The Last Day Of Class

This summer has been a true educational journey.  I have enjoyed working and learning with my classmates and instructor.  I think the biggest accomplishment for myself as a student and as a teacher this summer was to create my own online course.  It was a challenging yet enlightening experience.  I am looking forward to having the opportunity to implement my course in the near future whether it be online or as a technology based tool in the classroom. 

 

To view my online course click on the link below:

Life Cycles 101

 

Enjoy!

 

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Student Centered Learning And What It Means For Students Today

According to Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia student centered learning is an “approach to education focusing on the needs of the students, rather than those of others involved in the educational process, such as teachers and administrators”.  In my teaching philosophy I have always been a supporter of a student centered learning environment.  My ideal teaching environment would be a place where my students are part of a community of learners where their individual voice, interests, learning styles, etc are not only respected but nurtured as well.

 

In a student centered learning environment, students are initially at the forefront and learning is an added bonus.  Rather than creating lessons where a teacher instructs from the front of the classroom and students absorb information, in a student centered classroom the teacher creates ands on and minds on activities.  The students are encouraged to explore lessons visually and tactiley and therefore develop the skills to think critically and problem solve.  This type of learning environment sets the stage for the nature sense of inquiry where the student learns that school work has a purpose and accepting challenges becomes an award.  In this kind of learning environment the teacher values the importance of a teachable moment rather than sticking to a strict schedule. 

 

In the You Tube Video “A View of Students Today”, Michael Wesch wants us as viewers to consider “If students learn what they do, then why are they sitting here?”  As I reviewed this video and thought about what it means to teach in a student centered learning environment, it became apparent to me that if students learn by constructing meaning it is important for us as teachers to create learning environments that connect new content to things that students are interested in.  I think technology holds the key to these types of lessons, it is just up to us as teachers to think outside of the box and create relevance lessons that tap into our students strengths and interests to bring them to a higher level of thinking and learning.

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Works Cited

Wesch, Michael.  A Vision Of Students Today.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o.  Retrieved August 18th, 2008.

Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student-centered_learning.  Retrieved August 18th, 2008.

Community of Inquiry in a F2F and Online Classroom

Community of Inquiry Framework

 

While reading the article Online Community of Inquiry Review:  Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Issues by D.R. Garrison, I realized that the dynamics of social, cognitive, and teaching presence in an online course are similar to that of a face to face classroom.  However, they must be established and consistent early on in the course to prevent misconceptions of the course and to allow the student to perform at their personal best. 

 

The diagram above illustrates the Community of Inquiry Framework within a student’s educational experience.  The combination of social, cognitive, and teaching presence enhance the student’s learning experience.  Students build their social presence through working together in a community and engaging in educational discourse with classmates.  Students build their cognitive presence through exploring data, constructing meaning, and collaborating with others.  The glue that seems to bridge the social and cognitive presence together is the teaching presence.  The design of the course, teacher interactions, teacher instruction, the structure of activities and course expectations make up the teaching presence of a class.  Without a sound teaching presence, social and cognitive presence would not be effectively established. 

 

As I reflected on my teaching experiences, I realized that social, cognitive, and teaching presence is the foundation of my classroom whether they are online or face to face.  Prior to walking into my classroom on the first day of school my goal would be to create a schedule of events for the students, review the organization and structure of my classroom then present my expectations to the students, get to know my students and allow my students to get to know each other.  Once this is established the student is then able to begin their learning adventure.  I noticed when I began creating my online course, the teaching presence I created was set up in the same fashion, however it was more elaborate and detailed considering I would not be with the child face to face to present this information. 

 

At the end of each school year, I look back and reflect on my teaching and my students.  Some questions I ask myself are:  what would I like to do differently this upcoming year?  How might I incorporate new team building activities into my teaching?  How might I incorporate more hands on minds on learning opportunities?  As I reflect on the online course I created, it is difficult to predict how my classmates might perceive my course or how my future students might embrace the lessons and activities.  I am looking forward to any constructive feedback that comes my way!  🙂

 

Garrison, D.R.  Online Community of Inquiry Review:  Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Issues.  University of Calgary.  Pages 61-72.

 

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Confident and Proud

 

Last Tuesday, I reviewed my course by using Professor Pickett’s Course Checklist For New Online Faculty.  I found this Course Checklist to be a helpful guideline to follow.  It made me realize features I must add on to my course, areas I should clarify and other aspects I must fine tune as I construct my finished product.

