Monthly Archives: January 2014

What is the role of discourse, collaboration and technology for distributed learning in online courses?

Aleta May

EDTE674 With Dr. Lee Graham

Week 3 Initial Blog Post

There is a difference between cooperative learning and collaborative learning.  Cooperative learning groups divide the responsibilities between group members who in turn work independently on their role or assignment.  Collaborative groups are student-centered, work together to solve problem, and are based on “critical thinking and teamwork skills” (Qiu, Hewitt, and Brett, 2010, p. 426).  Within a social context, learners share meaning, then process and clarify meaning to make it concise.  Traditionally learning is viewed as something that is acquired and possessed within an individual’s mind.  Conversely, collaborative learning that occurs within a participation framework can be described as; “cognitive activities are always embedded in social and cultural contexts and cannot be understood in isolation” (Xie and Ke, 2011, p. 917).

The textbook names Online Collaborative Learning (OCL) as a theory to base course design on.  Pedagogy for online learning begins with generating ideas, organizing ideas, and culminates with intellectual convergence (Harasim, 2012).  To involve students from a variety of cultural backgrounds and experiences in online courses, OCL is exactly what is needed.  Previous didactic (exhortative and instructive methods) will not reveal whether students coming from a multitude of perspectives understand the academic content dispensed.  In an OCL environment, students not only listen to the instructor, the stop and discuss their learning along the way.  It is much like meta-cognitive reading.  Students think about their thinking as they learn (or read) before, during, and after the lesson.  One way they do that is from “reading other people’s notes but also from having to construct their own ideas in their own notes.  Writing is essential for learning, even more so than reading. . .” (Qiu, Hewit, and Brett, 2012, p. 430).  OCL is more than reading posts made by teachers for assignments, it includes reading, writing and creating for relevant purposes.

A digital or virtual platform provides space for collaboration to take place.  The Knowledge Age mindset expresses the need to collaboratively build knowledge, using technology as a means for bringing together communities of people who may live at a physical distance from one another.  Scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, are students within their own professions who may collaborate in a project or professional development setting.  Also, as in our class, we may have cross-disciplines working to create a credit-recovery class.

In our text on page 99, the online learning environment provides a place for knowledge-creation processes.  I am thinking about embedding links to You-Tube video clips for our literature class, and other educational video clips to make learning for accessible to students who are English Language Learners (ELLs), Limited English Proficient (LEP), or who may struggle with reading or writing, as in a learning disability.  Since meeting with our group on Tuesday through Skype, I expanded my thinking to scaffolding learning by using an iPod to upload pre-read poems or other documents related to the literature topics; these artifacts would be read by students in our literature class who would benefit from rereading practice for a real-world purpose.  Students taking the class would hear same age peers on a podcast.   This could be called high school Reader’s Theater if they take parts in a short story.  What do you think Literature Group?


Harasim, L. (2012).  Learning theory and online technologies.  New York, NY:

Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group.

Qiu, M., Hewitt, J. & Brett, C. (2012).  Online class size, note reading, note writing and

collaborative discourse.  Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7, 423-


Xie, K. & Ke, F. (2011).  The role of students’ motivation in peer-moderated

asynchronous online discussions.  British Journal of Educational Technology,

42(6), 916-930.

How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses? Week Two Reflection

Aleta May

January 25, 2014

Week Two Reflection:

EDTE674 With Dr. Lee Graham



Today during the Response to Intervention (RTI) training with Dr. Kevin Feldman, he spoke about teachers making their teaching public.  This brought back to my mind a recent class where I videotaped me guiding student learning.  The focus of the camera was on the students and their learning in a small group.  I used iMovie to edit the frames down to 5 minutes.  Through this process, I deeply analyzed the responses of students to my instruction.  We analyzed each other’s video clips with constructive feedback.  I prepared notes on my own video and on the video of a colleague in the class.  Then we shared feedback over Skype.  This process was very constructivist in that I had a prior schema (mind map) of how I thought the students would respond to my teaching, to which I added the new knowledge of how I really looked.  This is similar to a coach using video clips of basketball players to allow the coach to analyze how the plays went and for players to self analyze.  When I observed the colleague, I added to my toolkit ways to teach using the same criteria, but from the view of a teacher in an advanced placement literature course.  The point overall is that the essential question for this week:  How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses? ; was present in my mind during training today where so many situations call for thinking about the place for theory in online specific settings.

