Gender gap in tech careers

I’m enrolled in an undergraduate class online at Portland Community College, this summer: Technology in Education. It’s worth taking for the content and the sheer good-naturedness of the instructor. It’s a decent class – I wish I spent a little more time participating in the discussion forums. I thought maybe this could be an extension of my participation there.

In our most recent assignment, she asked us to examine the gender gap in tech careers. One of the comments I found interesting came out of this article in the TimesOnline.

“I just think that people don’t see clear areas to be promoting women,” she explained. “Whereas it’s always been the case that men went into engineering. You didn’t have to promote it, it’s just something you saw around you…”

This has gotten me thinking about a couple of the programs that we offer at the college I currently work at. In the past 2.5 years, I have knowledge of very few women enrolling in coursework with the Industrial Maintenance Technology program. This is not something that I am overly concerned about – I think people will find their way to whatever path or occupation is best for them.

In things like IMT or agriculture or computer science, it still seems like it is very commonplace for men to be doing it; it’s just accepted.

Wouldn’t it be great if at an earlier age woman discovered that they want to be computer scientists or mechanics or civil engineers? Pacific University recently wrapped up their summer computer science program for middle school girls. I worked in a middle school for a few months – I constantly heard that students in that age bracket are some of the most impressionable.

On a related note, Dr. Juliet Brosing, the professor that started this program up at Pacific, was named the 2012 Professor of the Year in Oregon and she has been doing this kind of stuff for years – helping middle-school aged girls get interested in science and computers. I just think she’s a good example to look at – we should all be advocating for young people to have exposure to things they may one day be passionate about.

In my own life, I think I’ve had good advocates for science, technology and engineering. In junior high and high school, I participated in summer women in technology programs, and when I went to college, I had remarkable advisors (Dr. Brosing among them) that encouraged me in whatever I chose to pursue. I wound up back in education primarily because I have always had enormous respect for HS and college-level teachers.

[To Be Revised a bit]

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Learning to Learn (again)

I have been trying to figure out how to keep learning things, now that I’m done with school for a while. I’ve been in formal education settings since I was 5, so… 27 years? That’s ridiculous, but I’d venture to say that in this case more than a lot of cases, old habits die hard.

I don’t just want to learn: I want to be taught. I have to retrain myself to think of me as both the learner and the teacher, now. It’s quite an adjustment. To help me along with this, I’ve come up with a few “Learning Goals” for this summer.

My Summer Learning Goals

1. This summer, I am learning how to use SolidWorks, a 3-D drafting software, so that I can help out with a friend’s class this fall if I’m needed. I was originally going to be able to teach the class, but you know how way leads onto way… and we ultimately figured out that I wasn’t qualified!

Tonight, I want to complete the “Getting Started” set of tutorials. I have been looking at it for a while, already, but have been getting confused, so I am trying to approach it in an organized fashion: “Today I will do this. On Monday, I will do this. Etc.” Here’s tonight’s list:

  • Introduction to SolidWorks
  • Lesson 1 – Parts
  • Lesson 2 – Assemblies
  • Lesson 3 – Drawings

I was initially a little perturbed at having to battle my way through SolidWorks on my own. For the level that the students are going to be using it this fall, however, it’s not that complicated. I’ve decided to enjoy the opportunity to learn this software. Uncomplicated doesn’t make it Sarah-friendly, but it helps.

2. This fall, I will be teaching Basic Math online. So, this summer I am working on learning to use a new-to-me LMS (Jenzabar’s e-Racer). If you have been reading my blog for any great length of time, then you know I have a soft spot in my heart for another LMS. I don’t want to use anything else except maybe Desire2Learn. E-Racer isn’t treating me too badly, however – it has been pretty simple to customize the layout. I am familiar with the web interface for Jenzabar, so it was a surprise to find out that when you enable e-Racer, it’s just another module within the web interface.

3. This is a great lead-in to the third piece of software I am learning, this Summer – Hawkes Learning Systems. I explored this as part of my job about 5 years ago, in my first position with a community college. I don’t remember why we opted not to use it and I don’t think it has changed too much, but at some point in the intervening 5 years, the school has decided to use it in order to teach basic math.

