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Alison Ruth - Teaching Portfolio

Digital traces of scholarship

Alison Ruth

on 1 April 2014

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Transcript of Alison Ruth - Teaching Portfolio

Online learning (‘e-learning’) is a ‘hot topic’ (EdNA, 2004) within Australian higher education, yet remains under-researched and, therefore, not fully understood. Existing research consistently associates low levels of student engagement with online learning modes with, although not limited to, changes required in students’ learning behaviour and that of their instructors. Responding to both sets of findings, this thesis focuses on understanding the pedagogic properties and potentials of online learning within higher education to guide both the practice of and deliberations about this hot topic.Sociocultural theories of learning provide a conceptual framework for studying both individual and social levels of human practice and relations between them (Kuutti, 1996, Lewis, 1997, Wertsch, 1998), such as those afforded by online learning arrangements. This thesis uses these theories, which posit the individual in a social framework, to assist in addressing questions about “what is involved, when we say what people are doing and why they are doing it?” (Burke, 1969). Burke proposes a framework, the Pentad, which is a valuable methodological tool for understanding and illuminating online learning environments. Using Burke’s framework, it is proposed that these environments mediate learning through a complex relationship among five factors: the act of interacting (i.e. act), the person interacting (i.e. agent), the purpose for the interaction (i.e.purpose), the context in which the interaction takes place (i.e.agency) and the location of the interaction (i.e. scene). While the mediation afforded by online learning environments allows interaction between agents (e.g. students and teachers), a greater emphasis on interactions, such as those between peers and between novices and experts, arises. This thesis examines forms of interaction in the context of email discussion lists. The research questions addressed here are:•What are the pedagogic properties of email discussion lists that influence students’ learning in electronically mediated environments?•What new understandings of pedagogic processes can be gained from using “different angles of analysis” (Rogoff, 1990 p26) and a holistic analysis of email discussion lists such as provided by Burke’s (1969) Pentadic schema?Both qualitative and quantitative methods are deployed in a case study of one university’s provision of online learning. Demographics of the student population are combined with content analysis of online conversations and reinforced by responses from students to a survey. These are drawn from four email discussion lists.The findings lead to the identification of key pedagogic principles for organising online learning. Like Lave and Wenger (1991), this research questions “what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place” (Hanks, 1991 p14). It is proposed that for the learners, negotiating an online learning environment through the use of email discussion lists requires understanding their own ways of learning. The instructors in these online environments can shape the learning outcomes through framing activities both before and during the course of study. Thus, the influence of agents, both learners and instructors, is highlighted. This accounts for and emphasises adults’ abilities and need to act agentically in facilitating their learning. Further, the research confirms that participation in an email discussion list is predictive of learning knowledge assessable through courses and substantiates the view that email discussion lists are helpful equivalents to distance learning, because they facilitate ‘anywhere/anytime’ interactions. Thus, the principle of engagement for different purposes at different times stands, but is extended to include individuals’ agency. The findings suggest reconceptualising Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development into the Zone of Learning Capability, a more personally agentic view and promote Burke’s Pentad as being useful for analysing learning environments.In summary, the thesis identifies and elaborates a means by which the pedagogic properties and potentials of online learning can be elucidated, and proposes practices for both learners and instructors as means of enacting an effective online pedagogy. In doing so conceptual premises of interaction between the individual and social contributions to learning have been extended.
Alison Ruth
Teaching Portfolio
It's a work of art, really!
This is me!
This is also me, albeit a digital representation of me, but then so was the other image.
Bachelor of Science
Master of Applied Science
Diploma of Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Mathematics and Statistics
Soils and Geomorphology
Mathematics and Computer Studies
Learning at the Screenface
Griffith University
La Trobe University, Bendigo
Queensland University of Technology
Griffith University
You could skip this bit and come back later, there's a link at the end to open it in another window.
My Philosophy
One of the key findings from my doctoral studies is that student engagement often depends upon how well we frame a learning activity, be it online, face-to-face or as an on-your-own reflective activity. A classic error made by many is that we must mandate (and grade) participation. But, students often do not engage with ‘busy work’, seeing it as not contributing much to their learning. And while it may seem to overcome the problem of attendance, it does not really encourage engagement.
For us to capture the hearts and minds of our students we must be clear about the value of the activity to their learning. We must be sure of the purpose and the outcome of the exercise. To do this, we must connect with them on multiple levels.
It helps that I am a multi- and inter-disciplinary scholar with a love of learning. My philosophy of teaching speaks to this love. I teach from a systems perspective. I use multiple connections between ideas to engage students. I engage them with the purpose of the activity and try to be clear of the outcome for them. This provides a solid basis for their engagement.
