Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Documenting for Learning

Please read this blog post on the importance of documenting for learning. The blogger says that "documenting serves a larger… big picture purpose in education." Documenting is viewed as :
·         - a process of intentional documenting serves a metacognitive purpose
·        -  a creative multimedia expression (oral, visual, textual)
·         - a component of reflective practice taking ownership of one’s learning
·        -  a memory aid
·        -  curation
·         - professional development
·         - being open for feedback
Furthermore, documenting for learning is broken down into how it can better serve teachers, students and school boards. I want to highlight the ways in which it can serve teachers and students, in particular:
Teachers
·         - to share best practices with colleagues
·        -  to make teaching available for students outside of classroom hours
·        -  to inform further instructions
·        -  to reflect on their own lesson plans, delivery and teaching pedagogy
·         - to gather and showcase their teaching portfolio over time
·         - to evaluate student progress, growth and for assessment
Students
·         - to articulate (via different forms of media) and showcase their learning
·       -   to become aware of their own learning growth
·         - to gather and archive their digital work via E- portfolios
·        -  to build their footprint in a digital world
As a teacher, it's important to think of any new strategy or idea in two ways: how it will impact me, and more importantly, how it will impact my students. In so many ways, being a teacher means being a life-long student. In fact, the two roles can be considered very similar. So what caught my eye the most about this blog post was that most -- if not all -- of what is listed under the student section could be applied to teachers. For certain, conscientious teachers will showcase their learning, be aware of their growth, create portfolios, and utilize digital media in their teachings. Moreover, many of the points listed under the teacher section could be considered important skills for students: the importance of sharing work, self-evaluation, gathering information, and reflecting.
All of this is to say that I appreciate the message of the blog post: documenting for learning can be beneficial to many people in education field. But what struck me the most was perhaps an unintended message: the best teachers are students themselves.
Don't lose sight of the student perspective.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Resolving an Issue: Absenteeism

What tools and strategies could you include in an online course to prevent absenteeism from happening in the first place? 

1. check to see how often the student is signing into the class

2. build-in fair and flexible due dates

3. monitor his progress by designing major assignments in steps

4. have direct contact with the student at the start of the course

5. send email reminders

Determine how you would address the problem, should the situation arise in your class.

The best way to address the problem would be with direct contact. Try emailing the student first, but if there’s no response within a day or two, call home to try to talk with the student directly. If the student is under 18, talk to his parent(s); sometimes they don’t know that the student is absent, or they might be able to provide a legitimate reason why the student is absent. It’s good to have the parent as an ally too. Early intervention can help in that regard.

Supporting Student Learning

What strategies and/or LMS tools could you use to support these students’ abilities to work independently and those with weak literacy skills?

1. Design lessons that are structured as competitive games, and with short, structured tasks.

2. Differentiated instruction is important in order to engage all types of students. Student choice, for example, gives students a level of ownership and control over their learning, which makes it more relevant and personal.

3. Having the proper resources, as well as varied resources, can help cover a variety of learning needs. Texts can include: books, e-books, websites, blogs, graphic novels, movies, advertisements, magazines, poetry, songs, etc.

4. Understand your audience - some studies have shown that boys are more likely to comprehend informational texts versus narrative texts. As a result, non-fiction texts can be a good strategy for male readers.


Sources:

Hawley, R. & Reichert, M. (2010). Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys. San Francisco, California: Jossey      - Bass.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2004). Me Read? No Way! Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Online Community

Cuthbertson and Falcone’s 5 strategies for building a strong online community:

Strategy 1: Regularly give students a place to be themselves and share their experiences, thoughts, and interests. Help them see the value of their participation by representing the information back to the group.

Strategy 2: Give responsibility to individuals or groups for discussion threads on select academic topics.

Strategy 3: Encourage student-to-student advice regarding assignments.

Strategy 4: Use synchronous communications to strengthen ties to the classroom community.

Strategy 5: Leverage students’ love of mobile technologies.

One specific strategy that would help build a strong online community -- which Donna has offered us the chance to do in our course -- is to have students create their own blogs. This has multiple benefits, and fits in with a number of Cuthbertson and Falcone’s strategies. For one, it provides a student with his own personal space wherein he can share his experiences with the rest of the class (Strategy 1). Moreover, if created in a public space, the learning can be shared with others outside of the class.

In addition, many blogs are compatible with mobile technology, which would allow a student to use a device of his choosing; also, many blogs allow the blogger to instantly share his posts to his social networking site(s), which could potentially lead to even more people reading his posts (Strategy 5).

