"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Enriching Online Learning


Seven participants from across the United States AND one from Fiji, one from UK, another from Peru and three from Toronto!!! What a rich, diverse, provocative learning experience we had! Virtual, online classes provide us all with the exceptional opportunity to expand our cultural reach to learn from anyone, anywhere, about any topic. A true gift, indeed. Not surprising that we are experiencing a rapid increase in the demand for online instruction.

As excited as we may be about this potential, often that little voice in the back of our heads niggles us with “Can I learn as much online/virtually as I do face-to-face with my teacher and fellow participants?”

As Dialogue Education practitioners, it is our responsibility—and privilege—to design online and virtual learning events that provide the same engaging, rigorous, accountable learning structures that our DE face-to-face classes do. We can do it!!! We have copious principles, practices, tools and systems to access and support us.

To be true to principles of DE (respect, engagement, relevance, immediacy, inclusion, safety, etc.) it is important to shift the paradigm of online learning from an emphasis only on knowledge/topic input to DE learning-centered structures that  generate “learning at the cellular level” which results in sustainable transfer.  (See Traditional/Learning-Centered comparison here.)   

This includes honoring in our online designs, as we do in our face-to-face classes, how the brain learns as articulated by James E. Zull in The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.  (See Zull-DE Collaborates here.)

Three mantras that will help you focus on DE engagement as you design Learning Tasks are:

1.Opportunities for participant-to-participant and participant-to-teacher dialogue

As we DE practitioners know, dialogue—with others and with the content—expands learning.  Zull’s brain research shows that learning is the outcome of experience (248). When learners wrestle with the content and “do” what they are learning, they construct their own understanding by building on what they already know.

2.Blend of techniques to maximize learning styles

A plethora of methods, techniques and tools exist on the internet to respect every learning preference--visual, auditory, kinesthetic, dialogue, musical, spatial, verbal, and all the rest of our multiple intelligences. Creativity, variety, resourcefulness abound.

3.Relevant technology that enhances learning

The technology we use must heighten the learning experience without creating a barrier to that learning. We must always ask “How will this tool enhance the learning?” rather than using it just because it’s “cool.”

Taking advantage of technology and DE principles allow students to interact with the material and content of the course in a different way than a traditional face-to-face course. The variety of ways instruction can take advantage of the online environment of today will provide a rich and interactive learning experience.

What enriched learning have you experienced in an online course, either as a teacher or a participant?

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Beta, Baby!


By Marian Darlington-Hope and Karen Ridout

The Internet increasingly provides a multitude of tools that provide opportunities for learning. At the Building Learning Communities Conference a few years ago, the title of one presentation declared “It’s no more Best Practices, it’s Beta, Baby.” We are all in Beta mode as we discover and explore these tools to support our learning designs

As Dialogue Educators, you are already familiar with the value of learning tasks in small groups. Once the learning task is set and clear to all, we see the dynamics at work in a small group—where the learning happens! Online learning tools enable group learning tasks to draw on the strength of different learning styles present in the group just as dialogue education practices do in face-to-face groups. These web-based tools have made it possible for all of us to make the internet work for us as individuals, groups and organizations.

Blooms Taxonomy updated and adapted for the digital world is useful in structuring learning tasks. The attached diagrams show the possibility for a range of useful and wonderful web tools, but without an Achievement-Based Objective for using a particular tool or set of tools, you may miss enhancing the learning.

As we consider dialogue—dia-logos, the word between us—these tools enable us to integrate sight and sound honoring the different learning styles in our teaching by intentionally including them as an integrative whole. Tools vary, some of them are designed to assist you in presenting content in new ways while others assist you in the creation process and allow you to share your process more transparently.

Remember—the tools you choose must enhance the learning!

(Click on either of the pictures below to pull up interactive charts directly from the creators' websites.)

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The Art of Facilitation:  Learning Preferences


As teachers, and as learners, it’s important that we intentionally pay attention to the different ways our students learn. There are multiple models of learning styles that can aid us in crafting our learning tasks, or our HOW (in Dialogue Education parlance), to tap into a learner’s most facile way of learning.

One dynamic that is crucial in opening the learning pathway of a student is to honor his or her preferred way of perceiving, or taking in information. According to Carl Jung, our brains are hardwired to develop a more natural preference for attending to either:

  1. specific, concrete information that can be verified by experience (called sensing); or
  2. the meaning and possibilities of the information (called intuition).

For example, quickly look at this photograph.

Russian Women FeastDo you (first) see seven women, watermelon, American flag, table cloth, scarves? Or do you (first) see a celebration,  Russian women,  abundant feast,  party,  multicultural?  In other words, do you see first the details and verifiable information (sensing) or the themes and patterns (intuiting)?

Different people take in information differently. There is no right or wrong — it’s just different.

Here are some characteristics of each preference to keep in mind when designing and facilitating for engaged learning:

Sensing specific concrete verifiable five senses practical what is facts past or present

iNtuiting meaning possibilities big picture sixth sense patterns what could be themes future

Of course we all use both functions. However, it is through our most natural preference that our minds are most easily engaged. Learning tasks designed to engage both sensing and intuition respect each student’s preferred pathway to engaging with the content.

How do you (or do you?) keep in mind a student’s preferred way of taking in information? Karen Ridout 3


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