing (Meyer & Land): the moments when you know that you’re being cleverer than you thought you were 🙂

What can staff do to enhance and safeguard research student wellbeing and nudge conceptual threshold crossing?

Building emotional resilience and wellbeing

Students kept learning journals for a duration of 3 years and included interviews during that period

“Troublesome encounters” (Morris & Wisker, 2011)

Doctoral learning journeys are multi-dimensional:

  • Meeting course requirements (instrumental)
  • Professional dimension
  • Intellectual / cognitive development
  • Ontological (how does it change the person?)
  • Personal / emotional

How do doctoral students signify their awareness of working conceptually?

How do supervisors recognise students’ conceptual grasp of research (this applies equally well to UGs conceptual grasp of the discipline)

Conceptual crossing is evidenced by:

  • Troublesome knowledge
  • Movements on from stuck places through liminal spaces into new understanding
  • Transformations (Meyer & Land)

Ontological change: seeing the self and the world differently and you can’t go back
Epistemological contribution: making new contributions to understanding and meaning

You have to find your own way, otherwise it’s a mechanistic process

Threshold concepts are:

  • Transformative: developing an academic identity
  • Irreversible: when you change how you perceive the world, you can’t go back
  • Integrative: forming relationships between what seemed previously to be disparate ideas
  • Troublesome knowledge: dealing with complexity

Learning moments that may indicate threshold crossings:

  • Coming up with research questions
  • Determining relationships between existing theory and own work
  • Device methods and engage with methods
  • Deal with surprises and mistakes
  • Analsyse and interpret data

There needs to be a number of conceptual leaps, otherwise the thesis is a box-ticking exercise

Make sure that the doctoral project has boundaries. The work is part of a greater whole, and the more focused the work, the easier it is to define the boundaries

Research is a journey (risks, surprises, deviations, even though it looks mapped), but a thesis is a building (ordered, coherent, organised, linked)

Constructive, intellectually challenging relationships

Student wellbeing is essential for postgraduate success:

  • Academic
  • Personal
  • Financial

There are factors in the learning environment that pose challenges to student wellbeing

What are the wellbeing issues for our research students?

Negative impacts cripples creativity and encourages you to take the path of least resistance, where the project is more about a qualification and less about innovation

Important to switch off from the process and engage in the world in different ways, as a coping strategy when experiencing difficulty

 

Crossing borders between face-to-face and online learning: the evaluation of an online tutoring initiative
Sanet Snoer

Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that encourages students to talk

Created an online module because student numbers increased, shortages of venues and tutors, timetable clashes, changing student profile and needs

Blended approach could help with logistical problems, expose students to a new way of learning, more challenging activities, develop wide variety of skills

Uses Gilly Salmon’s model for teaching and learning online as a point of departure, provides scaffolding to take students through a process of familiarising students with the environment

Students’ perceptions of online components were generally positive. However, students reported challenges with effective textual communication and typing, time management (which seems odd, since blended learning seeks to help with time issues), self-expression, understanding of concepts that are read rather than heard, poor familiarity with computers and the internet → disadvantage, feedback is immediate with face-to-face, relationships → face-to-face is a more personal interaction

Used Community of Inquiry framework to develop good online teaching practices (see Kleimola & Leppisaari, 2008 for breakdown of different “presences”)

Recommendations:

  • Needs to be agreement about turnaround time for feedback from facilitators
  • Purpose of each activity should be clear
  • Understand the benefits of the activities
  • Must model effective online behaviour
  • Communicate expecations clearly
  • Promote the mind shift that needs to take place
  • Create a non-threatening environment
  • Don’t assume students are familiar with the environment
  • Explain the role of face-to-face and online activities

Was there integration of online and offline activities? Used real-world examples to develop conversation around activities

 

Students’ learning satisfaction from a blended learning environment for physiology
Saramarie Eagleton

What aspects of technology provide benefits / advantages to the learning process. NOT whether technology is inherently good or bad

