Module 6 Summary and Reflection

Module 6 involved the presentation of a synchronous lesson.  My partner for this project was Marci Smith, who is also a math teacher.  Based upon her suggestion, we chose to do a lesson on transformations.  Our main synchronous learning strategy was the solo fishbowl. This strategy lend itself well to the lesson because it allowed students to practice sketching their transformations and receive immediate feedback on how they were doing.

Since Marci has taught this lesson much more recently, she adapted her plan to a synchronous environment.  I handled much of the administrative work in Adobe Connect by setting up our layout, adding polls and creating the whiteboards for the fishbowls.  We split up the instruction of the lesson into four main parts:  the introduction activity (taught by me), the main lesson (Marci), the fishbowl activity (me) and self practice (Marci).  In order to be prepared, we spent two nights going through the lesson in mock fashion on Adobe Connect.

Overall, the lesson went well.  Working with Adobe Connect for a second time, I found that it was easier than the previous time.  We ran into an issue where Marci was not able to stay connected and I had to start the main teaching portion, but she was able to get reconnected and pick it up without missing a step.  We did prepare more than we needed for the time allotted, but we had planned for what to eliminate without compromising the key points of the lesson.

Reflect on assessment of learning outcomes in online environments. Consider the following questions in your reflection:

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

The best type of assessment strategies in the online environment are formative ones: assessment that occurs ongoing throughout the course.  This could be informal assessment in the form of immediate feedback during a live lesson (such as our solo fishbowl activity discussed above) or more formal assessment using a rubric.  In the asynchronous environment, reflection post such as this are extremely useful tools to assess a student’s level of knowledge.  Students should seek out feedback from their fellow students.  This form of assessment helps to create the collaborative community that drives much of the virtual classroom.  Students should provide feedback on how well the assignments met their learning needs.  Finally, in order for online learning to have any value, the students must realize that their participation in all activities is vital.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

The biggest difference between the online and the traditional classroom is in quizzes and exams.  While online classes can administer quizzes and exams, to rely on them to the extent they are in a traditional classroom would be faulty.  While test security measures can be created online, assuring that the student taking the test is the actual student of the class can be, while possible, an impractical feat.  While a student could get someone else to do his/her work in the online environment, the time involved would make it infeasible.

Reference:

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

10 Best Post of EDTECH 523 (Spring 2013)

There were so many good posts, that I had to develop rules in order to select the 10 best.

Rule 1 – I eliminated any of my own posts.

Rule 2 – I chose posts to which I posted a response.  I felt that if the post was important enough to me when I responded to it, then it should be recognized.

Rule 3 – I wanted to have 10 different students represented on this list.

The list below is in chronological order.

1.  Community Building and Collaboration Due-Tue 2/19 byDustin Kisner – Monday, February 18, 2013, 8:57 PM

Community Building and Collaboration Tools

    There is a lot of value in online collaboration not only in education but also in the workplace. I currently use a few different Web-based collaborative tools in teaching and with work. The Math department I am apart of has been using dropbox as an online collaboration tool for the entire year. We continue to add lesson plans, projects, activities, etc to dropbox and we of course have a folder that we all share. Within the folder we share, we all have separate folders we add to and a few files for curriculum maps. Then as a student I currently and in the past have used google docs to share and edit papers, projects, etc. As a teacher I use schoolfusion, which is very similar to moodle or blackboard. I use it for discussions, announcements, assigning homework, printing worksheets and anything else related to the classroom. From my personal experience using online collaborative tools with classmates, as a student and as a teacher it has been very effective and I can not imagine not using those tools.

   I have noticed a few benefits as a teacher using online collaboration and community building tools. One of the benefits is that students have access to the entire class anywhere they have an internet connection.  From the reading this week it helped to make sense of how online collaboration could be more effective than in a classroom when dealing with participation. There are a large group of students that fear public speaking so they will not speak up in a regular classroom. With online collaboration there is more a chance they will “speak” their mind. Which I have seen in many of my classes. But it is a double edged sword.

   One of the pitfalls is students saying things that are inappropriate or regretful, they feel too comfortable sharing things or saying something they regret later. They sometimes feel they can hide behind their computer and do not realize it affects real people, being unaware of proper netiquette. Other pitfalls could happen when instructors need to create “expansive questions” or questions which compel the learner to write meaningful, reflective responses. If this done not happen students will either not respond or they will respond with a bare minimal response that is not very lengthy or in depth. You can also have “groupthink” as discussed in the text.  Certain individuals can overwhelm the group with their input. Students may feel disconnected and not participate or leave the group.

