Learning Goals for EDER690.20

Hi everyone,

As I am fairly new to the field of education technology, I’d like to learn more about the potentials offered by blended learning for nursing education and/or K-12 education. I’d like to understand the rationale for determining specific mixes of online and face to face components. What modalities, when, to what extent, for what purpose?


Media Literacy: The Purpose and Potential of Online Learning

According to Jacobs (2012), teachers are stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. While the “rock” signifies state curricula emphasizing traditional literacy skills, the “hard place” refers to the “twenty-first century” media skills espoused by educators, researchers, and employers. Why this disconnect? Ironically, as our world becomes increasingly dependent on communications technologies, increasingly inflexible state-mandated curricula ignore what everyone says is precisely what we need: media literacy.

One result of this disconnect is inequality. Learners with access to technology develop essential skills while those without do not. The digital divide looms larger than ever before because media literacy skills are not publicly accessible. While many young people use technology, few are “redesigning” digital content in a way that creates “new meaning” (Jacobs, 2012, p. 100). For learners to become full members in the new “participatory culture” (Jenkins et al., 2009), they need direct, overt instruction and support to socialize them into the community and stimulate their capacity to build and produce content, express themselves socially and artistically, and engage society in meaningful ways (Jacobs, 2012). However, as Schmidt (2013) observes, most learners (even digital natives) lack basic media literacy, using digital media in simple, consumptive ways. They are unable to produce significant digital content, and thus are unable to contribute their voices to the digital “conversation”.

Why do state, provincial, and national curricula seem to oppose these trends? Perhaps policymakers (and their constituents) fear the new digital world, and thus proscribe a centralized curriculum emphasizing a narrow range of literacy objectives (e.g. decoding, encoding, comprehension) to marginalize media literacy. In this context, teachers struggle to meet curricular requirements while responding to the everyday literacy needs of their students “on the ground”. The more time they devote to media literacy skills, the less time they have to teach to the test. As teacher evaluation is often based on student test scores, teachers have an incentive to focus on one set of skills at the expense of the other. But literacy instruction need not be a zero sum game. As Jacobs (2012) notes, traditional literacy skills are important and often prerequisite for media and cultural literacy, but they should not preclude instruction in media literacy. Media literacy skills can help learners make the leap from media consumption to production.

These issues are particularly salient for online facilitators, as our entire course design and teaching/learning environment depends on digital media. Online learners are forced to adapt to digital media faster than their peer in traditional classrooms. Thus, we must familiarize ourselves with media literacy approaches to help learners thrive in this unique format, regardless of our subject matter expertise. As the online learning movement is committed to equity, accessibility, and participation for all, we should keep in mind that many online learners have not had the opportunity to develop key IT and media skills. We can help develop these skills through direct instruction and developing an online community that creates supportive informal mentorships among peers, “whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to the novices” (Jenkins et al., 2009; cited in Jacobs, 2012, p. 99). This is online learning’s purpose and potential.

Jacobs, G. E. (2012). The proverbial rock and hard place: The realities and risks of teaching in a world of multiliteracies, participatory culture, and mandates. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(2), 98-102.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robinson, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schmidt, H. C. (2013). Media literacy education from kindergarten to college: A comparison of how media literacy is addressed across the educational system. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 5(1), 295-309.

Towards an Inclusive ICT-Based Environment

In today’s knowledge economy, all people require access to digital media, as it can provide opportunities for economic advancement and social mobility. However, social inequalities tend to correlate directly with digital inequalities between the “information rich and information poor”(Cooke & Greenwood, 2008, p. 144).  This digital divide further marginalizes the unskilled – people who are unable to use technology as an “essential passport to career advancement, personal development, educational opportunities, social networks, civic engagement and access to public information” (Cooke & Greenwood, 2008, p.145). Cooke and Greenwood (2008) discuss various factors that contribute to limited access to ICT in the workplace, including “line manager resistance to staff using computers…” (p. 143). This factor stood out to me, as I know someone who experienced this in their role as a receptionist in a dental office. The dentist refused to get an internet connection for the office because she believed it unnecessary for completing job duties. However, an internet connection would greatly facilitate filing insurance claims, as many insurers now work online. Instead, the dentist’s position exhibits an unspoken and misplaced belief that employees would use the internet to waste time. This was a disservice to the reception staff as it robbed them of the opportunity to develop skills and develop personally and professionally.

