EdTech 512: Design the Course Site

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To help put your preview in context, the online course is for grade 4 students and the course is delivered in Spanish.  The project site is in English, but the student site is in Spanish.

Project Site: La Clase del Maestro Dann

Student Site: La Escritura para estudiantes de 4

Sorry, no time for creativity.  This is the latest that I have ever turned in an assignment.  There were some abstract concepts in this module that I had trouble getting my head around.  Additionally, it did not help that my wife and I were in the midst of a move this week. We just bought a kitchen table and it serves as our desk for the time being and the chairs are the only furniture we have for sitting.  This post is me trying to persevere.  Here are the questions I need to address.

In what ways did you use type to draw attention to important content or to organize your materials?

From the start, when I began to build a project site, I used a template in Google sites.  The template came with a lot of graphic features. There were some icons that were not appropriate for the message that I wanted to convey, so I found some on Creative commons that were acceptable and I replaced the template icons.  I also added my photo in the header so the students can identify me with the course.  I selected a font in the header according to the instructions that were given this week.

As far as the LMS, I am completely limited by Edmodo for making any design changes to the class site.  The only distinctions I can make are the types of posts that I make, and they don’t even offer image files to be uploaded. Therefore, I contacted Professor Hinck and we came to a consensus that I would make a sister-site to the project web-page, which would be accessed by the students.  Fortunately, I was able to copy the project site, so most of the design features are consistent between the two sites, only the delivery language changes between the two sites.

How do the shapes that you used help convey your message? What colors did you use and why?

As I mentioned in the previous question, the template offered many icon images that were acceptable for how I set up my site, but there were a couple that did not go along with the menu selections, so they had to be changed.

In response to color selection, at first I was only writing in default, paragraph html, but I would used bold and change the size and color of the font to give it variety.  I later decided that color coordinating is not my strong suit so I started using the heading codes that go with the template.  I saw a big improvement in color coordination and contrast.  The headings also provided nice lines of separation to section off each individual sub-heading.

Explain in detail what you did in your design to address contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity

In the previous question I addressed contrast, but since my theme has a white background, it is pretty simple to choose a font color to contrast it.  The colors I had originally chosen were not of bad contrasts, they just didn’t match the rest of the theme.  Once I started using the tiered headings, the colors not only had a good contrast, but also matched the site.

The alignment, repetition, and proximity were features that were very simple to work with because of the template.  The content lined up nicely to the left with adequate space given to the sidebar.  I used bullet and intentions to offset some of the information below each subtitle.  Also, each new page that was created already took on features from the template.  I made a point to follow as much consistency on the headings and sub headings as possible.

EdTech 523: Module 4 Reflection

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Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Module 4 was a transition period because I was ending one group project while I was getting started with another, and in between we had Spring Break, when my wife and I traveled a few days to Jordan and Israel. I agreed to work with one group to develop an online resource for online teachers and work with some other students to develop some discussion questions for the upcoming module.  This gave me collaboration opportunities where we met in Google Hangouts, shared a Google Doc, and exchanged friendly emails. I’m glad that I did both as I was able to use some of the work from the online resource as a reference in my communication plan.

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

Additionally, I was able to work ahead  by reading the material for the next module so I could prepare the discussion questions I will present.  Lastly, I would like to comment about chapter 9  on “Transformative Learning” in Building Online Learning Communities. This chapter was very inspirational for me because it described so much of what learning online has meant for me.  It also aligns with my philosophy on learning and teaching.  This chapter meant so much to me, since it is affirming my desire to grow confident learners through online education.

The other course textbook, Learning in Real Time, helped me to envision the role of synchronous communication in online learning.  As I was reading through this text I had to think of discussion questions, but my mind was really opened to the power of synchronous communication for building an online community.

Self Evaluation Using My Grading Scale

It seems natural for me to transition my skills as a teacher to the online environment.  I enjoyed putting together my grading scale for online discussions. My experience as a teacher has helped me know how to clarify expectations and also prevent problems with students before they happen.  Of course, I imagine students that range from a typical pre-teen to a solid full-fledged teen, which are the age groups that I have been working with the last few years.  Also, my grading has been influenced a little bit by the IB Curriculum, which is my current grading standard.

