Sunday, August 14, 2011

58_The Millennials Shoreline

The New Digital Shoreline. How Web 2.0 Millennials Are revlutionazing Higher Edcuation
Roger McHaney, 2011. Stylus Publishing, Virginia.

This book is phenomenal. I mean, easy read, fantastic structure and meaningful reflections. I had been looking for a text like this for a while, that would help me put my thoughts in a filing cabinet that did not clash with my confusion with all the new knowledge I am absorbing around online learning.

And even though, by Blog entry number 58 in this site, we are beginning to strain a little from the specific focus of ESL and online learning, I feel this short review and set of thoughts around McHaney's book is definitely necessary and will build on the information sharing I hope to continue to provide to you all around online learning, pedagogies and ways instructors can make sense of their own learning world, that is changing at a fast pace.

Being a book, this review will be slightly longer than expected. I am also adding a few links to documents I had to replicate from the book before it goes back to the library. Just in case I will make use of them in the near future for my upcoming designing projects at the college (we do great work at NorQuest, by the way!).

The book guides the reader from a beginning understanding of the fact that post-secondary education is changing, that there is a new shoreline and that such shoreline can be defined and understood and learning can accommodate it. Once we feel we have a somewhat incomplete but still decent understanding of this new horizon, the book goes back to three main theories of learning - instructivism, constructivism and connectivism, and allows us, the teachers, to make sense of all three, being abel to remain faithful to the contribution that each brings to the learning, regardless of the tools. However the new tools, Web 2.0 are brought into this new picture and connected, meaningfully with the theories and with practical ideas around their use in our courses. The jump or connection to ESL classroom remains an easy one to make on our one, especially based on the readings completed so far in this blog alone.

I will limit my highlights to a few salient points - do expect a slightly longer post for this though (after all we are considering a book! And you should really check it out of the library soon).
"Some technologies are more promising or more acceptable than others. For example, most students seem not to want to meet their professors on their Facebook pages, whereas the Internet has more to contribute to academic world than the mobile phone - except as a vehicle for taking the Internet with you." (page xiv - Foreword by Sir John Daniel)
"Higher education is facing a new digital shoreline largely shaped by forces outside its control. Two of these forces, Web 2.0 and the arrival of tech-savvy millennials, demand that educators reconsider learning theories, pedagogies, and interactions with students and peers. (page xvii)"
Important characteristics of millennials include:

  • familiarity and expectation of mobile access - it is embedded in their "can do" attitudes
  • time-shifting lifestyles
  • personalize and customize by default - you always can and should
  • creative and innovative beings
The book makes reference to the Tipping Point (Gladwell, 2000). In this view we have three types of promoters for change: the mavens, the connectors and the advocates. Instructors can be any of these or all three in one.
"Empirical evidence is beginning to emerge regarding the effectiveness of online courses, and it looks promising. In a study of over 18,000 course offerings, Benton et all. (2010) of the IDEA Centre indicated that student progress on relevant learning objectives and global ratings of instructor/course effectiveness were similar in online and traditional environments. " (Page 6)
From the author's experience, students have shared comments about online learning experiences such as:

  • they can list to online lectures repeatedly until they get the point
  • they seem to comment in discussion posts more than live contributions in the class
  • online classes suit their schedule best and they can self-pace their learning
Another reflection is around the idea of context and its power.
"If the tech-savvy millennial doesn't see the value in what we educators provide, no matter how sacred we believe our institutions to be, our systems will be disrupted in unexpected ways." (page 8)
Students that are not given contextualized structures from their instructors may even end up having what the author calls the "email-lag anxiety" (not know how long will it take for an email message to be replied to).

Millennials are forcing education to face some substantial changes that include:
  • priorities of what should be learned and what is reference information
  • access and use of teaching tools to filter and access reliable information
  • our students belong to a reality that is different from what we instructors have lived and we have been trained for as professionals - this is a one way change
  • we will need to rethink educational deliveries
A quote I have encountered in many readings by now is Clarke's quote:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Clarke, 1962, Page 36, Footnote)
The beginning paragraph on chapter six (page 145) explains what students are currently experiencing in their learning journeys. I believe this is a reality that is permeating our landscape these days:
"Students are experiencing a mixture of old and new when it comes to class delivery on the new shoreline. Rather than being offered well-thought-out pedagogies rooted in learning theory, students often find themselves at the receiving end of experimentations with technologies that vary widely from course to course. The new shoreline offers opportunities that allow higher education to become more relevant and effective in its interaction with students, but typically students don't perceive this as happening."
Truly meaningful online learning experience should, as the author reminds us: 
  • be positive and meaningful
  • involve cooperation over competition
  • work around complex problems in complex settings - not just over simplified settings and questions
  • be problem-solving based requiring students to seek knowledge and build networks that together will find a variety of solutions
  • promote deeper learning
  • be personal because always connected to the learning that students will experience
A really important point, that states the fact that all three key learning theories, instructivism, constructivism and connectivism are fundamentally still useful and can blend in the online learning field, the authors states:
"The process of building this knowledge may require instructivism-based knowledge transfer followed by constructivism-based experience building followed by the development of a lifelong network of connections to other related nodes. Learning approaches are not mutually exclusive." (page 173)
 Finally, worth considering as guiding tips to adopting the new tools and strategies to embrace the new shoreline of education, the author gives us a list of useful and concrete tips to cope as a teacher (section on pages 200 - 204). I list below the headings of each tips - that I fully support in my own teaching and planning.

  • a lot of socialization can occur through the new technologies. This should be embraced, nurtured and built upon. Online learning does not detach us from our students or peer professionals.
  • support enabling the use and adoption of new media literacy
  • encourage mashups for educational material
  • create sticky learning experiences
  • put play at work
  • promote self-training and learning to learn
  • prepare students for ubiquitous learning
  • understand and help redefine the new educational boundaries
  • switch to active learning
  • learn from agile learning (think open-source code development communities and wikipedia)
  • engage real problems
  • use online learning whenever possible (in blended or augmented F2F situations if that is where you need to begin)
  • take the best of what the Web has to offer
  • use virtual teams
  • explore virtual worlds
  • break free

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