Thursday, November 6, 2014

POTCert Week 10: Classroom Management and Facilitation

Discussion topics: class facilitation and how a CMS/LMS may impact pedagogy, class design, and class management

  1. Lisa M Lane, Insidious Pedagogy (2009)  
  2. Terry Anderson and Jon Dron's  Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy (2011)
  3. Ko & Rossen, Teaching Online: A Practical guide, Chapter 11: Classroom Management and Facilitation

I remember the first course that I've ever run in 1992. All the educational technology I had at my disposal at the time was a white board with colored dry-wipe markers, paper and pens. My responsibility was to train high school graduates who'd been recruited to work in a bank so that they were ready to start working at the different branches. I thought no amount of lecturing, writing on the board or even discussions alone was going to help them become anything close to ready. So, I created sample forms, paper money, some customer profiles and customer scenarios and we played Bank. They learned and enjoyed it. What led me to create that simulation was the learning objectives and the activities I knew were necessary to achieve them.

While this example was not online, it shows clearly that while knowing what tools and options are available in a classroom or a LMS is important and will have an impact on my decisions I cannot allow it to dictate a style of training less than useful for achieving the objectives . What I usually do in f2f courses (also applicable to online courses) is, as I am deciding on the activities based on learning objectives and the pedagogical style that I think is most effective, I look at the course venue or classroom and survey the resources. If I find that the resources for any of the activities are not available I do two things:

1- think of alternative activities or ways that would work with the existing resources without compromising the learning.
2- look into the possibility of obtaining the resources that I originally needed.

New online teachers must not only learn how to use the new tools that fit with their style and objectives but also regularly look at what else is there and how it is used by other teachers. While new technology and tools do not make a good course if the pedagogy is not sound, it is important to keep an eye on what can enrich or enhance the activities and the learning.

But, is it better to use and LMS or use the tools available on the open Web? I lost my fascination with LMSs many years ago, once I discovered how dry, limited, closed and sometimes expensive they were compared to all the open tools on the web such as wikis, voice threads, video conferencing, video blogs, twitter etc. However, I've changed my mind again. I found that newer versions of the big LMSs nowadays have most of the great tools integrated in them. Still, I noticed that many educators speak negatively about using an LMS and call it a Walled Garden, a place that keeps teachers and students from interacting with and learning from the outside world. Personally, I think it's may be an advantage to have a home in the LMS and go out to explore and learn on the open Web. I wonder if the LMS can be designed to have a home with windows and doors that can be opened and closed whenever it's appropriate and a garden that's open to the Web.

Whether we use tools on a LMS, on the open Web or both, the important thing is how we use them to create an effective course utilizing appropriate pedagogical styles.

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