I’ve looked at Hawkes and it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, which I have come to think is probably the best situation for online Math 20 students. Anyway, I am using this software for most of the course homework. I know from experience that this has it’s own inherent set of challenges and hopefully I am more prepared for it than I was the last time I used an online homework system.

That’s what I’m doing, this summer, for the most part. I am also trying to figure out for the life of me how I can be ahead of the curve in terms of educational technology and elearning. Here are my current sources I like:

Anything else you would recommend? Are you yourself or your institution working on something really awesome in the world of virtual education? I just graduated from Boise State University in May, and one of the things they do that I think is cool is their 3D Gamelab. It’s a quest-based learning platform that keeps students engaged with gaming principles. Check out the video below for more information:

The last thing I’m trying to do this summer is blog more. Consider this my tentative step forward on that goal – I’ll try to start finishing up/ posting some of the other posts I have in draft form.

EdTech 523 – Module 6 – Summary & Reflection

Summary

Synchronous Lesson Development

This term, I was lucky to have simply fantastic classmates to work with. I connected with Susi from the the get-go and it was nice to get to work with her once more on this final project.

We both teach adults online and decided to teach a lesson on a few different aspects of the learning management systems that we each work in. It was a good topic for any teacher working in either Moodle or Desire2Learn. Susi covered grading of quizzes and discussions in Desire2Learn. She did a great job of putting together some strategic screenshots in lieu of being able to do a live demo of D2L, and since i don’t currently have any students, I was able to put together a live demo of some of the neater aspects of quizzes and discussions in Moodle.

Here are the slides I put together. Susi built our introductory slides covering our strategy that we used for the lesson: “Virtual Training Labs.”

Virtual training labs centers around hands-on experience and demonstration. The idea was to talk to the students about doing a couple of tasks and then we would send them off to a lab setting that we have set up and have them execute the tasks that we’ve asked of them. The time limit wound up being about 45 minutes and we stated that in that time, we would be available to help them with their projects. For an idea of exactly how my portion of the presentation went, I’m pasting my “script.” I know that I didn’t come across very loudly.

Project script – Sarah

Most of you are familiar with Moodle from the student’s standpoint and you’ve even had some exposure to the instructor side, if you used Moodle as your LMS in either EdTech 522 or 512. I’m going to show you a couple of different things that are kind of neat about the discussion and quiz features in Moodle.
When you are setting up a discussion forum, there are a couple of different ways to affect the layout. The first is when you initially build your forum, and you can choose from several forum types. I like the to use the default forum type, but you can explore the others and pick the one that suits you best.
Another way that you can change the layout of your discussion forum is by looking at the discussion forum once it has been created. Here you can use the drop-down menu to select different layouts of your topics/ replies. Again, choosing one of these will depend a lot on your preference and what you think students would prefer to look at.
Next, we’ll talk a little about quizzes – the varieties of questions available and how to set up a quiz of a different length for a particular student.
When you are creating a new quiz in Moodle, there are several different question types that you can use, from multiple choice to essay to mathematical calculation. This makes the Moodle LMS an ideal home for online classes or web-based components of classes in many different subject areas.
Once you have created a quiz in Moodle and if you have student with disability documentation that requires more time to complete the quiz, you can enable this by setting group overrides. Group overrides aren’t available until you have changed the course settings to allow “separate groups.”
Once you’ve done that, you should create a group for the student or students that need extra time and in the settings for the quiz, choose Group Overrides and then “Add an override.” At this point, you can choose the group that you’ve placed the student or students in and click enable next to the time length.
Now that we’ve covered some of what we think are some neat features of quizzes and discussions in Moodle, we’d like to turn you loose. As we mentioned before, each of you should have access to a Moodle Sandbox. Your sandbox has already been set up to accommodate separate groups.
We would like you to take 15 or 20 minutes and create both a discussion forum and a quiz in Moodle. Choose a format and layout for the discussion that you like. Before creating the quiz, create one group for your class. Create the quiz and choose a couple different types of questions. Set up a group override to provide a longer amount of time for the group you created. Bring both projects back to the Adobe Connect room – we will give you screen sharing rights and you can show them off.
We practiced on our own, to begin with, and then we met in a “practice” adobe connect room to run through the presentation a couple more times. i don’t know if we put in as much preparation time as other people, but I do think our content was interesting and that we appropriately used the learning strategy.
Text
The final portion of the book contains many different resources for online teaching, including the companion site for the book, maintained by the author. The companion site includes a list of resources that has links to online conferences and list-servs. Now I know how I’m going to be spending my time, this summer, once I find a full-time job and get done with school.
Reflection
We were asked to put together an assessment tool for synchronous online lessons and grade a couple of sample presentations. My tool didn’t work very well if the lesson wasn’t completed in Adobe Connect or if there were a lot of technical difficulties.
Obviously this tool is going to look different from an assessment tool for a traditional classroom, but ultimately you’re assessing the use of a tool. If you use a rubric with a point system, then diction and poise might be something that has a greater weight than when you’re assessing a synchronous online less. On the other hand, technical expertise might hold greater weight on the online session.
The strategies for a F2F session are going to look different – rather than virtual labs, you’ll probably have real labs to evaluate. Rather than breakout rooms, students might have small group discussions. So much depends on the instructor and what they’re willing to try out.

