Module 3: Inspiration — Quite Frankly, I Need Some!

Writing learning objectives is not my favorite thing to do as a teacher.  At least not in the formats required by institutions of higher learning.  (How many schools actually require that objectives be written in educationalese?)  By the time I get through reading objectives written including who, what, format, degree, etc., my brain hurts so much, I’m not sure how much learning I’m going to do.  What is ironic to me is that more often than not the educational classes requiring that their students  write objectives in this way seldom write their own learning objectives using the same format.  It is much easier for me and for the students I have taught to break up learning objectives, activities, and assessments.  This is what we are going to learn, this is how we are going to learn it, and this is how I am going to check and see if you learned it (using, of course, measurable verbs).   All right, so much for my own personal rant and observations regarding learning objectives  :).

One of our assignments this week was to write some measurable objectives for a current or potential online course and map the relationship between objectives, activities and relationships.  Learning, activities and assessments are all intertwined in a great learning environment with some assessment happening within the activities so that the instructor can modify instruction as needed.  Assessment should never be an add on activity at the end of a unit, but an essential part of the instruction.  The learning process is seldom linear which makes concept mapping a great method of outlining a potential unit or course.

With this in mind, I created this concept map using Inspiration to detail the learning process I envision for teaching students literary analysis within literature circles.

Posted in Assessment in E-Learning, Inspiration | 3 Comments

Module 3 Readings: It’s a Brave New World

Discovery School Clipart

Whew!  This has been an overwhelming week in the class, at least for me.  I felt a bit all over the place between the objectives, readings, and activities.  I just could not seem to make them all connect coherently in my brain. 🙂  The readings, however, were interesting and thought provoking.

Written six years ago, Dr. Curtis Bonk’s Article describing thirty emerging technologies  was an interesting read.  It was great fun to see how correct he was in his predictions.  Our discussion this week centered around this article and was quite lively.  I focused my initial post on the use of digital portfolios which lead to a discussion of what makes a good portfolio.   Are all portfolios equal?  What role does purpose play in the creation of a portfolio?  I came to the conclusion that purpose must guide the creation of any portfolio.  For assessment portfolios, I believe an instructor is responsible for giving students the information they need to guide them in selecting the artifacts to include in the portfolio and how much reflection is required.

So many great resources and ideas were presented expanding on the article.  It was also interesting to compare Dr. Bonk’s article to the 2010 Horizon Report.   Some of Dr. Bonk’s ideas are repeated in the Horizon Report as they are just now finding an audience.  Of particular interest to educators, the rise of mobile technologies and e-books will have to change the way we look at where and how learning and reading occur.  Books have been around for thousands of years, virtually unchanged in format.   Just this last week,  Amazon announced that e-book sales had surpassed paperback sales in their store.  It’s a Brave New World.

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Why Blog?

I am a perfectionist.  I want to do everything I do to the best of my ability and even then there are times that I am still not pleased with it.  My Type A personality is one reason why I have not attempted to blog with any consistency before now.  As I have now been forced to blog (It’s for a class and I have to do my best to complete those requirements, right?), I find myself critiquing my work.  What can I do to make this better, etc.?  Wes Fryer gave me several good suggestions in his blog post, 10 Ways to Better Blog Posts, but I’m still not satisfied that my writing and thoughts were up to those I expected in the blogs I read.  Today, however, I came upon a post that might have been written for me.  Improve Your Blog: Stop Writing for an Audience, the title read.  What?  Wait a minute!  I thought the reason you blogged was to share with an audience your reflections and ideas about a topic.  Mark Schaefer, however, has freed me from those shackles.  Write, he says, for yourself first and the audience will find you.  Hmm, food for thought as I assess the reasons why I might have my students’ blog and how I should teach them to approach blogging even when blogging is being used as an assessment tool in a class.

Posted in Blogs, Thinking Out Loud | 4 Comments

Fair Use

No one appreciates the intellectual property of others more than me, because as a reader many great authors have given me hours and hours of pleasurable escape through their stories.  Unlike my favorite authors I do not have the gift to imagine characters and worlds and to capture those worlds on paper.  It takes great effort to create, and I want to always respect that effort no matter the medium.

As I have attempted to work on my blog this evening, and in an effort to write better blog posts per Wes Fryer’s suggestions, I have been conscious of finding images that are copyright free or may be used through a creative commons license.  As I begin to utilize Web 2.0 tools in teaching both blended and online classes, I will expect my students to abide by the same rules, and I will assess them accordingly.

