Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mastering E-Pedagogy Part 2

Today was the second full day of the Certificate in Advanced Educational Practice in E-Pedagogy (try saying that with a mouthful of cake) we're running in conjunction with Oxford Brookes. Once again the day was held at the Chalfonts Community College and the fifteen or so participants in the course assembled to explore more of what the course will entail. We're now concentrating on the intervention - each person's practical use of a VLE (normally in combination with other tools) with learners (mainly pupils of those on the course but in some cases fellow staff) in their school. One of the most useful pieces of the day for me was Chris Higgins' presentation on threshold concepts - the theory that in every subject area there are certain concepts which, once mastered, allow the learner to significantly expand their knowledge and understanding in that subject. The concept is best explained by Meyer & Land's paper Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (PDF) - Chris's contention was (if my understanding was correct) that it's worth concentrating on these threshold concepts, possibly as a way to focus the participants' intervention activities, so I'll be interested to see what comes out of that.
I have my own idea of an important threshold concept in the area of E-Learning - that's the point at which a teacher realises that, in some aspects anyway, their pupils will always know more than them and no matter what the teacher does they'll never overtake or even catch up with their pupils. That might be something too hard to admit for some people - but if it happens, then it allows teachers to concentrate on understanding:

  • what the technology is capable of;
  • those areas of competency which pupils aren't naturally blessed with;
  • that the role of a teacher is to guide the use of appropriate tools, rather than necessarily lead in the use of them;
  • that if you want something done technically, ask a twelve year old.

OK, so the last one isn't completely serious, but you get the idea. The idea of a threshold concept means that it allows the learner to move into new realms of understanding and discovery - show me a teacher who's admitted that they're not going to catch up in everything and I'll show you someone whose pupils will be far more free to learn by discovery, research & experimentation.

As preparation for today each participant was requested to outline their initial thoughts on their intervention in a forum in the closed area of the BucksGfL we're using to support the course. Most of them will use forums (fora? apologies if that's wrong) at some point and it was good to see creative ideas of how to use some of Moodle's tools to help support different learning outcomes. For me this is a good opportunity to practice preparing what I think might be an appropriate blend of online resources & support, coupled with face to face sessions, the next one of which is on the 11th March, just after the Naace Annual All Members conference in Torquay.

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