Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ED 7722 week 4 MOOCS

What is a "MOOC", and how does it intersect with the online, or hybrid learning environments that we've been studying? 

     I distinctly remember when I first heard about MOOCs. I was at the circulation desk reading a the Tech column in School Library Journal. I immediately Googled "Coursera" and perused their offerings.  I send an email out to my colleagues, and to my home email so I could further explore the possibilities. The concept was exciting! I didn't sign up for anything.
     This past summer, I heard Elizabeth Ferry speak about Technology Coaching in her Ignite Talk at an unconference. The concept intrigued me. At work, I found an email offering a MOOC about Technology Coaching, and I signed up. I met with some folks in my building who were interested, and they signed up. I enthusiastically made it through the first week of a six week course. I even participated in a big Twitter Chat and added folks to follow on Twitter. None of the others in my building even tried the first week. I fizzled out soon after, mostly due to procrastination.
     We did the ORMS MOOC as part of the IT&DML program. Because I knew the participants and I my grade depended on it, I did the work, completed the units, and got the badges. Keeping up was not problem.

The section in Ferdig's article about personal contact and having offline partners to improve MOOC completion really rang true for me. The Tech Coaching MOOC will be offered again in mid-February. Is anyone "game?"

     A MOOC, Massive Open Online Course, can be designed like a traditional class (xMOOC) or as a collaborative, connected learning experience (cMOOC.) As the poster above states, "every letter is negotiable!"
     The ORMS MOOC in the IT&DML was more like an xMOOC. Although there was class feedback and discussion on G+, the instructor guided the process. We submitted reflections and projects for badges and eventually for a grade. Other than the badges, the ORMS MOOC was similar to most of the online courses in this program. Read, reflect, respond, do projects.
     The Tech Coaching MOOC had hundreds of participants. It was overwhelming for me. It was more like a cMOOC. We reflected on readings, just like in our IT&DML classes, and could respond and read others' responses, but the sheer volume weakened the experience for me. I couldn't connect. I had a tough time seeing these strangers from all over the world as "experts" to learn from.

Here is the link to my this week's Storify.  https://storify.com/smarkiewicz11/to-mooc-or-not-to-mooc

Illustration: CC licensed by Matthieu Plourde.
Resources: Ferdig, R.E. (2013). What massive open online courses have to offer K-12 teachers and students. Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. Retrieved from http://media.mivu.org/institute/pdf/mooc_report.pdf

Friday, January 23, 2015

EDUC 7722 - Online Instructional Tool

This week, we were to
- choose an online instructional tool
- Learn how to use the tool
- Create a tutorial
- Storify about our tutorial creation
- Tweet out ... something... just TWEET!

I like being able to do tutorials. I get frustrated by Screencast-O-Matic's free version. I guess if it annoyed me enough, I would pay for it.
My goal is to keep a tutorial as brief as possible... 7 minutes max.
I also need to remember everything I wanted to talk about.
When I finally thought I had an acceptable video, there was no audio!

(loud long silent scream!)

Here is a storify of my experience:


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free LMS Tools - a commentary

As we scale up and refine the LMS built using free tools (G+, Drive, Communities, Twitter, Google Groups, etc.), how well does this LMS support you and your learning style? How could it be improved? Feel free to be critical as you post as this contributes to the evolution of such systems...

IT&DML is my first experience with online learning. (Bloodborne Pathogen training doesn't really count!) Honestly, it makes me feel old. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, and they are not housed in the same place. - In a traditional class, I would have reading material and a notebook. I might type a paper and hand it in. Class discussion is in class, face to face.
- Online, there is reading or viewing material - which may be linked to the syllabus or in G+ or in a Google Document or an email - and I might have to respond on either my blog or directly on G+... or on another tool. I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to find things that I saw previously. It gives "Google Search" a whole new meaning! Now that I have an air printer, I have found it helpful to print some hard copies of assignments and check items off as I go. Discussion in G+ feels contrived. I want to respond without saying, "good point" over and over again. Asynchronous communication is handy, but it doesn't facilitate a lot of meaningful give-and-take conversation.

The iPad interface with Google is especially frustrating. I put all of my Google tools in a folder and I need to pop in and out of each of them to complete a project. The new Google Docs is particularly annoying on the iPad. If I go into Drive and open a Document, I can't return to Drive without closing Docs... and maybe some of this has to do with the fact that I haven't learned to properly navigate an iPad. Publishing with Blogger is awkward on Chromebook. When I publish, it goes public. When I share, it goes in the Community, where I want it. I often go back and erase my original published post.

I prefer to read on the iPad and answer on a computer or on my Chromebook.  I will confess, I didn't figure out Google Groups until this last summer. I started two summers ago. I still can only find it by following a link. Just today, I figured out why I had trouble participating in Hangouts last summer with a particular professor. Sometimes navigating the technology is more complicated than learning the class material!

I like many aspects of Communities. All of the discussions can be sorted by week, and it is easy to come up with a system for posting and for responding to posts. I enjoy trying new apps. I don't make much time on my own. It is helpful to see what my classmates are using.

The article we read this week, "An argument for clarity," was written before Google Classroom was rolled out. It is not a LMS as described by the authors. It is more like a CMS, like Moodle and Blackboard. 