EdTech 505 – Final Evaluation Report (Fall 2012)

Looking for Jobs in Academia

An Evaluation of a Personal Process

Summary

Everyone wants to have the perfect job for themselves. If they never find it, they want to know that they did everything in their power to search, interview and hope. In the end, they will know that they simply weren’t the right person for the job, rather than feeling like they didn’t do enough. That is the sort of process that I want for myself – I want to know that I did everything I could to find what I’m looking for.

As part of the evaluation procedure, the history of my job search techniques was described in an effort to lead into the current state of affairs. The evaluation method used was an interactive one, where I was part of the team and feedback was incorporated into the program. I used surveys in an effort to both get feedback from my peers and organize my own data collection.

The evaluation determined that the job search process is individual and while there are some things that can be done to streamline it and make it more successful, those are going to vary from one person to the next.

Description of the program evaluated

I hope that I’ll be able to look at my job search and see how I can make it more efficient and effective.  I will use data from web searches and from surveying colleagues, friends, and family to create a clear picture of my job search process. While this program is geared specifically toward me, it is possible that this evaluation could be of use to other academic professionals wondering where to start with a new job search.

Length of the program is going to vary from one person to another. In my case, I hope to search for and be hired in a new position within about 5 months. However, this process can take anywhere from 1-18 months. I hope that by distilling the process down to basics and good quality resources, I can decrease the average amount of time it takes for people to find appropriate jobs to apply for.

Program Objectives

In order create these objectives I thought about what I needed from a job search. I need to be able to complete the search on the go or in between doing other things – when I finally have a break from school, there is going to be so much that I want to do and while finding a job will be a top priority, it will be far from the only thing I am focusing on.

  • The first program objective is to be more prepared to find a new job.
  • The second objective is to determine the most popular and efficient method for searching for jobs.
    • What websites are the most popular?
    • The third objective is to determine what my peers find valuable in a career search.
      • What resources did/ do they utilize in their search process?
      • Most valuable career resources.

Program Components

Services

Determine appropriate jobs through entering key words into job search engines online.

Procedures

Jobs found through first using the search engine Google to find sites on which to search for jobs, such as careerbuilder, higheredjobs, or craigslist.

Read through job descriptions and determine appropriateness based on my qualifications.

Material

  • Computer
  • Internet access/ email
  • Flash drive
  • Resume file
  • Cover letter file

Evaluation Method

Participants

I found most of my respondents via twitter and facebook. I created the survey using Google and posted a link, asking politely for people to respond to the survey for me. In order to make sure that I had as many respondents as I felt I needed, in order to be able to perform some analysis on the data, I wanted to get more than 50 responses to the survey.

My response rate is approximately 42.4%. The actual value is wildly variable because of the mediums I used to deliver the survey – on facebook, I had a population of about 100 people and through utilizing Twitter, I had access to roughly 30,000 people. It is impossible to say how many of those accounts are inactive, weren’t paying attention to Twitter, or simply didn’t care about filling out the survey.

