Developments in learning online in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Volume 1, Number 3 - November 2007

Editoral

Welcome to the second volume of He Kupu, a journal published by New Zealand Tertiary College. The College provides early childhood teacher education programmes in field-based, distance, and college-based modes. Recently the nature of the distance mode has expanded, with the development of a web-enhanced pilot. In this issue a key figure in this development, Radha Nathan, discusses the paths that have led her to her current role leading the design of a Learning Management System for early childhood teacher education students. In the Interview with Radha Nathan Radha emphasises the important contribution of her own personal experiences to her aspirations for effective teacher education online.

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Interview

Peer-reviewed Papers

Web-enhanced distance learning is a new mode of study for early childhood teachers, which has been trialled at New Zealand Tertiary College. This article reports on some aspects of a comprehensive pilot project studying the effectiveness of course delivery through web-enhanced distance learning. In this study student perceptions of the Learning Online orientation course are considered. Students commented on their computer skills, attitudes towards technology and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of web- enhanced distance learning. Flexibility, convenience and improved computer skills were noted as advantages of studying through a web-enhanced mode, whereas a lack of direct lecturer contact and time management were considered disadvantages of web-enhanced distance learning. This pilot study would indicate that from the Learning Online orientation course students gained the technical and study skills necessary for successful learning in an online environment.

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In the world commitment to Education for all, distance education became the answer to a far-flung student population with varying needs and with limited access to the resources of more formalised schooling. Distance education in the latter part of the twentieth century often became synonymous with e- learning. In New Zealand computers became the vehicle for transmitting learning to students throughout the country. Teacher education lagged behind this development, but at the end of the twentieth century complete online teacher education programmes were implemented for the primary school sector. The subject specialities of secondary teachers made this a more problematic proposition, but at the turn of the century an online secondary teacher programme was started at Massey University College of Education. This involved developing subject papers for online delivery as well. This paper outlines the development of a science education paper in this programme.

Teachers frequently find that their teaching is unsuccessful with a particular group of students. This paper describes how Heidegger’s ontology was useful to teachers as they developed a distance education platform to teach astronomy to culturally diverse Aotearoa New Zealand secondary school students. Māori students do not perform well within their State’s model of normalising education, and academic authors ascribe this “failure” to the effects of cultural difference and imperialism. This paper conjectures that Māori are not merely “culturally different” but that they represent a metaphysical heritage that is akin to that described as Greek metaphysics by Heidegger. There are cultural artefacts and practices that serve for modern Māori in a way that parallels Heidegger’s account of the ancient Greeks. Māori may represent an ontological tradition that stands completely outside of Western metaphysics. If the conjecture is correct, normalising education is unlikely to ever to be satisfactory for Māori.

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Student's Voice

Currently I am in that limbo when having completed my PhD thesis the awful wait begins for the date to be announced for my viva exam. This oral exam will decide whether I become a doctor of philosophy or have to undertake any editorial changes or worse ‘revisions.’ Having completed the text and agreed all the particulars of university regulations for typescript, referencing, quality of paper, etc. now comes the ominous wait for what happens next. After three years of intensive study having to wait for the examiner’s verdict seems harder in some ways than the writing process itself.

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Teacher's voice

Since the early 1980s reflective practice has been widely endorsed as a well tested and valued means of understanding our teaching and of prompting its development. In the early eighties, in their synthesis of several studies on the topic, Boyd and Fales (1983) expressed the groundswell of the time when they foresaw that reflective learning would become “an extremely significant concept in the future” of professional learning and in their heightened enthusiasm claimed there was no need to “await the findings of further studies to confirm the importance of reflective learning” (p. 114). Calderhead (1989) was less convinced. He noted that, in the discussion of the nature of the professional training of teachers, ‘reflective teaching’ had become a widely used term. Referring to the term’s proliferation in pre- service training, he perceived a danger of it becoming more a slogan than an effective strategy. Calderhead acknowledged that many idealised models of reflection alternatives had not yet been fully explored and pointed out the lack of empirical testing.

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Contributors

Lisa Walker, Karin du Plessis, Lone Jorgensen, Robert Shaw, Dan Love, Kathryn White, Chris Naughton

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