31 August 2008

Weeks 4 & 5

Facilitating, moderating or teaching

Background

In the last couple of weeks I have been reflecting on my teaching, learning and facilitating journey in all areas of my life so will bring to this posting a number of concepts that I have been drawn to over the years and how they have help frame my current thoughts.

I have spent some time trawling through a number of FOC 906.703 blogs to gain an understanding of the community of which I am a member. What has struck me is the diversity of participants. It would be interesting to analyse the demographics? An example - it appears the majority of participants are women?

I am no longer worrying about currently being a lurker ... postings are being read and considered. I am reflecting and trying to let go of starting with the end in mind, realising that it's OK to not know where my learning will lead, relax and enjoy the journey.

My journey, my lessons so far

After leaving school and before I started teaching I served 4 years in the NZ Army – I loved the discipline at a relatively young age and (mostly) adapted to the structure and rigid nature of such an institution. I learned some valuable lessons that still guide me today, but quickly realised I didn’t want to remain a “student” conforming. I learned the basics of survival, was hungry to learn, wanted to challenge the boundaries and become an independent thinker.

I then trained as a secondary school teacher (teaching students aged 13-17 years) and remember learning about Maslow’s and Karl Marx’s theories. We didn't learn about thinking styles, learning styles, multiple intelligences, 6 Thinking Hats, cycles of learning. The 16 Habits of the Mind didn't exist.

Freshly graduated and teaching in a tertiary institution (students ranged in ages from 16-70+), technology was a banda machine and carbon paper (coloured paper was an expensive luxury). We put up with chalk dust and fingernails being scratched along the blackboard (no, not a Blackboard LMS)! There was time to play and doodle (and we’d never heard of Moodle)! Progress in those days was the thrill of a whiteboard and a set of coloured marker pens (of more than two colours)! Next were OHP and OHTs! Typewriters were for secretaries. Filing cabinets in classrooms were kept locked by the ‘teacher in charge of that room’. You didn't dare ask to share resources. I was young, na├»ve, had energy, an enquiring mind and a passion for life and believing I could make a difference. I wanted to teach and be good at it. There was no independent study and students were not allowed to collaborate (that would be seen as cheating)!
“The mediocre teacher tells … the good teacher explains … the superior teacher demonstrates … the great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

Over time, the generations I taught moved from being close to my age, to becoming a ‘generation gap’ I felt I no longer related to them (or, should I say, they didn't relate to me). I completed a Diploma in Holistic Education, which provided me with skills to promote a new way of learning for my students. I learned the value of diversity by embracing the knowledge of my students’ learning styles alongside my teaching style and promoting more discussion – still face-to-face in the classroom. As I reflect, I realise I was moving into a more facilitative role in the classroom …
“It seems that we learn the lessons when we least expect the, but always when we need them the most, and, the true gift in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.” Cathy Lee Crosby
Now, that was fine, or so I thought – as you sometimes do – for a moment.

About six years ago New Zealand experienced an influx of international students (mainly Japanese) who knew how to rote learn extremely well but found great difficulty in developing critical thinking skills in an applied sense (as they studied towards a Diploma in Business). These students did not want to discuss or question, so I struggled to find ways to moderate. Another journey began for me in finding ways to promote a facilitation within and outside of the classroom.

Around the same time along came Blackboard (the LMS) to our institution. I meddled in the technology, but made myself ‘too busy’ facilitating in the classroom to become an ‘early adopter’. However, curiosity got the better of me (as it does) and I accepted a secondment for a year as the institution’s Blackboard Trainer and Developer – and I didn’t even have a Blackboard site! I had no idea what LMS, CMS, VLE, HTML code, hyperlinks and many other unique identifiers in this environment.
"When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly." Patrick Overton
I’m not sure I flew, but I had something solid to stand on … my patient computer-savvy colleagues, my years of experience as a learner, a teacher and moderator helped me become a skilled facilitator, enabling student-centred critical thinking in a participative, collaborative environment to take place. My Blackboard site Discussion Forum for the F2F students became the place to discuss current and often contentious legal issues, I moderated, I facilitated, I also became a more reflective learner as they taught me. The Whiteboard (in Bb) became theirs - they drew legal scenarios to help them remember legal cases.

At the same time my son was also entering the teenage world. Not only was I grappling with how to involve students with 'push-pull' technology, I was dealing with the norms of teenage development (his on the way up, mine on the way down)! I thought I was learning to facilitate - in hindsight I now know it was the other way round - teacher (mother)-centred to learner (teenager)-centred! Many times since I have been the student again learning to moderate, negotiate and facilitate.

