Unity 3D Worlds

September 2nd, 2014 Comments off

One of the stumbling blocks of online classrooms is the lack of community building that happens almost naturally in a face-to-face classroom.  It’s difficult to, especially in an asynchronous environment, to connect with classmates and the instructor.  They are words on a screen with some photos and maybe a video.  As I transitioned from face-t0-face into the online classroom, I was fortunate, at first, to have a completely synchronous online environment in Adobe connect.  Even though we all met at the same time and spent time together, I was still concerned about connecting with my students and having students connect with each other.  As it turns out, with a few tweaks and breakout rooms, those connections develop.  Things and mindsets have to be modified so that students have time to get to know one another.  Activities have to be redesigned so that they can be successful in a virtual space.  Generally speaking it is a rewarding and very feasible method for instruction from the standpoint of learning and community.  This is not a feasible method for most education.  My position, in t his instance, is training new employees to do a job while working from home.  They are paid an hourly wage and given a specific schedule.  It’s not difficult for everyone to meet at the same time on their computers because that is the job they were hired for.

In colleges and high schools, this method is not very feasible.  Schedule will never align and asynchronous methods have to be used.  In my opinion, asynchronous teaching has tremendous value for learning and content engagement, but not for learning communities with out some artificial and deliberate activities and practices.  If done properly and with a bit of luck, those connections can be made asynchronously as well.  One of the best methods is a regular live meeting similar to what we are conducting this semester in EDTECH 531.  This gives students “face time” with each other to hear voices and interact in a spontaneous manner that can lead to community forming and connections being created.  I think the use of virtual worlds and spaces is a tremendous opportunity to really lock those connections in and build the community.  It gives students a chance to see others and how they act.

I had never heard of Unity 3D worlds before but they are promising to me.  I do have some questions that I would like explore.  The interface seems simple enough, but how complex is creating the worlds? I’ve had some experience with Second Life and I’m wondering if the object creation is similar.  How long would it take to create a simple classroom or a larger area for writing prompts?  After our meeting and exploring these worlds, I’m excited to delve a little more into it and possibly use it in my teaching at IDLA.

I’m looking forward to Minecraft.  I play it with my daughter and am excited.

 

 

Final Reflection – Field Experience in Online Teaching – BSU / IDLA

May 7th, 2014 Comments off

Before entering the classroom, I took a course in IDLA’s Blackboard that got me up to speed on IDLA policies and procedures.  I participated in two live sessions one in GoToMeeting and one in Collaborate that further clarified my responsibilities.  I took a crash course in Blackboard and found that it is very similar to Moodle.  I even got to play around with a demo course for English 12B in Blackboard.   I then took two weeks and eased into the two sections of senior English.  I “observed” and watched discussion boards, made a few announcements, and facilitated the discussion for one section.  I also took time to become familiar with the curriculum, read (skim and re-acquaint) the novels that the students were reading, and become acclimated.  After that, I took the reins and released unit 5 to both sections.  I facilitated both discussion boards, graded all assignments, provided in-depth feedback on the student outlines, and provided positive and personal feedback on most assignment and exam questions.  Basically, they were mine for two weeks.  Kendra handled most of the day-to-day stuff that came up that was not related to unit 5 and she handled all SMS logging since I did not have access to that system.  Unit 4 progress reports were due and all students that were below a 70% or had not logged in to the course recently had to be contacted by telephone or email if no phone contact could be made.  Kendra and I each took a section to call.  I conducted the intervention for section 2 to parents and students over the course of two days.  I spoke to several parents and several students via telephone.  When I couldn’t reach someone on the phone, I emailed the student’s parent and cc’d the student, Kendra, and the site coordinator.  In several cases, the email prompted a return call from the site coordinator or the student.  I kept a log so that Kendra could document the information in the Student Information System.  This was a great experience for me.  Talking to people puts a human touch on what can be an impersonal delivery method.

I also corresponded with several students via email when they had questions about assignments and grades or needed help with an assignment.  This was a rewarding experience as well.  It gave me the opportunity to help and get to know some students on a more personal level and make a stronger connection.  I was also able to see a direct impact of my efforts as I noticed that many of the students that I contacted began to turn in work and begin to catch up.

