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Topic 4

During this journey a teacher pointed out that that “cognitive presence relates to what you talk about now and social presence is related to communities and sense of belonging”. I think this is important to keep in mind, although I thought the topic would only relate to different design tools and how to use them for adequate purposes.

Then I’ve realized that topic 4 is just as much about how to gain presence and confidence in the online environment. A Spanish colleague of mine said once: “What you expect the students to do you have to experience yourself first.” In fact, being a student in this course is a great experience to me, I have seen how easily communication is lost and how hard it is to be concentrated all the time: what the teacher thinks is very clear does not have to be clear on the other end of the line:) And if my well prepared powerpoint presentation is shown as full screen on my computer, this does not imply that the students see the same or see the presentation at all! I have noticed this already (sometimes, when I’ve told students to read out loud a short text from the ppt they start searching for the document before they get into action) but not reflected on the problem. So from now on I have to be aware of what kind of units (phone, computer…) and settings the students use and I have to be clear about what setting would be the best in order to see what is going to be treated during the session (and less worried about how I look in the camera:):)).

When Dr. Marti Cleveland pointed out that we have to be present and share ourselves as persons I did not quite understand what she meant. I have heard it before… but now it is clear to me that being present and personal in an online environment is a different challenge from being the same on campus where all of us perceive the same field. Furthermore, it is important to invite the students to be present, not only by adequate tools but also by underscoring the importance of being part of the activities. An example for this is when I asked them to write a few words (anonymously) about how they perceived my methods and I was surprised to read words like: great sessions, very interesting and different from what I’ve learnt before, engaging…

On the other hand, the lack of being part of an activity was something I experienced last time we met in the PBL group. Since I had forgot the password to Miro I could not participate in the same way as my peers and had to sit there watching what was being done… It was my own fault of course, but now, reflecting upon it, I’ve understood that presence makes learning and teaching meaningful.

This is all for now folks, next time I’ll talk about the articles I’ve read on this topic.

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Topic 3

After two inspiring weeks of seminars with my peers on the topic “learning in communities” it’s time to write a few words. All the peers of our group are excellent participants and it has been a wonderful experience to lead the work on this topic together with Stephanie and with support from our facilitators. I think we’ve done exactly what is expected in a community: everyone contributes in different but always constructive ways to reach the aim. Therefore we’ve shared a lot of different aspects of the topic such as definitions, ideas, reflections, digital tools that may be useful for learning together – and ended up with listening to the song “We are here” by Alicia Keys! (which associates to community… I found it inspired by the list of songs that Stephanie passed over to us all via whatsapp) and place our final presentation on the onl202 page.

In the beginning of the process my role was a kind of secretary of our google-doc and since my peers knew more than me about how to handle it, I learnt a lot about this digital resource. Once again thanks to all my peers of pbl-group 6!:)

Our first task was to define differences and resemblances between the concepts “network” and “community”. Stephanie did a great job producing word clouds where our ideas could be seen. In this way we all contributed from the beginning. Then, after the interesting lecture by Kay Oddone, we talked about the main issues: how to engage students and make them see the advantages of connected learning and how to encourage them to participate in a constructive and meaningful way.

In my opinion, the ways of contributing in our group has helped me to understand how the student groups may work: all members of a group should participate but it is important to remember that they participate in different ways. The important issue for the teacher is to construe tasks and exercises that “force” everyone to engage and in which different skills are relevant. In short, the key word for the teacher is “meaningful” and this sense of meaning has to be communicated to the students.

In this way, the former “gap” between campus and online communities is less significant. But I’m not implying that campus activities are less meaningful, I just say that I have to reflect a lot more upon design to make meaningful tasks for online learning. In short, meaningful work online is also meaningful on campus but the opposite is not always the case. An example for this is something that happened in my class (Spanish for beginners) a few days ago. The students were supposed to practice a telephone conversation. If they had done that on campus it would probably have been by reading or traducing a text from Swedish into Spanish. Now, as an online activity, I construed some comments of the conversation in Spanish and the students had to invent the other half of the conversation in a coherent way. This task engaged them all to work in zoom breakout rooms and by the end of the session they presented different conversations depending on their skills and level of Spanish. All of them looked so happy:) and to me this was a great pedagogical and didactic reward!

During the process one of my peers shared an article about online learning that I found interesting:

https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/online-learning-can-still-be-social

Then, Brindley, Blasche & Walti (2009) propose that “rather than focus on the grading of collaborative group projects, instructors should incorporate a variety of instructional strategies to improve the quality of group collaboration and to increase the likelihood of student participation.” These strategies are: 

  1. Facilitate learner readiness for group work and provide scaffolding to build skills,
  2. Establish a healthy balance between structure (clarity of task) and learner autonomy (flexibility of task),
  3. Nurture the establishment of learner relationships and sense of community,
  4. Monitor group activities actively and closely,
  5. Make the group task relevant for the learner,
  6. Choose tasks that are best performed by a group,
  7. Provide sufficient time.

I read the article on the onl202 page. These strategies will be kept in mind for my classes and I think they’ve been a useful orientation for the work on topic 3 in the pbl group.

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Reflection week

The week for reflections has already passed, filled with examinations and teaching. Then some time for reflections on the two first topics and reading my peers’ blogs – which I found interesting – but unfortunately no time for further reading of articles.

Regarding topic 1 I think this is an ongoing process of didactic and pedagogical reflections: how do I engage the students in studying and maintain their motivation, and how do I make the subject interesting (the latter is important since I’m not an expert on linguistics, rather Spanish modern literature). I think this course has provided a lot of positive aspects for online teaching, especially since I now experience what it is like to be an online student. Now it’s a lot easier to understand why the students don’t get all the information and why it takes time to learn Spanish grammar. My use of open resources has widened, both during the webinars with my students and through the learning platform and I realize that open resources constitute a significant part of my teaching. Therefore, my attitude concerning topic 2 has changed: from resisting OER and seeing it as a totally irrelevant issue to regarding it as a necessary and natural part of teaching. Everything changes – even my attitudes – and, who knows, in short time may be most teachers and universities are connected to OER.