   Thinking of the readings and the experiences I have had with online collaborative tools there are a lot of things the instructor can do to head off a lot of the issues that can occur. With clear instructions and rubrics a lot of these issues go away. Make sure each student is aware of proper netiquette, and use a good icebreaker to help students feel welcome and comfortable with classmates.

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

2.  Edmunson – Community Building and Collaboration byShelly Edmunson – Monday, February 18, 2013, 11:08 PM

Do you see value in web-based collaborative tools?

Web-based collaborative tools are valuable in both online and face-to-face environments. In the online environment they are especially important as they are used to help build a sense of community and belonging among students. Web-based collaborative tools allow students to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously. Students can use Skype or Google + to collaborate face-to-face. Students can use discussion boards or blogs to post reflections or questions they may have regarding course content and assignments and can comment on classmates’ posts. Students can work collaboratively on projects using tools such as Google docs or Voicethread. According to Pallof and Pratt (2007), collaborative effort helps learners achieve a deeper level of knowledge generation while moving from independence to interdependence, thus strengthening the foundation of the online learning community.

I have used Google presentations in my multimedia class for students to work collaboratively. By using this Google presentation students were able to work on the project synchronously, they could see the changes being made by other students, and they had access to the project in the classroom as well as outside the classroom.

What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

There are can be pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities. Students may not be familiar with the collaboration tools being implemented or they may not have access to the technology needed. We cannot assume that all students have the skills, tools or technology being implemented. Some students may also struggle with feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts or opinions in the online environment. It is important for instructors to pay attention to students that may be just “lurking” and not participating in the discussions or activities. It is important for instructors to be aware of the pitfalls that may occur and to intervene when needed. All means of communication, including the telephone and face-to-face meetings, need to be employed in order to address concerns and deal with problems (Pallof & Pratt, 2007). Pitfalls may also be avoided by establishing clear expectations and guidelines for participation in discussions and other collaborative activities.

As a face-to-face classroom teacher they main issue I have had with implementing collaborative activities using web-based tools, is that we are blocked from the majority of these collaborative tools in my district.

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

3.  Re: Community Building and Collaboration Due-Tue 2/19 bySusi Schmidt – Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 11:16 AM

Do your see value in Web-based collaborative tools?

There is tremendous value in web-based collaborative tools.  I remember attending school before the rise of the World Wide Web and I can remember how challenging it was to try and do a group project.  All group members had to decide on days/times to meet and it had to be in person! This method took so much more time to complete than it does today with the advancement of technology and web-based collaborative tools.  When working with others in a group whether it is for an employer or for school, there are so many tools out there just for meeting.  Examples of this include software programs like Adobe Connect or Go To Meeting.  These programs allow users to virtually meet and share ideas without having to leave the comfort of home or the office.  These programs allow you to not only speak to each other, but every user within the group can share documents, photos, etc to other members of the group in real time so everyone can discuss and also make changes while they are in the meeting.  They also allow the use of web cams so the group members can see each other face-to-face as if they were not really many miles away from each other.  This is important when communicating as it reduces communication barriers that can pop up with other forms of communication.

There are many other different forms of web-based collaborative communication that can be used when working in groups to complete projects, such as, the use of Wiki’s, social media, blogs, virtual worlds, presentation sharing, and forms of multi-media.  For instance, using a cloud type storage for your group after you choose specific conferencing software to use is extremely beneficial.  Google docs is an example of how members of the group can share access to group documents and keep track of the most up to date versions of projects.  This eliminates the group having to repeatedly e-mail documents back and forth to group members.  This can become very cumbersome for even 2-3 group members, let alone more members.

According to Palloff & Pratt (2007), collaborative work forms the basis for the student’s ability to participate in the transformative learning process.  In an online course, it is crucial that the instructor have the students engage in a collaborative experience to promote student interaction.  By promoting student interaction, it helps keep the students engaged and actively learning, which in turn, will help them take what they have learned and apply it to their daily lives.

What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

There are always going to be some pitfalls in implementing certain collaborative web-based tools.  The first one that I have personally experienced working in groups is the different experience levels with technology.  I have been in groups before where we only had access to certain conferencing tools and had to spend quite a bit of time trying to explain to all users how to work them.  This took away from valuable work time that we had as a group, even though we didn’t mind explaining the software.

