Tag Archives: learning

Meeting All Students’ Needs Online

Online courses can accommodate multiple learning styles and disabilities.  Specifically the D2L learning system used by VHS collaborative has features with auditory playback and ALT text or the Null attribute. The VHS collaborative also advises that the use of sans serif font, and the use of colors to be kept at a minimum. It is also suggested that underlining be reserved only for hyperlinks and color or bold for emphasis. Additionally, it is best to avoid many animated images on a page. Like in f2f models, there also can be accommodations for the quantity of material expected. For the online discussion area, there can be a variation of summarizing discussions rather than formulating one’s own.

puzzle-210784_640 (1)There is no doubt that a student who has difficulty reading will certainly have trouble with an online course. However, some benefits could include the fact that students get extended time on task. For example, in a f2f classroom there might be 30 minutes to work on an activity, but online the student can take an hour of focused time with fewer distractions. Time being equally beneficial for gifted and talented students, they can achieve high order thinking skills and dig deeply into concepts, thus pushing themselves to learn more.

Below is a tabled-summary of an article put out by Richard Felder and Barbara Solomon for North Carolina State University. It describes the various learning styles and gives suggested strategies for being successful learner in those categories.

Active and Reflective Learners

 

Active Reflective
Tend to retain and understand information by doing something active think about it quietly first
“Let’s Try it out and see how it works” “Let’s think it through first”
Like group work Prefer working alone
Difficulty sitting through lectures Can sit through lectures

 

Sensing and Intuitive Learners

 

Sensing Intuitive
Like learning facts Prefer discovering possibilities and relationships
Like solving problems by well-established methodsDislike surprises Like innovation and dislike repetition
Patient with detailsgood at memorizing facts Better at new conceptsmore comfortable with abstractions and math formulations
More practical and careful Work faster and more innovative
Need real-world connection Don’t like a lot of memorization and routine calculations

 

 

Visual and Verbal Learners

 

Visual Verbal
Remember best with pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films More from written and spoken explanations

 

Sequential and Global Learners

 

Sequential Global
Gain understanding in linear steps Learn in large jumps absorbing material randomly without seeing connections but then suddenly “getting it”
Follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions Able to solve complex problems quickly or put things together in novel ways once they have the big picture, but have difficulty explaining how they did it

 

How does your brain process information? Take this short quiz to see what learning style you are: Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire

 

This is me:

learning styles2

 

Looks like I’m an intuitive, visual, global learner. I do often find it easy to tinker with things. Really, that is how I came to learn what I know about digital media and computers. What helps my teaching is the ability to take the global concepts and package them for my students in what I hope is a similar, intuitive, way.

 

Technology, such as web 2.0 tools are interactive tools which empower the learner to creatively design his/her learning. Active learners need interaction with lessons – games, interactive learning objects, hands-on projects, etc. A student using technology has more interactive opportunities with creative tools and more time to process information before presenting to the wider audience. Online learning can help students in some cases, if the activities allow time for creative tinkering and reflective processing. A challenge is if the content is reading-based. My online teaching discipline this fall will be teaching programing. Currently the pre-created curriculum is heavily text-based. Also my course is very sequential. I admit it was very difficult for me to learn programming, a lot of patience and trying to see the bigger picture is what helped me prevail. I believe this will aid me in being an effective teacher of the course because I’ve been in the trenches with the blindfold. I know what a learner of this type will need to do to accomplish the tasks. It is similar to why I felt I was an effective Spanish teacher. Being non-native, I found tricks to help me visualize languages and help those who struggle with memorization of vocabulary. I plan to supplement my course material with video tutorials.

 

 

Felder, R, Soloman, B.  Learning Styles and Strategies

http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm

 

Felder, R, Soloman, B. Learning Skills. James Cook University http://www-public.jcu.edu.au/learningskills/resources/lsonline/learning/index.htm

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Are (Online) Teachers in the Classroom Even Necessary?

teacher-403004_640Mike Kalin describes the Khan Academy trend in an NPR radio commentary. He describes the transformation of teaching with the advent of these online teaching tools. He states that teachers are no longer the most important conveyors of content. While online learning may seem dry to someone who has never done it, online experiences can be more engaging than listening to a lecture for 45 minutes. In this electronic realm, teachers act as a curator or facilitator to nurture a classroom environment.

Real teachers are still needed to help students navigate the river of online information. More importantly, teachers try to exemplify the civic virtues we hope to instill. These are curiosity, empathy and integrity. When I think of teachers’ primary roles, I think of the connections I make with students every day.

