3.22 – C&W notes

Chris Anson’s “Distance Voices: Teaching and Writing in a Culture of Technology”

Things I thought about: Is the role of the teacher in transition? His article was written 10+ years ago — has this shift happened? Begun? Does the move to more online communication / education change the face-to-face interactions we have with our students? In the future, will we move towards a vision of teachers as ‘peer collaborators’? And if this is the case, does the training we provide to peer tutors now somehow anticipate the types of skills/training that teachers-of-the-future will need?

How has technology facilitated the erosion of autonomy / privacy of instructors and learners? Isn’t it creepy that I know when my students are online if they choose not to make themselves invisible? Even when we say, ‘And I won’t answer e-mail from 5 pm on Friday to 8 am on Monday’ — how many of us actually refuse to answer when the e-mail arrives in our inbox on Saturday afternoon…or Sunday at 1 am? Its like when we are all connected through all these various networks there is an ever-presence (I guess ‘presence’ was an idea in the Kop article). But online presence is much different than ‘real-life’ presence. You are there when you’re not–in multiple places — some archived and retrievable, some momentary. Always reachable, to some degree. Do people care about this? I have a mixed reaction: I like the easy communication of e-mail, the easy access I have to ‘others’ on the web. I don’t like the way that my e-mail account haunts me when I am computer-less for even a day…the beating of a hideous electronic heart.

I thought about how this development seems analogous in some ways to the early restructuring of schools — from the teacher in a one-room-school-house as sole instructional expert, to a ‘teacher’ as the ‘principal’ teacher whose role is to administer to a group of (female) teachers who are doing the actual classroom work.

Kop & Fournier et al. “A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beigns? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses”

How do we create meaningful presence in online learning activities? The three types of presence explored by these writer/researchers are social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Are these presences achieved in the hypothetical classroom described by Anson? (With the lead professor, minion instructors, and students networked to each other and to the whole class.) The roles suggested for the teacher are MANY: “curator, learner, facilitator, supporter of ‘repurposing’ and ‘remixing’ of information, coach, moderator, provider of technical support, lecturer, and ‘sharer’ of resources.’ Are these roles different than the roles a composition instructor in a traditional composition classroom might play?

There was a big emphasis on relationships and feelings in this text. Most of the text was dedicated to discussion of how / what meaningful social connections in these MOOCS look like. Content takes a back seat to building relationships and developing student ‘agility’ in confronting their own challenges.  What are the implications of down-playing ‘learning outcomes’? Should we care that the student / participators didn’t all achieve their goals? How would allowing students to earn ‘credits’ in classes like the ones described in this study change students relationships to learning? Does there have to be such a focus on ‘connections’ because, in some ways, these online courses are exclusive?

I am disturbed by the rhetoric of this piece — ‘scarcity’ to describe current pedagogical models. Consumers (students who were less interactive) and producers (students who created content). In the Anson, I think ‘markets’ was used to (but perhaps a little more self-consciously). I remember sitting in on a meeting at the high school where Chris and I taught and being told that ‘we’ now conceptualize our students as ‘customers’ (and, I suppose our teaching as the ‘product’ and ourselves as . . . vending machines?). Anyhow, full-disclosure, I did just hear Henry Giroux–so I am primed to be suspicious of this type of language.

Trevor Owens : “The Public Course Blog: The Required Reading We Write Ourselves for the Course That Never Ends”

I think it is ironic that Owen’s describes the blog as a space to “think aloud” (my emphasis) in writing. I use these types of phrases all the time in comments to my students (“Let your reader hear X”). But in a blog, there is silence (without video or audio supplements)–there is no classroom conversation where that ‘voice’ will be heard and has been heard.

Though I don’t know how many nature metaphors are really necessary to make this point (spider webs, beaver dams, technological husks, ALRIGHT ALREADY!), I think Owens has a point about making the legacy of past students visible and available to future students. As teachers, of course, we take the learning that has come through interaction with our past students into consideration as we modify and improve our teaching and thinking. Students would certainly benefit from this, too.

What considerations do we have to make before we encourage (coerce?) our students to publish so much of their course work on the web? Are there privacy concerns for students? Safety concerns?

On a more practical level, Owens says he is going to act as  a moderator / facilitator (pick your noun from the list above) and cherry-pick great student work for future students to read. Reasonable. Lots of instructors do that now, though–with printed texts, or even texts that have been digitized but not made massively public. Will the rest of that content ‘grow dusty’? Dream-world, I suppose students in future classes would comb through the hundreds (eventually thousands!) of posts for a glimpse into the course’s past. Does this actually happen?  I want to know about the ACTUAL student use of a feature like this. Owens’s claim that ‘When we start to think of the technology of blogging in this light, it becomes something that, instead of supplementing instruction, disrupts and transforms education’ sounds terrific. Is it true?

Ideas for presentation. . . Google Hang-outs Class. Talk with Karen Swofford (if available). Use CTools chatroom feature and have ‘discussion’ this way. Try to make the whole class discussion happen in virtual space. Start by having people blog in response to one of three questions. Look at each other’s blogs and respond. Attempt a full-class chat in chat room. We can facilitate with questions / comments. Watch news footage about ‘any where, any time,’ or something. Or create links to other related web content and make it a choose-your-own adventure sort of thing. Then people can report back as to what they found. Finally, ‘debrief’ in a Google hangouts (separate classroom). Ha ha. It sounds crazy.

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