Intersecting Monologues

This week I realized  with some trepidation that there were 487 discussion board posts I had not read after just six weeks of an educational technology class and worse, I had all but given up on participating in this important component of this course. Wondering if anyone else was feeling as over (or under?) whelmed by the discussion boards, I started a new thread in the ‘open’ area of the boards. I learned I am not alone in feeling alienated by the volume of responses.

A Community of Inquiry model, as discussed by Garrison et al in 2000, suggests that the social presence is one of a triad of elements (along with cognitive presence and teaching presence), integral to learning in an online course. The nature of online discussion allows all learners an equal opportunity to participate in and create collective knowledge by sharing and elaborating ideas. It enables collaborative knowledge-building processes where each student becomes reflective, thinks critically, and understands concepts better than if they were studying alone. It is amazing that through the use of Twitter, for example, we can communicate directly with people from all over the world, can collect a variety of resources, and have experts at our fingertips.

dogs-on-ghSo why do our discussion boards seem to be comprised of ‘intersecting monologues’ that lack discourse and connection between participants and ideas?  And does this have a negative impact on the educational experience? In this case, the facilitator stepped in and recommended that we shift our focus to talking about reactions to the unit contents explored in each forum thread rather than reiterating the readings to encourage connection and interaction. I appreciate his willingness to ‘changing pace in an online course…to capitalize on what’s working, and tweak what isn’t.’

2 down, 485 unread messages to go…..


Garrison, Anderson, & Archer (2000), Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education


CSAM Model

As part of a review of Collaborative Situated Active Mobile learning strategies: a new perspective on effective mobile learning, Robert Power (2013), I reviewed the theories, strategies, and reflective practices included  in the model.


Modern mobile technologies provide the opportunity for active exploration by learners of all ages. The CSAM model proposes that an engaging and appropriate level of challenge stimulates interaction, but not frustration, in learners. Grounded in learning theory, it puts an emphasis on interactivity on as many levels as possible between learners, content and authentic situations (Power, 2013).


CSAM is informed by models such as FRAME and learning theories such as Activity Theory, the Zone of Proximal Development, Flow Theory and Transactional Distance Theory.

Activity Theory – A system that connects contextual factors, such as individuals, groups, work settings, rules, and tools (Shambaugh, 2009) and enables learners to interact with materials.

Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) –  A model developed to facilitate the understanding of mobile devices as distance learning tools through a mode of learning that encourages learners to interact while temporally separated (Koole, 2009).

Flow Theory – A learning theory that focuses on what people can achieve when they reach an ideal state of engagement and enjoyment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998).

Flow Zone – The state of learners who are engaged in an activity that is both appropriately challenging and results in a concentrated focus. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998).

mLearning – Learning across multiple contexts using personal electronic devices.

Theory of Interactivity – The interaction between learner-content, student-instructor, and learner-learner experienced in a distance learning environment (Moore, 1997).

Transactional Distance Theory – A learning theory that identifies the sense of separation is caused by the cognitive and physical distances between instructions and learners (Moore, 1997).

Zone of proximal development – Identifies the area of learning that occurs when a learner is assisted by a facilitator or peer with a higher skill set. (Chaiklin, 2003).

CSAM in the Context of Learning Theories

Power illustrates the four elements of the CSMA model and their basis in learning theory (right).


The CSAM model places an emphasis on controlling the interaction factor in managing the transactional distance. CSAM strategies include:

  1. Foster social, content and context interaction to enable learners to work together to develop concrete understandings and skill sets in authentic settings in order to satisfy previously abstract learning objectives (Power, 2013).
  2. Utilize mobile technologies and learner interactions to increase the range of learning tasks that students can achieve either individually or in groups.
  3. Enable the balance of challenge and engagement to focus students on required learning tasks.

The selection of learning strategies requires careful consideration of objectives, learner needs and available instructional resources. A strategy’s effectiveness is measured by its fit with these elements and its support from established learning theory.

Reflective Practice

Collaborative Does the design enable students to collaborate?
Situated Is the activity situated in a realistic content?
Active Do the students have an opportunity to engage with the content?
Mobile Are students freed of the traditional classroom?


Chaiklin, S. (2003). The zone of proximal development in Vygotsky’s analysis of learning and instruction. Vygotsky’s educational theory and practice in cultural context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Csíkszentmihályi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Koole, M. (2009). A model for framing mobile learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile learning and the delivery of education and training, 25047. Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical Principles of Distance Education, New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 22-38.

Shambaugh, N. (2009). A Scenario-Based Instructional Design Model. In P. Rogers, G. Berg, J. Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, & K. Schenk (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition (pp. 1820-1827). Hershey, PA.