Once unit 5 was complete and the courses moved into unit 6, I remained in the classroom grading assignments from unit 5 as they came in late or had second and third attempts turned in.   I remained until the end of last week (5/2/2014) since I wanted to make sure that the majority of students that I worked with could turn in second attempts and continue to get feedback from me.

I did have an incident in which a student violated the academic honesty policy that I handled with the guidance of Kendra and Jeff (the online principle) as well as the site coordinator for the students regular school.  In the past, when I’ve had students plagiarise work, it has always been a delicate situation.  The student usually becomes defensive and argues.  In this case, the student and parent were informed and because IDLA is so thorough about outlining their academic honesty policies, there was no confrontation and the student continued to turn in work.

I did get to conduct office hours in the Academic Help Center in Collaborate.  No students took advantage of it, but it gave me some time to use Collaborate.  I’m not worried about the live sessions though since I do them on a very regular basis in my current employment duties.  As part of the internship process, I did design a discussion based assessment / activity that I targeted toward the beginning of the course that involved course expectations and allowed students to interact with what was expected of them and discuss what they expected to get out of the course.  I included an example of that lesson in my Blackboard CourseSites course as well as all of the announcements that I’ve created as part of the Online Teaching Field Experience.  Those can be found here.  Just log in with the username – user8903 and the password – user.

I don’t think that I could have asked for a more realistic and authentic experience from this internship.  I guess, I’m lucky that way, I had a very positive and realistic experience with my initial student teaching internship before my certification.  The internship, I feel, played a large role in IDLA offering me a teaching position with them for the coming school year.  I look forward to working at IDLA for a long time to come.

The entire internship process with IDLA seemed to be well designed and mesh pretty well.  The IDLA staff did very good job creating a series of activities that went beyond just facilitating a unit in the online courses.  They provided very informative courses within the IDLA Blackboard LMS that helped to detail IDLA policies, Blackboard tutorials, and other resources that helped me get up to speed with their operation and functioning.  They also included other aspects in the internship as well that regular teachers would complete and perform on a daily basis.  I reviewed the English 12B course for content, quality, and usability which is something that teachers do on a regular basis.  I also got the opportunity to create a discussion board activity for the IDLA.  Kendra said that she was working with the curriculum personnel to incorporate parts of it into some of the Language Arts courses.  The experience was authentic and meaningful to me and provided me with a basis of what it’s like to be an online teacher with IDLA.  I realize that the program is really new.  I have to say that, if I wasn’t informed of this, I would not have realized that this hadn’t be a program running for some time.  It was professional and enlightening.  The only real area that I feel could be improved is in the description of the extra tasks.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me what I needed to do to complete the course review and discussion based assessment.  With that being said, it was easy for me to find out since all of the staff at IDLA are there to help with helpful and prompt responses to my inquiries via email.  It really was a pleasure to work with each of them.

I’ve been teaching in the online environment for several years now.  It’s been in the corporate world and the curriculum calls for all synchronous sessions, but the essence of online education is the same in both synchronous and asynchronous environments.  Students need to feel as if the instructor is invested in them and a sense of community needs to be established.  I firmly believe this.  It’s easier to accomplish in a synchronous environment, but it can be done in the asynchronous world as well.  I’ve learned through my internship—which is my first real experience facilitating in an asynchronous environment—that students need to see results.  They need feedback quickly and that the sooner they get an assignment graded, the more value it has and the more likely they will redo it if it is not correct or acceptable.  Basically, the sooner they get the feedback and the grade, the more likely they will retain and learn from the experience.  They will also feel more connected to the instructor and other students as well as the content.  The same holds true with responding to communications.  It’s imperative to respond as quickly as possible.  I’ve found that even a simple acknowledgement that you received their message can go a long way to creating that trust.  It certainly alleviates some anxiety and sets some expectations as to when their request will be resolved.  This is imperative.  This builds trust and student trust in the instructor leads to better learning outcomes and stronger resonances for the student.  Basically the student makes a stronger connection with the content as well.

As I stated earlier, this internship has been a tremendous experience for me.  I enjoyed the tasks that I performed and enjoyed interacting with the students.  It’s provided me with a good idea of what to expect in the online teaching world and I think that the partnership between IDLA and BSU has borne many fruits and will continue to do so for years to come.

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,

 

 

EDTECH 524 – Mid Semester Reflection

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

Mid-semester Reflection

During my undergraduate career, my focus was on teaching but my ultimate goal had been to teach online.  In 2010, the online opportunities were fewer and harder to get.  I’ve applied to IDLA every year since I became certified.  It wasn’t until this year that I’ve gotten an interview.

