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Reflections on Teaching

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In a tour de force example of the value of face to face teaching in a class over learning online our PGCE tutor took us through the power of reflection. Look at the title of this blog 'Reflection on e-learning'. 10 years and eight months ago I was keenly filling these pages (on an ever so slightly different platform) as I took the first module in the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE). Search 'Reflection'.

Ten years on, while being invited to dig around in my head for an understand of the what it means to 'reflect', and while listening to my fellow students express their views and share their insights, we collectively construct and shape a meaning.

The beauty of this blog and its value ten years on and 5,000 entries later, is that I can search 'reflection' or seek out the tag 'reflection' and immediately be shown what I was reading, what I was being invited to read and what I was writing about it all. The beauty of this blog and it simplicity is that I can post and keep private, or post and share; it is as much as a private, even intimate scrapbook, mind dump and learning journal, as it is a potential resource for others. 

Reflecting on 'reflecting on teaching' and the profound differences between learning online (as it has so far been able to manifest itself) I see that one cannot replace the other, that certain elements are different to the point of being incompatible, that trying to recreate the class experience online is foolish and bringing the online way of doing things into the class just as wrong.

We have a long way to go yet to distinguish these differences and play to their strengths, rather than thinking one is superior to the other; neither is going away. The class I attended last night in which seven of us where there in person with the tutor and four were online is one I will return to again, and again for two reasons: first of all, to pick through what I was exposed to, what I was taught, the learning journey I experienced and the voices and words of others - everyone, in equal measure, was given the time and chance and encouragement to talk. And second of all, to contemplate the difference between the classroom and the online experience. What worked and what did not? What needs fixing to make it work better? 



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Design Museum

Don't e-teach until you can teach

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Or not?

Those who teach online could learn something from those who teach in the classroom, lecture hall or tutorial.

We could learn from each other.

Analogue and digital are soooooooooo different, yet so much the same.

The mistake is to take the face to face classroom and put it online. The schedule doesn't work, the number in the class doesn't work and the length of the class doesn't work.

Taking online learning (from HE or business) and putting in the face to face classroom doesn't work either.

What is the point in sitting in a room with other people unpacking your distance learning materials (which Open University style used to be a box of books and cassettes or DVDs, even a bit of TV or Radio). For you to undertake on your own.

Taking the best of both worlds and blending it up into something different is best.

Learning on a mobile device, a phone, tablet or laptop (they're all different), is not the same as learning in a class with a pen and pad of paper while looking at a whiteboard or smart TV (does anyone have a whiteboard or blackboard anymore?)

The Open University got there first putting an entire course online. I did it. The Masters in Open and Distance Education. I started a module from the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001 before all of it migrated online (out of the box of books). 

You learn in chunks, in moments, or you set aside a couple of evenings, or Sunday morning. You fit your learning around YOUR schedule, not the other way around.

It is convenient to have stuff on or accessible on a phone or tablet: you can read, listen or watch in the bath, on the commute. You do not have to be physically present in a classroom.

School and college students are no different. Understandably they associate school or college, especially if they are wearing a uniform, with a certain amount of uniformity. When they are learning at home, you are entering THEIR environment. This is their space. Wo betide if you try to invade this. We should not expect them to be able to create the time in the same way. If they have a laptop they may well expect to work on a kitchen table, not in a shared bedroom. The kitchen table is a shared space. Parents and siblings will cross back and forth wondering what they are doing, interacting and disrupting. Does the student want to be seen at home? To have a parent or guardian or sibling appearing in shot? Do they want their 'college persona' exchange for son or daughter mode back home?

We have to understand their world before we invade it. We have to be welcome in, not force our way in. We have to fit around the individual circumstances.

Learn from the OU.

Let them work at their own pace.

Make Meets short.

Keep the class size small.

Have ways they can get through the work and contribute and you can monitor and feedback without everyone having to be present at the same time.

Change your hours to suit them, rather than shoehorning them into a pattern that works for the physical space and set hours of college designed to managed large groups of teachers and even larger groups of students. 

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Design Museum

A new horizon in online learning

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In my fifth week working from home the immediate realization is that I could easily have been limiting my time ‘at work’ to once or twice a week. I get more done, my commute is into the spare bedroom and my home office set up is vastly superior to what I am provided with anywhere at college. 

The greatest shift in behaviour is the amount of time spent in online meetings. Some of these lack the discipline that is required of a formal business meeting: an agenda and end time. Though a Zoom quiz with 17 family members spread between 3 corners of England ( South West, South East and North East), California and South Africa could have happily drifted on into the night - they weren’t going to bed in San Diego.

At least two ITC laggards in the family could finally figure out that they had a webcam and microphone. It strikes me as an excellent informal introduction to online learning that should be used with staff - break down the barriers and uncertainties by doing something that is collective, collaborative and fun.

It should be the mandatory icebreaker to do a quiz !

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