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E-tivities and TEFL: E-teflivities?

May 30, 2011

Catchy, isnt it?  Ahem…

Before I move on to the week’s activities I’m supposed to be doing I thought I’d just quickly relate how last week’s reading relates to teaching English.  Lots of roses by other names (constructivism = communicative approach, socialisation = getting to know you) have cropped up in the reading throughout this MA.  It ‘s interesting to see that practices adopted as standard in TEFL seem to be controversial in HE sector.  There seems to be some concern that pedagogy required for elearning will cause friction by forcing changes in lecturers teaching styles in general.   This is generally seen as a bad thing and certainly make the job of the proponents of elearning a lot harder but maybe this is the revolution in e-learning – not that all learning goes online but that it becomes more student focussed, generated and controlled while lecturers  move to a guiding, facilitating role and away from the didactic sage on the stage mode that is heavily criticised but still present in so manycontexts.

I read a great quote recently:

…’the presentation of subject matter using multimedia is based on a discredited idea’  (Mayes and deFreitas, 2004)

Divorced from its context, it might seem that the authors are against e-learning but in fact, they were arguing against using the same methodology of just telling people things in e-learning to just tell them things using fancier shinier tools.  Without action, interaction, engagement and response, we are just perpetuating outdated ways of teaching.

Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model seems to have been adopted as industry standard since it has come up in a couple of modules on this MA and is mentioned in innumerable case studies, despite the concerns of Lisewski and Joyce (2003) in Jones and Peachey (2005) about ‘reification’ of the model, with some of the latter’s students commenting that they just wanted to get on with the work, rather than socialise first.   As with everything, I think there’s room for movement here.  Despite the fact that the stages are depicted in equally high blocks, these sections can be tailored to your learners, with some flexibility for how quickly or not things happen.

I’d like to see a lot more doubling up of stages to give participants more flexibility of focus.  For example, an idea I had for the early stages of interaction that I posted in a H807 forum was:

‘A getting to know you wiki – each S posts a (polite!) question they’d like to know about the others in the group (favourite website for study resources/speciality food in their country/best holiday…)  They’ll have to get quite imaginative towards the end so they are encouraged to post early

In their self intros in a forum they say what they want about themselves and answer a specified number of questions from the wiki – this way they are already responding to eachother and there is already someone in the audience who is interested in hearing what they have to say in their introductory post and who is therefore more likely to respond to them personally.’

This provides students with a low risk imperative to add something small to a wiki (revealing no knowledge or ignorance) that also spawns conversation in the other arena they will need to use.  It then means that when they write their self introductions they are not writing to an anonymous void but to a group of people with pre-stated interests so social presence is minimally established through a technological familiarisation task.  It also means that more experienced learners don’t feel they’re wasting their time doing something too simple.  Any other possibilities for doubling up – does this sound like it is workable practive for you?

Back to the coursework I go:)




What I do as a teacher

May 24, 2011

In preparation for an evaluation of theoretical underpinning of elearning pedagogy, I have been asked to consider what I do as a teacher.  Here are my thoughts.  I welcome yours if I’ve forgotten anything

Mindmap of teaching activity

The activity of teaching

Here we go…

May 11, 2011

With the dust well and truly settled after Brighton, Easter, Royal Weddings and bank holidays galore, I thought I’d inaugurate my new blog with my impressions of my first IATEFL conference, which was interesting because I’m not sure what I thought I was after.

The first conference I ever went to was the British Council’s Teaching Excellence in Glasgow in 2004.  I had just finished my DELTA and the conference opened up a whole world of new pursuits and new contacts.  At IATEFL, I had a much more specific agenda.  Being close to finishing my MA in Online and Distance Education, I was there to see what was going in the Techno-TEFL world and who was making it happen.

Socially, it was amazing.  I ran into 3 of my past lives and met lots of interesting intelligent people.  Intellectually, it was great to be able have conversations with enthusiasts, unlike the unconvincables I had recently been working with.  Being able to contribute intelligently was a great boost to my confidence too as I had previously felt that I might be out of my depth.  Strangely though, in many of the learning technology sessions, I was surprised to find that I felt uninspired.  The session were by and large topical, relevant and well delivered.  So why, if that’s what I had gone to Brighton to see, was I not excited by them?

There were 3 main strains of interest for me – LTs, Teacher Development and Education in Developing Contexts, all of which had been part of my recent past either through work or study.  Both teacher development and developing contexts sessions had quite a holistic sense in that they focussed on whole processes.  The LT sessions (or at least the ones I attended) focussed on very specific things, tools and ideas that teachers can put into practice without delay, all of which were excellent, simple solutions that require little or no support, exactly the kind of technology that will bring elearning into the hands of many.  I expect that my lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that at least on this score, I no longer think in terms of what I can take away and put into practice immediately, but how things fit into a grander scheme  – how do they contribute to learners’ success in attaining their own study goals? or the learning and assessment aims of the institution(s) they belong to?  What training do learners and staff need to be able to participate meaningfully in an evolutionary process of learning and discovery?  How can this all come together in contexts with minimal resources?  Are people with disabilities taken into account at design stage?  What psycho- and sociological factors are affecting take-up and how do we address this?

I must say at this point that I didn’t make it to all the LT sessions – there’s so much going on at IATEFL and tens of sessions to choose from in every time slot so getting to see everything is impossible, so maybe what I was looking for was on in a room I didn’t make it to.  If it sounds like I’m disappointed, I’m not.  I had a great time and I learned lots.  The main thing for me from all of this was that I realised where my interests (and hopefully usefulness!) really lie, i.e. connecting the dots.  Maybe that’s my place in the information ecology (Nardi & O’Day, 1999) that is the vast and diverse field of learning technologies.

This blog is a space for me to explore these and other themes for the remainder of my MA and beyond…but don’t worry – I’ll try and do it in fewer words next time!