Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Trial - Week Three Report - Inter-session Activities

The penultimate week’s trial activities have focused on testing micro-blogging service Twitter as a tool for supporting inter-session activities. Inter-session activities and discussions assist learners to stay focused and reflect whilst applying new knowledge and also encourage students to continue in dialogue with each other outside class (Bozarth 2010). Some examples of intersession activities include, post session discussions, posting news and events, sharing information and resources, completing tasks, and reflecting on learning.

To ensure that the activities were relevant to the trial participants, tasks were simulated to encourage the group to reflect, share knowledge and further skills in using Diigo and Twitter. In a live Masters programme module, integrating inter-session tasks would involve careful consideration and alignment to the defined module learning outcomes (Dunlap and Lowenthal 2009). For trial purposes a series of short activities were designed to resemble inter-session instructional material. Participants were asked to express their experience of using the tools encountered on the trial so far, to install a third party Twitter application as a preparation task for a forthcoming activity and to research and share with others an unexplored feature of social bookmarking and micro-blogging tools. Participants were also asked to reply to a request about their attendance at a live event next week.

Below is an example of exchange between two participants reflecting on their experiences of using Twitter.

@IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx What I don’t really like about Twitter is the limitation of symbols. I often find it hard to express an opinion. (Tweeter2)

@Tweeter2 @IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx Agreed. They should be a little more flexible. It’s like the old sms days here as it is now!Argh! (Tweeter1)

Levels of participation dropped between weeks two and three of the trial, leaving a core group of four active contributors to week three’s tasks. I joined in the activities using my own personal Twitter account in order to increase critical mass, model responses and act a contributor in the trial community. Reasons for non-participation may have been due to week three falling in the main holiday period. Explanation for this drop in contributions will be established through the post trial questionnaire.

Literature searches this week have explored methods of using assessment rubrics and educational frameworks, models and approaches to encourage online discussions and collaborations. This has proved an interesting area of research, highlighting Grice’s (1975) Cooperative Principle, Pelz’s (2004) discussion rubrics, Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Education, Salmon’s (2002) Five-stage Framework, the Stages of Collaboration (Palloff and Pratt, 2005), the Phases of Engagement (Conrad and Donaldson, 2004), Connectivist metrics (Downes, 2009 and Baxi, 2009) and Blogging rubric (Fisher, 2010 and Cofino, 2010).
These references can be found on Diigo - see my recent book marks

Consideration will be given to how these methods and approaches can be applied to the Maters programme if the tools are integrated into specific modules beyond the trial.

The final week of the trial, next week, will test the potential of integrating live Twitter chats into module content as a way of enhancing collaborative learning. The live chat session will also be tested to establish the effectiveness of Twitter chats to act as a forum for collecting feedback and evaluation material.

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