Public + Private Community Spaces: Week Four Reflections

Last week I asked what connected learning would look like in a humanities course. I found my answer through Dr. Laura Gibbs, who teaches online courses for the University of Oklahoma in mythology and folklore and epics of Ancient India. Dr. Gibbs doesn’t lecture at all – she aggregates resources, provides structure, and an assignment to blog, comment, and revise. Students read through collected (free, open) fables and myths, and many blogging assignments revolve around rewriting these narratives.

Some thoughts:

  • This course is largely writing-based. While writing instruction isn’t the focus, it is an outcome. In this interview, Dr. Gibbs says it was hard to connect with students writing in the classroom, and the move online was natural. As everyone probably knows by now, I work primarily with writing faculty, including some who tell me that writing can only be taught with pen and paper. I’m just happy to hear a counter-narrative.
  • Her courses are built using a variety of platforms which have changed over time. If you take the time to look through some of her courses, you will find places where content was once on a Google Doc and now lives elsewhere, or in the above video she talks about moving from Ning to Blogger. I think there is a reason that “design for evolution” is the first design principle for communities of practice listed in Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002). Flexibility – in terms of content AND structure – is key to ensuring a successful CoP.
  • The first week of both courses serves as an orientation to how students will learn in the course, not content. Students are responsible for designing their own assignments, schedule, even grade – taking “inviting student input into course design” to the next level and creating an environment that supports transformative learning (Gauthier, 2016). Dr. Gibbs also has students read and reflect on growth mindset learning theory – supporting metacognition by explicitly having students think about their own learning.
  • Dr. Gibbs on her own role as instructor: “I spend a lot of time building the space, collecting resources…like managing a three ring circus.” She offers lots of framing and feedback, but even grading is largely responsibility of students.

Switching gears to talk more about communities of practice (but not really, since that is exactly what the above course is) – I have found that the most useful CoP for me is the cohort of this course, rather than the other CoP’s I have explored over the past few weeks. Two main reasons I think I have learned more here than elsewhere:

  1. Structure and rhythm – Expectations and scaffolding are more explicit within a course structure. Pretty obvious observation, but one worth thinking about. So much of learning is motivation, so if I am the type of learner that needs that context to thrive, a CoP that is more designed and scheduled is going to help me engage more thoroughly.
  2. Public and private community spaces – Writing this blog has really transformed my learning this course, and is something I think Bethany should maybe think about implementing the length of the certificate! Defining my own learning goals has been key, and reflecting in this less-constrained space has allowed me to really think about connections and past learning. I feel a more concrete sense of “knowledge building” week to week.

One final thing I wanted to share re: communities of practice was Howard Rheingold’s (one of the founders of Connected Learning Alliance) Peeragogy Handbook. “Peeragogy” is a model for peer learning and peer knowledge production – I haven’t gotten the chance to explore too deeply, but to me it seems like a CoP that supports developing rich CoP’s! The handbook is linked with Hypothesis, a tool for annotating web content, so it is a live document, and they also have an active Google+ community.

Week 4 Resources

Connected Learning Alliance, “Teaching the Humanities Online”

Dr. Laura Gibbs, MLLL 3043 Mythology and Folklore of the World

Dr. Laura Gibbs, Mythology and Folklore UN-Textbook and Storybook blog (student final projects)

The Peeragogy Handbook

Metacognition and other reflections on Week Two

This week was devoted to learning how learning theories translate into more practical instructional design methods, and researching experiential learning as an instructional theory.

My rationale for taking a closer look at experiential learning was its simplest definition: learning by doing. It seems like a jumping off theory for many other instructional theories and methods – project-based learning, case-based learning, role-playing – that are also grounded in a constructivist approach. All share a basis in experience-based learning that is specific to both the learner and the surrounding environment and/or context for learning. In all these approaches, students are not told what or how to learn, and each learner chooses to approach and solve a problem (problems are posed as questions to be answered by learners, not instructors) in a unique way.

Experiential learning also lends itself to deeper learning approaches. Not only is the student learning by doing, they are also engaging in substantial reflection on that learning, which is crucial to Bloom’s higher levels of thinking as well as the practice of metacognition. Learning activities are based in student interest, increasing student learner motivation and interest (key to critical and creative thinking!) Experiential activities allow students to make connections between the learning they are doing and the world at large, and encourages interdisciplinary knowledge-building. My reading has led me to Moon’s Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice which details a two-step process for teaching students reflection, where students move from basic to more complex forms of reflection. I think this would be extremely useful in helping faculty design assessments meant to evaluate deeper learning, as well as assessing faculty development.

In terms of my communities of practice, I joined both the instructional technologies and the instructional design Educause listservs. In the past, I have largely taken a passive role in most CoP’s – reading articles, watching conference presentations, but rarely commenting or questioning. I hope to take a cue from our readings and become a more active participant in my own learning, and I hope joining the listservs will be a first step towards developing a voice in these spaces.

The Shift eLearning blog doesn’t seem to have a very active comments section, and I was turned off by a commercial feel – pop-ups for eBooks, constant sign-up for email prompts, and the like – since the site is geared towards a more corporate audience. However, I feel the content is very current – many articles on higher ed trends like microlearning, mobile learning, etc. I may explore another CoP that might be a better fit for the type of information I am looking for. I find the articles to be a bit content-light, but the sources have been excellent reading, such as this linked resource, “Best Practices in Experiential Learning.” However, the librarian in me doesn’t approve of a link without context or proper citation at the end of an article!

I am including my concept map for this week – I love the look and ease of Coggle, but is actually harder to link across concepts than I thought (which is the main point of this type of exercise!) I may experiment with a different tool next week to try and combine my concept maps from week one and two.

Concept map of deeper learning approaches