EdTech 512: Problem Analysis

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This is a problem analysis for developing an online course for a dual language program for 4th grade students.  The following points are response activities from the course textbook, “Web-Based Learning: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation” (Davidson-Shivers & Rasmussen, 2006).

  • What problems are you trying to address?  What are the symptoms of the problem? What is the root cause of the problem?  Is instruction an appropriate solution for the problem?  Is WBI an appropriate instructional solution?

Based on information that I have gathered in interviews the district has upgraded their philosophy on technology integration and 21st century skills.  Many teachers in the district are lacking in preparation and therefore the students are not being prepared. One problem this course is addressing is developing these skills in the students while preparing them for state standardized testing.  By developing one course for online delivery, we can address the root cause by allowing teachers to view successful integration strategies with the students.  The instruction is appropriate because it is preparing students for state writing tests with personal narrative and expository writings skills and WBI is appropriate because it is developing 21st century skills in the students.

  • Instructional Goal

By the end of this course students will be able to plan and organize their ideas in written form to produce personal narrative and expository compositions according to grade level standards.  Through the use of iPads and web-based tools, students will create and organize their ideas while developing 21st century skills.

  • Contextual Analysis

  1. Organizational Infrastructure
    1. Resources: iPad carts available at grade level, teacher issued iPads, wifi ready campus, and IT support services
    2. Management functions: report activities and lessons to program coordinator and principal.
    3. Organizational Culture: Instructional Level-team teaching with English instructor for the dual language program, Grade Level-form part of the Grade 4 teachers who share the use of the iPads, Campus Level-working with other dual-language instructors and other grade level teachers, District Level-access to teachers from other campuses that teach the same subject matter and the same program.
    4. Ownership of WBI materials: File storage belongs to the teacher, course materials belong to the school
  2. Allocation and Competencies of personnel
    1. Instructor: Dann Mosteller has significant knowledge in technical aspects and content knowledge, and he has considerable knowledge of instructional design.
    2. Teaching Partner: extensive knowledge in instructional aspects and partial knowledge of technology integration
    3. Technical Support: IT staff department and on campus support.
    4. Administrative support: Campus administrators provide significant support for the course content and resource access.  District administration has made a firm commitment to technology integration and development across the district.
  3. Learner location and technology
    1. Location: Learners are all local (blended learning environment)
    2. Urban setting, White Settlement is a urban suburb of Fort Worth, TX.
    3. Technology Infrastructure: Filtered content with certain limitations, yet a strong network capacity for wireless learning environments.
    4. IPad carts are available across the grade level on the campus.  Preset apps are already on the IPads but requests can be made to IT for adding more apps.
  • Learner Analysis

  1. General characteristics
    1. Mixed Gender
    2. Mixed ethnicity of mostly Hispanic and non-Hispanic students
    3. Generally age 9
    4. On grade level in reading and mostly on grade level in math
    5. Previously tested on state tests in reading and math
  2. Motivations
    1. General interests in a variety of activities
    2. General curiostiy
    3. Students are proficient to semi-proficient in 2 languages, English and Spanish
    4. Students have achieved successful academic levels in previous years.
  3. Prior Knowledge, Communication Skills, and Technical Skills
    1. General writing instruction, but prior to this school year, students have not been tested in this area.
    2. Keyboarding skills are limited due to previous limited access to these computers.  IPad is perhaps not the best tool to start students for developing keyboarding skills, but this is an X-factor.
    3. Limited knowledge of digital files.
    4. Limited exposure to email and threaded conversations
    5. Moderate skills with Internet, apps, and search engines
  4. Abilities and Disabilities
    1. There are group wide indications of impairments of disabilities, however it is reasonable to assume that in the population of students there will be isolated cases of specific impairments and disabilities.
  5. Other Learner Characteristics
    1. Because the groups are integrated across ethnicity, some students are not accustomed to cultural tendencies from home.  These cultural tendencies appear among student interactions of similar cultural background, however, other students may find these cultural tendencies strange.
  • Texas State Writing Standards for Grade 4

Reporting Category 1: Composition

The student will demonstrate an ability to compose a variety of written texts with a clear, central idea; coherent organization; sufficient development; and effective use of language and conventions.

(15) Writing/Writing Process. Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students are expected to

(B)  develop drafts by categorizing ideas and organizing them into paragraphs; Readiness Standard

(C)  revise drafts for coherence, organization, use of simple and compound sentences, and audience; Readiness Standard

(D)  edit drafts for grammar, mechanics, and spelling [using a teacher-developed rubric]. Readiness Standard

(17) Writing. Students write about their own experiences. Students are expected to

(A) write about important personal experiences.

