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 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.

A Theory X-Ray: What’s Inside Me

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Photo by Anne @ indulgy.com

Photo by Anne @ indulgy.com

What has a semester of theory crunching done for me as a teacher?  This semester has already produced some profound reflections throughout the 16 weeks, so I guess it is appropriate that I am provoked to ponder yet another profound question as sort of a finale.   When I think of all I do as a teacher, one of the top thoughts is “how I plan my lessons so that it is relevant to my students”.  When I am putting together the logic and the structure of my lesson, generally, I am not thinking about educational theory.  However, when I think of the “why” of my lesson, it usually fits nicely into one theory or another.  Since I have made it a goal to integrate technology into my teaching, I am witnessing the exploration of a new frontier in epistemology, which has great potential for reshaping our teaching and learning practices.

The Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) is the theory that I spent the most time exploring during this semester.  It resonated with me on many levels, but primarily I grew attached to the concept of humans interacting in society with their tools.  A typical coffee shop conversation will generally render two sides of an opinion about the role of technology in society or in education.  There’s the “technology is changing the way things were” view versus the “technology is creating new opportunities” view.  Ironically, this argument has been around for a long time, nonetheless the world keeps changing; but I must ask, where are all the nay-sayers that protested society’s embrace of the telephone nearly 100 years ago (Farber, Shafron, Hemadani, Wald, & Nitzburg, 2012).  Eventually they declined as more of society embraced the use of the technology.  I consider that the current trends in technology adoption will follow the same pattern in many ways, so I believe that many emerging technologies will one day be used as a standard by the majority of society.  I feel my role is to prepare myself as much as possible so I can prepare my students.

The two major branches of education theory is objectivism and constructivism (Roblyer & Doering, 2012). Even though individual theories attempt to give an account for methodology, they usually rely on the core concept that knowledge is transmitted (objectivism) or knowledge is constructed (constructivism).  Even though I lean more toward the constructive side, as I work with middle aged teens, I realize that there are many gaps in their overall ability, and therefore they are not able to build their own knowledge with missing parts of the foundation.  So, like many educators, I believe that both of these branches must exists to a certain extent.  Even with technology integration, students must be taught the correct way to interact with the technology tools before they can actually use them to construct their own knowledge.

This concept of using technology tools as a basis for social activity still has much ground to cover, but there is significant evidence in society of how it is changing the way we interact (Shum & Ferguson, 2012).  I had the opportunity to explore Connectivism as an emerging theory, which gives an account for our ability to interact in the world using technology tools (Siemens,  2005).  Also, while collaborating with my classmate, Aaron Dore, I learned a significant amount about TPACK, and how we as teachers should be versed in content knowledge, pedagogy knowledge, and technology knowledge.  All of this exposure to theories has helped reaffirm my dedication to educational technology, not only for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of my students.  Unfortunately, change in education takes time, so in the meantime, these theories reinforce confidence in me that I can share with administrators, colleagues, and parents, even when nay-sayers are nearby.

References

  • Farber, B. A., Shafron, G., Hemadani, J., Wald, E., & Nitzburg, G. (2012). Children, technology, problems, and preferences. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68. doi:10.1002/jclp.21922
  • Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Chapter 15: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 3–26.
  • 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

Can Technology Change How You Teach Content Areas?

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When it comes to road-trip planning, I must admit that I am a little old fashion.  I have not yet adopted the use of GPS, so before I take off, I have to consult a map to look for the best route.  It doesn’t matter how much I pre-plan a trip, there is usually something unexpected that comes up in the journey.  What’s worse, is traveling on a known route, just because I always have gone that way.  Even though they have added many traffic lights and it is much more congested than before, I don’t bother considering other options.  Just because we have always traveled down the same road, doesn’t mean that it is the best route to take.  This analogy is intended to advocate the use of technology to accomplish certain goals in education; the process of learning is the trip and the route is the method.

The primary purpose of this assignment is to consider how technology integration can benefit content area instruction.  Since the topic is rather broad, I have decided to narrow the focus on access that technology provides between the teacher and student.  The term social presences refers to the amount of individual attention a teacher can give a student during a lesson cycle (Kemp, 2012).  Considering the traditional approach to education, a teacher has a set period of time per day that a group of students is present.  This is one reason class size has always been an important topic in education.  As budgets are tightening, school administrations are encouraging newer approaches for educating their students, because rather than reducing class sizes, likely they will increase if the traditional approach continues (Education Week, 2012). However, through web 2.0 tools, students and teachers can communicate directly with each other in written and spoken form.

