Final 522 Post

As we come now to the final day of this 2013 summer session, I am very proud of the progress I made in my EdTech Journey. EdTech 522 has allowed me to explore the processes by which a quality fully, blended or hybrid course is delivered. As my experience teaching rests mostly in the traditional face-to-face, techless environment, it has been very interesting and useful considering how I can add an online presence to my teaching.

Most importantly for me this semester is coming to the understanding of what a hybrid learning environment looks like as applied to my own courses. Having been part of the EdTech program now for almost 2 years, I knew what it looked like as a student. However, I was having real trouble getting my student experience to translate into a similar situation for my students. Some of the change came through the readings and assignments of EdTech 522. However, I feel that being able to get behind the controls of a high powered LMS, in my case Canvas, I was able to add, adjust and tweak in fine detail all the necessary elements of what my future classes might look like. For me, this was the most profound learning experience and one that will dramatically affect the future of my course.

EdTech 522 has been an excellent experience. I now enter into the culminating activity here at Boise State with yet another important EdTech path explored.

Canvas CMS Lesson Design

Over the past three weeks, I have been working on creating an effective, well-designed and relevant module for my Classroom English course at Daegu National University of Education. After the 4th module in Edtech 522 in which we were asked to create a tutorial, I spent some time in a Google Hangout with a couple of classmates who were interested in knowing more about Google Hangouts, the subject of my tutorial. One of the classmates was Renee Phoenix who introduced me to Canvas. Know that I wanted to create a Moodle like CMS environment for my CE students but didn’t have access to hosting, Canvas seemed like the perfect fit. And it is!

Canvas is a powerful CMS that will allow me to create a digital presence unrivalled by Google sites or pbworks, two wikis I have attempted to incorporate in the past. What I like about Canvas is its layers of organization, grade book, ease of use and the overall power this free tool has to offer. Of course, I had to learn this tool from scratch. I knew basically what I wanted to do with it, but I didn’t know how to get there. In order to understand the ins and outs of Canvas, I spent quite a bit of time simply twisting the knobs so to speak. I like to figure things out. Many call me a tinkerer as I play with stuff until I understand it. Yet, there were a couple of instances where I was unable to think my way through it and turned to YouTube. After watching various tutorials, I was able to do what I set out to do.

A couple of things bother me about Canvas. For example, you can’t add to or change the navigation tabs on the left. There are a couple ways to ‘trick’ the system, but I think it would be better if they opened that element of the tool up to course designers so they can have a bit more control over personalizing the feel of the CMS. Of course, I’m using the free version. This may be an option in the pay for version. I will never know.

The greatest learning outcome of creating this module for Edtech 522 was it let me visualize my whole 15 week Classroom English course in a way that I had not yet experienced. By being able to break it into micro elements, and provide spaces for each of my lesson plans, assignments, discussions, grades etc. I feel I will be able to create my best course to date. If this process has done anything for me, it is to get me very excited about the future of my course offerings and the overall quality of delivery to come.

Week 3 – Reflection

As I read through the materials this week, I was constantly reminded of various elements of my own instruction that were either good or bad. An example of what I thought was good was the discussion in chapter three of Lisa Dawley’s book on email. I like how she breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of this tool and as one who is quite often communicating with my students through email, I felt reassured of its effectiveness. Even though my courses are almost entirely face-to-face, I encourage my students to contact me through email if ever they need assistance. Yes, it can get a bit overwhelming as the end of the semester nears and students are preparing for presentations and micro-lessons, but as Dawley suggests, it does enhance individual connections and increases student involvement and, I find, helps students produce better work.

On the negative side of my reading experience, I was confronted with the realization that the course websites I use are really nothing more than document depositories. Students have very little need to use the website after the first couple of weeks once they are clued in on the low priority it is given. There is no online discussion component for any of my classes and nearly all the class activities are preformed in class. However, as I have slowly been given more rein to shape classes (I share class titles with colleagues and we all work within the same basic syllabus), I am slowly putting the wheels in motion to move to a blended approach. This next semester will be the first time student will need to create a ‘learning log,’ produce and upload presentation videos, comment on and evaluate each other and perform other tasks based online. It’s a constant work in progress, but it is slowly taking shape (mostly in my mind).

Another thing that struck me was where Ko and Rossen suggest that online discussions can have the potential to be more effective than traditional environments because student have more time to formulate their response before responding. As I teach ESL, allowing students the ability to carefully create a response is an excellent way to reduce a learner’s affective filter and allow them to focus more on the content of their response and take the time to discover and rectify mistakes. Additionally, using discussion boards forces students to write which, quite frankly, they are rarely required to do.

