All forms of education are essentially interactions between content, students and teachers, proposes Garrison and Shale (1990). Educational theorists, such as Wenger, Shank and Visser, all value interactivity as: “crucial to learning communities”, “key as a learning component in constructivist theory”, and “crucial to inducing mindfulness in learners” (Anderson, 2008). Most educators would agree that interaction, or interactivity, play a major role in the educational process (Anderson 2003). Interactions are categorized as: student-student, student-teacher and student-content (Christenson & Menzel, 1998). [Garrison and Anderson added teacher-teacher, teacher-content and content-content. (Anderson 2008)] My focus is on how to best facilitate and encourage student-student interaction at the high school level, beginning first in a blended classroom and then progressing to an online course.
My photography class uses the inquiry model with the community of learners at its center. Interactions between students are an integral part of that model. As I take the role of facilitator and build on a student-centered approach, more and more of the learning will be centered on students sharing, collaborating and reflecting on their experiences in the photography class. In the past, my experience with high schools students collaborating and sharing within a group has not always been successful. My challenge is how best to present learning opportunities for students so they will benefit from peer-to-peer interactions that help develop the skills of communication, collaboration, and research.
Currently, my photography students are working mostly independently with a few second-year students assisting in the class when needed. Our “community of learners” is at the beginning stage with the class getting to know each other and obtaining confidence in the computer lab and darkroom. The course is evolving into the student-centered model I have envisioned. With the creation of e-portfolios and a class resource page, students will be in charge of sharing, reflecting, researching and presenting their learning for their peers and mentors. What I hope to see is students engaged with their learning and eager to share and build on their learning with each other. Accomplishing this in a blended classroom will be a feat on its own; transferring to a complete online course presents more challenges.
Will the use of e-portfolios and a group-managed class resource page be enough to create the atmosphere of interactivity needed for the students in my photography course? Will the students find value in creating their own web pages to showcase and reflect on their learning? Will their engagement with learning photography propel them to be expert researchers and collaborate with their peers to build a quality class-resource page? What other components am I overlooking as I implement these changes to my photography course?
Knowing that the interactions involved in the creation of an online course will be essential to the learning environment, what can I take away this term to apply to my future course to ensure interactivity among students?