Reporting Category 2: Revision

The student will demonstrate an ability to revise a variety of written texts.

(15) Writing/Writing Process. Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students are expected to

(C) revise drafts for coherence, organization, use of simple and compound sentences, and audience. Readiness Standard

(18) Writing/Expository [and Procedural] Texts. Students write expository [and procedural or work-related] texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to

(A) create brief compositions that

  • establish a central idea in a topic sentence;
  • Supporting Standard
  • include supporting sentences with simple facts, details, and explanations; Supporting Standard
  • contain a concluding statement. Supporting Standard

§126.7. Technology Applications, Grades 3-5, Beginning with School Year 2012-2013.

(b) Knowledge and skills.

(1) Creativity and innovation. The student uses creative thinking and innovative processes to construct knowledge and develop digital products. The student is expected to:

(A) create original products using a variety of resources;
(C) use virtual environments to explore systems and issues.

(2) Communication and collaboration. The student collaborates and communicates both locally and globally using digital tools and resources to reinforce and promote learning. The student is expected to:

(A) draft, edit, and publish products in different media individually and collaboratively;
(C) collaborate effectively through personal learning communities and social environments;
(E) evaluate the product for relevance to the assignment or task; and
(F) perform basic software application functions, including opening applications and creating, modifying, printing, and saving files.

(5) Digital citizenship. The student practices safe, responsible, legal, and ethical behavior while using digital tools and resources. The student is expected to:

(A) adhere to acceptable use policies reflecting positive social behavior in the digital environment;
(D) protect and honor the individual privacy of oneself and others;

(E) follow the rules of digital etiquette;

(F) practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology;

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EdTech 523 Final Reflection: Synchronous Lesson Delivery

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It’s reflection time, looking back on the whole course.  However, this reflection is really just considering the last couple of weeks, which include the activities of Module 6.  Nonetheless, since this is my last reflection of this course I believe it is worthwhile to briefly comment on the whole enchilada.  The activities of this course included great collaboration pieces that gave mutual support among my course peers. We were able to share insights and observations which enriched all of the learning process.  The course objective continued to wet my appetite for online education.  Additionally, the contact with the professor helped me imagine the real world experience of teaching online.

Module 6 was primarily focused on synchronous learning activities.  The reading materials provided me with a review of best practices as well as a fresh look at synchronous teaching strategies.  The synchronous lesson assignment required my partner and me to select one of these strategies for our lesson.

The student list allowed me to choose a partner on the basis on content specialty.  I sought out Heather as a partner because we were really the only two that work with language based instruction in both English and Spanish.  She agreed.  We initially met to discuss our ideas.  We came to a consensus to develop a lesson for a Spanish course by using the cracker barrel strategy.  Essentially, this meant that our lesson would utilize breakout rooms where we would create a role play environment in the each room.  In one room, I was the waiter in a restaurant, and in another room, Heather was taking orders at Starbucks; of course, all of this was in Spanish.

After we planned the basic idea of our lesson, we met at least twice to practice, and each time we were making revisions to the lesson.  Our biggest revision was offering learning assistance to our classmates, who, we assumed, knew very little Spanish.  We created a script that they could follow, so they knew what was expected of them in a response.  They also had the choice to choose from the menu items, which was on the main whiteboard screen.

So we had our lesson developed and we were looking forward to delivery.  It was our turn under the big lights, then I had a misfortune; my microphone cut out completely.  It wasn’t easy to resolve, but fortunately our practice sessions did help me troubleshoot part of the problem.  Eventually, I was back on and I was able to show up and take the order in the Mexican restaurant breakout room.  Later, we were able to reflect on that experience, and we discovered that team teaching offers a tremendous advantage in these cases.

I was able to participate in all the lessons that were presented that night.  Due to the time difference, I had to wake up at 3:45 am in order to join with everyone.  However, it was worth it because I saw some great ideas and it was followed with great discussion about online learning and the course objectives.

Reflection Questions

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

As a language based teacher, I realize that there are objectives that encompass every form of communication.  Writing and reading objectives are more appropriate for asynchronous delivery.  These assessment strategies come in the form explaining objectives, setting the standards in a scale or rubric, presenting comprehension questions, or perhaps even needing to show teacher examples.  However,  listening and speaking assessments can benefit greatly from synchronous delivery, and in many ways this approach is essential for this type of assessment.  The form of assessment varies from objective based to diagnostic based.  Students can be given specific objectives, but many of these assessment will measure the natural speaking level of the student.  A teacher can use a checklist or rubric while listening to a discourse online.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

The speaking and listening assessments will greatly differ from a traditional classroom.  A controlled environment is the primary reason this assessment differs online, and I believe that an online environment has many advantages over a traditional classroom environment.  The teacher can decide in an online environment if the communication is one-on-one, small group, or whole group.  Most traditional classrooms don’t offer this.  This is a huge advantage for the student, who might be intimidated to speak in front of others.  Also, in listening activities, the online environment prevents students from gauging their peers’ responses to an inquiry about comprehension.  This will generally produce truer results.

