Cheap-seat Tuesday is Back

Who else here loves movies? One our favourite date nights is going to check out the new movies at the theatre, eating some popcorn, and seeing some trailers. All in all, a pretty good night.

It also happens that I am incredibly “frugal”, and going to a movie every weekend starts to add up and becomes quite expensive. So what’s the solution? Obviously, cheap-seat Tuesday! Now, for most weeks, this hasn’t been possible because of our awesome EC&I 834 class, in which I learned so much about online and blended learning environments. So then, I figured, why not try to combine both of these things – going to the movie theatre, and my summary of learning?

So, what I tried to attempt this time around was an Edtech Pre-show. You know how, at the movie theatre, there is always a pre-show? This pre-show has questions the audience can answer and interviews about a movie that they can watch while waiting for the real  show to begin? Well, this is what I tried to emulate, and then follow-it up with what I feel is sometimes the best part about going to a movie, some trailers.

Because of transitions and everything I combined together, it is a little over the 7-minute mark, which I hope is okay because the combination of things did take me awhile to edit. Hope you like it!

I still do have so many questions about online learning and its place in my classroom – as well as my place in online learning. There is still a lot to be learned, but I am glad I got a glimpse into all the tools, LMSs, problems, concerns, and possible interactions that can be developed online. It has really made me reflect on my own teaching, and what I can do now to incorporate more blended learning aspects to my teaching. I thought at the start of the semester that I was doing such a great blended classroom because I posted all my assignments on Google Classroom – was I ever wrong! I learned the value of interactions, risk-taking, and most importantly, giving up control and allowing kids to create their own content to show me a few things. It is still “in progress” – I wouldn’t say I could start teaching online tomorrow without kinks – but I am more ready now than I was before.

Well, it has been a blast, everyone! Huge congrats to all the EC&I-ers that are now done their masters, like Ashley, Amy, Kirsten, Andrew and anyone else who is now finished their graduate degree. You all deserve it!

Posted in EC&I 834, Summary of Learning | 8 Comments

Course Prototype 2.0…

…is almost ready. A couple changes here, a few modifications there and bam! Course prototype for Social Studies 30 2.0 is ready to be tested.

Before I delve deeper into the feedback Katherine and I received for our course prototype, I first want to give a shout-out to everyone in EC&I 834 for the development of their prototypes. Just like Ashley, I too am grateful that I was able to see what others have created and I can only imagine all the work that has gone into the courses that were developed.

Photo Credit: One Way Stock Flickr via Compfight cc

Now for our course prototype. What a whirlwind! Although I am happy with the final product, I think Katherine, Katia, Alec, and I can all agree that perhaps Katherine and I had more difficulty understanding the project than we initially thought. It essentially became routine for us to ask questions at the end of every single Tuesday night class about this project, which Alec and Katia graciously always answered (thanks again guys!). In the end, I think we worked out something that could be used for online purposes, although there are still a few kinks to be smoothed out over time.

As we have mentioned in many previous blog posts, we decided to make a blended course environment for Social Studies 30. For our course profile, course descriptions (click here for unit 4), and assignments, we used Google Docs, and for our course shell, we used Google Classroom. Because we knew we had multiple assignments, we created two google classrooms to avoid confusion and an overwhelming set of assignments on all at one time. To access any of the documents, as well as the process to go through our course prototype, check out this link. It will give the login instructions to get into our Google Classrooms, as well as the step-by-step links if want to take a look at our course.

Warning: it is a bit heavy.

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Which was, in fact, our biggest piece of feedback coming from our colleagues. We would both like to thank everyone who spent the time to go through our artefacts and our course. We understand how difficult the task was – knowing we chose a very content-heavy curriculum that hasn’t been renewed in twenty years. No new outcome-based reporting and no up-to-date resources. Also, Katherine and I did misunderstand the assignment at first; we thought we each had to develop a module course profile – as you can see by my planning for unit 4 – and then afterwards develop a 15-minute activity/lesson within that course profile. Consequently, we have a very large course prototype for a very heavy 30-level, 300+ page, 200+ objective curriculum – daunting to say to least. So, in the end, thank you to everyone who went through our course and gave us some feedback; greatly appreciated!

