Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Amber's Flexible Learning Needs!!!

Amber rang me last week to enquire about the National Certificate in Mental Health (Mental Health Support work) (Level 4). Amber had initially found out about the course through her boss who had explained to her that he was obligated via his funding contracts to ensure that she completed the National Certificate in Mental Health. He had explained that if she completed the course while working in a mental health service she would be eligible to receive a $2000 scholarship. Amber and I got talking about her situation.

Amber is 36 years old, she is a single mum raising three children and she works part time as a mental health support worker in a residential setting. By choice Amber works during the day while her children are at school and is home by three. Amber had not engaged in any study since secondary school. She had not enjoyed secondary school and was of the view that knowledge learnt in life and on the job was more valuable than what she termed 'book knowledge'. During our conversation she explained that she was 'nervous about putting herself out there' and revealed that she lacked confidence in her ability to learn in a classroom setting. She explained that she knew she could learn because she had taught herself significant computer skills but that she felt she worked at a much slower pace than others, that she was easily distracted and consequently got behind and became confused. Amber wanted to know the following;

Amber’s questions

My Response

Could she start the course immediately?

I explained that she could not as she had missed the first term and consequently missed key information that would set her up for the year.

Could she do it online in her own time and from her own home?

I explained that she could not as the course wasn’t currently online.

Could she access resources online?

I explained that she could independently access resources but that I hadn’t stored specific resources anywhere for her to access.

Could she leave at 2.30 in order to be home by three for her children?

I explained that she could if she needed to but that she would miss key material between 2.30 and 3pm and would need to either follow up with me to catch up on this or access it from peers.

Did I provide any additional support?

I explained that I ran tutorials between 3pm and 5pm after class but I acknowledged that this would be a problem for her since she had to be home for children.

I explained that I had an open door policy but that I taught three days a week and was often in meetings.

I explained that emailing me questions was the best option but that I wouldn’t always respond to these immediately.

How would I cater to her learning needs and to her learning style?

I explained that I was a creative teacher and made a conscious effort to cater to the learning needs and styles of all my students in teaching and assessment strategies but that because there was a range of learning needs and styles to cater to, I wasn’t able to cater specifically to hers all the time.

Since she had to come to class would there be plenty of opportunity for social interaction?

I explained that because the course was fulltime taught in one contact day per week, the contact day tended to be very busy. Consequently social interaction opportunities were typically limited to lunch times, group project work where students gathered out of class time and end of term celebrations.

Amber was articulate and her clarity about her needs made me realise how much more I could be doing to provide a flexible learning environment for students!

The Flexways site which is recommended reading from our flexible learning course provides an excellent, succinct and clear overview of flexible learning. I strongly recommend reading this. It is a great starting point.

Cheers For Now

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Totally Distracted....or is this simply my PLE!

I got on the computer sometime this morning with a view to meeting course requirements. It's now 9.18pm, Boston Legal is on in 12 minutes and I haven't done anthing that I was supposed to have done. I have;

  • Spent time figuring out how to use Googlereader and note that I did have to update my password again in order to 'sign in'. I managed this without any stress so consider myself to be on the way to online literacy.
  • I found the 'manage subscriptions' button (I suspect there is a more technical name than button)
  • Subscribed to all the bloggers on the 2009 flexible learning participate page (was I supposed to do that?)
  • Had a quick read of recent posts on these, sorted blogs into folders and generally got my head around the usefulness of this resource. It seems I can only store Blogs here or rather I can't store static web pages - is that right?
I then followed the suggested reading links that Bronwyn provided. Having read the 10 tips on writing a blog post and following a link to 23 Questions for Prospective Bloggers - Is a Blog Right for You? which outlines the qualities of successful bloggers, I concluded that I haven't really got my head around blogs at all - I thought I had! I was thinking yeh a great place for me to go blablablabla until my heart (or mind) is content but apparently not! It seems that there is a whole short and snappy technique around writing blogs the purpose of which is to attract interesting or interested follower's! Uh oh - this awaken's my competitive self - what if no one is interested in what I have to say! - Is it just me or is it kinda cult like???

I then followed Bronwyn's link My PLE is like my cooky baking to Sarah Stewarts blog and that was pretty much it for me. I spent the remainder of the day and evening on Sarah's blog and following the interesting links she provides. Sarah you have way too much interesting content on your blog!!! So far I have only done 2007 in depth. I do strongly encourage fellow newcomers to go read this blog from the beginning. Although time consuming it is fascinating to be privy to Sarah's social media/ online learning journey. It's funny, honest, informative, comforting, inspirational and in my mind, gives quite a different picture than the Ten tips link above.

Some things I learnt, discussion points and links that particularly interested me;

A PLE or Personal Learning Environment

It seems that a PLE is simply a kete filled with all the tools one chooses to use in their personal learning much as I as a social worker have tools I use in my work with people and more literally a carpenter or gardener have tools they use in their work.

This introduction to the concept of a PLE is timely as I was beginning to wonder how to manage all this new information I am learning. Online learning and Social Media is a whole new culture perhaps even a whole new world that I know so little about. I don't have schema's or a filing sytem in my brain in which to store all this new information and it is increasingly merging into a muddled mass with no clear lines or boundaries. In describing her PLE, Sarah provides a lovely visual in which her cookies have merged into a giant cookie blob on the baking tray and this perfectly captures how this feels for me. Unfortunately it's not a visual that works for me. My brain is such a chaotic place that I have to compensate by managing tangible material in orderly systems.

The idea of capturing all the tools I am discovering in a diagram appeals as a means of imposing order and thus enabling me to figure out how it all fits together or not. There is certainly much scope in this concept and I will return to it at a later date. In the meantime check out Sarah's PLE and the links to other PLEs she provides. My PLE is like my cooky baking.

I particularly enjoyed David Delgardo's explanation and the brief but very informative history he provides of Learning Management Systems (LMS) and 'e-learning' relative to PLE and 'e-learning 2.0'

I also found the following link useful.Personal Learning EnvironmentsView more presentations from Stephen Downes.

I discovered that I'm called a 'lurker'. This means I read other peoples blogs without leaving messages. Such negative connotations!!! I doubt that I will remain a Lurker - just while I am finding my feet.

I looked at a range of video's about making effective powerpoints and slide shows and I discovered 'Slideshare' via Sarah's blog. I did put links in before bu I seem to have deleted them.

Another topic that particularly interested me on Sarah's earlier posts were those discussing online identity. It's getting late so I might come back to this very interesting topic another day.
Interesting links Sarah provided that I am keen to follow up include;
"Learning to be myself" Konrad Glogowski - 8th Grade Teacher who thinks it is important that students know him as a person.
GrĂ¡inne Conole, A Professor of E-learning in the Institute of Educational Technology at the
Open University described by Sarah as having an easy, friendly blogging style.
online identity and transparency and online identity score. Michele Martin who promotes transparent online communication
Leigh Blackall struggling with the concept of whether to be a teacher or facilitator

It feels a bit strange and invasive to have delved into Sarah's online world and to have extracted and inserted bits of it in to mine.

Through the course of my journey today I also figured out Delicious and saved some links in my delicious site so all in all a lot of learning today but I haven't done the tasks I have to do. Having to do set tasks raises this question for me. If flexible learning exists on a continum from teacher directed to self directed what are the points along the continum and at what point is the learning truly flexible ?

Cheers For Now

PS - one last thing!
I am Me and I am OkayLink to a Virginia Satir Poem - storing it here seems as good a place as any