Saturday, September 4, 2010

Module 2 - Exploring Distributed Learning Communities

Distributed Learning Communities
You are entering a distributed learning community. Distributed learning environments are often separated by distance.  More importantly, the dynamics of a successful distributed learning community will be on the students. It will emphasize building a community of learners where individuals work collaboratively with their group members rather than competitively. Students can be experts and are acknowledged as such. It is a community where individuals work for the betterment of the group.

A learning community is a group of learners who actively demonstrate 4 characteristics:
    1. Diversity of expertise; 
    2. Shared objective of advancing the collective knowledge;
    3. Learning how to learn; and 
    4. Mechanisms for sharing what is learned.

Dr. Christopher Dede of Harvard University wrote about how distributed learning communities can be supported/enhanced through emerging technologies. Read the following two articles and consider how this model relates to your past and present educational experiences: 
Web 2.0 Tools  
The interactive nature of Web 2.0 tools facilitates interaction between people. The Internet has flattened the playing field between people and nations of the world. No longer is geography a limiting factor for human and professional interaction. X-rays taken in Bangor, Maine, can be read by a doctor in San Diego, California. A customer support call from Las Crusas, New Mexico, is answered by a specialist in Manila, Philippines. 

The educational opportunities have been expanded as well. Ninth grade Spanish students in Pleasant Plains, Illinois will practice the language as they Skype with high school English students in Aguas Dulches, Uruguay. A third grade student in Des Moines can work weekly with a tutor in Bangador, India. Our ethnocentric world will never be the same.
Solomon and Schrum discuss how the world is different and how this affects the learners in our schools.  Read pages 1 - 44 in the Web 2.0 book. While you are reading, consider these following points. You will use this as the basis for the reflecting you will do in the Discussion section of this module:
  • Compare this with the Disrupting Class reading you did last week. How will they work together?
  • How are these scenarios different from your present/past educational experience.  
  • Will these learning environments fit your learning needs?  How about those of your present/future students?
  • Consider specific instances that would demonstrate your ideas.  
Collaborative Class Wiki:
One of the most important premises of a distributed learning community is recognizing diversity of expertise. We won't know "who specializes in what" unless you tell us.  I have created some wiki pages that correspond with the learning community experiences for this semester.  Please go to the class wiki and enter your pertinent information in the Specialist Corner and the Student Contact Information page.  This is information is something that you will need to continue to update as things change throughout the semester.

Here are some videos that I created (using a screencasting tool, Jing) to introduce you to our wiki and how to edit it. Review these to see if they will assist you in your quest.

Blogging is the tool that has done a great deal to democratize information and communication. No longer do we need to have our own printing press to share our ideas with others. It is as easy as 1-2-3 (see Blogger) to hang out your publishing shingle and get into the business of writing for the public.

Let's see what a blog is and what it can be:

Before you can blog, you need to know what composes a blog. You need to have background in reading blogs in your area of interest. You need to see how postings are usually more interesting if they have been well researched and provide a variety of links that will help the reader explore further into the topic. You need to become an active member of the Blogosphere. You will be reading blogs this module and begin to write your own blog in module 3.

Working with blogs during this course will involve Reading, Commenting, and Writing/Creating. 


1. Read ALL of your classmates' blogs ALL of the time.  It is important to keep up on what they are saying. It will also give them a reason to write. Blogging has little meaning if no one is reading it. Besides, it will mean that someone will be reading yours as well.
You will find links to your classmates' blogs in the right-hand column of this RWLD.  See them over there?

2. Follow at least 4 of these professional blogs over the rest of the semester.

3. Read at least 2 blogs in a personal area of interest.  Use the Google Blog Search ( to find someone who writes about what you enjoy. This search will provide you with postings, but usually the blogs that hold the postings are in your area of interest.

Commenting is important if you are going to be an involved part of the Blogosphere. Your comments give a blogger an indication that someone is reading her/his work. That gives a sense of mission. Interestingly enough, bloggers will often respond to your comments either directly or in an future posting.
Useful comments are much more than just a quick reaction to a posting. They can build the basis for an ongoing discussion. They can add additional content to the discussion. They can  . . . tell you what, I don't want to make a huge list here. Why don't you jump over the Vicki Davis's CoolCatTeacher blog and read her posting, How to Comment like a King (or Queen).  Comment on her blog using her guidelines. Say something about being in our EIT class. We will be working with her later on in the semester.

Emerging Instructional Technology Twittering:
Another thing that we will be doing this week is signing up for Twitter.   This will be a way that we can follow each other as well as follow any comments that apply specifically to our Emerging Instructional Technologies (EIT - I will use the EIT to refer to our class.)

Twitter in Plain English video

User Name Advice: 
Before you sign up for Twitter, consider this when selecting your screen name. Twitter is usually used for more professional activities. You should use a username that you will use for ALL of your places on the social media network.  This should be a professional name that will easily identify you.  
  • DON'T use one with long numbers or cute sayings: jbrown714456 or funnyguy3933
  • DO use something with your name if possible  zeitz, leighzeitz, leigh.zeitz, vvrotny
  1. Join Twitter.  Go to the Twitter homepage and sign up (
  2. Follow Dr. Z. Once you are signed in, go to   Click on the Follow button so that you can follow my tweets. I will automatically follow you back, so you will know that you have at least one follower
  3. Get a Twitter App. Download TweetDeck from This is a program that you can run from your computer to check your twitter account. I suggest this because it makes it easy to organize the tweets from your friends.
  4. Tell us Your Username. Go to our NamePage where you will post your twitter name. 
Read about Guy Kawasaki's 10 Steps to Terrific Twittering by Lauren McKay.  Consider how you could use this in your professional life.  You don't need to just use it with your students. Twitter can be a powerful personal professional development tool that will open you to the world. (Optional Reading: the Edutopia posting, Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 Characters)
    We will use a few different ways to follow each other:
    • Hashtags (#UNI_EIT)
    • Lists
    • TweetDeck columns
    I will provide more information on how to use these in the next module.

    Review (don't have to read) these 6 Sources for Using Twitter in Education 

    Have fun,



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