Monday, July 2, 2012

Deeper conversations online than face-to-face

Today I expressed the opinion on Twitter that conversations and connections made in online classes are deeper and more layered than those which occur in face-to-face classes. Not only do I believe this strongly based on my experiences in online education as a student, designer, and instructor over the last 13 years but I have comments from many, many students to back this assertion up. I think a discussion of how and why this occurs may require more than one blog post so consider this the start of a conversation. Conducted online... hmmm

Let me start with that hmmm. Whomever is reading this post is now part of a conversation which I very likely never would have had in person. In fact this morning's Twitter exchange with two other educators would never have happened face-to-face, I have never been to the institutions represented by those in the conversation. Online you can connect with people you never would meet IRL (in real life). Online classes bring together a more diverse population than happens in most face-to-face settings. My student population in any particular class might inhabit 3, 4, or more countries all around the globe. Their ages, backgrounds, and culture are usually very diverse. The only thing they have in common is an interest in the topic being studied and an Internet connection.

Deeper conversations occur because of the tools we use in online courses. First picture a traditional classroom. The instructor has a set amount of time for the instructional activities and student questions before students set off for the next class. If Student A asks a question which takes 15 minutes of the discussion time then other members of the class may not get to ask their question at all. Or perhaps they ask it after class where they may get a hurried response other students do not hear and do not benefit from as part of the learning environment.

In an online asynchronous discussion every student can ask questions and get answers from the instructor. Other students can be a part of the discussion of all of those questions. The discussion occurs over a long period of time, such as a week, which allows time for further thought, research, and formulation of well-considered answers and responses. This deepening of the response is something I rarely experienced in face-to-face classes but it is a very regular part of discussions in my online classes. 

I am going to post this and start the conversation. In the meantime I am going to mull the other points rattling around in my brain. I am also going to gather quotes from students about how connected they feel to other students and instructors in online courses. This conversation is likely going to take some time. No bell is going to ring to stop the conversation at the end of a class session. That's not the way conversations happen online.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Up to All of Us - collecting the knowledge

My daughter @meganbowe helped the brilliant Aaron Silvers organize the Up To All of Us "unconference" which was held this past weekend. It was by invitation only. Just a small brain trust of very smart people were invited.

Here are some of the writing and resources which came out of the #utaou meetings. I followed along all weekend via the Twitter hashtag. Anything which includes meeting locations such as "at the firepit" or "by the creek" had to have been an awesome experience! I am envious!

Most of the people have something to do with instructional design but I will let Jay Cross explain this in the blog posting which is the first link

Great explanation of what they learned/how/worked on/why from @jaycross

Storify - collection of tweets from #utaou from @chambo_online

Backchannel resources curated by the wonderful @LnDDave

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Did students cheat from the encyclopedia in decades past?

Think back to 4th grade state reports of decades past (oh I hope they are in the past!)... did students "cheat" on those? Did they plagiarize from the encyclopedia? Of course they did! Why? Because the state report was a terrible assignment. It was poorly planned. There was no real thinking about/with the information in order to meet the goals of the assignment. Regurgitate state flower, state motto, population...

Where the information comes from has changed, the need for excellence in lesson planning has not. If we don't want students to cheat and plagiarize we have to do our part as teachers.

We have to plan assignments which require students to Evaluate the information they come across, Analyze it's usefulness in completing the assignment and Synthesize into something uniquely their own. Note that the three verbs are from Bloom's taxonomy but they are slightly rearranged. My co-author and friend Lisa Chamberlin and I call this EASy. See this presentation... Critical Thinking is EASy

What does an EASy lesson look like... I used to teach ancient ancient history to 8th graders. Not an easy task, but it taught me to teach! Students used to do "live" news reports from ancient Rome, they created advertising campaigns for Mesopotamia, etc. etc. Websites aren't written like live news reports, students had to use the information in new ways to create their live reports (and I filmed them to make them even more authentic). No one is creating advertising for Mesopotamia or Babylonia, students had to use the information and make it into ads. These are just a few examples of EASy from my teaching days.

Students aren't "learning" to cheat because the Internet has information. We need to stop thinking this way and instead, do a better job of lesson planning and teaching.