One other pitfall of the online or web-based collaborative tools is actually face-to-face discussions.  One thing I have found from being a full time online instructor is that students tend to think that they can be more aggressive or verbally abusive in online discussions.  I have had to turn a few students in for code of conduct issues for not respecting fellow peers and their opinions within the online discussion forum.  It seems that there are many students who truly do not understand that speaking (or typing) is the same, as you would speak to someone in the classroom in person.  Telling someone that you think their post is stupid or that they don’t know what they are talking about is completely inappropriate and when you sit them down and talk to them about it, you can often ask them if they would say the exact same thing they said in the online discussion forum to the person’s face and often times they will say no.  This is why it is so crucial to teach netiquette in an online environment because many people would be surprised that it happens even at the higher education level.

Reference:

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd edition).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

4.  Re: Module 4-5-6: Best Practice in Online Ed — due Feb 26th byJessica Smith – Monday, February 25, 2013, 5:56 PM

What does good online instruction look like?

Good online instruction anticipates the different needs of learners enrolled in the course. Quality online instruction outlines how students are to communicate with each other, how to obtain technical assistance, and how often their instructor responds to email.

Quality online instruction consists of small discussion groups where learners are required to participate and focus on a specific task.  Students should create an artifact based on the content they learned during the module.  Students should receive feedback on their discussion, as well as the artifact they create.  Feedback takes the form of acknowledging receipt of their work, as well as information specific to an activity.

Students need deadlines or checkpoints spread throughout a course to ensure that they manage their time effectively.

Setting high expectations for students and communicating them appropriately to students allows them to know what the expectations are upfront.  Communication can take the form of posting exemplars of what to do and what not to do.

Does it look the same for all grades levels and content areas?

A significant amount of research is available for post-secondary, graduate, and professional students.  I had difficulty finding research specific to the type of students I teach.  Without having research to reference, my opinion is that online instruction is as different as it is similar.  All good online instruction involves developing quality learning materials, setting deadlines, guiding students, assessing their learning, and providing feedback.  What differs between grade levels and/or abilities requires an instructor to tailor materials to meet the unique social-emotional learning needs of the students enrolled in the course.  Certain groups of students may need assistance with procedural or non-content skills before they are ready to approach content.  Specifically, they may need mini-lessons in sending emails, using a chat room, posting on a discussion forum.  There needs to be an opportunity for students to learn this skill, receive feedback, and continue to improve.

Will effective face-to-face teachers be effective online teachers?

Not every face to face teacher will be an effective online teacher, just as not every online teacher will be effective face-to-face.  There is no way to make a blanket statement that teachers from one field will be able to transfer their skills immediately to the other.  The demands for time, resources, and preparation change based on the content area, grade level of the student, a teacher’s previous teaching background and if they are provided curriculum or are able to create their own.  Just as a face-to-face teacher may mesh well with one school system or administration does not mean that they will if there was a shift; there is no assurance that an online teacher will be effective with each educational system they work with.  There remains a need to ensure a good fit between an individual educator and their teaching philosophy along with the educational system or organization they represent.

5.  Re: Lead a Discussion for course Section 4172/4173 K-12 topic 3/5-3/12 byKatelyn Conner – Saturday, March 9, 2013, 10:40 AM

What a great question! I teach third grade in a district that is currently implementing the common core. Each day, I seek ways to allow students to more self-directed and take ownership of their learning. Some students do this naturally. However, other students that are lower achievers need more scaffolding and guidance in order to learn at the level the common core requires. Additionally, I find that the common core, so overwhelming in its requirements, actually allow for LESS student centered learning. There is so much to cover in the common core, that I find myself actually doing more teacher centered activities than ever before. It has really been challenging for me and my colleagues to find ways to provide more student centered learning activities and cover all of the common core standards. That being said…

Do I feel that I need to maintain control of the learning environment?

I feel that I need to ensure that students are indeed engaged in meaningful learning activities. So, I guess I feel that I need to maintain control to a certain degree. Depending on students ability to be independent in any given activity, my control in the learning environment adjusts based on student need. I would love to release learning to my students for each and every activity, however, in a third grade classroom at a low-income school, it just can’t happen all the time. In an online learning environment, it seems like it would be even more tricky to know for sure whether releasing control to the students would be an appropriate thing. However, I think it’s important to expect students to rise to the challenge.

