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Editor's Note: This is the second of three reports
on a collaborative distance learning program involving Duquesne University
in the United States and University of Ulster in Ireland. The third report
will be published in the August issue of USDLA Journal.
Setting Everyone Up for Success - Part II
International Program: Duquesne University and University of Ulster
Moving forward from our writing in the April 2002 Issue, the focus shifts
toward the middle phase of the International Masters in Instructional
Technology Program: Distance Learning Strand that partners Duquesne University
in Pittsburgh, PA with the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
The courses that will be discussed in this Issue are:
- Technology and Education, which was taught in a weekend face-to-face
format by Duquesne University faculty and covers integrating technology
into the classroom,
- Management of Instructional Technology- taught jointly between
Duquesne University faculty and Northern Ireland administration, and
- Multimedia Literacy-taught in Northern Ireland by University of
The Dean of the University of Ulster and two tutors from the University
will share their experiences from the summer visit to Pittsburgh. Two
participants will describe their experiences of the courses listed above.
Since the focus of the programme was distance learning, the International
Masters was intentionally designed so that the location of the courses
would rotate between Northern Ireland and Pittsburgh. The programme was
also designed to demonstrate teaching using a variety of teaching technologies
- Hybrid (a combination of classes taught on-site and online),
- Totally online using learning management systems that supported
asynchronous (participants responding at different times) and synchronous
platforms (everyone online at the same time),
- Individual and Team Teaching
Only by participants experiencing these instructional technologies and
methodologies first-hand as participants and as end-users will they know
which ones to select for their own teaching.
The August Issue will discuss:
- The holistic approach to the instructional design of the Distance
- The social planning before and during the summer residential by
the Ireland Institute,
- The Pittsburgh residential component,
- The culminating stages of the programme highlighting excerpts of
all participant course work, transcript dialogues, case stories, photos,
- The final programme assessment and evaluation by Duquesne University,
the University of Ulster, and the Northern Ireland Government
Consider the high stakes for every person involved in this innovative
- Designing a programme’s framework and instruction that passes the
test of quality content in distance and online learning and context relevance
adapted to a specific country and evaluated by three stakeholders: Duquesne
University, the University of Ulster, and the Northern Ireland Government,
- Projects that need to be created by each participant that will
move their country forward in ICT
If they are fortunate, educators will experience this magnitude of instructional
design, pedagogy, and participation found in our experiences at least
once in their lifetime. As the programme and the process progress, the
emerging spirit of the experience is life changing.
The First Instructional Technology Course:
GITED 511, Technology and Education
Although I spent 22 years in the US military, Northern Ireland was to
be my first experience traveling across the Atlantic. My previous overseas
encounters were in Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. The lessons
learned during this first instructional technology course offering would
entail traveling to new locations, revisiting my own personally teaching
styles, and modifying (on the fly mind you) the very foundations of the
instructional technology program and the courses that comprise it. A most
exhilarating side benefit was the exploration of a beautiful country and
an extraordinary people – or maybe that should be an extraordinary country
and a beautiful people – that is Northern Ireland.
Upon my arrival at the Belfast Airport, a courteous agent tried unconvincingly
to offer this American a choice of rental cars – all with steering wheels
on the wrong side and left-handed standard shift column. I had never driven
on the left side of the road, never purchased gasoline by the liter, and
I certainly had no idea what a “roundabout” was. So, I was having none
of that. We eventually found common ground with an automatic transmission
and a bright green shamrock hanging predominantly from the mirror. As
I look back on it, I now firmly believe that the shamrock must be an international
warning signal for first-time visitors since most of my fellow drivers
were quite courteous while providing a particularly wide berth for my
How many times I have told my own students to document their learning
experience, collect the most important artifacts, and showcase successful
learning outcomes? I was so excited to visit Northern Ireland on my own
for the first time that I completely forgot to follow my own advice. So,
I am particularly appreciative of this opportunity to share the experiences
surrounding my instructional experience in the Northern Ireland Programme
in Educational Technology. As the story unfolds, it will address the pre-course
agenda (preparations for Northern Ireland), the conduct of the first instructional
technology course, and the interpersonal dimensions of offering an international
program of study.