There were a LOT of great suggestions and ideas that came from the feedback; when we initially started addressing all of these concerns, our response became just as long as our course prototype – so, to avoid another heavy assignment, we decided to go with seven major themes that were repeated throughout all of our reviews.

  1. The link to Tubaland (artefact) didn’t work. We tested each other’s links to ensure they were working before sending them to people for feedback and they initally did! However, we did not realize that without an @education.uregina email, our reviewers would not be able to view the Google Form (or at least we think that is what happened). We have changed the link so that anyone can now view it!
  2. Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

    Lack of teacher-student and student-student interaction in Google Classroom. This is very true, and a downfall to Google Classroom. Which is why we did not intend for Google Classroom to be the hub of discussion, knowing there was little interaction built into this LMS. Each student would have a blog where they would respond to various prompts throughout the semester. On Katherine’s Unit 2 module, she includes a blogging post about Canada’s staples, which requires students to interact, learn from each other, and provide each other with feedback. We wanted to use the various strengths of different platforms: Google Classroom is wonderful for providing immediate feedback and organizing assignments and WordPress blogs create opportunities for students to collaborate and discuss things in an online setting. We would also use Zoom for Unit 4, which allows for interaction between different Social Studies 30 classrooms. We find that discussion on Google Classroom is not fluid and students can have very limited engaging conversations, so this is why we used more than one platform for our course. However, we will be more clear about these intentions next time around. 

  3. Photo Credit: kodomut Flickr via Compfight cc

    Long paragraphs. Our course profile did have very long paragraphs which, we understand, must have been daunting to read. We were worried about this when we were elaborating our profile. We actually received different feedback about our long paragraphs; some reviewers appreciated the information provided, while others found it intimidating. We believe, in the end, this does come down to different learning styles and different teaching styles. Some appreciate longer paragraphs, while others prefer short bullet points – even we felt this throughout the elaboration of the course. I actually prefer paragraphs, while Katherine prefers concise bullet points. This is something we look forward to exploring further in the future and trying to manage to attain a balance that would fit most learning and teaching styles.  

  4. Confusing order of assignments – We acknowledge that there are confusing elements of this course. We believe this is partly because people providing us feedback could only view the online aspect of the course and missed out on the information we would provide face-to-face (or over Zoom). We struggled throughout the elaboration of the course prototype ourselves with the idea of a blended environment – we questioned how much information would be shared in person/over zoom and how much needed to be shared online. This is evidently a great learning process and something that we will review in the development of our next prototypes. We purposely chose to order our assignments as the Google Classroom LMS organizes them, having the oldest at the bottom and the newest at the top, because this is how it would look throughout the course (although we understand this may be confusing, and yet again, another difficulty with Google Classroom that we had not realized prior to the feedback). 
  5. Sorting assignments in topics – This is a fantastic suggestion; I had no idea this was even possible on Google Classroom! Definitely something that we would add next time to our course to help organize our assignments.
  6. Heavy prototype – We acknowledge we both had very heavy prototypes (as I previously mentioned in this post). This was due, in part, to the fact that the Social Studies 30 curriculum is very heavy (330 pages of heavy).  There are over 200 objectives that teachers are supposed to cover in this curriculum. However, we could have reduced some of the work and reading (especially in my unit… I tend to write and write and write, and this is not always beneficial. Something I need to work on in every aspect!). Because our program was so heavy, we really tried to create engaging and interactive artefacts. It’s a difficult feat to make economics and confederation exciting, so we really focused on making the content suitable to our grade 12 audience (puns, technology-use). This curriculum is very content-driven (other than creating a dialectic essay) and, as a result, can seem daunting.
  7. Additional step-by-step assignment guide for students – We had written up a step-by-step guide for our reviewers to follow along our prototype because we knew it was heavy and at times confusing. It was suggested that we do this for the students as well. This is a great suggestion and one that we will add to our next course prototype. At first, we didn’t feel it was necessary because of the blended aspect of the course, but it never hurts to add a written dimension to the verbal instructions given in class (particularly because of the different learners that exist!). This will also help those who may be absent for a face-to-face class or a zoom session catch-up on their own time.