How comfortable would I feel giving over that control to the learners and being an equal participant?

Totally comfortable! As long as students are ABLE to learn without strong guidance from me. Typically, I find that some students are able to be self-directed and control their own learning most of the time. I’m extremely comfortable releasing those students and trust that they are making the right choices to enhance their learning. However, different groups of students require more scaffolding and support. I work more closely with those students. So, in essence, differentiation is key! In the online learning environment, I would love to watch students construct their own learning through the activities while I facilitate and learn with them.

6.  Re: Voice and Tone Discussion Activity–Due 3/12 by Ashley Leneway – Sunday, March 10, 2013, 12:53 AM

I selected the role of parent opposed to proposal…(assuming we’re discussing this for a traditional, face-to-face, high school, not a virtual one)

I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today and share my concerns for allowing students access to social networking sites such as Facebook in our school. There are many reasons I am opposed to this proposal, many of them you’ve already heard. I think it’s important to think of the intended focus of the social networking sites. Was Facebook designed to be used for education? I believe the answer is no. Although I do believe students need to learn about how to use social networking sites appropriately, I do not believe that is the responsibility of the school. It’s my opinion that our teacher’s time should be spent educating our children, not monitoring and policing the correct and appropriate use of social networking sites. Secondly, as a parent, I have selected to keep my children in traditional schooling partly because I believe in the importance of socialize with their peers. It’s my hope that their time here will be enriched with social interactions and the creation of friendships, and not virtual ones.  I do believe there is a time and a place for Facebook, but I do not think it’s appropriate for our school, especially not at this time. There are lots of collaborative sites that are intended for educational purposes and my first suggestion is that we get the high school education association involved in looking at those sites and evaluating the effectiveness. Is there one that is educationally based that they would be interested in using? Also, the students say that they are old enough to handle themselves, that they will follow Acceptable Use Policy and have their parents’ permission but I think recent coverage of the use of social networking tells us that students don’t truly understand the implications of their actions online. Therefore, my second recommendation is that we start an after school program for both parents and their children that will dig into the world of social networking; allowing parents to become educated and involved in their children’s social networking and to teach students the (long terms and sometimes life changing) implications of their actions online.

7.  Re: Adult Ed Discussion 3/13-3/19: Improving Online Class Participation & Implementation byScott Hogan – Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:30 AM

I feel like I’ve experienced some of the same problems that students in Claire’s class went through.  In a previous EdTech class I didn’t participate in at least a handful of discussion related activities, mainly because I didn’t see the relevance for me, didn’t want to spend the time, and it didn’t look to be a big portion of the grade.  I know that doesn’t sound good, but with my personal situation at the time it was a decision I had to make.  At the end of the course I looked to have an A according to the online grade book.  Over the course of about 18 hours right before grades were due I watched online as my grade fluctuated from an A to a D with just about every stop in between.  It was as if the teacher was trying to find a way to retroactively punish students for not participating as much as he/she had hoped.  I sent an email with a copy of the grade scale that had been sent out at the beginning of the term just to remind the professor that there was a record of what was expected.  I say that to say this:

1) Make sure that as an instructor you clearly understand and communicate what the expectations are for involvement and communication on forums and in class discussions.

2) Your syllabus must be detailed and accurate.  Look at it to make sure that at the end of a course you don’t feel like students got grades that you don’t feel accurately judge their effort.  I try to do that with my classroom, but still am frustrated when a student of mine skips a project but still gets a B or higher.  But if the rest of their work is that good there isn’t much I can do about it.

3) Before the next course is taught, reevaluate your learning outcomes.  Check to see that planned activities can actually lead to those goals.  Don’t hold on to something that doesn’t work just because it is what you’ve always done.  Too many teachers (traditional and other) stick with activities or pet-projects that are fun but don’t really meet state standards or lead to desired learning outcomes.

8.  Re: Discussion Question for K12-Section 4172 3/13-3/19 bySherri Harrelson – Saturday, March 16, 2013, 7:38 PM

Kathy,

This is an excellent discussion involving an interesting article!

