MacICT’s has been using a blended approach to learning for some time, complementing our face to face courses with the use of virtual spaces such as Edmodo to share resources and encourage community participation and sharing. We recently ran a recent Reimagining Learning mini online course (MOC) based on the model of connected learning and in the style of a connectivist MOOC, to provide teachers around NSW with an opportunity to access one of MacICT’s professional learning workshops ‘anywhere, anytime’. This mini online course, ‘Reimagining Learning: ICT and the NSW Syllabuses for the Australian Curriculum’ aimed to draw on participatory culture skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creating to support course participants in identifying effective pedagogies that allow the employment of modern digital technologies to support learning.
Pedagogical Model for Course Delivery
Underpinning the style of delivery of the course is an understanding of participatory culture, which includes opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship (Clinton, et. al, 2006). This MOC was different to many online courses. It did not consist of a body of content participants needed to remember. Rather, the learning in the course resulted from the activities participants undertook and could be different for each person, depending on their interests, teaching philosophies and influences. One of the core goals of this MOC was the development of learning experiences that are situated somewhere between that of a “traditional” online course and a vibrant learning community. We hoped to nurture learning conversations within a number of different environments – through the use of social networks, collaborative tools, shared hashtags, documents and folders, and in personally ‘owned’ spaces. Throughout the MOC, four major types of learning occured constituting a blended approach:
- Face-to Face – Participants had the choice to attend the face to face event, “Reimagining Learning: ICT and the new Syllabuses for the Australian Curriculum on August 20, 2013
- Online Resources – Participants were given access to things to read, watch and discover. This information was placed on the MOC website.
- Self-directed Learning – Participants were expected to read and watch everything but could pick and choose what was appropriate and interesting to them.
- Ongoing Reflection – participants were expected to reflect on what they had read or watched and then choose to tweet about it, chat about it in the MOC Google+ community, blog about it or contribute to a compiled Google Doc or use any other service on the internet to share their reflection.
Throughout the course, the Four Cs – communicating, critical thinking, collaborating and creating – underpinned face-to-face and online participation. Overall, we wanted to empower our participants to become active members of the online community of education professionals. It is in this context, we can be effective change agents within our schools and wider community, communicating our ideas, thinking critically about the future, collaborating with colleagues and creating the changes needed. By participating in the online community, we gain an understanding of the value of this can broaden not only our access to learning as professionals, but also for that of the students we teach. It allows a person to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends, and in the case of students, caring adults.
What We Learned
We learned much from running this style of course and definitely have room for improvement. We learned that interaction matters with people. Those participants who were actively involved in the online communities attached the course gained much, but many people still need interpersonal interaction, support and feedback to succeed. We need to be more consistent and creative in our personal feedback to all course participants and are now working on a few ideas for our next iteration of the course. Our blended approach, that is kicking off the MOC with a one day face to face workshop, worked well and we are already planning the changes we will make for this workshop next time! It was evident that those participants who ‘talked’ more in the communities and through emails did better and we know, as with everything, one size does not fit all! This style of course does not work for everybody.
To those brave, passionate, risk taking educators who completed this first iteration of the course, MacICT would like to say a big thank you and congratulations. We think you are awesome! We enjoyed the conversations and sharing that went on in the Google+ community and on Twitter and through the course activities. Your logos were impressive and your videos were amazing. We realise that for many of you, the activities you completed throughout the course were different to anything you had encountered before and required you to learn new skills, to take risks and to make your learning visible.
“I love the readings provided and the basic way of presenting tools that we can apply to our teaching.”
“The course introduced me to Professional Learning Networks, a valuable tool for sharing resources. The course also showed me the wide variety of resources available.”
“It helped me embrace social networking and online professional development through Google+ and twitter which will in turn help me to continue to learn through these networks in the future.”
“I liked being “thrown in the deep end” and trying out things I haven’t tried before. I was at a beginners level and found some deliverables took a long time to complete due to inexperience.”
“The event was fantastic in that you could complete things at convenient times. The support from others doing the course was good. I would do anther one like this for sure.”
“The course components were very up to date with ICT needs and relevant to what our students need in their digital understanding so now I have greater confidence with offering a wide variety of ICT technology.”
“I have been exposed to a variety of 21st century learning tools that I have not used before and now have a greater understanding of how to use them and apply them in daily teaching situations.”
“I am now using Google+ and twitter to discover new ideas. I would love to use Twitter in the classroom and tools such as Google Doc (when available) and Animoto in the classroom”