Sunday, November 23, 2014

POTCert Week 12: Open Education



In 2009, searching for new tools and ideas for training and learning online, I came across a blog that listed 100 free tools. Three of the tools I discovered then that are particularly relevant to my thoughts about this week's topics are Khan Academy, Twitter and Secondlife.

Flipped Classroom
Discovering the Khan Academy and looking for information about what it was, how it started and why teachers thought it was great introduced me, for the first time, to the "Flipped Classroom" expression. It seemed like educators around the world were in general excited about it, but with some raising concerns on blogs and twitter about how this may overload students with extra work. Whichever side they were on, I was and still am surprised that they thought it was something totally new. Some of my best teachers throughout my school years, even as early as in 6th grade, used that technique of asking us to read through material in preparation for a class, then in class we had two-way Q and A sessions as well as discussions and exercises that allowed us to test and consolidate our understanding. I used similar technique in training whenever I thought it useful. But then I noticed that those who usually talk about a flipped classroom do so when the technique involved using video lectures. I had several questions that this week's material allowed me to revisit.

  1. Is the Flipped Class a new idea? I honestly don't think so. I believe that it is a technique that many teachers have been using all along (much older than even this Wikipedia about Flipped Classroom page seem to indicate) that just got enhanced and made very visible and attractive by the possibilities that the Web tools bring.
  2. Is the class Flipped based on the material the students use to prepare for the lesson or more specifically on them using Video Lectures? I think not. To me, a Flipped Classroom is about where and the learning starts. The students don't wait until they go to class for the learning process to start, instead they start at home. What kind of activity or content is used at home is a question that, as I thought about the validity of my own answer, generated a completely new question. So, the answer that I kept thinking about is that there are many options of material to be used at home for a flipped classroom and not only videos. And the new question that is also in a way part of the answer is. Video about what a Flipped Classroom is.
  3. What type of pedagogy does a Flipped Classroom applies? The more I think about it the more I am convinced that a Flipped Classroom can apply any of the Education Theories. Well at least I can think of examples of how behaviorism (Text books, Video Lectures) and constructivism/constructionism (research, experiment, find answers to, make/create) are applied in a Flipped Classroom, but can connectivism be applied?  I need to think this a bit more. 
 In my opinion, like any other type of activity used in education, the usefulness of the Flipped Classroom depends on how it's designed to enhance the learning based on the learning objectives and the pedagogical purpose. I know that in my courses there are sessions that would've been completely ruined by the Flipped Classroom style :) .

Open Education
It's interesting to explore what the word Open means not only to the educators who offer open courses but also to the learners who enroll into them. Open content, Open Teaching, Open for any one to enroll and participate and more. One of the aspects of open that I consider to be very important is the ability to enroll any time from any place which allows for an always learning opportunities. 

Secondlife was one of my first experiences of an environment where teaching and learning are open and always on. In Secondlife I found courses that ranged from Programming to Cooking offered mostly free of charge by residents of the Virtual World who came from all over the world, which meant that whatever the time zone, there was something available. The teachers were not necessarily professional teachers in real life but residents of the Virtual World who taught others what they had expertise in.

Alec Couros in the video that Cris Crissman shared talks about what open means to him as making the learning visible. I think in some cases that is true same as in a f2f classroom but from experience the learning in MOOCs is not always visible. As the article quoted one of the participants, I personally lurked a lot, participated only when I felt I comfortable and I learned.

What I really appreciated about George Siemens's post about the differences and similarities between the original MOOCs and the ones offered by major universities like Stanford, MIT and Harvard through Coursera and Edx, is, contrary to that fans of the original MOOCs, he sees the value of both and he recognizes that both types are still evolving. In fact, I had the chance, this year, to experience the difference that has already taken place since he wrote that post in 2012. I enrolled in one of the Stanford courses offered through Coursera and 2 MIT courses offered through Edx. The coursera ones were clearly very traditional Beahviorist while the MIT ones were very Constructivist/Constructionist style and used the connectivist. I found the way the MIT courses interesting and encouraging however, unfortunately, so far I have been able to only sample those courses instead of participating fully, something that I intend to do as soon as I get another opportunity.

One of the most important benefits of MOOCs is the opportunity they present the learners and educators to create and expand their learning networks. Here's a video interview with George Siemens explaining the original MOOCs and what he thinks are the main benefits. It was through Secondlife that I discovered and participated in several learning events including MOOC and other courses. It was through a MOOC that I found POTCert. Within the open courses and learning networks one of the most important tools that allows for the creation and development of  as well as maintaining the connection with the learning network is Twitter. Honestly without a tool such as Twitter I am not sure how the connectivist style open courses would work.

End of Course Presentation
Writing this post helped me to finally find a topic that I would like to create a presentation about. I decided to choose between Flipped Classroom and Open Education.

1 comment:

  1. You've clearly mastered cutting through all the complexity surrounding an issue/topic to find a simple but elegant explanation.

    On flipped classrooms, you made the connection between the Khan Academy and the recent interest in what's being called the flipped model but really should be know as pre-class preparation. The current flipped does seem to require passive viewing of a video rather than active engagement with a question/issue. It's this pre-class engagement that make the collaborative in-class experience so valuable. That's such an apt insight that flipped can represent any of the learning theories.

    btw You'd appreciate Derek Muller's work on how to make truly engaging science videos. Khan could take a lesson.

    And that's fascinating the you discovered MOOCs via Second Life. Second Life in its heyday was an amazing place to learn with so many seminars and workshops offered weekly. ISTE (International Society of Technology Education) invested heavily and always seemed to have interesting sessions offered.

    I don't find that educational element to be strong now and many universities are cutting back on their use of Second Life. We just lost one of our islands at NC State. Are you seeing the same?

    Finally, you're so right to point out that MOOCs have evolved from the Connectivist or cMOOCs that Siemens, Downes, and Cormier began to the xMOOCs or more behaviorist MOOCs. I've also tried many of both types (note that I realize that you really can't categorize these since MOOC is unique. Conole has developed a framework for assessing MOOCs across twelve dimensions ). I find that I vary my level of committment according to what I want to learn and what my schedule allows. So I may be totally engaged in some MOOCs but only lurk in others. Regardless, I always find value in the experience.

    The beauty is that many MOOCs are now offered each year. I've been lurking in Coursera's Modern Poetry with Al Filreis for two years now and thoroughly enjoyed it, but next year I'm going to totally immerse myself in it!

    I'll look forward to seeing your final project. You've got a good start on both topics here.

    Also, I couldn't agree more about the value of Twitter. It's the best professional development tool I've ever had!