Otago Polytechnic, 2009
Assignment 2 - Flexible Learning.
Slides 1 - 3 -Introduction: A concise explanation of my flexible learning plan
The concepts of Body Stop address some of the questions and concerns I have experienced as a teacher in my recent exposure to flexible learning. For this presentation I have selected a particular mode of flexible learning as it is directly relevant to the courses I am teaching here at the Otago Polytechnic.
Since the beginning of this year I have been teaching for the most part and for the first time online: Study Skills, Research Methods and Fundamentals of Massage, all integrative theoretical papers, to a range of Massage Therapy Certificate and Diploma students. Therefore I have selected an aspect of Elluminate’s virtual real-time classroom, to see if I could develop an easy transition activity into students’ learning focus.
I noticed that even in their second year, Diploma students are inevitably anxious in the commencement phase of Elluminate sessions and their disconcerted behaviours propounded a feeling that as a teacher of an holistic discipline, with subjects directly related to others’ healthcare, I needed to pay attention to physical, mental and emotional aspects of my students’ wellbeing while learning online.
My background in education encompasses not only massage therapy but also dance performance and somatic studies. In my Master of Education thesis I studied how school children adapt their physical bodies to their site of learning that is, the classroom environment. I have used some of these initial findings to support the concepts that I will discuss today.
Throughout I will allude to issues of access and equity; cultural sensitivity; sustainability as integral and embedded concepts. They are interwoven into this initial discussion and in the same way into the focus activity and expanded for detail and relevance in the subsequent reflection (blog) about this particular presentation.
I welcome your feedback.
Slide 4 -Examples for practice inspiration and a way in to my model
Some of the examples that promoted my conceptual exploration and the development of a transition activity to learning online have been inspired by coming to grips with an obvious online emphasis in the Massage Therapy programme. I regularly witness David McQuillan’s (Massage Therapy Programme Coordinator) teaching style on Elluminate. I have noticed that just prior to the online class starting a sort of silence descends on our shared workspace. Without the articulation of a need or desire for silence to focus, the ambience in the room shifts to the learning site or state. I enjoy this feeling in that I also can focus well. I can listen in an uninterrupted way to a master educator at work as well as continue on with my tasks. I am aware at the time of how my own breathing patterns change and adapt. Focus and breath awareness are two significant and familiar practices of somatics.
- Wellbeing (and health)
A second example that supports the concept behind my plan came about from the reading I had been doing alongside the Flexible Learning Course Assignment One’s Blogging exercises. While reading Alexenberg’s (2008) selected essays about the intersections of art, science and technology I was reminded about the complex and expanded version of teaching and the implicitly transformative nature of learning in this current era. Herod defines transformative learning as “learning to purposively question one's own assumptions, beliefs, feelings, and perspectives in order to grow or mature personally and intellectually” (2002).
Succinctly stated in a review of his previous book, Piene (2007) describes how Alexenberg, even as “a very sophisticated artist and scholar of much experience in the complex playing field of art-science-technology addresses the rarely asked question: How does the “media magic age communicates content?” On reflection after one of my earlier Elluminate sessions, I noted that I felt responsible for assisting these students to not only transition comfortably into their virtual learning environment but that the online content itself should speak to a sense of wellbeing.
This wellbeing becomes a sensorial and vibrant platform for the transformation of knowledge to learning. Using the great educational theorist Mezirow’s model,
“…taking off from a social ontology of practice. This means a focus of attention to embodied or practical knowledges and their formation in people’s everyday lives, to the world of experiences and emotions, and to the infinitude of encounters through which we make the world and are made by it in turn.” (Simonsen, 2007, p. 168).
Simonsen also discusses how subjectivity and identity are created in a virtual world and a means to develop a “sensuous character of practice” These ideas have further informed my subsequent preparations when teaching online.
The following Elluminate sample is an experiment I undertook this week in an Elluminate session with the first years Study Skills group. This is about their 7th Elluminate session.
