Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reflection: Online Collaboration and Web 2.0

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Many of the online courses I have taken require group work. The prospect of creating a group in an online course can be stressful. I know when I introduce a group work activity in my classroom, you can see the students deciding on the strategy they will use to form their desirable group. Sometimes it has more to do with who they prefer to socialize with as opposed to which of their peers will make for the best group to do the work. Nevertheless, the forming of a group, I think, is an important part to the whole process of collaboration and cooperation. I seldom assign students to groups, unless there is a history of conflict between the students.

Reflection: Online Professional Development

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This past semester I was part of an online professional development for Media Studies 120 and Journalism 120. Each curriculum went through a much deserved revamp, and the purpose of the online professional development was to become acquainted with new material, new ideas and hear from some teachers who shared best practices in the classroom.

That previous summer a similar onsite session was held, and I had planned to attend, but was unable to attend due to some other commitments. The onsite session had been videotaped, so part of that was included in the online session.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Constancy, Immediacy and the Online Moderator

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From my own experiences with online learning, which started about two years ago, I think one difficulty for the online moderator  is the fact that all the material and resources are immediate and constant and the expectations this can create with the students. I know as a student when I log in, I will usually have immediate access to everything about the course. There tends to be, even as unrealistic as it is, this expectation that the moderator should be constant and immediate as well. I think this extends to many areas of our lives because of technology and the desire for an immediate answer or solution to any problems or issues that arise. One obvious advantage to online learning is the ability to access the material and resources anywhere at anytime. If the web server is down, or if it is running extremely slow, you quickly see how much we rely on the constant and immediate access that online learning experiences bring. We have become conditioned to it. So when the immediate and constant resources and materials are not enough, and we need to speak to the moderator, we run into the reality that human beings are still part of the process.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Encouraging Digital Discussion

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The paper "Evaluating Students' Participation In On-Line Discussions," explores how students can be encouraged to participate effectively in online discussions and also discusses how these discussions can be assessed. 

Participating in online discussions is defined as "the process where learners and educators are actively engaged in on-line text-based communication with each other." Effective on-line participation, should lead to a deeper understanding of the course material.

The purposes of on-line discussions are categorized in two ways: on-line discussions act "as the locus of shared knowledge and practice" or "as a forum within which diverse and (sometimes) conflicting beliefs and values can be articulated and negotiated."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Shifting Gears with Mobile Learning?

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The article "Mobile Learning: From single project status into the mainstream?" takes the position that mobile learning is a "subset" of e-learning. The study explores whether mobile learning is a new generation of distance education or, quoting Peters (2004), an "educational paradigm shift." The article discusses the growing use of mobile devices and the fact they offer world wide access to people in developing countries and isolated, rural locations. 

The researchers conducted an international survey amongst distance educators and collected their data in 2006 and 2007 with 88 responses from 27 countries, with the majority from South Africa, Germany, Canada and Great Britain. Fifty nine percent of the respondents were from institutions that offer "both face-to-face (contact-based) and distance learning programs (mixed-mode/hybrid)." 

Friday, June 14, 2013

What it Means to be a Teacher...Point Form

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Tom March's online article "The 10 Stages of Working the Web for Education" challenges teachers to consider how to use technology, particularly the Internet, to not only acquire new information and skills, but to "transform" that knowledge and to "construct new meaning" while fostering a learner centred environment in our classrooms. Below are my thoughts, in point form, on what I think it means to be a teacher given my own experiences on using technology in the classroom. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, and I hope it is not exhausting to read:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Traditional, Blended, E-Learning, Results and Digital Natives

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The study "Comparing Effectiveness of Traditional versus Blended Teaching Methods: Efforts to Meet the Demand of Students in a Blend 2.0" illustrates that when designed appropriately for the learning situation, a blended learning environment is as effective as a traditional learning environment. This study asserts that students are "craving technology in the classroom." While this may generally be the case, it is clear from this study's results that there were no significant differences in overall effectiveness of a blended environment versus a traditional one.  

Perhaps this conclusion may illustrate that if a course is designed well, regardless of the approach, it will be effective. In fact the study acknowledges that the instructor had been dedicated in making "the two sections of the class as comparable as possible" and the instructional design for both classes included a "media rich environment." Thus, it is important to note that technology played a significant role in both learning environments, even though one environment is called "traditional" it did not exclude the use of technology.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Unconventional Approaches to Web Design

First of all, I would be remiss if I did not include a shout out to the first website created in 1992 which was made available again for viewing in April of this year. It was interesting to read and hear some of the comments made about the design of the page. Some people have commented how they love the simplicity of the page with clear links and no distracting images, scrolling ads and flashy video content. The site can be called many things, but overwhelming, in comparison to current websites, is not one of them.

A Quick Look at Six Effective e-Learning Design Elements

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In the article "Elements of Effective e-Learning Design" by Andrew R. Brown and Bradley D. Voltz, the authors introduce six elements of design in e-learning for K-12 where they consider "e-learning" as teaching and learning "delivered, supported, and enhanced through the use of digital technologies and media and may involve "face-to-face, distance, and mixed mode or blended delivery models." 

They use  examples from the work of The Le@rning Federation (TLF). 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Putting the "I" Back Into Writing

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A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with a colleague of mine. We were chatting over different writing styles we see in student work, as we both teach the same students. I teach them in a writing class, and she teaches then in an English class. She mentioned how she finds it very difficult to teach "voice" to students. An instructor can go over many conventions and strategies as well as provide different writing activities to help students develop voice in their writing. But she said some students just seem "to have it" while other students really struggle. It is almost like it naturally and almost effortlessly flows from some students into their writing.