As I read responses to this question from others in our class, I realized that though there is usually a leaning in one direction or another as to learning theory, most teachers are not purely any one type theory as regards their own teaching and the observation of a variety of designs of online courses.  Also, I realized that “because constructivism is a composite of different views incorporating active, social and creative aspects of learning” (Ng’ambi & Lombe, 2012), the combination of applications of technology to online courses with constructivism theory interwoven throughout the course development or design is symbiotic.

Another insight I had during the readings came through my wondering how the establishment of Twitter, blogs, and connections between these could be beneficial.  In the same article referred to above, there was an explanation of how podcasting allows e-learning from an online class to shift to m- learning by providing students with access to class audios on their personal mobile devices.  Soon, I will download a Twitter app onto my iPhone for this class and learn to tweet brief messages to peers in this class.

One question I still have is where does constructivist theory begin if we were to place cognitive theory on a continuum between behaviorism and constructivist theories?




Ng’ambi, D., & Lombe, A. (2012).  Using podcasting to facilitate student learning:  A constructivist perspective.  Educational Technology & society, 15(4), 181-192.




Manifesting Theories

How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?

Which aspects of these theories fits best with the current research into what works in online teaching and learning?

During the 1990s, we had an early model Apple computer which our children used for Math Blaster.  The instructional design aspect of this game with math pedagogy was based on cognitivist learning theory.  The focus of Math Blaster took into account what goes on in the mind of the person engaging in the game activity, between the stimulus (the math problem and purpose for solving it) and the response (the answer and the reward for certain numbers of correct answers within a set time limit).  The reward was to play a game (a rocket/spaceship game)—this part of the game was behaviorism.

According to constructivist learning theory with an emphasis on Piaget’s four stages of development, current day online experiences would need to take into account the age range of the student as it coordinates to preoperational and concrete operational stages.  This theory limits blogging about an issue to a formal operational stage of 12+ years (Harasim, 2012).  But I think students could begin talking about a book they read much earlier.  There is software that transcribes speaking into typing where the student could talk about characters in the book and even make a prediction at a the preoperational stage, but closer to the end of the stage in first grade.  Some kids at around 6 or 7 years can learn that others have a different point of view about a book.  Is there a drawing feature on blogs?  They could draw pictures about the book online or scan a drawing in to upload.

In one article, I read about student-generated podcasts.  Students produce a podcast as an active learning participant.  Students “conduct research and formulate the concepts/ideas which comprise the podcast content” (Ng’ambi & Lombe, 2012, 185).  Students report back from a group task by recording it and uploading it into a learning management system (LMS).  Another optional use of podcasts is for supplemental course content.  However, the first use lends itself to construct ion of knowledge, because the student builds on prior knowledge through research, then shares with other students.  From this point, the students can discuss the content of their podcast through a blog.

In another article, a web-based tututoring system called Online Peer-Assisted Learning (OPAL) was set up for students from a very large class to communicate on and off campus (Evans & Moore, 2011).  Tutors were selected for the class and placed into gated pools according to results from prior lessons they had done well in.  Students who want help, get a ticket for being tutored through the internet:  e-mail, Skype, Google Docs or other.  If this takes place through something like Skype, students are engaging with each other where one is learning from someone who is slightly higher than their own skill level.  This is beneficial to both students.  This type of learning is based on Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) from which constructivist learning has some of its roots.

In a third article, Web 2.0 sites allow students to interact rather than passively view (such as in podcasts).  Constructivist learning takes place by encouraging students to challenge and support each other.  Web 2.0 has a user-centered design.  When students actively contribute such as on web conferencing, they learn from each other as they would in a face-to-face environment.  One idea is called social book marking where saved bookmarks may be tagged with keywords for storing, classifying, and sharing search links (Paily, 2013).   I’ve heard of this, and can definitely see the potential for sharing in a research project, though have not used this before.  This type of sharing is definitely a way to collaborate socially to see what someone else has found that may be different from their ideas for pursuing research on the same topic.  This is very constructivist.


Evans, M. J. and Moore, J. S. (2011).  Peer tutoring with the aid of the

Internet.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(1),


Harasim, L. (2012).  Learning theory and online technologies.  New York,

NY:  Taylor & Francis Group, Routledge.

Ng’ambi, D. & Lombe, A. (2011).  Using podcasting to facilitate student

learning:  A constructivist perspective.  Educational Technology &

 Society, 15(4), 181-192.