As I said, online teaching is my goal so when I saw EDTECH 524 as a course offering, I was determined to take the course.  When I found out that IDLA was the partner school, I was very excited.

I’ve taken plenty of online courses at BSU from the student side.  I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate discussion boards, design modules, and conduct a few live sessions.  I regularly conduct live sessions at my job for new agents to the company.  These are live synchronous sessions that last 8 hours per day for three weeks for each class.  It can be rather intense and many of the same techniques used in a face to face classroom can be utilized.    I felt ready for the asynchronous classroom from the instructor side.  Going in, I was nervous and anxious.  I didn’t want to do something wrong.  I did not have much experience with Blackboard outside of my tinkering with Blackboard Coursesites.  I had no experience with Collaborate or Elluminate (which I now understand to be the same.)  I’ve used Adobe Connect plenty of times, but never Collaborate.

Now, more than half-way through the practicum, I realize that I had very good resources and a pretty good plan in place.  Before entering the classroom, I took a course in IDLA’s Blackboard that got me up to speed on IDLA policies and procedures.  I participated in two live sessions one in GoToMeeting and one in Collaborate that further clarified my responsibilities.  I took a crash course in Blackboard and found that it is very similar to Moodle.  I even got to play around with a demo course for English 12B in Blackboard.   I then took two weeks and eased into the two sections of senior English.  It “observed” and watched discussion boards, made a few announcements, and facilitated the discussion for one section.  I also took time to become familiar with the curriculum, read the novels that the students were reading, and become acclimated.  After that, I took the reins and released unit 5 to both sections.  I facilitated both discussion boards, graded all assignments, provided in-depth feedback on the student outlines, and provided positive and personal feedback on most assignment and exam questions.  Basically, they were mine for two weeks.  I even helped to conduct the intervention calls to parents and students for those students below a 70%.  This was a great experience.  I spoke to several students and parents and sent out a bunch of email.  I kept a log so that Kendra could document the information in the Student Information System which I did not have access to.  I did have an incident in which a student violated the academic honesty policy that I handled with the guidance of Kendra and Jeff (the online principle) as well as the site coordinator for the students regular school.

Now that unit 5 is over, I am backing out but remaining in the course to continue grading unit 5 assignments.  Many of the students, and this is common, turn things in late as IDLA’s policy is to accept late work for at least ½ credit throughout the term and Kendra’s policy is to accept it for full credit.  It has been a wonderful and positive experience.  The time that I have spent grading and involved in the class is about what I expected.  I do know a couple of people who teach for IDLA so I had some knowledge for the process.  Like I said, I’ve wanted to teach online, but I have had doubts that it would be stimulating and comparable to classroom teaching.  After this internship, I don’t have those doubts anymore.  I loved it and want to do more.  The only thing that I didn’t really experience is the live session, but English 12B does not include those since the students are scattered and not doing their coursework at the same time.  I did get to conduct office hours in the Academic Help Center in Collaborate.  No students took advantage of it, but it gave me some time to use Collaborate.  I’m not worried about the live sessions though since I do them on a very regular basis in my current employment duties.

As part of the internship process, I did design a discussion based assessment / activity that I targeted toward the beginning of the course that involved course expectations and allowed students to interact with what was expected of them and discuss what they expected to get out of the course.  I included an example of that lesson in my Blackboard Coursesites course as well as all of the announcements that I’ve created as part of the Online Teaching Field Experience.  Those can be found here.  Just log in with the username – user8903 and the password – user.

I don’t think that I could have asked for a more realistic and authentic experience from this internship.  I guess, I’m lucky that way, I had a very positive and realistic experience with my initial student teaching internship before my certification.  I’m very excited about the possibility of teaching for IDLA on a regular basis and other schools in the state.

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,

 

 

Course Expectations Lesson for Grades 11-12 Language Arts

April 6th, 2014 Comments off

Developed by Fabio Cominotti for consideration by IDLA during EDTECH 524 – Experience in Online Teaching at Boise State University.