 

How collaborative groupwork affects students’ writing
Shena Lamb-du Plessis, Laetitia Radder

Aim was to get the students to write in as many different ways, and as regularly as possible during the course

Used group journal reflections and group progress reports

Peer feedback is valuable when students know from the start that they will be sharing their work with others

Developing a writing identity means pushing students to think for themselves and to imagine themselves as writers

A process of developing and clarifying thoughts by sharing them with an audience

Groupwork can shape the meaning of the work

Group dialogue helped to define / outline the writing requirements

Students felt that personal expression validated their viewpoints

Helped to develop self-confidence when they realised that others shared their experiences

Must introduce conflict management strategies, orient students to role allocation, discuss writing tasks to restructure meaning

 

Exploring the tension between institutional learning management systems and emergent technologies: staff perspectives at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Daniela Gachago, Eunice Ivala, Agne Chigona

What are “emerging technologies” and can they disrupt teaching practice?

The impact of technologies in education falls short of the rhetoric:

  • They are used to support and improve current teaching practices
  • Teachers and students use a limited range of technologies
  • Used to reproduce existing practice, as opposed to transforming practice
  • Supports passive, teacher-centred and didactic instruction

Need to redefine e-learning: “can no longer be viewed as a purely institutionally based or narrowly defined set of activities” (HEFCE paper, 2009, 5). Difficult because institutions are reluctant to give up their power and control

There is a shift of the locus on control:

  • Control moves to students and lecturers
  • Transfer of authority of knowledge and ownership of technology

Type I technologies replicate existing practices, Type II technologies allow students and lecturers to do things that they couldn’t do before

In complex-adaptive domains, knowledge doesn’t provide prospective predictability but rather, retrospective coherence. Learning should be self-organised and collaborative (Williams, Karousou, Macness, 2011)

“Hard” technologies: constraining and limiting, stifles creativity e.g. LMS
“Soft” technologies: freedom to play

Soft technologies require skill and artistry. It’s not just what you do but how you do it.

Qualities of disruptive technologies (Meyer, 2010):

  • Student-centred
  • Designed to offer options, motivate students, provide connections to the lives, jobs and communities of students
  • Capitalise on willingness of students to experiment and fail, to improve, and to keep at problems until solutions are crafted

Laurillard (2002, 141): We’re playing with digital tools but with an approach still born in the transmission model. There is no progress therefore, in how we teach, despite what is possible with the new technology

Laurillard’s conversational framework: there’s no escape from the need for dialogue, there is a constant exchange between teacher and student:

  • Discursive
  • Interactive
  • Adaptive
  • Reflective

Laurillard (2002). Rethinking university teaching.

No one approach is better than the other. We need to have a mix of approaches to get the maximum benefit of using different tools

“It’s a way of doing life. It’s not about computers. It’s not about mobile learning. It’s just learning – it’s just life”

 

Analysing teaching and learning at five comprehensive universities
Sioux McKenna

What are the mechanisms in the world that exist in order for us to have the experiences that we do?

Move beyond the statistics of higher education, and ask what must the institution be like in order for this to be (im)possible?

What is the role of Culture (ideas), Structure (process), and Agency (people)?

Most institutions continue to reflect their individual histories as rural/urban, disadvantaged/advantaged, traditional/university of technology. There seemed to be little cohesion in terms of what it means to be a comprehensive university.

Comprehensive universities emphasise the management discourse that focuses on the “complexity to be managed” rather than a “knowledge discourse” i.e. what is knowledge / research, etc.

