learning, teaching and research (archive)

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Blended learning

April 1st, 2008 · No Comments · Teaching & learning

This is a comment I made on a topic of blended learning in the new Space Central forum on Eduspaces. I reproduce it here in my own blog because a) it needs more work and b) it suddenly occured to me that it is possible for the creator of a thread in Elgg to  delete a comment – this can happen accidentaly, I have done this myself in the past) and I would lose it.

Misja. I think you are right in the early days when computers were seen as an opportunity to create ‘teaching machines’ – program the machine to program the student, a one-to-one transmission model of teaching. Things have moved on a bit I think thanks mainly to the human networks and interaction and the many-to-many communication that is now possible. However, there is still a tendency to see how technology can be used to replicate traditional teaching techniques (on-line lectures, on-line tutorials). As George Siemens says somewhere, the tendency is to force new technologies into old boxes until, one day, possibly provoked by wider contextual and social changes, we realise that they also make new things possible. I think it is these ‘new’ things that can make technology based blended learning different in kind to the old type of blended learning we have always done in one form or another.We hope to exploit blended learning to help us with a number of important educational agendas. Part of the answer to Emma’s very valid concern that blended learning does not simply add to already heavy workloads for academic staff is the skilling of students to become independent and self motivated learners. As someone else said (you can see I’m not much good at referencing!) if you go home at the end of a day’s teaching more tired than your students you’re getting it wrong. They should be doing the work. We want to use blended teaching to induct students into the research and learning culture and processes we are all involved in, staff and students. Staff aid students learning not by doing lots of different things but by exemplifying what they are doing anyway – research and scholarship. We want students to learn the research and evaluation skills, the communication, collaboration and presentation skills and the problem solving skills that will make them their own continuing teachers, individually and collectively. This means we want to help them to develop their own personal learning ecologies, to blend and exploit their most effective learning techniques and strategies, formal and informal, active and passive, and situate themselves proactively in a network of people, objects and resources with a view to develop their knowledge and practice. I have increasingly come to believe that learning is social, through and through, that formal education has tended to over emphasise quite a small subset of learning skills and strategies, and even reflective learning is best achieved in dialogue with others. So, hopefully, we are developing a notion of blended learning that is more than a set of varied teaching techniques and more work for teachers. The blend is of learning strategies, learning contexts, formal and informal, structured and vicarious, and increasingly constructed and maintained by the students as developing ‘expert’ learners in their own right.

How this rather high blown rhetoric translates into actual teaching practice on a day to day basis is another story we are still trying to write!


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