Saturday, October 13, 2012

Researching multiple roles and ecologies

One of the great things of studying online is that you can work at your own pace. I have been very busy over the last weeks, getting prepared for the annual ULearn conference in New Zealand, so I had to pause for a while my VS MOOC attendance. As always, this year ULearn was a successful conference with over 300 workshops to select from! I'm now back on track with the VC MOOC course, focusing on the third topic - Research into K-12 online learning - and the question: Given your specific interest in K-12 virtual schooling research, where are questions left unanswered? Why is that question (or those questions) important?

Having a specific interest in blended teaching and learning, this is where I would like to focus on regarding this question. Blended earning is developing fast in educational providers around the world. We have many teachers implementing a range of online tools in their face to face classes, as a way to enhance students' learning experience and we also have another type of blend with online distance courses that students can take in addition to the face to face courses that their schools offer, as for example courses through the Virtual Learning Network here in NZ.

Across the literature there are a range of advantages that blended approaches involve for school students, such as increased flexibility, independent learning and enhanced collaboration opportunities. However, the effective implementation of blended approaches is a complex process with many threads connecting to make it happen (Davis, 2008). It is not only a matter of teacher, school leader and student readiness, since there are other individuals and their organizations within and beyond the school that have an important role in the effective implementation of blended approaches.

Taking an ecological perspective, Davis presented the arena of change with digital technologies, aiming to clarify this complexity (Davis, 2008; Davis, Eickelmann & Zaka, in press). The arena shows that change with ICT in classrooms depends on the schools in which they are embedded in; schools are also nested within a wider ecosystem that includes additional organizations that can impact on change with ICT in a classroom/school. Therefore, in addition to teachers, students and school leaders, there are other educational stakeholders whose roles are important in the whole process, such as individuals in professional, bureaucratic, political and commercial organizations. And as blended teaching and learning continues to grow, there are a range of roles and responsibilities in different ecologies that research needs to clarify, in order to develop best practices.

Davis, N. (2008). How may teacher learning be promoted for educational renewal with IT? Models and theories of IT diffusion. In J. Voogt and G. Knezek (eds), International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp.507-519). New York: Springer.
Davis, N. E., Eickelmann, B., & Zaka, P. (in press). A co-evolutionary perspective on the restructuring of schooling systems in the digital age. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

Are we there yet?