Connected Learning

connected learning COVER With a hat-tip to Jeff Nugent for bringing this new ebook to my attention, I have just finished reading Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, edited by Antero Garcia.  This book is a collection of narratives from primarily K-12 teachers within the National Writing Project, openly sharing their views of “what education can look like.”  The many authors go to some lengths to note that this book is not meant to be “best practices”…but rather “working examples” that model practices within specific contexts of learning.

It was interesting that this book starts with the premise that “best practice” is a misnomer.  In our GRAD-602 class, our students typically raise their desires for “less theory and more practical”…and when given a choice of five books to read about “teaching”, the majority chose Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do.  They want “the best practices”!

Antero states up front:

“…Typically, publications about or for teachers highlight “best practices.” The buzzword-driven form of highlighting a superior approach, to me, ignores the cultural contexts in which teacher practices are developed. The best practice for my classroom is going to be different both from a classroom anywhere else and from my classroom a year down the road. Context drives practice. As such, this is not a how-to guide for connected learning or a collection of lesson plans. The pages that follow are, instead, meant to spur dialogue about how classroom practice can change and inspire educators to seek new pedagogical pathways forward…”

This idea of context really resonated with me!  It applies equally to teachers and students, and in this book, the authors suggest that every teacher become a “designer-in-context”, engaging students as they help co-design the course.  A very constructionist (and connectivist) approach!

Much of this book flowed from an earlier study by Mizuko Ito and others: Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design.  This study defined “connected learning” as:

“…socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.”

The authors frame their approach as one that breaks through an educational process that is “constrained, silenced, and stifled” – moving instead to one that emboldens teachers while meeting the individual needs of students.  Rather than suggesting “how” one might approach teaching, it provides a series of “whys” – a purposeful approach to sparking creativity.

There are six chapters in the book, each with some underlying foundation followed by three cases.

  • Interest-Driven Learning
  • Peer-Supported Learning
  • Academically Oriented Teaching
  • Production-Centered Classrooms
  • Openly Networked
  • Shared Purpose

Nicole Mirra discussed interest-driven learning.   Her premise is that students will gain more knowledge and higher order skills when the learning originates from issues or activities that innately captivate them.  This “power and possibilities of tapping into students’ passions” reminded me of the premise of our freshmen experience here at VCU, in which students develop their writing and research prowess through self-directed exploration.  Mediated through technology as a shared activity, interest-driven learning occurs at multiple, mutually constitutive levels – personal, interpersonal, and institutional.  Interest-driven learning can serve as a gateway to the other opportunities below.

Cindy O’Donnell-Allen then looked at peer-supported learning, sharing this infographic.


Cindy built from a premise that knowledge does not reside with the individual, but is socially constructed.  Her view of 21st Century learning involves the 3 C’s – collaboration, creativity, and communication.  She also notes that simply putting students together in groups does not naturally lead to collaboration.  It requires the mindful guidance of the teacher, intervening as required.  One factor she noted that increased success rates was to have students reflect on their collaboration.  She also suggested that teachers:

  • Pose the right questions and teach students to do the same.
  • Create inclusive environment to facilitate peer-supported learning.
  • Use new media to amplify and push out learning.
  • Make it about the kids, not the standardized tests.

Antero Garcia explored academically oriented teaching.  He noted the disconnect between forms of learning in traditional classes and the social and cultural contexts of today’s students.  Academically prepared youth should be able to “shape-shift” their skill sets to meet an evolving world.  A word he uses is “authentic” – reframe the learning to make it authentic and relevant to our new media students.

Clifford Lee provided examples of production-centered classrooms.  He quoted Ito’s report to suggest that production-centered classrooms facilitate the use of “[d]igital tools [to] provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways.”  I loved that the word “tinker” showed up throughout this chapter…though he does note the need to keep it relevant – ensure that students see meaning and purpose behind what they create.  A good example to go with the cases show in this chapter would be David McLeod‘s Project710 class.

My Twitter hero @budtheteacher – also known as Bud Hunt – explained the concept of “openly networked”…finding value in the wealth of open resources he was both consuming and creating via sharing online.  Learning in this environment is cross-institutional, has multiple points of entry and outreach, and has interactions both in and out of school.  Regarding “open,” he noted that “[t]houghtful teachers choose intentionally what, when, and how they share what they are curious about and what demands their students’ attention.”  To do this, teachers need to be purposefully transparent, while practicing “productive eavesdropping” on the posts of others.