I found my sample based on the people that were willing to fill out a survey for me. I knew that Twitter would be a good resource. One thing I should have done is make two separate surveys, one for twitter and one for facebook. If I had done that, I would have a much better idea of the makeup of my population sample.

Dr. Alec Couros of the University of Regina posted my survey to his 26,000 followers on Twitter per my request. I do not know how many of my respondents resulted from him sharing my survey with them, but I appreciated the help nonetheless.

Procedures

There’s an old adage that says it’s all about who you know. For me, sometimes, it also is a matter of luck. For example, in May of 2006, I was volunteering at the hospital in Tillamook, and met a lady whose husband was leaving a small engineering firm up the coast. She thought I should apply for his job. I did and worked there for a little over a year before realizing that I really wanted to work in education.

After a temporary stint at a middle school in Seaside, I stumbled onto a newspaper ad that did everything shy of ask for me by name. I applied and was hired to work in Coos Bay, where I stayed for 2 and a half years before my grant-funded job ended. In this case, I believe luck played a role in getting this position. I learned that I really fit in well within the community college setting, and that there is a variety of opportunities for someone like me.

I came home to Tillamook to work on my Master’s degree. I collected unemployment for a short period of time before starting work at the hospital in town as a Data Analyst. Later, I also tacked on a part-time position at the local community college. I found this job through sheer obsessive compulsion. I knew that I wanted to work at the school and at just about every available moment of every day, I clicked on their employment link to see if anything was available. I applied for the first thing that popped up and was hired.

Since that time and knowing that I didn’t have long before I was done with school, I have been looking around for the perfect full-time position. My search has been sporadic, at best, and inefficient. This fall, I saw a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate what I was doing as someone that is actively looking for a new job.

While working on this class, I have been conscious about what I am doing in my job search. Rather than hope I will be lucky enough to stumble on to something, but not wanting to make myself crazy, I have been sticking to one website, for the most part – http://www.higheredjobs.com – and exploring websites of schools and organizations that are particularly interesting to me.

This conscious effort to make my process less crazy, while it hadn’t yet incorporated any of my survey results, was a result of knowing that I needed to evaluate the process.

Data Sources

My first data source (Appendix, page 11) was a Google Form that I used to visit each of the following job search web sites.

I entered the site name, the search terms I was using, and the locations in which I wanted to find jobs. I reported the number of results for each set of search terms in each location, for each website.

The search terms I used included the following:

  • Academic Advising
  • Distance Education
  • Faculty Development

The locations in which I searched for jobs included the following:

  • Portland, OR
  • Denver, CO
  • Seattle, WA
  • Boise, ID

My second data source (Appendix, page 11) was also a Google Form. I asked respondents about their job search habits, interests, and success rates.

Results

Survey of Peers distributed via Facebook and Twitter (Appendix, page 11)

Respondent Demographics
Average Age (yrs) 36.9

Figure 1 Demographics of Respondents to Survey

Figure 2 Breakdown of where respondents were located, based on survey responses.

Survey Results
Most Popular Web Resources Individual Company Websites
  http://www.linkedin.com/
  http://www.google.com/
  http://www.monster.com/
  Newspaper Websites
Average Success Rate 49.1%
Avg. Time (hrs) Spent/ Week Searching 8.5
Avg. Time (yrs) in Current Position 7.0

Figure 3 Results of Survey Distributed to Peers via Facebook and Twitter

From the results, there does not appear to be a correlation between a high rate of success in the job search and spending more hours looking for a job. In fact, as one of the respondents with a high success rate pointed out:

“Let people you trust know you’re looking or at least interested; you can’t overestimate the power of a personal suggestion made in a timely way.”

This reinforces my belief that the job search can sometimes be about who you and about a little bit of luck. You also need to be receptive to new possibilities.

Search on my own for jobs (Appendix, page 11)

My Search
Site with Most Results Chronicle of Higher Education | http://chronicle.com/section/Jobs/61/
City with Most Results Seattle, WA
City with Least Results Boise, ID

Figure 4 Results of my internet search for suitable positions.

This was a really cursory search, where I did not look at any of the results in-depth. For example, I know that most of the results for the Chronicle of Higher Education resulted from the search terms “faculty development” without quotes, and I know a lot of faculty positions are posted on that website. Therefore, most of those positions would not be appropriate for me.