 

Since Tuesday, I have been diligently fine tuning my online course.  I must say at this point I am finally feeling confident and proud of my final product :).  Although there are some areas of this course, as a designer I would like to change or add on to some things, but I realize that my course is always going to be a work in progress, so I am not going to sweat the small stuff.

 

One area of my course I spent a great deal of time on was the presentation and tone I wanted to establish with my students.  Since my course is intended for a young third grade audience, tone and user-friendliness was one of my greatest concerns from the very beginning, so this is an area I know I needed to clearly think out and organize.  Through our class readings, presentations and discussions I realized that elaborate lingo and wordy directions were not going to work with my audience.  Although I wanted to make my point clear, I had to be mindful of my language and length of my discussions/directions because I do not want to discourage or confuse my students.

 

I also wanted to make the course appealing to the students.  I tried to incorporate a number of visual aids and included voice threads, you tube videos, a webquest, and website exploration so that the students learn the information by exploring different mediums.  My goal for my students is to learn the information constructively rather than just reading and writing. 

 

While taking this course I have learned a great deal about myself as a person, a student, and as an educator.  As a person, I never realized how long I could sit in front of the computer.  I have worked for hours on end, fixated with creating this course.  I never realized that five hours could feel like fifteen minutes once I get engaged in my work.  As a student, this course has been a phenomenal yet frustrating experience.  Teaching myself how to create links, discussion forums, find relevant information, etc. on a deadline has been an overwhelming challenge.  However, once I learned how to do these tasks, I don’t think I have ever felt so proud or accomplished, which is a great feeling for a student, and I hope that the lessons I create will give my students that sense of learning satisfaction.  I thank my instructor and classmates for their comments, suggestions, and assistance with learning new material.  As an educator, this has been an amazing learning experience.  I have learned how to organize and reflect on what I am teaching in a new light.  Learning how to use new technology based tools has been so enlightening.  I can’t wait to incorporate the course that I have created as well as some of the tools I have learned how into use into my own classroom.        

 

My course continues to be a work in progress, but one that has been an amazing learning experience that I am proud of.  I can’t wait to share my course and receive feedback from my professor and classmates.  I am also very excited about having the time to explore and reflect on the courses my classmates have created throughout the next week.  

 

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Questioning My Progress

The last two weeks have flown by!  I can’t believe there are roughly three more weeks left of this course. 

One of the questions Professor Pickett posed to us this module was “what has challenged you the most in this course?”  To answer that question, it is hard to pinpoint one thing.  In Professor Pickett’s course expectations she stated that creating an online course would take 100 + hours.  Isn’t that the truth!  I find myself continuously doing research for my course content and activities, exploring Moodle, trying to make my ideas work on Moodle, in addition to keeping up with the enlightening discussion threads, yet I feel as though my progress is minimal considering the amount of time I am putting in.  Personally this is a challenge and a discomfort to me.  I have often been confident in my learning as a student however, this course has made me more critical and analytical of the progress, or lack of progress, I am making as a scholar and an educator.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Creating an online course has been a great yet frustrating learning experience.  Great 🙂 …because it is such an amazing skill to know how to create an online course.  Even if I do not teach the course I am creating fully online, it is a great resource to incorporate into my face to face classroom.  Throughout the discussion thread this week my classmates and I noted that all of the planning we have done for our online course and conversing about different icebreakers and learning activities, we have become inspired and enlightened to incorporate new activities into our classrooms that we would not have considered a few months ago.  We have also explored a number of new technology based tools such as Diigo, Web 2.0, Wikis, Moodle, etc.  These experiences has diversified our palette as teachers and enriched the way we plan to teach come September.

On the contrary, creating an online course has been quite frustrating 🙁 as well.  Personally I am a hands on visual learner.  I had noted in an earlier blog entry that I find myself being huetagogynous.  Although this is a great trait, it also comes with some drawbacks.  To learn in an environment where I set my learning goals and method of learning is ideal, however I do not hold the answer to every question, especially in course design and trying to teach myself within a scheduled timeframe is difficult.  I think what is most frustrating is when you have a vision and are unsure how to execute that vision.  For example, last module we were required to outline our course content and activities for each learning module in our course.  This module we were required to create these activities on our course.  This task was easier said than done.  Creating the “just right” resources and activity displays to present the content in, is a challenge in itself.  I attempted to create a quiz; however I am unsure if it successfully works.  I think up until this point I have been pleased with my planning progress, however executing my plans seems to be another story.

