Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Instructional Strategies for Online Courses

This webpage from University of Illinois describes instructional strategies that can be used in online classes. Like Palloff and Pratt, this webpage reminds instructors to start by setting goals and then choosing instructional strategies that will best help students meet those goals. Then the webpage describes how 10 different instructional strategies can be adapted to an online setting. Although some of the technological references seem a little outdated, the page clearly explains how instructional strategies can and must be adapted in an online setting. The page would be a good introduction for a teacher/professor setting out to teach an online course for the first time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Microblogging & education

Since we are going to be using microblogging tools in class this week, I decided to look for more information about how microblogging can be used in the education field. I sensed a lot of skepticism from classmates, and I know that I have struggled with Twitter myself.

"The 15-Minute Guide to Microblogging in Education" is a quick introduction to the ways microblogging can be useful to teachers. Teachers can quickly share materials, and the basics are really fast and easy to learn. It's easy to find a new community to connect with and get feedback from. Plus, you can use privacy settings to keep your posts private or allow them to be shared with the world.

This article on elearnr discusses three particular microblogging tools and how teachers can use them. The three tools discussed are Twitter, Edmodo, and Shout 'Em, two of which we will get to use in class this week. As a new twitter user, I am interested in learning more about how I can better use it as a learning and sharing tool. I had never heard of Shout 'em - from what I've read, it sounds similar to Twitter but with more flexibility to personalize it to your own needs. I'll be interested to see if it takes off like Twitter or not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Key Elements of Building Online Community

This article from the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching discusses faculty and student perspectives on building online communities. Faculty and students, when surveyed, both agreed on the importance of the creation of online community, in alignment with our reading so far in Palloff & Pratt (2007). Interestingly, students ranked instructor presence much higher than faculty members did. This is important to keep in mind as a course instructor - students expect and desire comments, quick responses to questions, and timely posting of grades. As a student, I can definitely relate to that feeling - I want my instructor to be active daily in our online course, just like I am. Throughout the courses, this desire has been met to varying needs, and I have adjusted my expectations as well.
Also, I found it interesting the students and faculty also agreed on three factors, in order, that make building an online community difficult: communication, time, and participation. To a certain degree I agree with this ranking, although I must admit that for me personally, time might be a bigger challenge than communication through text only.

Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace Dre Holloway. It's been a tough week without you. You'll always be a part of our New Tech family.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Learning Communities

The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) includes learning communities as one of their "Standards for Staff Development," and this page on their website explains why. The site offers a quick summary of the importance of learning communities and their effectiveness to help staff development, citing reasons such as common focus, clear direction, and daily engagement in school improvement. Even more useful than this short summary is the annotated bibliography included on the page. The web page cites over 35 different research publications that have examined professional learning communities. For each citation, there is a short summary as well as information about how to find the source, including a direct link when available.

Looking through the references, one jumped out at me as being particularly related to this week's readings about the outcomes that result from learning communities and how these outcomes can be measured and evaluated. Hord's (1997) literature review has an entire section devoted to the outcomes of professional learning communities, and notes a variety of positive results for both staff and students. I found it interesting that the list of positive staff results (such as reducing isolation and increasing satisfaction) was actually longer than the list of positive results for students. It's great that there is research showing that professional learning communities not only positively impact student learning but also create a more work environment for teachers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Resource-Sharing: Useful blogs

I am going to share two different math blogs this week.

My favorite, most useful math blog is dy/dan. He is an amazing math teacher who shares a ton of ideas, resources, and reflections, which have shaped who I am as a math teacher. My assessment plan this year is built around his concept checklist idea, and has been working very well for me. But I know I've shared that blog with you before, so I wanted to find a new one to share as well.

Another math blog that I enjoy reading is f(t). This blog is written by another talented math teacher, and gives me ideas to use. Although I don't think she's teaching algebra 1 this year, I still can adapt some of her ideas, especially the review games that I used to make reviewing for semester exams more engaging.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Presentations that kids love

Well it's been awhile, but I have something that I think is worth a few minutes of reflection. Whenever something goes well, my first instinct is to say "great" and move on with my life... but I'm trying to force myself to figure out WHY it went well so that its goodness can be repeated and extended.

For whatever reason, the presentations that my students did this week have always been student favorites. As background: The project involves analyzing 4 cell phone plans and figuring out which is best for 3 different customers. There is a lot of changing between different representations (words, tables, graphs, functions) involved. For "presentations" the student take turns pretend to be customers and simulate meetings with each other.

For some reason, they love it. Some of my guesses why:
  • They love the project period because it involves cell phones. It could be the most evil, difficult project of the year and they would probably still love it. Ahh, the power of matching their interests...
  • They don't have to present in front of the whole class. Even though they give presentations on a regular basis in every class, a lot of the still get really nervous. They only have to present to 1-2 people at a time, and they just have to sit at a table and talk with them, so there is a lot less pressure. I've found that this gives shyer kids a chance to really shine. Those who normally are reluctant to talk in front of the class can still manage to participate. Those who normally try but are shaken by nerves are able to focus on their presentation and really show off all their skills without their nerves getting in the way.
  • They get to make some choices. They have a few different options in terms of which classmate to present to. They can choose their friends most of the time, thereby guaranteeing that they will get a good grade. Again, this takes the pressure off and gives them a chance to really focus on their presentation. They also get to pick which customer they want me to be, so they get to pick whichever one they are most confident about.
  • It's loud and chaotic. Everyone is talking at once. At times its overwhelming. But I'm pretty sure most students love the noise and chaos.
  • They get to act. When it's their turn to play customers, almost all are excited. I think I had one student all day ask "Do I have to do it?" (to which, of course, I said yes). That's way less than normal! They don't get to access that creative side as often as they should, so it's nice to tap into that side once in a while.
So how do I extend this to other project? I honestly don't know yet. I don't think it would work in every situation. But I am going to be open to the possibility as it arises!