(Informal, Functional) Distance Learning

Email provides a venue for informal, functional distance learning. Take a look at this exchange between me and a learner who is waiting for class to resume:

June 8, 2009
i miss going to school i can not wait to start going again... went is the store teent start and went are you going to be starting over this way or are you let me know alright talk to you later.

Jun 8, 2009
We will be doing a storytent... across the street from you.... Our first tent will be June 20th.

June 8, 2009
so are you still going to have school at 57 maclaren or not let me kown alright i hope to see you soon talk to you later

Obviously, these are only parts of each email, but maybe you can see that the learner wrote a first email asking two questions: when will Storytent start, and when will our adult learning group start?

My reply answered only one of those questions. Mind you, I went on and on about my week-long vacation, but that wasn't what they wanted to hear about. So, within a couple of hours another email came back, clarifying - was I going to get that adult group going or what?!?

In sum, the learner wrote asking purposeful questions, read the response with the same purpose, and then re-wrote a perfectly fine clarifying question.

Yes, the spelling is a bit off, and the conventions of written English aren't followed exactly, but that doesn't matter much. This learner reads independently at about a high four or low five, so I'm comfortable with their rate of writing improvement. I'm thrilled that they are writing at all - much less applying critical (i.e. "question-asking-answering-thinking") reading and writing skills.

But the point I wanted to make is this: all this writing and reading is happening during a period when, ostensibly, there's no class happening.

But "no class" does not equal "no learning" and it does not equal "no support." This is a little bit like the point I tried to make in my previous post. I can still - I should still, if I'm a serious community literacy facilitator - encourage and scaffold learning in a variety of informal, functional ways whatever the availability of institutional supports.

I don't think of myself as someone who does eLearning. Well, I do my own eLearning, but I don't feel as though I facilitate it for others. Maybe that's because, four or five years ago, eLearning became associated in my mind with a top-down curriculum delivered via point and click websites.

But whatever it is I do when I send emails to facilitate reading and writing, I feel like its useful.

And, ummm... well, that's it, I guess.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to send an email.


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