Since I teach primarily elementary aged students, it is imperative that I actually teach ethical use and respect for intellectual property.  I cannot expect my students to know what is fair use of material for an educational project.  The video above was created by students at Stanford to explain fair use.  While not all of it will make sense to my students on first viewing, they will recognize the film clips.   Hopefully this will engage the students and, at the very least, ignite their curiosity so that we can talk about respecting intellectual property in the information age.

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Module 3: Edmodo

Module 3 introduced a two-week jigsaw activity.  In this activity group members research specific web-based or other technological tools that could be utilized in the assessment process.  Members of the group then create a cohesive document describing the tools each individual researched.

For this project, I chose to research the educational social networking site Edmodo.  In the process of beginning my research, I found this short video where the founders of Edmodo describe how they came to create the site and the vision they have for its use in education.  As I continue my research, I think it will be interesting to see how closely the company has come to meeting their vision.

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More Module 2: Better Blogs

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mexicanwave

I have always considered myself a reader, and I am a picky reader which makes writing blog posts a challenge to me.  As a reader, I hold writing in high regard, and I know that my blog posts do not meet the high standards that I hold as a reader of other blogs.  I have followed Wes Fryer’s blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, for awhile and just this week he posted Ten Ways to Write Better Blog Posts.  As I continue my blogging journey, I will keep Wes’s tips in mind.  Instructors using blogs as assessment tools could utilize these excellent suggestions to develop a rubric for evaluating blog posts.

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Module 2: Blog, Blog, Blog

Discovery School Clipart

The second week of Assessment in E-Learning focused upon the use of blogs as an assessment tool.  As part of this module all students in the class were required to create a blog.   I love to read blogs, and I have learned so much from the blogs I’ve read.  However, I have not ever really attempted a blog of my own, nor have I been very successful thus far in getting their use implemented at my elementary school.   If I am to be successful in seeing the use of blogs implemented, then I must have some very specific purposes in mind.  In addition, with our school’s accelerated highly academic curriculum, any tech tool that I introduce had better serve multiple purposes.

The required article by Luemann and MacBride described how two high school teachers utilized blogs as student-centered learning and assessment tools.   One point in the article kept coming back to me as I read the article with my school in mind – new forms of media literacies require a shift in mindset.  We have to move away from the teacher being the source of the knowledge being disseminated and the test or paper written for the teacher being the major form of assessment.  Teachers must learn to recognize student autonomy in learning and to provide students the opportunity to share their learning with each other and the world.

It has just been this last year that my school mandated classroom websites, and it has been difficult at times to even get teachers to keep their web pages current.   After reading the article and playing a bit with my own blog, I think that I prefer the classroom blog model to a web page in that it is more fluid and as in the case of Mr. K’s example in the article allows students to create and share content.  Furthermore, giving elementary students the opportunities to create their own blogs could be extremely motivational.  Blogging would allow them to use technology, which always seems to engage my students.  However, as my friend Clif Mims says, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning.”

If I am to be successful in implementing the use of blogs at my school, however, I will need to emphasize the qualities which make blogs useful in the formal assessment of learning.  These are the points I would make –

  1. Blog posts could be assessed for quality of presentation.  Writing skills are a huge emphasis at our school since many of my students come from homes where proper English is not emphasized.  Posts could be evaluated using our standard writing rubric.  Furthermore, as pointed out in the article, students could be given the opportunity to post and critique each other’s work, allowing for edits before the teacher evaluated the post.  By making the process social, it will increase student engagement in the writing process.  However, since the posts are viewable  by all, I can see more care being put into the effort on the front end.
  2. Posts can be evaluated as to the quality of the content.  Did the students learn what they needed to learn?  Did they answer the prompt?  Did they reflect upon the information?  Did they incorporate higher order thinking skills in their analysis?  There are so many possibilities for assessment here!  Rubrics would need to be developed to help guide the students in crafting good blog posts.
  3. Blogs could be evaluated for creativity and technical skills.  Creativity is another focus at our school and blogs offer students the opportunity to be create content for blog (photos, videos, audio, etc.).  Furthermore, the use of blogs will allow students to practice keyboarding, hyperlinking, uploading files, etc. even possibly learning some basic HTML.   We have technology standards as well as academic standards to meet.  When we can integrate technology into core academic content, we are utilizing technology as it is meant to be used, as a tool and separate tech classes are extraneous.
  4. Blogs offer the instructor a method of differentiating the curriculum.  Given broad prompts or topics, students will be able to explore areas of their own interest in their blogs.  Participation could also be differentiated — Challenge problems/prompts, review prompts, Scribe of the Day, etc.
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