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.

Communication Plan for Online Teaching

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ONLINE LANGUAGE COURSE

This communication plan is considering the communication role of the teacher and the student.  It encompasses considerations for the administration, content delivery, peer to peer communication, and assigned work done during an online language course.  It is divided into four parts.

PART 1: ROUTINE ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

Every Work Day

  • Check General Questions or Technical Problems Forum
  • Reply to direct contact inquiries
  • Post any relevant updates in the News Forum
  • Set up  or solicit a communication appointment with 1-2 students

2-3 Days Into a Module

  • Check for activity on discussion forums and provide feedback
  • Scan LMS for activity or monitor the flow of multiple step activity
  • Dedicate time to grading or offering feedback from previous module
  • Finish grading most activities from previous module
  • Display and comment on poll results if a poll given the first day of the module

2-3 Days Before Module Ends

  • Scan LMS for lack of activity and contact students or parents as necessary
  • Check discussion forum and monitor student feedback
  • Be available for an informal synchronous discussion (offer different times on different days)
  • Prepare supplemental resources for the next module

PART 2: DISCUSSION FORUM STRATEGIES

At the Beginning of the Course

  1. At this point, you should present your prepared orientation of the course, which includes: a teacher introduction, a tour of the course webpage, rules of netiquette, warning about password safety and other security issues, and completing an icebreaker activity with a teacher example.  Also review the  Orientation Guide for Preparing New Online Learners.
  2. For the first activities, ask the students to update their course profile with a short biography.
  3. Also, ask them to complete a poll or brief survey about previous experience in online courses.  If possible, allow the students to see the ongoing statistical results of the poll or survey, so they can compare themselves with the overall level of their peers. 
  4. Lastly, whether it is an icebreaker activity or an assigned post, require the students to upload (with their post) an image within the LMS.  This will help them gain confidence with the technical aspect and the user friendliness of the LMS.  The Caption Contest is just one example of an icebreaker that will allow students to accomplish this goal.

Throughout the Course

  1. For each module, the students will be provided instructions for posting in a discussion, as well as a minimum requirement for responses to other students. 
  2. Each module will provide a prompt that sets the standard for content.  In the “Discussion Forum Assessment” (below)guidelines are provided for the quality of peer responses.  Equal consideration will be given to the use of language and the unique expression, or creativity, of each post. For more information, review the following section.

PART 3: DISCUSSION FORUM ASSESSMENT

Each discussion is worth 35 points.  The grading scales below will indicate how the total point values will be calculated for each discussion.  Review the tips for each scale.  These will indicate the best strategy to maximize your discussion forum grade.

Content Scale: 1-15

Tip: Read the discussion prompt thoroughly.  Make sure you have addressed all of the content requested in the prompt.  Some prompts will have more than one question.  Also, reread any written posts to make sure your ideas are clear for the reader.  Use appropriate structure of sentences and paragraphs as necessary. If the response to the content is unclear, this will affect your overall grade.

Peer Response Scale: 1-10

Tip: When responding to peers, make sure that at least two responses are thoughtful and complete.  For example, a thoughtful response goes beyond the “Good job” or “I like it” and reflects on what the other student has written. Here are some general examples: Your response can connect your own personal experiences to what your peer has written, it can question your peer to seek clarification or ask about his or her sources or opinion, or it could offer constructive criticism about their argument or opinion.  Be cautious with constructive criticism, since the person, who wrote the post, has feelings.  In order to avoid a war of words, be gentle and/or gracious with your criticisms.

Language Use Scale: 1-5

Tip: Make sure that you are checking for general correctness in spelling, vocabulary, capitalization, and punctuation. Also, because this is a language course, text language should be used lightly (not more than 2-3 occurrences in a post).  In other words, make sure your words are complete.  Smiley-cons are acceptable when appropriate.

Creativity Scale: 1-5

Tip: Each person is unique in their own expression, however to tip the creativity scale in your favor you can consider the following.  Look for opportunities to write creative introductions to your posts.  Consider inserting an image, drawing, or video that supports your content.  Add a link to text when you are referencing something that is not directly related to the material or it is not considered general knowledge.