Technology has not undermined teaching. We need to transform our teaching in order to transform the lives of our students. We can not ignore the potential benefits of online learning, nor can we forget the importance of a real person to keep the experience alive.

How do we educate our children for economic reasons and cultural reasons? In Changing Education Paradigms, Ken Robinson (RSA, 2008) gives an interesting look at the educational system as it has been and what it could potentially include. Some of the concepts described include that ADHD has risen in parallel with increase in standardized testing and the arts are the victim of this. The arts are an aesthetic experience. Anaesthetic, meaning shutting off your senses is what the prescription ADHD drugs are doing. Schools are organized by the industrialized world. It’s about conformity and standardization. Divergent thinking isn’t creativity but an essential capacity for creativity — being able to see multiple answers in multiple ways.

It Takes a Community…

People close to me know I’m not a fan of automated toll booths and self checkouts. I still pay cash on the MassPike, and I will wait in line at the supermarket rather than use the machines. I worry we will lose opportunities for human connections, as subtle as they are. A VHS course won’t automatically teach itself. Kids will always need human connection and role models. As we move toward more and more online learning in schools we need to remember that the human educator is still essential, a valued component to teaching and learning. We can not forget that humans require human connection. As the saying goes, “It takes a community to raise a child.” When we fear new ways of teaching, we need to remember that human connections are essential in raising a child.

Are Teachers in Brick-and-Mortar Schools Even Necessary? 90.0 wbur Boston’s NPR news station, Jan 2014

Robinson, Ken. RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms – 2008  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=zDZFcDGpL4U

 

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I will Never Learn – Examining My Online Teaching Journey

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Being a blended teacher for over 15 years, I have been teaching my classes as if they were online classes, always being present as a facilitator to aid in learning. More and more I am able to provide independent studies or second versions of courses. Often these can be offered while another section is meeting or independently in another location. My journey as an online educator has been fueled by my service as a Site Coordinator through VHS Collaborative and having completed the certificate professional development program offered through VHS.

I am presently undergoing the Online Teaching Methodologies (OTM) for VHS, which is a capstone or “student teacher” experience for Online teaching though VHS. I have the opportunity to co-teach a specific content area. I have elected to co-teach Computer Science Honors. This will help me understand the specifics to teaching online.

 

In an article put out by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) in 2012, it indicated that 27 states have virtual schools. Our school belongs to the VHS Collaborative, a service whereby students take online elective courses in a variety of disciplines. This allows for students to select courses not offered at our regional high school. My students who go through the VHS experience are very grateful for the opportunity. The number of participants increases every year. Online learning is not going away. Training to teach online is the smartest thing I could have done professionally.

 

vhspicMany criticize online learning as a mode of disconnect, where teachers and students are like machines. In a survey conducted by VHS Collaborative, teachers were asked about their feelings about online learning. “What do you find most striking about the difference between teaching online and face-to-face?”

“…I actually feel like I get to know my students sooner than in traditional teaching.”

Often teachers in a traditional face-to-face classroom will do icebreaker assignments, but sometimes shy students may not speak up; and class time limits make the activity rushed. When students can post lengthy introductions, or when they respond to assignments in a thoughtful way, we begin to learn more about the personalities of our students. It is important to pay attention to our students.

There are some overlaps in characteristics between the virtual and face-to-face teacher and student. A virtual teacher or student needs to be motivated and thorough, I’m thinking almost OCD. A teacher needs to be thorough with responses to student’s discussions. If the students are going to get the most of their VHS class, they are going to need reinforcement from the adult in the room. Every kid needs an “attaboy”.

Here’s a quote from another teacher interview:

“Online teachers have no choice but to be prepared, organized, methodical, and meticulous in their online lesson planning. Similarly, they have no choice but to be accessible, empathetic, timely, and sincere in their online communications.”

These are qualities that start with the teacher. Becoming a teacher, I think this is what you sign up for. My biggest concern is if when I begin teaching online, will it consume my life so much as I begin to neglect other areas. There is no bell. I feel that with my OCD-like personality, I may over do it and get lost in the shuffle. Only time will tell.

Will I ever learn? I’ve taken over 15 online courses while completing my certification in Instructional Technology and online teaching. I’m a creative person who can’t sit still. I need to be constantly tinkering with things. I feel that helps me as a virtual student. I am a self-starter, independent and self-determined. I’m consistently trying to better myself. I am loyal to my priorities, although I’m often stretched thin. I volunteer for everything; I say no to almost no one. Lately, I’ve tried to reign it in. But here I am. Again I am seeking the opportunity to learn how to teach online course which I am certain will mean more work for me. I guess I will never learn.

