Table of content
I. Choice of Activities
1.1. Blog and Blogging
1.1.1. Understanding choices for practitioners and learners
1.2. Reading Price et al. (2007)
1.3. The learner experience
1.3.1. Understanding Choices for Practitioners & Learners
II. Redesigning the Activity
2.1. Suggestions on the design of blog activity
III. Learner Experience and Methods
Abstract: This paper presents the critical reflection on technology-assisted learning. It is based on the choices practitioners make about how to apply technologies to their learners and the choices learners make about their own learning, in terms of what technologies they use, why and how. Based on three main learning activities: 1 blog and blogging, 2 Reading Price et al. (2007) and, 3 the learner experience; reflection uses concrete example to explain what allows the author to understand the choices, experiences and methods of practitioners and learners in the application of technologies to education. A brief takeaway from the discussions is that learners and practitioners have different choices in specialized technologies. Learner’s experience is grounded on four major things: 1 familiarity with technology, 2 students’ perceptions, 3 Students expectations and 3 efficacy and effectiveness ensures teachers realize their intentions of their course design, relative to the use of technology (approach). Based on these, recommendations were made on how courses and learning activities could be better developed.
Key words: Blog as a Learning Tool, Web 2.0 Technologies, The Net Generation, Online Tuition, Online Course Design, Student and Teachers’ Perceptions
I. Choice of Activities
1.1. Blog and Blogging
After exploring the web 2.0 technologies and the Net Generation in earlier weeks of the Technology Enhanced-Learning Module, blogs was introduced as one of the web 2.0 technologies, and discussed the importance of blogging in online learning. While one personally had never written a blog, he had read some that were mainly highlighting people’s experience in different things and tried exploring and editing a wiki in the previous weeks. To this point, he could now compare the web 1.0 technology which provided static web pages with these web 2.0 technologies that facilitate collaboration and online interactions. The perceived advantages of web 2.0 technologies, especially blogs, have been researched to see if they constitute opportunities to online learners, based on students experiences (Kerawalla, 2008).
While it was argued that web 2.0 technologies are supporting learning in higher education, with increasing students’ interest in blogs (Weller, Pegler, and Mason 2005), surprisingly Prensky (2001) highlighted that even half of the so called Net Generation had never read a blog. This was later confirmed by Kennedy et al. (2008) who indicated that 65.1% of respondents had never written a blog and 56.1% had never visited a blog.
Although Williams and Jacobs (2004) insist that blogging has the potential to bring about a new kind of online sociality, arguing also that these technologies are effective only when there is a synergic work, Kerawalla et al. (2008) keep doubting about the effectiveness of teaching and learning using blogs.
1.1.1. Understanding choices for practitioners and learners
When reflecting on my own blogging experience, I found myself putting small value on blogs. I visited a number of blogs but didn’t really spend enough time to even complete the readings nor was I ever inspired to go back and read again. In terms of writing, my reluctance in writing a blog is based on the fear of self‐disclosure in the online environment. However, I have had a passion for becoming a blogger, not with the intension to learn but with intension to build online community as the study suggested (Kerawalla et al. 2008). However, the use of different social networking sites such as Facebook, etc., is so paramount in my online experience. This is due to the ability of a user to control their privacy, such as deciding on who to accept as friend or who can see posts and comments. This gives a bit more ability to be one’s self and feel at ease when using blogs.
On the other hand, sites that don’t disclose my identity have been my favourite. I could post, ask questions, comments, start threads and interact with full openness and honesty. I found myself agreeing with Bayne (2005)’s observation that “as they adopt their chosen online identity, people can experience freer borders”. I have found that this anonymity makes people open and honest.
This fear of disclosing my identity and of being criticized has been a barrier to writing blogs and it has been a concern for some teachers as suggested by Black (2007). Black added that teachers often fear that their comments are misquoted by readers, while there are professional expectations that must be respected. This gives an insight that practitioners may be reluctant in using blogs for teaching.