Finally, Danielle Filipiak discusses shared purpose.  She suggested that students “…thrive when surrounded by people who support them in pursuing their own interests and passions, which may be very different from what districts, states, or teachers impose.”  Student engagement with the wider web-based community expands their audience and knowledge base, setting up purposeful encounters that can foster civic engagement.

Antero ends by noting that the practices suggested in this book can involve risk.  They break the old rules.  He also suggests those rules need breaking, stating:

“…I remember distinctly thinking “those students are doing it wrong.” … I didn’t understand that I was naturally ascribing my own rules of use on a cultural practice that was not my own…As such “doing it wrong” is culturally constructed and important to remember when we think about how we will roll out sustained connected learning support for teachers nationally and globally.”

In the afterword, Christina Cantrill of the National Writing Project, noted that her website and “…this book start from the argument that, in an increasingly interconnected and networked world, digital is how we write, share, collaborate, publish, and participate today and in the future.”  She goes on to note:

“…This is why, as Antero Garcia tells us, there are more than “best practices” here. There are important practices and effective-in-their-context practices, as well as “there is a kernel of truth here, but maybe we will approach it differently next time” practices. These are active practices, practices that require opportunities to test, to tinker, to innovate, and to dynamically assess and reiterate…

…No longer is the teacher the only conveyor, the library the only holder, or the museum the only curator of knowledge. Instead the ability to convey, to hold, and to curate now is in the hands of many. This also is why the social and participatory framework of connected learning positions all learners, students, and teachers alike not only as consumers, but as makers.”

This is a book worth reading.  The authors hope to spur dialogue about what is possible in teaching…as do I.  I would value hearing your thoughts about connected learning and the contexts in which we find ourselves teaching today.



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Creating Community as a Resource

Last night in our GRAD-602 class, we explored the question of how important is it to our “teaching” that we understand something about how people “learn”.  Jeff Nugent led this class and had students at their tables first develop their beliefs about learning, and then mapped them on our wall:


As Enoch Hale, Jeff and I debriefed the class this morning, we realized that our podcast today might be an opportunity to make explicit some of the underlying aspects of GRAD-602.  Our design hopes to help perspective faculty first develop a self identity as a teacher, surface their beliefs and begin to critically question them, and equally important, recognize that our use of discourse is beginning to build a practice of seeing each other as a resource within a community of practice.

Our students are, I think, typical of new faculty – they want McKeachie’s Teaching Tips or the one page handout of best practices.  What they have not yet begun to see is that teaching is a lifelong journey, and our fellow colleagues are some of our best resources.  Our practice of weekly debriefs of our class gives us an opportunity to think metacognitively about our teaching, which translates into concrete actions to take in future classes.

So … an interesting discussion this morning.  Give a listen, and use the comment feature to add to the conversation!


The Content Pedagogy Sweet Spot

Last night in GRAD-602, we had our class explore how to develop and grow knowledge about teaching within their own discipline, opening up the idea that knowledge about teaching is in fact its own unique domain.

We had the class in small groups examine a series of four snapshots of teaching situations and try to (1) infer the subject matter being taught, and (2) infer the teaching approach being used.


We then asked them to determine the connection between the subject matter and the teaching approach.  There was some fence sitting, but most felt that the content drove the approach.  We then used a series of vignettes to illustrate cases where a single set of approaches to teaching and an understanding of content just did not work for all situations or all students…which then led us to discussion about what Lee Shulman called Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or PCK.  Shulman suggested that this is:

(1) knowledge of how to structure and represent academic content for direct teaching to students;
(2) knowledge of the common conceptions, misconceptions, and difficulties that students encounter when learning particular content; and
(3) knowledge of the specific teaching strategies that can be used to address students’ learning needs in particular classroom circumstances

This morning, Laura Gogia and Dr. Enoch Hale sat down with me to continue discussing this “sweet spot” as Enoch noted.  Have a listen to our podcast:

Enoch will be back in our class next week.  His opening challenge to our students – “It is impossible to “cover” content.”  What are your thoughts …

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Perspectives on Teaching


This morning, Jeffrey Nugent, Laura Gogia and I met to debrief last night’s GRAD-602 class, and decided to discuss our perspectives on teaching as a podcast.  Last night in class, our students had shared their results in taking the Teaching Perspective Inventory, and the three of us had conducted that activity as well. The dominant perspective in our room was Apprenticeship (11), followed by Developmental and Nurturing (6 each), Transmission (4), with none in the perspective of Social Reform.  Our students also shared traits of teachers who had made a difference in their lives, and this surfaced some tensions between the desire for humanistic ideals and the realities of institutional pressures.