Read more Fast Facts About Online Learning – NACOL 2012

http://www.inacol.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/iNACOL_fastfacts_October_2012.pdf

Quotes provided by VHS Collaborative

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Authentic Digital Assessments: Web2.0 Tools to Prepare Students for the Real World

As a technology teacher, I often focus on tool instruction. As an integration specialist there is less emphasis on tool instruction but more emphasis on choosing tools to accomplish a task. As an adult looking at the whole picture, my primary goal is to prepare students for life during and after high school. More and more I feel like a life skills teacher or a home economics teacher. Like learning to be healthy through PE, boil pasta, or learn to balance their checkbooks, it is imperative that I prepare them for what is beyond the walls of K-12 education.

prismChanging technologies are exciting for everyone. So many of us latch onto new technologies in our free time. Today’s kids are no strangers to the latest technologies, limited only by their allowance. From Facebook to iTunes, GarageBand to YouTube. Oh yes, iMovie is fun. These technologies will be there and grow with them for years to come. Knowing something about them is useful. As citizens of this digital age, it is vital to know effective uses of advanced techniques in order to be efficient content creators and digital-literate consumers of information.

The right tool for the job

What tools should we be using in education? Let’s consider a broad brush and look at the big picture. What is the value of some of the Web2.0 tools or tablet apps that are emphasized now in education? Sure bells and whistles are attractive and motivating, the glow of a new app on an iPad is very exciting.

I explore tools in my technology classroom and have tried some of the latest-crazed tools such as NING, Edmodo, Wallwisher, SlideShare, Animoto, PBwiki,  Prezi, WizIQ,, Quia and VoiceThread. Remember those?  And OMG, there are so many more. I have distributed many logins to my students  and had my own content die a slow death in many online environments. At one point I had so many pots in the fire that I found myself confused, and my students, too, were increasingly annoyed.

Simulated tools that mimic “real” ones  

108db_ning_logoVideo/slide tools like Animoto or SlideShare create an easy cookie cutter approach to video- or photo-sharing creations.  Sites like NING and Edmodo provide a simulation of a social network that have been used in an educational setting. Personally I latched on to NING as a teaching tool and my PLN. I’ve enjoyed manipulating the tool to do many things for my classes, but with many tools I’ve always found limitations. Nonetheless, NING was once free and help promise for educational use that I revered as the tool that was going to float to the top, become mainstream, and I wasn’t going to have to learn another tool ever again. It was viewed as a “safe” protected environment. For me, course management with NING became too cumbersome and soon lost its appeal. It wasn’t designed for what I needed, and students had to log in to yet another “thing” and NING as a platform never took off with the general public and my PLN anyway.

edmodoEdmodo is another social network, which includes grading, group creation and has some appeal. Students can post content and carry out discussions. It is a decent PLN too. As educators we gleam when we can share our month-long student projects which demonstrate six minutes of understanding. Kids think it’s fun the first few weeks. It looks like Facebook.

Online apps and iPad apps are the hottest things to talk about in education. Emphasis on technology tools show up more in educational literature and make for filled conference rooms and large-budget purchases — higher than assessment and pedagogy. Tom Daccord of EdTechTeacher said in a speech, “Future Learning Spaces”, we have adapted iPad app and iPad devices on an unprecedented scale. There is an overemphasis on content apps.

While the popularity of these tools have been gaining in education, it begins to become apparent to me that using social networks like Edmodo in schools provides a false sense of the real world. Continuity between what tools are mastered in school and what tools are needed in the real world is overlooked. Far too much focus and attention is placed on asking educators to use these tools in their classes as a way to improve their technology use in education. Especially when common, free everyday tools are available and present already.

Let’s be real.

Efficiency is important in time on learning.  Teaching with multiple tools at once can be time consuming. From creating and managing accounts to students having to use trial-and-error techniques to learn a tool, the heart of the lesson can be compromised.

As a tool teacher, it is important that I provide students with experiences that will have lasting effects. Time dedicated to tools like Edmodo for me might be wasted time. Will kids leave it behind as they go on to college? What tools will they be using after high school?  How many tools come and go, close up shop and disappear?

Clearly we should look at learning management tools that are used in colleges. Tools such as Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2Learn are ones that come to mind. Maybe that is not a financial option or maybe a bit too “serious” for a middle school student. Regardless, if sharing content is my goal, there are more mainstream tools I’d prefer to use.

Facebook may be a stretch. It provides too many opportunities to cross over into personal life with professional/educational life.  Not a good place for file delivery. It has potential, but I’m not ready to use it as a “learning tool”.

How about Google?