Slide 6 - imagery as inspiration
- Performance readiness
Keeping in mind that I have come from a dance performance background, I was pleased with the way the students responded by continuing the session with an evidently new calm at least in this early stage of implementing my plan. The effort of focussing, breathe awareness and the use of evocative imagery and metaphor to support releasing unnecessary tension are all familiar learning tools for a dancer when learning new movements and vocabularies for dance.
How my plan fits within this educational organisation
2. (noun) proverb, saying, aphorism - particularly those urging a type of behaviour. (Te Pihinga Textbook (Ed. 2): 31-32;Te Kōhure Textbook (Ed. 2): 39;)
Kua tawhiti kē te harereka
Kia kore re haere tonu.
He tino nui rawa ōu mahi,
Kia kore e mahi nui tonu.
We have come too far, not to go further.
We have done too much, not to do more.
I cannot give this proverb justice with my accent but even when reading the poetic somberness of the words struck me. On rereading the Maori again and again even the English translation evokes a sense of pain. Keeping in mind the VISION section on page 2 of the Charter, where applied learning in our chosen areas is for “excellence in vocational education and training”, I have applied the Maori holistic approach to health as a basis for weaving the vision of the Charter with my new learning approach. Hauora is the Maori philosophy of health and unique to
The third bullet point of the same section of the documents states that this educational environment is to be recognised for: The flexibility of our delivery and our willingness to accommodate the specific learning aspirations of students through individualised and cross disciplinary programmes of learning. I have employed this statement to incorporate key issues of access, equity and sustainability in my delivery of learning content in Elluminate sessions.
As you can see, the Body Stop plan is simple and although not necessarily a must for all students could in effect be used by a wide range of online learners. I see as Elluminate develops a better interface I will be able to produce different selections of slides and a range of meditative or imagery based awareness activities so that each student can individually take their own somatic pre-class readiness activity. The activity only takes four to five minutes. If I get the audio bites synced with BlipTV perhaps they could have it completed on the bus on the way to their community learning centre?
In the meantime the initial results and feedback from the students has been positive and I feel enabled to stay well within the safety and health aspects of my discipline while teaching online. I acknowledge the support of Bronwyn hegarty and Leigh Blackall from the Otago Polytechnic Te kura matatini ki Otago Education Development Centre. Thankyou
Slide 8 -Reference list:
Alexenberg, M. (2008). Educating artists for the future: Learning at the intersections of art, science, technology and culture. US: Intellect Books.
Author note: Mel (Menahem) Alexenberg is an artist and art educator best known for his explorations of the intersections between art, science, technology, and culture through his artworks, teaching, and writing. Retrieved July 2, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Alexenberg
Bond, M. (2007). The new rules of posture. How to sit stand and move in the modern world.
Defintion of Hauora. Retrieved July 2 2009 from http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Definition_of_hauora.
Franklin, E. (2002). Relax your neck, liberate your shoulders. Elysian
Herod, L. (2002). Adult learning from theory to practice. Retrieved July 3, 2009 from http://www.nald.ca/adultlearningcourse/glossary.html
Some thoughts on flexible learning. Retrieved July 2, 2009 from Jenny's Flexi Learning Blog
Karahasanovic, A. & Folstad, A. (2008). New approaches to requirements elicitation & how HCI can improve social media development. The NordiCHI 2008 Workshops, (TAPIR Tapir akademisk forlag),
McQuillan, D. (2007). Study Skills Course notes OT5034, Otago Polytechnic Te kura matatini ki Otago,
Otago Polytechnic Te Kura Matatini ki Otago Charter. First retrieved June 1, 2009 from Otago Polybase, https://webit.tekotago.ac.nz/polybase/
Piene, O. (Professor Emeritus, MIT Centre for Advanced Visual Studies,
Simonsen, K. (February, 2007). Practice, spatiality and embodied emotions: An outline of a geography of practice. Human Affairs, pp. 168-181.
Taylor, E. W. (1998). The theory and practice of transformative learning: A critical review. Information series, No. 374.
Te Kōhure Textbook (Ed. 2): 31-39. Retrieved July 2 2009 from www.maoridictionary.co.nz/index.cfm?prophet&search