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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Post 34. Classrooms.

I had an idea, to create a blended learning environment that also has asynchronous components, discussion forums that build communities around classroom learning groups. The following writing describes what this might look like.

The document was created as a part of a Master's in Adult Education and Training Program at the University of Phoenix. If you'd like to cite the document, it may be easiest to check the references in the document, but the following citation should do.

Hixson, S. (2014, November 17). Community of inquiry: Facilitating social presence [Assignment for a course on adult education]. School of Education, University of Phoenix.

Community of Inquiry: Facilitating Social Presence

Part 1: Learning Orientation and Framework
     As a teacher, this writing will demonstrate that facilitating confidence in group interaction among learners who are collaborative stakeholders in a community of inquiry, can also facilitate group competence in the subject material by encouraging epistemic engagement as individuals are self-identified as collaborators within a group. Learner-centered participatory environments based on orientations that view knowledge as a collaborative social construction help to facilitate self-directed learning and engagement, as teachers are more able to understand the individual needs and personalities of students through effective communication in personal learning environments (Conradie, 2014). Teachers who are comfortable in nurturing connections between his or her own presence, the social presence of learners in the classroom, and the cognitive presence of students in the classroom, are able to increase student knowledge and satisfaction with courses offered online (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009). Continually, teachers who are able to foster connections between teacher presence and social presence in a blended learning environment, increased the cognitive mindfulness of their students in a way which improved a sense of self-efficacy and accomplishment that is thought to improve effort and increase epistemic engagement (Shea & Bidjerano, 2010).
     In terms of demographics, the age of learners is increasing in higher education, and online classrooms are thought to meet the needs of the aging population of learners (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009). Age as a factor in education also can be described as a ratio of competence, as adult learners age they accrue more cognitive strategies and experience that applies in a constructive learning environment among learning group members (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009).
     The age of students is increasing, and this may also increase the expected specialization and complexity of teaching methodologies employed in modern classrooms. As technology evolves, teachers must be able to maintain an awareness of current technologies as well as the content of course material, as well as the contextual and social elements of the classroom environment in order to nurture epistemic engagement among learning groups (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009). Learning spaces themselves may contribute to engagement and creativity as the presence of objects and artifacts connected to modern culture may increase curiosity in classrooms (Goodman, 2014).
     Group membership as a process of intergroup differentiation increases motivation through a process of increased self-esteem that is related to group goals and ideals, based on differences between-groups, group members idealize positive in-group characteristics of group membership as a quality that motivates group participation according to group prototypes (Tasdemir, 2011). Learners who can self-identify with a learning community or group may experience increased motivation and self-esteem.
     The culture of The United States is considered a low-context and individualized culture, which differs from high-context culture according to the nature of group participation (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). Collective cultures tend to view group participation as implied, and self-identification as a group member is a higher priority than emphasis on individual accomplishments within the group context, individualistic cultures tend to focus on achievement in the workplace outside of demographics and view perceived competence as a concept that is equal to capability and that influences self-perceptions of efficacy in work settings (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). Cross-cultural dimensions can affect the sense of self-efficacy among students in learning groups.
      Thoughts about self-efficacy can serve to benefit learner motivation if an individual perceives herself or himself as effective and capable of influencing events that change the outcomes associated with their actions, or create negative cognitive affects if an individual’s self-appraisal does not render a sense of efficacy (Bandura, 1989). A person’s motivational, cognitive, and affective processes can be influenced by the sense of self-efficacy, and people tend to select environments that contribute to efficacy and optimal outcomes (Bandura, 1989). The ability to nurture the appraisal of positive self-efficacy provides for self-directed behavior, by appraising the ability to influence current and future outcomes socially and cognitively, and external environments also influence the self-regulation of and promotion of efficacy (Bandura, 1989).
     In summary, the awareness of knowledge is a social construction that is collaborated upon among members of social groups, that can be influenced by the external environment and intentionally encouraged in collaborative blended learning environments, which are inhabited by groups who foster a sense of membership that increases self-esteem and motivation, that is supported by teaching professionals who are able to create student-centered social and cognitive spaces for learning presence and learner collaboration in diverse populations. In the context of The United States, learning as a participatory practice enhances the sense of competence and self-efficacy, as competent learners are able to collaborate on and shape the outcome of learning activities in a formal setting, thereby delineating learning group membership that increases self-esteem and motivation.
Part 2: Classroom Design
     This writing was created to meet the needs of a course on foundations of adult learning, and the coursework related to the assignment provides two options. This document is written to meet the second example prompt, which is a teaching activity designed to meet the needs of 35 adult learners ranging in age from 17 years old to 70 years.
     It has been established in this writing that group presence and collaboration are key elements to learning, which can be inclusive across age demographics and also increase retention. Presentational classroom environments are teacher-centered and offer a space for student listening only, some classroom orientations offer a perspective called performance-tutoring, which are environments that offer group participation but that is largely based on existing formal structures for learning; epistemic engagement is a process in which learners collaborate on the methods, language, and strategies for learning course material (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009). My goal is to create a learning environment that supports teaching that engages both the social and cognitive elements of the classroom through teacher presence, that is collaborative and that maintains a record of group activity, and that creates an active blended learning environment that facilitates individual learning and contributes to group participation and epistemic engagement. This can be accomplished with technology, as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Blended Learning Classroom Format (Smartdesks.com, n.d.).

