lundi 3 novembre 2014

[edX] Week 3 - first post

For the past few weeks as I was continuously putting off a discussion about a new course that I’m taking at edX.  Since this post is my first (but it is actually the end of the week 3 of the course) let me tell you a little bit about it:

  • Name: 11.132x Design and Development of Educational Technology
  • The goal seems to be not only to learn about design and dev. of educational technologies but also to enable as many students as possible to make radical changes in the community by proposing and effectively marketing new ideas. 

Given the fact that I do not like online courses for their artificial requirements, engagement formats and so on, I was set to get the most knowledge from this course without actually doing any of these “fluffy” things such as proposals or talks. But I’m getting a bit of topic – Week 3.
This week is all about Active Learning that is a fun and interesting topic to play with and to learn about. Unfortunately, it is one of those weeks that has something like a total of 2+ hours of lectures organised in a format of 5 to 12 min videos separates rather artificially by some additional and mostly boring content to look at without any particular goal. From the get go it sounds boring and completely unengaging. I guess that the format of the “lecture” (nice ideas mixed up with some trivia and completely irrelevant information) is cognitively demanding and may become boring rapidly. Moreover, there are no real profound reflections or discussion of the major ideas making the talks look more like a history lesson or a list of items to think about.

However, most core ideas hidden within more or less artificial interviews are not only essential but could lead to an interesting mind experiments and reflections. For instance at the end of the entire talk on Geniverse, Paul Horwitz discusses the transfer of knowledge from virtual learned environment to the real world examples. He clearly states that no computer will ever be able to construct the same emotionally challenged and engaging situations as a good human teacher in order to help students to make the connection between “dragons” and “Jimmy.” It is an interesting concept to play with when we realize that the teacher is not just facilitating a discussion or a discovery. The construction of an engaging and authentic (as much as possible) scenario, the acting and emotional component are all parts of an interactive play that the teacher has orchestrated and acted out. In fact, that one person in front of a small but really demanding audience is expected to be able to replace an entire production team on a movie set or in a theater. The pressure becomes even higher when we know that such activity is essential in order to improve students understanding and ensure appropriate knowledge and skill transfer between computer simulation and “real world” problems. In short, the software, even great and really advanced simulations, may not do nothing special without carefully designed and crafted activities that reinforce the learning and build new links enabling faster and easier transfer and reuse of learned skills.

Similarly, the second part of the learning is all about StarLogo Nova and contains long talks about many things that do not often seem related or interesting. For instance, I did not find the conversation about the history and the making of the tool that looks like Scratch on steroids is really interesting. Yes, it is an important part of the learning process to fulfill one of the goals, but I’m not taking the course for that. Rather, one idea mentioned by Wendy Huang towards the end of the talk has caught my attention. She suggests that one of the essential parts of active learning process is the reflection piece. Now, I know what I was missing in my EDPE 640 class (see my other posts)! At the end of the class around 9pm, I leave with lots of ideas that boil and explode in my brain but I’m left to sort them out on my own. Many interesting points get lost, alternative views are not considered. In short, me, myself and I are left to sort it all out inside my head. I do reflect on many things but I miss the opinions of those that do not see like me, that will provoke me either to change or to reinforce my views through additional research and reflection. I miss that skillful and orchestrated guidance that Paul Horwitz was modelling. I miss that emotional part would force me to continue research and reflection after I get home in order to formulate a more clear and sound position on a controversial topic.

I feel like I’m getting again a bit off topic but this time it is on purpose! Even if you do not follow the course on edX or have never heard about Active Learning, how do you think an engaging classroom with authentic activities should be setup? IS it important to have a reflection (a recap with analysis) at the end or at any other moment in the lesson? How all this ties together with cognitive theories and our understanding of brain activity and learning processes?

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