I arrived in Belfast the morning before the first day of class. It was
agreed via email and telephone calls that the first instructional technology
course would be taught in a three-weekend format using all-day sessions
Friday and Saturday sessions. However, before this initial IT course was
even to begin, issues with the first elective course arose. At home, we
insist that all first-semester participants enroll in one non-IT, graduate-level,
education foundation course that prepares the new participant for the
educational psychology elements of the program. Since the Program in Instructional
Technology emphasizes instruction as much as it does technology (one of
the reasons the program is so successful) participants must be well-grounded
in principles of teaching and learning. Most participants opt for the
theories of teaching and learning course to fulfill these requirements
and so, with the University of Ulster as our partner, we decided to place
the UU “best practices” course first in our modified program of studies.
However, Northern Ireland participants expected a healthy dose of immediate
technology and were taken aback by what appeared to be a non-essential
course in educational fundamentals. Lesson Learned #1: Looking back, we
would certainly begin our international program with a technology course.
We would most certainly have included the best practices course in the
program of studies; just a little later in the schedule.
After some synchronous discussions, the first Instructional Technology
course selected was GITED 511, Technology and Education. This course lays
the foundation for the Program in Instructional Technology and “levels
the playing field” with respect to a common understanding of what constitutes
instructional technology in the classroom. A discussion of the instructional
elements of the course follows.
Instructional Elements of GITED 511.
In 511, participants are introduced to established principles of teaching
and learning followed by an examination of various technologies found
in today’s classrooms.
Each participant selects a different technology for further study. Some
choose laptops, others decide to explore LCD projectors, still others
opt for handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs), wireless labs, special
education adaptive technologies, or educational software packages. Each
participant is required to exam the components and applications of the
technology in light of two excellent articles explicating the strengths
and weaknesses of the technology with respect to learning styles and teaching
strategies. Participants finalize their reports and offer 12-15 minute
presentations of their findings. By the conclusion of this exercise, participants
are introduced to, in the case of the Northern Ireland cohort, 17 different
technologies. The purpose of the assignment is to garner a respect for
the field of instructional technology as more than just desktop computers.
Journals, Leaders, and Standards.
Participants are expected to understand the impact that instructional
technology has had on education as evidenced in the major technology journals,
instructional leaders, and professional standards. The standards explored
resulted in the second lesson learned. Lesson Learned #2: international
students, while cognizant of American leadership in technology, are often
more widely read than their US counterparts. They are often just as familiar
with European and Asian technology journals, cognizant of a wider range
of experts, and accustomed to a broader application of accepted technology
standards. A successful, off-campus, international program invites instructors
to incorporate the journals, leaders, and standards of the home country.
The Technology Facade.
GITED 511, as a matter of course, delves into an aspect of technology
programs first introduced in our program. We call it the Technology Facade.
Over the years since the program’s inception, participants have shared
a variety of stories and scenarios revealing the health of technology
programs in their particular schools and organizations. A technology program
is still viewed by many as just another undertaking during an already
over-tasked school day. Some describe their computer facility as a locked
fortress accessible only to the computer teacher and her chosen legions.
Based on a book by the same name (Tomei, 2002), participants survey their
institutions and assess their technology programs. In short classroom
presentations, they offer qualitative rankings running the gamut from
Outstanding to Satisfactory programs, to Modest, Moderate, and Severe
phases of the facade. An outstanding rating is rare; modest and moderate
evaluations are the norm. Objectively documenting an institution’s strengths
and weaknesses may be an issue for international participants. While Americans
often downplay a poor rating, attributing low scores to a variety of factors
outside their personal control, the international participant considers
the many nuances of their culture. Lesson Learned #3: An international
cohort should be allowed to develop their own qualitative scores, rankings,
and interpretations for the Technology Facade. Their own checklist would
be more appropriate.
Interpersonal Dimension of Teaching.
The first weekend of the course was conducted in relative comfort of
a local hotel seminar room.
In the Classroom.
The formal atmosphere of a university classroom, plus the traveling demands
of participants selected from locations throughout Northern Ireland, had
the potential of placing unnecessary barriers to the development of interpersonal
relationships that would ultimately spell success or failure of the program.
