Monday, March 24, 2014

How do people learn eLearning?

How do you learn eLearning?

I'm going to look at this question from several perspectives.  Firstly, as a teacher who attempts to utilise eLearning in my practice I have historically relied on "gut intuition" and anecdotal experience to decide to utilise those technologies I am most comfortable with myself in my teaching.  In particular, Google Apps for Education (Drive, YouTube etc) seem to meet a lot of needs that just seemed to make sense to me as well as engage the students and result in (apparent) motivation.  Of course what I have not considered enough is whether or not doing things in this way actually improved educational outcomes for the students.  Carrying out a detailed inquiry into the impact of these activities seemed a very daunting task given all the other work that keeps piling up.  So - in short - it seems like a lot of guesswork really, tempered by critical reflection to the extent that I thought "Did that seem to work?"

I think in the first place I've been lucky in that I've never struggled to get a grip on the technology in the first place.  Particularly cloud-based apps such as Google Drive, which allows students real-time collaboration, and Google Sites, which allows students to easily build portfolios of their learning and teachers to easily coordinate blended learning approaches etc.

So as a teacher, learning eLearning has been characterised by a bit of guesswork really on a solid foundation of how to use the technology myself.  But this has never felt quite right.  I've always questioned whether or not using the technology actually improved educational outcomes above and beyond what another teacher might achieve with the same students using a more traditional approach.  For this reason I undertook study at Massey - so I can argue the "Why", behind the "How" that I already do, while picking up a whole raft of useful tricks along the way.

Interestingly though, I've had to figure out eLearning from Massey's perspective along the way, and being critical I've questioned whether or not it's quite what I would want it to be.  Now that I've done readings on eLearning, I can see the pedagogy behind the activities, but some of it just doesn't quite hit the mark with me.   For example, I would like to use more real-time, synchronous communication utilising tools such as Google Hangouts.  I realise, though, that it is not as simple as bringing these tools into things, and Moodle is a great platform (albeit a little bit clunky - a bit like MyPortfolio if you ask me).  I guess what I'm saying is that now that I'm a bit more clued up on eLearning as a result of the course, I'm becoming more critical of the eLearning tools the course employs.  An interesting situation to be in.  A question then is whether or not I would be considering these things if I hadn't been exposed to eLearning in my job as teacher with the experience that I have, or exposed to the readings.  Perhaps not.

Thinking about my perspective as a student makes me consider the experiences that my students have in my own class.  I remember being a student of their age (not toooo long ago) and whatever the teacher got us to do, we'd do!  I didn't think critically about what they had me do.  In a similar way, I imagine my students often just do what they're asked - without too much critical reflection on WHY they're doing it that way.  So, are the learning eLearning?  Will they transfer the way they did something with technology in one context into another?  In many cases, I think the answer is no.  So how do we teach them eLearning so they do transfer these skills without necessarily needing explicit instruction that they should utilise a specific technology to help them learn?

In summary, I'd like to figure out how to teach students with eLearning tools in a way that makes their use of the technology transferable to different contexts.  This would reflect critical thinking on their behalf and make the use of technology for specific purposes more ubiquitous, without having to remind them that the tool would be useful in that specific situation.

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