EDER 677 was my first course in my Masters of Education in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Calgary and my first attempt at graduate studies work. I was both nervous and excited to begin my academic journey and Distributed Learning was a wonderful first step.
Platforms and Social Software
As an online teacher, I felt confident that I would have the web literacy skills to navigate the multiple platforms. I have taught using Desire 2 Learn (D2L) and it was a very interesting experience take on the role of a student using this platform. I did find that the overall course design was intuitive and very user-friendly. My personal bias in online learning is to use social software and tools which are authentic and whose usefulness will outlive the task or course at hand and become a tool for continuous learning. I find that most LMS platforms lack this authenticity as the work that is created within them and the discussion board discourse is deleted at the end of the term. To this end, I was grateful to use WordPress for our weekly reflection as this is a platform that allows for authentic social connection and the learning that is created in this space can be shared beyond the course itself.
I was pleased to realize that the course would utilize blogging for reflective practice, which is something I try to do on a semi-regular basis for my own professional learning. This course allowed me to continue my reflection in a public space and gave me the opportunity to receive critical feedback and discourse from both my professor and my classmates. This practice is in line with the research into connected learning and communities of inquiry in online courses in which continuous reflection, teacher’s presence, and critical discourse lead to deep learning. I appreciated the way in which our professor was able to find strengths in each of our reflection yet still challenge us to inquire further which to me is the perfect model of critical discourse in online learning. Thank-you Doug for your fairness and your ability to extend our understandings to create new connections.
I also very much enjoyed the Adobe Connect sessions and the ability the offered to connect with my classmates. Creating a sense of community online requires repeated interactions and this platform allowed us to get to know one another. I would have enjoyed more sessions and the opportunity to engage in further discussions. As a learner, I greatly benefit from discourse to push the boundaries of my thinking and to open me up to new possibilities. The summer time frame for this course was also challenging for myself in this regard as my family was in the process of some very large life changes such as selling our home and moving to a new town. That, on top of government timelines for curriculum writing and trying to spend time with my family, left me with less opportunity than I had hoped to devote to interacting with my classmates. From my experience in this course, I learned that online learning that is somewhat self-directed is very powerful in terms of personal practice but also requires a great deal of commitment in order to achieve deep learning. In future courses, I hope to build on what I have learned in EDER 677 to increase my capacity to read, write, reflect and offer feedback to my classmates. I also had hoped to extend my personal learning network to include my classmate by connecting with them on Twitter and other social software that was not required of this course. I wonder if all of our networks could have been enlarged and strengthened if we encouraged each other to connect in other platforms beyond the ones required by the course. It would be beneficial to continue the conversations we began in the course as we each travel down our individual academic paths. The knowledge and expertise that was evident from the reflections and conversations in this course would be well worth-while to build upon throughout our professional careers.
My favourite aspect of the course by far were the assigned reading. I feel that Digiio was the perfect tool for keeping the articles easily accessible and easy to find. I loved the ease with which I could access everything I needed. More importantly, the reading both affirmed and supported many of the hypothesis I have about distributed learning but also provided new insight and avenues to explore. I have already used many of the readings in conversations with my colleagues regarding Curriculum Prototyping as well as with my work on teacher professional learning at the Alberta Distance Learning Centre. I will admit that in my work as a teacher researcher I was continuously looking to friends and colleagues for access to academic articles to support our work and professional learning and I am grateful for the University of Calgary’ wealth of research that is now at my finger tips. I will certainly continue to access this database for both academic and professional work.
This course offered exactly what I had hoped for in my first foray into academic studies at the graduate level. Firstly, the ability to bring my reflections on teaching practice and hold it up to current research, learning theory. Secondly, it allowed me to bring fresh insights back to the work I do and gave me a theoretical frame for research informed practice in distributed learning. Lastly, it allowed me to dip my toe back into the world of academic writing, research and APA which was both challenging and rewarding. I am greatly looking forward to my upcoming courses and thank both my professor and my classmates for this rewarding experience in online learning.