Looking forward to topic 3!

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Topic 2

The topic 2 is about open education resources (OER) and how to provide an equal learning environment to everybody. Among the participants the working premises differ but we have had fruitful discussions! And this is the best part of PBL work: I am learning!:)

In 2012, David Wiley wrote an enlightening article about OER, its possibilities and obstacles, and reflected upon what it is going to be like in the future. He concluded that only time can tell. In my opinion, that future is already present and just like online teaching and learning, the OER have come to stay and is developing very fast (fascinating to read in a Swedish newspaper today that similar processes are seen in the media environment where journalists find themselves “threatened” by other communicating instances – and it is not only an issue of information and desinformation). Probably the universities have to “join the race” of OER instead of resisting it. And I think the content of our courses is no secret, so I don’t have any problems with sharing it in an open environment. But I do hope – like we also said in the group – that the university as a governmental institution will provide support. If not, a lot of teachers will end up in the same situation as when online education started: teaching had to be done but the technical and economical support was almost non-existent.

Furthermore, the teachers who share need to be aware of some aspects like sharing the content of a subject without being manipulated to discuss issues with those who read our material and without using the environment as a political platform, for instance.

As a conclusion, whether OER will develop or will be substituted by something else, education is being created and recreated continuously. The interesting article by David Wiley (see below) was shared in the PBL group and indeed it is worth reading. Thank you!

https://library.educause.edu/resources/2012/5/chapter-6-why-openness-in-education

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Topic 1

During our discussions on topic1 in group 6 we presented our reflections and results in Miro, a collaborative tool which Stephanie introduced to us. This tool is like a digital board, easy and nice to work with (participation is allowed 1 month free of charge). On the Miro board we worked according to the fish metaphor, that is, by drawing a fish and putting our ideas, comments and conclusions following the fish image of the course.

In the front part of the fish we put the starting points of the problem: 1) process, 2) culture, 3) tools and 4) roles. For each one of these starting points we discussed several questions and, reflecting on the lecture by David White and the concept digital literacy, we suggested that if some students are digital literates and the teacher is not, but still the expert on the topic/subject itself, there may be a problem by teaching and learning. And the question was, how do we deal with this.

We also discussed how to encourage students to perform outside their comfort zone and found that teachers need other engagement skills as compared to offline teaching. A lot of aspects have to be considered like how to combat loneliness, how do students and teachers think about online teaching and learning, how do we provide adequate digital tools and what do the roles look like in an online environment. Here we underscored that it is important to enhance group activities appointing some students as facilitators and make clear that the teacher is supposed to be the expert on the topic but not in everything that has to do with online teaching.

The discussions on the topics process, culture, tools and roles concluded that teachers’ success in these aspects depends on engagement, both by students and teachers. This engagement leads to a sort of “shift” of perspective: compared to offline the students and teachers get different roles in an online situation.

Finally we presented four conclusions that are useful for the learning and teaching process:

  1. Optimize engagement through clear instructions and small group activities.
  2. Use inclusive methods for different learning styles and encourage group work.
  3. Discuss with colleagues and ask IT/pedagogue department which good tools exist in order to provide orientation for the students.
  4. Agree on roles and responsibility, keep in mind that the students are resources accepting and using their knowledge of digital tools.

I also have some reflections connected to the interesting lecture by David White and the following PBL discussions.

Concerning White’s lecture it was fascinating to see what ideas some of his young students had about the Internet, illustrations of how they perceive the structure and vast flow of information. Moreover, it was of great value to reflect upon my own online activities, to what extent they are related to professional and private life. I realized that most activities are related to professional life. On the other hand, this means a lot of time because I work more or less 12 hours a day.

When the PBL group6 sessions started, my attitude to online teaching was different from now. I saw it as an abstract environment, hard to adapt to and difficult to handle and develop. But now, after the discussions in the PBL group on topic 1, I see a lot of advantages in online teaching, I feel more comfortable and realize how difficult it is for the students to follow the sessions, especially if the subject is explained in a fast manner. Moreover, to some extent I agree with the informants from the studies by P. Redmond (2011) and Rijst, Baggen & Sjoer (2019). The first one follows two teachers in their “journey” from face-to-face teaching to blended teaching and online teaching. Redmond concludes that the infusion of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) offers opportunities and challenges. The teachers’ different levels of pedagogical and technological knowledge creates a gap which has a severe impact on instructor identity and effectiveness of the teaching. The study also concludes that, according to the teachers, the technical support was important (Redmond 2011). In my case, the learning path has been the same as the informants have followed, but there was not much support when I started the mix of simultaneous face-to-face and online 2010 – 2011. As I remember it, very tense and nervous the first semester.

The other article, by Rijst, Baggen & Sjoer studied several pedagogues in their learning path. These informants pointed out that motivation was the crucial starting point to reach knowledge (2019). I do agree and this was a conclusion in the PBL group as well. The conclusion in the study was that the informants preferred to learn by experimenting and reflecting, not through workshops and practical guides (Rijst, Baggen & Sjoer 2019). In my case, the initial changes from face-to-face to online teaching in 2011 implied a kind of pedagogical loss – but since the complete online teaching is a fact (due to the pandemic restrictions) my motivation has increased a lot and I would like to learn more about online teaching. Furthermore, since this ONL202 course is a mix of experimenting, reflecting, workshops and practical guides I am convinced that it will be useful to all participants.