From an assessment perspective, it would be nice to have a large chunk of a student’s work in one spot. By bookmarking the page in your web browser, it’d be relatively easy to access as well.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Online Assessment

How can assessment be challenging in an online environment?

One of the benefits of teaching in a regular classroom is being able to sense when a lesson isn’t working, or that students need some sort of prompt in order to help them along with a particular task. This is something that would be absent in an online environment, at least in terms of something that can be addressed immediately.

Not seeing students every day is another factor that influences assessment. For example, a teacher can tell when a student is having an "off" day - perhaps he comes to class in a different mood than usual, or is displaying some other sort of body language that would indicate a change in mood. As such, you could be more lenient about how much that student contributes in class that day, you may decide that he needs more space than usual, or that he may benefit from you pulling him aside for a chat after class. That type of scenario would be absent from an online class.

How can an online learning environment support assessment for, as, and of learning?

1. Assessment for learning: this is when teachers provide feedback and coaching to students for improvement; give them chances to improve.

Example: A Skype call near the end of Module 1 in order to provide feedback, and to provide tips on the summative assignment for the Module.

2. Assessment as learning: this is more student-directed learning, whereby students develop their capacity to be independent, autonomous learners, set goals, etc.

Example: Students choose their best way to complete a character profile: written, podcast, video character portrayal (acting), visual art, etc.

3. Assessment of learning: this is the summary evaluation, may be used to form further assessment (the one you do the least)

Example: A summative assignment, such as the character profile given above.

Universal Design

Keeping in mind the tenets of Universal Design, the 2 strategies listed below would benefit a lot of different students, but I'm sharing them as examples that could be used in an online classroom with a particular student. Perhaps you've had a student with similar challenges. This is a student who I taught recently; ultimately, he did not receive his credit for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the reasons why he requires extra supports:

- He’s often absent or late to class (2 days a week on average), due to a variety of reasons, including “needing to get more sleep” and trying to avoid the classroom (most of his friends are in higher grades - he is a Gr. 11 student in a Gr. 10 classroom)

- He does not use class time well to complete assignments

- He spends a lot of class time on his phone

- Because of the age difference, he’s a bit out of place in a Gr. 10 classroom

- He procrastinates, but submits some assignments, when working independently

- He does not work well in a group/team setting; he distracts others

Part of why working with this student was so frustrating was because he was bright and could be a good independent worker when he put his mind to it. What he struggled with (besides what’s listed above) was getting started with certain assignments. Once he had specific direction, he could complete tasks. As such, here are a few strategies that I think could work for him, if he were to take an online course:

Strategy #1
Provide story starters – for example, if the task is to write a short story, I’d give him 3-4 opening paragraphs to choose from that he could use verbatim, and then he could finish the story from there. Or perhaps I could give him 3-4 character profiles, upon which he could base his story. With this specific direction, I believe he could complete the task.

Strategy #2
Allow him to write about his interests (student choice) – He loved dirtbiking, or racing of any kind, really. A few of the assignments that he did complete were racing-related, like when I asked the students to share a funny story from their past. When I was able to engage him about the things in which he was interested, he had more success, so assignments in his online class that are more flexible or have an element of student choice would be recommended.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Examples of Interactions in eLearning

Student-Teacher interaction – getting off on the right foot is a necessity, in order to build a good working relationship, and to ensure that the student is feeling comfortable at the beginning of the course. Having a face-to-face meeting within the first week or two would help, in addition to scheduled meetings at various points throughout the course. Skype is one example of an online tool that can be used for such meetings.

Student-Student interaction – there are several Google Apps for Education that make working in a small group or with a partner a lot easier. Docs can be edited and saved by multiple people once it’s shared amongst a group. In an online setting where many students wouldn’t know each other, it may make the most sense for the teacher to assign groups/partners, especially after a period of time during which the teacher would have assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the class.  

Student-Content interaction – As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s important for the content to be differentiated so that multiple types of learners can succeed in the course. That’s why it’s important to display the content in multiple ways: through discussion boards, audio and video recordings, games, etc.

Student-Interface (LMS) interaction – an introductory screencast would allow a teacher to present the navigation of the interface in a visual way. For some students, that will be more helpful than text-based instructions, and it’s certainly better than expecting all students to be able to figure it out on their own. Any time saved by making the navigation of the course easier allows students more time for learning.