One thing I caught last minute in the last module was that I had planned a couple of projects for my students to complete, but had left out the active learning. If students are going to complete these projects then ideally they need to explain, present and discuss them with the teacher and the rest of the class.
Most of all they will learn from showing, seeing, interacting with and discussing their projects with their peers. This really hit home with me after our reviews of our online classes. I would have lost a great deal of understanding if I were to have just submitted my online course; being able to review and be reviewed allowed me to critically analyze my course while gaining a greater understanding of how a good course should feel and look.
In finalizing my course I will be sure to include the active learning, but I will also consider this more in my traditional teaching as well. (3)
One of the problems I see with my course that I have not yet been able to remedy is the lack of group work. I want to have group work in the discussions, but I fear if I use the course the class size may be an issue when it comes to discussion groups. I want a good discussion in which all students are guaranteed student feedback in the forums, but I am also concerned about participation among my 9th graders. If I only have one class of around 20 students I thought it would be best to have the whole class involved in one discussion and not broken up into groups. The benefit of this is that it would allow more choices for students and counteract any non-participators in the discussion; however this might allow small groups or clicks to develop on their own which would allow for some students to be left out of the discussions.
The only alternative I can think of is to have the online discussions start out in small groups and then branch it out as a whole class discussion. This would hopefully give the best of both worlds. It would create the small groups to ensure no students are left out and open up a broader opportunity for discussion when it becomes a class discussion. What I think I’ll do is cut the course in half where the first week will be the small group discussion and the latter week will bring in the whole class.
I would also like to have groups in the assignments, but I want to ensure that the tasks can be evenly broken up to ensure individual accountability. For the power point presentation on culture I may have them break up the acronym SCLARGE – (Social Structure, Customs, Language/Writing, Art/Architecture, Religion, Government and Economy) so that each student is responsible for completing certain aspects of the assignment. (4)
Structurally my course so far looks sound; however there seems to be a lot left for me to fill in. I am not happy with many of my activities as of yet and don’t believe I have as yet set the course up sufficient scaffolding or even clear instructions for the final and culminating project.
Basically, my course is its title “Ancient Civilizations”. I changed the title from the Global History and Geography I because I had to cut much of the geography out because of schedule and structural concerns. We will study ancient civilizations throughout the course, while doing regents based assessments and working with power point projects. The final project will be a virtual tour of an ancient civilization we have studied using power point and there will also be a short, but regents based final exam. What I want to make sure of is that I am properly preparing my course so that it offers enough opportunities throughout to prepare for this final project.
From viewing the course I believe I am preparing well enough for my students to take a regents based exam. The course is full a multiple choice questions, thematic outlines and document based questions and essays. Preparing them to use power point is another story. From looking at my course I have one power point exercise planned before the final project and it is too difficult for a scaffolding exercise. My plan is to borrow an idea from Joe and have the icebreaker introduction be a power point exercise in which the students create one slide as an introduction piece about themselves. We can then combine it into one large power point for a class collage.
So far I am satisfied, but still want to do a great deal more work. I may change the course so that I can focus on using a class wiki. The wiki would probably be a class thing in which students would contribute and edit pages based on what ever theme we are covering in class. I have not worked out the details obviously, so the wiki is not in the near future. The rest I wish to do is just consolidate and possibly shortening the class by two modules. Most of all though I want to make sure my instructions are clear and that my class activities are clearly tied together.
Although I know I have a ways before its finished I have really enjoyed setting up this online class. I reflect on where I am very often and have even sometimes thought of something I wanted to do and gotten up in the middle of the night to add something to the course… and make a sandwich. Mmmm… I find that every time I look at the course I find a hole, something lacking in explanation, or something that will clearly go totally wrong.
What I have been doing is experimenting with what is in Moodle. One of the items I wanted to play with was the wiki because I have heard so much about them this year at my school with teachers talking about putting up wiki sites. From what I gathered it’s a website in which many people can contribute and add. I’ve heard of a wiki site in which people can go to edit and create their own new chapters to the Harry Potter books. What a great idea. I actually just found it “Harry Potter Wiki” Imagine what something similar could do for an online class. The Harry Potter site’s idea would be great idea for an English class. After a student’s read a novel they can spice it up a little through editing and maybe even give the book a new ending. For my class I wanted to have a wiki in which students could edit and add elements to a short title and text on the ancient city-state of Sumer, but it didn’t work out so well. It is something I will just have to try again. Does anyone have any good ideas on how to use a wiki for an online class?
The instruction manual is good, but it did not clearly explain how to go about using a wiki for a course. (4)
When it comes to teacher presence one thing I must balance out is the quantity and the quality of my feedback. Excellent feedback; in my opinion, is the most important aspect of education when it comes to student achievement and satisfaction with the teacher and the course. In the past I have found myself inconsistent. Some days I was able to give a great quanitity of quality feedback and on others I was forced to shorten my feedback because of time constraints. I want to achieve more balance in this area because I know that when dealing with anyone, especially young people, being inconsistent on important topics is dangerous. Student satisfaction with the teacher and the course will go way down and my ability to teach will be compromised.