Google-Apps-for-EducationA group on Google+, “Using Google as a Free LMS” explores the idea K-12 and higher education using Google as a free learning management tool. The concept of using a tool that may be already in the hands of students and sure likely to be around in 10 to 20 years makes sense for exploring this concept.

What do we know so far? We know that Google is a long-standing company. We know that their tools in the simplest form can be used in education. The tools are great for collaboration and sharing. Digital portfolios can be created with sites and blogs. Conversation can happen in discussion groups, Google+ circles, and comments on documents, presentations, and drawings. It is no secret that Google is a leader in providing learning tools for students. These tools can be carried with them into the real world as well as the products they have created. A digital portfolio that can be recycled into adult use.

How does it fare with time efficiency? Google has presented itself as the easiest most diverse online environment to date.  All you need is a free Gmail account. The library of tools Google provides integrates nicely with each other. File management and online sharing are a cinch. Google apps for education/business allow for administrative control. It can be deployed throughout the entire school community with little professional development. Moreover it is cross-platform.. And it syncs with a phone or tablet.

Daccord, Tom. Future Learning Spaces, edtechteacher/MassCUE Leading Learning the Future 2013, Worcester MA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=v60B0v48O0o

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Summer Reading: eBooks, Audio Books, etc…

Aah, summertime! Looking for some digital information to consume this summer while on vacation. I have used podcasts and audio books previous summers on my Droid 1. This  is the first summer with an iPad and a Motorola Xoom tablet and I am looking to maybe transition into the iTunes world, perhaps a real “iPod” some day, as well.  Digital reading in the sun may be hard. So this year it might have to be a nice blend of paper, digital books, and audio books. But really I’d like to find out where I can get all of my content in one organized manner including the audio content.

I’m not going to review the different eBook reader devices. There are plenty of review sites for that.  And it all comes down to the almighty dollar.  I’m simply going to reflect on what choices I have at present and where I might get my content.  I have an iPad2 and the Motorola Xoom (Android). I’m largely invested in Google right now. I love the Google apps environment, email, calendar and now app store world that just seem to jive nicely. The high school that I teach at is going to roll out Google Apps for Education accounts for everyone next fall.

What to consider 

I’m going to research over the next few weeks to determine what is right for me. Sure I could go out and buy ONE device that someone will tell me is the best for digital reading. I’m not in the position to do that. I know the iPad, for example, receives bad reviews for visibility while in the sun. This might be a deal-breaker for me. Again I need to find out where to invest my purchasing from content sources so that they might be transferred to other devices in the future.

I’m looking into simplification of my general media management and consumption. With countless apps, Google products, and content stores online, I would like to close out some accounts, delete some apps, and focus on a key set of tools and/or places to get my content. This post is written in hopes to gather responses filled with good suggestions for the best way I can read my stuff.

What I’m comfortable with

C/W Marshttp://www.cwmars.org/ Our Western Massachusetts Library system. They have made it easy to get a paper version of any book, CD, or DVD and have it delivered to our local library. They have a digital library, sometimes limited, in which you can download a client on your computer or an app for your device for reading or to listen to audio books. I have not yet tried to read a book using this method. Until now, I’ve waited the few days for delivery of the paper version.

Boston Public Libraryhttp://www.bpl.org/ Our state capital has given us all access to the Boston Public Library’s digital content. I have used this source a few times when I couldn’t find something in C/W Mars. At one point I ran into trouble with the accounts within my Android app.

Audible.com (Amazon) http://www.audible.com/. Great stuff. They have some  of the best readers in the industry. I have used the free download copy but have yet to purchase from there.

Web content – Twitter, blogs, social networks and news. I have a few aggregators such as Google reader. But I really need to do some summer cleaning and clear out some unwanted blogs, and narrow down my scope. I’m trying some apps, Pulse and Flipboard. These have been good to me.

What I hope to explore

Barnes and Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/ Does the Nook content work on Android or iOS? Is there an app for that? Yes there is. But is the format universal enough that if Barnes & Noble goes broke, will my book be available for future consumption? Is there a resale market? Like with a paper book, can I resell it when I’m done?

Amazon (Kindle app)http://www.amazon.com/ Perhaps the most attractive option for me. I read that the app looks pretty good on the iPad, I can choose between any of my devices and I’m not locked into Apple with my new library. Further it is the same login for Audible and almost every other purchase I’ve made. I’ve been using their cloud drive music and like it very much. They’ve got Android apps, movie purchases and movie rentals, too. Looks like with this choice, I can choose the platform I want to use for reading. If maybe my iPad is being used by another family member, I could get on the Xoom and pick up where I left off.

