Monday, February 6, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Engaging Learners with New Strategies and Tools
I teach 5-6 students a semester in a truly online distance education classroom as well as a class of 30 students in a blended e-learning model (3 days online, 2 days fact-to-face). I find that communication tools are very effectively incorporated into these classes. To add an element of synchronous communication, students are encouraged to use either Skype or ooVoo to collaborate with a partner or small group throughout the course on various projects. This also correlates with Wimba Live classroom, which is a synchronous online classroom with features on an online “whiteboard” and chat feature. These chatting and video conferencing tools are excellent for synchronous communication as students are familiar with them prior to entering my class. Online communication tools work really well with constructivist teaching strategies such as Siemens (2008) curatorial teaching model. In this model the teacher serves as an expert whom sets the stage (environment) for learning complete with all necessary materials and then allows students to explore and discover relatively unassisted (Siemens, 2008).
Siemens, G. (2008, January). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. ITForum.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Assessing Collaborative Efforts
“Collaboration has been defined as the “heart and soul” of an online course or for that matter, any course that bases its theoretical foundation in constructivism” (Palloff & Pratt, 2005, p. 6). Collaborative learning activities cannot be graded in the same manner that traditional learning activities are assessed. Collaborative activities need to utilize a rubric that will provide students with “a road map not only to guide the activity, but also to know how the activity will be assessed and evaluated” (Palloff & Pratt, 2005, p. 43). Participation is a collaborative activity that cannot be assessed with traditional means. Participation should be clearly defined in terms of class expectations to avoid confusion. Students and the instructor should assess participation. For example, students within a collaborative group can assess one another’s participation via peer evaluation. Assessment should be “fair and equitable” whether the assessments are delivered online or face-to-face. One way to ensure that assessments are “fair and equitable” is to provide authentic assessments such as projects and collaborative activities rather than traditional quizzes. Authentic assessments will allow the instructor to measure a student’s growth from the beginning of the course until culmination of the course (Laureate Education, Inc., 2008).
Students should be made aware of class/instructor expectations for participation in the class and collaborative activities from the start of class. Collaborative groups should be encouraged to develop group norms for intervening when a group member is not meeting expectations. The instructor should give an honest effort to generate participation from an unresponsive student. One manner in which this could be done is to provide the student with an opportunity to be successful in front of the group in order to build confidence. If participation is a key component of online assessment then an unresponsive student should have his/her grade negatively impacted as a result of nonparticipation.
Education, Inc. (2008). Principles of Distance Education. Baltimore: Author.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Monday, December 26, 2011
Elements of Distance Education Diffusion
I do agree with George Siemens view that the growing acceptance of distance education today is impacted by global diversity, communication, and collaborative interaction. This blog will focus on communication. Communication has transformed radically over the last two decades. House phones were replaced by cellular phones in the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s to near house phone extinction in the 2000’s. Cell phones have transformed from a mono-functioning voice communication tool to a hand held computer that also is used for placing calls. Similarly written communication has transformed from paper and pencil to key strokes and emails. More recently free online communication tools such as Skype and ooVoo have offered one the ability to real time chat through text or hold a virtual face-to-face via videoconference.
Skype and ooVoo are tools that I use frequently in my personal life as well as professionally in my classroom. It is interesting to think back to my youth and amazement I had when my uncle in Washington, 3,000+ miles from my Pennsylvania home, would call and it sounded as if he was right there in the room with me. My own two children, ages 4 and 3, now talk to their aunts, uncles, and cousins who live outside of Pennsylvania via ooVoo’s free video chatting feature. In my classroom students who are out of class for extended periods of time routinely “Skype into” class and remain current with their studies from home. Steven Anderson, who maintains Web20classroom, briefly discusses Skype in a December 6, 2011 blog. Anderson’s description involves the ease with which Skype will allow educators and administrators to communicate on the go with the mobile features of the program.
Another online communication tool that I am finding useful in my classroom is blogging. I routinely have my student’s blog within our Blackboard classroom. Blogging provides a medium for students to voice their thoughts and practice written communication in a medium less formal then essays. Vicki Davis, the author of the Coolcatteacer blog, also finds blogging to be an effective communication tool. Davis points out the power that peer feedback can have on student work. I would generally agree that students take care to submit their best efforts when they know that their work is going to be on display for and open to feedback from their peers.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Principles of Distance Education. Baltimore: Author.