Archive for December, 2006

Final Post

December 15th, 2006

Thank you. This course has been quite a ride for all of us. My goal was to challenge you to re-examine your preconceived ideas and notions about distance education. My approach was to show you a mode of distance ed that you had never really experienced before. From the first week’s flood of new technologies — and even before with my emails to you before the course even began — you were being asked to do things that were foreign to your experience. Those things were intended to get you to think about the subject of distance delivery. We started “close in” by focusing on specific tools — the tools you’d be using in the course, and then widening out to tools that you might consider in your own courses that didn’t necessarily fit within the framework I was constructing. We kept stepping back and stepping back to get an ever-widening perspective on the field and on your relationship to it. Finally, your capstone projects gave you insight into what you’d learned in a way that writing a research paper would never be able to do. There’s nothing like implementation to show you where your understanding differs from reality, which many of you discovered as you tried to implement complex and complicated technologies.

For it to work, you had to trust me, and you did. For that, I thank you.

As you leave this course, remember that your blogs, your aggregators, and your minds continue to be in your control. Even though the Blackboard shell will close soon, the tools and techniques you’ve developed over the last 4 months will be available to you as long as you want to use them. The changes in the ways you think about education, teaching, and learning will color your own practice in what I hope is a positive manner. While many of you will never teach online in your careers, the ideas engendered here may be useful in your classrooms as well because — regardless of delivery — all education is at a distance.

Please feel free to keep me in your IM list if you’re so inclined and I’m always happy to hear from my past students. My writings will continue, albeit not every day, on my other blog — Cognitive Dissonance — and if you want to keep up with what I’m thinking, you should add that blog to your ‘gators.
Good luck and best wishes in your chosen dreams.


Spit It Out or Think and Defend?

December 12th, 2006

In our last few days together, I want to try to highlight a few points and G-Town reminds me of the early days of our course.

G-Town Talks » Blog Archive » Spit It Out or Think and Defend?
We have a recurring theme here in G-Town surrounding our students and academic achievement. As our teachers analyze data and discuss new literacy strategies, I keep hearing the same thing. Our students don’t want to think.

This is an echoing theme from back in our early days here — the idea that we should be thinking like learners and not thinking like students. The challenge for you was to let go of the preconceived notions of course and grade. We had to work together so you would learn to trust that I’d not punish you for thinking. This was very hard from some. I’m still getting questions about what I’m “looking for” in terms of assignment.

Personally, I’m convinced that the attitude is drilled into us very early. “This color is RED.” “Three times nine is twenty-seven.” “The SATs are important!”

For some reason we seem to think that kids need concrete answers. They need to be told stuff and they need to be told what’s important stuff. After years of indoctrination, it should come as no surprise that kids in school don’t want to think. They’ve been trained from the earliest days that thinking is counter-productive. Tests are bubble-sheets and abiguity isn’t allowed. We teach in a world of “right answers” and lose sight of the reality that the world is made of shades of gray. In school, the questions always have a right answer. One right answer. The answer that the teacher will give us good grades for. Thinking is restricted to trying to solve the riddle of what the teacher wants.

In this class, we’ve broken that mold. You all have come a long way from the early days. I told you what I wanted you to do in fairly ambiguous terms and you weren’t comfortable because you didn’t know if you were “doing it right.” But in the end, you realized that “doing it” was more important than “right” and you were, eventually, able to get into learning for learning’s sake. In return, I didn’t grade you on giving me the answers I wanted. I graded you on your willingness to think and do. I didn’t grade your answers, or your questions. I graded your participation in the conversations. I graded your willingness to stake out a position and defend it. Even positions I didn’t agree with — or even thought were wrong.

Because there are no universal answers. Thinking is the lesson and only the subject changes as we move from domain to domain.


Remote Access: My Outboard Brain…..

December 10th, 2006

As our time together draws to a close, this post from Clarence does as good a job of wrapping up what I was trying to do.

Remote Access: My Outboard Brain…..
Eric Toefler and I have been playing with a wiki and with ideas of classroom studios. What do studios look and sound like? What are ideas of assessment practices? Is there any value to this concept?

Do read the whole thing.

When I started, I don’t think I actually had the notion of “studio” in mind explicitly, but in looking back at my goals and objectives — teaching you to use technology to help yourselves learn, working with you to develop the notion of “thinking like a learner,” and giving you the space to examine the tools first hand — it’s clearly one of the better metaphors for this experience we’ve all shared for the last 16 weeks.

Oh, and along the way you learned a lot about distance education by experiencing a very different model of distance ed than you were used to.