Distributed Learning Symposium

I am attending the Distributed Learning Symposium in Calgary.  The first key note right after breakfast was Curtis Johnson – co-author of Disrupted Class a book about disrupted learning.

I think this is a great concept, as a times a natural progression is just not enough to keep up with what is happening, and it does not lead to jumps in advancements.

By disrupting the normal learning models – moving to some variation of online or other distributed learning models can be the way we will finally make learning work for a much larger percentage of learners.

Curtis Johnson states that we are presently losing approximately 50% of our learners through the present k-12 system.  Some directly when they drop out, and others in-directly as they ‘tone out’.

One suggestion is to allow new learning ideas to grow in a totally separate environment, free from present controls and standards – with the mandate to produce something that works – that they can prove it works.

Next came the break out sessions – my first was from Alberta Learning – an update on the Alberta Distributed Learning Strategy.

Alberta Learning has embarked on a 5 year examination and implementation of a Distributed Learning platform.  They have just completed phase 1 of this project and are anxiously awaiting the final report of this Discovery Phase, although the summary document is out and available on their website – http://arpdc.ab.ca/DLForumA/main.html

As Helene Fournier discussed, they went through quite the rigorous process to come to the recommendations that were finally arrived at.  In a nutshell the recommendations were around leveling the playing field across all school divisions, being able to easily access and share content, and finally make the whole process work best for the student.

Some issues identified were around the socialization aspect of distributed learning, as well as loss of intellectual property.

Session two was an update on E-campus Alberta which is an online learning network for post secondary colleges and technical institutes. They handle strictly online learning courses.

What is unique is that it was started by the college presidents across the province and they continue to drive this initiative, although they also work with both academic and student services at the participating institutions.

E-campus Albert is driven by five objectives:
1. Access for students is by far the #1
2. Collaboration
3. Awareness
4. Capacity
5. Quality

Some interesting facts from their statistics are that 84% of students are female and that 65% choose online learning due to the flexibility it offers.

Mobile Learning Tools was my third break-out session. It was about taking the new technology – the mobile technology that does not normally go in the classroom into the class.

Their was no limitations on the types of technology – anything from using a digital camera or a video taped session of a teacher going through a lesson to using iPhones or laptops in the class.

They discusses how some schools are adopting this view and others are resisting.  They also talked about whether the mobile learning tools should make it easier for the instructor or if it should be for the improvement of students only.

Some issues that were brought up were the safety of kids online and how to supervise the online activities.  Also the issue about mis-information that abounds online.  FOIP was a big issue that many teachers were concerned about.  Also some administrators are of the belief that social media and online ‘stuff’ is just teachers playing and that it is all bad.

The evenings keynote speaker was Dr. Jason Ohler.  Jason started off with great story and pictures of him in grade 2 – and his grade 2 teacher – along with his grade 10 teacher who taught him band.  Both were inspirational to his development as an instructor.

Jason said he would be proud if he can be as good as those two teachers. He then did a unique demo using his cell phone playing music – a string quartet that he wrote himself – all because of his grade 10 teacher.

He then jumped right into some ideas about semantic web and web 3.0, how it can take the data out on the net and learns from it and gives us the information we need compiled in the format we need.

Then he outline nine principles we must embrace:
1. moving from text centric era to new media
2. writing is more important than ever
3. Adopt art as the 4th or the next R

I will leave the rest for Dr. Ohler.

Dr. Ohler then discusses story telling and how we should embrace this as a learning tool.  He showed many fascinating ways to engage students in various ways using art, new media, and other tools.  And he showed us a unique way of story development that we could teach our students.

Overall a very powerful speech with plenty of very usable information for using in the classroom.  I was very impressed with Dr. Ohler’s presentation.

Dr. Ohler finished with some great words about not to worry about concerns.  He said that concerns are simply negatively stated GOALS.  And that we should turn those concerns into goals for your project and then move on with the development.

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