EDTECH 542 Introduction

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I am a GED Instructor with the Pittsburgh Job Corps.  Job Corps is a training program associated with the Department of Labor for youths 16-24.  On Friday (June 13, 2014), I will celebrate 9 years there.   Five years ago, we received Promethean boards and this led to my decision to pursue this program.  I also provide training to my peers on educational technology tools.

This is my ninth class in the MET program.  In the fall, I will take EDTECH 505 and do my portfolio next spring (which I, unfortunately and against suggestions, have not done much preparation for, yet).  I plan to attend graduation in May of 2015.

Nines are wild, as that will be the age of my oldest dog, Lacie J., at the end of July.  She is a black and white Shih Tzu.  We added a second dog to our family this winter.  Lucky is a 6 months old brown and white Pomeranian mix and he is a rescue.  He shares my wife’s birthday.  We will celebrate 17 years of marriage three days before Lacie’s birthday.

Since 2001, I have worked part-time as a game day merchandise vendor for the SIX-Time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  The extra money comes in handy for vacations to Las Vegas, a destination my wife and I thoroughly enjoy.  Beyond the gambling, we love taking tours – Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, horseback riding in Red Rock Canyon – and seeing shows like Wayne Newton, Terry Fator and Recycle Percussion.  However, our favorite vacation was to the Black Hills.  We did a helicopter flight over Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial and drove out to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  The picture in my advertisement was taken at President’s Park in 2006.  I guess I’ll have to go back out and get one next to the “THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR THE 45TH PRESIDENT” sign.

I better wrap this up.  We are trying to train Lucky, so I need to spend sometime teaching him to “sit”.  Besides, it will give Lacie a break from being tormented by him.  I wish everyone well in this class and in the rest of the program.  I look forward to learning about PBL with you.

JoeBod

Relative Advantage of Using Technology to Make the Content Areas More Engaging, Relevant and Authentic

You are taking a walk and you come upon an emergency.  It might be a house on fire, someone is unconscious or an act of violence is being perpetuated.  What could you do? Did I mention it is 1914?  In 1914, if you needed to get help, chances are they will arrive too late. However, in 2014, most people have cell phones and help can be there in minutes. Technology today helps us in so many positive ways outside of school.  Why should we not use it to help our students in positive ways inside the school?

Today’s students have grown up on technology.  It has been apart of their lives as far as they can remember.  Not always a good thing, but a real thing.  Since it is so real, by using technology in the classroom, we can tie what we are teaching our students to their lives and make learning a part of their lives.  And that is a good thing.

Ever notice students talking about a movie they saw?  It might have been designed to purely entertain, but often times it will spark a conversation about the topic of the movie that leads to inquiry.  A teaching moment has been created.  Technology in the classroom can do that, too.  It can spark an inquisitive discussion.  Students become engage and participate.  They receive immediate feedback, not just from the teacher, but the other students (Raju, 2013).

What about the students who have difficulties learning?  Students with low attention spans will be aided by switching activities (Raju, 2013).  This is much easier to accomplish with technology.  A short video followed by a mini quiz on the material using clickers can prepare them for an interactive lesson on the computer.  If students have physical challenges, close captioning can be used for those with hearing impairments or text to speech software can aid a student with little or no manual skills.

What impact does technology have on students’ learning?  Instead of listening to a lecture, students who are involved in the learning by creating videos on the subject – on a historical figure, a mathematical concept, interviewing an expert in their field or a time-lapse representation of a phenomenon occurring in nature – will better retain the information (Bernard, 2009).  As a side benefit, while working with technological tools, the students will acquire non-content area skills that will benefit them in their future (Raju, 2013).  This could be using Word in a math class to create a glossary of terms or Excel in a social studies or language arts class to create charts and graphs to support a position. Frequently asked questions can be placed on a class blog, wiki or webpage that students can access again later or if they were absent, thus saving class time (Bernard, 2009).

With technology, the classroom does not have to be contained inside four walls.  Students can connect with people who are using the what they learned in school in their careers (Raju, 2013).  They can  see what engineers, archaeologists, botanists and others do in a typical day (or not so typical day).  They can learn about other cultures by communicating with other students around the world (Raju, 2013).

Even a little bit of technology in your class, regardless of the content area, can have a dramatic effect on students.  I teach students who left school without getting a diploma.  A few years ago, my school purchased interactive whiteboards.  In order to quickly use them, I created flipcharts that were practice problems.  The students would read the problem and answer a multiple choice question using a student response system.  This was rote memorization and drill and practice put on a big screen.  My students began to work harder in class.  They were more involved in the lesson.  They enjoyed coming to my class more than some others who weren’t using the technology as much.  Did it help? Every year, the percent of students who passed the GED test went up a couple of points. This past year, over ⅔ of my students achieved their GED.  These were students who were unsuccessful in the traditional school setting.  With the change to the GED 2014 Test, students will need to have higher-ordered thinking skills and even more technological skills.  Thus the biggest advantage to using technology in all content areas is because the future depends upon it.

Bernard, S. (2009). How to teach with technology. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-lesson-ideas

Raju, S. (2013). Top 10 reasons to use technology in education: iPad, tablet, computer, listening centers. YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulb4jl3xqs8

Social Media in the Classroom

Here is my Voicethread on social media in the classroom.