The study by Kerawalla et al. (2008) highlighted different blogging habits and, while I was reluctant to blog, their study reflected my concerns. I even tried writing my first blog but took longer than expected which is echoes the analysis by Kerawalla: “if writing a blog is a compulsory course component, students do not use blogs appropriately and many see it as a poor use of their time”. However, a video explored in week 13-14 about practitioners who use online blogs in order to reflect on their teaching practices, has inspired me as a long-life learner. I got a chance to read some of my peers’ blogs which were notably different from my tone. Inspired by Alison (2018)’s blog which got a lot of comments, I thought I can be a blogger as much as I can make it more optimistic and ironic, as Cameron and Anderson (2006) suggested.
As training facilitator in humanitarian and development settings, I deliver training to trainers and to field staff who in return facilitate the training for our people of concern. We are also planning for a number of online training courses which will be delivered through the organization’s platform. By using reflective blogs, it may be helpful to these practitioners to think more clearly about their practice. This was complemented by Wegerif (1998) who acknowledges the usefulness of schools’ virtual learning environments, but argues that there are not enough without these social elements, like blogs, since students appear to always want them. This is confirmed by the fact that many of my peers appeared to be bloggers, although few of us had never written a blog before. A comparable socialization approach on the OU’s VLE is the use of “student café” but students own blogs are very personalized, showing another facet of themselves.
In the Kerawalla et al’s (2008) paper, there is a lot of learning via blogs, although it’s not clear yet how blog can be used for structured learning. It was found that students use blogs with different intentions such as building resource network or online community of like-minded bloggers. What’s more interesting is what both learners and educators can gain since, according to Tekinarslan (2008), blogs are a personal repository of information resources that others can access, submit their opinions and encourage the writing of reflective journals that are important for learning (Williams and Jacobs, 2004).
A brief of my takeaway from this activity is that learners and practitioners have different choices in specialized technologies. Those who were already familiar with blogs may want to use it again on their learning environment while new bloggers may be reluctant due to their concerns of sharing their self-perceived personal academic inadequacies. However blogs offer both social and educational benefits since they are used as an ongoing learning tool to share ideas and/or resources with other learners or practitioners.
1.2. Reading Price et al. (2007)
While working on this exercise, I was impressed by different approaches used to investigate the differences in students’ perceptions between online and face to face tuitions. Price et al. (2007) conducted two quantitative studies and one qualitative study, comparing results from students who received online tuition support, having limited face to face sessions with some contact by email or phone and students who received online tutor support using a combination of computer-mediated conferencing and email. The findings indicated that “students who received online tuition produced poorer ratings of the quality of tutorial support”.
In my view point, Price et al. (2007)’s paper has a considerable merit, despite its use of small sample size, oldness of the research and overlapping approaches. The methodology was questioned on how ordinary data were used and the effect size calculated, as well as the self-selection of students in comparative groups which would lead to confusion. Again the fact that the study dates more than ten years means a lot in technology enhanced learning because familiarity with technological tools and applications can influence learners’ perception, especially on distance learning. The friendlier the interface, the more enjoyable learning becomes and the better the course is rated. Therefore ten years ago, online and computer mediated learning wouldn’t be an easy learning technology, hence poor rating compared to face-to-face learning. Given how the google generations are computer literate and how distance learning saves time and money for today’s learners, it’s argued that the study results can be either inverse or produce equal ratings if the research was conducted today. The only evidence would be how well I feel by participating in students’ online forums and conferences. In addition some of colleagues, Iroshini and Ali (2018), mentioned in the forum group that they do enjoy them too, due to their flexible nature, which gives freedom and space to collect individual thoughts. This is also supported by William (2009) who concluded his research arguing that students are broadly in favour of the continued use of blogs as an effective aid to teaching and learning.
On the other hand, if face to face learners were also receiving supplementary support via email or phone, this may be an overlap since email and phone can also be considered as part of online technology, hence the results may be flawed.