CSAM in Program Revision

The program I am revising is a face-to-face intensive that would benefit from an infusion of appropriate technology. There is currently very low tech in the programs, but cell phones and iPads are ubiquitous with this audience. Because of this, mLearning might be more beneficial than e-learning in this situation. In any case, technology will serve to enhance a face-to-face experience. The program structure already lends itself well to the CSAM model:

Collaborative– (learner/resources, learner/learner and learner/instructor) Participants and facilitators share resources and develop a reference library. Facilitators provide case studies and guidance to enhance rising leaders’ skills and knowledge.

Situated- (learning is situated in a real life professional environment to make the learning more relevant). Case studies and personal situations are part of the current approach.

Active- (learners are actively engaged in constructing their learning experience). Groups build responses to case studies which are presented to and critiqued by other learners.

Mobile– (mobile technology is integrated into the curriculum).  Participants and facilitators regularly utilize mobile devices in their  professional lives.

21st Century Teaching: The Cracks In-Between

“Teaching in the 21st century is a thing. Teaching in the 20th century is not a thing, nor is teaching in the 19th century, unless it is in contrast to 21st century teaching. I am aware of this because I entered both terms into Google and a university library search bars and nothing came up (except for a scholarly article on the feminization of teaching in Brazil in the 19th century, which may warrant a peak). Technological advances have made 21st century teaching a thing and has led to the connectivism paradigm.

My Catholic school experience in the 70s and 80s was definitely informed by an objectivist perspective. By the time I was studying art education in the late 1980s, we were studying Piaget and Vygotsky’s views on constructivism. The art classroom was the perfect place to encourage students to construct their own learning, and to grow rather than progress. Student-created work, group projects, and critiques were the norm, with a side of slide presentations, lectures and testing. And, while my science, math, and history peers taught subjects more prone to the transmissive instruction model of my childhood, my generation of teachers had moved beyond being sages on the stage(s) and were starting to engage learning in more progressive ways. We called ourselves guides on the side.

Objectivist: An objectivist educator believes there is one true and correct reality which can be known to humans by using the objective methods of science. Generally referred to as transmissive instruction, where knowledge is transmitted from teachers to learners.

Constructivist: A constructivist educator believes knowledge is not independent of the learner, it is constructed. Knowledge can be constructed in by individual learners reorganizing their experiences and cognitive structures, or by communities of practice through social interaction.

Connectivist:  Connectivism is a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the www and among themselves. A connectivist teacher guides students to information and answers key questions as needed in order to support students learning and sharing on their own.

The 21st Century Teacher
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, learning can happen any time, anywhere, on any topic, and with any learning style. Technology is integrated into learning and connectivism  emerges. In his chapter on pedagogical differences between media, Bates (2015) identifies five media: text, audio, video, computing, social media. His identification of differences between the media is worth the creation of a chart to keep for posterity’s sake:


Is there anything missing from the types of technologies that Bates discusses?  With the speed of technological change, I imagine an article such as this would need to be revisited fairly frequently for tools updating, but his categories are strong. I do wonder whether the inclusion of a mobile learning category might be appropriate, as it seems to be moving towards a unique experience (m-learning) with opportunities for constant interaction, bite-sized learning, and geo-location sensitive learning. He does a great job differentiating between the five media when there are so many overlaps between them. Learning does not happen through the use of any screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-12-06-09-pmsingle media, or through any one domain. It can’t really be attributed to any one aspect of a learning environment: it happens in the cracks between these places, and the best thing that teachers can do is to provide opportunities for students to construct learning, through the deliberate choice of media. I feel like Bates is on it. He includes a scale that places media on a teacher control – learner control scale as broken down along objectivist, constructivist, and connectivist lines (see above).

Choosing Media
Deliberation in choosing media is a point Bates makes as well as the folks in COFA Online (2011).  According to them, issues to consider before choosing a technology for online teaching are:

  1. Pedagogy before technology (fit for purpose)
  2. Benefits of starting with something simple
  3. Importance of providing technical support to students

All Fun and Games?
Technology is fun and engaging. Knowing its pedagogical purpose, however, is critical when integrating it into a teaching environment. As the folks in COFA Online (2011) argue, knowing why you are going to use a technology is key to its introduction. 21st century teaching offers unique challenges and rewards thanks in part to the contribution of educational technologies. Teachers are so much more than sages on stage(s) or guides on the side. Reflecting back on a post by classmate Jim Hounslow (2016) in an earlier course about the many sides of the teacher in a connectivist environment, I illustrated the multi-faceted role of the 21st century teacher:

[Jim’s original sources were Master Artist, Seely Brown, (2006); Network Administrator, Fisher, (n.d.); Concierge, Bonk, (2007); and Curator, Siemens, (2007).]




Rahimi, A, Ebrahimi, N.A., Contemporary Online Language Education Journal, 2011, 1, 89-103. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning2(1), 3-10

Bates, A. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning, Ch. 7

COFA Online (2011), Learning to teach online: Considerations when choosing technology for teaching.