March, 2014

Rationale / Needs Assessment

Online classrooms traditionally suffer from a lack of community.  Students and instructors simply don’t develop the natural relationships and sense of community that form in a face-to-face setting.  That is to say that the relationships don’t form if the online instructor, instructional designer, or facilitator does not introduce activities at the beginning of the course and throughout (more at the beginning) that help to foster community, allow students to get to know each other, and start to break down those walls.

The following activities have a several purposes.  One aspect of online classrooms that tends to be weak or non-existent is expectations.  Learners often suffer from a lack of understanding of what is expected of them.  Also, instructors usually don’t know what is expected of them from their learners.

In this lesson, the instructor will present the expectations of the learners.  I have provided sample expectations that I would include in my online courses as well as a sample attention getter video.  Then after viewing the presentation, students will complete a discussion board activity in which they convey what the course expectations mean to them with some analysis and they will also present two expectations that they have of the course and instructor along with a rationale of their expectations.  Students will also respond to two peer posts.

Learning Outcomes

1.)  The learners learn what is expected of them and have time to interact with and analyze those expectations as they complete the writing activities.

2.)  The learners gain practice in critical thinking as they synthesize, present, and discuss their expectations of the course and instructor on a discussion board.

3.)  Since this lesson takes place very near the beginning of a course, the instructor can gain an understanding of the learners current writing, organizational, and critical thinking skills at the beginning of the course which has several benefits

It provides a baseline for measuring improvement during the course of the semester.

  • It provides instructor with an idea of which students might need interventions and what types of differentiation might be needed at the beginning of the course.

4.)  The learners and instructor will begin to get a sense of who they are participating in class with.

5.)  The instructor can begin to get to know and understand thinking processes of the learners.

6.)  The learners can start to get a sense of their instructor through the discussion boards.

7.)  A sense of community can start to build that can be bolstered through other activities in the course.

Idaho Content Standards Addressed in this Module for Grade 11-12 Language Arts.

W.11-12.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  1. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  2. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
  3. Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  4. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).

W.11-12.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

W.11-12.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

W.11-12.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

SL.11-12.2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

L.11-12.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.11-12.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  1. Observe hyphenation conventions.
  2. Spell correctly.

L.11-12.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Materials

Compressed (.ZIP) Archive of Materials

Design Document (this document)

Course Expectations PowerPoint Presentation

Kindergarten Cop – Setting Classroom Rules (MP4 File)

Kindergarten Cop – Setting Classroom Rules (AVI File)

Generic Discussion Board Rubric (IDLA)

 

The following prototype can be found at my coursesites.com by blackboard.  When viewing on Coursesites, please log in with the username: user8903 and password: user

Note:  This lesson can easily be adapted for other language arts courses.  With a few more modifications, it could be adapted for humanities and science courses as well.


Design Prototype

Course Expectations

Welcome to the course.   (Main Lesson)

For this first module, we will discuss and learn what is expected of you in the course and what you expect to take away from the course and how I can best help you.

Objectives

By the end of this module you will:

  • Be able to name and explain what is expected of you from this course and instructor.
  • Be able to identify and explain what you expect from this course and your instructor.

Idaho Content Standards Addressed

W.11-12.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  1. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  2. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
  3. Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  4. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).

W.11-12.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

W.11-12.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

W.11-12.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

SL.11-12.2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

L.11-12.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.11-12.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  1. Observe hyphenation conventions.
  2. Spell correctly.

L.11-12.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


Please watch the following YouTube Video.

 Kcop YouTube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mce3yiMF4iQ
Used under fair use guidelines.Kindergarten Cop. Dir. Ivan Reitman. Perf. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed. Universal Pictures, 1990. Youtube.com. 

The preceding image is a placeholder for a video or interactivity to be inserted here.

Okay, so I’m not as strict and angry as good old Schwarzenegger as a Kindergarten teacher, but I do have some expectations of you during this course.  Please take a look at the PowerPoint presentation below.

 gdrive The image to the left is a placeholder for an actual PowerPoint Presentation or interactivity that presents the course and / or instructor expectations.

Now those aren’t too bad.  Right?

Please complete the discussion board for this module.

You will be graded for this discussion on the following rubric.  Don’t worry, it’s mostly on effort.


DB1-Course Expectations (Discussion Board)

For this initial post, you need to write three paragraphs.  Please read and respond to your classmate’s posts as well.

1.) Write, in your own words, what the course expectations mean to you.