Much of the reading from this week so practically applies to the next evolution in my course delivery (the primary reason I took this course). It seems to me that language learning is perfect for blended learning or even a flipped approach. The students for which I teach have all studied at length grammar and vocabulary. As I look to the creation of next semester’s learning environment, I hope to incorporate audio, video, podcasts, readings and discussions through a proper CMS. These resources will provide the input and instruction, leaving our limited class time to focus on communicative activities that activate the online materials. I’m sure to be dipping into Ko and Rossen, and Dawley’s books quite often.

Dawley, L. (2007). The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.

References:

Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online : A practical guide (3rd edition). Florence, KY, USA: Routledge.

Andragogy-Benefits and Criticisms

For my first blog post in EdTech 522, I want to reflect on my understanding of andragogy as it applies to online teaching and learning while also considering its criticisms. I feel these two topics will help me in my efforts to incorporate elements of online learning into the more traditional environment in which I teach.  

Taylor and Kroth define andragogy as “the art and science of teaching/leading adults” (Knowles, 1980, p.43 as quoted in 2009). Because it is believed by some that adults learn differently than children, it may be important to differentiate instruction. Of course, this immediately calls into questions assumptions made when considering adult and child learning and I will discuss this later in this post. For now, I will explain Knowlesian assumptions of andragogy and how I believe they apply to online learning.

Because Knowles (and others) believed that learning processes are different between adults and children, he contended that teaching should be different. In order to understand this, it is important to look at Knowles six assumptions about how adults learn. The first assumption deals with an adult’s self-concept. Because adults are mostly capable of determining their own path in life, they are less interested in being told what is or is not appropriate. Second, adults enter learning environments with a considerable amount of life experience. The ability to draw on this experience holds enormous opportunity for promoting learning. Third, the situations in which adults finds themselves can promote a readiness to learn. Because of their social role, adult learners understand how enhancing their knowledge will help them perform better within the culture or organization in which they participate. Fourth, and quite in concert with the third, adult learners understand that new knowledge is capable of helping them deal with or overcome problems faced in their daily lives. This orientation to learn demonstrates how adults are motivated to immediately apply new knowledge. Fifth, and maybe most importantly, adults are driven to learn based on their own interests. They may feel it is necessary to learn a new skill to perform well at their jobs, or quite possibly, because they want to be the best at what they do. This type of learning feeds into an adult learner’s constant reconciliation between what is being taught and what they feel is necessary to learn (Taylor & Kroth, 2009).

Much of what I have read regarding how adults learn and how that relates to online learning makes sense to me. I agree that adults need to know why they are learning something and see how it fits into their immediate situation. Often, adults have a specific need for the information they are learning as it pertains to their role within their life, and they want to feel like they are in charge of their learning. Opportunities to learn come not just from the course materials but from the students in the course. Adults bring a wealth of experiences and knowledge to the learning environment and can share it freely and timely.

As these six assumptions imply, many adults enter learning environments with an agenda and require instruction that acknowledges their specific needs. Online learning, I feel, is an exceptional way to address these needs. Ko and Rossen give a practical description of the advantages online learning has on adults in their book Teaching Online, A Practical Guide. They explain that adults who work, raise families, or travel are able to incorporate studying into their already busy lives. They state, “School is always in session because school is always there” (Ko and Rossen, 2010). Because learning opportunities are almost always present due to the Internet, online learning offers more freedom to students. Therefore, it is necessary that instruction incorporate constructivist learning methods (Ko & Rossen, 2010). Teachers should move into the role of facilitator allowing students to actively create their own meaning from class materials and activities.

 But is it fair to say that all adults or only adults learn as suggested by Knowles? Critics of andragogy would argue that all adults cannot be accounted for as andragogy would suggest. Learners come from diverse backgrounds and widely different experiences and may not share the same values or lifestyles. Moreover, it seems unfair to assume that children are not able to be self-directed learners, just as the opposite may be true about adults. And the shift in education today towards constructivist methods would imply that the boundaries between adult and youth learning are not so easily defined.

In my opinion, when looking at andragogy as a learning theory, I partially agree with the criticism. It does not take into account many adults who are not self-directed learner or youths who are. However, I do believe that in many circumstances, adults approach learning differently than children. And though it may not completely incorporate all adults, andragogy is important to consider when formulating online learning experiences.

References:

Ko, S. and Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching Online: A Practical Guide (3rd Edition). New York: Routledge.

Taylor, B., & Kroth, M. (2009). Andragogy’s transition into the future: Meta-analysis of andragogy and its search for a measurable instrument. Journal of adult education38(1).