I relate to and agree with Steve Mackenzie’s “Chinese wisdom” posting on 20 August 2008 in Leigh’s blog "To facilitate or to teach".

I can also relate to the blog posting: Random walk in learning: Salmon's 5-stage model and digital natives. The digital native and the digital migrant. In my institution teaching staff comprise mostly of "digital migrants".

Conclusion

I suggest the skills of a teacher, moderator and facilitator need not be mutually exclusive but overlap, a varying degrees, depending on the level, purpose of the lesson, the power of the questions you pose, the information you need ...

To become better at it? Time, belief, perseverance and attitude. Whether as a teacher, moderator or facilitator, the lesson/s, no matter the mode of delivery (a face-to-face classroom or an online environment) needs support and guidance by teaching, moderating and facilitating. With fine tuning, learning new stuff as well as processing all new knowledge we have and will be experiencing during this course, re-capping the things that were taught and revealing our learning journey from it. (A Maori saying is ‘to walk into the future backwards').

Acquisition of complex knowledge and skills requires extended learner effort and guided practice. Without the learner’s motivation to learn the willingness to exert this effort. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can easily apply to our community of practice in this paper.


I particularly enjoyed reading Shane Robert's post Teaching and Teching: Teaching or Facilitating and his supporting statements that reinforce the need to initially construct the learning environment. "Through this process, involving constructivist, connectivist and transformative approaches to learning, I provide the means for students to independently and collaboratively learn from others and to collaborate to build knowledge." I believe he has articulated the well-researched theory alongside the reality of learning for teachers, moderators and facilitators. The wisdom in each of these roles is knowing when to let go .....
"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." - Kahlil Gibran
And the wisdom of Dr Seuss ---
Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"... And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right ...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.."

"... And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) ..."

15 August 2008

Weeks 2 & 3

The meaning of an online community and its uses

For the purpose of this paper, I intend to apply my thoughts and experiences to my current involvement - the myLearn Project 2008 which commenced 28 July 2008.

Background of this online community

The Tertiary Accord of New Zealand (TANZ) is a network of six (of 19) ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand). Its members comprise:
  • NorthTec (Northland);
  • UCOL (Palmerston North);
  • EIT (Hawkes Bay);
  • NMIT (Nelson, Marlborough);
  • CPIT (Christchurch);
  • Otago Polytechnic (Dunedin).
The vision of TANZ is to be the leader in collaborative applied vocational education and training. The mission/purpose of TANZ is to work collaboratively as an Accord to identify, design, develop, deliver and evaluate applied vocational quality products for tertiary learners. TANZ has a strong focus and commitment to a sectoral leadership ‘by doing’ role.

myLearn pilot project: purpose

The myLearn pilot project is using Moodle, by virtual connection (from Otago Polytechnic) to create a networked process for distributing seamlessly, six New Zealand Diploma in Business (NZDB) Level 5 papers, materials and information, assessments and combining class spaces for learners and online tutors. Each of the six TANZ partners delivers one NZDB paper each. Students enrol at any one of the six TANZ polytechnics or institutions (within their local region) into any one of the six NZDB papers. A student logs on through Moodle from their enrolling institution or polytechnic. They connect to Otago Polytechnic’s Moodle site, and then may be ‘redirected’ to the polytechnic or institute that is delivering the paper they have enrolled in.

This pilot project is an example of finding a way to address the changing Government policy requirements where institutions can only enrol students from their own region. Incentives to find ways to work more collaboratively are encouraged.

Identifying features

Using Moodle LMS the aim of the myLearn project is to create a networked process for distributing NZDB papers and resources across multiple providers (currently the 6 TANZ members) to simultaneously provide appropriate staff support for eLearning capability developing. The project is currently focused on:
  • people and processes rather than further infrastructure;

  • finding ways to reduce the current administrative burden and improving eLearning programme content, learning resources, activities and assessment across multiple providers by updating the process from a single centralised source;

  • providing knowledge management of the learnings generated from this project from learners, and all those involved in the delivery of this pilot programme;

  • identifying ways to enable, support and maintain communities of practice that focus on workplace-based elearning, support the development of excellence in eLearning practices and raise the capability in eLearning best practice.

Within the TANZ Network Support Moodle site, two (main) Network Support Communities of Practice have been set up for this project:
  1. myLearn Pilot - NZ Diploma in Business - available to TANZ members to discuss the collaborative development of the myLearn Pilot - NZ Diploma in Business.

