I just finished what may be my last discussion post for ETAP640. As I went through the post process, I was cognizant of each step: read your classmates’ posts; respond to something that resonates within you; teach (us) something by locating and sharing resources that support your thinking; include the thinking and experiences of classmates; offer your opinion on what you are sharing; cite your resources for the benefit of all; tag your resources logically.
Alex had informed us at the outset of the course that each discussion post is an exam and I have learned why: discussion is the heart of online learning. An instructor may vary the context, content, activity, instructional grouping, and time frame, but in the online environment, students’ learning is demonstrated through the vehicle of discussion. It’s not just the process of discussion posts I have learned about; the theoretical constructs behind discussion posts also make them central to online learning. Through posts, students develop and demonstrate the social, teaching and cognitive presence of the Community of Inquiry Framework. Through participating in a community of inquiry, each member transcends self to exist as a fractional part of a summative, cognitive entity, a node in the connected network of cognition and the pursuit of knowledge.
The same can be said of blogging. While I initially eschewed blog posts in favor of scholarly papers as resources, I came to learn that blog posts are personalized records of learning, thinking, and being. They can be loci of scholarly thought in that the blogger may have already done some significant reading on your topic of interest. Blog posts can also furnish the human connection that is necessary in the online environment. During this course – my first online learning venture – I often felt isolated and overwhelmed. The expression of similar feelings in classmates’ blogs reconnected me to the group and made me feel a part of the whole. I did not avail myself of this connection as often as I should have or would have liked to, but I believe that as my online learning curve diminishes, my ability to reach out to, enjoy, and learn from blogs will increase. Through visiting classmates’ blogs, I see that diverse approaches to blogging are equally effective in that blogs are unique. It is not about what the instructor wants to hear, it is about hearing the student’s articulation of what is being learned that is essential to evaluating the content of a blog post.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the tools and techno skills I have acquired. Creating a Voki and and a VoiceThread for EED406 was a high point for me, as I learned that I COULD use the “cool tools” that Alex is so excited about. I continue to really love the teaching and learning possibilities inherent in Diigo even while I realize I am leaving ETAP640 with a very strong novice-level understanding of its strengths. I look forward to learning to use screencasts and podcasts (as well as eventually teaching others to use them) in order to make content more interactive. Seeing Tina’s and Diane’s use of them has furthered my confidence that they are accessible and not just for hardcore technophiles. On Twitter, I now follow a few modern-day scholars, have had a few of my tweets retweeted (RT), and have joined a few Twitter communities; I am interested in microblogging and will continue to use it in my coursework and online presence. I am confident in my ability to create an online course. When I zipped it, complete with a PollDaddy evaluation instrument based on the work of Dr. Phil Ice, I felt as though my work for ETAP640 was done. Through trying to be “fearless” about using technology, as Alex advises, I have come to learn that confidence is something that one must exercise in all spheres of the online environment.
These reflections are to be borne in mind as I continue my sojourn in the World of Web 2.0. I would like to help future learners create and achieve this heutagogical experience of learning. While the pre-ETAP640 Irene would continue this last sentence with “but I feel as though I am still a student myself”, the post-Pickett Irene says, “while I continue to learn with them.” As I have learned, online teaching and learning are synchronous; in an online, student-centered, 21st Century course, we can not help but to teach when we learn and to learn when we teach.
Thank you, Alex and ETAP640 classmates. You have transformed my perspective and practice.