The Digital Divide
Enthused and energized by #etmooc sessions, yet disheartened by collegial ‘naysayers’ – a digital divide- this characterized my week. The posting of a current NYT article entitled “The Trouble With Online College” by a colleague set off a spat of heated emails debating the pros and cons (mostly cons) of online courses just as my department is, once again, formulating a new five year academic plan under another new president.
Background: I began teaching online courses using Moodle eight years ago in a supportive environment where departmental strategic plans included increasing online offerings and where I was encouraged to pursue PD in edtech for teaching English literature and essay writing. I developed online and blended mode courses employing long hours I didn’t really have to spare. I ‘babied’ the courses, keeping them alive as options for students through strategic marketing and planning of my own devising and ensuring enrollments. I chaired an edtech committee in my department to assist in the dissemination of knowledge and skills in this area, I mentored faculty when leadership began speaking of ‘succession planning’, and I attempted to network within the university to find a few like- minded faculty members. Then, I discovered MOOCs!
Fast Forward: #Etmooc is my 3rd Mooc, and I have since learned that it is a cMooc as opposed to an xMooc. You can find a well written explanation of the differences by fellow #etmoocer, Christina Hendricks, here. My learning curve has been very steep in the last year as I struggle to understand the value inherent in the connected world of tweeting, googling +, blogging with educators who are pushing these new tools to new limits for learning. The educational playing field is changing at exponential speed, and although I felt in control of my online teaching a year ago, I suddenly find myself in a virtual world of overabundance, and I am racing at my own human speed to develop skills in online networking, multitasking, information curation, backchanneling, creative commons licensing, blog commenting , skyping and researching on the net. In #etmooc each week, I am learning from my 1500+ classmates, Blackboard session presenters, and the expert ‘conspirators’ who moderate this cMooc. I now feel that I not only have to revamp my courses, but that the environment I teach in is so locked in traditional structure and thinking that I will likely not be able to fully apply my new skills or experiment with my ideas.
The Digital Divide: I have had several #etmooc exchanges on Google + about managing change in our work environments. Why is it that our educational institutions are so slow to adapt to the needs of 21st century learners? Here is a good run down of the 30 myths of e-learning which need to be debunked in 2013. Businesses, government, financial institutions-all have adopted technology and remote access protocols while the consuming public has adapted- yet- educational institutions are tethered to time, space and tradition.. Sir Kenneth Robinson illustrates well the need for changing education paradigms. Moocs are relatively new models of educational delivery and, it seems, developing some bad press in their experimentation; reports of drop out and failure rates in DL fuel the arguments against scaled and internet based education.
In #etmooc this week, we were asked to help define ‘digital literacy’ in a Blackboard presentation by Doug Belshaw and prompted to consider some questions related to the idea of digital literacies: What does it mean to be digitally literate? What is the difference between being digitally literate and web literate? What digital literacies are required by our emerging knowledge economy or by a 21 c. economy? I asked the question whether digital literacy should be classified as an ‘essential skill’. You can view Canada’s definitions of essential skills and literacy here. The national benchmarks for literacies in Canada have been used as guidelines for entrance criteria to higher ed, and in today’s competitive market for students (FTE’s) tied to provincial funding formulas , universities are scrapping some of the traditional standardized benchmarks such as provincial exams and lowering their entrance criteria. Defining a ‘literacy’ standard is fluid, it seems, and probably market-driven. My university has a provincial mandate of ‘open access’, yet the course delivery model is predominantly f2f lecture format. We have recently joined OERu, and we have a new president whose favorite read, I am told, is Tony Bates and Albert Sangra’s Managing Technology in Higher Education, but the ‘water- cooler’ rhetoric and internal structures maintain the status quo. I am left bounding ‘rhizomatically’ through the Mooc gardens, my students are playing Minecraft when they are not working to pay for their university courses, and the institutions remain fixed in their spaces -bastions of higher education flirting with educational technology and deflecting the conspirators of change.
Note: There seems to be so much more I want to say, but suffice for now as time is limited.