It is also a little unfair evaluating myself with my own grading scale, and this is based on two factors.  First, I made the grading scale based on general ideas that I have used when I respond to a discussion prompt.  This will likely work in my favor because I know what I like in a response, because it is often what I do.  However, the second factor does not work in my favor so much.  I am probably my own worst critic, so using my grading scale with my perception would probably cause me to nit-pick details in my response. When I consider my experience, while using my own scale to evaluate myself, I would not make any changes to my scale.

Nonetheless, I think of my last post which responded to one of the students who posted a discussion question.  I know that I didn’t do all the tasks that were associated with the research of his writing prompt, so I would probably loose about 3 points there.  I make up some ground in the area of content for posting some relevant information. I really wanted to discuss Chapter 9, which was one of the required readings and no one made a prompt that addressed this chapter, so I took the opportunity to steer the discussion in this direction, but at the same time I did address many things in the response.

There were many opportunities to respond to other students’ posts and I know I met the minimum requirement, and my posts are generally very thoughtful, so I received all 10 points.  Finally, I am a language teacher so I have developed many skills for using language in communication.  I make occasional mistakes with my writing, but I usually make a point to review, and I pride myself on my creative approach to writing, especially the introductions.  I know I took care of these details in my response, so I received 5 points for each scale.  Oops! I did not include any picture or media to accompany it, but at least I made up for it in this post.  This brings my total score to 32 of 35 points in that post.

Changes to Discussion Facilitation

Even though I have not facilitated a full scale discussion yet, I can already imagine some of the challenges associated with it.  I already know what it is like to feel overwhelmed with reviewing many writing assignments, so I could imagine the work load easily getting out of hand if students are constantly posting lengthy responses.  I would have to get to know certain features of the LMS that allow me to review overall activity.  Even though I want my students to write with quality and to feel like they are writing with a purpose, I know half of my job is complete just by getting them to do that.  In other words, I won’t feel that it is necessary to read every word, especially for the student responses.  I would have to learn some teacher shortcuts for reviewing these, as well as encourage more peer review and accountability among the students.

EdTech 505 Week 9 Reflection: Birth of Evaluation on Technology

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The following passage was assigned to us to reflect upon:

How Evaluation of Technology Was Born

Twenty thousand of years ago, Thok was a renowned hunter of dangerous tigers, consistently bringing home meat for the tribe. As his reputation spread, more and more people from surrounding bands came to Thok’s cave for advice on how to hunt successfully, and safely. They would bring him gifts of food, clothing and such, to get him to sit still and answer their endless questions.

Soon Thok realized that it was safer to teach about hunting than it was to hunt, and he was making a better living as well. He stopped hunting, and took up teaching full time.

Years went by. Thok was becoming elderly — over 30 — and a bit infirm. Word of Thok’s wisdom had spread further and further. The crowds were huge. In fact, people at the fringes could no longer hear the great teacher. Thok’s livelihood was at risk, just when he was least able to leave teaching and return to the dangers of hunting.

Perhaps fear was the mother of invention. That very morning Thok had an inspiration. He saw a large banana leaf lying on the ground. Picking it up, he rolled it into a cone, and spoke into the small end of the cone, pointing the large end toward the crowd. It amplified his voice and everyone could hear! Banana leaves were a kind of magic, it was clear. Thus was educational technology born.

But the amazing events of that morning were not yet over. A young cave person, Val, was skeptical about this banana magic. So Val picked up a leaf that Thok had discarded, draped it on top of her head, and walked around that way for the rest of the day. By nightfall, Val had learned absolutely nothing new about hunting. She tossed the leaf aside, and told all her friends that the old man was wrong: Val’s research had demonstrated conclusively that technology had no role in education.

And that’s how the evaluation of educational uses of technology was born.

