The role of discourse, collaboration, and technology each play an important part for distributed learning in online courses. I think it is important to note, “a key aspect of knowledge creation is discourse” and “collaboration and discourse are key to building knowledge, an endless human conversation of changing and improving ideas” (Harasim, 2012). I have had many incidences where I’ve talked through problems or ideas and because of those conversations I had a “light bulb” moment. I used to tell my kindergarten students that they are problem solvers and they need to talk to each other. I loved to listen to their conversations and ideas.

Discourse and collaboration go hand-in-hand. I read an article by Jabari (2014) where he wrote, “Classroom discussion, dialogue, and discourse are the principal means of exchanging ideas, evaluating mastery, developing thinking processes, and reflecting on content and shared thoughts. Engaging students in effective classroom talk begins by creating a discourse-rich classroom culture.” His article was about the importance of effective class discussions in his face-to-face classroom, but I would argue it is just as important in online courses. I believe that ‘a discourse-rich classroom culture’ is not only possible in online courses, but we have it in this course. Our discussions take place on Thursdays through Blackboard and in our weekly blogs. When we share thoughts and exchange ideas with each other, we are ultimately building knowledge through discourse and collaboration.

We would not be able to achieve our discourse and collaboration without technology because our course is online. We use computers, smart phones, blogs, and Blackboard. In the past, I’ve used Twitter, Google Docs, and apps like Edmodo. “Online collaboration tools are an excellent way to engage students in both virtual and physical classrooms. They not only enable active learning, but also facilitate peer learning. For example, incorporating online brainstorming tools such as Padlet or MindMeister into library instruction allows students to bounce ideas off one another and share their own individual experiences and perspectives, which has been shown to increase cognitive thinking and comprehension” (Mallon & Bernsten, 2015). I have found that online courses are naturally more engaging to me because I am actively involved, even if it is only typing. There is so much technology available to use now and it just continues to grow. Even when it doesn’t work they way I want it to, like my Quizlet Live activity, I learn from it and think about ways I can use it in the future.

References

Harasim, L. P. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies. New York: Routledge.

Jabari, J. (2014, November). How Rich Is Your Classroom Discourse? Effective class discussions focus on critical thinking rather than right answers. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from Association for Middle Level Education: https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/459/How-Rich-Is-Your-Classroom-Discourse.aspx

Mallon, M., & Bernsten, S. (2015, Winter). Collaborative Learning Technologies. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from Association of College and Research Libraries and American Library Association: http://acrl.ala.org/IS/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/winter2015.pdf

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6 thoughts on “The role of discourse, collaboration and technology for distributed learning in online courses.

  1. Cherie, you are so right in your comments about how we are using our learning in this class. I am finding that as I delve deeper into the topic and though our discussions and interaction, I am becoming more comfortable all the time with the processes and the technology. My challenge is that I have always been a lone learner and always felt that I needed isolation for thinking, processing and creativity. I believe that much of that is still true, but I am finding that reading other blogs and interacting with the other students in the class is easing my apprehension about technology use and integration. Familiarity with the tools and with the idea that we are assisting each other is comforting. Thanks for your comments.

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  2. Cherie,
    I like how you say that you’ve had many “lightbulb moments” as you’ve talked through an issue you’ve had. As a teacher, I find collaboration and discourse very valuable, and I’ve engaged in so much of it some days, that I have to go home and process it while I walk my dog! Reflecting on it helps me assimilate what I’ve learned about a student or process with what I knew before. I agree with you that discourse and collaboration are critical in both the face-to-face classroom and online learning. Like you, I learn much more when I’m actively involved, and engaging online can be more effective than sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher deliver a lecture.
    Amy

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  3. Cherie- That is so very true that we do have discourse in our online classes together. We meet with each other, response to others blogs, listen and teach each other. I never heard of Padlet or MindMeister. Have you used these before? So it allows students to work together and bounce ideas off each other? Sounds interesting. Will have to check it out! Technology have to love it even when it doesn’t work for you at times. 🙂

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    1. I looked into both of them briefly. My impression of Padlet is that is it a bit like Blackboard, but I didn’t sign up to find out for sure. MindMeister looks very interesting. It does a lot with mind mapping. The basic service is free and they also have an education section which costs $1 per user each month with a minimum of 20 licenses. I’m considering checking it out for myself to see if it is something I could use with my 4th graders.

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  4. Cheri,
    I agree with you that this course does have discourse. The best question is how can we improve the communication in all we do? I really liked how you used the Quizlet Live in our Thursday meeting and even better appreciate your statement that you still seek ways to use the program even though it did not work as you wanted it to. The communication we had in our groups was great for me to come with a conclusion on how discourse and collaboration is connected to myself as a teacher. Thank you!

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  5. Cherie,
    I came to the same conclusion as you did that we would not be able to “achieve collaboration and discourse without technology”. We are definitely in a “net generation” trend with our smart phone and wifi signals. Technology has allowed so many of us to take distance education and finish our degrees.

    Josie

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