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.

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Supporting Theory for PBL in ELL


The theory I poured through this week has further amplified my desire to promote authentic learning situation for my English language learners. Combining this with technology is an area I’m still having a bit of trouble. I feel that the primary reason for this lies in the title of the course I teach: Classroom English. The goal for this course is to provide my students with the necessary language for them to conduct a beginner level, elementary school EFL class. In my class, I am not tasked to teach methodology, pedagogy or theory. Simply language and communicative devices for instruction. Of course, this is nearly impossible to separate. Therefore, at every opportunity, I attempt to allow my students to construct knowledge through role-play, demonstration, micro-projects and micro-lessons. I also incorporate computer based materials and expect a level of computer based output within the student presentations.

This semester has been the most successful for allowing the students the most autonomy and self-regulated learning opportunities. I have shifted from my normal position at the front of the classroom, to a more marginal observer/facilitator. This has allowed me to put shift an important portion of assessment into the hands of the students in an attempt to foster critical thinking skills through a structured evaluative process.  So far the experience (experiment) has been fruitful and though all the kinks have yet to be worked out, I will continue to build on the success and learn from the missteps in this transitional period.

EdTech Explanation: Reflection

What is considered technology? Is the pen I hold in my hand for writing technology? Are the blackboard and chalk or the whiteboard and marker technology? Is the book from which I learn technology? Of course these tools designed for providing educational opportunities are technology. However, when I applied to the Ed Tech master’s here at Boise state, these were not the tools I had in mind. For me, educational technology started with the computer, branched out to the monitor and projector, intertwined with tablets and smart-phones and was all made possible by the Internet.

Now in my third semester in the EdTech program, I know educational technology is much more than this simple list of hardware. Educational technology is processes, methods, strategies and design. It is tools, applications and an understanding of how these various elements combine to enhance and foster learning opportunities. It is also an understanding that it is not only the teacher and students who play a role, but that parents, administrators and government all share in the process of effective technology integration.

The history of educational technology is long. Along the way, many technologies have been touted as the ‘future’ of instruction. Though some still remain, others lay dusty and unused in the closet of time. Is it possible to predict the technologies of the future? Most likely not. Yet to imagine a future devoid of computers and the Internet seems almost entirely unlikely. Therefore, it is imperative to ready our students now to use these tools because, like this video demonstrates, the world is changing fast.

As I begin another semester teaching at Daegu National University of Education, I am encouraged by my continuing efforts to incorporate technology into my practice. Each year I improve upon the previous year by updating and fine-tuning my wikis. I provide assistance to other instructors looking to find better ways of using technology. And this semester, I am excited to see one of my PBL project take wings as my colleague will be integrating it into one of his freshmen English classes on a pilot basis. I look forward to receiving his feedback and preparing the project for full integration.

From this course I hope to better understand individual theories of learning and how they fit within the context of educational technology. I am hoping that after this course, I will be able to look back through my assignments in EdTech 541 and 542 and have a more critical eye and a deeper understanding of my work. I want to be able to retroactively apply the theory I learn now to past lessons. And I want to use this knowledge to help make me an effective instructor who seamlessly integrates technology into my curriculum.

References:

Januszewski, A. (2001). Educational technology: The development of a concept. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Luppicini, R. (2005). A systems definition of educational technology in society. Educational Technology & Society, 8 (3),103-109.

 

501 Introduction

The YouTube video below is an introduction of myself for the students of EdTech 501.

This video aligns with two AECT Standards:

2.4: Integrated Technologies.
Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer.

3.1: Utilization.
Candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to use processes and resources for learning by applying principles and theories of media utilization, diffusion, implementation, and policy-making.

In making this video, I knew I wanted to use Roxio Creator. I have used this program for various personal videos (mostly mountain biking) but I also wanted to explore some of its fun editing tools. At first I had planned to have pictures and video come in full screen but I noticed there was the option to resize the images. I thought this was quite cool. Unfortunately I had already shot my commentary. Had I know of this feature I would have put my face more to one side leaving a greater space for the picture and video windows that come in and out throughout the video.

