Friday, May 11, 2012

Terms, definitions, names...now put it it to good use

Ahh the quest for knowledge. We open up the mind, we fill it up with good stuff. We define what it all means and label it. We reshape what it looks like and then relabel it again. We explore a deeper level of it and then find the winning recipe. We shut the lid. Or do we? Hopefully not.

© Abi Woldhuis
I do find learning all about teacher presence, cognitive presence, social presence all very interesting in the context of online learning. I question if it is different to a face to face context. Some yes, some no. I do love the notion that teacher presence in online learning is not about how much the teacher responds to the online participants. It is about a lot more. It's the whole package. The preparation, the timing of activities, exploration, interaction and synthesis of the information learned. Yet, wait...there is more. It is about creating engagement, trust, delving deeper, promoting new search queries and critically analysing that. Psyched out yet? We have Communities of Inquiry where people come together to explore their ideas. There is still more, there are the different phases of how to do all of this - such as in the Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) where we the phases consist of triggering if the event or start of learning and engage learners. They then move to exploration of the material presented, testing out their thoughts and ideas. An effective online facilitator will move participants to the phase of integration where various research ideas are brought together, higher order thinking skills applied in to order to build ideas and extend thinking. Resolution being the final stage sees participants firming up the ideas they thrashed about into formalised ideas and resolutions.

What an enormous task to get it right! Do it well and you have engaged, enthused, active learners collaborating together and feeling good about the process. Do it poorly and learners disengage, become frustrated and don't share the full benefit. Online learning is reliant on effective teacher presence bringing in social and cognitive presence. How do we achieve that and develop excellent online pedagogy? There is no winning recipe but it does require hard work, careful planning, professional development, feedback, willingness to learn, clear goals and desired outcomes for learners, trust, accountability, collaboration, effective facilitation, discussion, investment of time in people, open minded attitude and a certain level of being an expert on relevant topics.
Is it worthwhile? Absolutely.

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