1. I disagree with some of the findings of this study for multiple reasons. In terms of validity and reliability, I don’t feel that there was enough variety in the study subjects, nor that the samples were large enough. As far as the outcome, I disagree that learning synchronously produces a greater amount of “personal participation.” While I agree that I personally, as well as other students I’ve had courses with, tend to “gab” more about topics unrelated to class materials when using synchronous communication, I feel that personal participation has always been equal, if not greater, when using asynchronous means. More often than not, I wouldn’t choose to use synchronous communication, and the times that I have used it were less than productive. In fact, in a previous course with optional synchronous meetings many students that “attended”  barely communicated at all. In addition, planning tasks for my current courses would be virtually impossible using synchronous communication tools due to the many differences in time/ schedules.

2. I think that asynchronous learning would best serve the k-12 population for the majority of tasks, although I have seen a few very valuable synchronous lessons and feel that they could be used periodically to assist in teaching difficult concepts. In many cases, virtual k-12 students are no different than us (meaning college level learners) in that they are busy, have other demands on their time, and frankly may not see the value in using ongoing synchronous tools. While synchronous tools certainly have their own benefits, I feel that meeting the demands of 21st century learners means teaching and learning occur asynchronously on the student’s schedule.

-Sherri

9.  Re: Lead a Discussion for 3/20-4/2 4172 byJenni Harris – Thursday, March 28, 2013, 1:08 PM

1.  What are the pros and cons of using a discussion board?

In my opinion, the biggest pro for using discussion boards is the student’s ability to take significant time to formulate their answers. Because the response doesn’t have to be communicated immediately, the student has time to reflect and research answers to the questions posed. Additionally, the student has time to write a concise answer when they feel ready, or have the time to post. This can alleviate the anxiety some students feel when responding in face-to-face or synchronous situations.

Cons in asynchronous communication can result from poor behavior from students, either purposefully inappropriate or lacking in netiquette, just as they can in face to face classrooms. Another issue that Palloff and Pratt discuss results from the fastest typists appearing to be the loudest voices. This can be intimidating in an online forum where the student’s have varying abilities in typing and expression.

2.  The Palloff and Pratt (2007) state “there is a concern that some instructors are simply posting discussion questions and then do not log back into the course to monitor progress or offer input and feedback.”   What should be the teacher’s role in a discussion board?

The instructor should make students aware that they do read every post, even though they may not respond to every individual. The instructor should know when it is appropriate to participate in the forum, asking leading questions that cause students to reflect and find deeper meaning. When students are being inappropriate, off topic, or not following posted netiquette rules, then the instructor should step in through private messages to help keep the discussion flowing and create a safe environment.

10.  Re: Lead a Discussion- Section 4172- K-12 4/4-4/10 byAmy Armstrong – Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:12 PM

Identify and describe either a lesson that would benefit from synchronous instruction, an objective that would benefit from real time assessment, or some other activity that would be better if done in real time.

Having a guest expert interact with students would be best done in a synchronous environment. Most people wouldn’t be able to give a time commitment of checking in on a weekly discussion board. However, having the expert chat in real time with students would be very beneficial for students. They can ask questions and listen to the expert and get a different perspective on a topic. For example, if students are reading a play, asking a local actor to talk to students about stage direction, or how they become a character, or memorize lines, is a real world application of what students are reading about and it gives the reading of a play new relevancy (especially if it is Shakespeare).

Finkelstein states that “the full potential of any learning experience cannot be achieved when learners are led to ponder Tell me again, why am I here?” How would you answer this hypothetical question from a student? Relate your answer back to the indicators for real-time online learning on pages 7-10 or to list of skills assessed uniquely live online on pages 12-13.

Students have every right to ask the question, “tell me again, why I am here?”. I think that question may come up more if a teacher has real time lessons that don’t necessarily provide something extra to the student. I would tell them that they are here so they can gain a deeper appreciation for the subject matter (example: a novel or short story). According to Finkelstein, a good teacher inspires and gives an extra spark through the voice, spirited explanations, and gestures. This can’t be conveyed as easily online, but if a teacher posts a particularly moving video of themselves or has an online discussion where students can see the passion their teacher has for the subject matter, that may inspire students to delve deeper into the content. It may also satisfy their question of why they are here.

What good practices from Chapter 2 pages 15-32 does your activity foster?

The activity mentioned above was to have a guest speaker discuss their playacting skills in relation to a play students are reading. Some of the good practices this activity entails would be that it encourages contact between students and faculty, as the teacher should be helping monitor the real time discussion. Listening to a guest speaker will encourage active learning, as the students must listen and respond to what the guest speaker is saying. Having a guest speaker answer their questions will also give students prompt feedback, which is another good practice mentioned in chapter 2.

