Module 5 Summary and Reflection

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

In order to create my synchronous lesson evaluation, I decided that it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think I could top Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles.  I started with them and researched the internet for expanded information to create the specific points to look for when evaluating a synchronous lesson.  Finally, I used this  SynchronousLessonEvaluation to review the two lessons below.

Photoshop

  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was a hands-on tutorial on using various Photoshop features.  The instructor gave the student the opportunity to choose which features she wanted to learn about.  The instructor demonstrated the tool and then the student was given control to practice.  This was the right strategy to use.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could have been done with more students with the cracker barrel strategy. Prior to this lesson, certain students would be assigned a tool to instruct in a given virtual room.  The other students would then move around the rooms and learn from their classmates how to use the tools.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

The lesson could be done asynchronously by recording the instruction and having the students view the video and practice what they learn.  However, by having the instructor there in the synchronous environment, the student is able to get immediate help if they are having difficulties.  Personally, I would rather have the synchronous learning for this topic as I know how frustrated I would get if I could not get the tool to work right.

Icebreaker

  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was an icebreaker activity where students meet other students.  Pairing up in breakout rooms to ask each other questions is very appropriate.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could be done asynchronously, but if time is available for the students, it is better handled in a live environment.  I feel the icebreakers in the courses in the MET program take up too much time; time that could be added to some of the longer, more content-related projects at the end of the course.  Instead of breakout rooms, the activity could have been handled in a whole class setting.  This wouldn’t necessarily be more effective, but just as effective.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

A magnetic brainstorm, where students post words that describe themselves.  If you see a word someone else posts that fits you, you can increase the font size.  This would be similar to how tags increase in size the more they are used in a blog.

Module 4 Reflection and Summary

  • Use your checklist/rubric and assess one of your own postings from previous discussions. Did you meet the criteria outlined in your own assessment tool? What changes will you make in your expectations based on your own participation in online discussions?

I would say the post I chose did meet the criteria provide in my assessment tool.  There were three spelling errors, which would lower the Mechanics grade to 3-Good.  I pondered as to whether having no errors to get full credit is fair.  In a synchronous environment, having no errors would be a little too stringent.  In an asynchronous environment where one has the time to review and the availability of spellchecker, I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect correct spelling and grammar.

  • What changes might you make in your teaching practice based on what you now know about facilitating effective online discussions?

I don’t teach online, so all of this was new to me.  Certain things, like responding in a reasonable time frame and monitoring the discussion, were things that I would have expected as part of an online course.  The idea of starting courses with an icebreaker activity was something I wouldn’t have thought was needed.  I teach in an environment with a revolving enrollment.  I don’t really have a “beginning” of a course.  There are two 3-week break sessions that split the year.  Coming back from these can be a little rocky as the students get acclimated to being back in class.  Having some icebreaker activities might be a good thing to do.

Another concept that I might try to incorporate is a variation of student-led discussions. For my GED classes, I have a set of 50 lessons that I run through, in a set order.  What I might do is let students have some choice in the lessons to be taught.  One way is to give them 3- 5 options at the beginning of class and, using their handheld devices, choose which lesson they want.

Another option would be to choose a student and let him/her make the choice.  This might be a strategy to get some of my less inclined students to take more of an ownership in the lesson, maybe motivating them to want to be involved.  I tell them all the time that they will pass their GED when they choose to put in the effort.  Some students take awhile to realize that, but once they begin to take personal responsibility to learn, they inevitably pass.  If I can find a way to come to that realization all the sooner, the better it will be for them.

  • Summary

Once again, I struggled with how to begin this assignment (communication plan).  By the time I got through the readings, I noticed that the postings covered the same thoughts I had.  Instead of repeating others comments, I just commented on or asked questions about their findings.  I still wasn’t that much more aware of what I needed to include in my communication plan or what it should look like.  Then, James Russell posted if anyone wanted to collaborate on this project.  I immediately jumped at the chance, thinking that maybe others could help spur my thoughts.

