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assignment 2 begins…

February 16, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

This long weekend I am deep in my 804 Assignment 2 which is a 45 minute (yeah, that’s right….45 minute) presentation grappling with a social/economic issue and showing how education in general and educational leadership in particular could bring positive change. It’s all speculative (meaning we don’t have to actually do what we’re investigating) and the overall thrust of the assignment is for us to test drive leadership ideas.

The good news is that it’s meant to be a partner assignment and I’ve got an amazingly capable partner. We’ve chosen to grapple with persistence in distance education and look particularly at how The Landing, Athabsca’s social site, could play a more proactive role in building community thus increasing persistence.

The even better news is that The Landing also happens to be the focus of my partner’s thesis project. But, lest it sound like I’ve been savvy in partner choice and topic (which admittedly I have) and am now coasting for the next month, I have been pulling my weight as much as possible and though I’m not the main force finding articles (since he’s basically got the library already) I’m enough of a control freak that I can confidently say my fingerprints will be on the final product to present a convincing argument that we are a team. In addition because he’s been living in these ideas for awhile, I think my fresh outlook is a good reality check. I know for me the longer I live in ideas the more I’m unable to see how things could be any other way…then someone peers in and it’s the emperors new clothes all over again as I realize what I thought was set in stone was really only written in sidewalk chalk.

As a bit of Landing background….based on the idea that learning is inherently social The Landing is a space where students can share work, initiate discussions, and generally share their lives in any way they would like. The Landing builds on Connectivist pedagogy saying that students are able to not only learn whenever/wherever they happen to be, but also learn cooperatively thorough personal learning networks and the nodes/new adjacent possibilities that come through chance encounters and spontaneous connections.

In theory, The Landing is a wonderful unique venue for all students at Athabasca because it is at once the campus quad, the local pub, and a worldwide MOOC. You can have conversations with people you know face to face just as easily as you can have conversations with people who are on the opposite side of the world from you. As in a great MOOC, in The Landing the hope is that the high level of student to student interaction balances the potentially lowered level of student-instructor interaction and even more the old hierarchies of knowledge flowing one way from teacher to student are replaced with an organic, bubbling sea of awesome collaborative learning. I’ve been in great MOOCs to see this sort of thing happen and it’s pretty amazing and not unlike spontaneous combustion meets evolution meets the birth of a star. You can know about it all in theory but then once you’re a part of the experience…totally dazzling.

Dron and Anderson, the pioneers behind The Landing and also the main researchers on its impact, have done lots of work identifying different ways people collaborate/learn in online spaces. Groups, nets, sets, and collectives are the main lingo that gets tossed around. Groups represent the smallest, most “closed” communities of the four and it seems with each step up the circle widens and gets more inclusive until topping out at collectives which are algorithmically combined together and can literally find commonalities amongst millions of users. The Landing, with its various levels of privacy settings, sharing, etc. manages to live in many of these circles concurrently.

It’s an interesting taxonomy of online learning and the more I read the more I am convinced that there is something to the scheme. That said, the more I read the more I’m also convinced that naming something is not the same as completely understanding it and when it comes to learning and humans…the complexity element tends to throw a delightful wrench in everything.

So, what will emerge as our Assignment 2 educational leadership positive change regarding these things? Ideas are fermenting and it’ll be interesting to see how they distill down. And even more it’ll be interesting to see how they are discussed on the campus quad, or at the local pub or even, on the worldwide MOOC.

Resources:

Anderson, T., Upton, L., Dron, J., Malone, J., & Poelhuber, B. (2015). Social Interaction in Self-paced Distance Education. Open Praxis, 7(1), 7-23. doi:10.5944/openpraxis.7.1.164

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2012). The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance and New Social Media Literacies. International Journal of Learning, 4(3-4), 65-72.
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