The Friday and Saturday concentrated format offered considerable time
to get acquainted. Participants remained overnight at the hotel and there
is nothing quite like an unhurried, Northern Ireland dinner. Lesson Learned
#4: Set the stage for an international program in the context of a relaxed,
personalized, classroom environment.
On the Road.
Interpersonal relationships began in the hotel seminar room, but they
flourished in the offices, classrooms, and workplaces of the cohort members.
Over the course of the three weeks, I managed to add some 2,000 kilometers
in literally all road leading from Belfast. Personally, I found the inter-country
highway system easy to follow and very well posted for the uninitiated.
During those visits, I was invited to an truly inspiring spring musical
courtesy of Ballyclaire High School, and the most endearing student performance
from St Brigid’s elementary school. In her previous visit Linda Wojnar
had visited the same school and returned with her stories of their Beatle’s
rendition and Irish folk songs. So, I was prepared with my digital camera
to capture the entire production number. I considered these visits the
highlights of my Northern Ireland experience. Actually, I had the time
of my life -- until one of the first graders asked me if I was Dr. Wojnar’s
In the Workplace.
Visiting cohort members in their workplace allowed me the opportunity
to grow as an educator in the country, culture, and spirit of this international
community. Lesson Learned #5: When commencing an international program
in education, begin by concentrating on the informal interpersonal relationships.
Ultimately, the program will sell itself. Individuals create the interpersonal
atmosphere for it to be successful.
The first instructional technology course was a tremendous success by
any measure. As program coordinator, my visit to Northern Ireland solidified
the relationship with this cohort of 17 professional educators. The visit
resulted in four key lessons learned. First, begin a technology program
with a technology course but do not underestimate the importance of a
solid understanding of teaching and learning principles. Second, it is
incumbent upon an instructor to become thoroughly familiar with the host
country and all aspects (including variations in terminology, research,
and implementation) of the content area under study. Third, anticipate
modifications to course materials, student performance expectations, and
certainly accepted assessment practices. Fourth, consider a mixer both
formally in the classroom and informally to set the atmosphere for a personalized
program of study. And finally, fifth, establish the interpersonal relationships
as soon as possible in the program. In the end, they are a truer measure
of a program’s success than any grades or participant tasks.
IMScET GITED 514
GITED 514 – ‘Managing Education Technology’ was a good example of an
original Duquesne University module, taught by Jerry Slamecka, Assistant
Superintendent from Butler County near Pittsburgh, as ‘Managing Instructional
Technology’, which was adapted in collaboration with John Anderson, Education
Technology Strategist from Northern Ireland, to marry the study of Information
and Communications Technology (ICT) policy and management in the US and
in Northern Ireland into one module.
For the Northern Ireland participants, the study of the legislative requirements
and expectations in the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland, which
now has its own jurisdiction for education, was important. It mattered
that the module was revised to incorporate British content, however, the
exploration of US policy and management practice brought a valuable outside
perspective and a ‘reality-check’ to local Ulster assumptions and preoccupations;
a chance to stand-back and look at ourselves from a distance, through
the eyes of another education service, and from a different cultural context.
As the fifth module in the series, almost at the halfway point in the
International Masters program, it was timely for the participants to set
their study and development work in the design and development of online
applications in the context of the educational policy environment of Northern
Ireland. And what better place to engage in an extended two-day residential
study session than a hotel in the most historic of Ulster port of Carrickfergus,
stepping off point for the Plantation of Ulster back in the 13th
century, and in sight of one of the oldest surviving Norman castles in
the British Isles.
The module was valuable for everyone, teachers included, but especially
for those participants with less prior experience in management or in
strategic planning. Perspectives and issues covered included: strategic
and policy planning at regional and state levels and at local and county
administrative levels, and their interdependencies; vision creation and
goal setting, especially at school level; budgeting and procurement issues;
public-private partnerships and the concept of ‘total cost of ownership;
and strategic review and evaluation.
The single assignment, to evaluate the existing government strategy for
education technology in Northern Ireland, pulled together all of the strands
of the module and was conducted by four groups of course participants.