Because I am already over the 1000 word mark, I will end this final course prototype summary simply by offering the links to all my previous posts about the creation process, from my initial planning stage, to the analysis of Canvas versus Google Classroom, to the decision on interactions within the course, to the final touch-ups.

Thanks again for all the feedback – and thanks to Katherine for being an awesome partner! 

 

Posted in EC&I 834 | 1 Comment

It’s the Final Countdown

Do you now all have that song stuck in your head? You’re welcome:)

Now, is it really the final countdown? Sort of – it’s the beginning of a longer final countdown as compared to usual. We still have a couple weeks until our final learning summaries are due, but our course prototype is just around the corner! Can you believe it?

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I know it’s been coming, and little by little I have been working away at all the finishing details. Ever since the first week of this assignment, when we initially posted of our plans, I knew what I wanted to do. Later, when we learned about the different platforms and the value of authentic discussions, I modified my plans and added pieces of information that enhanced my online course.

However, I will admit, putting every piece together now, in this final stage, is more difficult than I initially thought. I know how I want my lessons to go, and I know how and why I will be using certain tools and resources, and I know how I will be achieving the outcomes of the Social Studies 30 course. Writing all of this down, explaining it for a third party to understand, and organizing all the information properly in Google Classroom so that another person can get a sense of my plans is a much larger undertaking than I thought. Especially seeing as the course will be blended, I am assuming that during the actual course, many elements will be shared during the Zoom Conference Sessions, something that can’t be truly be emulated without that type of interaction.

There are also all the little details that are left – like posting the assignments on Google Classroom in the proper order (there isn’t a function on Google classroom to reorganize the tasks, unless you want to put an assignment at the very top of the list, which is what I needed to do when I missed an important assignment for the middle of my course module). I also kept putting off translating my assignments, as I had created a large majority of them in French for my current students. I therefore had to translate these assignments and rubrics into English for this course. I don’t know if any of you often translate things from one language to another, but I find it tedious and not a personal strength – which is probably why I put it off for so long!

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Nearing the end of this course prototype, one of the key elements I have left is to check all of my links to make sure they, first of all, link up to the right document, and secondly that they are all in English. Finally, I need to make sure they are accessible to everyone who has the link. On Google Docs, the default setting is for people to access the documents if it has been shared with them, so I will need to double-check to ensure that I have changed the settings so everyone has access to the documents if they have access to the link. Then I won’t be getting a lot of e-mails of people asking me for access to my Google Docs!

The final step is evidently getting together with Katherine to go over our course together and making sure we are somewhat aligned. I will admit (hopefully you agree with me Katherine…) that we misunderstood the assignment from the start. We ended up dividing up the entire Social Studies curriculum together, making a profile for that course. Afterwards, we divided the modules and each took one, which we subsequently elaborated individually – Katherine took unit 2 and I took unit 4. Finally, within these units, we each took a lesson to develop further. Consequently, we have gone in different directions because of the outcomes for our units, and we developed somewhat different courses, depending on the activities planned. Therefore, we really need to discuss our pathways this week and organize our two units as much as possible together. We are planning on creating one Google Doc that will house every link necessary for our unit, and organizing this Google Doc in order of how students would work through our documents. This Google Doc will be posted in the About page on Google Classroom, making it easily accessible. We hope we can organize it so a third party understands it easily without us having to explain it to them – I am finding this to be the most difficult challenge and hurdle with this course prototype!