  •  How do they affect your thoughts about the course?
  • Will they be easy to follow?  Are they too lax or too extreme?
  • Please, let me know your opinion.  I am always interested.
  • If you have any questions about my expectations or the syllabus and course schedule, you can include those in this first paragraph.

2.) For you second and third paragraphs, please list two expectations (one in each paragraph) that you have for me or that you expect to get out of the course.

  •  This is where you get to voice your opinion and help to shape the interactions in the course.
  • I want to know what you expect from me so that I can strive to meet those expectations.  Teaching and learning is not a one-way street.  It’s a give and take.  Please let your voice be heard.
  • In your paragraphs, please discuss your expectation.  Let me know why you expect it and how I can meet it.
  • Feel free to use examples from your past as well.
  • If you have more than two expectations, please add paragraphs.  I’m here to help you, so let me know the best way I can.

3.) And finally, respond to a minimum of two peers.

  • Do you agree or disagree with their expectations?
  • Why?
  • Be thorough in your responses.

4.) Before posting, please review the rubric for this discussion board assignment.  Discussion Board Rubric

Grading Rubric—15 points possible

5 pts.

4 pts.

3 pts.

Initial Post Posted early to ensure sufficient time to respond to classmates. Posted sufficient detail to completely address the discussion board prompt Posted by the end of the unit, but did not allow time for others to comment. Posted enough detail to cover the prompt but could have expanded and explained points more thoroughly Posted after the unit deadline. Minimal detail that required more explanation in order to clearly understand points
Responses Responded to at least 2 classmates prior to the end of the unit. Replied to questions from classmates in response to original post Responded to at least 2 classmates Responded to one classmate
Correctness No distracting errors—followed expectations for online communication as outlined in Netiquette presentation 1-2 distracting errors Some distracting errors. Used slang, acronyms, or emoticons in original post (Review the netiquette presentation for appropriate online communication expectations) 

 

 

 

Rubric, originally created from Idaho Digital Learning Academy.  No modifications were made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Community in Online Classrooms, an Annotated Bibliography

March 17th, 2014 Comments off

One of the most significant challenges in online courses is the lack of natural community.  In a traditional classroom, learners meet on a regular basis—often multiple times per week.  In this type of environment, a sense of community naturally forms.  It still needs direction from the instructor, but the foundations are already in place.  Additionally, learners are, for the most part, based in geographically similar locations.  This similarity creates possibilities for learner interaction outside of class (i.e. Other classes, off campus locations, or activities).  In the online classroom, these conditions rarely exist.  The natural camaraderie and sense of community will not develop since learners are separated by time and distance.  Additionally the digital wall of the internet provides a sense of anonymity and isolation that can lead to students getting lost in hustle and bustle of class activities.  It’s difficult to notice students who are not participating.  Instructors must introduce new activities, practices, and methods so that the sense of community is developed and the learning community is formed.  I’m interesting in pursuing research on best practices, methods, and activities that help to promote community in online classrooms.  I’ve directed my research in this annotated bibliography with that in mind.

______________________________________

Arbaugh, J. B. (2000). Virtual classroom versus physical classroom: An exploratory study of class discussion patterns and student learning in an asynchronous internet-based mba course. Journal of Education Managment24(2), 213-233. doi: 10.1177/10525629000240020

A study was designed in which two different sections of a graduate class in a MBA program at a Midwestern U.S. university.  One class was delivered in a traditional format in a traditional classroom.  The other section was delivered online via an LMS called LearningSpace.  The study was conducted in 1997 and is designed to measure student performance and discussion patters in the traditional classroom versus the online classroom.  With the exception of an initial meeting to go over course software and a final meeting for feedback and reflection, the internet based course did not meet during the period that the course was administered.  One of the major findings in the study was that women tended to engage in discussion more frequently in the internet based course.  Also, student learning did not appear to diminish in the online course.  The article provides a snapshot of online learning nearly two decades ago and shows similar issues with the environment and community building.  The study helps show me that the sense of community is and has been important in any learning environment and that even more effort is required to help create that community in an online course.

______________________________________

Bond-Hu, D. & Fiorello, P. (2003). Design Strategies for Building Community in Online Classrooms. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2003 (pp. 2350-2354). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved March 17, 2014 from http://www.editlib.org/p/18441.

