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.

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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 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 523: Best Practices For Online Teaching

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“Where do I begin?” is the most difficult challenge when I am given the instruction, “Develop a list of principles for effective online instruction”. This medium for instruction is definitely making waves in the field of education.  However, the scope of education is so broad (extending across stages of mental and physical development, social class, subject areas, and to a certain extent psychological and psychosocial environments) that it is quite challenging to pinpoint principles of effective online instruction that is all encompassing.  Nonetheless, I am going to attempt to discuss these principles in general terms, without targeting a specific educational demographic mentioned in parenthesis.

  • Form an online community

A sense of community gives education context by which we form meaning and purpose.  Many educational theories include a social element as part of their basis; in theory terms it is referred to as community of practice and community of learners (Jonassen & Land, 2012).   As education moves more into online environments these practices of community may look different from the traditional form of education, yet they are necessary to establish. The community edifies the learner through his or her participation.  Even as I write this, I am motivated by the fact that someone in my learning community will read it.

One popular idea related to community in online learning is “social presence” (Palloff & Pratt, 2006). Earlier attempts at distance education and online learning were not as successful due to the isolation of the learner from the source of instruction.  Even now, many still believe that online learning is inferior to traditional classrooms because of this same perception.  However, advancement in web tools are creating more opportunities for social presence online, and in some ways create more enriching learning communities than the traditional counterpart.

  • Establish a regulated learning environment

One key concept related to a regulated learning environment is netiquette (Rice, 2011).  In order for the learners of an online community to feel safe and valued, guidelines need to be set for acceptable and unacceptable behavior online.

  • Be aware of digital inequality and learning disabilities

I have included the gap in digital inequality as a reminder to myself because sometimes its easy to overlook that some students have not obtained certain skills with computers and online tools.  Many online educators are developing software, hardware, and online instructional techniques as part of a plan called universal design, which considers the needs of all learners without sacrificing the content (Hall, Strangman, & Meyer).

  • Engage the virtual senses

Information is not only transmitted in text.  Tap into the visual and auditory techniques for sharing information. This is a reminder to use the vast amount of multimedia resources available online.  In many ways technology tools provide for a more enriching learning experiences than the traditional classroom because it gives the learner more direct and individual contact to multimedia sources.  Besides textual information, video recordings, audio recordings, and screencasts can provide the teacher with great tools for communicating information to a student.

  • Chunk educational scaffolding in time segments

Deadline related tasks encourage students to participate regularly with the course and the instructor (Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, & Duffy, 2001).  Tasks should be presented with scaffolding techniques so that the learners can build a foundation in which knowledge and understanding of a specific concept can grow (Patnoudes, 2012)

  • Provide collaboration with measurable objectives

Students can collaborate by providing opportunities for open discussion with a topic or by having students work together to accomplish a task (Carwile, 2007). The online educational environments provide many opportunities for the constructivist approach to learning.

Questions and Response:

What does good online instruction look like?

It returns the “awe” to learning.  Online instruction is a breath of fresh air for many learners and teachers who have watched traditional forms of education stagnate in old practices, or turn their back on modern social practices. It is hard to speak of good online instruction in a specific sense because the opportunities are so numerous.  So generally speaking, good online instruction is open to the possibilities.  Since I have chosen this road, I have developed my own personal motto for any problem that arises in the epistemological practices of education; if technology does not have the solution, it will soon. 

Does it look the same for all grade levels and content areas?

As I mentioned in my introduction, the scope of education is very wide.  The list of best practices is intended to be general enough that it can apply to all levels of education.  However, the teacher will certainly have to accommodate specific strategies to meet the cognitive and maturity levels of his or her students.

Will effective face-to-face teachers be effective online teachers?

Yes and no.  Good teaching is a versatile skill that can transfer easily from traditional learning environments to non-traditional online environments.  However, each teacher is an individual, harnessing skills, experiences, and special talents into his or her instruction.  Therefore, not everyone is going to be equally as effective in one environment as the other.