There are implications for academic identify and research output

“Powerful ways of knowing”

Often students are constructed as deficits i.e. they are deficit in language, life skills, motivation, etc.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-08

  • Designing for Social Norms (or How Not to Create Angry Mobs) http://ow.ly/1vmJzH #
  • @alisa_williams Do u think it’s because no1 has shown them the value of collaboration? The system expects and rewards individual performance #
  • Anatomy of an incident: Helicopter crash at UCT http://ow.ly/1vmlK3. Interesting analysis of how the info spread #
  • Tell me again what you did? http://ow.ly/1viz3M. Useful framework for writing and brief insight into a no online learning community #
  • It’s easy criticise….and fun too (apparently) http://ow.ly/1viyT1. Writing papers is hard enough without nasty reviewer comments #
  • British man survives artificial heart transplant http://ow.ly/1viyNA #
  • elearnspace › 5 ways tech startups can disrupt education http://bit.ly/pxMWHf #
  • @RonaldArendse Been thinking about how much disruption can really happen in the institutional context. Can we disrupt at all? #
  • If you could throw everything out and start again, what would your classroom look like? Would you have a classroom? #
  • Visions of Students Today http://bit.ly/nIbERY. Another video by Michael Wesch #
  • Create a Research Space | Learning Journey http://bit.ly/nVyPhF. Great tips on using a framework for writing #

Sharing? Collaboration? No thanks

Last week I took our third year students to see a demonstration of the management of a patient with spinal cord injury as part of the Movement Science module that I teach. I noticed that during the demonstration many of them were taking pretty comprehensive notes, and thought that this would be a great opportunity to use a collaborative writing platform to create something useful for everyone in the class.

I proposed the following to them the next day:

  • I’d set up a shared online workspace, either using a wiki or Google Docs and create the document structure so that they’d just have to fill in the spaces from their notes
  • We’d use class time so that this wouldn’t be regarded as extra work
  • I highlighted the benefits i.e. additions to their individual notes from other students, adding multimedia e.g. video and images to enhance understanding, linking out to external sources to strengthen the evidence base, error correction by the group and myself, and creating a potentially useful resource for anyone else in the world

Their response…no thanks. It wasn’t even up for discussion. I found out that they didn’t even planning on typing up their notes, even after I’d pointed out the digital notes are searchable, expandable and shareable. They told me that if they wanted to share with their friends then they’d just photocopy the notes.

These aren’t selfish students, and they’re not limited by access to technology. They just don’t see that sharing in this context has any value for them as individuals, and that’s where I think the problem lies. They think that sharing doesn’t benefit them in the context of their learning (or studying as they call it, which I think is a fundamental problem in itself). They told me that they are connected but only in their social lives. They regarded studying as that thing they do in the classroom, and that learning comes from studying.

I also got the sense that they believe in some way that this is a zero sum game, in the sense that the notes they have will give them some kind of competitive advantage over other students in the class, thereby increasing the odds that they’ll get a higher mark. What it is they’re competing for is unclear. I wonder if grading is somehow related? Grading sets up a system of ranking and competition, not of sharing and collaboration. From that point of view, sharing knowledge is only good if it doesn’t impact on my own position in the ranking system. If you get a higher mark than me, it pushes me down the list. If sharing is seen as a zero-sum game in which your success impacts negatively on my success, then sharing isn’t a good strategy.

Anyway, I was pretty disappointed because I believe that sharing and collaboration has enormous potential for learning. What do I do…force them to share in the hope that they’ll see the light? Even if I design collaborative assignments that requires a sharing component, as long as they see it as work, I’m not sure that it’ll change their thinking.

Posted to Diigo 06/15/2010

    • Just as two pieces of music can not be enjoyed at the same time, one can not comprehend or appreciate the beauty of the moment without a clear focal point or “central motive
    • Abundance of vacant space allows for the clear existence of a focal point and the participation of the viewer to complete that which has been left incomplete or that which is only suggested
    • there is no place for clutter and the superfluous as these harm clarity and introduce confusion
    • The key idea here is simplicity, of course, but also the idea of embracing change
    • The idea of emptiness itself, then, also hints of the potential for growth and improvement and possibilities
    • Our ideas and our presentation — whatever kind of presentation we’re talking about — also must change to fit the time, place, and occasion
    • “Uniformity of design was considered fatal to the freshness of imagination,”
    • Designs which are asymmetrical are more dynamic, active, and invite the viewer in to participate. An asymmetrical design will lead the eye more and stimulates the viewer to explore and interpret the content
    • Asymmetrical designs may evoke a sense of flow or movement
    • This kind of active engagement on the part of the viewer may lead to better recall of the content
    • It’s important to remember that harmony is key and can be achieved in an asymmetrical design when care is given to achieving balance among the elements
    • I wonder if there’s really a need for “educational” technology anymore?

