Friday, December 18th

Reflection of ONL 202

For this blog post I want to reflect upon the last ten weeks, for which I have been a part of the Open Networked Learning course and I want to reflect my experiences with the help of guiding questions that have been provided by the ONL facilitators.  

Miro-Board. Click on the link to have the full Miro experience: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_las2pLw=/

In old “FISh”-tradition I have gathered my thoughts through the use of an online board named “Miro”.

What are the most important things that you have learnt through your engagement in the ONL course?

I only realized later on in the course that it was a challenge for me to work in this international course because the ways of thinking were very different from each other. However, in the end, the result for me was that I was much more thinking in different directions.
Also, I enjoyed and experienced first-hand to closely work together with a team that I have not yet met in person which is also something that my students experience at the moment. I can reflect much better now on what matters for their courses.
Content wise I learned to theoretically and practically consider different aspects that are important to form a well working learning community

Why?

Because this was my first time to have such an experience and actually experiencing it is very valuable in my eyes.
It was wonderful to learn about some theoretical information and in the process realizing that it is actually practiced what is preached.

How will your learning influence your practice?

Spending closer detail to the structure and composition of a course.
Also, I want to closely consider looking into forming a course on a social and emotional level.

What are your thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in your own context?

Well, at the moment it is not really an option to decide whether to go online or not. This course has motivated me to look for inspiration and be creative with inline learning. I think online learning has great potential to facilitate different forms of learning.
I don’t think solely online learning is an option for my courses in the future, however, those different forms of learning can connect a group differently than face-to-face interaction, so online teaching might be a way to connect/integrate courses in depth. A blended learning environment is what I would like to facilitate in the future.

What are you going to do as a result of your involvement in ONL? Why?

I would like to take the inspiration into my teaching style.
Being more open, getting inspired and engaging with different ideas and methods can have a profound effect on my own experience. Taking this experience and actually including some practices into my teaching is the goal.

Monday, December 14th

For this blog post’s topic, I didn’t have to think for a long time. When we discussed a change in teacher-student roles, I immediately thought about the concept of critical pedagogy. A concept which emphasizes how closely related social justice and democracy are to practices of learning and teaching. It was crucially influenced by the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire. 

Monument standing in front of the Ministry of Education showing Paulo Freire in Brasilia, Brazil.
User:Brandizzi, CC BY 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The first time I came a long Freire and his work I was sitting in a class about pedagogy theories. I was drawn to the different ideas Freire brought to the field and liked that the ideas of critical pedagogy made me look outside the box. 
While thinking about topic 4, I thought, what would Paulo Freire make of online learning?

As I mentioned earlier, changing student-teacher roles where on my mind, which is also one of the key aspects of the critical pedagogy framework. Freire criticized the stagnant, conservative power dynamics that are often prevalent in classrooms that do not foster learners to be independent-thinking members of a democratic society. Indeed, he called it the „banking model“ of education, where:

„The teacher teaches and the students are taught. The teacher teaches and the students are taught. The teacher thinks and the students are thought about. The teacher knows everything and the students know nothing“.

(Freire 73)

The introduction of technoculture into classrooms, however, might change teacher-student dynamics for good. In an online classroom, in which younger generations tend to know more about the newest technology it is important to reevaluate who is “supposed” to teach and who is “supposed” to learn. Rethinking the medium’s possibilities actually would allow teaching to adapt to a more dialogical form, giving all learners the chance to “become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow” (ibid 80).

As education is not a one way street, this does not only apply for the students. It also applies for the teacher, who in the banking model is described as the omniscient person that imparts knowledge. But actually, the internet is a good space to realize that I cannot and will never be the master of everything. Someone will always know better how to plant a Ficus or know instantly what the 17th digit of Pi is. And that is okay. As Maylor describes it:

“Herein lies the contradiction in education: that teachers can be both educators and learners.”

(Maylor 2012)

In a virtual space, teacher- and student-roles are, indeed, changing and thus, adapting to a whole new reality of education and learning is crucial.
For me, the most important aspect of revisiting Freire’s work in a context of online education was to remember myself to critically question, rethink and reconsider my practice of (online) teaching.

