By David Wells, editor at Surviving the OU

In this latest installment David tackles technology practices and practitioners roles

Hello everybody! If you’ve missed any of the previous posts then find them here: Entry 1, Entry 2Entry 3Entry 4, Entry 5Entry 6Entry 7, Entry 8 , Entry 9Entry 10, Entry 11 and Entry 12.

Week 24: Contexts and technology practices

We are closing in fast on TMA04 and once it’s done, the EMA. Before we reach that vantage point there are two more weeks of action to get through. Firstly, to get a feel for the week, let’s lay out the key themes and issues:

  • Learning contexts emerge as learners act and interact in particular settings or environments; contexts are thus constructed as well as experienced, and each learner brings with them influences from their own history and identity. 
  • Practitioners, through their actions, also construct learning contexts; indeed it is important to develop an effective context for learning if you are to find and make the best use of the resources available to you on the internet.
  • Technology-enhanced learning may enable learners and practitioners to construct learning contexts that differ markedly from anything experienced face to face.
  • It is through practices with technology, rather than the direct effect of the tools themselves, that technology-enhanced learning contexts are created.

I’ve only listed the first five, of a potential 10, for brevity and the remaining six are pretty similar anyway. Activity 1 was entitled ‘Practices with technology’ and we had to read a journal article by an Australian academic called Mary Thorpe. I must admit I find Thorpe’s work a hard read most of the time and this was no different. Activity 2 was another reading, this time by Jones and Assensio which examined a group of OU students and their understanding of an assessment task. Activity 3 was ‘Learning architectures’ and a paper by Etienne Wenger that identifies, among other things, the four dimensions of design for learning.

Activity 4 was ‘Design for learning’ and a reading that was an introduction to the 2007 book Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age by Beetham and Sharpe. Activity 5 was ‘Drawing informal learning into education’ which was more interesting as it went beyond formal education and included a presentation by the aforementioned Mr Wenger.

Activity 6 was entitled ‘Practitioners and models of pedagogy’ and focuses on how practitioners can influence (but not determine) learner activity as well as encouraging learners to draw on their skills and capabilities developed from informal as well as formal learning. Grainne Conole plays a key role in many of the activities in his MA module and she drops in a nice quote from 2011:

A fundamental feature of new technologies is that it is no longer possible for any one individual to be an expert … the very nature of web 2.0 is about collective wisdom, so what we need to do is find appropriate mechanisms to apply this in an educational context.

Finally for this week, Activity 7 is ‘Aligning your own practice with a model’ and follows on from a paper by De Freitas which was used in the last activity.

Week 25: Are practitioners’ roles changing?

This was a very interesting week of readings. With the increase of technology-enhanced learning, MOOCS and Virtual Worlds (like Second Life) what are the issues for practice and practitioners? Again, there are a number of key themes and issues, so let’s look at the first five for an overview:

  • Analysing the effects of technology requires focusing on the actions of people and the structure of societies and learning contexts. The concept of ‘practice’ brings both together and emphasises the interface between skills and abilities, the actions of people and the shaping of wider social structures.
  • Practitioner identity is bound up with the shared understandings and activity patterns of their practice. Using ICT for teaching and learning often challenges the taken-for-granted expectations and activities of teacher-practitioners.
  • One vision of the way in which practitioner roles are changed through the use of ICT is that they move from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’.
  • Technology-enhanced learning challenges practitioners to find new ways of interacting with learners while also supporting their independence as learners. Practitioners’ roles are not achieved solely through the design of learning activity. Learner support remains important in formal education.
  • Anderson’s (2003) equivalency of interaction theory asks us to see a trade-off between three kinds of interaction – interaction between student and tutor, between student and student and between student and content.

Activity 1 looks at the changing role of practitioners (tutors or course creators) as moving from the “Sage on the Stage” to the “Guide on the side”. The first paper is from Caroline Haythornthwaite who sees a change in the practitioner’s role as a move away from hard-won skills as an authoritative provider of subject expertise to the ‘guide on the side’. Rather than one or the other, Activity 2 presents a paper by Anderson that argues we need to ‘Get the mix right’ when it comes to interaction in the education process. Activity 3 is entitled ‘MOOCS – only for the confident?’ that explores MOOCs and why only a small percentage of participants actually finish the courses.

OU Virtual Worlds

Seeing out the week we have Activity 4 on ‘Virtual worlds and identity’, calling back to Sian Bayne’s online identities and games such as Second Life, Activity 5 on ‘Activity theory and virtual worlds’ which takes that theme on an runs with it and Activity 6 ‘Virtuality rules’ which considers the five themes Woolgar sets out as a useful overview of the research that the Virtual Society programme funded.

That’s all for this week then. TMA04 and the EMA are coming closer and the end of year 1. Cheers for sticking with the site 🙂

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Open University Companion Study Guide

Open University Companion Study Guide