The end product was quite a bit longer than I had intended. I think I’ve been teaching EFL too long. I seem to speak quite slowly. Thank you everyone for your patience.

Adaptive and Assistive Technology

With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft has improved upon accessibility tools and customization of a computer. First open the control panel and click on the Ease of Access Center icon. This will open a menu that initially speaks what is displayed. You can deselect this option. There are four main choices within the center: Magnifier, On Screen Keyboard, Narrator, and High Contrast.

The magnifier is very good and offers three different displays. The first zooms the entire screen. You can move the view by moving the pointer to the sides of the screen. If you do not want the entire screen displayed large, you can set the pointer as a small rectangular magnifying glass. Moving the mouse magnifies an area directly under the pointer. The last setting attaches a screen width bar that magnifies where ever the pointer is, creating a duplicate within the length of the bar.  These features will assist those with partial impairment of the eyes, or anyone who wants an extreme close up of their screen.

The on screen key board is an excellent tool for those with motor or mobility disabilities. By connecting a pointing device appropriate for the learner, the onscreen keyboard can help those who cannot type, but who love to express themselves with words, or who just need a little extra help selecting the right character.

For those with visual impairments, the narrator can be quite helpful. The narrator mimics every action by the mouse and keyboard by expressing the action most recently taken. The narrator reads aloud as the user types or whenever the mouse hovers or selects an item. This can be very useful for those with visual impairments and who need extra assistance reading the screen. Students with dyslexia can also benefit from hearing what is on the screen as well as what they type.

The high contrast setting is also for those with visual impairments and allows users to select a simplified color display that helps organize the screen and make information easy to find. This can also be helpful for those who are color blind and need the display to register colors they can detect.

One additional tool that was not in the Ease of Access Center is the speech recognition program, found in the control panel. After playing with this program for a while, I began to enjoy quickly accessing information or pages without having to use the mouse. By using certain commands, areas of the screen are highlighted along with a numbering system. Select the number you desire and say, “OK.” If you ever wonder what commands you can use, simply say, “What can I say?” and Windows will show a reference card with available commands.  Something else that I am enjoying, is speaking this blog.  Anyone can use this application, but people with motor or mobility disabilities could use this in addition to other pointing methods to create a quicker computing experience. One useful element of this application is its ability to adapt to the user’s speech patterns, intonation and pronunciation, by continuously learning how the person speaks.

Technology Integration: Relative Advantage in Content Area

As we have covered at length in our blog posts this semester, the relative advantage of incorporating technology into the classroom is too evident to ignore. Whether in language arts, math, science, art, social studies or PE technology has the ability to provide an expanded and relevant experience unmatched at any point in history.

Our students today demand access to education that matches their definition of literacy. Technology rich lessons and teachers trained to use the technology meet this demand. The International Reading Association agrees and explains that students have the right to technologically proficient teachers, curriculums, assessment methods and equal access to computers. (Roblyer and Doering, 2010) Therefore, as teachers consider their FITness, their technological knowledge should not be seen as “an “end state” but rather, [they shoud] see it developmentally–as evolving over a lifetime of generative, open-ended interactions with technology.” (Harris, Mishra and Koehler, 2010).

Since language art skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) are necessary to succeed in other subjects, there’s no wonder that, “the most creative and prolific array of strategies and applications for enhancing teaching with technology can be found in English and language arts.”(Roblyer and Doering, 2010).   This may be in answer to the negative impact technology is having on the youth of today in that they are less likely to engage traditional reading and writing methods. On page 282, Roblyer and Doering state “Teachers find it an ongoing challenge to motivate students to read – either for study or for pleasure.”(2010) Therefore the interactive and visual elements provided by software and websites can positively increase motivation. Motivation also happen when students see real world applications to their educational endeavors. The video above demonstrates how students thrive when engaged in authentic learning opportunities. With a 100% college admission  record, it is hard to deny that High Tech High is onto something.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language at the university level, I rarely have situations where behavior is an issue. However, student apathy to learning English can have very negative effects not only on class, but also on me as a teacher. It is quite common to have extreme variations of ability within a single class. Being able to teach the same lesson to the entire class requires careful planning and teaching methods that help everyone feel included while offering the right level of learning challenge for each student. Technology helps me assess student needs and tailor learning activities that allow students to “work independently on developing reading, writing, speaking and listening.”(Roblyer and Doering, 2010) This leads to increased confidence and more interaction within the classroom and higher levels of morale.

