Monday, April 22, 2013

Online Learning is Adult Ed's Second Child

Any adult education program that is offering online learning is also starting a new business. (You'll need to look at it that way to get the most out of the video I've posted below.) With any new endeavor, there is uncertainty and some degree of trial and error. There are definitely different ways to meet the needs of different clients. There are conflicting mandates from the state, from the local municipality, from the teachers, and from the learners. Whatever you do, don't freak out. Here's some advice from one of my favorite big thinkers on innovation.  Gary Vaynerchuk and I are definitely on the same page as caring for our small children is teaching us how to relate to the world.
It was a question about whether online learning activities should be limited to work that fits into certain narrow definitions to qualify for NRS reportable time-on-task hours (which in turn, draws down federal dollars) that made this video resonate with me after clicking on Gary's link on Twitter. He uses the term 'micro-managing,' but if that feels like an admonishment, he's really talking about different approaches to facilitate development and growth, whether it's children, businesses, or online learning. They're all experimental.

Our interventions and attempts to control the process can be powerful, but they can also be an utter waste of energy. How much further will a lifelong learner go if they had a 'helicopter mom' hovering over their entire GED preparation experience? I know, different folks require different strokes, but you get my point. Now, if only Gary would solve my problem that stems from taking his advice to use the 10pm-2am hours to put in extra work trying to over-deliver for clients. Gary, on 4.5hrs of sleep, I'm useless helping my wife with the kids in the morning!

Monday, April 1, 2013

How Was COABE, Baby?

One statement that I sometimes hear about distance learning is that classroom instruction is always preferable to online learning.  Really?  Maybe if your experience is primarily with providing traditional teaching or if you've been trying to turn classroom learners into self-directed learners at a distance or if you're using software developed for the classroom by K12-focused companies.  Who is facilitating, who is learning, what the learning objects are... those are just a few of the variables that determine the possibilities of both online and classroom based education. Nevermind the fact that a hybrid of the two, blended learning, is generally considered to be the best case scenario for teaching adults.

The Mother of Invention
This year, I had to accept the fact that I wouldn't be attending the COABE conference in New Orleans.  The possibility that my third child would arrive that week meant that I was basically grounded.  My new reality was not simply missing the conference, but looking for ways to participate at a distance.  My need to soak up the spirit of innovation at the conference drove me to a few different avenues of social media.  Of course, the distance participation is really enhanced by the participation by in-person attendees, so that brings us back to the superlative-worthy blended model (if you were at COABE, in-person or otherwise, please add some of your highlights here with a comment).

Matilda Clementine Guard, Born March 30, 2013
First, I posted on the LINCS discussion board about my unrequited love for a responsive national community of practice for adult educators. Then I posted on this bog confessing that I wouldn't be attending and encouraging readers to attend the Essential Education session.  And then I posted and commented on the new COABE group page on LinkedIn.  Putting out those feelers built up my anticipation for the conference, and it seemed to build interest in the distance participation modes that are often obscure and sometimes afterthoughts.