With that as a backdrop, we each noted in this podcast a teacher in the past who had an impact on our lives, and then explored further how our perspectives can serve as a lens for articulating our philosophy of teaching and learning.

Have a listen…


By the way, my own TPI results had Nurturing as the dominant perspective, with Transmission and Social Reform as recessive.


On the Teaching Perspectives Inventory website, my dominant perspective is interpreted as follows:

“Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head.

People become motivated and productive learners when they are working on issues or problems without fear of failure. Learners are nurtured in knowing that (a) they can succeed at learning if they give it a good try; (b) their achievement is a product of their own effort and ability, rather than the benevolence of a teacher; and (c) their learning efforts will be supported by both teacher and peers. Good teachers care about their students and understand that some have histories of failure resulting in lowered self-confidence. However they make no excuses for learners. Rather, they encourage their efforts while challenging students to do their very best by promoting a climate of caring and trust, helping people set challenging but achievable goals, and supporting effort as well as achievement. Good teachers provide encouragement and support, along with clear expectations and reasonable goals for all learners but do not sacrifice self-efficacy or self-esteem for achievement. Their assessments of learning consider individual growth as well as absolute achievement.”

I plan to update my “Philosophy of Teaching” this semester as this course unfolds, and this exercise has given me some fodder to chew on.  Through what perspective(s) do you view teaching?

Kicking Discussions Up A Notch

emerilEmeril Lagasse is always suggesting that when cooking you need to “kick it up another notch!”

The same could be said about online discussions.

After a couple of weeks tied up in faculty search interviews and conferences, our Center for Teaching Excellence study group on Community of Inquiry got back together Thursday, and we had a great session on the topic of online discussions. Our focus was centered on two articles we had read:

We continue to circle around the notion of cognitive presence within an online class.  As we have reviewed Garrison’s book, E-Learning in the 21st Century, and articles such as these two, it continues to be clear that a large number of online faculty equate engagement online with online discussions.  My online courses that I teach are discussion based…whether that discussion is in discussion boards, wiki discussions, or increasingly these days, blogs.  One of my go-to books for myself or for when working with faculty is Tisha Bender’s Discussion Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning: Theory, Practice and Assessment.  Tisha rightly notes that online education does not consist of throwing the technology of the day at students and telling them to go learn:

“…we can’t just throw technology at them and tell them to go ahead and use it without a well-defined rationale. And we can’t allow ourselves or our students to be lured by technologies that beckon us seemingly only because of the possibility of a new friendship. No, we need to carefully construct a new pedagogy, an adaptation of the old methods, so as to meaningfully engage students through digital technologies. (p. 66)”

Amen, Tisha!  I am a proponent of online discussions for engagement.

Yet, what is clear in the research is that discussions – left to their own devices – rarely lead to deep learning.

Garrison proposed the Practical Inquiry Model to build off Dewey’s work:

practical inquiry model

Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001)

The two articles we reviewed today both had limited studies, but suggest that discussions were good at initiating trigger events and exploration, but were not necessarily effective at creating integration and resolution for students.  As Darabi et al noted in the abstract:

“… the literature indicates that the conventional approach to online discussion – asking probing questions – does not necessarily advance the discussion through the phases of cognitive presence: triggering events, exploration, integration and resolution, which are crucial for deep knowledge construction…the structured strategy, while highly associated with triggering events, produced no discussion pertaining to the resolution phase. The scaffolded strategy, on the other hand, showed a strong association with the resolution phase. The debate and role-play strategies were highly associated with exploration and integration phases. We concluded that discussion strategies requiring learners to take a perspective in an authentic scenario facilitate cognitive presence, and thus critical thinking and higher levels of learning. (p. 216)”

The earlier Wang and Chen article basically dismissed the notion of resolution occurring in discussions, suggesting that resolution would occur elsewhere in the course…or perhaps even in another course or later in life.  We were troubled by that notion.  Personally, if I develop learning outcomes for a module or a course, I would like to design the learning activities to assist students in reaching resolution for their learning.