What would I like online learning to look like?


Literature

  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman. Ramos, Continuum, 2005.
  • Kahn, Richard, and Douglas Kellner. “Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich: Technology, Politics, and the Reconstruction of Education.” Policy Futures in Education, vol. 5, 2007, pp. 431–445.

Wednesday, November 18th

How to establish and foster an online learning community?

During Topic 3 „Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning“ we discussed our experiences within the learning community that we are a part of currently. The question that was still on my mind when the topic was finalized: How can I create a successful, supportive and meaningful online learning community that gives learners the opportunity to benefit from each others thoughts and ideas? How can I improve my own abilities to facilitate an online learning community in practice? 
As my own courses start to grow I would like to know, what can I take into account in order to establish a learning community that is characterized by trust, a shared vision and a good overall learning ambition between the participants?

For my research, I started to look at J.V. Lock’s chapter „Laying the Groundwork for the Development of Learning Communities within Online Courses“. 
Out of this, I would like to discuss a rather practical approach. 
The „Five Guidelines for Creating an Online Learning Community“. Here, the author discusses basic issues, a  consideration of which can be of help when starting an online learning community.  

1: Awareness for the community and for the sense and value of an online learning community.

There is a need for the individual, which plans a learning community, to be aware of the implications that come with designing and developing a course. It is important to realize factors which establish and foster learning communities. 
I would argue that this is one of the most important points she mentions and a lot of things have changed in recent years due to the fact that establishing online communities is much more „the usual“ than it has been in 2007, when this article was written. As it has become much more the norm to teach online it might be more enticing to not reflect on this issue before starting an online learning community nowadays. However, there is still the need for this basic consideration of establishing an online community.

2: Addressing the design issues that support community building. 

Which structures could be implemented intentionally when planning a learning community?
In this case, it is all about planning ahead: which factors can be included in order to „create an online culture based on the four cornerstone of communication, collaboration, interaction, and participation“? As there are so many tools and designs to choose from, it seems very important to decide on the design of the course. As a result, the idea should be clear from the beginning, how the course works from a methodological perspective. Which structures do I want to facilitate in order to give the community members a chance to bond with each other. 

3: Putting in place mechanisms which facilitate the collaboration of the community. 

As collaboration contributes to a feeling of being connected to each other, several tools and ideas should be in place as to how the community’s members could be „in touch“ with each other. Those tools, as suggested by Lock, should be a collaborative space apart from the course’s structure, in order to give the members a chance to bond, even beyond the course’s environment. This seems very true for the purpose of a course in 2020. As we communicate and collaborate in so many different tools and environments, it seems important to select tools for collaboration as a course facilitator. In order to collaborate effectively but without technical difficulties, it can be a massive task for organizers to choose those tools wisely. 

4.: Emphasizing the „bigger picture“, looking beyond the own online learning community. 

There are different ways to emphasize this point. The idea of a successful online learning community goes beyond the course itself: There is the opportunity to include other courses, other teachers, other students, even the whole institution. Lock also points out the opportunity to think more globally in a quite literal sense: There is a global community of learners and educators who are very often willing to share their experiences, thoughts and approaches. And, of course, in the online world you will probably find a discussion on everything in a forum or beneath a youtube video.

5.: Seeing the option to change and improve the educational environment by the help of research that is conducted within the course. 

In a controlled online environment there is the option to clearly define the areas that are of special interest for the educational organizer. Designing, approaching and planning an online course might be changed completely if research shows, that there are other ways that might be more suitable to the learners, facilitators and the group as a whole. 

Jennifer V. Lock’s article presents a quite practical approach to the issue at hand. I enjoyed the approach and was surprised how this approach seems suitable for me in the year 2020 still, when many factors have changed since 2007 when the book was published. Of course, however, in the context of such a practical approach it seems key to try it out myself. In order to do so, I would like to follow her suggestions. 


Literature

  • Lock, J.V. (2002). Laying the Groundwork for the Development of Learning Communities within Online Courses. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 3(4), 395-408.