Defining what is and isn’t eLearning!

Elearning is REALLY hard to define! Almost as hard to explain what makes excellent teaching – you often just know it when you see it and there are many facets to it.
In the early days of eLearning (and I like using a small ‘e’ – it makes the learning part the focus) the phrase was used to describe any type of classroom experience with an ‘e’lectric device. I think now, however, most would admit that an ‘eLearning’ pedagogy has emerged.
But how would you explain it? It is about creating, communicating and collaborating but I”ve designed a model that explains it as I see it.
The venn diagram below is my attempt to show three sides of this new pedagogy and how they can interact to form this emerging teaching practice.
(Click to enlarge) Download blank version pdf
The three parts are Social Construction, Feedback and the Digital Element. Any part of the learning experience could fit into one, two or even three parts of the venn. So blogging, for example, can be a digital element when a post is written by someone on their own but, when they work with a partner it has the social element. It then becomes part of the feedback element when the post receives a comment.

Here’s another example. A class is set an inquiry problem to redesign an outdoor area for their school that would benefit other students. They work in co-operative groups and research some solutions to the problem, based on what other students would like (Social Construction). After working through a technology design process that involved using Google Sketchup to design some plans and Skype (Digital Element) to interview a landscape designer they then build a garden for students to spend some quiet time in. They then take photos and a small video of their garden and post them to their blogs, asking for some ideas from other students in other schools about how they could improve the garden (Feedback).
This example is very close to an inquiry my class took part in last year – all except for the final part.
On the flip side, I think this venn could also be used to explain how a learning experience isn’t the best example of eLearning. Taking a photo and putting on a blog fits within the digital element. But, if the post gains some constructive comments then we have two of the elements.
I’d also suggest that for an experience to be truly an eLearning one then it would involve all three at some stage of the process.
What do you think?
Post script – I discovered two other ideas for what the ‘e’ could stand for in digging around for this post
‘e’nabling – the ability for the student to do things and putting them at the centre of the creating and learning.
‘e’verywhere learning. This is probably my favourite take on it, especially with the growing smart phone movement. It’s all about wireless and mobile!
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Mobile devices – unlocking student potential!

This summer I entered the world of the mobile device. All I can say is, ‘Wow! This has been predicted as one of the technology trends to watch, according to the 2010 Horizon Report, k12 Edition. You can download the report here.
This is what they write about mobile devices.
“Mobiles represent an untapped resource for reaching students and for bridging the gap between the learning that happens in school and the learning that happens out in the world.”
The 2010 Horizon Report, K12 Edition, Page 7
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It’s the ‘…untapped resource for reaching students…’ that has my wheels spinning. I’ve got a Samsung GT 15800 and it’s amazing to suddenly have the online world at my finger tips, when ever I need it.
I’m sure I’ll be posting regularly about my new mobility but here is one application that I’ve been enjoying over the holidays – Google’s My Tracks app for android.
The video below, by Google, explains how to works a lot better than I could but, in a nut shell, it records your outdoor activity using GPS and transfers the data (using bluetooth) into your google apps account – mymaps and google docs. Here’s a map from my run this afternoon, with the altitude chart) and the google docs graph I can create using the data (this chart shown is comparing the average running speed) to the right.
Talk about motivation. Now I can start to compare the data from my runs over time and watch my progress. Another great feature is the ability to add information to my map using hash tags that others can search and find on google. We can discover where others are running and explore new trails – even get competitive… if that’s your style.
So, how can we use this app with our classes? One idea could be to give this to a student during our fitness run in the morning. I have a little belt bag that holds it (no I wouldn’t trust them to not drop the thing) and they could wear it, transfer the map and analyse the data. They could then repeat the process, after a few weeks of training, to see the improvement. There could even be a class incentive for improvement if a number of students improved their times and average speed.
Unlimited potential…indeed.
TOP TIP: – set your phone to flight mode before using the app. This will restrict the GPS from using any 3g capability (and draining your data) when tracking your progress. I’ve found that the GPS is incredibly accurate, even to the nearest couple of meters! Much more accurate thah when using the google maps, app…strange.