My issue is time and I have been steadily creating more time as my organization and design has improved. My courses are more clayed out before hand giving me more time to focus on giving feedback. This also allows for me to facilitate more since my overall goals are more clear.
The development (chunking) of this online course and the class readings has given me more insight on how to be better prepared for the year by allowing me to put into practice the sitting down and preparing of an entire course before I teach it. For an online course I at first thought that it was more necessary for an online teacher to have there course completely planned before they began, but I now believe it is just as important in the F2F class. I only wish I had this kind of practice overall design as a rookie, but as a new teacher I was still unsure of how to teach and what worked. Even if I did plan ahead it was often changed dramatically. As this organization and design develops I find much more ability in forming a better class community.
Netiquette is an essencial element of instructional design and organization. When it comes to netiquette I demand a somewhat professional quality when it comes to what students post on discussion boards. If its a discussion all posts must of course be course and topic related. I am aware that it may create a friendlier atmosphere if students are allowed to be themselves, use their own slang and go by abide by their own standards of what is professional behavior in an online environment. Boundaries need to be set for behavior that are strict and with definite conseqences for my classes because I am going to be working with a much younger age group (high school freshmen and sophmores)
From my own personality I do need relative control when it comes to online discussion in high school. The temptation is too great to get off task and the possibilities for disputes or unprofessional behavior is too great to loosen the structure. Even in things outside the course like bulliten boards, it must be clear that netiquette still applies. This is also important with the new global classroom. WIth in my face to face classes there is diversity to consider and with in the global environment it is all the more important. Most in our class can attest to learning along side (virtually) students from very different cultures where mannerisms are different and where the language barrier is high.
With this in mind it is most important that their be consistant standards, not just my own idea of what it should be. However netiquette should be a required and strict policy in an online class. For mine I have dedicated the first module to the topic where student will read, analyze, evaluate and discuss netiquette. The website I decided to use for this is the following: Netiquette. There is also an interactive quiz to the site and a lesson.
The idea behind blended learning is basically to create an environment that samples two or more methods of learning. A educational theory salad bar where an educator takes the parts he or she likes and uses it in their teaching. Ideally this can be applied by combining the methods and theories on an online and F2F course. There is no exact method on how to do it, blended learning is not a set in stone with a perscribed method. Learning theories should not be chiseled like the ten commandments or be an all or nothing approach to one philosophy.
“You don’t have to pick Catholic or Baptist or Muslim, and shun the others. The goal is to have the right theory for the right situation” (cited in Zemke 2002).
Blended learning however does have certain aspects that should be present in one way or another. Five key ingredients are usually part of the blended learning process.
1. Live events – In which direct simultanious instruction goes on between teacher and students
2. Self Paced Learning – Learning that students complete individually at their own pace
3. Collaboration – Where students communicate with each other
4. Assessment – the measurement of the learners knowledge
5. Performance Support materials, such as materials, downloads and documents (Carmen)
It is apparent that a great deal more research on this subject has to happen if I am to anyway have a hybrid or blended learning style course. With this hopefully I could better define on which theory is best for what I want to do
Zemke, R. (2002, September). Who Needs Learning Theory Anyway?
Training Magazine, 39(9), 86-88.
Carmen, J (October 2002). Blended Learning Design: 5 Main Ingredients. Knowledgenet
Honestly I’ve found Moodle to be a very difficult platform to work from. It is certainly not as easy as I thought it would be and looks nothing like the SLN platform I’m used to from past online classes. I at first had a lot of trouble with the placement of the course documents, but the Jing demonstration helped me out a lot with that part and introduced me to a tool I need for my introduction module. I can only hope that I will be able to create the rest after overcoming these initial problems.
What I’ve began to do is simplify the structure of my course. I figured I’d have to do this so I was over ambitious at first on purpose so that I could cut the fat later. Although I believe I’m cutting more fat than I ever dreamed. For one thing I’m cutting the course in half so that it only encompasses half the material I originally planned. I’ve changed the blog from one that was to be content based to a reflection blog and I’ve also cut down the number of projects, so that my course could focus on the more important regents tasks of the course.
I believe there will be many more changes to my course. For one thing I’m re-thinking my original theme based history course to perhaps something more traditional linear (time-line based) course. This way I can chunk the content in a way that is not too spread out and make the course more practical for someone with a limited history, well in history.
New technologies are so complex that basic skills are essential. It amazes me to see students creating instant messages, downloading music and any other number of amazing things, but then lack the most basic of skills in front of the computer.
When using technology in the class I have found that I must put down my social studies content and teach basic computer skills. Next year it is my plan to teach these skills before I teach any of the social studies skills or content so that they can work with it the rest of the year with ease.
For one thing students need basic keyboarding skills so that they can complete written work in a timely matter. If pen is to be replaced with keyboard in the classroom then this is essential.
It seems unfortunate that I must go to this length since many of my students never get keyboarding or computer lab. It is not mandated like math or English. It seems to me that technology and computer training needs to mandated and even perhaps state tested as a condition for graduation. Is this going too far?