Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sink or Swim: Front loading Challenging Learning Activities

I teach a digital-video-production-for-educators class online for Penn State World Campus, and am finishing a significant revision of the course. With this class, I'm concerned that I'm throwing my students in the deep end right at the outset of the class by having them plan, record, and upload an introduction of themselves on a video hosting site (Viddler, Voicethread, Teachertube, etc.). Some have never done anything with their videotapes--ever! let alone, connect their camera to their computer, edit, compress and post their videos to an online hosting site.

My concern is that by requiring this, I may be setting myself up for a tech support nightmare. I'm hoping this is not the case. I'm hoping that we've come to the point where 1) tools are easy enough to use, and 2) participants have enough online media literacy. The first I hope is especially true. The latter I'm here to help my students with.
Later assignments will have them first edit their videos and then post them and comment on each other's videos throughout the class.
E-learning guru, Michael Allen, says:

Learners prefer jumping into interesting tasks, then breaking them down into their components as it becomes necessary....Actually it's much more effective to present challenges first. If learners can meet the challenge then you won't have bored them by telling them what they already know. If they can't meet the challenge, they can ask for help, and in doing so will value the information they receive more and will see its relevance [paraphrased].

Believing he's right, I proceed to front load the challenging part of the class and get right to the whole point of the class--create and share effective instructional media using the tools of the day. I look forward to this new model over how we used to do it by sending videotapes back and forth by snail mail, email attachments or posting files to our CMS. I'm hoping that this new approach encourages far more collaboration and discussion around the videos, facilitates more experimentation and gives class participants new media skills--and that these skills will help them better do their respective jobs.
...but maybe deep down inside, I hope most of all that I haven't created a support nightmare.
-JG (did I mention that I've submitted ALL my final dissertation materials...all that's left now is the walk)


Cole Camplese said...

I agree the more interesting thing to do is challenge them up front. I do the same in my resident teaching -- I don't have the experience to talk about how it will go in an online world, but you do have a grasp of how the tools can support you. I am really interested in hearing how all this will shake out for you ... please keep us posted!

Also, remember to send them to the Digital Commons website for help ... there are hundreds of tutorials there. These are all PSU students, so please let them know the resources exist for them as well.

Joel Galbraith said...

Cole, thanks for the comment and good points on the Digital Commons links. I'll keep you posted. Thanks.
-Joel G.

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