Cooke, L., & Greenwood, H. (2008). “Cleaners don’t need computers”: bridging the digital divide in the workplace. Aslib Proceedings, 60(2), 143–157.

Paper Abstract: Educating the Reflective Practitioner Online

Educating the Reflective Practitioner Online: Reflective Writing and Professional Development in Online Health Professions Education

Abstract: Reflective methods of teaching and learning have become increasingly utilized in health professions education. Reflective activities such as writing have been shown to improve the practitioner’s ability to connect theory and practice and perceive clinical cases from diverse perspectives. While numerous studies have explored the efficacy and effects of reflective writing in classroom and clinical contexts, less in known about distance and online learning environments. Although online facilitators often use reflective technologies in their courses, including blogs, wikis, and threaded discussions, careful planning must be done to avoid the perception that reflective writing constitutes “busy work”. This paper asks how online facilitators can use reflective writing practices to extend professional knowledge and competent practice in health professionals. It argues that analysis of the factors contributing to deep, meaningful reflection on professional practice will help online facilitators overcome resistance to reflective writing and the embedded, contextual nature of experience. It is anticipated that the findings will be of use to online course planners and facilitators in any field, but especially those working in the health professions. 

How deep is your breathing?

Children’s use of technology today is of epic proportions. Many children today are better at using a smartphone than playing sports or engaging in imaginative play. Technology mediates youth communication, with one in three teenagers texting more than 100 messages per day (Institute of HeartMath). Although many statistics like this exist, there is little research into the consequences of being a child in the digital world.  While schools strive to incorporate technology in the classroom to give them essential 21st century skills, some express unease about children’s “digital diets”. When the brain is occupied with digital input, people sacrifice downtime that would enable better learning, retention and creativity.

ImageI recently discovered the work of Linda Stone, a former technology executive with Apple and Microsoft who coined the terms “continuous partial attention”, “email apnea” and “conscious computing” to draw attention to the physiological effects of technology use. Continuous partial attention refers to an “an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis” (Stone, 2012, par. 4). According to Stone, it is motivated by a desire “not to miss anything and to be a live node on the network — in touch and seen by others” (par. 2). In so doing, the brain becomes overtaxed and stress responses kick in. This is related to email apnea, a condition in which physical posturing  over a computer terminal inhibits the user’s ability to breathe effectively. This chronic shallow breathing triggers a fight/flight response, releasing stress hormones into the body. Continuous stress causes incoherent biological rhythms that deteriorate thinking processes, decision making and long term health.

While such conditions are noteworthy for all of us, they are especially so for today’s digital natives who spend significant amounts of time engaged with technology. Children need to develop an appreciation of the relationship between immersion in technology, their emotional states, and their ability to learn and think creatively. Stone makes an analogy to beginning musicians who feel awkward not knowing how to coordinate posture with breathing. A part of playing instruments is learning how to breathe and how to sit and eventually evolve with the instrument, yet remain self contained. Musicians and athletes, who are trained to coordinate breathing with bodily movement, continue optimal breathing patterns even while using technology and can remain in an alert but relaxed state, bringing their whole self to the experience. This she calls conscious computing. They can learn how to be aware of their surroundings and yet maintain a relaxed state with mind and body simultaneously present. The same can be said of technological engagement.  We need to encourage engagement with technology in a way that supports a state of relaxed presence and strive for conscious computing, where we remain self  contained and in touch with our bodies, rather than submerged in technology. Stone emphasizes that her concern is about how we use technology not what technology we use.

Stone, L. (2012) Q&A. http://lindastone.net/qa/

Goelitz, J. & Stone, L. (2012). Children Growing Up in the Digital Age: Opportunities and Pitfalls. http://www.heartmath.org/free-services/downloads/children-growing-up-in-the-digital-age.html

Photo retrieved from http://www.techandlaw.net/

Learning With Social Media

ImageFriesen & Lowe (2012) argue that commercial social media like Facebook and Twitter are shaping online education models. However, they question its appropriateness for educational purposes, as it inherently restricts disagreement, negativity and dissent to better serve the interests of advertisers. After all, the primary aim of social media is to attract “eyeballs” to ads.

