Reflective Feedback

July 8, 2011 at 9:23 pm (Assignment 2, Web 2.0, Wiki)

Well, what a journey! From digital immigrant to digital native in one go – or maybe not! If this course has taught me anything it is that the future of online education is not a simple as picking up a phone and ‘connecting’ to the world.

As you have seen in my presentation, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) currently utilises a traditional instructor centred educational model. Both staff and students are very familiar and comfortable with this method and consequently resist any new approaches that may change what they know. This challenging environment therefore  required a robust and forward looking framework in order to meet the organisation’s requirements for today and tomorrow. My framework has its foundation in constructivism, where the learner is allowed to build upon existing  knowledge through contextual experiences (Kearsley, 2011). Other elements such as Social Constructivism, and Communities of Practice  seek to allow social engagement beyond the learner, and into the wider community.

The concept map (CMap) was intended to show the interactions between the framework and Web 2.0 technology. In contrast to my earlier maps (Assignment 1) I had intentionally simplified this CMap in an attempt to distil the essence of the concepts being explored. I found that the previous maps, although detailed and accurate, were only decipherable to the creator – me! Using this approach I was able to identify three key concepts that the framework and Web 2.0 both allowed;

  • Empowering staff and students
  • Teaching the method, not just the message
  • Creating communities

At this rate no-one was going to get a drink at the SLT11sa end of course party.

I purposely chose the  Jet Engine Fundamentals (JEF) course for a couple of reasons; its generic nature meant that students could interpret their own meaning from the subject brief, and the existing corporate knowledge on the subject was extensive and reached beyond the RNZAF into online resources.  Normally students would participate in lecture style lessons with student handouts to reinforce the subject material however the implementation of a Wiki, YouTube and Twitter approach meant that student could ‘shape’ their own learning. As some of the comments suggested,  the JEF course seems to be the ideal vehicle to utilise and promote a learner centred approach and at the same time utilise Web 2.0 technologies.

One of the concerns I had when deciding on the most appropriate method of implementation was how students would react without the familiar elements of a regular course (De Waal, 2001).  The quick survey that I conducted amongst the student population showed a high level of web viewing (95%) and a contrasting low level of active web participation  (10%). These results point to gap between the known (basic internet skills) and the unknown (full Web 2.0 participation) or a modern version of the Zone of Proximal Development (Newman & Holzman, 2005) ,  further serving to justify my framework in particular the scaffolding element. I saw a wiki  as an easy introduction into Web 2.0 technologies for students and staff unfamiliar with creating digital content. It contained some familiar attributes of a traditional classroom, for example, a central meeting point, message boards, and group areas. Also due to its informal nature a wiki provides students with a certain amount of anonymity when updating and posting information. These two elements again tie into the scaffolding element allowing student (and staff) to become more comfortable with the technology and their own online presence.

The design of the course purposely utilises only three Web 2.0 applications to allow students and staff to maximise their exposure to the tools without distraction. While the JEF Wiki provides the platform for capturing student knowledge and content, both Twitter and YouTube, are utilised to allow collaboration and content creation. The intention is to preceded the introduction of these tools by several contact sessions where the students can fully explore each application in a supported environment. Throughout the design of this course I found it difficult to predict how these tools would preform in a real-world situation. As some of the comments have (correctly) suggested the detail behind the use of the technology was a little light. Although some more work is required to bring this course up to an appropriate standard I think that the best way to test it is to let it go ‘wild’.  Only by exposing it to a variety of  learners and staff will any defects become apparent allowing rapid correction (the beauty of web technology) and improvements to be made.

I doubt anyone will deny the usability of the internet or Web 2.0 technology in general. Its usefulness in connecting people across the world and creating a local sense of community is unsurpassed. However, when this technology is turned to education, the same people who applaud its openness, sense of community and dynamic nature decry it for the same qualities pointing out that these factors segregate people socially, intellectually, and technically. Over the past months I have come to realise that the full utilisation of Web 2.0 technologies requires the scaffolded introduction of the technology as well as the subject content. Modern learners, like my ‘tech savvy’ students, still expect to be taught in a fairly traditional manner and in order for Web 2.0 to flourish it must be introduced in a supported and managed manner. This course and its experiences, trials and tribulations has allowed me to get an insight into technologies that exist just around the corner (for the RNZAF) and may have converted me from a digital immigrant to a digital native   digitally naive…

Thanks to Thom (the world might be Apple one day), Vickel, and the other students of SLT11SA! Time for a drink!

References

De Waal, B. (2001). In the trenches: Student persectives. In B. Lewis, R. Smith & C. Massey (Eds.), Tower under Siege : Technology, Power and Education. Montreal, QC, CAN: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Kearsley, G. (2011). Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner). The Theory Into Practice Database  Retrieved 2 July, 2011, from http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html

Newman, F., & Holzman, L. (2005). Lev Vygotsky : Revolutionary Scientist. London: Routledge.

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