While this article is not so much a study, but an analysis of the current state of online learning.  There are discussions of current issues and problems with online learning and focuses on the loss of community learners might feel.  Probably causes are discussed and various methods of how to build the community in the online environment are given.  The article discusses the transactional-based models of online education. This article will actually be tremendously helpful for me in my research area.  One of the areas of focus for me is how to increase the sense of community.  There are numerous examples here and include with those examples are the methodologies and theories behind their success.

_____________________________________

Conrad, D. (2005). Building and maintaining community in cohort-based online learning. Journal of Distance Education, 20(1), 1-20. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/214483094?accountid=9649

This study followed graduate students as they worked online in their program.  Data was collected several times over a five-year period. The students underwent initial baseline testing.  It was mostly qualitative in nature and include surveys, interviews, and questionnaires.  The study looks to answer questions like “How does a sense of community develop and who develops it?” and “Does every online group find its sense of community?”  The program used WebCT for delivery and did require two sessions of face-to-face meetings during the two-year master’s program.  The study found that, while initially concerned with online environments, they expected support from instructors and administrators.  While that support was delivered, toward the end of their degree program, leaners stated to see the sense of community developing from other sources such as fellow students, spouses, and the sense of belonging.  One of the main community building techniques that was employed was threaded discussion forums to encourage participation and interaction with peers and the instructors.  This study furthers my research and provides evidence that once solid community building practices are in place, the natural sense of community that is lost when translating from the traditional classroom to the online can be regained and created even if extra steps have to be taken to start the process.

____________________________________

Hill, J. R. (2002). Overcoming obstacles and creating connections: Community building in web-based learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education14(1), 67-86. doi: 10.1007/BF02940951

Janet Hill, author of Chapter 11 in our course text-book, discusses building a community of learners as a means of increasing the quality, participation, and engagement of learners in the online classroom.  She addresses the questions that are being asked about online learning like, “Why is it important to establish a community within a learning context?”.   She discusses issues and challenges associated with community building.  Some of the issues discussed are space issues such as isolation and disconnections, no face-to-face contact.  Time is another factor that affects online environments.  Learners are not used to working in an asynchronous environment.  She discusses in detail, many methods of creating a sense of community in the online classroom like creating a psychologically safe environment, helping learners to create good web-based learning habits, and reminding that the learner that someone is out there to connect with.  The article, much like the chapter in our text-book provides me with many great methodologies and the educational theories behind them that will help with my research and my practice as an online teacher.  It also does a good job of identifying some of the major issues that plague some online courses.

____________________________________

McInnerney, J. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online learning: Social interaction and the creation of a sense of community. Educational Technology and Society7(3), 73-81. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.126.3225&rep=rep1&type=pdf

This article focuses on a topic that, I feel, is the most significant issue with online education—the sense of isolation that learners may feel when participating in an online course.  It also discusses a topic that I find interesting and that has a factor in online learning situations—the virtual self.  The virtual self is what people present to the online world.  We all have experience with this as we use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  We tend to interact in ways that may not be the same as we would in a face-to-face meeting.  The paper also describes some methods to overcome the sense of isolation and the differences in the real self and virtual self.  It talks about social context and how it is important to online learning and other educational theories that tie in to online community and online learning.  The article helps my research as it focuses on a point that other studies and papers have not yet—the virtual self.

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,

 

 

Module 3 Reflection

March 17th, 2014 Comments off

At the beginning of this semester I did what I always do and look ahead at the projects and assignments that I will do over the course of the semester. I’m always a little overwhelmed by research papers. I know it is odd since I am a writer and English teacher but research papers have always given me trouble. I over think them and create a lot of anxiety. That anxiety always lasts until I get started and I feel that the creation of this annotated bibliography has helped me get over that anxiety. I have found a topic and already started doing research. I didn’t get to thoroughly read all of the resources that I found, but I have many that now will help synthesize a discussion about community building being a key to a successful online course. I’m excited about it and looking forward to the next module as I begin to delve deeper and start writing. I’m also excited about the peer review process. Throughout my undergraduate career, I participated in many writing workshops. Many of those workshops were for various creative writing courses. I’ve always felt that the workshop or peer review is an effective and useful way to hone writing. I’ve used it many times in my own classes that I facilitated a well. I’ve always been interested in building the community. In my professional work training agents online to provide technical support over the phone, one of the areas that I focus on is breaking the walls that agents put up. I take a group of people from all over the country who have never met and turning them into a community by breaking their walls and drawing them out. I do a lot of things, but my environment is mostly synchronous and does not suffer from all of the issues that the asynchronous environment can. As, I don’t plan on staying in my corporate position indefinitely, I am very interested in building a learning community form groups of people who meet asynchronously. If I were doing a Master’s thesis or if I do a doctoral dissertation one day, this would be my area of focus. How to best create the community and the direct and measurable benefits to student learning.

