Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blendkit 2015: Reading Reflection Chapter 4- Blended Content and Assignments

This week's reading selection focused on the tribulations a teacher might encounter when implementing the online portions of a blended course.  I can see how the situation of choosing practical tools for use and then implementing those tools for student use could be stressful to the teacher (and to the student for that matter.)  After all, the tool is useless if students can't master its intended purpose quickly.  It seems the result would be a disconnect in the learning and, most likely, a high level of frustration for the learner.

As a former high school teacher I ran into these problems, myself, as our district made the switch to a future ready school district.  I found myself worrying that I would spend so much time teaching the technology that the curriculum, itself, would suffer.  My workaround?  Provide short video tutorials that students can link to at any time that give direction on how to use the tech tool.  It worked wonders for all parties involved.  For the students: they had the ability to review/reteach themselves on use of the tool(s); for me, the teacher: I could focus on the curriculum content and facilitate the learning of that content without worrying about whether or not the students had mastered the technology side of it.

In conclusion, the implementation of meaningful technology is paramount to learning in a blended course.  However, the teacher must ensure that the learner has a way to access information about use of the tool in the event that he or she needs more instruction.  To this end, students will remain engaged and not feel a separation or gap in the purpose of the instruction.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blendkit 2015: Reading Reflection, Chapter 3- Blended Assessments of Learning

I have to say I was quite riveted to this week's reading selection.  It dealt with different types of assessments that can be used successfully in a Blended Learning course.  Before I began reading, I studied the focus questions and really tried to answer them first so that my answers wouldn't be biased based on what I learned from the reading.  I wanted to see if after reading the chapter my mindset would change.  My mind changed dramatically!  After reading, I made the following decisions (as of now, anyway):

1. Since my planned course deals with new teacher trainings, K-12 the course will be set up as a completion course as opposed to a pass/fail type course.
2. The main objective of the course is to build an ed tech culture (i.e. using ed tech to expect  regular communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills of the students) in the teacher's classroom.  The assessments, then, would be geared toward "checking for understanding" and would be used to assess whether any re-teaching is necessary-- a check on ourselves as ed tech coaches, so to speak.
3. In my mind, this idea lends itself to assessments that are more project based as opposed to multiple choice formatted quizzes.  I would like to see the learned principles implemented in the classroom setting, so these assessments could/would be in the form of writing reflections, image galleries, video journaling, etc.)
4.  It's necessary to have some traditional type quizzes, as well.  These would be in an online format and would be informal.  In other words, I wouldn't set a numerical grade for them.  For these assessments I like the idea of creating curriculum scenarios: a certain concept needs to be taught in your class, so how can technology best be integrated to meet the needs of the learning standard(s)?  The teacher (the blended course learner), then, would reflect on the scenario to show his or her level of  mastery.  This method would allow for the learning to be applied to each individual teacher's classroom setting.
5. Lastly,I will definitely incorporate the "One Sentence Summary".  This concept, in my opinion, is absolutely genius!  What a way to incorporate higher level thinking that will translate into higher level learning.  The learner answers 7 questions based on material content (who, does what, to whom/what, when, where, why, and how) and then must put those answers into a single sentence.

After reading Chapter 3 I am truly inspired to begin planning my assessments!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blendkit 2015 Chapter 2 Reading Reaction: Blended Interactions

This week's Blendkit 2015 reading selection focused on different engagement theories to think about when designing a blended course.  There were four learning interaction models that were introduced: Atelier Learning, Curatorial Learning, Network Administrator, and Concierge Learning.  As I read, I found value in each of the styles.  However, when thinking about the vision I have for my own blended course (District wide new teacher trainings, K-12) the concierge and curator styles resonated most with me.

As I read about the Concierge model, I was struck by the idea that the educator is sort of opening the door to ideas that the learner may not know about.  My mind flashed to the example of a veteran teacher of a traditional classroom shouting out, "Powerpoint!" when asked to share their best presentation tool.  This answer isn't necessarily wrong,  but perhaps there are better choices out there to which the educator can lead the learner.   So, I can definitely relate to the Concierge model and feel that ideas within the model would be used in my course.

Then I continued my reading and learned more about the Curator model.  This model focuses on the learner and the freedom to explore learning on their own terms.  I interpreted the model to suggest that the educator's role is to provide a means by which the learner can explore on their own terms, making the learning process more meaningful.  This idea is exactly the approach we try to take as ed tech coaches in our district.  We feel we need to guide them in a particular direction, but the experience should be pertinent to the individual teacher's curriculum needs, goals, and desires.

