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YAHOO!

I’ve got mixed feelings about that, and yet I am really happy that I am about to start doing this MA course.  They use WebCT at Manchester, so it will be a great opportunity for me to see how it is all organized there and compare it with MOODLE, which I happen to have been using myself for several years now.  It is unbelievable that an MA there costs approximately as much as one in my home country, considering the relevance of the course units on offer to what Iam eager to study, it is absolutely amazing. I have to admit though, that the recommended  and core texts on the reading lists cost more than a fortune:( But I have got them all for course unit 1 at least, and that’s reassuring.

English for Business

I’ve got a few BE groups to teach this year, mostly pre-service students.  It is interesting that many of them have no idea about the subject matter, they have heard about management, marketing, business & finance, but those are just combinations of letters for most of them. Most students need to be taught what concepts mean both in their native language and English. I have taught some of those students before and it is really flattering to see them trying to make sure that they are in my groups this year, too.  I’ll do my best to live up to their expectations.

Hawking’s Brief History of Time is probably one of the most thought-provoking books I have read since winter. Well, I have not finished reading it yet for I am taking notes, which is very unlike me. However, his illustrations of the four-dimensional are simply superb. He has succeeded in coming up with a very compact and manageable view of space-time using a two-dimensional surface. I was finally capable of visualizing some of the concepts and particularly liked those of the past and future time cones.

When we look at the universe, we see it as it was in the past. Now I wonder whether the Earth would ever witness the Sun’s death if it started moving away from it at the speed of light. There is something wrong about my reasoning, but I cannot see where exactly at this stage …

Coursecasting

Summary: This benefits no one. There is absolutely no way that a recorded lecture can capture the benefits of interaction made possible through the dynamics of a classroom setting. The learning process is an active process and its potential would be greatly diminished if the core method of transferring knowledge became dependent on such passive means. It should be admitted though that there may be room to use some form of podcasting as an aid.

On second thought, it must really depend on the quality or should I say interactivity of coursecasts. It is certainly a new filed, and as with everything in e-learning, there is a need for a sound methodology for podcast use in education.

3. Kodutöö: Evalvatsiooni printsiipide rakendamine empiirilises lühiessees, mille abil hinnataks enda poolt loodud enesejuhitud õppimise ja ühesõppe tegevusmustri rakendumist. Töö valmimise tähtaeg 31. mai. Kodutöö esitatakse blogis või wikis.

Prerequisites & Limitations of Self-Directed Web-Based Learning

If it were not that serious, I would say that there were no demerits of self-directed learning as long as you were capable of studying on your own. In other words, there are a number of prerequisites or limitations for that matter.1.  I’ve italicised part of the subheading to emphasize the idea that there are several types of self-directed learning: one is traditional (offline), another is web-based (online), and the other is hybrid, which is a combination of the first two.  It is certainly a challenge in countries where all educational institutions provide for regular access to the Internet to study entirely offline. Nor is it possible to study online only as  it is limited to typing, listening & watching/reading: the thinking and the actual studying are still done by the learner at their convenience, and it is unwise to forbid offline resources when those are relevant to the subject matter. To sum up, most self-directed web-based learning is actually hybrid, ie it is web-based up to a certain extent only.

2.  Another consideration is that depending on the learner’s background, experience & skills, learning goals and objectives along with available resources, and most importantly the degree of dependence on other people (ie tutors, sponsors, dependants, etc), he or she may opt for different systems,  learning styles, means, tools, techniques & methods.  What I’ve been meaning to say is that no self-directed learning is ever entirely self-directed, it is always a compromise between the intrinsic and the extrinsic. Thus, self-directed learning is likely to take place and be successful when either the actual process of learning has an intrinsic value, eg the learner enjoys learning, or the consequences and benefits of learning hold certain extrinsic or, to be precise, instrumental values, ie achieving learning objectives is perceived as practical or pragmatic, or there is a sound mix of both. In other words, the learner has to be sufficiently motivated and possess the necessary skills along with equipment to direct his or her own learning in a virtual space.