 

 

Module 2 Reflection

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

This module was a lot of review.  It reminded me of my undergraduate days.  I was drawn to one particular category of theories.  Connectivism has always intrigued me.  It always has made sense to me that we learn by making connections.  That’s how I remember things.  It’s not so much the knowledge, but the circumstances and locations that I learned it in.  I also believe strongly in the PLN and CoP.  While my memory is rather good, I don’t think it’s possible to learn and retain everything that I need to know in order to do my job.  Instead, I focus on retaining where I can find the information.  With the internet and the mass amount of information available to us now, it’s really only the smart thing to do.  It’s something that I do with my students.  I pull the information from them.  I focus on content, but I also focus on using tools that help students find and relate to the content.  With the rapid flow of information that we have today, students are accustomed to being bombarded with it and having it at their fingertips.  I see no reason to try to fight this.  Instead, I encourage students to use their phones and look up information.  I encourage the creation of personal learning networks.  The role of a teacher, my role, is not to put information in student’s heads.  It’s to expose them and teach them how to create their own web of learning where they can connect with and put the information in context.  I guide them to find the answers that are relevant to their interests, needs, and inclinations.  I guide them to create their own connections and context so they can develop a deeper understanding of the content.

 

 

Communities of Practice

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

Overview

Classified as a constructivist theory, a community of practice is a group of people who interact with each other to share knowledge and learn from each other.  Communities of practice have a domain, community and a practice in order to be successful and useful.  (“Communities of practice,”)  Examples could include a professional teacher’s group that discusses various web 2.0 tools to further education such as Classroom 2.0 (classroom20.com).   According to Penelope Echkert (2006), a community of practice is “is a collection of people who engage on an ongoing basis in some common endeavor.  Communities of practice emerge in response to common interest of position.

Contributors

The founders and major contributors the theory of communities of practice are Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger.  Initially introduced in 1991, Wenger furthered the theory in 1998.

Major Principles

As connectivist theory, CoPs foster learner when members make connections with peers and learn from other’s experience as they are shared.  Communities of practice (CoP) must contain three items in order to be an actual community of practice.  First of all the CoP has to be centered on a specific topic.  This is called the domain.  The domain is specific and commitment to the domain is required from the members.  For example a group of neighbors that live on the same street would not be considered a domain.  Just because they all live on the same street does not qualify.  Now, a group of neighbors interested in and committed to making their street more beautiful with landscaping could fall under the definition of a domain.  By the necessity of the commitment, arises the community.  Community is a specific requirement of a CoP.  The community members are all working and interacting with each other and completing similar activities.  Finally, the CoP requires a practice.  Practice implies professionalism.  Practice means that the members are professionals that work in the same area as the domain.  They must be committed to and practicing.  So the example of neighbors working to beautify their street, unless they are all professional landscapers, does not meet the definition of a CoP.  

Other principles of a CoP include sharing stories, best practices, methodology, and other pertinent information related to the practice so that all members of the CoP can increase skill and perform their practice more efficiently.  The CoP can also be applied to students, especially in a college setting.  Students can become involved in a CoP to help them gain better understanding of their field of study.  A CoP is a community of professional or academic development.  A faculty of teachers who teach English at a public high school that often relate stories and best practices so that all teachers benefit and can improve their practice would meet all definitions of a community of practice.

Application

Closely related to the CoP is the Personal Learning Network (PLN).  PLNs are a form of CoP in which members create and cultivate networks of people and resources such as blogs, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools to foster learning.  While PLNs don’t always involve two-way exchanges, they often do.  PLNs are broader than CoPs in that they are personally created by each individual and contain more than one PoC. PLNs can be used in the classroom to help students develop connections to the outside world so that they can develop skills in their chose field of study.  By joining professional organizations like the NEA for teachers and groups on the web like the teachers in Classroom 2.0, students can create vast PLNs with multiple CoPs.  An instructional approach that can be used is to foster and require students to find information within these PLNs.  Rather that provide knowledge and information to the student, pull the information from the student.  Require them to find and guide them when needed.