References:

Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed.). Routledge. pages 38-50

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass. page 30

Rice, K. (2011). Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research-Based Strategies and Practices (1st ed.). Allyn & Bacon. page 79

Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Lim, B.-R., Craner, J., & Duffy, T. (2001, April). The Technology Source Archives – Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://technologysource.org/article/seven_principles_of_effective_teaching/

Patnoudes, E. (2012, September). How To Integrate Education Technology With Scaffolding | Edudemic. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://edudemic.com/2012/09/scaffolding-education-technology/

Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2011, January). Differentiated Instruction with UDL | National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/differentiated_instruction_udl

Carwile, J. (2007). A Constructivist Approach to Online Teaching and Learning. Education. Retrieved February 25, 2013, from http://www.vccaedu.org/inquiry/inquiry-spring-2007/i-12-Carwile.html

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.

EdTech 505 Week 3: Why Evaluate

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This was more like a case study.  I responded to the questions below about a partnership between a university and a software company.

  • What are the benefits and limitations of an evaluation?

In this scenario there are two entities that can benefit from the evaluation, but there are possible limitations too.  The Maricopa Community College District (MCCD) is wanting to enrich the learning experiences for the students.  The evaluation  provides them with options to measure student engagement or the effectiveness of content delivery; either provide credibility to their institution.  As stated in the case,  Cashflow Technologies, Inc. can also benefit from an evaluation of the use of their products in education, which can be added in their markenting ploy to expand the sales of their product.  However, since this is a new partnership, it means that there will be learning curves for implementing the new resources, and of course, there is the possibility that the resources are not as effective as they hoped.  The evaluation budget seems limited to sustain a long-term evaluation of the programs effectiveness for trainging future course instructors.
• What factors ensure that an evaluation will be successful?

Nonetheless, many measures are taken to ensure the success of the evaluation.  First of all, the evaluators are external and they have been provided with a budget.  They also have been given access to the sales information of the product and student performance data from MCCD.   The team is also encouraged to make individual and group contact with the students and instructors.
• How might one use evaluation results?
The evaluators must report their findings.  Even though it does not specify who the evaluators will report to, the most obvious stakeholders from the MCCD would be the head of department for economics and finance  or even the dean of students.  They could use the result to increase popularity and demand of the delivery system.  From Cashflow Technologies, the CEO or division manager, and the sales director would benefit from the positive results of the evaluation because it helps them to promote the product.  Through the evalution process, some of the flaws with the resources can be detected, and the quality control team could benefit from the results so he can manage an improvement plan on the product.

 

EdTech 523: Module 1 Wiki Reflection

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Link to Virtual Icebreaker page

Summary of Module Activity

In this module we were asked to collaborate online with course-mates in order to produce a wiki that documents icebreaker activities.  Ironically, this activity served as a bit of an icebreaker for us because we are still in the early phase of the course and we are getting to know each other.  Our initial communication was using the Moodle forum. 

The professor was intentionally loose on the structure and assignment details, so it would encourage us to organize ourselves into a concerted effort to meet the goal that the professor put for us.  There are two student sections in this same course, so all the communication for my section began to gravitate toward one post.  The participants were able to guide themselves independently to the right meeting place. 

Once we identified the appropriate section, we needed to separate according to our professional area of instruction, which the professor had already accounted for when she created the wiki.  There was a page for adult education and K-12 education. 

A group of K-12 educators began to make a plan to meet in a conference call.  Initially there were five of us that met using a Google+ Hangout.  This was a good way to meet despite my substandard Internet connection.  Even though I started the hangout and I was disconnected a few times, I was easily able to rejoin the meeting.  During that meeting we decided to break down the K-12 education to a further division between elementary and secondary education, and we would all plan our own virtual icebreaker activity. 

Lastly, we agreed to do a follow up meeting to discuss the final details.  There were a total of 7 of us in the meeting.  In both meetings we had a few technical difficulties, but we were all very patient as we worked through them.  In that last meeting, we changed a few details of the standard layout, but we mostly discussed to make sure we weren’t missing any important information that would help make the page better. 

The wiki is housed in a Google Sites website.  I was already quite familiar with the layout and features of Google Sites, but this was the first time that I worked in a wiki type of format.  Many of the participants had not worked in a wiki before.  We were encouraging each other and helping the best we could, but fortunately, Google Sites is very user friendly, so there weren’t too many snags.

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