Hopes related to teaching and learning with technology

November 14, 2011

My post today is a distilled version of a message sent to LRNT 503 (program planning in the Masters of Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University) students as a final goodbye. I guess it’s normal to have mixed feelings at the end of a course. This  message addresses some of what Stu Berry (co-instructor) and I hope for this group in the near and not-so-near future.

The MALAT program has at its heart the following statement; “The emphasis of this program is on best practices in learning – learning processes, planning for learning, designing for learning, facilitating learning, and assessing learning – that takes place in a technology-mediated environment”. Technology, in the context of this program, is primarily a mediating device, a rich set of tools that allow us to enhance and support our learning environments. We must not lose sight of the heart and soul of what we do every day. When we talk about program planning and about technologies we must not forget that the core must always be about learning.

It can be a struggle to understand the technology and what it could do to support learning as opposed to it being the object of what was being learned. This is a case of process versus product. You might be planning on teaching how to do something, i.e., learn about a product, but the core of this program is the process by which you go about learning about the product and not the product itself.

Please try and steer clear of the sales pitch as you research and look for academic material that provides a grounded approach to whatever it is you are looking for. We encountered several examples of learners using research that was clearly written by and for a product and this type of documentation is biased and suspect at the best of times. There are a great variety of academic articles that compare one type of product over another and they do so in reasonably unbiased ways. Ensure that the literature meets these standards.

This last item talks to us all: the LRNT 503 Learning Archive. This is a public resource at  http://thelearningarchive.edublogs.org/  with a long-term goal to grow beyond this course and allow current and future students an opportunity to add, edit, comment, and benefit from the contents. We have set this resource up as a public space, however only registered students in this course can add and comment on its contents.

We have just added a TED video to the Learning Archive that describes how the technology of a washing machine allowed women of a previous generation to have time to read. A small but profound example of the sometimes surprising interaction of technology and learning, the video can be viewed at: http://www.gapminder.org/videos/hans-rosling-and-the-magic-washing-machine/

Pilchuck inspiring me beyond glass

August 5, 2011

I had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the class I’ll be co-teaching online in a few weeks. It’s a “Program Planning” course (LRNT 503) from the Royal Roads University MALAT cohort (MA in Learning and Technology).

I am still bursting with ideas from Pilchuck, and although the LRNT503 course is not at all about glass I believe that my experience at Pilchuck has given me new ideas for ways to address its goals.

At Pilchuck, Bruce Mau referred to technology and said “now we can do anything, what will we do?”

He encouraged the Pilchuck group to consciously design our lives and our environments. A perfect thought for the MALAT students I am working with, who will be designing online educational environments. Bruce Mau, a big BIG picture designer, gave me a renewed understanding of the scale of design principles. It’s something I want to share as I teach this year.

For instance, the intersection of arts and science can be made more explicit as an educational goal. “Massive change” for education. “The Third Teacher”  — interactions for learning. Kids interact with adults, peers and their environment — as program planners, the group I’m teaching will be making decisions about learning environments and should spend time reflecting on how these shape the learning experience.

Also, collaborative learning is something that Royal Roads has always emphasized, and it was beautiful to see it in action at Pilchuck. In my session with the MALAT group I described Pilchuck’s environment of artistic collaboration and hopefully made it clear that the same creative energy can be applied throughout the MALAT program. Students will work together to solve problems, create a set of online resources that will stay with them long after the course is completed and, most importantly, they will begin to think about plans that can be implemented in their real life workplaces.

I ended my discussion by considering Bruce Mau’s statement that “sacrifice won’t work”. As humans, we won’t stop loving travel, communication, playing, making art and so on, so we will continue to consume things. That means in order to be sustainable we have to make smart things more compelling than stupid things. And that’s a design problem!


When I wrote this on the board I saw many of the class members smiling. I hope a seed has been planted!