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.

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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 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 505 Week 7: PSS Evaluation Model

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Use your new understanding about evaluations to address this question: Which evaluation model from chapter 5 would you choose for your own Evaluation Report-Course Project?

I’m warming up to the idea of doing something creative for one of these assignments, but the amount of time I would have to spend on my creative energies made me resist this time.  So for now, I will explain my choice by writing.   My ideas are not completely clear to me yet, but I find that writing my thoughts helps bring more clarity. 

This is my last year to teach in my current school because my wife and I will be moving back to the USA during the summer.  I am quite invested in one group in particular because I have been working with them for 2 years in a row.  This year in particular, I have established a strong presence of Web 2.0 tools with all students setting up Google accounts from the beginning of the year.  In terms of technology integration, I have been more progressive than most of the faculty.  Though many of my colleagues admire what I have done, no one in the English department has made strides to do the same.  An evaluation of this program, Peer Structure and Support, can help the school, and specifically the English department, to make a decision about more teachers implementing it. 

After reviewing the models, I believe the decision-making model would best suit my evaluation.  This selection is based on my consideration of 3 different factors: 1) the program can establish a continuation for technology integration into their approach to learning, 2) the program demonstrates how students can experience that learning is not a spectator sport, but that they can actually play in the game, and 3) the evaluation will lead to my own decision about further development of the program in my professional life. 

My students already have accounts set up in Google for school use.  When they enter 10th grade next year, they could easily continue using these accounts for multiple assignments.  The x-factor is whether or not the next teacher will facilitate these types of assignments or accept student work in digital formats.  This program asks students to create digital peer assessments by using Google Forms.  Showing that this has a positive impact on students will help other teachers see the benefit of such an initiative. 

Many of my colleagues continue to use teacher-centered instruction.  Evaluating this program will allow teachers to view the results of a learner-centered activity.  Both students and teachers struggle to see the constructivist view of learning, which engages the students to discover learning for themselves.  No longer do they have to look at the material through the eyes of someone else’s assessment, but they can learn to identify objectives and create their own assessments. 

Lastly, as I move on, I hope that this evaluation will validate my beliefs about the effectiveness of this program.  I know this is a bad sign for the evaluation, as I am supposed to remain as unbiased as possible.  Nonetheless, as I enter into a new teaching environment (still unknown at this point), I want to be able to make a decision about whether or not my next group of students can benefit from this program.

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 505 Week 5: Evaluation in Program and Planning Cycles

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ADDIE Model

ADDIE

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

The ABCs of Evaluation, p.51

Evaluation: Program Cycle

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

The Planning-Evaluation Cycle

The Planning-Evaluation Cycle

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

References:

EdTech 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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