fancis parker school


Philosophical and Historical Perspectives

E-learning in the 21st century (D. Randy Garrison), community of inquiry, communities of practice, social presence, cognitive presence, teaching presence



To begin the course, we will examine an influential contemporary theory of ‘e-learning,’ developed by D. Randy Garrison. The key components of Garrison’s ‘community of inquiry’ model are social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. This theory is both a critique of traditional models of ‘in person’ teaching and learning in higher education, and a framework for a better form of digitally mediated — but not necessarily ‘distance’ — education. Garrison’s model is grounded in modern constructivist psychology, and in the action- and community-based philosophy of John Dewey, who founded the Chicago Laboratory School in 1896, to enact and refine the principles of his progressive philosophy. We will seek to critically evaluate the Community of Inquiry framework by putting it into action. This will also provide us an opportunity to think through the notion of ‘community’ itself, and to get to know each other, transactionally, through the use of the digital ‘technology’ we will be using in this course: WordPress, Discourse, and Discord. While these particular tools might be new to you, what they do and how they work will be quite familiar.


The question of technology

In the 1950s, German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote an influential essay called ‘The question of technology.’ Heidegger was more concerned with what we might call industrial technologies — factories, dams, airplanes, etc. — than with computers: simplifying a very complex and difficult argument, we might say that Heidegger believed that these kinds of technologies tend to alienate humans from their essence, from ’being’ itself. Coming somewhat closer to our situation, he thought that typewriters degraded the act of writing. A tool, like a pen, that could be held in one’s hand allowed for the truth to come to language in a way that was not possible with a mechanical typewriter. In our first project, we will take up Heidegger’s ’question of technology’ in personal, community, and instrumental contexts.

We will start the course by becoming more familiar with each other (community), with ourselves and our beginning point (identity). and with the digital tools we will be using in this instance of e-learning (technology). The three main tasks will be to (1) compose your own philosophy and personal history of ’educational technology,’ (2) to collaborate with others to present a joint philosophy and personal history of ’educational technology,’ and (3) to learn to use the software tool — Discourse — through which we will accomplish (1) and (2) with the same natural ease with which you use a pen.

In more practical terms, you will:

  1. Read the Discourse User’s manual and complete a short tutorial on posting in Discourse;
  2. Practice your new skills by authoring a personal profile in the Members category;
  3. Turn your personal profile post into a wiki;
  4. Respond to the ‘question of educational technology’ by crafting a philosophical/autobiographical ’essay’ (in your choice of media), and adding it to your wiki;
  5. Respond to, and discuss, the educational technology ’essay’s’ of your fellow group members;
  6. Collaborate on a group wiki that represents your joint philosophies and biographies of educational technology (in the Community category);
  7. Use the skills and knowledge gained in (1) to complete the tasks in (2) – (6)

Check the calendar for meeting schedule and assignments

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