Digital Learning, a work in progress

I have been taking an online class, titled ‘Digital Learning Transitions’ for K-12 educators by the Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Friday Institute, and it’s fascinating to see where the discussion of the participants is taking me.

There are different kinds of schools represented, and technology instructors facing different issues.  Some of the key themes they have spelled out are:

  • Leading with education initiatives —not technology initiatives;
  • A student-centered focus in teaching methods
  • The need for professional learning opportunities
  • The need for leadership is this area
  • Earning buy-in from teachers and admins in schools, PLUS buy-in from parents, community, school board members.

I was particularly excited when I was approached by a board member last week who had seen some of the initiatives in my class, and wanted to know how the board could help.  If I make a wish list, it would be a very long one. Speaking of buy-in, I am fortunate to have major backing from my education IT department.

But in the discussions with fellow instructors online , I have realized that there’s no need to rush to incorporate every tool, every platform into the curriculum.

My goal is to make my computer and technology class, student-lead and support the work of class teachers. Yes I love to teach them how to create Wikis and e-books, podcasts and presentations, but these are just ‘media’ –the vessels for the content and the knowledge– that students can use to help them get more excited about the language arts, social studies or math classes.

In case you are interested, the MOOC class began on September 30, and ends November 24.

MOOC obsession hits fever pitch

It’s impossible to miss the hot topic in education these days, on the MOOCs –the awful acronym for a fascinating innovation in education known as Massive Open Online Courses.

Massive, in term of how they scale into not just tens of thousands, but millions.

Now that Thomas Friedman has weighed in, its official. The MOOC epidemic is more cause of a state of emergency than the flu virus. However, the contra argument is also worth thinking through: that the political economy of MOOCs is too quick to hail it as the next best thing.

  • I am more interested in how a new generation of tech-ed entrepreneurs (small-scale ones) might hack the model beyond Higher Ed –for introductory classes, and after-school programs, say.
  • I see the value of the MOOC model in its openness, not scale. I like the fact that students use the platform to create their own conversations, and local support to weaker students following the class. Friedman cites this one, and there are plenty of these floating around.

“Agarwal of edX tells of a student in Cairo who was taking the circuits course and was having difficulty. In the class’s online forum, where students help each other with homework, he posted that he was dropping out. In response, other students in Cairo in the same class invited him to meet at a teahouse, where they offered to help him stay in the course.”

That these students feel empowered to move their ‘class’ offline (the tea house in this case), speaks to how much the traditional sage-on-stage model is waiting to be tweaked.

When students don’t need to raise their hand and wait until the instructor notices, when conversations in the class could be switched on, not off, that’s where the learning revolution might lie.