Published Wednesday, March 15, 2006 by Leigh Blackall | E-mail this post
I just had a meeting with John Findlay over at Engineering. He is wanting to turn his night classes for Mechanical Engineering
trades apprentices into a workplace flexible learning options. At the moment students come into the night classes and use the time to ask questions of the lecturer and talk as a group about the different theoretical components of what they do. The night classes are a mixed group of 1st through to 3rd year students.
John sees value in this "ad-hoc" approach to learning in the night classes, and backs those classes up with text books as a guide to making sure a minimum number of topics are covered. He finds that with the ad-hoc approach, sometimes learning goes beyond these texts. John therefore values the flexibility of topics covered in class, and would like to see this carried over if possible into the flexible learning option.
John is hoping to offer a flexible learning option by the beginning of second semester this year, so I asked him what he had considered doing to get started. He showed me one of the text books used to support the night classes as is, and thought he'd like to develop demonstration videos and other electronic resources for CD to compliment the books. He also mentioned the modern apprentice
service offered by his Department, where a staff member goes out to the student's workplace and supports learning in the workplace. He said he'd like to expand this role for other staff members to take on, and offer it to more of the students in the flexible learning option.
I made the following suggestions:
- Survey the student's use and value of digital media devices, such as computers, Internet, mobile phones and other devices, to gauge digital literacies, access at home and in the workplace, and general perceptions to technology in a learning context. From that we may detect things we that we might be assuming with this students group, and get an idea of what approach to take with regard to technology and digital resources used for self directed learning.
- Invite a guest speaker from another institute who has, or is attempting similar things. Preferably someone who has succeeded with innovative uses of tachnology in a similar trade based training setting. Having a guest speaker will help to inspire teaching staff, and generate discussion where everyone is informed and "on the same page" rather than John visiting somewhere and bringing info back. The value of this was recently demonstrated in Design this week, with the visit of RMIT lecturer Dr Vaughan.
- Rather than going straight into developing digital resources to compliment the text book - which can be a costly and frustrating exercise, I suggested that we do an in depth and sustained survey of available open courseware, sighting MIT's Open Courseware resources, and mentioning that there are quite a few others. I have started generating web feeds of new links and resources as they are made available for each of the Polytech Departments to subscribe to. EDC workshops offered from April aim to pass the skills and knowledge for the maintenance of these web feeds over to interested Departments.
- Learner generate content models for sustainable resource development and sharing were also discussed, with John seeing quite a bit of value in the approach for his flexible learning classes. Students would be assigned learning activities, given a small number of varied resources to assist them in starting the learning activity, then asked to produce a learning resource for the activity to support someone else's learning in the activity. This resource would be used for assessment of learning for the activity. Students would be encouraged to develop resources in variety of media, such as an MP3 recording interviewing professionals in the sector, or a Pxt message capturing a sequence of tasks towards the fabrication of a product, or a journal entry of a workplace situation, etc. Digital literacy support for the creation of such media would need to be offered.
- Terry Marler and myself have quite a bit of experience in generating, facilitating, and maintaining strong online learning communities. I suggested to John that he consider developing an online practitioners network for his teachers to engage globally with other teachers exploring similar innovations in teaching and learning. Simile, that the teachers generate and maintain online networks for the students, offering them an opportunity to communicate online and support each other's learning now and beyond their engagement in the topics. Basically, enhancing the face to face opportunities to learn in a social setting, by offering the opportunity to continue that social aspect of learning online - through eGroups, forums and/or mobile phone networks.
What to do in the next 2 weeks.
- I will ask Emma Bennett for her services to develop a survey of the students.
- I will focus on building an open courseware links and resources web feed specifically for Mechanical Engineering subject areas - with a view that John's staff will attend EDC workshops to learn how to maintain such a feed for themselves in the future.
- I will investigate other potential resource areas (such as Toolboxes) and see what restrictions exist on their reuse.
- I will contact my networks and find an innovative teacher in Mechanical Engineering (or similar trade based training) to visit the Poly Tech and speak with the Mech Eng Department. John will explore options for his Department funding such a visit - I will explore PolyTech funding.