Even looking at this search by city, where Seattle and Denver generated the most results, doesn’t give me a perfect indicator with respect to where I should be looking for jobs, or even what jobs are available. Most recently, I found the best postings for my set of skills in Coos Bay, Oregon and Nampa, Idaho. However, Boise generated very few results in this search.

Discussion

The purpose of this evaluation was to help me streamline and organize my job search, thus making it more successful. I stated that I wanted to make sure I was doing everything in my power to make sure that I find what I’m looking for.

The results of my data collection indicate that there is no great correlation between success in the job search and amount of time spent on the job search. More than one person that completed the survey indicated that they rely on referrals as part of their search for new ventures.

Survey of Peers

The results of my program, which consisted mainly of a trial search and a survey of my peers (Appendix, page 11), were mostly inconclusive. The data I collected from my peers indicated that there was no correlation between the success rate of people looking for employment and the amount of time spent on their job search, as seen in the following plot.

Figure 5 Time spent looking for work vs. Success rate in looking for work.

The R2 value indicates the level of correlation between the 2 sets of data – if the R2 value is close to 1, there is a very high level of correlation between the 2 sets of data. If, on the other hand, the R2 value is close to zero, then that indicates that there is very little or no correlation between the 2 sets of data.

In a larger sample, I think I might find some kind of correlation among a long time (per week) looking for work, a low success rate, and a high number of sites visited online. This process is inefficient and one of the things that I learned from collecting this data is that my search process might not be all bad.

If I had spent more time culling a population sample, rather than posting a link to the Twitter community, I would have seen different but not necessarily better results. Maybe there would have been a correlation between hours spent searching online versus the success rate of applicants, but it might not have been a good or positive correlation.

My Search

When I searched for jobs on my own (Appendix, page 11), I got results that I expected. I found that there were more postings in larger cities like Denver or Seattle. I found that there were fewer postings when I used search terms grouped in quotes (for example, “faculty development”) than if I entered the search terms without quotes.

Unfortunately, when I do not use quotes in my searches, I wind up with results that I did not necessarily want. For instance, when I searched the website for the Chronicle of Higher Education, using the search terms “Faculty Development” (without quotes) and choosing a location of Colorado, the site produced 21 results. However, when I instead entered the search terms “Faculty Development” (with quotes), the site produced zero results. I am more interested in results from the second search.

Here is a summary of my search from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website:

Search Results – The Chronicle of Higher Ed
Site Address http://chronicle.com/section/Jobs/61/
Search Terms Academic Advisor Distance Education Faculty Development
Locations Seattle, WA 0 3 21
  Denver, CO 1 3 27
  Portland, OR 2 3 41
  Totals 3 9 89

Figure 6 Table Summarizing Search Results at Chronicle Website

With this evaluation, I set out to streamline my job search process. I wanted to evaluate my process in order to make it more efficient and successful. Since I focused only on the search portion of the job search process, I did not actually apply for or interview for any positions. How do I define whether the evaluation was successful, then?

Heading into the next phase of my job search, I will be focusing my efforts on the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. When I go online to search, I will continue to focus on using http://www.higheredjobs.com/ and the categories of “Instructional Technology and Design,” “Faculty Development,” and “Distance Education.” For the purposes of this evaluation, I used “Academic Advising” as one of my sets of search terms, because I wanted to make sure that I generated results.

A couple of things I will do differently with my job search, heading into the next phase, include setting aside a particular chunk of time, during the week, when I can search for jobs and work on applications. Over the break, I will also try to refurbish my resume and a good cover letter that I can cater to each position. The main change will be considering the job search another job; something that must be completed.

Cost

Your bill shows the daily cost of hiring me as an evaluator, as well as any incidentals that occurred over the course of our partnership. The daily cost is based on my typical hourly wage of $31.25.

The “Fringe” cost mentioned includes food or emergency costs that might occur over the course of the evaluation. Cost of copies and mileage are based on what my company charges for those things. If you have a difference of opinion, for example on how it is possible that I made 5000 copies over the course of this evaluation, feel free to get in touch in with me and we can discuss.

