I’m excited to today start co-teaching the second course of a fantastic graduate-level educational technology program that we’ve been running in-house at my school. The COETAIL@YIS program gives us a chance to look at the role that technology plays in education and how we can best equip educators and learners with the skills and tools that they need to be successful in their schools.
In its delivery, this program stands in direct contrast to the masters program that I’ve just completed in that it involves several face-to-face meetings for each course, where my masters was completed entirely online. While students in the COETAIL program complete their assignments largely online in the form of blogging, they also regularly get the chance to meet and discuss issues with their peers.
Having been involved with online learning as a student, teacher, and coordinator for many years, I’ve certainly grown to appreciate the flexibility that this form of instruction can provide, and definitely can’t discount its merits entirely. But I am very excited to be working with a group of learners in a more traditional classroom setting that also incorporates online components. I will get a chance to attend my masters graduation in Vancouver in a few weeks, but will be arriving without having actually ‘met’ anyone in my program. This stands in stark contrast to students in the COETAIL program, who have already had the opportunity to regularly talk and debate with their colleagues. While all of the courses in my masters program involved asynchronous discussion components of one sort or another, I’m not certain that discussion posts in a forum can ever fully replace the kind of dynamic conversations that can happen in a live classroom. Where I often felt very much alone in my journey through my masters, the classroom space of the COETAIL environment is very much a collaborative group atmosphere.
I know that whenever I walk away from any workshop or conference, I always reflect that the personal conversations and networking that occurred at the event were likely the most valuable components. There’s a reason that I just ordered a book for our elementary learning support teacher called “Whole Body Listening Larry”. Learning in more formal environments is likely very similar. At least as far as group environments are concerned, for me, it comes down to a simple notion that learning online is a matter of content, where learning offline is a matter of context.