Face-to-face to Online - A Process

I've been way behind on my blog reading but have been learning loads converting a face-to-face course into an online one. My key learning point from the last couple of week is not to underestimate the time and effort it takes to do this. Overall, it's very rewarding. This is especially true as the lecturer I am working with is receptive to the process and happy to learn about everything that's an offer. I thought I'd record here the process we have gone through so far:

- I learn about the course
- I demonstrate the organisation VLE we are supposed to be using
- We decide where to house the course - The VLE with Web 2.0 linked in where necessary
- We talk through the activities used on each face-to-face day. Each activity is unpicked and I suggest and demonstrate the options available online
- I set up the course online
- Timings are set and activities are edited

Actually, we haven't finished and the last 3 points are currently being worked up through several iterations. Much of the time is taken with distilling the activity to what's most important and addressing that above everything else. Another big issues is ensuring making it right timing-wise. At the heart of this issue is transferring the synchronous to asynchronous. It sounds straightforward to try and replicate any face-to-face discussion online in a forum of some sort. You could do the odd one synchronously but largely this will need to be asynchronous and with any asynchronous discussion you need to give it time to develop. I favour two weeks for any subject but one week often has to do. So, if you have 4 discussions during 1 face-to-face day and you want to keep all of these online, you will need 4 weeks at least. Hopefully, timeframes are not as pressing as time spent - which needs to be comparable with face-to-face. All this needs to be carefully thought through.

One of the other main things I am trying to do is mix things up and use a wide a range of Web 2.0 tools as possible. You shouldn't really do things for the sake of it so I'm trying to ensure suitability and appropriateness. However, there is an evangelical element to it. I want people to experience a new learning tool to show how good it is! Show how easy it is! It makes it harder to be tied to a less than impressive VLE but they are getting better as they cobble together some Web 2.0-like tools to keep up with the real world and I can link to outside tools easily.

Learning about TPACK

I went to an interesting seminar yesterday run by Punya Mishra where I learnt about TPACK - Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The A is present to make a better sounding word. Basically, it's what educators need to know in order for effective integration of technologies into their teaching.

“Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between all three components. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator).” Punya MIshra’s website

As with any model or theory that rings true with me, this is not really telling me anything new. But it articulates one of the fundamental issues facing education. And articulates it very well.

How do we address this? Well, firstly I guess people in position like me need to help educators use learning technologies appropriately by not just showing them how to use the tools, but also learning about and helping them integrate it into their course. It’s a two-way process that requires the educator to involve the Learning Technologist in the learning design helping him/her understand the learning process with the LT helping the educator understand the essence of a particular tool.

Interestingly, Punya didn’t advocate a presentation of the TPACK model to teachers. It’s useful for us to understand the process we are trying to get the educators to go through. But it’s not necessary to draw the circles. I’m not sure you should hide things but he’s right that if you talk too much theory most people switch off.

One other good learning point centres around repurposing. We repurpose any technology for our own ends. This is true and obviously so but I really like its simplicity. Presenting things simply is very, very important and a skill that I constantly strive for.

Web Squared comments

I have learnt a lot from reading Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On by O'reilly and Battelle. It may be business orientated but it's given me insight into the future and a different perspective on the essence of Web 2.0. However, when I went back over it and thought about some of the main points with education in mind, I didn't get a great deal of insight. But one point is worth exploring:

Web 2.0 is all about harnessing collective intelligence
Yes, indeed. Web Squared talks about how applications get better the more they are used. The tools learn and use the user contributions. The key phrase here is harnessing collective intelligence. For me, this reinforces my belief in the collaborative/constructivist pedagogies. You could say that Web 2.0 is a collaborative/constructivist approach to the internet. An approach that people have voted for en masse. Similarly, you could liken Web 1.0 (if that's a phrase) to didactic teaching. No input from the user into the static html.

So what for education? Well, the above is my biggest learning point. But conceptually educators need to get used to the idea of constant improvements and updates and actively engaging in this process themselves. Putting up with a static VLE for years and years isn't what we want to be doing in 2009.

Some interesting stuff on how the Web learns from bodies of data. This is useful to know and you can see how the semantic Web will take shape from this. However, there is nothing profound here for education that springs to mind except how exciting some of the tools look. Definitely some educational potential here. If only everyone had an iphone!

My PLE update

I've revisited my PLE document and updated some areas. It was useful to reflect on how my working practices have changed. Not just from April to now, but also from a year ago to now. The way I learn has been invigorated by my engagement with Web 2.0. Instead of reading academic journal and JISC documents intermittently, I now engage almost daily with the the latest Learning Technology news and opinion. I won't spell out for you which is better.

Overall, my core tools are Igoogle, googlereader, bloglines, delicious and blogger.