So how is this story related to EDTECH 505? Connect the story to our course.

Though not a scholar, I am quite skilled in the tradition of the parable, so I question, how deep should I go with this analysis.  The first point that deserves some attention does not necessarily relate to evaluation or this course, but in program design.  How is it that the crowds are getting bigger over time?  Obviously, the knowledge that he is sharing about hunting must not be very useful, if people keep coming back to hear more.  Ideally, once they learn the skills, they should be out applying those skills rather than coming back for another session of the same.  Even if he is presenting various levels of hunting strategies, he can’t address all of these levels in a group of heterogeneous homo-sapiens.    More design and purpose should be developed within the hunting strategies program, and it seems that no one is taking the time to evaluate this.

Now, focusing our attention on evaluation, obviously the banana leaf represents a tool that was used to increase voice projection so that people further back could hear Thok’s wisdom.  However, the perspective of the bystanders is an interesting one. What would their perspective provide for the evaluation process?.  For the people sitting behind him or to the side, they will benefit less from the use of his tool, while the people in the path of the trajectory of voice will benefit the most.  In this parable, the trajectory of voice represents technology trends, but the people that benefit more from it are those that position themselves in the trajectory.  Perhaps this was another missed opportunity for evaluation. 

Though Thok was sharing his knowledge about hunting, the tool that he chose to use added nothing to his ability as a hunter, therefore his audience would have no use for the tool either, at least not for accomplishing the tasks associated with hunting.  Val was only so fortunate that she did not try to kill a saber-tooth tiger with the banana leaf. Val also made the mistake of making a false judgement (or hypothesis) about the use of the tool, which she thought had the ability to transmit knowledge independently of Thok.  Since her premise was based in fallacy, the conclusion of her evaluation is also false. 

This last point relates to the course most by knowing whether you are evaluating a program that uses tools, or testing a hypothesis about the use of tools.  Val apparently did not know that she was testing a hypothesis.  What we can most learn from Val’s mistake is, while doing an evaluation, do not focus so much of our attention on the tool, but rather on the effect of the tool on the participants. 

EdTech 523 Reflection: Voices About Social Media

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In this week’s activity, we were suppose to assume the role of a school board member, principal, teacher, parent, or student (our choice) and choose a side to support or oppose the use of social media in education.  I will respond to the teacher’s questions with regard to this activity.

Can you recognize one or two voices and/or tones from the in the activity you completed this week?

I suppose that I do, but I am not in the thick of this discussion, as most of my online colleagues are, who are States side in the USA, while I am living abroad in Saudi Arabia.  It really makes a difference in perspective.  I’m sure there are many cases reported in the USA concerning the misuse of social media.  Ironically, most people automatically associate social media with Facebook first, then Twitter.  I was glad to see that some professional educators, no matter what their role was, were promoting alternative options for social media, some of which are more appropriate for school environments. 

This is the second country that I have lived in, within the Middle East, and I have also lived for periods of time in Latin America.  Living abroad has given me an interesting perspective of society in general.  I have a lot of respect for American society, based on what I have seen elsewhere, but we (American society) are struggling to make sense of the social media revolution, just like many other places in the world.  However, (in my opinion) the USA culture seems a little more hypersensitive about the negative social effects of social media.  I’m not sure if that is related to the news culture of the USA being more transparent, or possibly  more “scandal seeking”, or if we have a higher regard for the risks. Nonetheless, we hate to hear of victims of the abuse of social media, but that is exactly what we are talking about, the abuse of something that is intended to be used for good.

One time in this region, in Egypt, social media made international news; most people in America probably gaped when they heard that the government shut down the internet to keep the message of protest spreading.  We in America really cherish our freedom, and like it or not, banning social media is a form of infringement on freedom, even if it is for a good cause.  The difficult task is deciding when it is justified and when it is not.

Do you notice these voices and/or tones in your current discussion board responses with students, if applicable?