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/

Module 3 Reflection and Summary

Task:  Can you recognize one or two voices and/or tones from the in the activity you completed this week? Do you notice these voices and/or tones in your current discussion board responses with students, if applicable? 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.

Let me start by restating the activity.  The task was to choose a role (Student, Principal, Teacher who wants social networks in the classroom, Parent in support of proposal or Parent opposed to proposal) and respond, with appropriate voice and tone, to the student association’s request to allow access to social networks at school.  My initial response follows below.

As an educator who was stifled from fully utilizing technology, I stand before you today in support of opening up social networking to the student body.  I have heard the concerns of Ms. Harris and Mr. Farmer.  They are valid.  But I believe to hide and shield students from these sites is the wrong course of action.  My colonel in the Army taught me that it may be the Air “Defense” Artillery, but we don’t defend.  We attack!  I realized then that it was a philosophy I used my entire life as a student who was bullied.  My parents taught me to fight back, and I did.  Maybe not always in the right way, but I confronted adversity head-on. And I never had my lunch money taken!  Ironically, one of my bullies later became a fraternity brother of mine.  In the same way, I am not here to fight against you.  Instead, I want you on my side.  I want your input.  I want our students to be prepared for their future – a future including more technology than we can even imagine today – and have the skills and tools to handle any obstacle they face.  And that is why I am here today to announce that I am a pro-technology candidate for the school board.  God bless you and God bless Ampipe High!  Go Bulldogs!

The tone of my initial posting was Whimsical/Humorous/Imaginative.  I posted playing the role of an pro-technology educator running for the school board.  I interspersed hyperbole throughout my comments in order to sound like a politician on the campaign trail.  When I was discussing my history of being bullied, while handled in a lighthearted manner, it was as a Personal Muse.

(Note:  For those wondering, the Ampipe Bulldogs is from “All the Right Moves,” with Tom Cruise and Craig T, Nelson.)

In a response to a classmate’s post calling for an after-school program to educate students and parents on social networks, I posted the following:

I have some questions concerning your proposal for an after school program to educate parents and children on social networking.

1.  Would it be mandatory?  If not, what incentive would there be for people to attend?

2.  Where is the money going to come from?  In today’s age of budget tightening, how are you going to pay for a new after school program, especially one that might not be supported by the constituents?

While my tone could be construed as Curious/Informal, I think it clearly reads as if I am against the idea without knowing the answers to my questions.  I could eliminate the first question in part one.  For the second part, a better rephrasing might be, “In today’s age of budget tightening, how might we pay for a new after school program?”  These changes would come off as less aggressive.

I don’t currently have discussion boards with my students (I teach in a face-to-face environment).  At times, I catch myself using some of less desirable tones with my students.  However, in my discussion board posts with my classmates, I make every effort to review my comments before sending to try to minimize any negative voices or tones. Unlike the spoken word, we get the chance to see our words before others “hear” them. While I should follow the old adage of thinking before speaking, a long time lag would be awkward.  I would look funny to my students standing there and mentally backspacing (or deleting).

EDTECH 523: Module 2 Summary

In this module I have accomplished the following:

  1. Read, read and read some more.
  • community building
  • collaboration
  • best practices
  • national standards for quality online courses and teaching
  1. Completed draft of Principles for Effective Online Instruction
  2. Began working with my Collaborative Inquiry Project group

I struggled early on with this module due to all the reading and the uncertainty of what was required with regards to the draft of principles and the group project.  I had to force myself to read as much as I could in order to understand the four areas listed above.  The draft of my principles was difficult for me because I was not sure of what to include and what not to include.  Only after looking at a few classmates examples, did I have a grasp of what was required of me.  The group project was also a little confusing, but my group mates reassured me I was not alone.  Together, we were able to come to an understanding and devise a plan for our project.

I think all the hard times I had with this module has helped me to better understand the material.  It has also given me a better perspective on what is it like for some of my students who I see working hard in class and not knowing if it is paying dividends.  For many of them, if they improve on their GED tests but still do not pass the test, they only see the failure.  Getting them to realize that it takes time is a difficult.  Being in their shoes with this module allows me to better understand why they feel as they do and better able to help them overcome this thinking.