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It’s not obvious, figuring out which skills and experiences will best enable our students to take advantage of the meagre opportunities that may come their way. But their chances of getting access to formal higher education are so remote that I’m convinced that it’s essential they should be able to make the most of any free opportunities for learning.

I found this article a helpful introduction to questions related to developing skills for self directed learning (SDL). Francom provides an overview of constructive principles for teachers looking to help students to improve their skills for independent learning.

Drawing on Hiemstra, it proposes four sets of activities that students will need to be able to undertake:

  •  set learning goals
  •  specify what will be learned
  •  determine the pace of learning
  •  evaluate learning outcomes (Hiemstra, 1994)

I’m pretty sure that this is an iterative cycle which needs to commence with an evaluation of prior learning (‘what have I learned’, ‘how useful is it’, ‘how did I learn it’). The challenge for the teacher is to provide a sense of context which will enable the student to understand where their knowledge fits within the subject matter area.

I think that the students I’m working with have passed through two of the stages that Francom propose.

  • Two years ago most of them were ‘dependent‘ learners, part of a traditional education system where rote learning is the norm, and there is always a right answer.
  • Many of them were emerging as ‘interested‘ learners, with a growing awareness of the gulf between the focus of their learning and the demands of the outside world,
  • Today, they are progressing to becoming ‘involved‘ learners, who need only minimal encouragement to offer an opinion on how their education can best meet their needs.
  • The next challenge is to help them build the skills they need to become ‘self-directed‘ learners.

As the article suggests, for this to be productive, it’s critical that we provide instruction on SDL skills alongside the subject matter that (in my case, ICT). My challenge here is to find materials which are accessible for ESL students, and which are appropriate for their cultural and psychological context; many ‘personal goal setting’ approaches are very skewed towards a Western, individualist mindset.

Fortunately, I’m confident that there will be no shortage of realistic tasks and problems for students to set their minds to as they embark on this journey.

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Key Questions

Many thanks to Bethany for giving me a shove!

Here are a handful of questions I’m going to try to focus on over the course of the MOOC.

I don’t think it’s realistic to aim for one question a week, as I’m restricted to MOOCing in the evenings and I’ll be playing catch up some of the time anyway (timezones are such that I’ll not be awake for the streaming sessions!)

  • What technology shifts are impacting eLearning and how do these relate to the needs of learners and educators?
  • What are the innovative educators doing and what are the things they want to be able to do more / more easily?
  • What are the eLearning challenges for students outside the University framework, and how are these being addressed?
The next task will be to align these with the weekly topics, and with the various study groups  and discussion groups that are springing up.

Learning objectives

I think I’m getting a handle on this MOOC shenanigans, but I must admit I’m yearning for a worksheet.

I’ve reviewed the tips and the ‘what to do’ lists. I’ve taken a look at the Wikispaces study group pages which are emerging. I’ve flicked through the Google Groups digest and tried to identify threads of interest. I’ve explored eduMOOC resources in Google Maps, etherpad, Twitter, Diigo, blogs…. But I’m not sure where I’m supposed to be focusing my attention.

I feel that I ought to be reading things but I’m not quite sure what. I’ve flicked through the list of resources (e.g. the links to relevant journals) and spotted a few interesting articles. But it’s a mighty big haystack.

I had the idea that I might set myself some learning objectives to create a focus on specific topics. I love this online Objectives Builder tool and the accompanying intro to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to do some reading before I can start to define my goals.

Anyone any suggestions where to start?

Ready, Set, MOOC!

I’m trying to prepare to take part in eduMOOC.

In the room next door, the English lesson via Skype is getting louder. The teacher, at my end, struggles to make herself heard as she prompts for female pronouns. The students excitedly shout back their answers. “One at a time, one at a time!!”, the teacher laughs.

On the other side of the wall, I’m exploring my own online learning options. My playlist helps to drown out the noise… but the obvious failings of the set-up keep popping into my head.

‘The teacher needs a whiteboard’, I think. ‘Students have to be able to write on it too’. ‘What about group work?’. ‘How can we share the homework inbox?’. And, of course, ‘how can we do it for free, and keep it simple?’.

Questions for another day.

Today I’m learning about MOOCs and how to MOOC successfully. It turns out that I’m expected to participate, respond, comment, network. Hurrah! So here’s a space for just that purpose – my first foray into WordPress, too!

I imagine that this will be something of an online notebook, an space to think out loud and capture interesting ideas and thoughts for projects. As I take part in the eduMOOC, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to define and capture more clearly my interests at the intersection of education and technology, and build a better understand of where they fit in the broader picture. And hopefully I’ll garner some suggestions to improve our own little web-enabled classroom!