Monday, September 08, 2014

Tec-Variety - book overview

Via Derek Wenmoth’s blog, book launched at DEANZ conference a couple of months ago.
eBook by Professor Curtis Bonk and Dr. Elaine Khoo (Waikato University) called "Adding some Tec-Variety - 100 + activities for motivating and retaining learners online".

The book is available via Amazon but the authors have also generously provided access to a free download of a pdf version of the book. 15 chapters with 10 chapters devoted to the “tec- tools” framed by 3 introductory and 2 closing / consolidating chapters.

The first chapter introduces the rationale and values for writing the book. The R2D2 (read, reflect, display, do) components used in an earlier (2006) book (empowering online learning:100+ activities for reading, reflecting, displaying and doing by Bonk and Zhang) is also introduced and discussed. The framework for tec-variety (tone / climate, encouragement, curiosity, variety, autonomy, relevance, interactivity, engagement, tension and yielding) also presented and substantiated. Chapter 2 covers the various literature on on-line learning attrition and retention, leading to the focuses of the book on setting up the right background for helping learners retain motivation in an online learning environment. Chapter 3 summaries the key learning theories’ stance on motivation – behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, social culturalism.

Each of the principles for assisting online learners to succeed then covered. Each principle recommends 10 learning activities, backed by examples, exemplars and resources. Principle one is to set up a tone or climate to ensure learners’ are psychologically safe, comfortable and have a sense of belonging to the course; Principle 2 covers the encouragements aspects of learning with feedback, responsiveness, praise and supports. Principle on curiosity has activities to provide for surprise, intrigue and exploration of the unknowns. Variety is principle 4 to provide novelty, fun and fantasy. In the principle on learner autonomy, activities to encourage learner choice, control, flexibility and opportunities are presented. Relevance is covered to provide activities for accessing meaningful, authentic and interesting learning. Interactivity recommends online activities for collaboration, team-based and community learning. Engagement is assisted by activities to bring about greater effort, involvement and investment (buy-in). The critical thinking aspect is addressed in principle 9 on tension with activities that challenge learners and provide opportunities to work with dissonance and controversy. The last principle discusses outputs in the form of goal driven, purposefully visioned and learner-owned evidence production.

Recommended activities cover a range of traditional (variants of discussion forums) to web-based, multimedia / multimodal type items. The emphasis is on learning centred activities with the learner contributing and producing content, either individually or with others, for discussion, critique and consolidation.

The penultimate chapter covers the important task of motivating instructors. The last chapter summarises the approaches and offers tables listing all the various activities and the risks, time, costs, learner-centredness and activity duration as a ‘selection’ tool.

Overall, a good overview of the possibilities for using a range of online learning activities, anchored by sound pedagogical rationales.

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