Paily, M. U. (2013).  Creating constructivist learning environment:  Role

of “web 2.0 technology.  International forum of teaching studies,



Blog One Reflection

Aleta May’s Blog One Reflection


I set up a blog, submitted an entry, and responded to others.  Though I have used discussion board and discussion threads through college courses, blogging is new to me.  I am still learning about Twitter, but now have a Twitter account.  This is the beginning to understanding its value in instruction.  Before this week, I had not heard of a blogroll; now I have used it a few times as if it were second nature to me.  This is how much of technology has built up in my skill set over time.

Reading the chapters helped me to see the overlap between disciplines in how learning theory is applied.  Constructivism is applied within my reading specialist program, so learning more about how it applies to using technology to instruct did, and will continue to, enrich my understanding of this theory of learning. 

Transactional Distance was a new term for me.  Since I wanted further knowledge about this concept, I looked up an article about helping to make students feel close to each other in a class that is online.  I compared my experiences from attending a college campus to present day attending college through online courses.  Though there were many pros to face-to-face, in person classes, there were time limits for freely exploring learning together.  With technology expanding ways to communicate, I talked about how it is even better to communicate with peers who are further away.  Nicole responded in a way that reminded me we had just participated in an online class through WebEx where we could see the teacher, and mentioned that there are other ways to do this as well.

After reading Thomas’ initial post, and watching the Kahn You-Tube video he posted, I was able to give him feedback from the video that students might be more engaged in watching math tutorials online if there were 50% of the class time devoted to applied math projects.  I added in robotics as an example.  However, I acknowledge the challenge of getting equipment needed to make this 50/50 way more possible.

After viewing Jeffrey Laube’s post, his blog site is so well organized I feel inspired to upgrade mine.

What theories or research can inform your current practice of distance learning?

Aleta May for 1-16-14 blog.

Essential Question: What theories or research can inform your current practice of distance learning?

According to Raddon (Ross, Gallagher, & Macleoud, 2013), current practice of online distance learning cannot be defined simply being away from institutional space.  Selwyn states that there should be a focus on engagement and participation that is flexible regarding time, place, and how distance learners acquire new skills (Ross, Gallagher, & Macleoud, 2013).  The theory of Transactional Distance is based on John Dewys idea of transaction, transaction between people which is not one-way  (Moore & Kearsley, 2011).  The basis of Raddon and Selwyn’s thinking is Transactional Distance.  It involves dialogue.  Having attended many college courses within a physical campus setting, I think back on my role as absorber of knowledge dispensed by one who actually distracted my notetaking by my awe at their ability to seemingly “read the book” in their mind’s eye as I admired their undeniable intelligence in that area.  Although this goes to teaching strategy and philosophy, it also depicts the “limits” on learning in a space set up for lecture.  Lecture can be transmuted to the online environment, but the educator is faced with the question of whether students are learning and engaged since there is little visual contact.  Then it could be said that distance learning contributes to constructive learning between students (student-student), as well as between the teacher and student.

Massive open online courses(MOOC’s) have provided an place to test the “new learning theory for a digital age,” () connectivism.  Four principles for learning of connectivism are: autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness.  As opposed to behaviorism, which is highly structured and controlled by the instructor, the individual not only is valued, but is shared.  Everyone has something to add to the learning experience.  The most important part of this way of networking, combining creativity, and learning from each other is that there is not a “lone genius”  (Ross, Gallagher, & Macleoud, 2013).  During my experience with the online Reading Specialist program, I have met so many people through Elluminate, discussion threads, and then in person.   What have I gained through this that will follow me throughout my career and life is confidence.  Through distance learning, I have connected with educators across the state of Alaska whom would not have had the time to share in the depth we shared.  Our breakout discussions in Elluminate created an atmosphere of meaningful talk; we were brave and others in the class could not hear as they might in a physical room of cacophony.  There was not one person who continually raised their hand to playback for an instructor who sought particular responses that summarized a point in the lecture.  This branches off into learning strategies, yet it is significant that I could be me and explore my learning and adjust my thinking in a safe learning environment.


Moore, M. G. & Kearsley, G. (2011).  Distance education:  A systems view of online

              learning, 3rd Ed.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Ross, J., Gallagher, M. S., & Macleod, H. (2013).  Making distance visible:  Assembling

nearness in an online distance learning program.  The International Review of

            Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(4),  52-66.

Tschofen, C., & Mackness, J. (2013).  Connectivism and dimensions of individual

experience.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance

            Learning, 13(1).