The Heart of Online Learning

This week in my Digital Citizenry course, we looked at an array of teaching and learning options, including synchronous and asynchronous online learning.  After mulling over the advantages and disadvantages of both, I concluded that nothing replaces good teaching.  Maximizing student learning requires a solid pedagogical foundation.

Rourke & Coleman (2010) look closely at a case study where the pedagogy led the technology.  They outline how the online learning is scaffolded for the Postgraduate students in the study.  The scaffolding includes providing clear learning objectives, allowing opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge, providing exemplars, opportunities for collaboration and using sound assessment practices.  The researchers also speak of adapting learning activities to meet learning styles and preferences of the learners.  “The authentic design of the learning task was generated to utilize students learning styles, prior knowledge and experiences.”  (p. 269, Rourke & Coleman, 2010)  Scaffolding the learning sets students up for success.

Does an asynchronous or synchronous environment promote good teaching strategies?  Interestingly, a study by Murphy, Rodriguez-Manzanares & Barbour (2011) found that synchronous online teaching (SOT) approaches leaned towards direct instruction versus making use of the interactive features available.  “…our findings support the argument that it is not the media but the pedagogy that determines the interaction.”  Teachers using SOT feel pressured by time constraints.  “So the focus of cyber synchronous learning is often on quantity rather than quality.” (Hrastinski, 2008, cited in Ge, 2012)

Ge (2012) concluded that the blended cyber approach can help students achieve better results.  Opportunities to collaborate and exchange information in a synchronous environment complement time to reflect in an asynchronous environment. (Ge, 2012)   “It has become more important than ever that educators who choose to embrace technology for learning do so with a clear educational rational and a solid pedagogical grounding.” (p.278, Rourke & Coleman, 2010)  Simply put, this is the foundation of good teaching regardless of the learning environment.


Murphy, E., Rodríguez-Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teachers. British Journal Of Educational Technology42(4), 583-591

Rourke, A., & Coleman, K. (2010). E-learning in crisis: should not the pedagogy lead the technology? Journal Of Education Research4(3), 265-282.

Ge, Z.-G. (2012). Cyber asynchronous versus blended cyber approach in distance English learning. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society15(2), 286-297.


A Lesson in Canadian Copyright

My teenage daughter received an interesting assignment last month.  She was asked to create her own blog.   She chose to create a visual blog.  As she was blatantly copying images from the internet, we had one of those “you don’t know anything” mother-daughter conversations.  Regardless, it was one of those teachable moments I couldn’t pass up.  I am currently learning a little more about Canadian copyright law this week and the implications of Bill C-11 on education.  “Awareness of copyright is important because you are educating the copyright owners and users of tomorrow.” (p. 20, CMEC, 2012)  Our students are future creators and users of digital content.  Ignorance is not a permissible excuse; therefore education regarding copyright is essential.  “As a faculty member, your best defense is to set a clear policy against copyright infringement in your classroom.” (p. 6, Nenych, 2011)

Acceptable use of content meets both tests for Fair Dealing.  (Fair Dealing Guidelines, 2012)  My daughter’s use of photos meets the first test; for educational purposes.  The second test is that it must be ‘fair’.  Some of the photos she chose fail this second test.  They are copyright protected and she is using them to create her own work.  The knowledge she was missing was how to use the filters provided in such programs as Google, Microsoft, and Flickr.   Clearly, there is a need for all citizens to acquire such skills when using content found on the Internet.

My second concern with my daughter’s assignment is the absence of references.  “Copying or communicating short excerpts from a copyright-protected work under these Fair Dealing Guidelines for the purpose of news reporting, criticism or review should mention the source and, if given in the source, the name of the author or creator of the work.”  (p. 1, Fair Dealings Guidelines, 2012)  When is an appropriate time to be teaching referencing?  If economics is a driving force, the answer then is Kindergarten.  “If the guidelines are incorporated into school authorities’ procedures and communicated to staff and students accordingly, effective January 1, 2013, it is no longer necessary for authorities to continue to pay copyright royalties to Access Copyright under the current tariff, a savings of $5.16 per FTE per year.” (Copy of Letter from Deputy Minister, December 2012)  If you scoff at the suggestion of this young age, you will be as surprised as I was when an opportunity to illustrate how to cite a reference arose in my grade one class.  A student copied a fact from a book to add to her work.  It was a natural opening to address the mentioning of the source of her quote.  Now, it wasn’t in A.P.A. format.  I thought we’d take it one step at a time.


CMEC (2012). Copyright matters. Retrieved from:


Used with my daughter’s permission

CMEC (2012).  Fair Dealing Guidelines.  Retrieved from:

Nenych, L. A. (2011). Managing the legal risks of high-tech classrooms. Contemporary Issues In Education Research4(3), 1-7.

Is Citizenship Transferable?

Parents and teachers are striving for the same goal; to raise good citizens who can think critically and make informed, ethical decisions.  This goal however, is challenged by a new realm – technology.  Students now need the literacy skills to demonstrate citizenship both online and offline.  Are these skills transferable between the two realms?  How can we help students seamlessly apply their morals and values to both realms?  Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan (2011) speak to the importance of parents and teachers working together to teach digital citizenship.  “There is widespread agreement as to the importance of practicing digital citizenship.”  (p.44, Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011)

James Ohler writes, “The digital age beckons us to usher in a new era of character education, aimed directly at addressing the opportunities and challenges of living a digital lifestyle.” (p. 26, Ohler, 2011)  If this holds true, then ‘digital citizenship’ as currently defined could eventually evolve into simply ‘citizenship’.  Students will learn to apply their literacy skills consistently, regardless of the medium.  When writing of digital citizenship, Hollandsworth, Dowdy and Donovan (2011) state, “If aligned with character education, it would lend itself to becoming a good citizen in the digital community.” (p. 38)  Let us keep in mind we want our students and children to become good citizens in every community they are a part of, digital or otherwise. 


Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 55(4), 37-47.

Ohler, J. (2011). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27.