So, the month of Online Learning approaches and I have to admit that I’m rather nervous about this one. It’s something I’ve never completely bought into and I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that, one day, a machine or computer could take my job! I’ve split this month’s entry into ‘Week One’ and ‘Week Two’ and then sub-categorised the different aspects of the course, hopefully making things a little easier to digest…so, without further delay, here we go!
Glossary – This was a great idea in principle, but rule number one of teaching is to bring things to life. Independent learning is more suitable for a certain age group (research has suggested that 18-23 year olds learn best independently) so this kind of list would undoubtedly have been a ‘mark section as complete’ without reading properly for most college and school students.
Learning online – In my experience, this leads to a shallow level of understanding (I remember it for around three days and then struggle to recall what I even researched to begin with!) As suggested in the MOOC we tend to learn better when we approach something practically. It’s very rare that as a teacher I stand at the front of the class and talk at my students as a way of teaching. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes needs must for more complex tasks, but I tend to limit these talks to around five minutes before setting the students a task to do things practically themselves. This gives students a chance at discovering and uncovering answers for themselves and tends to make things much more memorable.
Saying that, I do use Google to define words that I’m unsure of and this can be both useful and efficient, especially when you lead a pretty hectic life. But it’s an endless cycle: as mentioned, once learnt, I’m probably going to need to Google the same thing again a week later.
Learning effectively – This is where I find online courses difficult. I find that a ‘conducive environment to learning’ is anywhere but the internet. Why I hear you ask? Well the answer would be a little thing called procrastination – something I happen to specialise in. If I’m studying online, I find it just as easy to research as I do to scroll endlessly through Facebook for 4 hours watching videos of talking cats…or dogs…or any other animal that happens to do something funny.
Learning through videos – Even at 26 years old, I feel I’m a little old-fashioned and perhaps outdated! I don’t mind videos at all, but I don’t think anything will ever come close to replicating group discussions in class. I often digress massively in conversations but this helps me to develop a holistic understanding of a range of topics, some of which I had never intended to discuss. The social aspect of learning, for me, is perhaps the most significant and I’m not sure online courses will ever replace this.
Assessment – Perhaps it’s just me, but the fact that I got a number of the questions wrong on the quiz-type assessments tells me that I’m not a particularly strong online learner. In all honesty I wasn’t taking notes, which is what I usually do, but then the cynic in my asks, “Why do you need to? It’s all there on the screen, just replay it!”. Again, another issue I’ve uncovered with online learning…it makes me lazy!
Communicating Online – I really hate to sound cynical but I must admit that the idea of communicating with people I don’t know is rather unsettling. I’ve never really felt comfortable conversing in online forums and I feel that learning perhaps best takes place when we’re feeling safe and comfortable (Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ reinforces this idea – I’m a total sucker for theory). It’s not Netiquette I have a problem with, perhaps it’s the idea that someone might completely shoot my ideas down and destroy all sense of confidence that it has taken me years to build up.
Wikipedia – As a teacher, Wikipedia is my arch nemesis! I was always scolded by my lecturers at university for even whispering the name: To suggest that an idea or conversation stemmed from something I had read on Wikipedia was labelled blasphemous! Saying this, I’m open to students using Wiki as a starting point – use wiki to get your general idea but then research it further, and more comprehensively, to consolidate and check your facts!
So that’s another entry done and dusted – By the way, I realise how whiny I became towards the end of the second week: I’m clearly not ready for all this computer stuff. I think I’ll leave that to all the whippersnappers that I teach!