Summer weather and a bit of vacation time has gotten me out of blogging mode for the last week or so.
But I am back into it now and not a moment too soon. I tuned into a talk radio show yesterday while driving, and heard some fairly bizarre opinions about online education spurred by the recent comments of Bill Gates (who has recently said that all university education will be online in five years http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/113251-gates-technology-can-lower-college-tuition-to-2000). Gates seems to be generating a bit of panic or at least misunderstanding of what learning at a distance can actually involve.
So… time to move on with my thoughts on the chapters in the Veletsianos book.
Chapter Five is the beginning of the second section of the book which focuses on “Learning Designs for Emerging Technologies”. Here we get to some specific examples. This particular chapter, written by The Learning Technologies Collaborative (Aaron Doering, Charles Miller and Cassandra Scharber) from the University of Minnesota, is titled, “Emerging: A Re-conceptualization of Contemporary Design and Integration”. The chapter maintains that how technology is used is what is important. The authors describe adventure learning (AL) as an example of a way of combining technologies to transform online learning, with a strong foundation in grounded pedagogical models and authentic context. Already such projects have reached over millions of students (e.g. see http://www.polarhusky.com/ ) offering inquiry and experiential learning by connecting students around the globe to each other and to experts in the field.
I hope that descriptions of projects like this will soon reach the mainstream media and help dispel concerns that online learning is taking something away from education. The opportunities provided through adventure learning are disruptive in that they may not fit neatly into a learning schedule that demands regular standardized testing, but if the benefits can be seen by the average parent/citizen, perhaps there will be a call to re-think some of the established testing models.
As the authors mention, the governor of Minnesota has proposed that state and college students should take 25% of courses online by 2015 (not quite the Bill Gates schedule but along the same lines). I personally hope this means opportunities for new ways of learning. And it is exciting to think that even young students can be involved in collaborative knowledge building through projects like those described related to adventure learning.
This is from the “Elizabeth Tweets” series of chapter-by-chapter blog posts related to the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).