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.

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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.

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.