Friday, February 15, 2002

Today I'm making final preparations for my trip to Atlanta to attend Training 2002.

I'm really excited about attending the conference. I expect the sessions and interaction with experts in the field of online learning theory and practice to be the highlight of my trip.

Watch this space for updates from Atlanta starting Monday.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

I've read No More Teachers, No More Books: The Commercialization of Canada's Schools by Heather-jane Robertson for one of my courses at OISE/UT (CTL 1606S).
Robertson betrays her anti-business bias throughout. I'd have expected nothing less from the co-author -- with Maude Barlow, no less (my own bias may be showing ;-) -- of Class Warfare: The Assault on Canada's Schools.

Near the end of the book she quotes David Noble of York University: "Forced to choose between technological innovation and their own futures, the Luddites had no problem making the choice and acting on it," Noble asserts.

Seems as though Luddites are still having "no problem making the choice and acting on it."

Noble's lecture next week, The Rise and Demise of On-Line Education -- part of the Technology in Support of Learning and Teaching Spring 2002 Lecture Series -- hosted by the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI), "will not be webcast as per speaker's request."

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Today's post relates to readings done for CTL 1602S at OISE/UT.

This week, we've turned our attention to Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). To prepare for this discussion, we've been pointed to a number of resources, including two papers co-authored by Lynne Davie. My comments about each appear below.

Fantasy and Structure in Computer Mediated Courses

I liked this article, especially since it:

"argues that the outcomes of CMC education depend on creative designs to support active learning and participation by students rather than on a particular (CMC) system."

Perhaps the most striking thing about this article is how much technology and practice have changed since the article was written (1992) and how the courses I'm taking now were obviously influenced by the work done by Professor Davie and his colleagues. The fact that the issues raised are still relevant in 2002 seems to support the "argument" quoted above.

In the example cited in the paper, OISE graduate students accessed a "mainframe computer" to collaborate with one another. OISE now employs (as far as I've seen) web-ased (Knowledge Forum) and client/server (First Class) applications for its graduate-level CMC courses. Both applications offer significant improvements over the example cited. For instance, both allow for threading of messages. My guess is that the "data bases" referenced by Professor Davie are now used to permit the "threading" available in KF (which was developed, and is produced, at OISE/UT).

OISE/UT no longer requires participants of its CMC courses to "meet once at the beginning of the course." Other than that, any changes in "practice" seem to be "evolutionary" if you will. I suspect that the work we do at OISE today is similar to that described in the paper. My sense is that there is a convergence of practice in these "constructivist" learning environments. For instance, the "scenario for the fantasy role play" sounds very much like the Story Centered Curriculum cited in yesterday's post.

Empowering the Learner Through Computer-Mediated Communication

I really liked this article. I feel that I continue to grow as a CMC-based learner and feel "empowered" and like to think that I take "a visible and meaningful role in the electronic classroom." While there is no doubt that I'm "visible" my colleagues will ultimately be in a better position to judge how "meaningful" my role is in our "electronic classroom."

I'm intrigued by the paper's take on "face-to-face" (F2F) components in CMC courses. Specifically, "a face-to-face meeting can encourage social bonding, but it can also negate the social equality advantages which CMC's lack of visual cues (that reveal age, gender, race, and so on) provides." This is the first time that I've heard the lack of a F2F component expressed as a strength of CMC.

I was also impressed with the "examples and contexts" of synchronous CMC, as well as the use of transcripts for reflection and learning. Great food for thought.

Here's a page CMC and Education with lots of good links on the subject.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Five days a week -- week in, week out, for the year and a half that I've been a subscriber -- I'm extremely impressed with the consistency and the quality of the Daily Links produced by

The link to
Training Magazine: Stories, Curricula, Master's Degrees and Dragon Slaying Roger Schank explains how story-centered curriculums better prepare university students for work in the real world.
is no exception.

