Blended Opportunities

A post this week by Wes Fryer caught my eye. He said: “I tire of dealing with folks who continue to not only cling to, but vigorously defend the anachronistic, 19th century teaching model of “asynchronous, non-interactive” face-to-face learning.” He had a draft matrix of teaching processes that specified activities as synchronous versus asynchronous and interactive versus non-interactive. I built on his framework and added some additions below:

As Will Richardson and Jeff Nugent noted this past week, we are in a transformative time. Will noted that some 75% of educators in this country do not realize that they can have a network. I would add that many of the 25% that do realize that they can have a network are blocked by their school systems from using that network…but that has been discussed before and hopefully will change as school board members die off. Both Will and Jeff talked about technology as a second language, with Jeff looking for ways to translate for the 75% who do not yet appreciate the transformation occurring around them.

In thinking about this language issue and Wes’s comment about the 19th Century model of teaching, it once again raises in my mind Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice. They noted that good practice in undergraduate education:

– Encouraged student-faculty contact
– Encouraged cooperation among students
– Encouraged active learning
– Gave prompt feedback
– Emphasized time on task
– Communicated high expectations
– Respected diverse talents and ways of learning

Non-interactive lecture violates the 7 Principles, and many faculty have worked hard to modify their lectures to add Classroom Assessment Techniques and other practices that make them more interactive. However, they miss many opportunities in which technology could play a role.

Many administrators and faculty equate technology as a point-to-point add-on to a class. For instance, they see adding a classroom capture system such as AnyStream as a vehicle for distance learning rather than an enhancement and study aid for local students. Some universities are adding YouTube Channels, but if it simply replicates passive delivery of lectures, an opportunity for learning is lost.

The framework above lists numerous tools and web applications that can add interactivity to learning environments. One of the more compelling aspects of many of these tools is the ability by students and the larger world to comment on and interact with student work. Wes has demonstrated some amazing uses of VoiceThread to connect students and their global audiences. I am amazed at comments I receive through SlideShare. The Google family of applications have collaboration at their heart. I am a junkie and feed off the new learning I see everyday from my very rich and global network. RSS feeds have opened up the blogosphere and provided new avenues for instruction.

Wes has some nice resources at his Blended Learning Wiki, and learning is increasingly blended. Jeff blew me away about six months ago as we debated “What is online learning?”. His answer – all learning today is at least in part online learning – you cannot separate online from offline. As part of translating for the faculty with which we work, we need to expand on their desire to add interactivity by introducing and modeling the uses of Web 2.0 applications and help them see that the world indeed is online.

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