The last half of the reading dealt with intrinsic motivation-- giving value to the learner's thoughts and ideas.  I think this concept is extremely valuable and important.  I feel like most people want to be heard; they want their thoughts/ideas to be validated.  As I continue to plan my course I will certainly take the time to consider appropriate avenues for providing valuable feedback and interaction for each learner's ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blendkit2015: Ch 1 DIY Tasks (Course Blueprint and Mix Map)

Part of this week's Blendkit2015 activities included setting up a blended course blueprint and a mix map.  The purpose of these tasks is to conceptualize our course-- create a vision of sorts-- and then decide the logistics of the face to face and online portions of the class.  Because the course I'm planning hasn't happened yet,  I found it difficult to create the blueprint at first.  There was a lot of time spent just staring at my google drawing.  As I worked, though, it became easier to develop my vision.  I tried to keep my goals as general as possible and found that by doing so I was able to work out a few details through the "objectives" and "outcomes" categories.  I feel certain the objectives and outcomes will change as I continue learning through the Blendkit2015 course.  Although I didn't put a clock to it, the blueprint task took me about an hour and a half to complete.  I know it's not perfect, but it seems (at this point, anyway) to reflect the general vision I have for the class.

The mix map was much easier for me to start and finish.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that I can see the direction I want the course to take now that I've completed the blueprint.  Like the blueprint, I feel there will be changes made to the mix map as I continue learning.

Monday, February 23, 2015

BlendKit2015: Understanding Blended Learning

Today, I began a MOOC (courtesy of the University of Central Florida and Canvas) titled, "BlendKit2015."  It is a class designed to teach best practices for creating a Blended course.  For the next several weeks I will be posting reflections and ideas based on the knowledge I gain while taking the course.

Chapter 1 Reflection: Understanding Blended Learning.

Because I  have limited knowledge on the subject of blended learning, I found it interesting to discover that the desired result of teaching a blended course isn't any different than the desired result of a traditional class setting.  That is, if technology were taken out of the equation, the philosophy remains: the teacher plans lessons based on learning objectives; and the struggle remains as to what is the best approach for student mastery of those objectives.

So if, theoretically, the desired result is the same in both styles of teaching, the difference lies in the design of the course.  It was mentioned in Chapter 1 that learning activities within a blended course should  be focused around the objectives.  Therefore, before planning a blended course design, it is imperative that the designer fully understand the objectives to be met and mastered.  Only when the objectives have been defined should the learning activities be incorporated.  Then it must be decided which activities are better learned face to face and which can be learned online through technology applications.

Of course, the application of technology is another main difference when teaching a blended learning style versus a traditional classroom style.  One important thing to note is that blended course content should be focused around the expected learning to occur as opposed to the technology that will be incorporated within the course.  One of the ideas mentioned in the chapter that stuck with me most was the idea that the technology in a blended course should really go unnoticed by the learner.  In other words, it is a supplement to the lesson and should be very learner directed if the intention of the activity is for students to gain knowledge.  If any teacher interaction is needed to complete the technology application(s) within the course it should be as facilitator.

My real take from the chapter was achieved after reading the two case studies.  The second study hit home when the course designer, Ms. Crichton, mentioned that her course structure hasn't changed much over the past 14 years but the interactive activities have changed quite a  bit.  She mentions that as technology evolves she is able to make changes that can potentially better engage her students which, in turn, can lead to more personalized learning.  Her testament is reassuring to me, especially since my idea for a blended course revolves around creating district-wide teacher trainings that would incorporate best practices for teaching in a 21st century classroom.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tip of The Week: Use QR Codes To Embed Audio

While attending a conference hosted by Tammy Worcester, I learned a tip regarding QR Codes.  By this point in time, we've probably all at least heard of QR Codes and most of us have probably even incorporated them into our classroom somehow.  Ms. Worcester got me thinking a little outside the box when she discussed the idea of using QR Codes to link to an audio message.  My mind immediately went back a couple of years when I had a few students whose reading abilities were not on grade level.  To accommodate them, I began inserting sound files into my daily blog posts, so they could listen to what the day's tasks were while reading along.  Let me tell you . . . there were quite a few steps involved in that process and it was somewhat time consuming.  Furthermore, the source I used is no longer accessible.  So, if you have students who would benefit from listening to your blog posts and you need a simple way to accomplish this task you should definitely give this a try.  Here's how:

1. Have students add a QR reader app to their smart phones (I-nigma or Q Rafter . . .)

2. Teacher creates an audio message in (steps are simple . . . just follow the directions as they are listed in the site)

3. Then, teacher copies/pastes the mp3 link into a QR generator .  (For this QR Generator site, click the world icon to add your  sound link).

4. Once the code is generated, embed the QR Code in your blog just like you see below.

5. Students aim their QR Reader at the embedded code and receive the link to the mp3 file.

Keep in mind, this is just an idea I wanted to play with after attending Tammy's conference.  There are many ways to embed audio into your blog (e.g. vocaroo or audioboom).  So, pick what works for you.  QR Codes are so versatile, though, and this is just another way to highlight that versatility. Take this idea and run with it.  It's up to you to make it work for you!

Some things to think about:
  • you'll need a mic for recording
  • you'll have to be okay with student phones during class so they can "read" the QR code (it's okay, really!)
  • you may want to make sure students have earbuds so they don't disturb others

qr code

Create fake text messages to show comprehension then embed in your blog or student portfolio!