Friday, June 26, 2009

Even more thoughts on Fexibility!!!!!

I seem to be struggling to come up with creative names for this and my previous 2 posts which have been about completing the reading and post requirements for 'Examples of Flexible Learning'.

I have read past plans - all of them as I do appreciate the opportunity to learn by example. Check out the following 2008 participants. These were the plans and blogs I particularly enjoyed;
Kristi Carpenter from Occupational Therapy
Megan Gibbons from Sport and Adventure
Penelope Kinny from Occupational Therapy

Kristi mentioned the importance of flexibility in terms of assessment due dates which I think is a particularly interesting issue. I recently wrote a policy for our school to facilitate consistent practice in submission, extension, resubmit and resit processes. We now have a strict extension policy which is what my colleagues and I wanted but in fact this doesn't fit with my own philosophy or with my personal preference. Personally speaking I like autonomy. I like not to be treated or feel like a naughty child. I like to be left alone and have people trust that I will do the necessary tasks when I can. I have tended to apply this attitude in the programme I coordinate and it has worked - It means that I have to plan for bulk marking sessions and so I do. I feel uncomfortable imposing the extension policy that I wrote because actually it is punitive and in conflict with a flexible student centred practice.

What I particularly liked about Kristi's plan and reflection was that she was thinking in terms of the interactive face to face class room environment and how she might capture or mimic that atmosphere in an online setting. From my perspective this is the single most important thing I would like to achieve in an online learning environment. Interestingly colleagues in my field of practice who are anti online learning are so because they believe that the quality of face to face interaction can not be emulated on line. I am beginning to think otherwise and in fact I feel quite excited about the challange this brings. Clearly you can not capture non - verbal aspects of communication on line but I do think that online forums allow for a depth of reflection not always experienced in face to face settings. Another related thing that is beginning to excite me about online teaching is the extent to which students become exposed to their colleagues work. I always have an urge to copy the A+ submissions and hand them out to the class but in online learning everyone can have access to each others work and I think this has huge potential in terms of raising the quality of work accross the board. Instead of there being one teacher there are twenty! Very cool.

In her plan Megan talked about the shift from expert giver of knowledge (Lecturer) to 'Facilitator' . I think that perhaps this shift is organic when you have twenty students sharing on line. I recently introduced a group of students to Google Documents. I had only just been introduced to them myself and had very little idea about how they worked. We had great fun figuring it out together. Students are using the google docs to collaborate on group work assessment pieces. They have shared their documents with me so I can check in on their progress and give them ongoing feedback and suggestions. I also really like the increased capacity for formative feedback that online teaching enables.

Megan also mentioned that she had found blogs as a median for online role plays to be much better at facilitating student connection and engagement than the Blackboard discussion board had been. That doesn't surprise me. Blackboard has limited scope for personal expression so it's not surprising that it doesn't lend itself to community building.

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