It seems now that the current group of students has settled into the swing of navigating through the online environment that I’ve set up to support their learning, and they seem at ease.

I put quite a lot of effort at the start of last year setting up the Pageflakes course hub to simplify their learning experience by aggregating all course-related feeds to a single place.  My rationale here was based on cognitive learning theory and an extensive body of research showing that learning is improved by a simplified user interface.  It was also based on my own experiences as on online student where I noticed that when first engaging with an online application most of my attention/learning was focussed on mastering the interface.  Once I had mastered it, I was then able to engage with the community behind the interface.

Now however I find myself asking – have I done the right thing?

Developing digital literacy

One of my main aims in moving the course online was to develop the digital literacy of my students.  Now I fear that they are now sitting comfortably within the walls of the learning environment that I’ve built for them.  Sure they all know how to search the internet for information which has been enormously satisfying and empowering for some, but few if any of them have developed more advanced information literacy.  When I think about how I keep current and in touch with content on the internet searching is definitely a significant part but understanding the use of a feedreader, social tagging with and the use of Miro are other incredibly useful aspects of my digital literacy which I have not introduced my students too.  I haven’t introduced them to blogging either at this stage.

Although I’m regretting it now, this was a conscious choice at the start of the year.  I was aware that for many of my students turning on a computer, engaging with email and other fairly basic tasks would be pretty challenging, and I chose to err on the side of ease.  The problem is that now that they’ve settled into the online environment that exists, my sense is that they will resist changes in the new year.

Induction 2009

With my experience of working with the students last year, I’m confident that I will be able to more effectively manage the scaffolding process for the first years.  I intend to get them all blogging and using an RSS feed reader from an early stage.  Once their feed reader is set up, using the reader should be of similar difficulty to the use of Pageflakes, although the potential for their digital literacy is so much greater.  From early on in the course I intend to get the students using their blogs to answer assessment, which should help them to quickly become comfortable in the use of blogs.   I also intend to support the second years in getting to the same stage (although I’m sure there’ll be some grumbles).

Learning community

I’m hoping that once the class gets in the swing of using this technology infrastructure, there will be some cross-pollination between the year one and the year two students.  I’m tossing around the idea of giving second year students some marks towards merit based on their contributions to the year one’s learning process.

As always I’m interested in your ideas, or experiences that relate to any of this….