Respectively, the groups each examined a separate dimension of the strategy:
- Curriculum (teaching and learning; assessment and accreditation)
- Teachers (initial teacher education; induction and continuing
- Management and quality assurance (policy-school senior management
teams and school governors; inspectorate)
- Infrastructure (computer deployment, networking and access;
The collective reports produced by the groups were both an authentic
and a high-value exercise, and have subsequently been an important contribution
to the strategic review being conducted for the Northern Ireland Assembly
in early summer of 2002.
GITED 514 was notable in its methodology as well. It was the first time
in the Masters program when face-to-face and online methods of study were
combined to teach a single module. The work initiated by the study weekend,
which Jerry Slamecka and John Anderson double-headed, was continued online
over a further period of six weeks.
Jane Healey’s infamous book “TITLE” provided the stimulus for an ongoing
asynchronous discussion online between Jerry and the participants. On
a weekly basis, Jerry posted provocative quotations from Healey’s text
and requested a response from each participant on various assumptions
about computers and learning. It was noticeable that what began as a limited
‘question and response’ form of dialogue developed into a more open and
evaluative debate as participants began to identify the lack of academic
rigor and heavy dependence on anecdote in the Healey’s thesis, and to
challenge its worth as a critical text on the role of computers in the
teaching and learning process.
Participants would later identify the importance of face-to-face group
work preceding the use of online communications as an important guiding
principle learnt from their experience of this module.
A final, serendipitous, opportunity arose when the module was being planned
which added another layer of value to an already rich international study
of ICT schools policy. John Anderson was coincidently planning a joint
Japan/Northern Ireland ICT schools policy symposium, which built upon
10 years of links between teachers and pupils in Japan and Northern Ireland.
A delegation of the most senior education and ICT policy makers from the
Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbusho) visited Ulster in the August
week prior to Jerry Slamecka’s Carrickfergus weekend. The symposium mounted
a detailed series of comparative and analytical presentations of ICT schools
policy in Japan and Northern Ireland. The Master’s participants attended
the sessions and brought high quality active engagement to the discussions
that took place with the Japanese delegates.
GITED 514 succeeded in setting academic and practical endeavors into
an educational policy context. It was successful in improving the understanding
of this group of exceptional educators in the importance of policy evaluation
and review. It also ensured that their engagement in innovation in online
teaching and learning was set firmly in the context of their critical
understanding of the priorities, needs and challenges facing the education
service in the province.
Our Pittsburgh Experience – Steeling Ourselves
Linda Clarke and Victor McNair
As Lecturers in the School of Education at the University of Ulster we
had both been asked by our Head of School, Prof. Anne Moran, to work on
the development of modules of a MSc course in ICT. It was hoped that this
course would play a major role in the Education Technology (ET) Strategy,
which was to revolutionise ET in Northern Ireland. At that time we had
no idea just how revolutionary the first incarnation of this course would
be. The early indications were promising -
Victor had been involved in interviewing the student cohort and we both
met with Dr Linda Wojnar on her planning visit to the University of Ulster.
Linda seemed to embody an engaging combination of warmth and practicality,
vision and pragmatism, pure gold ….and tensile steel. She shared her vision
for the course with us and, during our discussions, suggested that we
should (must) come to Pittsburgh for the last week of the NI cohort’s
work there. There were two reasons why this was important for us although
we did not realise this at the time. The first was that we needed to experience
the new culture of online learning that the cohort were going through
so that we could effectively engage with them back in NI. The second,
and perhaps more important reason, was that we ourselves needed to develop
our thinking about the nature of online learning. These experiences would,
in turn, allow us to be part of the new paradigm for ICT-based teaching
and learning in NI. It worked.
Landing in Pittsburgh in mid-July 2001, a warm welcome awaited us, provided
by the Ireland Institute, the Faculty of Education at Duquesne University
and the International Masters Cohort. The latter group was, in equal measure,
both exhausted and exhilarated by their Pittsburgh Experience. Those who
were to be our students invited us to participate in the online lessons
that they had developed on the Duquesne Blackboard server. These lessons
focused on a range of topics reflecting the diverse backgrounds of the
participants and hence addressed a broad spectrum of teaching and learning
needs and opportunities for Northern Ireland education. . The common professionalism,
along with the desire to push their understanding of the educational potential
of the technology, seemed to provide an excellent springboard for the
advancement of online learning. The educational use of the Blackboard
synchronous chat facility was new to most of the group was and it was
this quick-fire aspect of participation that banished our jet lag.
