Blended learning design and digital literacies

I am currently doing one of Canvas.net’s MOOCs: Blendkit2014, a course on blended learning. I have looked at MOOCs before and dipped my digital toes in the learning stream but this time I want to engage with as much as possible to see what the MOOC experience is like from the inside.

It will also give me an opportunity to think more about Blended Learning which links well with a number of my current curriculum projects – my redesign of first year journalism courses at UOW and our wider curriculum renewal project.

This is my first blog post for the course and responds to the first reading about definitions and design principles in blended learning.

One of the key points is that good blended learning design, makes the best use of face to face interaction and online modalities and that decision making must be driven by pedagogical needs and analysis, not by the convenience of or drive to use new technologies. The reading states:

Blended learning is not simply adding an online component to a face-to-face course. Technology in a course should be used wisely – to facilitate student learning. Technology should not be used just to show off technology. Excellent opportunities exist for teachers to make learning interactive, dynamic, and fun when used properly. The technology aspect of a lesson should be like a good baseball umpire – it (like the umpire) is good if it (he) goes unnoticed.

I agree that learning design is learning design and needs to be focused on learning not on methods or modes of delivery, however I don’t think this means making the technology or modes of delivery invisible.

I think one of the reasons that we engage with blended learning is precisely to engage with technologies, and part of the educational design is to enhance digital literacies in the same way that, for example, oral literacies are developed in classroom presentations.

I understand the underlying cautions in the blended learning literature which wants to focus on learning outcomes not technological delivery but I think that this runs the risk of underestimating the importance of thinking very cogently about the technological delivery aspects.

There are several reasons why the technology should not remain invisible in either our design thinning or in our student delivery.

  • Firstly engagement through digitally mediated forms often requires explicit scaffolding, so it is necessary to get students to think about technological processes in order to get them to effectively use these modes to facilitate higher order outcomes.
  • Secondly digital literacy needs to be embedded across the curriculum as a key learning outcome and not expected to occur either by osmosis or through specific subjects about technology.
  • Thirdly making learning processes and modes explicit – whether this means talking explicitly about collaboration and team work in face to face classes or talking explicitly about technological and digital skills in online classes – is an important element of reflective practice which is essential to deep learning and the development of adaptable skills.

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