Once we met to discuss, I was able to focus more on the assignment and it was more clear.  I found three previous students communication plans online.  Reading through them, I was able to develop an outline of topics to include.  By this point, I was kicking in high gear.  The only that could slow me down was the rubric.  Being a math guy, rubrics are tough for me to write.  Luckily, James took the lead on that.  I added a few thoughts to the final rubric.  When we had finished, I looked back and couldn’t believe we had come up with a plan that I thought was comprehensive and clear, especially considering my total cluelessness at the beginning.

Communication Plan

COMMUNICATION PLAN

This communication plan was designed through a collaborative effort of James Russell and Joseph Bodnar.

ROUTINE ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS

Check messages in reasonable time frame.  Conventional philosophy is to check daily and reply within 24-48 hours.  For me, I know that I personally like to get replies quickly.  My plan would be to make every effort to respond right away to messages received (as I would want), even if it was just to say I would look into the question and respond more fully later.

Provide ample ways to be contacted.  At the very minimum, provide a phone number and an e-mail address.  Other means include text and social media sites.  For more immediate contact forms (phone and text) provide time frames when you will be available.

Monitor student participation.  Closely monitor discussions for abuses (listed under Management Issues and Strategies).  By confronting abuses quickly, you can ‘nip it in the bud” (as Deputy Barney Fife would say).  Many disagreements occur over misunderstandings that get out of hand.  A neutral party intervention can allow for them to be resolved before that point.

Check social boards to keep abreast of concerns.  Social boards can be a great source for the teacher.  Participation is not needed.

Check tech help forums.  Monitor and provide students with assistance and resources to help correct such issues.

Make notes of students posts.  These will come in handy when providing feedback, interjecting questions and grading.

Check/update course links.  It can be very frustrating when students click on a link and the page no longer exists.  Regular checking of links, especially before the module begins, can help ensure students don’t waste time.

DISCUSSION FORUM STRATEGIES

Introductions.  The instructor and each student will post an introduction.  The introduction will include a favorite activity/hobby, something interesting they would like to share and identify a favorite lesson or activity they enjoyed or learned from during their school career.  Icebreakers are a good way of introducing oneself.

Learning Logs.  Students could keep a weekly log of activities, assignments, and readings they completed during the course,  similar to a learning log.  Each week the instructor would provide a list of expected work to be completed and during the week each student would create and update a post of work completed, struggles and obstacles overcome, what they learned, enjoyed or struggled with.

Forum Guidelines.  The teacher should provide detailed guidelines, including due dates, number of communications and type expected, netiquette expectations, etc.  Here is an example of a Netiquette page that could be used.

Student-led discussions.  Every student should have an opportunity to me the facilitator of a discussion.  The student should create their own question for other students’ responses and moderate the discussion by following the example of the instructor and this communication plan.  Here is a good starting point.

Quizzes/Scavenger Hunt.  To promote more reading of students’ posts, the instructor could take notes of key points made by students.  Using these notes, the instructor crafts a quiz or scavenger hunt for the students to complete, which would require them to read their classmates’ posts.

Groups.  If the class is large, it is a good idea to break it up into groups for discussion forums.  The groups can be permanent for the entire length of the course or they could change regularly.  Allowing students some choice in the group they belong to can help ease them into discussions.  There may be a need for the instructor to set the groups, but even then, a hybrid model would work well.  An example of this would be having students choose groups based upon the time zone they live in.  Each group would have a limited number of slots available per time zone.  This would force students to have to learn how to account for this issue.

Roles.  Role-playing can be a great way to have a discussion.  Taking on roles requires the student to think of an issue, not from their own point of view, but from that of another person – one that might be in total contradiction to their own.

Roles can also be used to group students.  Students can join a group by choosing a role in that group.  Then, the groups can be jumbled so that all the same roles are put in a group. This group would have a discussion to develop their points of view.  Then the student would return to their original group and participate in the discussion from that point of view.

Frequently asked questions.  This is a section that gets updated every time the course is taught.  When students have questions, they can search here first.  If the question is new, then it can be added on at that time and for the future.

DISCUSSION FORUM ASSESSMENT

Communication Plan Rubric

Online Discussion Rubric

4 – Excellent

3 – Good

2 – Acceptable

1 – Unacceptable

Initial Assignment Posting

Posts well developed assignment that fully addresses all aspects of the task.

