This is my third post for EDTC 6104, Digital Learning Environments, and is essentially part two of the my post from yesterday. In this post, I reflect on the use of Twitter to collaborate with educational technology peers from around the world as part of the #ed1to1 event. In addition, as promised, I share an update on my digital learning environment action plan!
Online Conversations About #ed1to1 on Twitter
Over the past few days a number of students from different programs gathered together to embark in conversation spurred by Audrey Watters’ article, (25 Years Ago) The First One-to-One Laptop Program. Practically speaking, we gathered together across three days using Twitter’s hashtag capabilities. We used the #ed1to1 tag as a way to follow the conversation. There were no requirements or guidelines, but I everyone was required to use public Twitter accounts as the idea was to have conversations with people you weren’t necessarily following. The light turned green and everyone tweeted away. Many posing questions and inviting others, naturally through the use of the tag, to respond and give feedback. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate when most people were active so the synchronous environment was much more asynchronous for me.
I appreciated the conversations and the pieces of insight present by different people. It was helpful to see what people were struggling with and also know there are many who wrestle with similar issues in their own context. However, I quickly resonated with Kop (2010) who discussed research that revealed student use of discussion boards caused students to become “overwhelmed by the number of messages” (p. 271). Simply put, I was quickly out of my depths by the deluge of conversations and I found it difficult to follow the conversations. There are a couple reasons why. First, Twitter limits posts to 140 characters and even less when replies (n.b., Twitter’s handles are preceded by @), links, and images are embedded in the tweet. Second, conversations are not threaded like discussion boards. These two main reasons made it very difficult to follow conversations, especially when multiple people were involved in the conversation. Additionally, to mitigate the character limit, participants would truncate their message by using abbreviations for certain words without–based on my knowledge–a pre-defined lexicon. For example, instead of staying students participants tweeted Ss instead. When participants would share links it was often with limited context because of the character limit. While these negatives made my experience less than desirable, I still found the collaboration with experts, students, and educators to be exciting and quite simply amazing. When else do you get all those type of people in the same room and have unlimited access to them? I wonder if there could be a better way to use another tool to enrich the experience and remove the Twitter language and platform barrier.
Action Plan Update
Last year my colleague, Robbin Riedy, and I facilitated three communities of practice supporting 22 faculty to implement active learning strategies into their classroom, One goal was to support an untethered model of teaching equipped with iPads to stream content wirelessly to Apple TVs or Splashtop. To understand more about the project and learn how the communities developed and what they did, I invite you to view our videos and slides from our NW/MET presentation we delivered this past April. Alternatively, you can watch us on YouTube below. Based on high demand and energy around untethered teaching, we decided to offer the opportunity to faculty again. Robbin and I are in the midst of redesigning to operate much more like a year long course. Based on feedback from faculty, a year long course structure–opposed to a community of practice–will meet the needs much better. At present, the course will meet once per week during the first quarter and twice per month during the second and third quarter. The first section, weekly meetings, will be focused on iPad elegance. That is, learning what the iPad is, how it works, and how to elegantly use it well. Essentially, an bootcamp introduction covering all things iPad. Furthermore, during this time we will discuss active learning strategies and general classroom management support. The final two quarters–the twice per month meetings–will be more focused on individual teaching needs. Essentially, we will provide time and support for faculty to rethink how they might be able to change a class by implementing more active learning strategies and the use of a wireless-projecting iPad to promote flexibility enabling the professor to move around the classroom without being confined behind the podium in a static mode.
So how does this fit into my new action plan idea? Yesterday’s post introduced the work of Tanya Joosten and the DETA Research Center. This fall DETA will be posting a RFP for institutions to apply for a grant to fund an online/blended learning initiative. As Robbin and I have discussed the untethered course, we see opportunities to implement blended components that allow faculty members to work through content and exercises on their own and to increase flexibility with scheduling face-to-face meetings. We think it would be very interesting to apply for a DETA grant to research what blended learning strategies work best with our special people group (n.b., our “students” are faculty members rather than traditional undergraduate students and may fit the “special people group” category). There is exciting potential to connect with a larger body looking at what instructional strategies in blended and online environments impact student learning the most.
While the the DETA Research Center is the catalyst for switching my action plan, it isn’t the whole story. My action plan will focus on how we convert a year-long face-to-face community of practice into a course format with face-to-face sessions and online sessions. Furthermore, I plan to integrate thoughts around potential involvement of an information technology department. Therefore, my action plan has a real world application for a project I am working on currently and will include components that might not be incorporated, but will set the stage for future iterations. One example is how we meet scalability requirements. My colleague and I aren’t equipped to train every faculty member on how to implement iPads in a technologically elegant and pedagogically sound way. Therefore, as we look to the future, my action plan will address issues of scalability and, in particular, revisit my first post for EDTC 6104, where I discuss on TPACK (technological, pedagogical and content knowledge), and develop a practical and strategic plan for how we invite experts together to learn and grow in a collaborative way that ultimately impacts student learning. We remember the sage words of Seymour Papert (1987), that solid, un-warped, wood doesn’t make a strong, long-lasting picnic table (p. 24). It requires effort, intelligence, and proper strategies to make a quality picnic table. In the same way, professors given the “best” mobile teaching device, the iPad, don’t automatically become amazing teachers.
Kop, R. (2010). Using Social Media to Create a Place that Supports Communication. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 269–283). AU Press. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177
Papert, S. (1987). Information Technology and Education: Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking. Educational Researcher, 16(1), 22–30. http://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X016001022