Click Here To View My Course Content

(It is still a work in progress!)

 

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A Portal To Authentic Learning

Watching Michael Wesch’s A Portal to Media Literacy you tube video was not my first exposure to his work.  Last semester I viewed A Vision of Students Today, and was intrigued by the perspectives of college students and the statistics college students presented in regards to their education and use of technology.  I was taken back by the information that was given such as the average college class size, the cost of a college education, the amount of students that read their assigned books in comparison to reading emails and face-book profiles.  The statistics were outrageous, and considering this video was created in October of 2007, this information is quite dated.

 

The you tube video A Portal to Media Literacy was very informative.  Michael Wesch discussed the importance and impact that technology has in our classrooms.  He referred back to some of the studies and statistics that were presented in A Vision of Students Today, however he discussed the study he conducted in great detail.

 

One of the points that Wesch made was that students love to learn, but do not effectively learn in a traditional classroom where the teacher is at the front of the room and dumps information onto their students, information that is only worth knowing to write a paper or pass a test.  Wesch poses the question “how can we create students who can create meaningful connections?”  This question made me think about my own instruction and how I implement lessons to encourage students to internalize meaning and think critically rather than just learn the material to pass a test. 

 

In my face to face classroom creating authentic lessons which focus on a skill but encourages students to engage in a higher level of thinking is challenging.  It is challenging because more thought and planning go into these lessons.  It seems as though teaching from a textbook and dumping information on my students would be straightforward and trouble-free, but what is actually being learned?  What are the students internalizing besides me being an “authoritarian” and that they must “obey” what I say.  I remember learning in this type of environment, which is why I wanted to become a teacher.  I wanted to give my students more than what was given to me. 

 

In an online learning environment, we are at the peak of our instruction and learning.  We have an abundant amount of information and tools at our fingertips.  As educators it is our job to learn about these new tools and incorporate them into our authentic learning environments.  It is our responsibility to introduce these tools to students so that they can create meaning in their learning.  By showing students how to learn in a meaningful manner, they will internalize what they are learning and bring themselves to a higher level of learning rather then being told what and how they should learn.  Through exploring technology based tools and resources, taking part in group discussions, and engaging in the natural sense on inquiry, students will be brought to a advanced level of thinking and learning. 

 

I found a great resource for educators entitled Children, On-Line Learning and Authentic Teaching Skills in Primary Education.  This website examines education as a whole with a focus on ICT (Information and Communication Technology).  This website explores how teachers create and implement lessons that allow their students to gather, process, store, and present information using technology based tools in a face to face and online learning environment.  Some of the models shown on this website put into perspective the teacher’s role as facilitator and mediator in instruction but put students in the center as the reciprocator of authentic learning.   

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Wesch, Michael.  A Vision of Students Today. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o.  Retrieved July 18th, 2008.

 

Wesch, Michael.  A Portal to Media Literacy. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4yApagnr0s.  Retrieved July 15th, 2008.

 

Children, On-Line Learning and Authentic Teaching Skills in Primary Education.

 http://www.educ.utas.edu.au/users/ilwebb/research/authentic_teaching.htm

 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Just when I thought I was incapable of creating an online course, as I played around with the different features and read through different tutorials, it began to come to me.  With a little bit of exploration, I found the light at the end of my tunnel.

I’m sure students have felt this way about topics that I have taught in the classroom as well.  That is the beauty of inquiry.  In a classroom, whether it be face to face or online, it is important to guide students through their thought process, engage them in constructive questioning and problem solving.  These are life long traits that they will take with them in their academic career as well as in their personal lives. 

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Who Holds The Key To My Success? Me!

Over the last two weeks I have been pondering what it means to be a successful educator in an online classroom environment.  My philosophy of education is based on a student centered learning environment.  A student centered learning environment to me is a place where students are encouraged to work within an enriching and enjoyable space where they value learning.  It is a place where a community of learners can meet and know that each child’s voice will be heard and appreciated.  This student centered environment will embrace different learning styles because the student will know they are part of a community where each community member is respected.  This positive learning atmosphere will allow students to thrive academically and personally.

 

As I begin to create the tone and classroom environment for my online course, I am finding that it is difficult to replicate methods of teaching that I use within a face to face classroom and make them as effective in an online course.  I am discovering that creating an online course is more challenging than I expected.  Professor Pickett’s Keys to Success presentation was extremely informative.  Although my passion for teaching is through the roof, I am “re-thinking” and modifying the way I teach to meet the needs of my online students, and my time and commitment are dedicated to creating this course, I am still apprehensive of the format and culminating product.  I think the most difficult part of designing this course, is trying to imagine and consider my audiences perception and responses to the lessons I create, as well as trying to picture each student’s feedback.  But, as we all know even in a face to face classroom, this is a challenge as well. 

