Next Tuesday at ASCILITE 2021, I have sixty seconds to speak on "Mobile learning and socially constructed blended learning through the lens of Activity Theory". The reason I have only a minute is that there are nine authors for the paper (Vickel Narayan, Thom Cochrane, Neil Cowie, Paul Goldacre, James Birt, David Sinfield, Alizadeh Mehrasa, Tom Worthington and Stephen Aiello). That might sound an impossible task, but we managed it last year at ASCILITE 2020. This is much easier to do online, than with a crowd of people on a stage.
I am not much of a theory person, and the idea of applying Activity Theory comes from my coauthors. All I am doing is describing how I modified my teaching slightly last year for COVID-19. But the point we are collectively making I suggest is an important one. Mobile devices and collaborative tools were effective by connecting students with each other, and with their teachers. This I suggest has been far more important than replicating old fashioned lectures and examinations online. As an online student myself for years, I felt the loneliness of long distance study. With the pandemic behind us, it is important for Australian universities to engage students and not slip back into lazy habits of offering dull lectures and then blaming students for not attending.
Our paper differs from many recent ones which describe heroic and radical changes which had to be made to teaching practice to move from classroom based to online. The difference was that as tech literate educators we had less to do to move our teaching online.
I moved to pure online teaching ten years ago, then in the last few years had been incorporating some classroom elements. As someone with a background in dealing with emergencies using tech, my teaching was designed with an online contingency, so that if an emergency kept students from campus, it could all be done online. That is what happened with COVID-19.
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