Reflection on the profile Wiki: ICTs for Learning Design

The following is a reflection on one activity required during the first week of the ICTs for Learning Design course I’m taking. Over the next few weeks there will be a number of these reflective posts and then, eventually, a post that synthesises these posts into one reflection.

The intent behind this design is, I believe, to link our uses of various technologies back to what we’re meant to be learning about different learning paradigms/theories with the design of some learning activities. i.e. this is a form of reflection on what we’ve done that should encourage a bit of meta-cognition about how it all fits together.

This task required has to add some personal details to a Wiki within the Moodle course site. We were provided with a template for the personal details and the Wiki was specific to a group. I could be wrong, the current incarnation of the wiki appears to be for the whole course. Unsure if this was the original intent or a result of some problems with Moodle groups and wikis.

Reflection on my learning

i.e. “what was it’s value to me as a learner?”

To date, I have to say not a great deal. Factors behind that include

  • This type of activity is not new to me.
    In terms of sharing information about myself, I’ve had a website since 1994 and this blog for at least 3 years or so. In terms of using a wiki, I was responsible for the decision that led to an organisational unit using a wiki as the unit’s website. And lastly, I’ve developed blocks and activity modules (i.e. software) inside Moodle and Moodle courses.

    That said, I still found using the Moodle wiki to achieve the stated aim somewhat clunky and unclear. Not sure exactly how much of this was down to the directions, the requirements or the idiosyncrasies of the Moodle wiki.

  • My early completion of the task.
    I complete the task on the first night of the residential school and was the first person to add my name. The second person started work on adding his within minutes of me and had similar problems so didn’t have anything posted.
  • My lack of looking at the profile’s of other students.
    Today is the first day (almost two weeks later) that I’ve been back to the page and I note that there are a lot more profiles there. But I haven’t looked at them, mostly due to the previous point. In addition, I’m somewhat reluctant to trawl through a lot of profiles now since
    • I have a slow network connection and the Moodle instance has a history of being slow.
    • I’m unlikely to remember a lot of the details of individuals as I read a long list of profiles.
    • And now as I’m looking through some profiles, I find the design of the wiki/profile combination somewhat lacking. e.g. it would be really useful when looking at a profile to have a previous/next interface element that would allow me to go to the next profile without having to go back to the parent wiki page and then back down again. An example of the drawbacks of a general tool.
    • So far, there hasn’t been an activity that has required me to read through the profiles, until I started here. I did briefly check out the details of my partner in another task, but that was one profile.

Reflection on potential for my learners

i.e. how could I use this with my learners. I’ll start by assuming that my learners would have reasonable access to such a tool. Which would not always be a given.

First implication is that it probably wouldn’t be all that useful. A typical school situation is going to somewhat different to a university course, especially one where the students are distributed very broadly in geographical terms and are mostly not going to be regularly meeting face-to-face. i.e. there are probably strategies that don’t involve technologies that might achieve the stated goal here more easily than a wiki.

In addition, as currently designed this activity doesn’t integrate the use of the information in the disparate profiles into the everyday practice of the students and/or another assessment task (beyond my partner). Given that in Moodle each user has an associated profile, it might have been more appropriate to put the profile there, rather than a stand alone wiki. That way if I see someone make an interesting comment in a discussion profile I can click on their profile and learn a bit more about their background and how that fits with their comment.

The application of technology to encourage my learners to know each other (and I and them me) is beneficial. But I think there are probably better ways of doing it.

Constructivism

Are there any visible elements of constructivism?

Well, rather than simply read about how to use the Wiki, the students are actively constructing their knowledge about how to use a Wiki by doing a task. Though I’m not sure how authentic the task is. There is perhaps a flavour of social constructivism in getting people to know more about each other, but that wasn’t strictly part of the task.

Cognitivism

I don’t think there’s any strong evidence of this. No great discussion or engagement with the internal functioning of the brain.

Behaviourism

You could probably argue that the task itself is potentially behavourist. There wasn’t a lot of discussion of internal workings of the brain, instead you were told to do a task and success is measured on the outcome, not any internal changes. Of course, when you add in this bit of reflection, the game is changed. However, there wasn’t a lot of explicit direction or on-going practice around how to perform the task.

Connectivism

No real evidence of this, beyond the capability of students forming connections with other students through information gleaned from the profiles. Though I don’t think the actual task of creating your profile encouraged or required this. The absence of embedding the need/ability to use this information as part of everyday practice limits this somewhat.

Diversity

Does it support a wide range of students? How?

I’d have to suggest that it doesn’t. There was one tool, one task and limited instructions in how to do it. I doubt that the Moodle wiki plays nicely with such assistive technologies as might be used by someone who is blind and the requirement to use ICTs – understandable given the course – limits diversity. The requirement to put the profile in the Moodle wiki using the provided template also reduces support for diversity.

That said, there was some support through the suggestion that students didn’t have to provide all of the information specified in the template if any of it made them feel uncomfortable.

eLearning and digital pedagogy

How could the design of this activity, as an e-learning strategy, support learning?

As stated above, the purpose behind this activity seem two-fold. First, start students using a wiki for a potentially authentic task. Second, encourage students to learn about each other. If you use the Chickering and Gamson’s 7 Principles then this activity potentially connects with three of the principles

  1. Encourage active learning.
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  3. Encourages contact between students and faculty.

As said above, however, I think the activity needs some re-design to fully support these principles.

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