PBL: Lessons Learned While Creating Driving Question

This week, we started our Project Based Learning lesson.  I say we because I am working with a partner, L’Maro Bell.  There are some obvious advantages to working with a partner, but there are some disadvantages, too.  Communication is not easy.  We did meet online once to discuss the beginning, but most communication has been via email.  We both have other commitments that prevent us from working on the project at certain times.  Therefore, you have no control over when you get a response.  This leads each of us to input our own ideas and wait for the other to comment, which could lead to changes – thus creating double work.

The first thing we needed to do was to decide on what the project was going to entail.  Originally, I was looking towards a project encompassing all subjects of the GED test, but L’Maro felt we might want to scale it down to one subject – Mathematics.  That was a good decision.  Still, we are looking at a project that could encompass many topics.  Our project centers on students choosing a math topic that is on the GED test and researching how to solve problems within the scope of that topic.

This course, like the Instructional Design course I took last summer, requires a lot of preparation.  Unfortunately, I have always been an on-the-fly teacher.  Writing detailed lesson plans have never been a strong point.  I knew what the lesson was and I would wing-it while teaching.  I believe this will serve me well when teaching a PBL lesson, but my early research into PBL – which is a new experience for me – tells me that detailed planning and preparation are a must in order to prevent the project from delving into utter chaos.

As I am sure most of my classmates have done, I have reviewed the suggested resources.  I have also searched for other resources, hoping to find something about utilizing PBL in the GED classroom.  Sarah Rich has provided some resources she found that have helped define the focus.  However, because of my lack of experience with planning, the best resources I have used have been my fellow classmates’ projects.  Even though they are completely different topics, by reading them when I was stuck for how to proceed on a section, they helped inspire me or provide direction.

Finally, when I think of the Ultimate Driving Question, I think of this:

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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/

Typography on the Web

This project linked a page to our website.  Click on the Netiquette page link and you can see the page I created.

http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/josephbodnar/502/502.html

The first thing I did was to search on Netiquette rules to get an idea of things to include.  I decided I wanted NETIQUETTE to be an acronym to help readers remember these rules.  Thus, I chose 10 rules that could be represented by each letter in the word.  Some were quite easy, while others required a little ingenuity.  Afterwards, I then just wrote what each of the 10 rules meant.  The last thing, was to work on the formatting for the page.

Once again, Dr. Snelson’s videos were extremely helpful.  I could not get my callout box to correctly float to the right.  I also ran into the problem of my footer moving to the top of the page.  No matter what I tried, nothing worked.  Then, I remember there was a video on fixing problems.  Good thing, cause I don’t think I ever would have figured it out on my own.  How did the first person who did figure it out do so?  Like the number of licks in a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

As I move forward, I am sensing, while we will be learning a lot more about Dreamweaver, the page formatting will be the easiest part.  I think what will be the toughest part for me is to determine what actual information to put on the page.  Once I can figure that out, the modules tend to guide themselves.  Oh, and let’s not forget all the reading!