Distributed Learning

I have mentioned in a previous post that I had the option of taking video conferencing classes when I was in high school, a system that was new at the time and occasionally involved technical difficulties. My overall experience with video conferencing was positive, I was able to take classes that would not normally be offered in my small community and I still had a direct link to my teacher.

In contrast the one experience I had taking an entirely online course was lacking. I tried to take a photography class online before the video conferencing system was in my school. The teacher running the course was over 500 km away and had students all across BC. I took the course with four classmates and we soon noticed a pattern. Our assignments were to google search a type of image (Fish-eye lens, portrait) and then send it to the teacher, for our efforts we all received 97% on every assignment.  (I ended up changing courses).

I have seen negatives and positives in distributed learning. I do think a wider reaching entirely online course like my photography class could be successful provided there is someone there for support (a teacher or learning center). There needs to still be class size limits and students should have some method of consistently contacting their teacher. If the teacher designs a class with the mode of education in mind (a well done video conferencing class) it can go well.

Distributed learning is important as learners and teachers are distributed geographically and due to circumstance.There are going to be students and teachers who can’t always meet face to face in a classroom. Whether in kindergarten or grade 12 it will be an obstacle that we now have more and more tools to help overcome.

One of the other tools we saw today was the Beam Robot, a robot connected to a computer which can be remotely controlled. Students who are not able to be in the classroom can control the robot, see their teacher and friends, and talk through the speakers. It allows for participation in the class you don’t get from notes or watching a recording.

Learners may prefer not to be physically present in a class, they may have a long commute or costs involved with reaching a school. I currently commute two hours to school one way, this means that on my days off I am very hesitant to commit the time to come into school to work on projects or discuss assignments. I would much rather call, text, or work collaboratively on google docs than spend four hours on the bus for an hour meeting.



Privacy and Safety

In technology 336 we have discussed privacy and safety when using online and cloud based tools. Cloud based tools will store and keep your information, in an education context you need to get parent or student (depending on the students age) consent to store information this way.

My family has always focused on what you should/shouldn’t share online. Not only for the usual safety concerns but because our last name is not common. My mother kept her maiden name and has several people with her name, if you google her you find professional swimmers, professors, and psychologists. She doesn’t show up for a few results. In contrast there are 7 people in Canada with my last name and they are all in my close family. Google my full name and you will see every newspaper I have been in, my school presentations, and some of my Instagram photos.(As far as I can tell there was one other Natalie with my last name in the early 20th century).

As a result when I am considering creating something online I know it could be easily found. This is really true of anything you post under you name online, although it is  easier to find my name, everyone’s public posts are a certain amount of permanent. If you become a public figure, even locally, your posts will matter to people.  I would want to be sure students understand the possible lack of privacy online platforms hold while also showing that they can use these tools safely.

Inquiry and Innovation

Last week we visited the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII). I really enjoyed seeing how this school functions. Inquiry to me holds a lot of possibilities and it was interesting to see a way it can be used in schools. While I do not yet know if I would want to teach in a fully inquiry  based environment, like many of our school visits I saw things I would want to incorporate in my teaching .

Often when we talk about inquiry there are questions about how students will be prepared for university, whether or not they will struggle in a more traditional schooling environment. When this was asked during our visit I really appreciated the answer, that students who are invested in their learning and aware of their goals and learning needs are plenty prepared not only for university but to choose what path works best for them. Often we treat the first year of university as a test, to see how to succeed in school, to find something you want to do. It is not possible for many people to pay for university to see if something interests them. It would be beneficial to students to have knowledge about their own learning and goals before university.

The other point that stuck out to me in our visit was the way the classes at this school are not mandatory but suggested. It is very different than any system I have experienced. At first this was almost hard to imagine, that students have such control over their schedule. Then I thought of my planning course in grade 10. I do not know the exact curriculum at the time I took this course but our class consisted of my teacher spending an hour of our day for a full semester reading grad requirements to us. Forms we would later read again in grade 12. At one point three students fell asleep in the same hour.

I knew at the time of this course that I was not gaining anything useful, but I did not ever think to question the structure of it. I didn’t think I could influence my own learning. I have heard of other student’s much more involved and useful planning 10 courses and I regret those hours I spent doing nothing. At PSII I imagine that not only would I have been able to leave and work on something more productive but the environment is more open to students asking questions about their own learning.

Going Different Directions

Although I am mostly focusing on The Book of Knowledge I started this week by picking up “The Girl Guiding Book of Ideas” (1939), and it held a wonderful general knowledge quiz full of incomprehensible questions and answers. The questions are honestly unfair since they are completely out of the context of 1939. I decided the best thing to do was make an honestly unfair quiz out of a few of the questions.

After searching online and attempting to make a quiz twice I found a website that was simple to use and had enough free features to make a multiple choice quiz (proprofs quiz maker). The website does ask for your name but will accept random letters which I noted in my post. I added the multiple choice because the original questions are impossible to answer without options, for example:

“Why can you not make a good cup of tea at the top of a mountain?”

“Because the water boils at a lower temperature”

Along with making this quiz I have been collecting household hints from my books, particularly “How girls can help” the first Girl Guiding book (1912) and  “Enquire Within upon Everything” (1894) . And researching the Moon and Earth as explained by “The Book of Knowledge”(1921/1926) and “Reasons Why: Physical Geography” (1864).

All these different topics seem to lead me to multiple unrelated articles, as I open a book to find information on cleaning mirrors in 1894 and end up reading a poem about making salad. The past was a strange place and I am really enjoying such specific glances at it. I may at one point research further the world these books were published in, the outer society that influenced what was written and published, but the books themselves are also an answer to that question. They are an incomplete picture of the time they were made in, so once I have seen what picture my odd collection paints I will find the rest of the image.