I’ve not hidden my skepticism about distance learning just like I remain cautious about multiuser virtual environments (Second Life). Bandwagons concern me. You get so many people on them, and they can crack the road, drawing energy and resources from more established technologies and techniques that are proving their worth. But through the months and years, I believe that distance learning is finding its footing and its place(s) in the teaching and learning institution.
|This is, hands down, the best place in the world to have breakfast — on Wall Street in magnificent Asheville, North Carolina.|
I can’t say when my stubborn resistance started to melt, but it quite probably was during the North Carolina Distance Learning Alliance Conference last year in beautiful Asheville (the Paris of the South or to some, the SoHo of the South). The Alliance had already run a number of virtual conferences, and they had lobbied me to present. But, being me, I resisted. When they asked me to present (knowing full well my reluctance about the technology) at their f2f conference in Asheville, I agreed. Well, Asheville. I mean who could…
Susan Patrick was the keynote speaker. I’d known of her as the director of the U.S. Office of Educational Technology, but not in her current capacity as President of the North American Council for Online Learning. She gave a fabulous presentation sharing some statistics that were compelling, and a bit frightening to me, as an educator with romantic notions of what being a teacher is. Kids like online learning. They do well with online learning. Gross generalizations, but enough evidence to start changing my mind.
Then I started mingling with the attendees, mostly teachers, mostly at the community college level, who mostly taught some f2f and some distance learning. Moodle was big at the conference, as well as one or two other course management systems. All forms of video conferencing were also big. Huge, was Web 2.0 — hence, my being invited back for more presentations this week, at the 2007 Distance Learning Alliance Conference.
But what really turned me was that these folks are there. I have been intrigued for years about the new skills of the technology age. But I have become much more interested in the information skills (literacy) than in the technology skills. I’ve tried to convince educators of the critical importance of these skills, but when teachers and administrators are still living in the world of paper, it is a hard concept to grasp. Distance learning educators, on the other hand, are already there. They are working purely in the realm of networked, digital, and overwhelming information. You can not learn here, unless you develop at least some of these information skills. This is an audience who will listen — and much more important than that, have much to teach about what it takes to use the contemporary information landscape to accomplish your goals.
This week I’ll be talking about “Flat World, Flat Web, and Flat Classrooms,” video games, Web 2.0, and wikis. What’s more, there will also be sessions on social networking, outsourcing digital services, Pods and iPods, 21st century skills, iTunes University, resource repositories, mobile learning, podcasting, and MMORPGs.
My main reason for writing this growing piece is to urge educators who will be attending this conference and will be blogging it, to tag your blog entries and flickr photos with: ncdla
The conference has been registered on Hitchhikr and photos from last year’s conference have already been picked up. So lets expand the experience, and if you can’t come, hitch hike there by visiting the NC Distance Learning Alliance conference on Hitchhikr <http://hitchhikr.com/?id=217>.
Shannon. Early Girl’s Photostream. 27 Feb 2007. 21 May 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/shannonmarie2006/404861150/>.