Friday, June 17, 2011

50_Reflections About Technology-mediated Distance Learning

Creating New Pedagogies at the Millennium
The Common Experience of University of Wisconsin-Madison Teachers Using Distance Education Technologies
September 1998
Nancy Diekelmann, Robert Schuster, Catherine Nosek

The title of this article really attracted my attention at first, even though its publish date was a bit further in the past than I would usually consider reading. Then the nature of the study, interpretive phenomenology, brought back a sense of validity that broke the barrier of time, as I began to expect reading about experiential stories of teachers teaching online, which is what this entire blog is about. I am glad I stuck with the reading as the article presents a number of very valid positions and thoughts that are worth considering.

The more salient are below:

  1. A good reminder throughout the article is set about the meaning of pedagogy (referring to the nature of learning and its experience) and how using online deliveries to teach brings about a new set of pedagogies. This questions the ability and preparedness of professional teachers to actually move into online teaching straightforwardly without any reflecting process or PD training in place.
  2. Another observations that permeates the article is the idea that we can increase our knowledge of the learning experience online by listening to teachers who have taught online and sharing experiences. There has to be also a balance between the theoretical and the practical and a profound understanding that , given the loss of very fundamental parameters in the traditional F2F environment, the use of tools that work perfectly in regular deliveries cannot be just adopted in 'as is' forms.
  3. Ultimately the findings of the article, presented as observations rather than generalizations, include:
    1. loss of the familiar
    2. questioning of the reliance on the visual and physical presence
    3. new roles
    4. learn from experience
    5. new pedagogies
  4. Teachers in the study thought about their own assumptions and beliefs about teaching - what learning means to them and how they envision that learning in the course. When the environment and the delivery methods change so drastically as in online deliveries, these assumptions surface and can create discomfort.
  5. Know the tools (technology) not for the flashy clicks they can make - but for how they transform the embodied experience of the visual and auditory.
  6. Develop new strategies to stay connected. Distance learning changes the way relationships are established an maintained.
  7. Always reflect on the complexity of the tasks you propose and how difficulties can be foreseen and addressed beforehand.
  8. Distance learning tat is mediated through technology is never a straight line.
  9. Be careful and consider the danger in set formulas that promise solutions - in online learning these often do not work.
  10. Be a willing expert - do not stick with your own working formulas and fixed ways of achieving the goals in your curriculum. Be ready to put into question what you want to teach and how - work with your developing and support team to make the transformation happen.
  11. teachers in the study indicated a sense of freedom around the idea of asking what seemed to be dumb questions - in the online world this seemed to be possible. Sense of liberation and freedom occurred in all teachers.
  12. A quote that really spoke to me can be found on page 22 of the article:
"Distance teaching challenges the assumption of conventional pedagogy that teaching strategies are neutral, that is, that they are just tools to be used by individual teachers in specific contexts."

I believe this article speaks to so much that is still not only relevant but also modern to our current learning opportunities, in the advent of Web 2.0 technologies. Reading the teachers' comments and reflections, their stories will certainly speak to so many of us in so many ways, making us feel we are not alone in this journey and that we can truly become experts by sharing what we know and how we feel about it.

I feel privileged to share this in more than one way and sometimes formally through my own seminar offerings. Hope you find that useful as well.

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