Photo Credit: akintsy_photo Flickr via Compfight cc

So, as a summary, the final stages in putting together our course prototype include:

  1. Ensure that the details and organization make sense from a third party.
  2. Finalizing the little details i.e. order of assignments on Google Classroom, translate all necessary documents in English, etc.
  3. Make sure links work
  4. Make sure links are accessible
  5. Get together with Katherine and discuss how our two modules will look together.

What have I missed? Just like nearing the end of any module or unit, I feel as though there are details that I haven’t thought of yet – hoping there aren’t too many before I receive some of your feedback next week!

Looking forward to seeing all of your prototypes. And, don’t forget, it’s the Final Countdown:)

Posted in EC&I 834 | 8 Comments

Yay or nay?

When we were first given the blog prompt this week, I was really excited to explore this topic further, but also a little overwhelmed. There are so many possibilities that can be discussed, and I wasn’t exactly sure where to start.,

What changes when we bring class discussion activities (whether that be blogging, forums, Twitter, etc.) into open online spaces?

As we have previously seen in this course, discussion forums and activities are incredibly important for the development of a community. Jen had a great post just last week on engaging students in online communities. So far in the class, we have been primarily addressing these spaces in closed formats, where only the students in the class have access to the discussion forum. However, when we change these parameters and create open online spaces, a lot of the dynamic elements of these discussion forums also change, for both the good and the bad.

My experiences

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Prior to analyzing how open online spaces can change the classes that I teach, I think it is important to look back at my own experiences within these learning environments. I have taken a lot of online courses, mainly through the Moodle LMS, but very few included open online spaces. Most included closed discussion forums where only the students and teachers involved in the class could participate. I liked these because I felt as though I could express myself more freely. Although it was online, I knew that few people had access, and these few people and I had similar educational backgrounds. This meant that perhaps they would understand what I was saying and there would be less confusion with my messages. However, it did limit the amount and types of interaction, which also limited the possibilities for deeper learning.

It is thanks to these EC&I classes that I was first exposed to open online spaces, including blogging and tweeting. Although these spaces do risk being attacked by trolls and they can open up students to possible negativity and criticism, they do allow for more connections to be made. I have been able to grow my PLN through the use of Twitter, and not only with students in the EC&I class. I have been able to learn much more through these connections made with other individuals in both the teaching profession and beyond.

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

I have used blogging with students before, and this did initially cause concern with parents. They did worry about online individuals getting into contact with their children, which is a very valid concern, and something that we communicated with parents and students. This lead to discussions regarding digital identity, and what to expect and how to react. However, to limit possible harm, we never used last names and in the end there were no issues.

Authenticity

I do believe that online spaces make digital learning experiences more authentic. It allows for more unfiltered discussions with diverse experts in the field and more unplanned experiences. Although these may not always be perfect, I think that is what makes them authentic.

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Is this possible to re-create in closed forums? I think this entirely depends on the context, the participants, and the community developed in the online forum. I think sometimes in closed discussion forums we limit our answers and feedback to one another, sometimes focusing too much on the material and what the professor is looking for in our answers. This is not always the case, but it depends on the environment and community. I believe authenticity is easier to achieve in open forums, but yet still possible in closed ones. That being said, it isn’t always guaranteed in open forums either. This depends on the connections made, how much is being put out there, and who is seeing it. I think authenticity is easier to create in some open environments as compared to others (i.e. Twitter versus blogging) because of the wider audience.

Future plans

So what does this mean for the classes I will teach in the future? I do think online open learning environments change according to the class you teach, the needs of your classroom, and the grades you teach. My current high school experiences are far different than what I experienced in middle school. However, I wouldn’t generalize what different grades can do online – I think a large part is the actual class of students you have and the context in which you are teaching. Every classroom is different, even if they are technically the same grade.

