Reflections on Media Enhanced Learning, An Overview

 

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After 7 weeks of thinking, networking and working with educational technology I have come away with a deeper understanding of the implications of the networked classroom.  I have a stronger desire to stay current and to use these new technologies in an intelligent and functional manner.

It’s clear to me that education is shifting and it’s important to stay relevant and even employed! What will the classroom of the future look like?  Even an instructor like myself who teaches electrical pre-apprentices and apprentices psycho-motor skills as well as academic concepts must consider how I will be employed in the future?  Will I be teaching in an on-line, interactive format? Will I still have access to a work-shop and laboratory equipment?

What I do feel that is I must stay informed and stay abreast of new technology. It’s been inspiring to connect with other instructors who are facing these same opportunities and challenges. It’s remarkable how networked the classroom already is.  My students are alos an invaluable resource–although I’m not quite sure how to incorporate Snap-Chat into my Lesson Planning!

The best of the best to all of my fellow learners in Pidp 3240!

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The Learning Community

I welcome laptops and smartphones into my classroom; my classes have closed FaceBook groups, that I hope will be a tremendous long-term resource to myself and my students. Yet sometimes when I look out at a sea of bent heads and listen to the gentle clicking of keyboards I find myself disheartened. I read articles about how FaceBook and other social media can make users feel socially isolated and unable to live up to the glossy portraits of successful lives that are presented by so many. I notice how many of students have a hard time making eye contact or carrying out conversations. This makes me wonder if technology is changing the way we use our minds and the way we interact socially–not necessarily for the better. I greatly enjoy the ease of networked communication, I love that it’s a two way street and that I have many different ways of evaluating and gathering information. I also worry that lack of eye contact if affecting our ability to learn and to connect. Studies show that eye contact affects retention and memory. Does gazing at a screen rather than each other affect us as instructors and learners?  How do you build a learning community if people socialize through smart phones or use them as a retreat during challenging social situations?. A lot of becoming a successful electrical worker involves situations that are physically, socially and emotionally challenging.  If a learners default reaction is to retreat from these discomforts, by reaching for their smart phone, how will they handle the challenges of a job-site?   https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/06/social-networking.aspx http://www.sourgrapeswinery.com/society/2013/11/22/social-media-driving-us-to-isolation-loneliness-through-supe.html http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201403/the-neuroscience-making-eye-contact http://mindhacks.com/2009/03/05/the-cognitive-neuroscience-of-eye-contact http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000368700500089X http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/effective-learning-environment-shared-responsibility/?ET=facultyfocus%3Ae58%3A180737a%3A&st=email#sthash.l3eetIk8.dpuf

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Desire2Learn

On Wednesday I went to meet with the Chief Instructor of Piping Trades at BCIT.  I had been talking to one of the Associate Deans of the School of Construction of the Environment about Pidp 3240 and wanting to incorporate more educational technology into the classroom.  He suggested I meet with Ron Stewart, because of the strong work they were doing with D2L. I went not expecting all that much and I was astonished with what they had accomplished.  The large piping building was full of apprentices closely organized into various bays, working away on projects. They spend most of their days on the tools and their evenings at home on-line reviewing information.

Ron logged us on to the D2L system and showed me how he was using the system. The Piping Department has one template for all of the pre-apprentice classes and they will populate that course with a student list given them by Administration.  There are links for safety and for practicing electrical circuitry. There are practice quizzes and real quizzes. It’s all very organized and very user-friendly.

The Piping Department helped initiate the use of D2L at BCIT.  It’s truly remarkable that a department that could be characterized as one of the “heavier” trades is taking such initiative in the implementation of technology.

D2L is a learning platform not unlike a moodle, it supports a shift in delivery from traditional face-to-face learning to online, blended, flipped, mobile, and accessible delivery options that facilitate learning anytime, anywhere.

http://www.desire2learn.com/

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Just the Practice

I’ve been practicing yoga for some 23 years now.  I’ve taken classes with perhaps a 100 different teachers, from raw beginners to world-famous teachers. It’s amazing but yoga always “works”.  It can be challenging to evaluate the quality of instruction: the sequencing, the alignment, the adjustments and the theming. Much of this evaluation is experiential and subjective, really depending on what the student is looking for and expecting. As a student I try to keep an open mind and to be receptive to the teacher’s offerings.  Even when I feel disappointed and critical of the quality of the class I leave feeling changed.  My mood is often lighter, I feel calmed, I feel limber and different in an un-quantifiable way.  

While I feel like yoga works no matter the style, no matter the instructor I do tend to chose highly skilled teachers who teach a vigorous and challenging vinyasa or “breath with motion” style of yoga. Part of how I stay inspired and interested in my practice is by taking working shops with visiting teachers.  Recently I took a 2 and a half day workshop with an instructor visiting from Los Angeles.  it’s the third workshop I’ve taken with him and this time It was different. 

