Unit One: Understanding the Learning Community and Online Discourse

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Overview of Unit 1

Study Guide

Educational experience as a collaborative communication

Social context affects the nature of learning activities and outcomes (Resnick, 1991). Limpman (1991) notes the importance of community in higher-order thinking. He describes a community of inquiry as context for educational experience if critical thinking is made easy. Garrison and Archer(2001) view an educational experience as a collaborative communication process for building meaningful knowledge. They said that collaboration is regarded as an essential aspect of cognitive development since cognition cannot be separated from social context. The cognitive element is closely connected to the social element. Vygotsky (1978) said social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. He (1978) states "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people and then inside the child. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals." (p57).

Community of inquiry model

As the communication in a computer conference is different from a face to face situation and use text based message, teaching presence is needed for supporting critical thinking. Anderson & Garrison (1995) said that instructional design and the effective use of technology is of the greatest importance in achieving quality of learning results. The community of inquiry framework includes the three essential elements - teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence. Teaching presence is defined as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes. Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, and Archer (2001) identify knowledge hidden in the data from the actual interactions between and among students and on-line teachers as they develop and facilitate learning activities. They examined messages for their contribution to three critical functions of the online teacher - designing learning activities, establishing an active learning community, and providing direct instruction. These tools (analysis of the transcripts) help teachers to assess their own postings and value feedback. Also, it can be used for research to diagnose problems in on-line teaching. Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, and Archer (2001) state social presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as 'real people.' They found instructional media such as computer conferencing enrich high levels of student-student and student-teacher interaction. They can support models of teaching and learning that are highly interactive with the ideal of learning community.Cognitive presence is the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) mention a core concept in defining a community of inquiry is cognitive presence. The practical inquiry model use cognitive presence for the purpose of developing a tool to assess critical discourse and reflection.


You Tube

Rethinking Education[[1]]


Now, read these articles about differentiated instruction.

  • Media:Unit_1-a.pdf "" (2007) by Jennifer Carolan and Abigail Guinn. This article introduces teachers to the idea of DI and addresses some issues as to why some teachers may be hesitant to try DI in their classrooms. Carolan and Guinn (2007) observed classrooms in which DI was occurring and recognized four common features: 1) offering personalized scaffolding; 2) using flexible means to reach defined ends; 3) mining subject-area expertise; and 4) creating a caring classroom in which differences are seen as assets.
  • Media:Unit_1-b.pdf‎ "" (2008) by Holli M. Levy. This article addresses the connection between DI and national and state standards. Levy (2008) states, “The core of differentiated instruction is flexibility in content, process, and product based on student strengths, needs, and learning styles” (p. 162). Levy (2008) also addresses assessments, student grouping, and tiered assignments (see examples in Unit 4) in terms of DI.


References and Resources


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Return to Essential Guild to Online Teaching

Unit 1: Understanding the Learning Community and Online Discussion

Unit 2: Identifying Useful Communication Tips

Unit 3: Implementing Class Management Plan