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I think, currently, the possibilities are endless for the integration of open course environments. I do think because I teach high school – and grade 12 courses – it may be easier to incorporate some of these environments because the students already (often) have experience with social media and online environments. That being said, I do think there are still safeguards and criteria that need to be put into place, even with grade 12 students. Prior to any online learning environments being developed in my classes, I think it is vital to teach about digital literacy and citizenship, and speak to the digital footprint we are leaving in our environments. If these were put into place, I do believe that administration would support our choices, particularly if we had communicated the value of the online learning environments and connected them with our curricular outcomes. I think this also helps with the parent and student buy-in, as they realize not only the practical applications of participating in online open discussions, but also the value in our curriculum to the learnings that can transpire online. Even though there may be negative consequences, I think if they are contextualized, we can learn from them and understand how to be better digital citizens in our 21st century.

What does need to happen, however, is for me to develop the courage to try this out. I have to be willing to explain my choices to my administration, parents, and students, to defend the value of online learning environments in face-to-face classes, and I have to be ready to meet opposition in this quest. Anything worth doing takes hard work, and society would never evolve if those in our past hadn’t taken risks and pushed our environments. Now it is our turn to do the same for our future societies.

What do you think? Yay or nay to online learning environments in face-to-face classes? Let me know below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 8 Comments

Bloggin’, zoomin’, and googlin’

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Photo Credit: SteveNakatani Flickr via Compfight cc

I think we all know that EC&I 834 (amongst other Couros-Hildebrandt classes), are special when it comes to post-secondary and graduate education. Although these courses are primarily done online, with the combination of Google Plus, the Zoom Room, and the Blog Hub, we really get a sense of community in the class. I really feel as though I get to know my colleagues’ virtual identities, and we grow together as a community in the crazy world of educational technology. 

These courses, perhaps, have given me a false sense of hope.

I was excited to create this blended learning environment with Katherine, and I really felt like we could achieve something great together, emulating the type of community that we have felt throughout our time in these online edtech classes. Although I still feel this is possible, I am perhaps a little more realistic after reading this week’s article by Richard A. Schwier.

We assume that learners will want to come together, that they will be mutually supportive, and they will be driven to learn. But it is important to realize that communities, and particularly virtual learning communities, are not inherently good, desirable or ideal. Sometimes learners aren’t motivated, they aren’t always mutually supportive and naturally collaborative, and they don’t always bring the highest standards of mature conduct into their virtual learning environments. – Richard A. Schwier

Photo Credit: torbakhopper Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: torbakhopper Flickr via Compfight cc

Oof. Harsh, but oh-so-true. We, as the educators, can’t necessarily create the online community that we have felt in our own courses. Our role, rather, is to set-up an environment in which this online community can transpire. We foster this community, we do not create it. At first I was a little disappointed after this harsh reality hit – but then I realized that, in fact, this is nothing new. It is the same in our actual classrooms – we can try to foster a welcoming, open environment in which students feel a sense of community, but we can’t ensure this in all of our classes. Everyone, and every class, is so entirely different that we will always need to take a step back at the start of the course and determine how we are going to go about creating a community, be it online or not.

So, that is what we are doing with the elaboration of this blended course. I have strongly reflected upon Bryce-Davis (2001) five critical features for building online communities (rules, roles, rounds, rituals, and ringers), and I have to reflect these in my choices for student/student-instructor interactions throughout this Social Studies blended course. Click here to access my ever-changing Google doc that describes the suggested guidelines for interaction within the following environments (inspired by the Couros-Hildebrandt exemplar!)

