Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, May 06, 2010

American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado - May 2010

I was very privileged to attend the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference in Denver, Colorado from April 29th to May 4, 2010. I had an opportunity to present a paper on Exploring the Connection Between Student Engagement and Technology-Enhanced Assessment Practices that Jim Zimmer and I have been working on for the past couple of years as well as a paper on Revisiting the Graduate Seminar Through Blended Online Learning with Mike Power from Laval University and his graduate student Annie from Dalhousie University. I also chaired a few roundtable sessions that were definitely a time-keeping challenge :)

A few themes that I took away from the conference included the need to:
  • Re-frame my EDUC2325 course to focus on digital literacies (e.g. reading, writing, and calcuting) rather than just on the technology of the "day"
  • Learn more about a participatory approach to assessment
  • Start reading and investigating how social networking systems (SNS) impact students' "identity formation" (in and out of cyberspace)
These emergent themes were heavily influenced by the sessions that I've summarized below. As usual I took an extensive set of notes from the sessions that I attended as well as the usual set of pictures for memories.

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and the Schools Allan Collins, Northwestern University

In his keynote presentation for the Technology as an Agent of Change for Teaching and Learning (TACTL) Allan indicated that there have been three eras of education in the United States

1) Apprenticeship – personal, resource intensive, and engaging
2) Schooling – mass oriented, efficient, and bureaucratic
3) Life-long learning – customized, highly interactive, and learner-controlled

He indicated that each era had the following characteristics:

  • Responsibility:1) parents – 2) state – 3) individuals
  • Content: 1) practical skills/literacy – 2) basic skills/disciplines – 3) learning to learn/generic skills
  • Pedagogy: 1) apprenticeship – 2) didacticism – 3) interaction
  • Assessment: 1) observation – 2) testing – 3) embedded (assessment for learning)
  • Location: 1) home – 2) school – 3) wherever you are

And, Allan suggests that we need to rethink learning in schools

  • Not just: How can we improve schools? but to also include new questions:
  • How can we develop games to teach mathematical reasoning?
  • How can we make learning technology resources available to more people?
  • What kind of tools can support people to learn on their own?

The other highlight of the conference for me was a panel presentation on Web 2.0: Research Issues, Results and Future Directions. This panel was composed of Chris Dede, Harvard, Daniel Hickey, Indiana, Diane Jass Ketelhut, Temple, Donald Leu, University of Connecticut.

Chris discussed how technologies can be used to generate knowledge and possibly wisdom. He describes five dimensions of wisdom:

1) cognitive (type of knowledge)
2) practical-experiential (type of knowledge)
3) inter-personal (beyond knowledge)
4) ethical (beyond knowledge)
5) meta-cognition (type of knowledge)

Dan presented the concept of participatory assessment by design – a process of alignment with intended learning outcomes and increasingly formal representations of knowledge. He has developed five stages of participatory assessment:

1) Informal – artifact – reflection
2) Information – activity – reflection
3) Semi-formal – artifact – reflection
4) Formal assessment guidelines
5) Very formal testing guidelines

Diane spoke about how immersive virtual environments can be an agent of change by facilitating the development of identity. Other have suggested that we can possess different “virtual” and “physical” identities and online there is exists the potential for us to have multiple identities.

Finally, Don wrapped up the session with a very provocative presentation that suggested the Internet is a reading comprehension issue, not a technology issue. His New Literacies Research Team have developed a series of Online Reading Comprehension Assessments (ORCA) to help students develop online reading comprehension that is very different than “offline” reading. He is concerned that the “literacy divide” is growing and that it’s important to “re-frame” the Internet as an issue that teachers feel passionate and responsible for (e.g., literacy).

I'm already looking forward to the AERA 2011 conference in New Orleans!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sloan Blended Learning Conference, Chicago, Illinois - April 2010

Once again, I had the opportunity to attend the Sloan Blended Learning Conference in Chicago. This time I facilitated a three hour workshop on Student Assessment in Blended Learning Environments: Using the Community of Inquiry Framework for Design and Implementation. My session was video taped in two parts (part one and part two) and participant feedback about the workshop has been posted to YouTube. I really love this conference for a couple of reasons. One, I get to work with an amazing group of educators and research with a wealth of online and blended teaching experience. Two, I get a chance to visit with Christy and her family in Brooklyn, New York. I made sure I took lots of pictures!!!

My conference notes are not so lengthy this year – as I had my workshop and I participated in a blended learning benchmarking session – which has resulted in a very interesting wiki resource. The conference highlights for me included Joel Hartman’s opening keynote address on the Promise and Practice of Blended Learning and Veronica Diaz’ closing keynote session on Hybrid Learning meets Web 2.0: (re)designing a Hybrid Course with Emerging Technologies for the Net Generation Learner

I really liked how Joel laid out ten key issues for blended learning success:
1. institutional strategy for blended learning (why),
2. systematic approach,
3. faculty development,
4. course design and development support,
5. online student support,
6. online academic services,
7. robust and reliable infrastructure,
8. effective organizational model,
9. pro-active policy development,
10. data collection and assessment

Veronica had an amazing set of slides and I really like how she classified Web 2.0 tools (communicate, collaborative, documentation, generative, interactive), presented Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, and an evaluation framework for blended learning courses.