References

Communities of practice (Lave and Wenger). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.learning-theories.com/communities-of-practice-lave-and-wenger.html

Eckert, P. (2006). Communities of practice. Retrieved from http://www.stanford.edu/~eckert/PDF/eckert2006.pdf

 

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,

 

 

Module 1 Reflection

February 10th, 2014 Comments off

I currently train adult learners in a corporate setting.  I work from home and my learners are learning from home.  I provide synchronous lessons through Adobe Connect.  In my case the technology (internet, Adobe Connect, and other communication tools) was implemented for the sake of expanding the workforce and connecting with more potential employees.  My company provides telephone technical support for customers of a national company.  There are physical sites throughout the U.S. but turnover can be high in a call center and sometimes the recruiting pool is not very large.  By expanding operation to a work-at-home environment, the application pool is larger and more diversified, but this has presented some challenges.

The project has suffered from poor planning and implementation of policies and procedures.  Often, as the instructor, I spend a good deal of time helping my agents deal with and solve technical issues.  In the world of bring your own device, my company does not provide the equipment.  Each employee must provide their own computer and interact with the company VPN through a company provided USB disk that houses the operating system.  This USB disk suffers problems and is still in the testing stages.  It is frustrating now when training a class, but at the same time, I am on the ground floor and am helping to create the change needed to bring the program to a better position.

This is my last semester in the EDTECH program before completing my portfolio.  I’ve attempted this course two other times but have had to withdraw due to medical issues.  I have the benefit, at this point, of quite a few classes and can be of better assistance at work.  Using policies and practices in this program, I have helped design processes and instruction to help agents struggling with the tech side of work.  In a national large program like this, teaching the tech is needed.  Many people come to the company with little or no knowledge of the tech they use to do their job.  Many of the trainers in the program don’t know the tech that well either.

Looking at the material for this module, I can’t help but ponder what used to be considered educational technology advancements.  Take the pencil for example.  This is such a commonplace item now.  Everyone knows how to use it, but when it was first introduced in the classroom, it’s hard for me to imagine using it for the first time.  This is a similar feeling that I have now.  I worked my way to trainer in my company in a traditional brick and mortar site.  I trained in a traditional classroom for over a year.  It has been a big change for me when I started working from home.  I’ve had to adjust and interact with my equipment in ways that I haven’t before.  I’ve had to create processes and procedures for myself that I turn around and teach to other trainers and agents.  We’re still in the formative stage now, but we are growing and discovering a lot of best practices.

 

 

Definition of Educational Technology

February 7th, 2014 Comments off

When I was in High school, we had a computer lab full of old (even for the time) Macs that were used to teach typing most of the time.  I didn’t have a computer until just before I graduated and even that one was about four generations older than the most updated system.  College was just beginning to get on the computer bandwagon.  I had access to computers but only if I paid a fee every semester.  Needless to say, my most immersive experience with technology in high school was an old TI-81 graphing calculator and an overhead transparency projector.  I was still fascinated by it.  I learned how to use computers on an old IBM PC running Microsoft DOS.  I loved it and as my PC knowledge progressed, so did my passion for technology.

I am a strong proponent for technology in the classroom.  Students are different today.  They are used to readily available information from multiple channels simultaneously and they have to ability to switch those channels quickly.  It’s not that they have shorter attention spans; it’s that they have such a large quantity of information available to them, that they have learned to ignore what is important to them.

With this in mind, we, as educators, need to build technology tools into the curriculum that can take advantage of  all that is out there, but we need some guidelines.  So, to start we need a definition of educational technology.

Educational technology is not simply technology that is in a classroom or used for classroom purposes.  The technological tool needs to have purpose, be useful, and advance the learning objectives.  It cannot simply be  technology for the sake of technology.

I also think that technology needs to be defined as well.

Here are the definitions that I propose.

Technology is any piece of hardware, software or process that uses hardware or software.

Educational technology is any of the following.

1.)    Technology that enhances an educational experience.

2.)    Technology that adds something to the learning that is unique and purposeful.

3.)    Technology that adds something that could not otherwise be included in the instruction

4.)    Technology that aids in the facilitation and distribution of instruction to students who could not otherwise participate in the instruction (i.e. Distance or online education).

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,

 

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