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

First of all, blogging will be a major part of this blended course, just like in Benita’s. We have seen the values of this first-hand with the Couros-Hildebrandt courses, and we have read about the benefits it can have for students. In regards to interactions, however, it sets the students up perfectly for different kinds of direct and indirect communication. Throughout the course, students will be assigned blog posts to read. They will be asked to comment on the blog posts they have read, and to keep these comments meaningful and respectful (i.e. proper Netiquette). Now, let’s think back to how we were in high school, and reflect upon all the possible comments – would they be entirely meaningful and respectful? If I am to be honest – no. However, when these interactions are marked, I think students would take them more seriously and would be more apt to leave constructive feedback for their peers. I understand that marking something forces students to participate in these environments and that the product, in the end, may not be “real”. That being said, I think we need to start somewhere, and once students get the hang of respectful and meaningful comments on blogs, a re-assessment can take place whether or not these comments need to be evaluated. So, at the start, they will be marked following a rubric which will focus on Netiquette and online digital identities. Furthermore, students will be taught, and subsequently asked, to use pingbacks in their own blogs, further encouraging them to read other peopler’s blogs at their leisure and quote them in their own. It is important for students to read other people’s work, and to know that their work will also be read. This will help them see the value and importance of blogging, and the importance of reading something over before submitting it. They will be working on their digital identities, something that needs to be addressed in high school.

Photo Credit: Pricenfees Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Pricenfees Flickr via Compfight cc

The Zoom Web Conferencing tool will also be used throughout this course, and this will allow all students to interact with each other, virtually but similarly to “face to face” interactions. Students will have the choice to participate by speaking or by sharing their ideas in the chat room. Either way, this will give the students a more informal chance to connect and interact with one another. I think it is important to allow for informal as well as formal spaces for interaction in a course like this, and the Zoom Web Conferencing Tool gives the students opportunities to ask questions, alleviate concerns, or simply discuss things that they find most interesting. It also helps to feel less alone in the online world, and gives them faces to match the blogs they are reading. I know that it has personally helped me greatly throughout these EC&I courses, and something that I think all students would benefit from with this blended Social Studies 30 course. The breakout room function will be used throughout the course, giving students the opportunity to speak in smaller groups and share their understandings with their colleagues. At first, these Zoom breakout rooms will be very structured with specific questions to discuss, given out before the class starts. This will hopefully encourage a more comfortable learning and speaking environment. Assessment of participation in these mediums will be done informally throughout the course, as the teacher will be participating in every Zoom session and will pop-in on occasion into the breakout rooms as well.

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

Finally, just like Kelsie, we will also be using Google Docs for collaboration on different assignments. Google docs is great as many students can be working together on one document, and they can share ideas by communicating in the comment section on Google Docs with one another. It allows for group work, even though students may geographically be far apart. This will be a purely written collaboration space, and to ensure the interactions are meaningful, supportive, and relevant, I would ask that all documents be shared with me from the start with complete editing privileges – meaning I can go on there at any time and see who is contributing and what conversations are taking place. Knowing this, students will hopefully be supportive and stay on task in these work environments.

Students will have access to my e-mail throughout the course and will be able to interact with me at any point in time. I will also be available in all of these mediums, taking part in blog comments, leading the Zoom sessions, and checking up on the work in Google Docs and offering formative feedback for larger summative assignments.

What do you guys think? Have I missed anything? Please let me know in your comments below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 11 Comments

Fluff your way to a revolution

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Photo Credit: le Rat et l’Ours Flickr via Compfight cc

There is truly an abundance of articles regarding online learning – from those explaining how it is making higher learning more accessible, to others explaining the virtues of a blended learning environments, to even more addressing the value of teaching digital safety in this new digital age. Since signing up for twitter and following several #edtech teachers and proponents, I have read a lot of interesting articles extolling the virtues of education technology, as well as ones that completely negate the apparent advantages of educational technology. So for this week’s post, I wanted to address one that speaks to both sides of this equation – one that attempts to “square a contradiction”.

Joshua Kim‘s article Why I Dislike Educational Technology, But Love Online Learning is an interesting read, as we often speak to educational technology and online learning together as a unit – to achieve successful online learning, you need to use educational technology. However, in reading the article, they do not always go hand-in-hand when it comes to what each other offer.