Posts well developed assignment that addresses all aspects of the task; lacks full development of concepts.

Posts adequate assignment with superficial thought and preparation; doesn’t address all aspects of the task.

No assignment is posted.

Quality of Information in Post/Thread

Information clearly relates to the main topic and adds new concepts, information.

Information clearly relates to the main topic.

Information partially relates to the main topic.

Information has little or nothing to do with the main topic or simply restates the main concept.

Participation

Creates new posts and encourages others.  Regularly participates and responds to others posts.

Creates new posts, and comments frequently to others posts.  Aso, students who slightly over-post.

Does not create new posts and occasionally comments to others posts.  Also students who regularly over-post.

Only responds to the facilitator or students post at every opportunity without giving others a chance to get involved.

References

Two or more supporting examples are provided/referenced, information is well organized.

One supporting example is provided/referenced.  Information is well organized.

No supporting examples are provided/ referenced but information is organized.

No examples provided/referenced and organization is poor.

Mechanics

Appropriate language and tone used consistently throughout.  No errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation

Appropriate language and tone used frequently throughout.  Fewer than 5 errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Appropriate language and tone used occasionally throughout.  5-10 errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Language and tone is inappropriate.  More than 10 errors exist in spelling, grammar or punctuation causing reading to be difficult.

MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND STRATEGIES (CONTINGENCY PLAN)

Over-posting/Under-posting.  These two issues are related.  Sometimes under-posting (student makes only the minimal attempt to post) is a result of students being intimidated by others who post many times (over-posting).  In order to control over-posting, students should be limit to one post and one or two replies before the first deadline.  Over-posting is included in the rubric (above), but students will be given an opportunity to adjust before having reduction.

Not all under-posting is a result of over-posting.  A student new to online classes may be uncertain of the whats, whens, whys and hows of posting.  The may be naturally introverted and uncomfortable.  Like over-posting, under-posting can affect the grade and the student needs the chance to adapt.  Both issues require careful guidance from the instructor.

Inappropriate posts.  Inappropriate posts will be deleted and the instructor will handle this on a case by case basis.  This could result in receiving a zero for participation in discussion boards.

Confrontational posts.  Confrontational posts should be avoided if at all possible.  It is important to keep in mind that what you write could be perceived by someone else as confrontational.  Please be aware of your tone and voice when contributing.

Misunderstood posts.  Sometimes the above three issues can be the result of a misunderstood post.  A good rule to follow is to respond outside the forum in a document. Then, come back after a little while and review what you wrote as if you were a different person.  Do you have questions about what you wrote?  Does the tone “sound” appropriate?  As a course moves forward and you develop relationships with your classmates, maybe you can share with one of them for their thoughts.  Remember, that the nature of asynchronous learning is that it is more time-involving, so you don’t need to post immediately.

Late posts.  To prevent students from posting at the very last minute, separate deadlines are created for initial postings and responses.  However, waiting until the deadlines to post doesn’t allow students to fully engage with their classmates and get the most from the discussion.

Poor quality posts.  A good rule to follow is to record your comments in a venue outside the discussion forum.  Then, before copy and pasting your post, wait some time (like the next day).  Go back and reread your comment.  Does it still make sense?  If not, adjust and then wait some more.  Another idea is to ask a classmate to review your post first and ask them if they have any questions.

Technical issues.  Technical issues can and do arise.  Please contact the instructor as soon as possible with an explanation and he/she will deal with this on a case by case basis.

“Vanilla” posts.  Often, students find it difficult to post comments that disagree with another student’s post (especially among older, adult students).  A requirement that students post a certain amount of opposing point of view comments is necessary.  A good rule of thumb would be 20-25% of the post should be taking an opposing view.  Even if you agree with a post, it is a good idea to post an opposing view.  By forcing yourself to try and look at the other side of the issue, you might find some valid points, allowing yourself a more complete understanding of an issue.

References:

http://aliciaedtechlog.blogspot.com/

http://bcraneedtechblog.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/edtech-523-communication-plan-for-discussion-forums/

http://barbedtech523.wordpress.com/communication-plan/