The article provides an overview of the state of the art of Story Centered Curriculum (SCC), a concept pioneered by Dr. Schank. Following "the links within the link" -- one of my favourite activities associated with each edition of Daily Links -- led to and these links:

The concept of SCC "makes sense to me." I draw a connection between it and the Problem Based Learning model discussed in this blog yesterday.

NOTE: More about SCC and the connections I see to course readings for OISE/UT CTL 1602 -- Introduction to Computer Applications in Education -- in a subsequent post.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Today's elearningpost Daily Links included a link to Problem-based learning: the benefits to students and organisations, by Fred Ayres in the Training Journal.

While this type of approach ("problem-based") will be familiar to anyone who has put together a scenario-based training activity, I'd not heard of it referred to as PBL until reading about "constructivist" approaches for instuctional design (ID) and delivery for one of the courses I'm taking this semester at OISE/UT (CTL 1602S). Problem Based Learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework.

NOTE: This paper is posted as a PDF file. Click here to access the installation page, if you haven't already installed the Acrobat Reader on your computer.

While I'd not heard of PBL, Fred Ayres indicates that it is anything but "new":

"Like most 'new' ideas, problem-based learning (PBL), or learning because you need to solve a problem, is a natural process that has been around for centuries! Our Stone Age ancestors constantly had to learn skills and approaches to solving problems simply to survive, but it is unlikely that they commented to each other 'Didn't know you were into PBL!'"

Ayres goes on to list:


PBL is based around eight tasks, as defined below.

Task 1: Explore the problem, create the hypothesis, identify issues and elaborate.

Task 2: Try to solve the problem with what you currently know. A clearer idea of what you already know that is pertinent will emerge from this.

Task 3: Identify what you do not know and therefore what you need to know because your lack of knowledge is impeding the solution of the problem.

Task 4: Prioritise the learning needs, set learning goals and objectives, and allocate resources so that you know what is expected of you by when. For a group, members can identify which tasks each will do.

Task 5: Undertake self-study and preparation.

Task 6: For a group, share the new knowledge effectively so that all the group learn the information.

Task 7: Apply the knowledge to solve the problem.

Task 8: Give yourself feedback by assessing the new knowledge, the problem solution and the effectiveness of the process used. Reflect on the process."

Another thing that caught my eye, is that "contrary to expectations," PBL does NOT contribute to the development of problem-solving skills. Ayres states:
"Contrary to expectations, participation in PBL does not, of itself, appear to develop problem-solving skills. Research consistently shows that giving people the opportunity to solve problems rarely develops their problem-solving skills. As a result, most US universities offering PBL programmes screen students on problem-solving ability as part of their criteria for admission. However, with explicit intervention by a tutor, PBL provides an excellent opportunity to develop problem-solving skills."

Sunday, February 10, 2002

This post was set to be delivered in twelve hours. As it hits the blogger servers, I hope to be knee-deep poaching powder at Fortress Mountain. After a number of weeks on "made" (shades of the Sopranos over here ... already) snow at COP -- they had the Olympic flag flying today -- I'm anxious to get out and play on some stuff provided by mother nature.

Sunday morning's edit:
So much for the natural powder. The gods have conspired to ensure I shan't be off to the mountains -- looks like COP all over again. Oh, well. Could be that I wasn't riding anywhere.

While awaiting the availability of other participants, I've been to Greg Kearsley's pages to re-read the notes on David Merrill's Component Display Theory . I'm particulary taken with the "recent" changes in the theory -- note the new name -- I'll be attending a presentation by Dr. Merrill the week after next and look forward to hearing how the theory has most recently evolved.
"In recent years, Merrill has presented a new version of CDT called Component Design Theory (Merrill, 1994). This new version has a more macro focus than the original theory with the emphasis on course structures (instead of lessons) and instructional transactions rather than presentation forms. In addition, advisor strategies have taken the place of learner control strategies. Development of the new CDT theory has been closely related to work on expert systems and authoring tools for instructional design (e.g., Li & Merrill, 1991; Merrill, Li, & Jones, 1991)"