Our edtech tribe has consistently over-promised and under-delivered on the potential and benefits of technology – Joshua Kim

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Photo Credit: Heavenbound Flickr via Compfight cc

Wow. When I first read that statement, I began to get defensive of educational technology. Now, I know he is speaking primarily of #edtech in a higher education setting, but I still found myself immediately taken aback by his argument. Have you tried all these pieces of educational technology that seemingly have lower-than expected benefits? I wondered. Have you looked into the edtech options that help with differentiation? How can you say those are not beneficial, particularly for students who need these technological pieces to help them meet their own potential? Really, I could go on and on about the questions that came to my mind when I read the beginning of this article, and how blatantly judgmental I found the beginning statements to be.

Then I thought about it, and, perhaps – don’t hate me – he isn’t entirely wrong.

Educational technology can be great, and can be wonderfully beneficial in a lot of circumstances. However, it can also be used for “fluff” – used in circumstances where it doesn’t necessarily enhance learning, but rather just shifts it into a different space. I always think of Nicole with whom I had this conversation at the start of the semester, and she commented on the fact that we can’t just take what we have done, put it online, and say we are using educational technology and revolutionizing the educational world. Doing the same worksheets online as we did in person does not revolutionize our teaching or our learning – and this is perhaps where I can see the argument that some of the learnings from educational technology have been slight inflated. We speak o

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Photo Credit: manoftaste.de Flickr via Compfight cc

f these tools, we learn new ones almost on a daily basis (Katherine shared Clarisketch just today through twitter – which I am very excited to try!), but rarely do we offer the training to follow-up with it. If we do offer the training, it is oftentimes on our own, through our own means, on our own weekends or weeknights. Although I would love to say I would participate in these trainings after hours, with two master’s classes and a new school this year, I am overwhelmed at the best of times. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to explore all of these things on my own. So, perhaps, to follow-through on the benefits and potential of educational technology, we need to back this up with accessible training, professional development, and workshops for teachers so they can learn to use it – properly – to really, truly, revolutionize their classrooms.

Can we move the discussion around educational technology to a place that is both more critical, and more educator (as well as learner) centric? – Joshua Kim

I do love educational technology, and I really do think that it is working well in our classrooms and can help us both differentiate and engage a brand new set of learners. However, nothing is without some fault, and if we don’t think critically about educational technology and how we use it, then we are doing a disservice to the benefits and potential it can bring about in our classrooms.

Now, I know I have gone off topic as this was to be an analysis of articles or resources for online learning, but I find educational technology to be a piece of the online learning puzzle. Or perhaps it is the other way around – online learning is a piece to the educational technology puzzle. Either way, as Kim says, “[t]he educators involved in online learning utilize the tools of educational technology”. Online learning, with all of its advantages and strengths (access, cost, flexibility) does not meet its potential either without the proper use of educational technology.

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

So where does that leave us? Currently, I am very much aware of the budgetary constraints  we are facing and, consequently, the fact that we perhaps can’t offer training for these educational technology tools that could potentially enhance our online teaching and learning opportunities. However, like we discussed in class yesterday, we can all learn one tool, one resource to help fully develop our online learning courses. Afterwards, we can share. Share share share. Share our knowledge, share our experiences, share our pros and our cons. My co-worker today remarked how teaching can be all about beg, borrow, and steal. Why not do so with educational technology knowledge? Then, perhaps, it can meet the potential and benefits that were extolled by edtech enthusiasts. And then, maybe, so can online learning. Without tools and knowledge, online learning or blended learning cannot succeed.

So, what are your thoughts on educational technology and online learning? How do the puzzle pieces fit together? Are we analyzing these elements critically enough, or do we incorporate them into our classrooms without fully understanding how to do so properly? What does this mean for our online learning? How can well-used educational technology help us move into blended learning environments, responding consequently to problems of access, cost, and flexibility in our classrooms? Let me know your thoughts below!