No, these issues haven’t come up, despite the fact that I have used Facebook and Google+ with my students and I have seen very little problems with inappropriate postings.  It’s not that my students are angels, it’s has more to do with the student discrepancies not playing out in school dramas, at least not yet.

Discuss potential changes in your approach to discussions in the future. Take into account the need to rely less on hearing your own voice in favor of supporting participants reflections and learning.

The landscape of education is changing is such a way that the term “social media” is either going to branch off or broaden to include “social virtual education”.  In my opinion, “virtual-osity” cannot be avoided in formal education.  Too much of our society is developing on its foundation.  In order to maintain a competitive edge in the world stage, the next generation must be considered for driving the machine. 

EdTech 523: Module 2 Reflection

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I was born a Kentuckian, raised an Oklahoman, dipped in Latin America, developed professionally as a Texan, rediscovered my teaching genius as an X-pat in the Middle East, and expanded my virtual senses as an EdTech student.  So who am I?  With whom can I identify most? 

This introduction may not make an immediate connection to the task I have been given: “reflect on the findings (a report from the U.S. Department of Education, researching online instruction) and how they might inform your own teaching practice.”  When I thought about the idea of my “teaching practice”, I considered the analogy of my introduction.  Even though each place that I have been has either limited me or broadened me in some way, each of them have made an impression on who I am.  The same goes for my “teaching practice”, which has primarily been influenced more by the possibilities within my environment rather than my particular philosophy. 

The report from the U.S. Department of Education, concerning online and blended learning provides some interesting data.  I see, quite possibly, that within my future as an educator, that I will be making recommendations about educational programs or curriculum with technology integration.  In these circumstances, this data can support investments in technological enhancements within the educational process.  I work in K-12 education and there is not a lot of direct support in these findings that are related to this field.  However, the general results show that there is academic benefit to combining instruction of traditional face-to-face settings with an online element.  Administrators will likely be interested in this not only for the academic results but also for the fiscal advantage of delivering course content online.  Nonetheless, these are administrative issues, not directly related to my “teaching practice”. 

Currently, I have the opportunity to explore some blended learning methods with my students, whom attend my traditional style class.  The flexible school policy and the relative wealthy lifestyles of my students, provide them with the Internet resources for them to be able to complete assignments online (Ironically, these same factors reduce the overall level of importance on academic gains).  Additionally, Limited broadband infrastructure limits the use of multimedia tools.  Taking into account these matters, the referenced report has very little impact on my teaching practice because I have already bought into the idea of using online technology tools and I associate it with the way of the future of education. 

I know from talking to many of my EdTech colleagues, they are forced to work with virtual restrictions. Regardless of their philosophy of online education or their reflections on the report, their “teaching practice” is bound by organizational or legal restrictions. I see many of these situations as inhibitors to the educational process.  However, I see the possibility of entering this same scenario, as I am in the process of moving back to the USA and teaching there.  I too, will have to bend my “teaching practice” to the environment of my work place, the expectations of an administration, and the descriptions of my job.  By the time I figure out what these are, I won’t be thinking about this report from the U.S. Department of Education.

EdTech 505 Week 5: Evaluation in Program and Planning Cycles

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ADDIE Model

ADDIE

I remember learning about ADDIE in the EdTech 503, Instructional Design, and the evaluation component was easily understood within the whole ADDIE cycle.  As an educator, my mind is already trained to see evaluation as a component of instruction.  Now that I’m taking EdTech 505, Evaluation, that component has become harder to grasp.  I feel like I have been trying to cut out the piece of the pie called “Evaluate” to see if it tastes different from the rest of the pie.  In other words, even though the pie does have separate pieces, it is all made from the same ingredients; one piece cannot be completely independent from the others.

The ABCs of Evaluation, p.51

Evaluation: Program Cycle

This model does not stray much from the ADDIE model, but you can make the distinction with the purpose of the model.  ADDIE relates more specifically to instructional design, whereas the Program cycle on the right can relate to instruction or any active part of a system or organization, whether it relates to instruction or not.  This model does account for both formative evaluation and summative evaluation, which the ADDIE models does not distinguish.  Also, this model suggest that implementation strategies can change according to the formative evaluation during one rotation of the cycle.

