Open Learning

What do you see as the promise of Open Learning as an emerging technology/pedagogy/philosophy?

I struggle with how to connect this idea of open learning that happens whenever a student desires with the more traditional classroom that tends to still be the norm in most American schools. How do you balance the two or is it one way or the other exclusively? John Coffey, in his Guest Editorial  for the journal Innovations in Education & Training International,  spoke about his 1977 article titled The Open Learning Movement”He stated that, “We have to try to persuade administrators and politicians to provide funding for setting up arrangements which will allow learners to study what they want, when they want and in ways that suit their circumstances and skills. Such apparent anarchy is too hard for administrators” (p.195). It definitely seems like a system that many schools would struggle to wrap their heads around. Especially, as Coffey goes on to argue that these schools have prescribed standards that may not necessarily align with what a student may want to learn about.

I also wonder how much students would utilize open learning platforms on their own. It may be that some would, but most may never opt for this type of learning unless directed by a teacher. I agree with “Open Learning in a K-12 Blended and Online Environments”, when it talks about K-12 Massive Online Open Courses being a way to, “Supplement student learning beyond prescribed courses and curriculum and to provide student exposure to diverse and cultural or international perspectives” (Graham p.11).  We use some open learning at my school now, such as Khan Academy, Moodle, and STEM, but I don’t think most of the students would be driven to use them without teacher suggestion. Maybe these systems are best used to enhance our practice, not replace it.

One thing that I found interesting in Zawacki-Richter’s work is the idea that learning within distance or open systems isn’t completely independent or individual. The author states, “Thus, learning is seen as a social process that is facilitated by interaction among learners and teachers. The provision of opportunities for interaction, communication, and collaboration between students and their teachers as well as among students, via electronic media, is seen as a constituent of distance education” (p.8). I am speculating, but I wonder if the failure of many students to finish MOOC classes is somehow tied to a lack of meaningful social connections within the learning environment. Having never actually experienced these classes, I do not know. They do seem like a wonderful way for internally motivated students to learn; however, for other students the open learning platform may not have the necessary structure for them to be successful. Is this because these students have been in a traditional system and are not ready for the internal motivation and organization needed to be successful in such a learning environment? If the K-12 system were to change and include more open learning, would these students then be ready to participate in open learning on their own as adults? I do not know the answer to these questions, but find them thought provoking.

 

Coffey, J. (2006). The open learning movement. Innovations in Education & Training International, 25 (3), 195-196.

Graham, L. (2014). Open learning in a K-12 blended and online. Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning Environments, 415-445.

Zawacki-Richter, O., Alturki, U., & Aldraiweeh, A. (2017). Review and content analysis of the International Review of Research Open and Distance/Distributed Learning (2000-2015). International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(2), 1-25.

How do we define Emerging Technologies?

Defining “Emerging Technologies”, seems quite simply originally, but when you actually stop and try to decide what that actually means, you realize that it is a bit more tricky. According to the article, A definition of emerging technologies for eduction by George Veletsianos, “Emerging Technologies are tools, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings” (p. 1) He goes on to say that there are five characteristics that can help us understand ET better. I connected most with the following statements: “1. ET can be, but are not necessarily, new, 2. ET are evolving organisms that exist in a state of ‘coming into being’,][and 4. ET satisfy the ‘not yet’ criteria”, because they, “are not fully understood” (p. 2).

The idea that Emerging Technology doesn’t have to be brand new, is quite interesting. It could be that something has been around, but not discovered or the program has been changed or updated and is now more likely to be used or to fit with what we need at that time. Examples of this could be Microsoft’s SPOT smart watch, which was introduced in 2004. Microsoft’s watch was discontinued in 2008, but within the last couple years, the smart watch industry has really taken off. Another example could be the use of Google Docs- now termed Drive.  Although, Google released docs in 2006, it wasn’t truly utilized in schools until around 2012. According to Hal Friedlander, former chief information officer for the NYC Dept. of Ed., “Between the fall of 2012 and now, Google went from an interesting possibility to the dominant way that schools around the country teach students to find information, create documents and turn them in.][Google established itself as a fact in schools”(NYTimes).

Emerging Technologies as the “Not Yet” or as “organisms that exist in a state of coming into being”, is what I would usually think of, if asked to give voice to my own confusion over the definition. This is the area that leaves me grasping at ideas that seem to float away. What are those new organisms or ideas. In order to help myself with this, I went to Google and searched: Emerging Technology Education. After sifting through articles from ages ago…2013, I came across this article from trustED, What’s Next for Education: Emerging Tech Trends for 2017 The author believes that in 2017 more makerspaces will be built in schools to encourage “real-world learning”, “Virtual science labs will enhance science and STEM learning”, and there will be online hotspots on schools busses (trustED). These ideas are also supported by the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report of 2016. This report includes: “Redesigning Learning Spaces, Rethinking How Schools Work, Advancing Digital Equity, Coding as a Literacy, Maker Spaces, Online Learning, Robotics, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligences, and Wearable Technology,” to name a few.

Of the two lists,  I have been exposed most to Redesigning Learning Spaces, Rethinking How Schools Work, and Wearable Technology. I’ve also been around Maker Spaces, Online Learning, and Robotics, but haven’t experienced them first hand. Redesigning Learning Spaces has been an interesting change for us. The traditional classroom has been revamped to include chairs with wheels, moveable desks, white boards on both walls with a projector that rotates, collaboration rooms with a tv and study table, nooks with other seating and other special moveable white boards and cupboards. The goal of these new spaces is to make the classroom less teacher focused and more adaptable to different daily activities/lessons. All rooms have wifi, but students aren’t just using technology. These rooms are made to be used, not to have students sit in desks in rows and listen.

Rethinking How Schools Work has been an interesting topic at my current school for the past few years. We’ve had specialist and committees on a variety of areas including, Personalized Learning, Inquiry, Project Based Learning, The Design Process, Digital Media, Inclusion (ELL learners), Co-teaching, Making Thinking Visible, Backwards by Design, Standards Based Grading, and more.  It’s been overwhelming at times, but also inspiring. I am not the teacher I was just five years ago.