     As shown in figure 1, classrooms can be equipped with touch-screen workstations that can also be used as conventional learning spaces. Because the classroom is designed for students of a wide age range, the keyboard and mouse is not a required interface for the technology, hands-on fingertip gestures can manipulate the material presented on the screens, a projector screen at the front of the classroom can present material to the entire group without requiring interaction, on-screen keyboards are less noisy or distracting, and the workstations can employ voice recognition technology that can circumvent the need for rapid typing during class participation. The desks shown are created by a company in New Jersey (Smartdesks.com, n.d.). As shown in figure 2, the desks can be fitted with any type of display including touch screens, and can still offer a traditional keyboard and mouse input for students who require it.

Figure 2. Computer Desk Features. (Smartdesks.com, n.d.)

     The multi-use desks have the ability to be equipped with computer hardware that is not cost-prohibitive and that becomes the foundation for an effective blended learning environment.
     Figure 3 demonstrates the collaborative features of the blended learning workstations for classroom use.

Figure 3. Student collaboration during learning activities. (Smartdesks.com, n.d.).

     The classroom technology is designed to be a part of the instructor’s presentation, as the instructor presents a set of course materials on the classroom projector, the same materials are accessible from each workstation. In this environment the students are thereby given a copy of the course presentation, which can be manipulated on each workstation going from one slide to the next, or viewing a collaborative document, while taking notes on the course materials. Any notes recorded could be accessible from any internet workstation through a university website.
     Blended classroom interaction is recorded by the workstations according to student ID, course, and login. As the in-person elements of the coursework take place, students can submit written comments that are visible to the entire class as well as to the instructor, and a virtual space for student responses to the class can be created. Question and answer format activities can take the form of a single screen presented on the main projector, which presents questions from any of the students participating in question and answer activities. Lastly, the workstations can provide discussion spaces throughout the course material, much like modern online classrooms, that can be accessed asynchronously and provide a space for collaboration and discussion of course material while outside the classroom. As mentioned previously, class participation can be recorded on university internet storage space in a way that can be accessed from a home computer while not attending class, so that classroom discussions are available asynchronously.
     Instructor communications are central to creating an adequate space for self-directed learning, as individual learner’s memory and perceptions of the course material are relevant to the foundation of self-directed participation and learning in a personal learning environment (Conradie, 2014). As demonstrated by online learning at the University of Phoenix, individual feedback and communication between the instructor, the social space surrounding the course material, and individual learners can be facilitated through the use of computer technology, in a way that is sensitive to a wide range of demographics. This next step brings the online learning technology into the in-person classroom in a way that combines course presentation, collaboration, and asynchronous communication to form a viable community of inquiry among the participants of each course.
     To conclude, each student’s work would be visible and available for viewing by collaborators and by instructors, in a way that contributes to group identity among cohorts within the courses and as members of the university as a social group. This approach can increase self-efficacy and epistemic engagement in a blended learning environment, across demographics.

Goodman, S. (2014, November 11). Does your classroom tell a story? Edutopia. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/does-your-classroom-tell-story-stacey-goodman?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=blog-does-your-classroom-tell-story-link

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44(9), 1175-1184.

Conradie, P. W. (2014). Supporting self-directed learning by connectivism and personal learning environments. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 4(3), 254-259.

Shea, P. & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52, 543-553.

Shea, P. & Bidjerano, T. (2010). Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of a communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments. Computers & Education, 55, 1721-1731.

Shiraev E. & Levy, D. Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Smartdesks.com (n.d.). Flip Up / Flip Top PC Computer Desks for Schools and Higher Education. Retrieved from: http://www.smartdesks.com/flipit-flip-up-pc-computer-classroom-desks.asp

Tasdemir, N. (2011). The relationships between motivations of intergroup differentiation as a function of different dimensions of social identity. Review of general psychology, 15(2), 125-137.