KISS – (Keep It Simple Silly)

I’m tired of having so many accounts in so many places; I have too many irons in the fire with accounts all over the place. I’m having trouble keeping up with my credit card info, shipping addresses, passwords, and login names that I just want to wake up, turn on and read. I really want to know how to best choose the content that can be ported from platform to platform. In 5 years, I hope to be able to store my books on a new device with ease.

The decision to write this article and make my process public was inspired by an article I read on elearn mag.

http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2159560

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Teaching Information Literacy: A Reflection

In 2008, upon taking a new position at a new school, I began my new teaching experience having to teach a course given to me with the title “Information Literacy”, or “Info Lit” for short. As an 11-year teacher of Spanish integrating technology and obtaining a certification in instructional technology, I felt prepared for a lot of things, but this seemed a lot like library science.

Even though I had plenty of technical training, this course was a challenge because it presented a look at the Web 2.0 world in a congnitive approach. This concept has been written in the state and national standards as being skills learned by integrating into core classes and day-to-day activities. At first, teaching this in isolation seemed out of place. As I progressed, I learned that this, indeed, became a necessary course of study, and therefore I rose to the challenge.

Research led me to designing a professionally rewarding course which included a blend of Web 2.0 tool teaching and best practice information seeking. The course empowers students with presentation strategies by using a variety of low-cost, user-friendly tools.  The course didn’t come with a curriculum or textbook. I needed to develop on the fly. Talking about information literacy with high school students is like talking about family values. Sometimes kids feel uneasy when there is an awkward family meeting about ab0ut sibling rivalry and puberty. It appears to go over much more smoothly by mixing a little guidance and trial and error.

I needed to teach technology skills. Knowing the importance of computer skills in a changing environment, I saw the even greater need to teach critical thinking skills while using technology. It had to include a focus of how students would discover, assimilate and refine information now and in the future. What civic expectations did they need to know? How were they going to share their knowledge?

I began at the core concept where I felt would make the most sense for the students. What information flow has been most familiar to them?  That would be with traditional print and video like with magazines and TV.  Teaching kids about information literacy had to start with media literacy. Using photos and videos from places like Adbusters and communicating in places like the NING social network, students quickly engaged in an online experience using Web 2.0 tools to read, analyze, synthesize then apply what they have learned in an online forum. A cocktail of tools were then used to illustrate an understanding of the concepts. Toondoo.com, Xtranormal.com, Animoto, to name a few. In addition, the popular photo editing tool GIMP was used. Understanding the working of photo editing helped kids understand images in media through analysis of advertisements, how they influence, persuade or educate.  Students created their own parody advertisements as a way to lighten the mood. Open source software provides easy-to-reach tools to maximize accessibility. To me, information literacy meant having the wits to do with what you have and make the most of it.

As my PLNs grew and I paid closer attention to what core educators wanted. I knew it wasn’t about online tools as much as it was about a skill-set of understanding how to manage information in the digital age. By exposing them to creative options while guiding them through the tangled web, a harmonious behavior is acquired and hopefully carried over into their core classes.

I included a video created by students in my Information Literacy class in 2010 which somewhat summarizes the makeup of their experience.

 

Four years later, I’m pursuing an online teaching certification.  In a Virtual Highschool Professional development class titled Best Practices – Web 2.0

Collaborative Online Instruction (April 2012). Steve Isaacs of William Annin Middle School in New Jersey, encouraged me to visualize Information Literacy using

a cool collaborative online tool: Mind42.com. The following link is to my mind map: Information Literacy Mind Map42

I’ve explored Bubl.us before, but I did enjoy the ease of use with this tool. It was nice to actually try and visualize what my head has been tossing around so much. Often I’ve been feeling scattered in teaching the course. Further readings provided leads to this man, Jason Ohler. His vision nicely illustrates Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy as it applies to information literacy in the digital age.

  Bloom’s taxonomy was developed during a time when the expectation for students were to be handed in and graded. Beyond the teacher grading the works may have been making the corrections and handing it back in. Thus the highest rung in the Bloom ladder was evaluation. In the digital age, when publication tools are abundant, and the new ISTE standards promote innovation and creativity. The result is that the ability to create becomes an important high-end cognitive function.

He states literacy is  consuming and producing the media forms of the day, whatever they may be and that new media goes from powerful to empowering when we can write it, as well as read it. (http://www.jasonohler.com/storytelling/beyondwords.cfm#partI)

This, along with a number of articles in my online certification route, confim the necessity for kids to learn information literacy skills. The important discovery for me is that tools come and go, obtaining a deep understanding of how to adapt in the information age is critical for today’s youth. What started out an ominous perspective of having to teach the course has turned into an exciting experience. It is not my favorite course to teach.

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