EdTech 512: Choosing a LMS

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I’m not necessarily a traditionalist, but sometimes I miss the simple things. I have been a registered number since birth, but I never had to keep track of such numbers until life introduced me to pass-codes and later passwords. For me, it all started with a 4-digit code to give my ATM card access to my first bank account. I’m not naive to think that codes, numeric or otherwise, are something new to the world, but in this age of digital identity, there are many pass-codes and password requirements that sometimes it can feel overwhelming.  I do remember what life was like before passwords.  Even though I have adjusted fairly well to this new age of digital identity, it is important for me to be aware of my students, who likely have not transitioned yet to this stage in life.  Once you start down the path of passwords, there is no turning back.

Edmodo appears to offer what I am looking for in an LMS.  First, it does not require email addresses to register and for the group and for 4th grade students, I think this is an important feature.  Even though it does require passwords, it seems to be a fairly user-friendly system, ideal for someone using an LMS for the first time.  Moodle and Blackboard are much more robust and can easily overwhelm a fourth grader.  I expect there will be varying levels of digital competency, but for some students, this will be their first exposure to digital tools and digital platforms.  Secondly, I need a LMS that is versatile in language selection because the course will be delivered in Spanish and English.  I have also sought out Callaborize Classroom, but English was the only language available.  On the contrary, Edmodo offers multiple language selections.

Even though Edmodo is unfamiliar territory for me, there are other benefits to choosing this LMS.  There are other teachers within the district (where I will be working) that have used this LMS with their students.  The district utilizes Edline, but a few teachers have chosen to use Edmodo because it better supports their objectives.  Even though I have used Edline before, I have not officially started with the district yet, so I don’t have access to the Edline system, therefore, I do not know if it is a viable option.  For now, it is better for me to develop my course through Edmodo.

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EdTech 512: Problem Analysis

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

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

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

  • Instructional Goal

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

  • Contextual Analysis

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

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

Reporting Category 1: Composition

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

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

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

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

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

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

(A) write about important personal experiences.

Reporting Category 2: Revision

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

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

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

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

(A) create brief compositions that

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

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

(b) Knowledge and skills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(E) follow the rules of digital etiquette;

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

EdTech 523: Module 4 Reflection

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Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

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

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

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

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

Self Evaluation Using My Grading Scale

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

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

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

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

Changes to Discussion Facilitation

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

Communication Plan for Online Teaching

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ONLINE LANGUAGE COURSE

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

PART 1: ROUTINE ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

Every Work Day

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

2-3 Days Into a Module

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

2-3 Days Before Module Ends

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

PART 2: DISCUSSION FORUM STRATEGIES

At the Beginning of the Course

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

Throughout the Course

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

PART 3: DISCUSSION FORUM ASSESSMENT

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

Content Scale: 1-15

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

Peer Response Scale: 1-10

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

Language Use Scale: 1-5

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

Creativity Scale: 1-5

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

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


PART 4:  MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND STRATEGIES (CONTINGENCY PLAN)

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

Individual Communication

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

Whole Group Communication

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

EdTech 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 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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