His instruction is always specific, always direct. It’s usually intertwined with an over-arching theme, taken from yogic philosophy, postures are related to sutras, myths and Hindu gods and goddesses.  Working on the splits is tied to the Monkey God Hanuman and his tremendous leap from India to Sri-Lanka, a feat of great physical and emotional challenge. This teacher is a skilled instructor of the physical practice and a skilled story-teller. 

This weekend workshop was much simpler.  The opening meditation was brief and practice began in a supine, supported pose,  The next two and a half hours was all asana or posture.  There was very little in the way of sadhana, no themeing to speak of and just a smidge of story-telling. The practice was still great, still intense and very focused.  I left feeling a little sad, a little empty.  I had expected too much. 

This made me think of what I teach and how I teach.  Obviously I’m not an international yoga star/teacher but I do teach a job which involves a lot of technical information and manual skills.  If I don’t access the affective domain am I really making a connection with my students? Yes there will have been a shift, there will have been a change but could that change have been deeper and more profound.  I’m not going to incorporate mythology or yogic philosophy into my classes but I will strive to find a way to incorporate some storytelling and connection into the class.

Here are some links to a few of my favourite teachers and some story-telling.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRAhmBzpoDE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_4PSAHF1o0

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Look me in the eyes!!

Part of my practice as a yogi is to deliberately put myself in situations or positions where I am uncomfortable and to then spend some time there.  This not only helps me work out areas of muscle soreness or tightness but gives me practice for my life off the mat and uncomfortable situations I might encounter there.  I practice being present and not disassociating.  I wonder if my interest in and reliance on social media and technology are having exactly the opposite effect.

Yogis are not immune to the excessive use of technology.  I was waiting for class to start in a small room with 20 other yogis when one woman decided to listen to her voice-mail– on speaker phone!! There is also a tremendous amount of conversation about yoga, ethics and asana that takes place on social media. FaceBook is also used as a commercial forum for promoting the many various enterprises that many yogis use to make or supplement their living.

I welcome laptops and smartphones into my classroom; my classes have closed FaceBook groups, that I hope will be a tremendous long-term resource to myself and my students. Yet sometimes when I look out at a sea of bent heads and listen to the gentle clicking of keyboards I find myself disheartened. I read articles about how FaceBook and other social media can make users feel socially isolated and unable to live up to the glossy portraits of successful lives that are presented by so many. I notice how many of students have a hard time making eye contact or carrying out conversations.

This makes me wonder if technology is changing the way we use our minds and the way we interact socially–not necessarily for the better. I greatly enjoy the ease of communication, I love that it’s a two way street and that I have many different ways of evaluating and gathering information.

I also worry that lack of eye contact if affecting our ability to learn and to connect. Studies show that eye contact affects retention and memory. Applied Ergonomics says: “In a face-to-face context mutual gaze has been shown to facilitate the encoding and subsequent recall of information.” Does gazing at a screen rather than each other affect us as instructors and learners?  How do you build a learning community if people socialize through smart phones or use them as a retreat during challenging social situations?

A lot of becoming a successful electrical worker involves situations that are physically, socially and emotionally challenging.  If a learners default reaction is to retreat from these discomforts, by reaching for their smart phone, how will they handle the challenges of a job-site?  As a Psychology today article opines “Making eye-contact is a voluntary movement that improves with eye contact.”  We all need to practice this important skill that effects cognition, learning and social connection.

One thing that is greatly encouraging to me is the rate of change of technology.  I am confident that the technology that we will use to interact with each other in 5 years will be practically unrecognizable to us today.

 

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Technology in the Classroom

I teach Electrical pre-apprentices the fundamental trade-skills, and trade-knowledge that they will need to go out and work successfully on job-sites.  I’ve been an electrician for 17 years and am also an avid yogi.  I’m pursuing the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma as a way to become a better, more qualified instructor and to also enhance my career.  

In my previous job as a service electrician I used Internet resources, on a daily and even hourly basis.  I kept in close touch with my employer, checked inventory at the electrical wholesaler, kept track of my hours and materials and consulted electrical forums for questions about installations.  Sometimes the use of these tools actually seemed to take up more time than I actually spent performing electrical work!  All in all, it was highly functional and I kept abreast of trends, code changes and new projects.  

 

It was a massive culture shock for me to move off of the tools and into the classroom.  Students seemed fixated by their smart-phones in a way that took them away and even disengaged them from the curriculum.  At first I fought back!  I banned phones from the classroom and the shop.  Needless to say, this didn’t foster a sense of engagement or community.  So I reconsidered and I thought about interactive tools that would help me connect with my class.  I thought about building what will hopefully be long-standing learning communities.  I created closed Facebook groups for each class and encouraged a safe learning environment where there are no stupid questions and their is support and quality feedback.

I want my students to use the Internet skillfully, to know what are trusted and relevant sources and when to look elsewhere.  I want then when to know not to use the Internet and rather to rely on their own trade knowledge, texts, personal contacts and their personal ability to problem solve and rationalize challenging situations.

Smartphones are still used in a way that is frequently distracting, but they have become a valuable tool for communication and interaction in my classroom.

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