    Topics include: General, Operational issues, Technical and Moodle administration, eLearning advisors, Steering committee, Libraries, Elluminate sessions.

  2. myLearn NZDipBus - Tutor & Action Research Site. Available to myLearn pilot members for discussing and developing resources for the NZDipBus online courses & action research involvement.

    Topics include: Course facilitation issues; myLearn NZDB practitioner Action Research site.
Each community contains a number of sub-committees(?) containing essential documentation for collaborative use, as well as Discussion Forums and Wikis.

What’s made it a successful community so far?
  1. It existing for a reason – there’s a clear identity and understanding why the COP exists.

  2. It's been positive, simple, safe, supportive, where knowledge is being developed at the core level.

  3. It's relevantly applied by being attuned to real practices (in the sense the myLearn Project networked support is also using Moodle as the communication platform).

  4. Is like-minded in purpose for the 6 TANZ partners involved in delivery of the 6 NZDB papers which has (and will) draw other users in as the initiative grows.

  5. Has a retained knowledge of shared history and culture (for support, reflection and reference - e.g. for action research; for newbies coming on board).

  6. There’s an audience - synchronously (using Elluminate) and asynchronously (using Discussion Forums and Wikis) as well as the assigning of editing rights that promotes negotiable strategies and fine tuning of processes, internally and externally.
Conclusion

This Project is providing an environment by creating an online community of practice that offers the opportunity for those involved in eLearning to demonstrate and involve F2F staff in more flexible modes of delivery that engages them in an applied sense – as part of ‘their’ changing environment for planning, preparation, not just facilitation of online learning – by seeking first to understand and experience this form of communication. My current focus is to support current F2F NZDB tutors as they move to becoming effective Online Tutors - by gaining experience from a learner's perspective using Discussion Forums, Wikis, Blogs, Chat Rooms, Skype, RSS Feeds and then to encourage and support them to creating a collaborative online learning environment for their students. All staff I am working with are from the Baby Boomers Generation :-) (no Gen X or Y ...) :-(

It is providing the opportunity for those new to online tutoring and online communication to step up and step into roles that this project is providing as well as the shared sense of the value of being together that has and will evolved through this project, formally and informally, with shared responsibilities.

Sherman states:
"The bottom line: online community building is about the people first, the shared interests or experiences next, and the tools are the means of bringing people together in new ways."
I agree. The ongoing adventures for me is the continual seeking to understand before finding value in ways to apply that knowledge.

References

O'Reilly Media. (2007). Building online communities. Retrieved August 8, 2008 from http://www.oreillynet.com

Sherman, A. (2008). Building online community brick by virtual brick. Retrieved August 8, 2008 from http://webworkerdaily.com.2008/04/27

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Virtual community. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_community

03 August 2008

Week 1

Getting Started

With the first week procrastinating and the conscious awareness that Leigh will ring me (again) if I don't hurry up and get started, here I go.

This is my fourth paper towards the Grad Cert in eLearning, so the temptation to take some time out from study has been challenging, however the thought of getting past half-way is the incentive to keep going. I tend to lurk then commit to a frantic long haul of study at the last minute but am aware that this technique will not work, especially so for this paper, nor is it how I would would want my students to study online!

I wish to get out of this course the skills to ensure I can establish a routine of smaller chunks of learning by consistently participating to online communication, rather than trying to juggle it all at the last minute.

I would like to find better ways to support F2F teachers in a tertiary environment who are currently moving into the role of online tutoring. We have had three out of six staff leave in the last few weeks, so I am working with three new staff who are totally new to either NZ, the tertiary environment and/or teaching! None of them have used LMS before (we use both Blackboard and Moodle) so they also have to learn two LMS - Blackboard for their F2F classes, Moodle for our fully online New Zealand Diploma in Business (NZDB) programme.

My challenge is to also encourage staff to use the online communication tools (Discussion Forums, Chat Rooms) and Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube, TeacherTube, Wikipedia, Wicktionary, RSS Feeds and demonstrate ways they can tie these into collaborative, constructivist learning that can be assessed and still meet internal and external moderation requirements.

I also want a clear understanding of how and when a blog or a wiki would be best used for student learning.

I have discovered a colleague here at UCOL who is also enrolled in this paper who is also feeling challenged with time so we're 'buddying' up to keep kicking each other's butt to ensure we succeed. I'm also looking forward to meeting an awesome group of fellow learners on this journey.