 

In the presentation Keys to Success by Professor Pickett, she discusses her experiences, advice and suggestions for creating an online course.  In one of the slides, Professor Pickett discusses the importance of faculty designing their own courses with the support of a team (librarians, IT’s, instructional designers, etc).  I find this is where I am having the most trouble in my online course formation.  Although I have successfully taken several online courses, creating a course is quite complicated, especially when there is not a face to face support system that is created to assist with creating the course.  In some ways this is frustrating as a course creator when you have ideas and a vision for your course but difficulty executing the plan due to inexperience with the tools. 

 

Over the past week while creating my course on Moodle, I experienced some trouble with posting my course blocks.  Professor Pickett luckily created a tutorial which walked the class through step by step on how to create links within the Moodle blocks.  The visual aids and verbal directions was just as effective as having Professor Pickett beside me explaining how to complete the task I was struggling with.  I realize this is a learning experience for me, but it is discouraging when I feel like I am at a loss for what I am doing.  On the contrary, it is exciting to see what I have learned and accomplished up to this point, and I can’t wait to see my entire course come together.

 

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Observing and Learning From The Best

Over the past week, I had the opportunity to observe several online courses created by seasoned instructors on the SUNY Learning Network.  After careful observation, it was interesting to see how each course was different but shared a similar structure.

 

I was delighted to view courses that were created on the SUNY Learning Network.  Over the past few semesters I have taken several courses through this program as well as Blackboard, so I was quite familiar with the tool bar, message board, structure of modules, and additional areas designated for links.  Although the structure in each class was similar, the tone and voice of each instructor was unique and shined through with their profiles and icebreakers.  For example, Dr. Zucker’s bio was short and sweet, however with his picture I got the impression that he was a lighthearted individual.  John Prusch often uses smilie faces throughout his assignment directions.  As a student viewing these images, I would get the feeling that although these assignments are important and worth X-amount of my grade, I should have fun with them and do my best.  Professor Harris used some audio activities which gave me the feeling she wanted her students to not only see images from her history course but listen to information about them as well.  William Pelz initial icebreaker activity revolved around a self test.  This structured icebreaker gave me the sense that Professor Pelz knew exactly what type of information he wanted to retrieve from his students in his psychology course. 

 

I have not taken a foreign language course online and I was quite intrigued by the different words, accents, and scriptures presented in the course Elementary School German.  Although all the subheadings on the main page were unknown to me, I was clearly able to navigate through the course, and try to make out what the terms mean.

 

Overall, observing these sites was fun.  I have taken a few ideas in regards to the instructors’ organization and tone that I may incorporate into my own online course.

 

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Tough Choice? Electronic Literacy Challenges In Today’s Society

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?cl=8494220

 

For most children who are raised in the millennial generation, their days consist of surfing the web, instant messaging, text messaging, listening to their i-pods, playing video games etc.  This lifestyle is not the norm for all children throughout our country.  E-Literacy challenges in the twenty first century are everywhere in our society.  One challenge is the abundance of technology and its consistent changes.  In this day in age, if individuals are not willing to learn and use technology for their own personal use or for work purposes, then it most likely will not be learned or used by the individual.  This will naturally create a gap between electronic literate and non-electronic literate individuals which will in time effect the work place, social interactions, and other communications where technology is the primary means for communicating.  Another technology challenge is the gap between home and school.  This challenge can be viewed by different angles.  Some school districts do not have the budget or technology to invest in current technology, therefore their students will not learn how to use the tools that are predominantly used in society.  In other scenarios, the challenge may be that the student has access to technology in school, but it is not reinforced in their home environments.  Either situation creates an e-literacy gap between home and school, and creates literacy challenges among students who face these challenges, especially when they are confronted with individuals who are e-literate within our society.     

 

Today’s headline on Yahoo News made me aware of another controversial issue among people and technology.  The headline today was Amish Teen’s Tough Choice”.  Preview the clip and tell me what you think.

 

Warschauer, Mark.  Laptops and Literacy.  Teachers College Press.  August 20th, 2006.

 

Amish Teens Touch Choice.  ABC News.   Yahoo.  Retrieved June 24th, 2008.

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