References:

Osborne, C. (2012). Ways to use Facebook effectively in class. ZDNet. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/ways-to-use-facebook-effectively-in-class/15269

Smith, F. (2007). How to use social-networking technology for learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/how-use-social-networking-technology

Relative Advantage of Hypermedia in the Classroom

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Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Schroeder, B. (2010).  10 Reasons to Use Multimedia in the Classroom.  Global Grid For Learning.  Retrieved from http://www.globalgridforlearning.com/10-reasons-to-use-multimedia-in-the-classroom

Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

Charts and graphs are an enigma in Mathematics Education.  I say this because from my experience I find them to be so self-explanatory that they need a lot of explanation. WHAT?!?!?!  Hence the mystery.  Most of us look at a chart or graph and think, “Okay, I know what this is telling me.”  It is obviously right there.  I mean it’s like writing “2 + 2 = 4” on the board and asking a student, “what is two plus two?”  But, not to the mind of the adolescent.  Many times as educators we forget it isn’t that easy.  Charts and graphs need to be explained thoroughly like any other lesson.  They need to be dissected and created by the students.  Spreadsheets help eliminate some of the issues with doing that.  A lot of students (I was one) are not extremely artistic.  And, if they are also perfectionists (like me), they can be frustrated when drawing charts and graphs.  They also are very time-consuming to make, not just for the students but, for the teacher.  Spreadsheets allow for almost anyone to make a high quality chart in a short period of time.

Spreadsheets, a tool many teachers might be familiar with for recording information about their students, might be more beneficial providing information for their students.  Here is a short list of other reasons to use spreadsheets in the mathematics classroom.

  • Spreadsheets allow for easy data manipulation and the resulting effects to be quickly seen (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).

  • They are very useful when dealing with perimeter, area and volume problems.

  • Other formulas, such as temperature conversion, can be demonstrated.

  • The concept of proportions is more readily understood.

  • Data analyzing (mean, median, mode) isn’t restricted in sample size.

  • Data collection isn’t limited to the size of the class.

  • Patterns can be expanded to find the 50,000th term (or more).

As with any tool, students will need to learn how to use spreadsheets (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  While you can use already created templates allow for students to enter in data and gather results, spreadsheets support a student-centered learning environment by allowing students to create their own manipulations.  Much like students can not be handed a calculator and expected to know the correct procedure for entering in data, they need to learn how to format functions.  For many students, there is an added barrier from a fear of mathematics that must first be overcome (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Remind them that although mistakes will be made, this give rise to the opportunity to problem solve.

While I have made it seem like spreadsheets are primarily a tool for the mathematics classroom because they are primarily used with numerical data, spreadsheets are effective in other content areas (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Instead of losing precious time doing all the math, spreadsheets can accomplish that task and allow for exploration of the lesson. Here are some non-math class uses of spreadsheets.

How old are you on Neptune?  I like that this one still refers to NINE planets (Go Pluto!)

It’s ‘Element’ary

Diversity

Climate Data Workbook

How Much Tax Would You Pay?

Reference

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Presentations in the Classroom

For many years, I sat trying to keep myself awake during a PowerPoint presentation.  I would be popping Vivarin, chased with Jolt, while someone droned on reading words on a screen that I could read myself if there wasn’t so many that they had to use negative four font size to fit them all on the slide.  Then, after forty-five minutes of my life that I would never get back, I had to sit through a half an hour of questions that basically had all the same information provided again.  I didn’t know there was any other way.  Not until I started in this program.

In my Online Teaching class, I created this Google Presentation.  Still, too wordy, but at least there was some interaction to it to keep a student focused.  Then, in YouTube for the Educator, I created this video using PowerPoint.  Since it was a video, it wasn’t interactive (though, I later learned ways to create an interactive video if I want to re-worked this).  It did have a lot more graphics and animation to go with the narration.  Maybe it won’t win a “Tubie” (which is what they should call YouTube Video Awards, if they don’t), but it shows why such presentations can be a valuable asset to the classroom.

Presentation applications have many features that give them an advantage in the classroom.  They can be interactive.  They are accessible for viewing by students who missed the class or re-viewing by students who need to take a second look. Presentations permit a diverse media display:  Images, videos and links to additional resources. Questions can be included, both full-length quizzes and spot checks.  SlideRocket will allow you to add interactive elements to your presentation.

Not every presentation program has the same features.  Currently, there is no ability to add audio to Google.  Searching on the internet, I found that you can work around this somewhat by creating a video narration and embedding the video.  Shrink it real small to hide, or just enough to look like you are TV news anchor in a PIP (Picture-in-Picture) format.  Adding narration will save your voice and ensure that everyone viewing the presentation will get the same information, regardless of when they view it or how many times.  Eliminates the possibility of forgetting something in one of your presentations to one of your classes.

Now that you are aware of the fact that presentations don’t have to be like this, but can be like this, you are well on your way to earning a “Tubie.” (Come on, people.  We need to get a grassroots campaign started).  Or, at the very least, be a reason for Starbucks’ sales to drop on one day.

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/

RSS for Education

RSS feeds are a great way to stay updated on information.  They are efficient because you get updates automatically without searching every time.  Because of this, they can be very effective as a teaching tool.

Many times while teaching, I have students who need more work on a lesson than we have time for in class.  Making worksheets is not only costly from a supply point, but they require the student to wait for them to get checked to know if they have comprehended the lesson.  With RSS feeds, students can gain immediate access to information and feedback to help them learn.

RSS feeds can also be helpful in writing of lesson plans.  By subscribing, a teacher can receive updates to news and information that s/he can use to help create new lessons or update older ones.  They can also stay abreast of the most current theories in education in order to provide the best source of knowledge to their students.

Here is a link to my bundle of teaching resources:

http://www.google.com/reader/bundle/user%2F15725778326983108721%2Fbundle%2FTeaching%20Resources