Note: Inappropriate posts or responses may be removed and will affect your grade.  Depending on the severity of the inappropriateness, further action may be taken against the student as indicated in the Code of Conduct.  If your profile security has been violated or breached, communicate this to your professor as quickly as possible, and try to remedy the situation if you can (for example: changing the password, making sure you log out from public computers, etc.).


PART 4:  MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND STRATEGIES (CONTINGENCY PLAN)

When working with a group of students online, there are possible issues that will arise, requiring the teacher to respond with communication strategies.  Consider the following communication needs to confront the related issues.

Individual Communication

  1. As noted in the section “Part 1: Routine Administrative Tasks”, an online teacher will be watching for inactivity in individual students and make contact with those students or parents a priority. 
  2. Other issues that might require a teacher to make individual contact, is when a student shows any dominant characteristics in general, by trying to control discussions or responses, or perhaps he or she may exhibit dominant characteristics in group activities.  Although this may be difficult to perceive online, if there are any repeated actions by one student that may be deemed as unhealthy for group communication, it should first be dealt with by communicating privately with that student. 
  3. If offenses have occurred between 2 students and it has escalated to a heated exchange, it may be necessary to meet with those students privately during a small group chat.

Whole Group Communication

  1. There are instances when a teacher notices undesirable activity in public places and perhaps it needs to be addressed with the whole group. 
    1. If a heated exchange between 2 or more students escalates to an inappropriate level, the teacher may need to consider censoring communication and addressing the whole group about the problem. 
    2. A similar type of teacher intervention may be necessary when a discussion gets off track and the main topic is no longer being discussed.  In this case, consider posting a reminder on the thread or in a general forum area, which reminds students of the topic or redirects them, and if necessary, a thread can be frozen or removed if the discussion is creating a strong diversion. 
  2. Other situations that may call for whole group communication is when a teacher perceives that there is either a lack of whole group activity or a common misconception among many responses. 
    1. In the case of misconceptions, the teacher can address this with more clarity about the instructions, or create an alternative presentation that describes the common misconception, or a presentation that either offers more guidance for the students or even shows a teacher example. 
    2. In the case of whole group inactivity, the teacher can reach out to the whole group through various forms of communication and solicit feedback and try to determine if there is a problem with the material or tasks. 
    3. However, what might work best is gathering information from regular contact with the students and use it to form a poll or survey that can be distributed to the whole group.  By soliciting the students in this way, it is less intimidating for them to voice their opinion or concerns, which are related to the course.

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: Collaboration Web-Based Style

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This is a unique position; I’m looking at education from the simultaneous perspective of a teacher and a student.  There are many advantages to this dual perspective; one in particular is that, as a teacher, I can imagine the challenge of a student trying to balance the many tasks that he or she has.  When it comes to collaboration in education, I believe that the teacher’s perspective is quite different from that of the student.  Teachers are often quite considerate of the variables that can affect collaboration negatively, so they carefully plan the tasks to avoid the pitfalls as much as possible.  During this process the teachers become invested in the expected outcomes and, if like me, begin to form fairytale images of how it all plays out.  However, many students groan at the though of collaboration, but after the student becomes invested (usually motivated by a grade), they get to encounter all of the unforeseen problems that even the teacher did not anticipate.  So, what to do now?  As a teacher, I try to offer support, but as a student, I try to solve the problem.  The maturity level of the student also plays a big part.

Fortunately, as an EdTech student, I have worked collaboratively with some very mature and capable students. These experiences have all been online and it served my professional skills to participate in these collaborative tasks.  As a K-12 teacher, many of my collaboration fairy tales have not come true, yet, it has been the challenges that help me to plan and facilitate more effectively.

  • Do you see value in Web-based collaborative tools?

I have experienced first hand the value of collaborative tools both as a teacher and a student.  My “student” benefit is more obvious.  If it weren’t for the web-based collaboration tools, I would not be able to study this program and collaborate with my peers, while living in Saudi Arabia.  As a teacher, I have also been able to use web based tools, even though I teach in a traditional classroom setting.  Web based tools have helped me communicate better with my students by creating an online network, sending detailed instructions, and recording information multimedia.  Additionally, some of these tools have helped me track accountability, especially in the collaboration tasks.

  • What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

As a teacher, the pitfall has been the digital inequality of my students.  Even though all of my students have access to most of the latest technology, not all of them are accustomed to using it in the way that I require, or they just don’t know how to navigate through web-based tools.  Many of the issues have been related to maturity level.  Students don’t remember their password, or they prefer to be spoon-fed the instructions rather than trying to be problem solvers.  Also, when students have the opportunity to be sneaky, they always seem to find the capacity.  Some web-based tools are not set with accountability measures so it is hard to track fraudulent identities or other undesirable activities.

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