Sometimes, regardless of the content area instruction, a teacher needs to have individual contact with students, whether is be for specialized instruction or assessment. A traditional class with 20-40 students makes that very difficult.  Besides the obvious vigilance that a teacher must give to a whole class at any given time, there are other social issues to consider for the timid learners, who may not feel comfortable voicing doubts or opinions in front of a group of peers.  Although traditional learning environments have benefits of social engagement with students and teacher, there are social distractions too that can cause a learning environment to not be optimal for delivering content.   Therefore, I believe technology offers a solution for giving students better individual access to a teacher’s guidance.  Teacher communication done through web 2.0 tools allows students to access the information when needed and when it is more relevant, plus it can be viewed multiple times. As many administrators are considering online delivery of content courses, learner-centeredness becomes and important approach to helping students set and achieve their learning goals (Rice, 2011).

Going back to the road and map analogy, we can say that there is more than one way to arrive to a destination.  Though curriculum calls for a well designed plan before you start the trip, often the reality is that there are many unforeseen obstacles and perhaps even some detours along the way. In time, I believe that some technology will act as a GPS system for education.  We start the journey in the right direction, then we let the GPS system guide us to the best route.  The more education begins to harness the power of technology to review student performance data and cater instruction to a student, the less dependent it will be on curriculum road mapping.  Secondly, some teachers have been traveling the road of a particular content area for a while and the way that they have always gone, may be the best way for them to deliver that content.  However, as time passed, more options have become available, and there may be more efficient ways to span the distance. The further removed the approach is from the learner, the less they can relate, and the more traffic lights will be added to hinder that route.   

Therefore, I see technology integration as a benefit to educators.  It has the potential to engage all learners, but for some learners, technology offers them other options for engaging, where they might not feel as comfortable in a classroom social setting.  It also has the potential to be more relevant to them, especially when different options are available to them for arriving to the destination.  Lastly, technology integration has the potential of providing real time directions for delivering the content, and the more student centered the content can be,  a more authentic learning experience will take place.

References:

EdTech 504: Reflection of Annotated Bibliography

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This is the first time that I have completed an annotated bibliography.  Even though the reading and research was tedious, I found many interesting investigations in areas of personal and professional significance.  Each annotation seemed to flow through certain areas of experience and goals.  For example, the first half of my listed resources seemed to focus heavily on system wide technology integration in ways that I have not yet experienced.  Nonetheless, I have increased my professional knowledge base and have already implemented many strategies in technology integration, which is helping prepare me for the next stage of my career.  Of particular interest is a study done on mobile learning environments and the effective use of mobile learning tools (McAndrew, Taylor, and Clow, 2010).  Also, I am very interested to see how education will incorporate the use of virtual worlds, and there are two resources that take an early look at educational investigations and practices within the virtual world called Second Life (Minocha, Quang Tran, and Reeves, 2010) (Jamaludin and Elavarasen, 2011) .

The second half of my annotated bibliography focuses on observations that I have made in my content area and other educational domains  throughout my professional teaching career.  Whether the article addressed technology integration or not, I made a point to reflect on the significance of the findings as they relate to trends in educational technology and social and communication patterns among the modern student.   Since my content area is language development through literacy, writing, and oral exchanges, I found some resources that specifically addressed this area.  For example, using a literacy app to allow students to manipulate the text and images in ways that traditional literacy study is limited (Allington, 2011).  Also, the changes in technology and its affect on how students and teachers are interacting in society (Shum and Ferguson (2012) is something that we are currently witnessing in all areas of education.  A investigation into process of implementing a change in educational practices (Bourke and McGee, 2012) is also very significant, since many institutions are faced with a need for adaptation of curriculum and teaching strategies.

Additionally, during my teaching stint in the USA, I could not escape the subject of high-stakes testing and its effect on education.  One investigation drew considerable attention to the negative effect it has had on language development and teaching strategies, but in the process they reveal a complex dichotomy that exists between teacher training programs and the real world teaching experience.  (Stillman, Anderson, Fink, and Kurumada, 2011).    Also, during that time, the educational domain that I worked in was bilingual education.  One investigation revealed the benefit of connecting with students in their native language (Razfar, 2012), but it did not apply any  information for virtual learning environments, and the study was conducted in informal learning settings.  It seems at this point, research is somewhat limited with bilingual education in virtual settings.

I really liked the research and information that I found, which is based around the Cultural Historical Activity Theory.  Based on my personal and teaching experiences, the framework of this theory seems to make more sense when analyzing the cognition process, because we are inseparable from our environment and culture, and we learn to interact with the acceptable tools used within that culture.  Yet, technology has caused shifts in society which affect the way we interact and  education is either adapting or resisting those changes.

