I have received a number of great questions from our classmates and thought I wold share some of them here with everyone. The questions and my comments to those questions will help to give us a focus for our coming work. I have de-identified the questions as much as possible.
First of all, I am sorry for my late start with the course. I just arrived in Miami after 9 days waiting to be evacuated from Dominica. The evacuation process itself took 3 days from the time we left the island to arriving in Miami at 3 Am on the 28th.
Question: My question at this time is, what strategies can be used so that individual educators with different educational/life philosophies find common ground to create connections between their classroom environments?
Comment: I have worked for many years in multicultural institutions facing just that sort of issue. Your opinions and beliefs are important, but must be tempered to the prevailing environment.
Question: I would like to know how can we as educators ensure that learning is extended to the home environment and that parents are more actively involved in the process?
Comment: I think the connections between home and the school are critical, especially for younger students, but even with high school students. There are extremes of not caring and caring too much, but in my experience most parents could be a bit more involved. I will say now that technology is a great tool to help parents be more involved and share just that little more information that they need to be interested, but not overwhelmed.
Question: I teach an internship and careers program, so my focus is on exploratory learning and reflections activities. My concern is the most of what I teach is outside of the classroom.
Comment: Your focus is great as that is the way forward for a lot of medical education and for competency based assessment, especially for professionals. Think about portfolios and how professionals and others can capture their experiences through electronic portfolios in order to share a running commentary on their work.
Question: I am very excited to take this course for several reasons, but the main one being the use of digital technology such as video and Skype to improve the learning experience for my students. The question I have about the course is: For the big assignment (35%)-Designing a technology-enhanced Connected Classroom Experience, are we able to show this design to other students in the class via Skype, Youtube, or Adobe Connect?
Comment: You are on the right track for incorporating technology in to your project, however in this medium, I think you need to consider asynchronous technologies. Consider why we use a discussion board and there are no synchronous activities. For your connected-classroom experience, you need to consider very carefully the ability of others to participate in real time. If it is a blended course with a classroom full of kids, that is one experience. If you want to connect with others in real-time, that is another experience.
Question: How might the academic readings and discussions in this course support my ability to make sound decisions and ask good questions about how technology is utilized by the staff and students at my school?
Comment: Your question is useful and incorporates the materials for the course. I encourage you to also ask your colleagues and students for their input. Their concerns and ‘deal-breakers’ are the real issues you will need to overcome and these may really surprise you.
Question: I look forward to learning more about how technology can both improve and be detrimental to home/school relationships. The school community I work in is very tight knit, however we also have very little interaction with those outside our school community. I am curious to know how this is something we can build upon, and what I can learn from the experience of others in the course. I have a strong interest in communication, so I am looking forward to the communication element of this course, and how it can build connections if used properly, and how the decrease in face to face interactions impacts this.
Comment: I can feel your desire to adopt new tools and your hesitancy in doing so. This is a tension that can be useful is making sure you are using tools that will do what you need them to do – that will serve your purposes, not create purposes simply based on their functionality. One issue that I have with technology, despite my love for it in Education, is that we sometimes get lost in the shiny things and lose sight of our actual needs. This is far easier to do that we realize.
I find that people attach values to new or different ideas before they understand them. This inevitably leads to discord and discomfort. My secret is to consider ideas for their own worth before any evaluation (think e-VALUE-ation). In this way, we can see the idea for its own usefulness or not, without clouding our judgement with preconceptions.
Question: I just wondered how you thought my experience may be impacted by not having an active role in a classroom while taking the course.
Comment: Well, this is a great challenge for you to finds ways to be connected to the community from home. It may not be your preferred way, but it is a common and increasingly desirable way to learn and study so that we can make the most of our lives.
For example, I teach online and am currently in Miami. I would love to teach this course F2F, but that would mean giving up my amazing life in Dominica and missing out on the adventures of surviving a Cat 5 hurricane and being evacuated on a Russian cruise ship!
So, my advice is to embrace your decisions and explore how technology can enhance both your ability to be a parent and to support students.
Question: I'll now be creating a classroom setting for clients. I think my questions creating a technology-enabled classroom for adult learners? Can I use this one on one? How do I use this when I'm seeing different clients and learners each day? My goal with be "How to implement technology-driven learning in a non-traditional classroom setting for adult learners" and "gaining leadership and applying in a professional setting" ... this feels very big and broad but I feel I can begin to pull it apart as the course continues.
Comment: I think you have a marvelous opportunity to explore some truly cutting-edge research into competency based education with adults and professionals. I am working on the use of electronic portfolios to support competency based activities and demonstrations of competency. This is highly relevant for medical professionals including residents and physicians, and they are common already in the nursing profession. I think you could explore the use of similar tools to support your clients and get them to be able to track their own activities and the use these reflections as a means of assessing their performance.
In terms of collaborative learning and a student-centered approach, I encourage you to explore some of the work around Appreciative Inquiry and portfolios for demonstrations of competency. These two areas provide a focus for interacting with others, and then the tools you will need to actually do this work will be easier to chose from among the many etools out there on the internet.
Question: The question that I want to investigate concerns ways that I can design and facilitate “authentic collaborative learning” that engages students. I can envision this course supporting me in articulating, facilitating and implementing a connected environment where students, staff and families are involved in the learning process.
Comment: I did a lot of work in Sharjah with professional teachers from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon, and of course the UAE. I let them guide the process as I was unaware of the many challenges they faced in collaborating and working with internet-based tools. Once they were able to articulate their needs to me, we could then explore the tools needed to get the work done.
Question: Are there experiences or technology tools that are appropriate for connecting a sensitive culture?
Comment: Well, you pose some interesting questions. I have spent years working in the UAE with female students and teachers in girls-only high schools and so am acutely aware of the concerns of a sensitive culture.
One issue that is always difficult is the need to acknowledge the individuality of our students. This is far more problematic that it might appear. How do we let students grow and be individuals while trying to instill community values? The challenge is to be honest and open. Ultimately, it is about trust – trusting the students to make the right decisions of their own free will - trusting them to evaluate information on their own without our influence – trusting them to be their own person.
These are difficult challenges -there is no way around it. I look forward to working with you on these. This is at the very core of the purpose of education – to set us free.