Cork & Sea ConsultingPO Box 1017

Tillamook, OR 97141

Fax –

Sabemi7@gmail.com

To [Name][Company Name]

[Street Address]

[City, ST  ZIP Code]

[Phone]

Customer ID [ABC12345]

Salesperson Job Payment Terms Due Date
Due on receipt 12/21/2012
Qty Description Unit Price Line Total
20 days Evaluator $250/ day $5000
20 days Fringe $100/ day $2000
Contractual
5000 copies Duplication $.05/ copy $250
100 miles Travel $.15/ mile $15
Subtotal $7265
Sales Tax $0
Total $7265
Quotation prepared by: Sarah Miller_______________________________________________This is a quotation on the goods named, subject to the conditions noted below: (Describe any conditions pertaining to these prices and any additional terms of the agreement. You may want to include contingencies that will affect the quotation.)

To accept this quotation, sign here and return:

Appendix

Personal Data Collection Tool:

External Data Collection Tool:

EdTech 504 – Synthesis of Transactional Distance Theory (Summer 2012)

(Need to edit citations.)

The Use of Transactional Distance Theory in Distance Education

Introduction

Teaching and learning online is hard.  I am a testament to that.  In over 6 years of taking classes online or in a hybrid setting, I think I have had about equal parts success and failure.  I love it, though, and I would not really change anything about what I am doing with my education online.  For instance, this summer has been the most difficult term in my online career and it was a mistake for me to take two classes.  Given the opportunity to do it all over again, however, I think I would have done the same thing.

Background

My personal evolution of distance learning is interesting.  In 2004 and 2005, I was taking structural engineering classes at a university in Oregon.  The instructor (who still does not teach fully online) posted handouts on Blackboard.  I thought it was cool that if we lost a handout or wanted to just review them online, we could do that.  In the fall of 2006, I took my first fully online class through a community college – introduction to accounting.  The instruction and homework was completed online, but tests were paper-based – the instructor would mail them to my designated proctoring site, I’d complete them, and the proctoring site would mail them back.

I continued to take distance courses through the same community college for several years, and I watched them evolve a little bit – started to find textbooks available on the Kindle, upload assignments via FTP, build my own websites, etc.  When I took my first educational technology course online through San Diego State in the Fall of 2009, one instructor used the university’s LMS (I do not remember what it was) and the other instructor built his own web site for his class.  At the time, I thought this was supremely cool, but if he had executed his site poorly or if all instructors built their own sites for each class, it might have been confusing.  I like to think that he based the design of his course on sound theory like the Theory of Transactional Distance.

Additionally, having taught online for about a year, I have been on the other side of the screen, sotospeak.  I actually really wish I had a better grasp of theory, going into that endeavor.  Honestly, I do not think that I have actually designed one of the classes I have taught, thus far – I have adapted the material of other instructors.  While this seems like a pretty common practice, it does not help me understand how a course is manifested initially.  Having a basic understanding of any learning theory in distance education would have been helpful, and I think that transactional distance (TD) is a good place to start.  It is a simple theory and if taken with a grain of salt (i.e., if the designer maintains an open mind and realizes that designing a course is a complex task), it can provide a basic framework for the course.  I might find out that it does not work for me, but that is why distance faculty need to be flexible: to change something if it is not effective.

Definition

TD Theory could say several things.  One way to state it is that transactional distance is the time at the start of a class (online in this case), where learners are getting oriented and trying to establish their identities as online learners. (Benson & Samarawickrema, 2009).

It can also be stated as being the amount of psychological distance the student feels from his or her course.  TD can be decreased with dialogue: dialogue between students and teacher; students and other students; students and the learning material. (Benson & Samarawickrema, 2009).

In fact, that is exactly how Stein and Wanstreet and colleagues defined TD.  They state that TD theory describes how the physical separation of the learner and instructor may lead to psychological and communication gaps that create misunderstandings and feelings of isolation (Moore, 1997, as cited in Stein and Wanstreet, 2009).