Annotated Bibliography: Cultural Historical Activity Theory

Reference:

  • McAndrew, P., Taylor, J., & Clow, D. (2010). Facing the Challenge in Evaluating Technology Use in Mobile Environments. Open learning, Vol. 25(No. 3), 233–249.
  • Minocha, S., Quang Tran, M., & Reeves, A. J. (2010). Conducting Empirical Research in Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life. Journal of virtual world research, The Researcher’s Toolbox, 3(1).
  • Jamaludin, R., & Elavarasen, M. D. (2011). Second Life & Education. Centre for instructional technology & multimedia’s bulletin of instructional technology, 7–8.
  • Allington, D. (2011). Learning to Read in the 21st Century. Centre for research in education and educational technology: The Open University. Retrieved from http://www8.open.ac.uk/creet/main/projects
  • Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Journal of educational technology & society, 15(3), 3–26.
  • Bourke, R., & McGee, A. (2012). The Challenge of Change: Using Activity Theory to Understand a Cultural Innovation. Journal of educational change, 13(2), 217–233. doi:10.1007/s10833-011-9179-5
  • Stillman, J., Anderson, L., Fink, L., & Kurumada, K. S. (2011). To Follow, Reject, or Flip the Script: Managing Instructional Tension in an Era of High-Stakes Accountability. Language arts, 89(1), 22–37.
  • Razfar, A. (2012). ¡Vamos a Jugar Counters! Learning Mathematics Through Funds of Knowledge, Play, and the Third Space. Bilingual research journal, 35(1), 53–75. doi:10.1080/15235882.2012.668868

Spreadsheets, Virtual Infinity

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Creative Commons: Jane Park, December 6th, 2010

“Holy database Batman!  We’ll never find all the names of the criminals in this mess.”  Since Batman doesn’t have a gadget on his belt to help him sort all this data, he should send his sidekick, Robin, to do some training with databases and spreadsheets, and then he can really make himself useful with hours and hours of data entry.

Even though Batman and Robin were able to save the world without a database back in the 1960’s, nowadays, the database has become so essential, that large sectors of society could not function without it.  Since the data base is so important to modern civilization, it certainly should have a decent amount of attention given to it in the educational realm. This can be taught in the form of spreadsheets and or databases.  However, as the title indicates, working with spreadsheets has an infinity of possibilities, but applying all the features to a creative mind can be just as taxing as trying to contemplate infinity itself.

Of course, databases are used in everyday technology tools such as electronic grade books, social networks, and cloud based data.  These are databases that have been built by someone else to compute specific outcomes.  Many times, these data bases have their own learning curve, and the features that you learn in these databases seem to rarely transfer to other databases.  Nonetheless, education should look for ways to integrate a standard education for spreadsheets and databases.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges in integrating the use of databases in general education relates to the lack of understanding and practice with the software tools.  Teachers in specialized fields of education such as business, economics, and mathematics, may spend an adequate amount of time using the software, but even though I consider myself tech savvy, I don’t spend enough time with spreadsheet software to be able to function efficiently.  My content area is English, so there are other software programs such as word processors and presentations that are used more because it allows for more language development.  Besides, they are generally easier to use for the teacher and the student.  Google Spreadsheets and Excel are considerably abstract applications, and they require a strong technology infrastructure to support mass education.   In addition, especially in my case, it is hard to justify a large amount of time in developing skills related to spreadsheet skills.

Spreadsheets are best used when there is a specific purpose to accomplish.  Teachers can scaffold their activities so that it includes spreadsheets and database driven products.  Students can connect data to visual representations, support student products related to data gathering, and create a databank for effective presentations (Robleyer, Doering, 2012).  Now that Google has introduced Google Forms with an extension to Google Spreadsheets, more interrelated data will be able to be gathered quickly and recalled according to the desired criteria.  This will be a very effective tool for practically all content areas.  However, the key question is still at large, “Who will be responsible for walking the students down that learning curve?”

Lastly, I do want to point out that the journey along the learning curve is worth it because it can make data collection and recall very efficient.  According to Robert Kugel of SVP Research, companies cannot afford the risk of having under-developed knowledge in workers who build databases or create reports.  He points out that many users consider themselves proficient, but they lack deeper knowledge of the application that can help increase efficiency of data.  However, the impact of poor data base structure can cause further ramifications, as noted:

For instance, if they do not know how to use the vlookup function, they may create a complicated nested “if” statement and copy it endlessly. With the power of today’s computers, the performance penalty for such misuse may be trivial, but poor spreadsheet design makes it much harder to update or expand the set of conditions droving that complex “if” function and creates the potential for inducing errors that may be almost impossible to spot. (Kugel, 2012)

References

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon. (p. 125-127).
Kugel, R. (2012, July 13). Make Spreadsheet Competence a Priority. Ventana research. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://www.ventanaresearch.com/blog/commentblog.aspx?id=3234

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