Cyberspace Connotations of science fiction Coined by the author William Gibson in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer", referring to a conception of an incredibly complex space where technology and minds meet.
In computer jargon it refers to "the community of networked computers and the culture that has developed among users of these computers" For my purposes I defined cyberspace as those environments created by people using computer-mediated communication technologies, mostly employing the Internet, which are being used for educational purposes.
Three Generalized Stages of Technological Innovation 1.Non threatening use ‘for fun’ 2.Enhancement of old jobs ‘nothing new’ 3.Technology leads to something new technology as innovation
Three Generalized Stages of Faculty Technology Integration 1.Faculty assisted to use the hardware and software - ‘How do I work this?’ 2.Faculty assisted in using the technology to improve courses - ‘Can I use e-mail to communicate better with students?’ 3.Technology alters teaching / learning. – “How do I manage an online course?’
Communication Technologies Some communication technologies used in education are specifically designed for that purpose; most, while not purposefully designed for education, can easily be adapted for use in a learning environment. Computer mediated communications can essentially be categorized into two types, asynchronous and synchronous communication environments.
Asynchronous Asynchronous computer mediated communication is that which occurs free of time restrictions. People communicating with each other do not have to be online at the same time; rather they post information in an online environment for others to access at a time in the future. e.g. e-mail, bulletin boards
Asynchronous Internet courseware products such as WebCT and BlackBoard contain within each personal e-mail and threaded discussion areas for students. Indeed, many courseware products such as WebCT, Blackboard, and FirstClass (essentially an organized e-mail environment) are designed to be mostly asynchronous environments.
Synchronous Using computers to communicate with others who receive the message at the same time as it is created and sent. An example of non-computer mediated synchronous communication is speech in a conversation.
Synchronous Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has been around for years. AOL's "Instant Messenger" and Microsoft's "Windows Messenger" are commonly used examples of an IRC like technology.
Future Trends As networks can handle greater bandwidth, greater possibilities exist for what can be included in these synchronous messages. Products such as Microsoft's "Net-Meeting" are attempts to use the Internet to have synchronous computer mediated communication include voice and images. Greater bandwidth – more ‘stuff’, more quickly over the Internet
The Virtual Classroom? Products such as Centra Symposium are aiming for the creation of 'real-time' meeting spaces, 'virtual' classrooms connecting people at remote computers using voice, chat, document sharing, shared whiteboards, and even real-time video. Presently implemented on corporate “Intranet” environments Attempting to recreate a ‘real time’ classroom or seminar type of environment in cyberspace.
Technology Dehumanizing ? Concerns that the technology can be dehumanizing and lead people toward more disconnected lives have often been voiced. The power of online communities to connect people who wish to learn and exchange ideas freely can be captured in an online learning environment. The technology itself is not inherently dehumanizing, rather it is the way that it is employed that must be considered.
Constructivism A relatively new theoretical perspective on human cognition and learning that is “consistent with a lot of current philosophical and neurophysiological views of brain function” (e.g., Anderson, 1992; Arseneau & Rodenburg, 1998) A theory that the learner constructs their own knowledge through active interaction with the subject matter.
Constructivism - 4 Central Tenets 1) Knowledge depends on past constructions 2) Constructions come about through systems of assimilation and accommodation 3) Learning is an organic process of invention, rather than a mechanical process of accumulation 4) Meaningful learning occurs through reflection and resolution of cognitive conflict, negating earlier, incomplete levels of understanding Norton and Wiburg - Teaching with Technology
Application to Online Teaching and Learning Provide opportunity for students to reflect upon their learning Activities and time to integrate the new subject matter into their present mental schema
Cyberspace learners are often physically isolated from each other and the instructor - it becomes extremely important for the course designer to include strategies that force students to actively engage with the material and with each other. Purposefully use the technology, not simply use the technology
Benefits of Online Learning Environments Freedom from Time and Space Restrictions Promotion of Independent Learning Possibilities for Greater Interaction and Expression Connection and Collaboration with Others Increased Comfort and Participation for Introverted Students
Drawbacks of Online Learning Environments It is a new and different learning environment - “ A whole new set of physical, emotional, and psychological issues along with the educational issues”. Physical Problems (ergonomics) Psychological Factors (addiction, attention) Motivation – strongly motivated, good ‘learners’, tend to do better
Student / Teacher Technology Know How Support in Technology Use (support services ‘crisis’) Technology Infrastructure and Reliability The Digital Divide Personality Factors - not an environment for every student / teacher
Student Success 1. Self-responsibility: The student is able to select a course best suited to her course plan. This learner knows what she wants from a course. Successful ‘cyberspace’ students often share certain characteristics:
Student Success 2. Self-awareness: A student who understands his learning preferences is usually aware of how he learns best and will be able to determine if he can adjust to an instructor's teaching style as well as figure out adaptive strategies. The advantage of online courses is that often multiple learning styles may be addressed.