I believe that learning stems from the heart and the mind, not just the body, although it, too, plays a significant role in learning. We judge students by their actions, by the way they engage in the classroom, but this is only the body. Their hearts and minds may well be elsewhere, but with joy and encouragement, we can bring them all together.
I believe that education is an interaction, between what is past and what is to come, what is known and unknown – meeting roundly in the middle. This is a challenge for some, wanting only to know what is, to give back what they get, to pass the assessment.
It was Socrates (apparently) who first stated: 'Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel'. This is the purpose of learning, of connecting, of dreaming.
Responsibilities at Griffith
Program Development
Bachelor of Business Information Systems
I am Co-chair of a cross faculty program committee to develop a course combining both technology and business skills. This program has been developed in response to industry requirements and the belief that students need to understand both the technologies and the business processes.
Business Informatics
Developed a business focussed course for students
This course focussed on developing student's life long learning skills. As a course concerned with Business Applications of Information Systems, I strove to keep the course on the 'cutting edge of six months ago' reminding students that much of the factual information contained in the course will be out of date by the time they graduate. Students are encouraged to develop strategies and processes for keeping their knowledge current using the very tools introduced in the course.
It is a challenging course to teach as I expect students to question my authority on new technologies. Current thinking that 'Gen-Y' or the 'Net Generation' are automatically more savvy when it comes to technology is not borne out by the students in the course. There is a wide range of expertise demonstrated by students, with a few being very aware of the latest developments in social media, for example, but many never having heard of it. This is confirmed by recent research from University of Melbourne (http://www.netgen.unimelb.edu.au/outcomes/handbook.html). The implications of that study suggest:
There are at least two clear implications of this diversity: caution should be exercised when making assumptions about what students or staff already know or prefer in relation to technology, and a one-size-fits-all approach to the implementation of learning technologies is unlikely to succeed and should be avoided. (p5)
The course thus focusses on developing collaborative learning strategies such that students can learn, not only the core knowledge, but also from their peers and colleagues.
Mobile Workforce Technologies
Developed a business focussed dynamic course where students define the core concepts
This course focusses on developing up-to-date knowledge of shifts and changes in both business and technological landscapes of the 21st century. During the first semester I taught this course, students often questioned the information I was providing, based on the text book, and presenting information that demonstrated that the text book was out of date. I reflected on the feedback from students and considered ways of keeping the core concepts up to date. When the opportunity to apply for a grant for flexible learning projects arose, I incorporated that reflection into the project and proposed the development of a 'student constructed text book' using a wiki as the supporting technology. I was awarded a grant of slightly less than $30000 to implement this, although implementing the wiki cost significantly less. The project is in its fourth year and I am now funding it out of my own pocket as the value for the students is immense.
The course seeks to develop a collaborative space for students to develop a community of practice around investigating topics for a mobile workforce. Students enter the course expecting to learn how technologies work, and while that is the starting point, the final outcome of the course for students is the lived experience of being a part of a mobile workforce. This means that they are able to share information, collaborate and develop the textbook from multiple locations at any time.
Some of the unexpected outcomes of this course are
Students implementing the technology in their workplaces in Australia and Oversears (eg Saudi Arabia)
Students electing to undertake research in the area under my supervision
Students developing pages about their culture for the benefit of the peers
In 2005 this course had 26 students. Today is has 98 incorporating both undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts, with the majority of that growth in the postgraduate offering.
Scholarship and Service
Scholarship - Sample Reading list
Academic Hack
Creative Commons
Open Education News
Vicarious Conversations
Web Services Advisory Committee
Information Technology Managers Committee
Cultural Diversity Community of Practice
GBS Teaching Community of Practice
ICT/IS student support group (The 'shoe' group)
SmartWater network
Recent Research
Ruth, A., & Houghton, L. (2009). The wiki way of learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 135-152. (http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/ruth.html)
Ruth, A. (2009). Reading in the Hyperconnected Information Era: Lessons from the Beijing Ticket Scam. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 34(March), 1-14. (http://ajte.education.ecu.edu.au/issues/PDF/342/Ruth.pdf)
Ruth, A. (2008) Computer Mediated Learning applying Burke's Pentad In Kelsey, S. and St-Amant, K. (Eds.) Handbook of Computer Mediated Research, Idea Group Reference. pp 73 - 86 (http://www.igi-pub.com/reference/details.asp?id=7658)
Ruth, A. and Ruutz A. (2007) Four Vignettes of Learning: Wiki Wiki Web or What Went Wrong, E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education to be held in Quebec City, Canada, October 15-19, 2007
Ruth, A. (2007) Learning in a mediated online environment, International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning Vol 1, 1/2 pp 132-143
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Responsibilities at La Trobe
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