I do agree with the premise of both of these articles that discussions – left to their own devices – will not naturally lead to deep learning.  That suggests that we have to be mindful of our use of discussions in online courses.  They are not a replication or replacement for classroom discussions.  Crafting good questions and then actively facilitating discussions can potentially lead to the deeper learning outcomes we each desire.

Wang and Chen suggested fairly extensive ground rules:

  • Start dates and Cut off dates
  • Minimal number of posts — You need to comment on at least two other groups.
  • Support your arguments with evidence (established theories, empirical data, thought experiments, etc.).
  • Keep one point per short message
  • If no one answers your posting, you can send invitations to three students for responses.
  • You are not allowed to post before the second deadline.
  • You are encouraged to build on existing ideas by quoting and paraphrasing other people’s messages.
  • You must always reply to comments to your posts
  • If you have nothing more to add, wrap it up nicely with a concise summary.

When Bill Pelz gave the keynote two years ago at our first Online Summit, he noted similar rules.  One of Bill’s rules that I always liked was a requirement that when a student replied to another student, they had to change the subject line to capture the essence of their thought.  You did not see (Re: blah blah) in his discussions – every thread and reply had a different subject line – a technique that could assist with critical thinking.

FBscreenSo, it is incumbent in faculty who use online discussions (no matter the venue) to consider their practice and how they might proactively facilitate the ongoing discussions such that students move beyond trigger events and exploration (to use Garrison language) and develop processes for thinking critically about the subject matter…whatever that might be.  To me, that also suggests that faculty must become more active in the discussions and move beyond counting posts and giving credit.  Discussions need to be carefully crafted to be relevant and authentic for students and faculty alike.  Rubrics for discussions should suggest processes (and grades) for analysis and synthesis of multiple postings as well as processes for metacognition – getting students to think about their thinking.

Online discussions are not replacements for in class discussions.  They actually can be so much more.  Our job as faculty is to kick them up a notch!

As always, push back and let me know if you have problems with my convoluted reasoning!  🙂

{Graphics: Mark Petruska, Garrison, Paul Walsh}


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Serial Killers

A couple of years ago, Laura McLay had a post in her blog entitled “On Vampires and Stochastic Processes.”  Nice bit of reflection on the statistical possibilities of vampires.  What surprised her was the number of hits her blog had afterwards.  It seems a good provocative title can draw in numbers of readers.

Soooo…be interesting to see if my hits increase (or maybe the NSA / FBI will just pay me a visit…). 🙂

But this post has nothing to do with the latest James Patterson or Jeffrey Deaver novel.  It has everything to do with whether real learning is occurring in my online classes and the online classes of the faculty members with whom I consult, given that I have bought in to and used for years the concept (or “framework”) of Community of Inquiry.


Thanks to some research by our graduate fellow, we all read this week for our continuing conversations around the Community of Inquiry a 2003 article from Pawan and others entitled “Online Learning: Patterns of Engagement and Interaction Among In-Service Teachers”, as well as a 2013 article by Garrison and Akyol entitled “Toward the Development of a Metacognition Construct for Communities of Inquiry”.  Even though one was 10 years old, I had not previously read either, so I found them interesting.  I am continuing to question some of my basic assumptions regarding my own online teaching, which has always relied heavily on shared dialogue, first in discussion boards, and more recently in wiki-based discussions and blog posts and commenting.

Pawan’s article noted that without the explicit guidance and teaching presence of the instructor, students in the asynchronous discussions engaged primarily in “serial monologues” – presentations rather than conversations, with minimal effort to connect what they are saying with others.  Jeff Nugent stated it eloquently when he said that after a decade of asynchronous discussions, the standard in most online classes was “monologues masquerading as dialogues.”  The Pawan article looked at the interactions within the dialogue in three online classes, and found that discussions do not automatically become interactive and collaborative simply by virtue of being in a web-based 24/7 asynchronous medium.  While they found some discussions to stay on task, many were often one-way serial monologues.  Using the Practical Inquiry model, they found that online discussions were primarily focused in the first two phases of Trigger and Exploration, rarely rising to the levels associated with more critical thinking of Integration and Resolution.  In fact, they found no resolution responses in any of the three courses they examined.

