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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Jet Engine Fundamentals Wiki

June 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Web 2.0, Wiki, Wiki)

As part of my second assessment, I am developing a Jet Engine Fundamental (JEF) Wiki for students to explore and post information about jet engine operation.

Click on the picture to have a look, comments welcome….

So many engines, so little time...

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Wiki’s in more depth

May 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm (Web 2.0, Wiki, Wiki)

This is post is in reply to Kay’s comments on my initial post Collaboration +Communication= Wiki. Kay had some pertant questions (in italics)  regarding wiki’s that I will attempt to answer below.

You wrote:
“…formed within the group can also be tested against ‘real world’ conditions. While this may expose students to extreme views of society it also can act as a mirror to the group perceptions especially those that don’t conform to social norms while at the same time providing an opportunity to examine those norms.”

Can you give an example of this?

Muijs, Ainscrow, Chapman & West (2011) highlight  that constructivist theory assumes that  individuals or groups are ‘sense making’ systems and as such create understanding using existing perceptions or interpretations. In extreme examples this understanding may be skewed from societal norms. An  example of this would be gang members in modern society who some believe struggle with applying lower-class cultural norms to those of the middle class majority (Thornberry, Krohn, Lizotte, & Smith, 2003). In a classroom environment these perceptions would hopefully not be as extreme but may still be present.  If we apply Kolb’s Experimental Learning Model (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005), students may create flawed abstract concepts which could become concrete if not fully validated in a new environment. An open wiki like Wikipedia can enable this ‘validity’ exposure which may be lacking from internal group dialogue.

 You wrote:
“…personalisation as one of the stand out features of a wiki when used for students
who don’t fit into the educational middle ground (either under or over achievers).”

What do you see as the implications for the under and overachievers in wiki use?

Wiki’s and other Web 2.0 applications by their very nature allow the personalisation to individual requirements.  Students can add, delete, or alter content whenever they wish. They can create content in a variety of formats that suits their own learning style. It is this access to resources, ‘material and human’ that Knowles et al (2005) point to as an essential component of effective learning. For motivated learners (over achievers), the Wiki format offers a chance to explore their own creativity providing them with a challenging learning environment that includes an element of feedback (Adams & Hamm, 2005).  It is this feedback, in the form of external editing of their posted information that can enable critical thinking that may not be possible in a traditional learning environment. For underachievers the Wiki format allows them to explore learning using methods and content that they are more comfortable with. Videos, audio, and pictures all offer alternative ways learning can be expressed by learners that may struggle with text based methods.  The challenge of using a wiki or any other Web2.0 application is that the curriculum needs to be adaptive enough to allow these applications to be utilised and assessed.

You wrote:
“…a wikis ability to utilise, embed and interact with other Web 2.0 tools means that it may outlive some of the more recent application developments.”

I was wondering what the more recent applications are that you are referring to and why they will not last as long as a wiki.

With the use of technology in education comes the risk of obsolescence.  This is very relevant with software, and especially with Web 2.0 applications whose developers rely on the masses to interact with their product to provide a revenue stream and ensuring the application continues to exist . The difference that I can see between a Wiki and some of the other applications, is in the way in which they are utilised. Applications such as Twitter, and Facebook,  are  social tools first and educational/business tools second. The continued existence of these social applications is dependant on whether people still use them.  MySpace and Bebo are two examples of social-based applications that have quickly fallen by the wayside. In contrast wiki based applications like Wikipedia,  are used as on-line references and as such are independent of social trends and to me this implies longevity.

Isn't the collective noun of 'dude', dudes?

Overall I see you are well aware of the benefits. What are some of the barriers to implementation that you might see requiring guidance from the teacher?

As I pointed out in my previous blog post, the greatest asset of a Wiki, its openness, maybe also be its weakness.  Ideally a Wiki would be left open to allow content to be changed, updated, or corrected. This however can also allow ‘Wiki Vandalism’ (McGlynn, 2011) where content is changed to something humorous or slanderous, or just plain incorrect. If this vandalism is repeated then the student may feel bullied and may become less inclined to participate. If the Wiki is part of an assessment this could result in the student failing or receiving a lesser grade than they deserve.  For the facilitator the use of Wikis may mean that they would have to establish some ground rules before the students start to utilise them in an educational setting. Using real names, correct referencing, and reporting any acts of vandalism, are all rules that could be applied however this will not stop external users (or covert group members) from committing the same acts.

The use of any Web 2.0 application can be fraught with danger and as educator we need to understand the downsides of any technology we use. This should not put us off utilising them however, because ultimately it is these technologies that our students identify and feel most comfortable with. And by using them we can continue to create the engagement and participation that is the objective of education.

 References

Adams, D., & Hamm, M. (2005). Redefining Education in the Twenty-first Century : Shaping Collaborative Learning in the Age of Information   Retrieved from http://unitec.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=578643

Knowles, P. D., Malcolm S., Holton, I., Ed.D., Elwood F., & Swanson, P. D., Richard A. (2005). The Adult Learner : The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development   Retrieved from http://unitec.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=232125

McGlynn, K. (2011). The funniest acts of Wikipedia vandalism ever (pictures)  Retrieved 14 May, 2011, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/06/the-funniest-acts-of-wiki_n_522077.html#s78740&title=Dude

Muijs, D., Ainscow, M., Chapman, C., & West, M. (2011). Collaboration and Networking in Education. London: Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg.

Thornberry, T. P., Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., & Smith, C. A. (2003). Gangs and delinquency in development prespective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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