      Does the artificial classification of hardware, software, web applications and the rest as “instructional” (with the inevitable conclusion that rest of the stuff is not) just get in the way of the basic idea that almost any technology could be used for learning?

    • We say we want students to be able to communicate and collaborate, to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, and to become creative and innovative in their work.

      Do we really need special “edtech” to make that happen?

      Or just a better understanding of how people in the real world are using all kinds of technology to improve their personal skills in all those areas and how to help our students learn to do the same.

    • Maybe, just like our tech standards that linger from the previous century, the whole concept of “educational technology” is outdated and obsolete.
    • what to do with those students who resist participating in groups
    • They’re those independent learners who participate in group activities reluctantly and almost always prefer to do it alone. Should we excuse them from group work when they want to go it alone?
    • If they don’t learn well in social contexts, then why should we place them in situations that compromise what they’re going to learn?
    • Aren’t we doing students a disservice if we don’t help them develop the skills they’ll need to function effectively in groups?
    • when we have students working individually, we aren’t in the same quandry about those learners who really do better when they are working with others
    • What if one of them should approach us with a request to work on the project with others? Would the request take us by surprise?
    • In reality students need to be able to learn individually and in groups, as both situations will confront them in their professional and personal lives
    • They may prefer one learning context over the other, but as I used to tell my group-reluctant students, “You don’t have to like group work, but by golly you need a repertoire of skills that enables you to learn and work constructively in groups.”
    • learning is social, or communal in nature.

      See, my contention is that learning is communication, and that communication requires language, and that language is socially negotiated. By that, what I mean is that words are just sounds. Sounds that convey meaning. And they are arbitrary. We call cups “cups” not because they possess any inherent cupness, but because, over time, and due to popular usage, the word “cups” came to be linked with the concept of a particular kind of container that you put things, usually liquid, but sometimes cakes and other things, into. Words gain their meaning through social processes. Specifically, when people, enough people, use them to mean certain things, then they have that meaning. Without that social negotiation of their meaning, they mean, well, nothing.