The Planning-Evaluation Cycle

The Planning-Evaluation Cycle

This model does not fit as easily into an educational or instructional situation.  Even though the components of ADDIE and the Program Cycle appear in this model, it is distributed quite differently from the other two models.  For example, this cycle includes analysis and design as part of the evaluation phase.  Nor, does this model clearly distinguish between formative and summative evaluation, it almost suggest that the whole evaluation process is formative.  It appears that this model would be good to analyze some function or feature of an established system, and based on the results in the evaluation phase, the ADDIE model could be applied as an instructional model within the planning phase, which would address the needs that were discovered during the evaluation phases.

References:

EDTECH 504: Emerging Theories Reflection

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How do you view education, and what is at stake for manifesting that view in the “Three”?  For students, if their view is not clouded by negative experiences or environmental influences, they generally view education as means to an end, or a way to improve their level of knowledge and abilities.  In this case, students accept the personal investment of time and money to help them achieve their goal.  Teachers, who truly desire to teach, view education as a way of making information and learning experiences relevant to their students.  Their manifestation is in the time spent to organize content for their students, and in many places if the institutional goals are not met in the performance of the students, they risk their livelihood.  Administrators tend to view education as a system for transferring or building knowledge in a mass collection of students.  They manifest this by building curriculum around learning theories and they risk public scrutiny or job loss if their direction does not produce desired results.  Even in traditional educational environments, these three have struggled to maintain a harmony among their views and manifestations because of the many variables.  Now, considering the impact of how technology is changing the playing field, these three have even a greater struggle to find harmony.

As a result of advances in technology, many emerging educational theories are attempting to point out the effects of shifts in sociological and psychological factors in the process of education.  These shifts are especially present in online or virtual environments.  The Transactional Distance Theory attempts to account for the gap in clarity or understanding that can exists between students and teachers in a virtual environment, especially referring to learner independence and teacher engagement as key factors for narrowing or bridging that gap (Gokool-Ramdoo, 2008).  Another theory, Connectivism, portrays the vast amounts of interconnected knowledge as a sort of chaos that can be accessed and harnessed by individual learners in real time to not only achieve a task, but also analyze information for current relevance, because knowledge and information are constantly changing (Siemens, 2005).  The changing medium for delivering and interacting in educational environments has also brought considerable attention to the epistemological and methodological understandings.  To further explore this, the terminology, technological pedagogy of content knowledge (TPCK), was developed to account for effective and non-effective ways for implementing a systematic online approach to education.  TPCK has identified several flaws simply due to environmental shifts, and the protocols that exists in the old environment, do not necessarily work effectively in the new one (Angeli and Valanides, 2009).

So as I consider the Three along with all this information for learning theory, I must reflect on what this means to education.  First, I will start with my current primary role, teacher, which definitely has a changed from a deliverer of content to more of a facilitator of activities designed to produce challenges for the students, which produce understanding and skills, which can be applied to lifelong learning.  I have a secondary role, student, in the Master’s of Educational Technology program, which from the beginning has been adapting my understanding of how I can problem solve with technology tools in order to achieve my learning tasks.  Though my students are not as far along in the education continuum, and therefore need certain content delivered to them, I still have a need and desire to introduce them to challenges where they engage with technology tools, for I understand this will mark so much of their future education. Finally, administrator is a role I have not had, and based on experience is one that I desire very little.  However, I have come away with a greater appreciation for the decision making process that they undertake, because the decisions are tied into big budgets that they have to give an account for not only in purchases, but also in results of students’ performances in system wide implementations.

References:

Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2008). Beyond the theoretical impasse: Extending the applications of transactional distance education theory. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/541

Siemens, G. (2005, April 5). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved October 25, 2012, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2009). Epistemological and methodological issues for the conceptualization, development, and assessment of ICT–TPCK: Advances in technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Computers & Education, 52(1), 154–168. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.07.006

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