During the brief visit, we strongly sensed that we
were engaged in something that was set to change the face of education
in NI. We were made very aware of the cohort member's perceptions that
they would have to be the instigators and facilitators of change ‘back
home’. As they returned to their ‘traditional’ teaching and learning contexts,
they would face colleagues and students who would present challenges,
barriers, fears and indeed, prejudices about online learning.
As lecturers, we were encouraged to feel very much part of the Education
Faculty of the University of Duquesne and our time there allowed us to
work together in a way which is best described in Larry Tomei’s phrase
‘ratcheting up of the collaborative’ (USDLA, April 2002). Linda Wojnar
provided private tutorials where we realised that her oft-stated commitment
to ‘setting everyone up for success’ was more than rhetoric, more than
sincere and, more importantly, extended to us.
At the end of the visit we were both impressed with the commitment to
the success of the course and to the natural way in which online teaching
and learning is accepted as part of normal education. This was a case
of one culture meeting and supporting another.
And Back to Northern Ireland
We took up the invitation to host our modules on the Duquesne Blackboard
server. This meant that we were also looking at other ways to redesign
these modules to facilitate seamless integration with the Duquesne modules.
While the Multimedia Literacy Module had to have some face-to-face sessions,
due to the need to teach the application software – Dreamweaver – the
synchronous and asynchronous dialogue provided excellent preparatory and
follow-up learning, as well as cutting down on traveling. The lasting
impression of these sessions was that, with a careful focus on constructivist
teaching and learning, absolute clarity of instructions, carefully thought-out
and structured lesson planning, success is guaranteed.
The Collaborative Learning Online (CLO) Module was refocused to provide
a venue that would allow students to take their Duquesne experience back
into their individual work contexts in Northern Ireland. This would, in
many ways, be the acid test of the transferability of the Duquesne collaboration
and the participants would be invited to consider the sustainability of
their work 'back home'.
Discussions about sustainability and how it could be supported were closely
linked to those of assessment. Initially, discussions with the cohort
about assessment focused on rubric clarity, the need for them to provide
evidence and (for them) the burning question of 'how much we should do'.
However, it was during these discussions that we agreed that sustainability
was best supported through assignments that were not only relevant to
teaching and learning, but also linked, were possible, to policy initiatives
within their employing organisations. It was also understood that, when
back in NI, the students had to promote sustainability on at least two
levels. At user level, there was confidence that the 'hearts and minds'
of students and colleagues could be won, given the lessons learned in
Pittsburgh about on line education. However, at policy level, there had
to be a clear signal from the students that teaching and learning could
be enhanced through these assignments, that the initiatives were cost-effective,
and that the environments there were to eventually create would advance
policy and practice. McNair (USDLA, 2002) outlines some of these activities
and demonstrates how the range of projects undertaken, and the use made
of them by practitioners and policy makers alike, have indeed begun to
support sustainability. We stated at the start of this paper that we were
'steeling' ourselves for the task of carrying the Duquesne work on into
the NI education context. This has been, and continues to be, a challenge.
However, the experience has taught us that good partnerships always promote
a synergy that blends common interests, create new and wider horizons
ands generate lasting friendships.
About the Authors:
Dr. Linda C. Wojnar is Assistant Professor, Distance Learning Strand,
Duquesne University, School of Education, 327C Fisher Hall, Pittsburgh,
Contact: 412-396-1662, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Larry Tomei is Assistant Professor and Instructional Technology Program
Coordinator, K-12 Strand, Duquesne University, School of Education, 327A
Fisher Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15282. Contact: 412-396-4039.
Linda Clark is Lecturer, School of Education, University of Ulster at
Jordanstown, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, BT37 0QB
Victor McNairis Lecturer, School of Education, University of Ulster at
Jordanstown, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, BT37 0QB
Mr. John Anderson is Education Technology Strategy Coordinator, Department
of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI). Contact: email@example.com,
mobile: + 44 (0) 79 0991 2012 tel and fax: +44 (0) 28 4062 6455