3. As regards my both personal and personalized web-based learning space (www.englishlab.net), it is hybrid  and holds both intrinsic and instrumental values. It is hybrid, because it is part of a bigger learning space, which exists both offline & online. The most notable affordances I tend to attribute to it are as follows:

INTRINSIC

  • to ensure privacy
  • to reduce anxiety
  • to provide for opportunities to experiment
  • to provide for opportunities to socialize with visitors
  • to be in control of the content
  • to be in control of the pace
  • to maintain a sense of personal value and worth
  • to satisfy the need for achievement
  • to satisfy my curiosity
  • to enjoy the experience of having a personal & personalized virtual space

EXTRINSIC/INSTRUMENTAL

  • to learn teaching
  • to practise online teaching
  • to boost my carrer potential
  • to make whatever I do online tangible, ie the whole system is a kind of visual summary of all activity
  • to record achievement
  • to record failure
  • to take personal notes
  • to network (ie formal communication) & to socialize (ie informal communication)
  • to systematize, categorize, classify, label, archive, retrieve, etc data
  • to seek and provide feedback

Prerequisites for  Collaborative Learning

This type of learning has a number of prerequisites which are similar to those of any group or project work. No learning can be truly collaborative unless

  • there is a clear, preferably measurable, expected outcome to the task
  • participants are willing to collaborate and share the same idea as to what collaboration is
  • there are both analytic (ie those who tend to focus on the details) and global or holistic (ie those who tend to see the “big picture”)  learners in the same group
  • participants are ready to “sink or swim” together while working towards the common goal

In addition to all of the above, in case of web-based (which could be either synchronous or asynchronous or both)  collaborative learning, it is necessary to provide for the necessary equipment, tools and virtual space as well as sufficient time and opportunities to communicate. 

Admittedly, group-oriented learners are more likely to benefit from collaborative learning than solitary ones. However, there is an exception to every rule, so I would not be so categorical about this assumption.

Lastly, in order for all the participants to enjoy collaborative learning it is necessary for them to be on a par with each other. Curiously enough, it is not always necessary for the participants to enjoy the learning process to succeed:=)

Further to the collaborative project I have happened to participate in since the start of this course, I would like to say that all the preconditions outlined above but for the clear, measurable, outcome to the task were met.  The latter is probably the reason why I did not enjoy that activity – we did collaborate, but it was not very clear what we were aiming at or how it was going to be assessed. All the affordances associated with the activity, the partner and the learning environment were extrinsic/instrumental on my behalf: to share information, to seek and provide feedback, to negotiate meaning, to record the solution/final product, etc. Despite my occasional frustration, we did come up up with something eventually. Here is a peer assessment form to go with the collaboratibe activity I engaged in  mii7008_peer_assessment-_form.doc

had a look at LeMill – again the question is the same as the one which I have kept asking myself over the past two years regarding MOODLE:

How is it possible to manage all those materials, users and statistics efficiently in the long run?

I have been using Moodle alone for about 5 years and have generated more than a 100 subcategories of materials, about 20 courses, and ca 10,000 test questions, which I already have difficulty navigating through. It is a full-time job.

About 200 people use the website actively each year and about half a thousand try to regsiter out of curiosity (luckily, they do not have enrolment keys and do not generate much traffic). Over the past month alone the website has got hits from 96 countries. I dread to imagine what would have happened if all those people had enrolled on available courses and started doing whatever activities generating internal statistics and traffic.

On the one hand, it is great when everything is seemingly free and readily available; on the other hand, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and someone has to bear the costs and responsibility at the end of the day. Likewise, it is necessary to have someone to deal with technicalities, and that might take ages. You can’t hold anyone responsible for free nowadays, and pure enthusiasm does not last forever, either.

A VLE is like a library. When it is small and private, it can be managed by the owner. When it goes public, it generates jobs. The questions is who should want to be the sponsor? National libraries are funded by governments.  There are hardly any international libraries (hope it is self-explanatory why). If a public library were made freely accessible by anyone, went self-service and no one were responsible for its maintenance or management, it would very soon cease to exist. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Teaching Adults

learning contracts http://home.twcny.rr.com/hiemstra/contract.html jeez, I wish they would stop calling this oldie a brand new idea … I’ve been using something very similar with my adult students since the early 1990s, needs analysis and tailor-made course design are the key concepts here