AVLN Conference, Summer 2003
In the summer of 2003, AVLN’s annual conference was set to convene in beautiful Alberta at Canadian Union University College. The weekend prior to the beginning of the conference, the AVLN board met in the Banff National Park area for a time of relaxation and preparation, preparation not only for the imminent conference, but also for the upcoming year. It was very exciting to meet with this group of leaders and innovators to dream and to plan for the future, as well as to relax and praise God together in that beautiful setting.
Because AVLN’s leadership realizes that effective leadership doesn't occur in a vacuum, each board member’s input was sought as we strategized about classes, budgets, meetings, and other items for the coming year. We reviewed the plans for the impending conference to make sure all was in readiness. These sessions were a part of the “group process” of learning in a significant way due to the ability of the leadership (Shirley Freed) to solicit ideas, thoughts, and comments from all on the board. This organization is not run on a “top down” model, but is rather an example of praxis in action (Alaby). Our theory of learning and collaborating is always modified by our practice, and our practice reflects our best theory, and back and forth on a continuum as we move toward helping Adventist education work together in utilizing distance education to its fullest capacity in a faith-based environment.
As the conference began, the group process was exemplified in the interactive style of many of the presentations. I was assigned to help Janine Lim work with the teachers to help them learn how to create and utilize Power Point presentations, how to bookmark sites, and in general how to incorporate technology into their classroom instruction in a meaningful, integrated way. Students worked in groups to learn from each other, and also worked with Janine and myself to learn specific concepts or to get guidance in problem areas. Janine was the main presenter for many of these classes; I added pertinent information based on my knowledge and experience integrating technology into our distance-learning program at AE21 Distributed Education.
It was my responsibility to present AE21 Distributed Education to conference attendees as part of a session on innovative distance learning programs. Two other presenters from Ohio Virtual Academy also presented during this session.
The plan for my session was to have students in two sites connected via polycom (a brand of videoconferencing equipment) to demonstrate the connectivity as well as some of the methods of our instruction at AE21. Due to the failure of technology despite the best and heroic efforts of Colin Hill of CUUC, the camera system was not available. In the mode of an effective communicator and teacher, I continued with my presentation and switched gears as it became evident the technology was not going to cooperate with us. Instead of having the participants watch my students in a debate as was originally planned, the participants themselves became part of an impromptu debate. We used several cooperative learning strategies such as pair share and pair square to talk about controversial issues of importance in society today. Then, participants were chosen to come up front, were assigned a “side” in the issue we chose to debate, and then asked to give their one-minute opening argument either for or against a position. After both “debaters” gave their opening arguments, each had a chance for a 30 second rebuttal.
This demonstration was indented to help the participants get a sense of what some of the possibilities are for teaching in a distance-learning program with a face-to-face component such as video-conferencing. Group process was employed to illicit participation as well as to demonstrate our use of cooperative learning (advocated by Kagan and Johnson & Johnson) in AE21 in general, and in my class in specific.
An additional presentation I gave was on the use of the Edline software as a platform for distance learning courses. This presentation used visual effects of the Edline program itself, demonstrated the various features of Edline, and asked participants for questions. No cooperative learning experiences were incorporated. Clear communication about the advantages and disadvantages of this platform was the intent of this presentation.
Judging from the comments of the participants in the conference, our AVLN conference
overall was a great success. Teachers went away with a greater understanding
of how to integrate technology into their classes, curriculum, and instruction.
Participants felt connected to the presenters. The presence of the integration
of faith into all of our presentations and the conference overall with a theme
and theme song left everyone with the realization that God is the Author of
all things and can be integrated in all of our teaching, including in distance