Posted to Diigo 06/08/2010

    • Do not feel free to delete the work done by someone else. If you think something is out of place, or should be deleted, leave a note explaining your reasons
    • “contribute what isn’t there” One of the great things about working with other people who care about the same things as you do is that you get things that aren’t expected. Surprise is a very important part of learning. It is a great testimony to people’s work that their contribution made you think of something else and caused you to go off in another direction
    • “Do the grunt work” Any piece of work is going to be well served by cleaner sentences, more organized bullets, good spacing… that kind of thing
    • “Leave feedback” Create a new section, call it ‘feedback’ or something and just write out what it made you think
    • “wear the skin of the idea” try to follow it’s thinking before criticising it
    • “cheer” Just say “you know, i really enjoyed reading that”
    • What used to be the side show activity of only a few edubloggers now has the attention of researchers, academics, and conferences worldwide. Networked learning is popping up in all sorts of conference and book chapter requests – it’s largely the heart of what’s currently called web 2.0, and I fully expect it [networked learning] will outlive the temporary buzz and hype of all thing 2.0
    • numerous factors are at play here:
    • the tools we use to connect (blogs, wikis, podcast, Facebook, Twitter, Ning)
    • the theories of learning we adopt (connectivism, situated cognition, social constructivism, activity theory)
    • affordances of tools and theories
    • finally the systemic or structural changes required as a result of tools, theories, and affordances
    • We are well on our way in all areas, though systemic change is lagging. But I expect this is a temporary resistance as anomalies build under the existing system and weaknesses become increasingly apparent
    • All in all, it’s a rather delightful time to be in the knowledge, learning, education, technology field
    • Here is our current state:
    • We are actively networking
    • connection forming is natural. It doesn’t need coercion. We do it with language, images, video. We create, express, connect.
    • We are discussing the spaces of learning
    • an ecology, habitat, or studio is simply the space for fostering connections
    • Networks occur within something. They are influenced by the environment and context of an organization, school, or classroom
    • I’ve paid much attention to our role as teachers and instructors, but I’m not satisfied with how the conversation has progressed. I’m rather sick of “sage on stage” and “guide on the side” comparisons. The clear dichotomy chafes
    • the term “network administrator” to describe the role of teachers
    • learners get into trouble. They sometimes walk unproductive paths (though any path leads to at least some learning) that someone with experience can readily direct them around
    • A curator is an expert learner
    • Schooling is a highly perpetuated industry, making it exceedingly difficult to chang
    • The methods I used and the pedagogies I learned in university were based on information scarcity
    • One of the most interesting questions facing educators today is, “What are the pedagogies of information abundant learning environments?
    • many educators are shaping their information environment into a learning landscape, cultivating Personal Learning Networks

SAFRI: Introduction, teams and leadership

Today was the first day of the first SAFRI residential session in Cape Town, where SAFRI is the Southern Africa FAIMER Regional Institute, and FAIMER is the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research.

We spent today working through a few activities that served as an introduction, both to the programme and to each other. It’s a nice, small group of health educators from several African countries, with diverse professional backgrounds. We also worked on group dynamics and did some interesting tasks around gaining insight into ourselves in terms of our MBTI results.

While it was a great start to the next week or so, I was surprised when I was asked to put my laptop away while taking notes during a presentation. I’m not sure how using a laptop will impede the advancement of medical education? I’m sure the presenter had concerns about me checking email or Facebook or something else that would, heaven forbid, impede my learning, but is a blanket ban the way to go?

Yes, I could make notes in the comprehensive handouts we received, and yes, I didn’t need my computer for a lot of the activities. But, I now have a set of notes that can’t be searched, can’t be modified, can’t be shared, and will never be linked to or from. Some people don’t understand that a laptop is the new pen and paper…would he have asked people to put down their pens in case they were drawing pictures? People need to move beyond this idea that computers and the internet are a source of distraction and accept that they are how we situate ourselves in the world.

The social construction of knowledge using a wiki

I’ve started a few projects in my department, one of which revolves around the use of wikis to create environments for students to engage more dynamically with both the content and each other.  The rationale is that deeper learning occurs when there is an understanding of the content that goes beyond the ability to recite tracts of it back to the teacher.  Another component incorporates the idea of social constructivism, which asserts that knowledge is created through social interactions, where groups build knowledge for themselves and for each other.

It seems that a wiki is an appropriate platform that fits well with this concept.  It allows collaboration from many students, separated in geography and time, to build on each others’ contributions leading towards the completion of a shared goal, all the while encouraging discussion around the content and structure of the content.  In my Applied Physiotherapy class, I’ve put aside a small section of the OpenPhysio website in order to evaluate the process.  Each group must complete an article on an appropriate topic assigned to them, as well as provide a critical review of another group’s topic.  They are also encouraged to make small grammatical and spelling corrections on any other topic they read.

I’m hoping that the process will highlight the benefits of truly working together as a group, as well as of the peer review and drafting processes.  Students should be more aware of how to structure documents with regular feedback, not only from the facilitator but also from each other.  The ability of the wiki to track changes over time will provide valuable information about how the document grows, who makes contributions, the challenges of group dynamics and a host of other data that might be useful in forming a more academic picture of the use of new technology in education.