Online Learning and Blogging Experience

My beautiful son, reading
My beautiful son, reading

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
~ Socrates

Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
~ Isaac Asimov

I am now in my fifth PIDP course, three shy from graduating (planned for next year)…the learning so far has been great, and I have found myself already “missing” this experience as an anticipation of the feelings of loss I’ll have once it is over.

As a teacher-learner whose goal is to dedicate my life to social work and community resilience building, it may sound a bit strange that I truly enjoy and support online learning: there is a debate in the Permaculture world about the increasing number of PDCs being offered online and the effectiveness of this particular approach in teaching Permaculture.

I also teach other “practical” courses, such as Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, organic gardening and food preservation, among other things…so, how online learning/teaching fit into all this?

My experience

I first register to an online course back in 2000, when I took my ICT Teaching Award certification through Cambridge International Examinations. At that time, online learning was still rare and few literature had been written. The technologies were not yet fully developed (Facebook, Twitter, Linked, Youtube and so on didn’t even exist) and the first LMS were clumsy and unreliable.

However, we managed to have great chatting and I was amazed at the idea of being in touch with people from Belgium, India, Australia and so many other countries I have already forgotten…the experience was life-changing and I not only dedicated even more to integrate ICT into the classroom, but started to learn about eLearning from books, websites and forums.

In 2007 I registered to my first Online Instructor Certificate course at VCC, a program I completed in 2013 by producing an online course on “Food Security” using Moodle as a platform.

Starting in January 2014, I also took courses at Coursera and edX and have since taken many (some of them completing full courses, some of them just auditing videos and readings)

But the experience that touched me more and fully convinced me of the strengths and value of online learning has been my experience with the PIDP courses: through forums, journals, research, the production of videos and other instructional materials and the experience of blogging, the learning has taken a new turn: when you are in a classroom you never have the opportunity to meet each and every one of your classmates. Most of the times you forget some names and may never know what they think about topics outside the course you are studying. There is few if any time for reflection and deep self-evaluation: fro those who like me need to read, re-read and analyze the learning material before I can digest and apply it, online learning is the best companion to a f2f environment.

My classmates:

One of the most inspiring and changing experiences of both online learning and blogging is the opportunity to connect at a deeper level with other learners and bloggers: people tend to write about things and feelings they wouldn’t share in a f2f environment.

Blogging publicly and sharing their views on the topics we study also makes the information available for others, so learning is truly constructed by many and not just subjectively approached by one.

Reading my classmates blogs has been enlightening, humbling and inspiring: you can see their engagement, their personalities and their interpretations…when and how would you have this opportunity in a f2f environment?

The four levels

In the last journals, we were encouraged to write at four levels: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional.

Under objective, we state the facts: what is happening, what is being said, etc.

Under Reflective, we share our feelings and reactions: how do we feel, what impacted us more, etc

Under Interpretive, we look for meaning: what does this fact or feeling means? How that impacts our learning or performance?

Finally, under decisional we are asked to share what decisions, actions and implementations this fact or new information will move in us: what will I do with this? How is my practice being changed?

Apart from being related to Bloom’s taxonomy of how learning travels from more concrete to evaluative and creative stages, this models metacognition and critical thinking: we are no longer absorbing and throwing concepts and processes: we are actually thinking and feeling them, and we are making decisions about how we will integrate them into our lives, producing real, holistic and transformational learning (changes at cognitive, affective and psychomotor levels)

Applications to my teaching:

As mentioned before, I teach at various settings: in my schizophrenic “career” which is quickly approaching a tipping point of change (or…integration of my multiple personalities/careers?) I teach:

  • Career planning/job search/small business start-up (for immigrants and refugees)
  • Emergency Preparedness and First Aid (mostly for ESL groups of immigrants and refugees, but also to local communities)
  • Food Sovereignty-related workshops including gardening, composting and food preservation
  • Permaculture: for now, only short introductions and some modules related to the above topics but under “Permaculture”

After all what I have explored and learned from my PIDP courses, I think UDL and the flipped classroom (both include the option of online learning as a component) are the most appropriate approaches to teach any of the above topics: as an instructor, I can either design or collect and curate resources to provide learners with the opportunity of both f2f and online instruction.

Online classes have strengths we don’t easily find in f2f classes:

  • If planned as asynchronic modules, learners can login at their own pace and convenient times and as many times as needed
  • Online materials (videos, images, charts, diagrams, readings, forums, etc) can be accessed many times, rewind and re-read, providing a better experience to those who may have missed a topic during the f2f class
  • Online platforms promote deep, transformational learning through journals, blogs, forums and other tools where people tend to open themselves more
  • Online platforms provide a place to share to those who may have hearing or other impairments, those who are ESL or shy and may not feel fully confident in f2f classes
  • Online approaches create more opportunities to access for those with family and work commitments, those living in rural areas or far from the institution campuses and those who have different schedules (for example, I’m writing this post at 2 am)
  • In all the cases, learners can access the materials online, communicate with their peers and instructors and meet f2f in flipped classes, such as the current PDP and advanced PDP I am taking, where we read, watch videos, journal and design alone and meet with other learners and our teacher/mentor once a month.

 

My view

My objective is to become a tool and a resource for community resilience. If I want Permaculture to be inclusive and approach as many as I can, I have to utilize all the tools available: online learning is one of them, so why not?

I do not want to create yet another online PDC, I want to offer options so those who choose to learn with me can engage in different ways and re-visit the resources as many times as they need.

 

Resources:

UDL in campus: http://udloncampus.cast.org/home#.VEN-RRawWjI

The flipped classroom: http://flippedclassroom.org/

PIDP program: http://instructordiploma.com/

Online Instructor Certificate program: http://instructordiploma.com/programs/online-e-learning-certificate/

ICT Award certification: http://www.cie.org.uk/cambridge-professional-development/professional-development-qualifications/syllabuses/teaching-with-digital-technologies/

My classmates blogs:

  1. Elaine’s blog: http://dottyandragogy.wordpress.com/

 

  1. Isabelle’s blog : http://isalearningteachingexperience.wordpress.com/

 

  1. Jolene’s blog: http://awakeninglearning.wordpress.com/

 

  1. Avi’s blog : http://av9178.wordpress.com/

 

  1. Ami’s blog : http://aschellenbergblog.wordpress.com/

 

  1. Tanya’s blog: http://tanya-teaching-learning-sharing.blogspot.ca/

 

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