Student Success 3. Technical ability: The ability to use a computer allows the student to focus on the course and not the technical functions of the computer and access to the course. 4. Adaptability: The student has the ability to deal with uncertainties that come up when using technology or in a new online course. (http://www.colorado.edu/cewww/Fac101/success2.htm)
Education in Cyberspace Essentials In “Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace; Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom”, Palloff and Pratt emphasize six essential elements critical to the success of distance learning: honesty, responsiveness, relevance, respect, openness, empowerment, all incorporated into a “Learning Community”.
Conclusions Regarding Education In Cyberspace The use of computer mediated communications combined with a sound implementation of teaching theory makes cyberspace an excellent environment to provide educational opportunities to a wide student audience. The tools afforded to instructors on the Internet and in Internet based courseware packages provide for the development of diverse and stimulating learning environments.
Conducive to constructivist learning: – promotes reflective learning – teacher as learning coach rather than an 'information-guru’ – promote independence in students The Internet provides a wide range of communities and opportunities for collaboration and connecting, locally and globally.
Chuck's Do and Don't List For Teaching in Cyberspace
In Preparation for the Course: Do take the time to become familiar with the technologies that you will be using. Do design a sound course and consult an instructional designer if one is available to you. Do consider employing strategies to get your students reflecting on the course material and thinking about their learning. Do plan to spend a good deal of time to prepare an online course.
In Preparation: Do plan to spend time each week (maybe even each day) of the course's duration working on the course. Facilitating online courses can be very rewarding and can free you from set time restrictions, but many teachers find that the workload in such courses is greater than that they would encounter in a similar face-to- face course.
In Preparation: Don't assume that these online environments can be mastered quickly. Don't take on a computer mediated distance course if you are not comfortable using the technology. Don't design an online course in the same way you would a face-to-face course. Generally, online courses require more preparation at the outset to be successful. Don't limit the instructional strategies that you employ.
Just before the course begins: Do contact all of your students in the days prior to the course. Do be prepared to provide instructions on how to use the online environment that houses your course. You want to try and avoid creating anxiety and stress in your students due to the technology. Do provide a detailed course syllabus. Do be patient with yourself and your students. Let them know from the outset that there may be technical difficulties and confusion caused by the technology.
Just before the course begins: Don't assume that students will contact you if they are encountering difficulties. Don't assume that the first few days of the course will run smoothly. I am always surprised regarding the hurdles that technology can unexpectedly throw up, and by the misunderstandings and confusion that students may have in these new environments.
During the course: Do develop and maintain an appropriate sense of 'community'; encourage the development of a learning community amongst your students in the course. Do make an effort to contact the entire class each week or so and remind them where they should be in the course and what your expectations are for the task at hand.
During the course: Do provide regular, timely and clear feedback to each student on his or her progress and assignments. Do monitor the course regularly, particularly if you have an online discussion area for course topics. You should moderate such discussions.
During the course: Don't assume that all is well if all is quiet. If the course activity slows down for no apparent reason, or if individual students seem to be participating less, contact the individuals or the entire class and find out what is happening.
As the course draws to an end and after the course: Do provide a sense of conclusion for the students. Do let students know that you have received (or have not received) their final papers and projects and give them an estimate as to when they can expect feedback and a grade. Do provide more than a grade at the conclusion of the course.
As the course draws to an end and after the course: Don't just leave the course to end without some small synthesizing / concluding message or activity. Online course can leave students 'hanging' after they are complete if there is no conclusion.