Another advantage to technology with a content area is that it can make the intangible come to life. Simulations within the math and science classroom allow students to visualize experiments or story problems that would otherwise require imagination only. “New tech tools for visualizing and modeling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding.”  (Edutopia, 2008) Moreover, when students want to learn about a particular movement in art or a period in history, they can take a virtual tour through some of the world’ most impressive museums. Additionally, “some simulators allow students to take an active part in historical situations that would not otherwise be possible due to historical or physical distance.” (Roblyer and Doering, 2010)

However, these exceptional advantages do not come without their perils. The Internet is ripe with misinformation and can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Students who access websites with intentionally or unintentionally wrong information will need information literacy that will help them assess the quality of the information they find. “As Harp (1996) puts it, schools must “mobilize their curriculum leaders into quality management” (p. 38) to monitor and help students become more analytical about the information they receive.” (Roblyer and Doering, 2010)

By incorporating technology into content areas, teachers will truly open the subject to their students. Visually and audibly rich materials increase motivation while interactive websites allow students to master subskills or express themselves collaboratively or to an audience beyond the four walls of their classroom. And with authentic learning experiences, students use higher order thinking skills, which helps them prepare for the high-tech, competitive world of the future.

Resources

    1. Edutopia. (2008). Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are ManyRetrieved April 6, 2012, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction
    2. Harris, J.B. & Mishra,P & Koehler, M.J. (2007). Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Curriculum-based Technology Integration Reframed. Retrieved April 6, 2012, from http://mkoehler.educ.msu.edu/OtherPages/Koehler_Pubs/TECH_BY_DESIGN/AERA_2007/AERA2007_HarrisMishraKoehler.pdf
    3.  Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Social Networking and Walled Gardens

Webopedia refers to walled gardens as “ a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access” (2010).  These controls are put in place to safeguard against inappropriate sites or online predators as well as to help students stay focused on academic endeavors. Inevitably, when a school or library puts up a walled garden, access to useful, non-offensive sites may be blocked.

I feel that at the primary school level, schools should provide an online experience that prevents students from accessing inappropriate material. However, older students are tech savvy and if someone is determined to access information, no matter what it is, they will find a way. It is quite easy to set up a proxy and tunnel under the walls of the garden. Therefore, instead of putting up walls, it is more important to teach appropriate use of the internet, set guidelines and rules that should be followed while in class and allow students to make their own decisions.

By opening up the garden, students will blossom in correlation to their environment. Social networking skills are necessary for today’s digital climate.  “Students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st-century skills we want them to develop to be successful today.” (Greenhow, 2008) Sites like pbworks and edmodo are excellent tools for educators and allow exceptional collaborative ability. These tools help “teachers increase students’ engagement in their education, increase technological proficiency, contribute to a greater sense of collaboration in the classroom, and build better communication skills.” (Social Networking, 2011) Karen Cator, from the US dept. of Education comments on Edutopia, “Think about not only incorporating technology into your lessons, but creating more and more compelling assignments so that 21st century skills, the kinds of things students will have to develop in terms of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, global participation — that these are incorporated into assignments. The best spaces will incorporate social media, and interacting with others. “(2011)