Last week, I asked if inquiry equaled learning, and the Practical Inquiry model would seem to suggest that resolution is the ultimate goal of learning.  So, given my reliance on discourse and collaborative learning, would serial monologues and lack of resolution suggest that little learning occurred in my online classes?

I would like to think that I am a better “teacher” than that…

bright2In fact, I do routinely use the recommendations suggested by Pawan et al to structure online discussions and demonstrate overt instructor facilitation.  I have not however routinely required my students to self-code their responses, as Pawan suggested.  Interesting idea.  Yet I fear that my reliance on dialogue has simply facilitated serial monologues in too many of my classes.  Like the dinosaur to the left, I fondly remember some wonderful learning situations, but I also should admit that I have allowed many students to game me and game the system.  They dutifully post the required post, “comment” to the required number of classmates, and move on to the next class without really digging deep into the learning that could occur.

And if I allow some of my students to “get away” with serial monologues, am I guilty of poor teaching?

Do we need to kill the serial monologues?  Should I become a serial killer?

As I pondered this provocative thought, we continued our conversation today, circling back around to a more holistic view that learning in online classes comes from the whole and not just from a week to week discussion.  Online courses have to have multiple methods for assessing student learning, with dialogue being simply one facet of the course.  The second article by Garrison and Akyol actually had some interesting ideas around student self-assessment of their own knowledge of cognition, monitoring of cognition, and regulation of cognition.  It has me thinking about ways I could have students in online courses do more to assess their own learning, to think more about their thinking.

Now the question becomes, where does resolution occur if not in the dialogue?  Which led Jeff to raise the follow-on question – where is the RESEARCH about where resolution DOES occur in online classes?

That will be our starting point next week.  If anyone has good suggestions on research (inside or outside the CoI body of work) that points to how students resolve inquiry, please share it!

{Graphics: izquotes, Larry Gonick}



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Does Inquiry Equal Learning?

Our team continues to explore the theoretical framework of Garrison and others known as the Community of Inquiry.  As Karen Swan, Randy Garrison, and Jennifer Richardson note in “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework,” the CoI framework is “a process model of online learning.”


Swan goes on to say that this framework assumes that effective online learning, especially higher order learning, requires the development of community, and that the development of such a community is not a trivial challenge in the online environment.

This had us asking ourselves such questions as:

  • Do we believe this underlying assumption?
  • What is “community”?
  • How does a “community of inquiry” differ from other types of communities, including more social communities?
  • Does this focus on “inquiry” actually enhance learning?  Is there research to support this?
  • Should this framework form the basis for faculty development for online instruction?  Are there alternative models?  What research suggests the adoption of one model over another?

I have to admit that our discussions shook some of my core beliefs, because the Community of Inquiry framework has informed my online teaching for at least the past decade.  My colleagues have heard me categorically state that community is critical, that developing a community of learners takes effort, and that through my work with my students, I get to know them at a far deeper level…and draw out of them far deeper inquiry.

But where is the proof?  I have done few studies on my own students, and I have perhaps read with rose-colored glasses the work done by others…many articles of which seem to have as their genesis the team surrounding Randy Garrison.  Where indeed is the proof?

We spent some time differentiating between “community of inquiry” and a social community.  Within online learning, a CoI can certainly have social presence, but that does not necessarily equate to “friending” everyone in the class.  Rather, due to the textual basis of most online courses, design must take into consideration opportunities for open communication between students and with faculty.  Students need to “see” their fellow students and their instructor as real people…and fellow learners.  The “social” has more to do with developing trust between participants than it does with finding soul mates.

As an aside, for me there is a danger in this conversation…that of swinging so far away from the social aspects of learning that we also slide the “fun” out of learning.  Our students are adult learners, and particularly at the graduate level, pretty focused on outcomes.  They want to understand why they are doing something as much as they want to understand what they are doing.  But that does not mean – to me – that the process of learning cannot be enjoyable and sharable.  One reason I have gravitated to the use of blogs in my teaching is the enjoyment I have and that I perceive from my students as their thinking is made visible and shared.