I think using Google Classroom in IT&DML to corral all the apps would be an improvement. All of the parts would be in the same place, and it would be obvious where to post. This is likely why Classroom was created. Once in Classroom, a single click will put you in the right class vs. finding the right section in Drive, then drilling down multiple levels to find the day's work. (Stars in Drive DO help, but I need to remember I starred the item!) 

To sum it up, I like to find things quickly. There are too many places to look the way this LMS (or CMS, if we are using Watson's definitions) is set up.

Picture from Pixabay - free to share without giving credit.
Reference: Watson, W. and Watson, S. An Argument for Clarity: What are Learning Management Systems, What are They Not and What Should They Become. 2006.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Learning Modules

Some real-word comments about Distance Learning:
I have a friend who started a new job for a Pharmaceutical company. She was given sixty learning modules to learn in 2 1/2 months. She blew through them in three weeks. Much of what was presented was repeat information for her. She really liked one of the modules, so I asked her which one and why.
She really liked a module on more efficient email. Much of it was new and useful information for her. The female presenter's voice was engaging, and she sounded like she knew the subject matter.
I figured this might help us all when putting together modules.

Friday, January 16, 2015

EDUC 7722 - Week 2 - Learning Theory and Distance Learning

The argument is made that it is not just the incorporation of technology in pedagogy that facilitates learning, but it is instead the design of the environment and the interactions and types of connections that the technology affords. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? How will you design your environment considering these concepts and the theories discussed?

When technology was first introduced into classrooms, I think the first part of the statement, "the incorporation of technology in pedagogy," probably facilitated learning. Most people did not have computers at home in the 1980's. Video games, the most visible computer software, consisted of eye-hand coordination challenges. Students were enthralled by the magic they could perform programming with BASIC. Even rote practice exercises seemed less dull using a keyboard and screen rather than paper and pencil.

Today's technology is very different. The utilitarian data processing machine has transformed into a playground of information, games, and "productivity" for all age groups. Television is now dull compared to the magic of apps and the Internet. When students can connect instantly in exciting ways to friends and strangers with a palm-sized device in their pocket, why should they expect any less from their school interactions on a computer?

In today's technology context, I fully agree with the second part of the statement, "the design of the environment and the interactions and types of connections" facilitate learning today. Teachers have been creating lessons based on the cognitive learning style since before the class of 2015 entered Kindergarten. Today's students have an expectation that they will be building off of prior knowledge. Material will be chunked or they will have been given an outline, the presentation of the material will engage their senses, and, if they are going to challenge themselves to learn it, the information in the lesson should seem "relevant" beyond the next summative assessment.

My work environment is the school's library media center. I started to look into the Learning Commons movement a couple of years ago. This vision posits the library as the academic and social hub of the school. This allows for much student independence, but in my relatively small space that is frequently used for testing and classes, it will not work. It would be too chaotic for my vision of the library as a productive work space.

Right now, when monitoring students from study hall, I fall back on Behaviorist-style prompts to keep students on task when their school tasks alone don't engage them. I see my design goal to be rely on Constructivism. Research and other library skills lend themselves to building on current knowledge and using it in the real world.

Storify - Learning Theories

Image from Jonathan Vernon's My Mind Bursts Blog.
Reference: Ally, M. Foundations fo Educational Theory for Online Learning. Chapter 1.

Friday, January 9, 2015

ED 7722 - Distance Learning (week 1) #ITDML

Reflections on Distance Education in the United States: Past, Present, Future.

I love to learn.
That said, I don't enjoy eLearning... unless I want the answer to a specific question.
I started a correspondence course for writing children's books. Fail. I bought a CD course about Chaos Theory. Fail. I started a MOOC to learn more about technology coaching. Fail. I am slowly working my way through the Google Educator lessons. Did I mention SLOWLY? Unless there is a community with others I have met face-to-face, I have little motivation to gut through the courses.

Although Distance Learning sounds like a cure for the growing cost of education, drawing from my own experience, it is impractical. I work in a high school with 700 bundles of hormones. They are interested in each other. Period. If they weren't forced to sit in a classroom with their peers and an instructor working to keep them focused, they would learn very little. Honestly, unless they are personally interested in the subject matter, they don't seem to retain much anyway, except in their trade classes.* Every year, a handful of students who paid little attention to their schoolwork come back and say, "I wish I had taken school more seriously."

Maybe we created this kind of society with our "industrial" style, one-size fits all learning environment. People choose how to best navigate an environment, and our student of all learning preferences either master the process or totally shut down. 

The mention of homeschooling in the article piqued my interest. I was a public librarian in the early 1990's. Some of our "regulars" were homeschool families. Most of the children were well-read, polite, and had learned how to learn. Some started college courses at 16 because they were academically ready. This population, which has been brought up learning through an individualized plan, are better-suited for online learning than the traditionally schooled population.

Although Farhad Saba's article shows a rather pessimistic view of the evolution of distance learning, I am looking forward to looking at some strong examples and "best practices" in the field this coming semester.

*I work in a Technical High School. Students spend about 2 weeks in "academics" then 2 weeks in their trade. They get about 90 days in each.


Saba, F. Distance Education in the United States: Past, Present, Future. Educational Technology. November-December 2011. pp. 11-18.

(I just watched a YouTube video to figure out how to embed my Storify in my blog post.  It was not specific, so if you want to do it (in Blogger), copy your embed code from Storify. Look in the upper left corner of Blogger. See Compose and HTML. Click on HTML. Insert the code where you want the Storify to show up. Go back to compose and check it out!)