Stein and Wanstreet (2009) actually did an interesting study, where they surveyed 15 different distance students enrolled in Adult Education in American Society and gave in-depth interviews to five of them.  The goal was to find out how adult learners experience being in an online class for the first time, and used that information to explore Moore’s theory of TD.  They created a composite student named Pat that they used to synthesize the information gained from their surveys.  One thing that Pat said stuck with me:

We would talk about something that I knew nothing about. And as I talked, it started to come to the surface, you know. You could almost see it.

Overall, students can see the value in talking with others.  They recognize that through dialogue between learners or between learners and instructors, or between learners and the material, that they better understand what they are learning.

Some researchers think that TD isn’t deserving of being called a theory (Gorsky & Caspi, 2005).  A theory is defined as being a way of looking at something that needs to be done, or how to do it (dictionary.com, 2012).  Based on the dictionary definition, I would argue that Moore’s theory of TD is a theory.  It does not need to be absolute law.  Rather, I like the idea of having a guiding principle when I am designing an online course.  TD says that you want to decrease the lack of understanding in your course, and that it is roughly related to several things: the amount of dialogue in the course, how much structure is built into the course, and how much control or autonomy students have over their learning.

Gary Falloon did a study where he used Adobe Connect Virtual Classroom in one of his graduate-level education courses in New Zealand.  He wanted to test out Moore’s theory of transactional distance and find out if applying for synchronicity in distance learning that he and his cohorts could decrease the amount of transactional distance that learners experience.  In EdTech 501 with Boise State, our instructor made liberal use of Adobe Connect and I know the department continues to use it.  While it is a little weird to be a distance student because I can attend “any time I want” and then be asked to meet synchronously with my instructor and classmates, our instructor set aside several different blocks of time for us to choose from, and seemed to put a lot of thought into which blocks of time she set aside.

Falloon said that he concluded that Moore’s theory isn’t wrong and in fact is a good tool for distance teachers, but that it is dated and should be revisited.

Personally, I like the idea of having some guidelines when creating a distance education course, or when I am getting or looking at feedback from students, but maybe transactional distance is not the guideline I need.  As a researcher that apparently distilled transactional distance down to its essence said, transactional distance is merely a tautology that states “as understanding increases, misunderstanding decreases.” (Gorki and Caspi, 2005, as cited in Kang and Gyorke, 2008).

Kang and Gyorke (2008) delve further into this, comparing Moore’s Transactional Distance Theory to CHAT or Cultural-Historical Activity Theory.  They said that they are similar because there is some mediation that happens in both theories.  CHAT is more general, stating that human development is based on social interactions with the people and environment in one’s life.  TD applies only to distance education, while CHAT applies across landscapes.

Transactional Distance Theory seems to have a direct relationship with educational technology.  Distance education is the use of some mode of transmission in order to exchange educational materials between students and their school, instructor, classmates, or even the learning environment in the cases of courses that are completely automated.  Over the years, those modes of transmission have changed and I am sure that opinions differ on whether they have actually evolved, but I think they have.

Viogtsky (1978) once argued that human thought was mediated by things, rather than being an inherent response system to external stimuli.  For example, a straw mediates our thoughts about a soft drink in a cup or a knife alters our thinking about a slab of steak.  If we know what each of the implements is used for, then we know what we can do with the soft drink or the steak.  He further stated that human thought achieves structure in young minds through the internalization of social stimuli; that thought is a social phenomenon.