Further analysis of the study reflects and evaluates Richardson’s (2007) three learning approaches identified in the previous activity: a “surface approach” that attempts to memorize the course materials for assessment purpose, a “strategic approach” that is based on scoring higher in exam and “deep approach” that is based on understanding the course materials and is seen as the most recommended. While the later relates to the PM, the surfaced learning to AM and the strategic learning seems to be a combination, it’s argued that the strategic approach is the most desirable , when it comes to academic learning, knowing that there is no single best approach in learning and teaching. Since the choice of learning approach depends on students learning purpose and perception (Ramsden,1991), Price et al.(2007)’s conclusion that “there was no difference in the students’ approaches to studying according to the RASI”, is justified. This calls for appropriate teaching approach that meets learners’ purposes and changes their perceptions as required. (I think that you are working to create a very valid combination of course ideas here – approaches to learning from the students’ perspectives and the manner in which teaching episodes are presented.)
What’s debatable in Price et al.(2007)’s work is their strictness, compared to Richardson (2008) who is open to debate which was the week’s learning objective. While tutors can’t have expertise in different fields of learning technologies, it’s suggested that further research and debates can be encouraged to find out how to meet learners’ different expectations. The results of the study, that face to face is the choice of learners over the e-learning approach, is not my point of view. It is understood that students always want to feel valued, communicate constantly with their peers / tutors and be supported, but this can also be achieved through the appropriate use of technological tools, despite the lack of paralinguistic features as discussed in the tutor group forum: “Paralinguistic features are the subtlety of reading a person and their intention or meaning but at times just saying it out loud can be the key to unlocking the understanding and this can therefore happen very successfully through the online sessions” (Ali, 2018).
In my view, students’ choices depend on how familiar they are with learning technologies. On the point that proper course designing can encourage the desired learning, that also depends on a student’s familiarity and desire to use new technologies. I personally experienced learning at all levels and do choose one learning approach depending on the task in hand, hence all of the three learning approaches are sometimes necessary, relative to the context and desired outcomes. The assessment methods now bring a relationship between teaching and academic learning but in real life learning there is no common denominator. Technology will keep easing the teaching and learning process but effective educators will keep in mind that students are heterogeneous in choosing learning technologies. The use of popular and easy to use technologies can foster effective teaching and learning.
1.3. The learner experience
This exciting activity presented the importance of learners' voices in the development of tools, pedagogy and teaching practices. On this point, Sharpe et al. (2005) suggested that an in-depth research be conducted to understand the diverse students’ technology experience and perceptions in their formal studies. Some of the studies conducted on this topic include those funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). These studies found that the most important skill in effective digital learning is to understand how learners learn. While technology has increased interactive and collaborative internet-based learning, it was also argued that the so called social networking tools have changed the way students learn, consume and produce new artifacts, hence facilitating learners in using technologies of their own choice is the most appropriate consideration. This is echoed by JISC when they argue:
"learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They sould be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate" (JISC, 2009,p.51).
In an interesting video explored in this week, Wesch (2007) reflects on students’ thoughts and intentions to learning. This video which is very informative and interesting was related to Price et al.(2007)’s research that mentioned that students have a lot of expectations on the e-learning as a new learning approach. The video also explores the shift from traditional learning to computer-based learning, especially where Wesch compared the annual average of 8 books read by a student over 2300 web pages. Here Wesch makes a case that education designers have to understand students’ requests, otherwise teachers may miss the whole point of what they are supposed to be teaching students. The idea was supported by some colleagues - Kelly and Iroshini (2018) who mentioned via our tutor group forum that one of the ways to satisfy students’ needs and expectations in e-learning is to use different media and platforms. This comes closer to the JISC (2009) research results as mentioned above.
However in my view, researching learners’ experiences wouldn’t be something easy for teachers since it can challenge the existing practices which, according to my understanding, should really be questioned and reflected on in order to ensure improvement in teaching and learning. While research confirms that better technology use extends potential for learning, Sarah and Adrian (2015) reflect on teachers’ reluctance in adopting new technologies. According to them, few teachers are open to changing technologies but many are still cautious and have more concerns. While technology will keep changing and learners exploring its benefits, teachers’ reluctance can cause risk for learners who may lack appropriate support. In order to address this problem and avoid professional incompetence, the school’s support is essential together with engaging teachers in some online and offline communities of practice -but both the school’s support and individual efforts are necessary.