Coming to a Close

Our online prototype assignment is coming to close, and I have to say that I’m excited for it to be over. When we were first introduced to this assignment I honestly thought it wouldn’t be that much work or take that much time. I mean, I plan multiple lessons every day. How hard can it be to transfer that to an online platform and throw in a video? As it turns out, it is not that easy. I was, oh, so wrong.

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Like Logan, I have felt so many emotions while working through this assignment. Anxiety, defeat, and stress (I’m pretty sure technology hates me!) are some of the more negative feelings, but I also felt challenged, engaged, and proud of our final product. Right now I mostly (like Carla), feel exhausted!

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I have a new appreciation for people who make instructional guides. Thinking through every little detail of a lesson and then translating that to a guide that everyone and anyone can understand and easily follow takes work. It is much different than the lesson plans I make for myself. I really thought about all types of different learners and if my activities would be engaging and relevant for varying levels of students. Do my activities flow nicely? Did I provide all the links I should have? If a teacher isn’t familiar with this concept can they still make use of this guide? Can they follow how I picture this lesson going in my head? These are the questions I was asking myself. I feel like I looked it over a hundred times and adding or changed something each time. I found it a bit difficult to make this guide having never taught this lesson. I’m sure if I actually get a chance to teach it, I would make more changes!

The making of the video was a whole other story. It took me no less than 14 hours to make! If I were to do it again, I’m sure it would go a lot quicker. Figuring out new programs takes time, especially when you’re technology deficient like I seem to be. Like Lindy, this is one of the reasons I have been reluctant to assign digital assessments in the past. I don’t have the skill set and lack the time to figure out all these amazing programs. However, I’m changing my thinking. When it comes to digital tools, you don’t need to have it all figured out ahead of time. Our students are smart and being digital natives they can figure out tools faster than I can and we can all learn together. It’s important that as well as teaching my subject area, I am teaching or facilitating digital creation opportunities for my students.

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I think the easiest part of the assignment was using the LMS. There was still a bit of a learning, and setting it up to have someone view, is again different than if you were actively using it with students. I would really like to try using Google Classroom (the LMS platform we chose for our prototype) for one of my classes. When I look at the mess of papers in my student’s binders and duo tangs, I feel this would be a great organization system for them, and me! 

In closing, although I’m glad this assignment is wrapping up, I did learn an immense amount. Mission accomplished Alec and Katia, mission accomplished!

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Open or Closed? The Discussion Board Debate

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I have never had to take an online class like Stephanie, where all students are asked to respond to the same question and then expected to comment on a specified number of other posts. I can understand how she felt that it provided little room for original and thought provoking discussion. One of my friend’s is taking a class like this right now and she feels similarly. She also finds it frustrating that her work and mark is somewhat dependent on others and what and when they are posting. She also feels that there is a specific answer the professor wants and that she needs to regurgitate that information in order to do well. In questions that involve one right answer, there is very little room for discussion.

The open spaces I have been apart of have involved blogging and using twitter. In the class I took my classmates and I were given blog prompts every week or were expected to write about articles we had read that week. There was no length stipulations and it was very open if you’re learning lead you on a different path. I find it fascinating that we are all given the same prompts or read the same articles and yet everyone’s responses are so different. I can learn so much from my peers thoughts and experiences, way more than I have time for! Amy mirrors this and writes that reading our peers thoughts and responses can broaden our understanding of a topic and allow us to consider concepts from different perspectives. This increases the breadth and depth of everyone’s learning.

Twitter is also an open space that can provide endless professional development opportunities and allows you to grow your personal learning network. Again, I find I never have enough time to read all the interesting articles and try out the intriguing ideas that I see on twitter.

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In “Building Authenticity Through Student Blogs”, Joshua Howard explains that blogging will improve students writing. If they are writing for an authentic audience, not just their teacher, they will care more and be more motivated to produce quality writing. Howard also writes that when a student has an authentic purpose and feedback, it not only makes students want to write, it makes them want to write well.”

While I agree with Howard’s points, I think that there is still a place for a closed forums or an LMS system within a classroom. These provide a great scaffolding tool for students and allow teachers to moderate posts and comments. This could lead to a positive experience for students and allow them to gain knowledge and practice in developing a digital footprint that will serve them well in the future.

I love Amy’s idea of creating a community outside the classroom while still having a somewhat private forum by inviting parents or combining classes of the same age or level. The classes don’t even need to be at the same school.

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While I’m not against using open forum in the classroom, I don’t think that closed discussion must lead to closed responses and comments where no thinking or learning happens. Students don’t all need to answer the same closed question. In class we discussed lots of ways that many different subject areas and age levels could use a forum. Teachers could provide multiple open-ended questions and students only have to choose one. Students could be writers one week and commenters the next. Discussion boards could be used to jigsaw learning or review. Students could use a discussion board to role play and examine an issue from a different perspective. Students can debate an issue or use the forum for current events. There are many possibilities. I think that all of these ideas will work in a both a closed and open forum.

What do you think? Is closed or open better?

In what ways do you use discussion boards or forums in your classroom?

Creating Community

The readings this week discussed the importance of building community in online environments. As teachers, we all know that building community and relationships with our students is of the utmost importance. Students need to feel safe sharing with you (the teacher) but also with their peers. Having a safe, welcoming classroom ensures that learning can and will take place there. It is no big surprise then, that an online space should replicate that feel. So….how do we do this?

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Schwier writes “for a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge” (2002, p.1). Students need to be able engage with ideas, negotiate meanings, and learn in a collective manner. Communication is extremely important in virtual learning communities and results in interaction, engagement, and learning.

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Our online prototype will be a blended learning environment. This will be beneficial in that we will already have creating that community feel within our classroom. We just need that to continue for the online learning portions.

For our prototype, Benita, Megan (my prototype partners) and I will be using a number of different online tools to support online learning. I haven’t completely solidified what will make up my module, but so far here’s what I plan on using.

  1. Google Classroom – Google Classroom is the learning management system we have chosen for our prototype. Posts can be made to the main page of the classroom. Students can reply to a teacher post or respond to each other’s posts around a topic or question.  Discussion boards can also be set up within classroom. Students always have the option to email the teacher if they feel they need some clarification or help.
  2.  Google Docs – Google Docs allows for easy group project collaboration and sharing. Comments, constructive criticism, and feedback can also be added after a document is shared. Google Docs also works seamlessly within Google Classroom and that makes life easier for everyone!
  3. Blogging – Megan recommends Kidblog for use with middle years students and that’s who our target audience is. This blogging site is engaging and allows teachers to have more control over the privacy of students and their posts. Students can comment on each other’s posts as well.
  4. Menitmeter – I plan to use mentimeter to make wordles, much like we have in class. This also provides a collaborative sharing opportunity.
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For assessments I plan to use rubrics (for blog post and commenting) and have a graphic organizer for students to organize their ideas, especially if blogging is new to them.

Including some different platforms will allow student to interact in different ways and hopefully through the use of Google Classroom they will feel supported. This article discusses how an online or blended learning environment can better support students who are traditionally reluctant to speak up in class or engage in face-to-face environments. Blended or online learning opportunities can provide some students with a sense of anonymity and security and allows them a voice to engage and participate. Through our use of blended learning I hope that all students can find their voice and get the most out of their learning.