Virtual learning and training: from classrooms to communities

Meredith Farkas, Head, Instructional Initiatives, Norwich University
Got her library degree online.  Found that her teachers had been teaching face-to-face and thought they could take their notes, quizzes, etc. from their in person classes and put them online.  Boring. There’s so much more to class than quizzes. Found her online learning experience very frustrating.
Web 2.0 ideas for the classroom
age of participation.
the wisdom of crowds
social constructivism – everyone is a teacher and learner
Teaches a course in Web 2.0 for San Jose State.  Told them she would prefer not to use the course management system.  Used Drupal. Liked the ability to have multiple blogs, so each student would have their own blog in the classroom. Has course calendar, readings, etc.  But the core is the conversation between the students and herself.
Why blogs?  It’s a familiar medium.  Great communication with students. Builds student sense of ownership over the medium. Fantastic for community-building. Biggest and best thing is that it encourages reflective learning.
It’s great for writing in public.  In other classes the students are writing for the professor; in her class, they’re writing for their classmates and the general world, too.  Everyone is a teacher and learner.
Blogs can…
  • promote critical and reflective thinking
  • enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing
  • create an informal environment for student discussion and community-building
  • encourage dialogue and debate
  • encourage students to teach as well as learn and co-construct their learning experience
Joan Petit, Portland State University
Blogging at the American University in Cairo
Worked at university for two years.  US accredited institution.  Mostly Egyptians.  English is 2nd or 3rd language. High schools didn’t have research papers, so no critical thinking skills taught.  Was a challenge for the required information literacy class.  They had never been to a library.
Class originally designed to maximize student learning and minimize librarian time.  Unified curriculum. Used WebCT. Every week there was a powerpoint that the instructor would read through. Final research project.  On average, saw a 20% increase from pre-test to post-test.
Set about changing the course.  Switched the course management system into a wiki. Made the class a lot easier to pass – wanted the focus to be on really learning the skills.  Implemented blogging. Was a turbulent time for the school – moved to a new campus in the desert.  Wanted the students to have the sense of writing for a real audience.  Assigned topics.  Weekly units, but gave time in class. Scaled down the final project and made it a blog entry.  The trouble with blogging in Egypt, speech is very oppressed.  There is no free speech; if you write something bad about the President, you would be arrested.  Students had to be aware of the fact that what they were writing could be read by others.
It was a near-disaster. The technology was overwhelming for people at first. WordPress was difficult for a number of the librarians. The librarians were having to do more work, and had to jump into technology they weren’t familiar with. Claimed the students didn’t like it at all.  Asked the students – they loved it. They loved publishing their thoughts on the web.  Once they got that feedback, there was no way they could back off from blogging.
Learned some lessons. Looking good on paper isn’t enough. Take advantage of key moments – crisis=opportunity. Own your disasters. Define success. The most exciting technology isn’t always the best for users.  Ill-considered ideas hastily implemented can be a great success.  If this had gone before a committee, they wouldn’t have done it.

Virtual learning and training: from classrooms to communities
Meredith Farkas, Head, Instructional Initiatives, Norwich University
Got her library degree online.  Found that her teachers had been teaching face-to-face and thought they could take their notes, quizzes, etc. from their in person classes and put them online.  Boring. There’s so much more to class than quizzes. Found her online learning experience very frustrating.
Web 2.0 ideas for the classroomage of participation. the wisdom of crowdssocial constructivism – everyone is a teacher and learner
Teaches a course in Web 2.0 for San Jose State.  Told them she would prefer not to use the course management system.  Used Drupal. Liked the ability to have multiple blogs, so each student would have their own blog in the classroom. Has course calendar, readings, etc.  But the core is the conversation between the students and herself.
Why blogs?  It’s a familiar medium.  Great communication with students. Builds student sense of ownership over the medium. Fantastic for community-building. Biggest and best thing is that it encourages reflective learning. It’s great for writing in public.  In other classes the students are writing for the professor; in her class, they’re writing for their classmates and the general world, too.  Everyone is a teacher and learner.
Blogs can…promote critical and reflective thinkingenable collaboration and knowledge-sharingcreate an informal environment for student discussion and community-buildingencourage dialogue and debateencourage students to teach as well as learn and co-construct their learning experience

Joan Petit, Portland State UniversityBlogging at the American University in Cairo
Worked at university for two years.  US accredited institution.  Mostly Egyptians.  English is 2nd or 3rd language. High schools didn’t have research papers, so no critical thinking skills taught.  Was a challenge for the required information literacy class.  They had never been to a library.
Class originally designed to maximize student learning and minimize librarian time.  Unified curriculum. Used WebCT. Every week there was a powerpoint that the instructor would read through. Final research project.  On average, saw a 20% increase from pre-test to post-test.
Set about changing the course.  Switched the course management system into a wiki. Made the class a lot easier to pass – wanted the focus to be on really learning the skills.  Implemented blogging. Was a turbulent time for the school – moved to a new campus in the desert.  Wanted the students to have the sense of writing for a real audience.  Assigned topics.  Weekly units, but gave time in class. Scaled down the final project and made it a blog entry.  The trouble with blogging in Egypt, speech is very oppressed.  There is no free speech; if you write something bad about the President, you would be arrested.  Students had to be aware of the fact that what they were writing could be read by others.
It was a near-disaster. The technology was overwhelming for people at first. WordPress was difficult for a number of the librarians. The librarians were having to do more work, and had to jump into technology they weren’t familiar with. Claimed the students didn’t like it at all.  Asked the students – they loved it. They loved publishing their thoughts on the web.  Once they got that feedback, there was no way they could back off from blogging.
Learned some lessons. Looking good on paper isn’t enough. Take advantage of key moments – crisis=opportunity. Own your disasters. Define success. The most exciting technology isn’t always the best for users.  Ill-considered ideas hastily implemented can be a great success.  If this had gone before a committee, they wouldn’t have done it.

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