 

Posted in EC&I 834 | 8 Comments

You Mean You Like To Read?

Olson and Bruner (1974) claim that learning involves two distinct aspects: acquiring knowledge of facts, principles, ideas, concepts, events, relationships, rules and laws; and using or working on that knowledge to develop skills. – Tony Bates

When I think of anything related to learning, this quote encompasses a large portion of it. Learning definitely involves acquiring knowledge and then applying said knowledge to different situations. Of course there are elements of critical thinking and analysis, but this could also be considered the development of skills with the use of the acquired knowledge, which is represented in part in this quote. But how does one acquire this knowledge?

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All teachers during their training learn about the multiple intelligences of learning, and most have completed quizzes themselves to determine their learning strengths and weaknesses. Although these have been debated recently about their validity in teaching, as we see in Tony Bates’ book chapter, there are different types of digital resources (including print, audio, and video), and we all have our own learning preferences when it comes to these resources.

Out of the digital resources Bates’ suggests, and reflecting on my own learning experiences, I would personally place audio as my least favourite, similar to Logan. I agree with Bates when he says that “audio is often best used in conjunction with other media such as text or graphics thus adding complexity to the design of teaching“. Alone, I find it difficult to remain focused when I simply hear audio – for my personal learning preferences, I have always preferred when sound has been an enhancement to videos or text. This is why radio shows, podcasts, and even music have all been difficult for me to delve into because of my learning preferences. I understand Bates’ advantages, in that audio clips are easier to make than video ones and that they require less bandwidth, but in the end, if I don’t learn with them, these advantages can’t win me over to the audio side.

Just like Chalyn, I enjoy videos and I use them often in my teaching. Videos such as Crash Course History, This Day in History, or BBC documentaries find themselves in my history classes often as I find they engage students in learning with the combination of comedy (when it comes to Crash Course), picture, audio, and, oftentimes, as Bates says, real world issues. I also agree with Bates in that videos are helpful that they can be repeated over and over again. I attach all videos I use in my classroom to my Google classroom so students can re-watch them however many times they need to, or simply replay certain areas or stop at a specific time in the video to gather more information. For my personal learning needs, it is often the video accompanied by the sound that help me understand all the concepts on a deeper level. Of course, there are disadvantages, as Bates notes. The fact that there aren’t many “high quality educational video[s] free for downloading” and that it is difficult to create original videos makes this digital resource not always practical for the classroom.

Photo Credit: Gerard Van der Leun Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gerard Van der Leun Flickr via Compfight cc

So this leaves me with good old fashioned text. This is actually my preferred method for learning (personally) as I particularly appreciate “manipulating” the information I am acquiring. I tend to write all over my texts, highlight key words, and write links between paragraphs, and ideas. It has always helped me to learn something when I write it over and over again myself – the repeated behaviour helps me to understand things that I did not know before. This could perhaps be traced back to my schooling, which was mostly done with textbooks, note taking, and other forms of “text” learning, just like Jessica. It is what I am used to, what I have gotten used to, and what I have most practice doing. My mind works well with the “linear sequencing of information in a structured format”, and I believe the function of text presentation “abstraction and generalization” does also help students acquire information. I do understand that text can be outdated – even as early as it is printed – and therefore does not always present the more recent information. As well, it does require high literacy skills, as Bates’ has noted, which is not always the case with all of our students. Therefore, although it may have been the “go-to” when I was learning, times are changing, and so I should perhaps as well.

So, in the end, I think a mixture of all these digital resources is best for our classes, seeing as everyone learns differently and has different preferences. In my own experience, I prefer text and video compared to audio, and most of my students seem to be particularly engaged with short videos. That being said, all of these resources have a place in educational settings, and should be used to target different skill development and strengths amongst our students.

What are your thoughts on the digital resources described by Bates? Are you an auditory learner, or more interested in video and text resources like I am? Please let me know in the comments below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 18 Comments