Learning how to Interact?

Hmm … what form of interactions have Dani and I implemented in our course prototype? Good question…

memory lane

Before getting into this however, like Shelby, I inevitably start to wander down memory and remember my own formative experiences with online learning. My own recollections are strikingly similar to hers…

We HAD to post at least three times a week, and it HAD to be connected to the reading and material we were learning in class.  Looking back, besides remembering that I HAD to do this type of assignment, I do not recall one single discussion topic we discussed.

Like Shelby, I struggle to remember topics discussed. But what I do remember is the feeling of having to complete my requisite posts, regardless of whether or not I had something to say. I also remember the feeling of really wanting to get into the discussion thread early because  I wanted to get my two cents in before somebody else posted along a similar vain to my own thinking, and not wanting to look like I was piggybacking or copying. Honestly, it felt like the discussion threads were not really generating much, but being used as an add-on. Something we could say we did as a class to justify the existence of the course being online.

Good times …

I think I’m going to twist this question and make it more relevant to the clientele we are actually giving this a go with. We’re talking about grade 2s who are getting their first real go with using a LMS. There is a lot of play and a lot of discovering going on. The experimenting feels great, and as mentioned in our peer feedback: “… in the long run it will benefit them a great deal!” I believe this to be true and even from a distance, I can tell Dani’s kids are starting to hone skills that will allow them to participate with online learning communities and use them for learning as opposed to learning how to use an LMS (as they seem to be doing now)

Instead of asking what kinds of interactions are implemented, I think I will ask myself what kinds of interactions are we preparing our students to take part of. What kinds of interactions are we experimenting with?

Flipped Classroom

One thing we are working on is trying to foster opportunity for our students run learning opportunities of their own outside of the classroom, and work collaboratively to build deeper understandings of our content matter (states of matter). As Dani says as part of our reflection on our peer feedback:

 it might be fun to have them try a very simple experiment at home, have their family videotape it, and upload it to the classroom!

There are a few directions we may go with this, and we may design options for several. Dani already uses Facebook with her class and this gives an easy to use tool that is already known and in place. This is a direction we are going to pursue in terms of course design and I’m sure we’ll give it a go now that her students are clearly getting into their learning community.

Momentum is absolutely building, and that’s evidenced by the stream of comments that are starting to populate the classroom stream. Her kids are playing with building what Bates defines as a social presence:

…is the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.

By facilitating our grade 2 and 3 learners participating with their community from home through video, whatever the tool, I feel liek we are setting them up for future purposeful use of engaging and relevant asynchronous tools like Flipgrid.

Discussion for learning

In looking over what we have and what we are building, I believe we are also preparing our young learners for learning opportunities that revolve around online participation and discussion. Our course is certainly a blended learning one. As such, there is perhaps less emphasis places on setting up synchronous learning opportunities. There is still a fair bit that will depend on face-to-face learning in the classroom. And for good reason!

But in looking over what we have set up, and what we are setting up, I believe that Dani and I are helping build our students’ skill-set to participate in online discussion based online learning communities, and perhaps online communities that rely on live, synchronous gathering. We have introduces them to a variety of google tools like docs, slides and forms. Some of this, as recounted by Dani, fell apart before our eyes when the kids started to actually conceptualize that they were all participating on the same live slide show:

Then my little monkey’s starting compulsively trying to steal each other’s slides which turned into one or a couple kiddos deleting the entire slideshow, because why not! 

It was actually pretty funny …  and it was learning!

Online vs Traditional classroom?

I think that it’s important to kind of loop back to an ongoing theme that, for me, really began to germinate with my very first Ed tech course over a year ago. The tools that foster and provide wonderful online learning opportunities are as wonderful as the deliberate design and deployment of the opportunities that use these tools. That is to say, it comes back on us as teachers to use these tools intentionally, and help our students use these tools well.

This theme surfaces through several of Bate’s closing remarks”

It could be argued that there is no or little difference between online collaborative learning and well-conducted traditional classroom, discussion-based teaching…. Once again, we see that the mode of delivery is less important than the design model, which can work well in both contexts.

At first, I was wondering if Dani and I were using some of these tools for the sake of using them. But I really don’t believe that is the case. With the age group we are teaching, I feel like we are finding a balance between very deliberately scaffolding use of the tools with fostering feasible opportunities to use these to spark learning in our chosen content area.

Thanks for reading, and hope this makes sense! (It barely makes sense to me)



2 comments to “Learning how to Interact?”
2 comments to “Learning how to Interact?”
  1. Great post Joe! I too started this weeks blog post virtually walking down memory lane (ok, there was no walking, just me leaning back in my chair thinking…). My first ‘online discussion board-type task’ within a course was when I took an AQ course to teach senior mathematics… Picture this (lean back in your chair, its quite comfortable): 2 students in the class; 50% of the course mark assigned to weekly discussions (the other 50% was a unit plan). One of my least favorite online experiences… very little learning occurred through those interactions.

    Apart from that… unique… experience, I remembered many online courses where the requisite number of posts was defined in the syllabus. I have had others that defined the participation around qualitatively progressing the conversation.

    I feel as though things have progressed quite far in course interactions (though I am taking two online courses currently, and one leans more towards progressing the conversation – and learning – whereas the other one defined participation as 3 responses to other posts…. so there is definitely more work overall).

    Your course interactions (from the stories you outlined) seem to be at least experiential learning, developing their opportunities for interaction-based learning.

  2. Hi Joe and thanks for the post. You do mention some important points and I especially like your comment “it felt like the discussion threads were not really generating much, but being used as an add-on”. I also can see the issue with requesting each student to make so many posts and respond to others in order to get full marks. Are they posting because they are interested and creating meaningful discussions or are they simply posting because they are being forced to? This is not an easy solution since we need to “encourage” involvement and in my experience, when things are not worth marks they are not seen as important. One article I read suggested that you ask students to apply the information to their own life experiences and this will create personal connections to the content and stimulate further discussions. Maybe this is the key? Thanks for the great insight and good luck on your course module. I think you and Dani will teach long lasting skills the students will be able to apply to other course or life experiences.

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