Our team conversation moved around to metacognition.  If, as we noted last week, cognitive presence is rooted in the Practical Inquiry model, with social presence and teaching presence as drivers. then how do we as faculty make this process clear to our students?  Would having a metanarrative, or overarching conversation about our learning model, help adult learners better understand and succeed within our online design?  The adult learning theories from Malcolm Knowles would certainly suggest this.  Knowles identified six principles of adult learning:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

This to me is foundational…and given this, it suggests that in my work with faculty, I should assist them in considering how they might have this narrative with their students…given the online environment with both its challenges and its affordances.  I see the CoI framework as a reference model, not a recipe – a thought posted by Harold Jarche.  He noted that “A reference model is an abstract framework consisting of an interlinking set of clearly defined concepts produced by an expert or body of experts in order to encourage clear communication.”

Next week, we will continue our discussion on metacognitive educational elements, using as a basis for our conversation a 2003 article from Pawan and others, as well as a 2013 article by Garrison and Akyol.  Still working to make sense of this all…but it certainly is driving my deeper thinking, and for that, I thank my good colleagues in the Center for Teaching Excellence!


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Cogitating on Cognitive Presence

Our team study group continues to meet weekly to explore the Community of Inquiry framework.



As mentioned last week, we have all read Randy Garrison’s 2011 Second Edition of E-Learning in the Twenty-First Century.  Garrison asserts in his book that the framework has been researched enough to be called a theoretical framework.  We are still pushing back a bit on that, but reviewing the literature is interesting.   We have a collective Zotero library on CoI with some 17 articles to date (most contributed by our graduate fellow, Laura – much thanks!).

Our conversation yesterday focused my thinking around the particulars of the relationship between Cognitive Presence and the Practical Inquiry Model, which Garrison explores in Chapter 5.  Garrison noted that practical inquiry dates back to Dewey’s writings on reflective thinking, and that practical inquiry is closely aligned with critical thinking – a desired outcome of any educational process.

practical inquiry model

Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001)

As we talked, I was finding myself somewhat befuddled by the discourse, so I said let me draw it out on the board.  I ended up with the familiar Venn diagram, but with the four aspects of practical inquiry – trigger event, exploration, integration, and resolution – residing within Cognitive Presence.  Others then began to morph the drawing, with some suggesting a fluid animated vision or shifts of the circles for gears…with social presence and teaching presence as drivers for cognitive presence.

CoI and PIM combined

Searching around my laptop as the conversation continued, I found an article of interest published by Karen Swan, Randy Garrison, and Jennifer Richardson in 2009 – “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework.”  In this article, Swan and team lay out a table with the three presences, categories within each, and indicators.

CoI Categories

CoI categories and indicators; (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) – from Swan et al (2009)

Swan noted that much of the literature to date had focused on the role played by each presence rather than a holistic look at the interplay of all three together.  She noted that not only does the influences shift between them, but they also shift over time within a course and beyond a course.  The “learning” might kick in two to three courses later as continued integration and resolution occur.  This idea fit with our discussion.  In an online course, a blog post and resulting commentary for instance could be evidence of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence all interacting together.

We are going to continue to tease this out in our discussion next week, with everyone reading the Swan article.  After the discussion yesterday, I found another article from the good people in the SUNY Learning Network.  In “Learning Presence: Additional Research on a new conceptual element within the Community of Inquiry framework“, Peter Shea and eight colleagues suggest that “learning presence” should be incorporated into the existing framework, adding the element of learner self-regulation to the mix.

Shea revised CoI

Shea et al Revised Community of Inquiry model including “Learning Presence”

Laura noted that she had seen more recent articles that pushed back on this concept…so we have some additional research to do for next week!

Speaking of next week, I have signed up for another MOOC on Creativity, Innovation and Change.  Looks promising…and I like that they have three levels of involvement – Tourist, Explorers and Adventurers.  I plan to achieve at least Explorer…and may rise to Adventurer! I understand that more than 100,000 have signed up…and the map of participants is exciting!

Stay tuned for more on that!  Any thoughts on this Community of Inquiry reflection are welcome!