Works Cited

  1. Benson, R., & Samarawickrema, G. (2009). Addressing the Context of E-Learning: Using Transactional Distance Theory to Inform Design. Distance Education, 30(1), 5–21.
  2. Cadwallader, M. (1979). Problems in Cognitive Distance. Environment and Behavior, 11(4), 559–576.
  3. Chen, Y.-J, & Willits, F. K. (1998). A Path Analysis of the Concepts in Moore’s Transactional Distance Theory in a Videoconferencing Learning Environment. JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION, 13(2), 51–65.
  4. Chen, Yau-Jane. (2001). Transactional Distance in World Wide Web Learning Environments. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 38(4), 327–38.
  5. Chen, Yau-Jane. (2003). Dimensions of transactional distance in the World Wide Web learning environment: a factor analysis. Educational Administration Abstracts, 38(1), 3–139.
  6. Chen, Yau-Jane, & Willits, F. K. (1998). A Path Analysis of the Concepts in Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance in a Videoconferencing Learning Environment. Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 51–65.
  7. Cicciarelli, M. (2008). A Description of Online Instructors Use of Design Theory. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 4(1), 25–32.
  8. Falloon, G. (2011). Making the Connection: Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance and Its Relevance to the Use of a Virtual Classroom in Postgraduate Online Teacher Education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(3), 187–209.
  9. Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2008). Beyond the Theoretical Impasse: Extending the Applications of Transactional Distance Theory. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3), 1–17.
  10. Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2009). Policy Deficit in Distance Education: A Transactional Distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(4).
  11. Gorsky, P., & Caspi, A. (2005). A Critical Analysis of Transactional Distance Theory. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(1), 1–11.
  12. How Not to Vex Your Best Customers – Businessweek. (n.d.).Businessweek.com. Retrieved July 16, 2012, from http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/4568-how-not-to-vex-your-best-customers
  13. Kang, H., & Gyorke, A. S. (2008). Rethinking Distance Learning Activities: A Comparison of Transactional Distance Theory and Activity Theory. Open Learning, 23(3), 203–214.
  14. Murphy, E. A., & Rodriguez-Manzanares, M. A. (2008). Revisiting Transactional Distance Theory in a Context of Web-Based High-School Distance Education. Journal of Distance Education, 22(2), 1–13.
  15. Offir, B., Lev, Y., Lev, Y., Barth, I., & Shteinbok, A. (2004). An Integrated Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Interaction in Conventional and Distance Learning Environments. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(2), 101–118.
  16. Saba, F. (2000). Research in Distance Education: A Status Report. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 1(1).
  17. Shannon, D. M. (2002). Effective Teacher Behaviors and Michael Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science, 43(1).
  18. Stein, D. S., Calvin, J., & Wanstreet, C. E. (2009). How a Novice Adult Online Learner Experiences Transactional Distance. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(3), 305–311.
  19. Stein, D. S., Wanstreet, C. E., Calvin, J., Overtoom, C., & Wheaton, J. E. (2005). Bridging the Transactional Distance Gap in Online Learning Environments. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(2), 105–118.
  20. the definition of theory. (n.d.).Dictionary.com. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theory?s=t&ld=1065

EdTech 504 – Learning Theories Paper – Module 2 (6/20/2012)

Overview: 

Social Constructivism is a learning theory that emphasizes the significance of environment and culture on the learning process.  It is a part of the Constructivism school of thought.

Social Constructivism is a theory applied to distance learning, where the classes are truly (or should be) student-centered. (Anderson, 2011).

Contributors:

Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey. (Anderson, 2011).

Major Principles: 

  • Zone of proximal development (ZPD) – relates to an individual’s ability to do work either independently or dependently.
  • Scaffolding literally means support and in this case, refers to the support given to learners while they are working on something.  Over time, the amount of support decreases as the learners become more comfortable in whatever skill they’re working on.  (Jonassesn, 2012, Page 272).
  • Knowledge comes from a built-up process, which means that new knowledge is previous knowledge that has been built upon.
  • It is important that a learner’s development of knowledge have a context – that is, a way to apply what they are learning.
  • Learning should be an active process.  Anderson (p. 3) doesn’t think that learning should be a passive process.
  • The language one uses and other social tools are important to the process of constructing knowledge.
  • An important principle of Social Constructivism is the use of metacognition and evaluation in working with learners to evaluate their own performance.
  • Look at things from different angles and remember that the learning environment should be learner-centered. (Anderson, 2011)

Application:

Learning to walk seems to be an appropriate model to illustrate the social constructivist theory of education.  Whether the person learning to walk is a toddler or someone recovering from an injury, they must first learn to crawl or get out of bed or a wheelchair.  Usually they are going to do this with some support or scaffolding.

Parents will usually encourage children to crawl or provide a hand to hold, when they start walking.  A physical therapist will work with someone in recovery to make sure they do not fall and re-injure themselves.  Eventually the toddler learns to walk on his or her own.  Hopefully the injured person doesn’t fall and in fact makes a full recovery.

References:

  1. Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2011). Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 80–97.
  2. Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed.). Routledge.