In contrast to connectivists, Friesen & Lowe argue that social media fosters low-quality collaboration. Collaborative learning requires deliberation, evaluation, debate and dissent, all of which commercial social media constrain. Consequently, “liked” items are noted while disliked items are sublimated. As Friesen and Lowe point out:

…expressions of reservation, nuance, and qualification are made difficult if not impossible; and negativity… is avoided. There are few… invitations to express dislike … and even fewer ways to note that which is “not” (to register an absence, to observe an omission, or to be faced with exclusion in general). (p. 191)

This article resonated with me for a number of reasons. First, although Facebook facilitates a connection with interesting sources of news and current events, my engagement with those materials remains limited. I struggle to participate in the discussion as commentators often don’t take the material seriously, and leave frivolous and at times insensitive comments. Under such conditions it is difficult to have a substantial debate, show dissent or see things from a different point of view and in short, have an active learning experience. With its 140 characters, Twitter is even more prone to this problem. A second issue is that I find social networking sites distracting, as at any point a new post or ad can appear and break one’s train of thoughts. Even when I subscribe to a person or organization that often issues interesting, useful posts, not every post is always useful. Sifting through these posts can be distracting and time consuming and unproductive.

Friesen, N & Lowe, S.(2011). The questionable promise of social media for education: connective learning and the commercial imperative. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(3), 183-194.

Sir… will this be on the test?

Over the last twenty years, the transformation of tacit knowledge into explicit learning objectives and competencies has been an influential trend in education and professional practice. Economic recession during the 1980s pressured governments to show they were “doing something” about high youth unemployment, which resulted in a slew of new education and training programs and increased oversight of educational institutions. To improve “accountability”, governments developed and “audit culture” consisting of “standards” and transparent modes of assessment, which served to control teacher practice and demonstrate “objectively” (i.e. numerically) student achievement (Hodkinson & Bloomer, 2001).

However, in his study of post-compulsory education and training, Torrance (2007) discovered numerous unforeseen consequences. One of his findings was the inverse relationship between specificity of learning objectives and learner autonomy. spoon feedingEssentially, as knowledge/skills become more “transparent” (i.e. more narrow and specific), learners emphasize “ticking the box” over learning, and thus shift responsibility for achievement onto their tutors. In turn, tutors cannot allow students to fail, but rather “tweak” their assessments through leading questions, repeated assignment and exam retakes, and tutor-prepared portfolios (which supposedly demonstrate “evidence” of learning).

It is important to note that Torrence does not negate the usefulness of formative assessments. Rather, he is advocating for allowing both teachers and learners more autonomy in what objectives are to be met during the course and how they are to be demonstrated. This is achieved through dynamics more akin to a community of practice, where the focus is on social and intellectual development, rather than on criteria compliance.

While Torrance (2007) mentions the “second best, second chance” culture of the post-compulsory sector, could it be that governments also have a hand in preventing student failure through their policies? For example, No Child Left Behind, which emphasizes hyper-assessment, threatened low performing schools with closure.Test you Indeed, their very existence was at stake. So what did these schools do? Focus on learning the assessment! Teach to the test, inflate grades, rewrite state tests to make them easier… anything to get their kids through and protect their funding. What is the “hidden curriculum” for the kids? That learning is secondary to high test scores – once the test is over, so is learning. In financially difficult times, governments want to show low unemployment and high completion rates. What better way to achieve this aim than to tie funding to retention and completion? This way, potentially unemployed people stay out of the labour market, and at the same time, receive a credential. But, as Torrance (2007) asks, what is the quality of their credentials when they are not allowed to fail? How engaged are they in their learning? What happens when true learning and personal achievement go unnoticed because it wasn’t on the list of competencies?


Hodkinson, P. & Bloomer, M. (2001). Dropping out of further education: Complex causes and simplistic policy assumptions. Research Papers in Education, 16(2), pp. 117-140.

Torrance, H. (2007). Assessment as learning? How the use of explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and feedback in post-secondary education can come to dominate learning.Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice. 14(3), 281-294.