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Does Research Inform Teaching?

According to a new infographic shared by Paul Corrigan of Southeastern University, the answer is NO.

In “Grow the 8%“, Paul cites research that suggests that only a quarter of higher education professors use something other than lecture as their primary method of instruction, and only 8 percent of faculty take into account the research on teaching and learning.  The surveys by Fink and Bok are somewhat dated, so I wonder in this post-Web 2.0 world if these figures are still as accurate?

In our own work with faculty, we surveyed faculty that had completed a one-year institute with us on online teaching and learning.  57% self-reported that they had reviewed research studies on online teaching and learning.  This could suggest that once faculty members are sensitized to the value of research, a more significant percentage than 8% continue to use it.

Paul’s bottom line suggestion is that faculty members should read at least one good book on teaching and learning each year, and he lists some good books.  As I have frequently reviewed books in this blog, I would tend to agree with his recommendation!

I would be interested in your thoughts.  Do you agree with Paul’s findings?



{Graphic: Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed}


Rethinking Pedagogy

beethamIn my last post, I discussed how I was rethinking some fundamentals based on our White Paper.  “Rethinking” must be in vogue.  Yesterday, I received my copy of a new edition of a book edited by Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe – Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Century Learning (Routledge, 2013).

I am only a couple of chapters in so far, but I am finding it interesting.  First, all of the authors are either UK or Australian, giving a perspective that is not so USA-centric.  With England’s Open University and Australia’s unique distance program for the Outback, this perspective is worth giving a listen.  When I first started to teach online eighteen years ago, one of my mentors was Dr. Lindsay Barker, an educator from Australia.  And Lindsay was decidedly focused on pedagogy…not technology…though he was one of the first to help conceptualize using a brand new product – Lotus Notes – as a VLE.

I like the tone of this book.  The authors suggest that the theoretical concepts remain valid, but that pedagogy (which they broaden beyond youth to include adult learning) is tied to technologies of learning, and as these technologies evolve, the pedagogy should as well.  One comment that caught my eye in the Foreword was:

“…At the time of the first edition [2007], learning technologists were insisting that there was more to online learning than lectures on the web, and we should be looking to the active forms of learning that could be offered.  Since then, we have had the explosion of social media to connect learners to each other, there are more opportunities for user-generated content, and yet now there are even more lectures on the web…”

How true is that!?!?!

In rethinking pedagogy, the authors have attempted to use the term in the classic sense of guidance-to-learn.  They note that recent researchers have suggested that “learning” is superior to “teaching” but they make no apologies.  They note that there has always been content – whether that was the local library or the internet, but that most learning opportunities are enhanced when the learning is guided.  “Pedagogy is about guided learning, rather than leaving you to find your own way.”  So the teacher is front and center in this book.

Chapter 2 by Helen Beetham focuses on active learning in technology-rich contexts.  She noted that challenges facing online educators include recognizing the variance in learners and adapting to this variance rather than teaching to one level.  She suggests five types of learning activities appropriate for digital technologies:

  • Discovering
  • Developing and Sharing Ideas
  • Solving Problems, Developing Techniques
  • Collecting, Gathering, Recording, Editing
  • Working with Others

bloomspyramidShe includes a useful appendix that provides a taxonomy of digital literacy tied to Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For each level of the taxonomy, she provided examples of learning tasks with a digital literacy component, and relevant tools, applications, or services.

For instance, under Remembering, she suggested labeling diagrams, locating resources on the web and tagging them, and taking quizzes.  Tools included online whiteboards, electronic polling, and Google.

Moving up to Analyzing, she suggested activities where students identify patterns, using visualization apps or geotagging.  She also suggested the use of blogs for public debate around issues with links to evidence, as well as the use of mind-mapping software.

At the level of Creating, she suggested student generation of research projects, design of apps, or the creation of new communities of practice, using social media and web design software.  She noted that some have decried the “cut and paste mentality” of students, but she sees real value in guided tasks of aggregation, using techniques such as digital storytelling to have students make sense of their collections.  My colleague Bud Deihl would love that!

As I said, I am only two chapters in … so I have another fifteen to go.  But I am enjoying this book.  Be interested to hear from any others reading it.

[Graphics: Routledge, Samantha Penney}


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