Tag Archives: Blendkit2014

Disruptive innovations, blended learning and convergent journalism

The blend in blended learning is a very rich metaphor. It’s not just about blending face to face and technologically mediated learning it’s blending a whole range of learning experiences and interactions. It’s blending communications, it’s blending connections and it’s facilitating and encouraging blended – or integrated – meaning making.

Part of why it is so powerful is that shifting the focus of the learning site or environment from a classroom-only focus, shifts the focus from teacher to learner. It also shifts the focus to learning in a “networked world”. The four models of “educators in a networked world” presented in this week’s #Blendkit2014 readings also point to the fact that this process involves some fundamental shifts not just in technology use but in the way we conceive learning. The four models discussed are:

As the Blendkit Reader emphasises:

The four models presented above share a common attribute of blending the concept of educator expertise with learner construction. The concerns of instructivist and constructivist education are addressed in the focus on connection-forming in learning. Whether seen as master artist, network administrator, concierge, or curator, the established expertise of the educator plays an active role in guiding, directing, and evaluating the activities of learners.

It is this facilitating, connecting role, which the different blends of the blended learning process bring into focus.

I was struck that this movement in education, from teacher as instructor to teacher as facilitator of connections is very similar to the shift in journalism from journalist as authoritative deliver of news to journalist as key participant in a broader convergent news ecology.

Certainly each of the models of educator I referred to above could equally be applied to journalists. And the notion of journalist as curator has been widely discussed by key journalism innovators

Cindy Royal a journalism educator has recently written about why journalism educators need to think more seriously about what it is that technology is doing to news and news making. She writes that the major value of news comes from it’s being shared. So one of the major tasks of a journalist is to make it sharable: to facilitate the new web enabled participatory cycles of communications. This involves both a commitment to this new model and an understanding of the multiple technological means available to make it happen. So it’s both important to emphasise that this process is about more than technology but it’s equally important to ensure that the possibilities technology can enable and the full dimensions of it’s impact are also deeply understood.

The key question that the affordances of the web forces both journalists and educators to ask is: how do I make everything I do more sharable? Importantly this isn’t just about product or information it means making the processes of journalism and education transparent and sharable. Changing from a delivery model to a co-creation model. Changing from a simple transmission model to a complex ecological model.

Journalism and education are both industries that are facing technological disruption a process management guru Clay Christenson has described as “disruptive innovation”.

Both industries are torn between innovators who have embraced the new models which technological web-based interactions make possible and those who either ignore or actively resist them.

It is only in recent years that there has been a broad  institutional realisation in both the media and the education sector that these changes are not a matter of choice they are a matter of survival.

If one of the key metaphors in education innovation is “blending”one of the key metaphors in journalism innovation is “convergence”. And as Henry Jenkins has pointed out convergence isn’t about everything coming together in a one size fits all delivery system. It’s about participatory culture. Jenkins writes:

convergence represents a shift in cultural logic, whereby consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections between dispersed media content. The term, participatory culture, is intended to contrast with older notions of media spectatorship. In this emerging media system, what might traditionally be understood as media producers and consumers are transformed into participants who are expected to interact with each other according to a new set of rules which none of us fully understands. Convergence does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers. Yet, each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information we have extracted from the ongoing flow of media around us and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives. 

We might easily rewrite that to apply to blended learning:

Blended learning does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Blended learning occurs within the brains of individual learners.

But I would want to take it one step further and this is certainly in keeping with Jenkins broader ideas on convergence:

Blended learning does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Blended learning occurs within the brains of individual individual learners and in and through the participatory communities that they gather around themselves.

Defining blended learning

I like this summary of paradigms in the blended learning field by Anders Norberg and colleagues. Their literature search (of 40+ papers) moves beyond the usual categories of analysis in  by identifying the underlying approach or paradigms inherent in the discussions:

  1. ‘‘Infrastructure’’ models involve components such as mixed modalities, development time, cost factors, combined programs, multiple locations, production issues, multiple institutions and landscape considerations.
  2. ‘‘Learning environment’’ models are based on issues such as interaction, constructivism, communication, communities, learning management, learning effectiveness, cognition and performance support.
  3. ‘‘Added value’’ models are driven by constructs such as synchronicity, enhancement, presence, access, reusability, transformation, replacement and process emphasis. Many blended learning models organize themselves with space as the basic frame for education, where technological assets augment or supplant place-bound education. In these models, blending becomes a mix of place versus non-place events.

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.