Educationally based, social networking are all well and good, but what about sites like Facebook? Do these sites have a place in the classroom? Anthony Orsini, Benjamin Franklin Middle School principle in Ridgewood, New Jersey, exclaimed vehemently, “there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None.”(2010) His emotional statement stems from the daily occurrence of cyber bullying at his school and his perceived lack of parental control where social media is concerned. Superintendent to the Ewing Public School district, Michael Nitti writes:

 “Then there are the downright nasty things that we are seeing.  Facebook group pages that are devoted to hating one targeted student.  Pages dedicated to the perceived promiscuity of a student or group of students.  Trash-talking taking place before athletic contests.  The anonymity and separation of the Internet does not help.  I once asked a student, by all accounts a good kid, how she could be so mean with her postings.  Her response: “It’s easy; I don’t have to look at her ugly face.”(2012)

This is no doubt a nasty side to social media and requires careful observance and vigilance on the part of parents and teachers. Nitti goes on to write in regards to allowing a child a Facebook account, “Before caving in to any requests for a Facebook page, reflect on whether you have the time, and inclination, to adequately supervise your child, if you trust them to act as they would in the real world, and if you and your child are ready for all the things, both good and bad, that come from being a part of this social network.”(2012)

Personally, I feel there is a place for Facebook in the classroom. I have created a teacher page that allows me to separate my private and professional persona. Each class has its own ‘group’ and each group receives occasional updates and reminders about upcoming assignments and project due dates. I will also post questions for homework that require a considered response. I have found this method to work quite well. Much of my effort is to break student out of what my colleagues and I refer to as ‘the economy of response.’ This idea is based on HG Widdowson’s ‘least effort principle’ which basically states that second language learners will usually respond with as few words as is necessary to give a complete answer.  In a face to face setting, Korean second language learners will often shy away from expressing themselves. Therefore, having students post to their Facebook group allows them to think carefully about their response, edit as necessary and not worry about pronunciation.

In conclusion, I feel the enormous potential the internet and social media has to offer education outweighs any negative consequences. By teaching our students appropriate uses of social media and involving parents in the conversation, we can help foster an environment where everyone can prosper. And as one who values freedom of information, I thought I might add a bit of information about Korea. This is somewhat off topic, but interesting no less.

Behind the Kimchi Walled Garden

It is the policy of the Korean government to block sites it deems inappropriate or dangerous. One example of this is the ‘Cinderella Law’ passed in November 2011. This law attempts to curtail addictive internet gaming. 8% of all Koreans are addicted to internet gaming and 14% of adolescents between the age of 9 and 12 are addicted to internet gaming. (Lee, 2010)  The law “blocks those under 16 from accessing gaming websites after midnight.”(Lee, 2011)  It is also policy to block pro-North Korean websites. Though accessing North Korean sites is not against the law, The Korean Communications Commission (KCC) blocks these sites because “young people with poor judgment could be fooled.”(Kim, 2012) Other objectionable websites are blocked as well such as pornography and gambling sites. Through these policies, it is clear the Korean Government wants to protect its citizens from what it has determined as harmful and immoral influences beyond the borders of the South Korean peninsula.

References:

1. Huffington Post. (2011, March 27) Social Networking  In Schools: Educators Debate The Merits Of Technology In Classrooms . Message posted to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/27/social-networking-schools_n_840911.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

2. Edtopia. (2011, March 9). The Department of Education’s Karen Cator Answers Your Questions about the National Education Technology Plan. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/karen-cator-doe-video-answers-questions-national-education-technology-plan

3. The Ewing Public Schools. (2012). Facebook and School Students: An Imperfect Union. Retrieved from http://www.ewing.k12.nj.us/Page/196

4. 1. Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

5. Widdowson, H.G. (1998). Context,Community and Authentic Language. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3588001?uid=2134&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=55876663683

6. Lee, J.Y. (2011, November 22) South Korea Pulls the Plug on Late-night Adolescent Online Gamers. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/22/world/asia/south-korea-gaming/index.html

7. Kim, K.W. (2012, February 6 )  Questions behind true motivation for blocking of North Korean websites. Retrieved from http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_northkorea/517643.html