I am excited to take this journey into learning new tools to benefit my teachers and students. I am a proponent of showcasing work, reflecting on the work a person has completed, and seeing growth over a period of time. As I grow professionally in the EDTech program, my goal is to take these new tools and intertwine them with my current strategies. I want to give my teachers and students the best coaching experience as they learn to become lifelong 21st Century learners.

EDTECH 522 Reflection

The technological knowledge I have learned in this course was a couple of new tools that I had not used before. I have never used Moodle to develop a course. I have relied on what our district uses as a platform, normally a Google Site. As a team, we are still trying to determine the best platform for the online course I started in this course. Prior to this course I have not done a screencastify type of video instruction. I had used the Fizz Flipped method for developing tutorials. This was a fantastic process that I will continue to use and model for our teachers too.

The pedagogical knowledge I have learned in this course and probably found most fascinating was learning about the adult learners and how we are different learners. This is true with our students too, but the cultural type of information was intriguing. The process of developing the online course effectively, when I develop upcoming courses I will continue to use the checklist. I like to have a guide to ensure I am drawing my attention to the critical components that I may have forgotten.

This course has given me an opportunity to create multiple artifacts that I will use for work. I encourage educators to use Padlet in their classroom as a quick formative assessment on a topic or as an option to brainstorm with a whole group or small group projects. I use it during my trainings to help promote new technology tools for teachers to use in their classroom. The video I created was used in my online lesson I created. The lesson I created is 1 of 5 modules that my TIS team will use develop our online course for the PAC4 module.

Moodle Lesson Design Reflection

Reflect and write about your experiences in creating your Moodle lesson.

Knowing there will be a diverse group of online learners in a course, understanding that these differences can impact how a learner will engage in the lesson helped me to develop appropriate teaching strategies to meet these needs. I included structured discussion forums through VoiceThread and after the readings/videos. I gave specific instructional to help guide the learners through the content and have an understanding of the expectations of the activities. I even provided specific instructions as to the level of interactions with the discussion forum. The activities provided in this lesson are offered learner to learner interactions, social presence, through the Voicethread and Discussion Forum activity. A teacher to learner, teacher presence, journal activity allows the teacher to give one on one conversations. The learner is able to reflect on their own understanding, their current teaching practices and goals they have for the course. The learner to content, cognitive presence, is provided through the readings and video. One video asks the learner to stop and think about the content or their own best practices.

Overall, the most difficult part to an online course development is the quantity vs quality of the the content provided and work required to be completed. More is not necessarily better. It is time consuming on the instructor’s part to go through all the material and determine which ones are the best quality to provide the learners, so they make the best use of their time. It is often best to just create your own video with the content you want the learners to know and focus on. I also think it can be challenging to determine what type of activity to assign the learners to get them to demonstrate their understanding. As an instructor you do not want to have the same activity to complete for each lesson. It can become so routine, losing the interest of the learners.

The most rewarding thing about this project is that I have been able to start an entire course for the district so we can move forward with our initiative this school year. This has been conversations for a bit of time now, this assignment allowed me to begin the process. I have realized that there is a lot of front loading of work. In an online course, everything must be completed before the course begins. In a face to face course, you have the ability to go “week by week”. I have also realized through both the eyes of the instructor and learner, just how important it is to have social presence and teacher presence in the course. It is not just about the content.

Online Learning Tools

When I first started reading the chapters in our book, I began to think about how I can use these ideas for our Micro Credentials we are developing for our district. Based on our recent Bright Bytes data, we know we need our teachers to include more critical thinking activities in their daily lessons. However, do our teachers really know how to teach this and with what tools will make it effective? The questions the authors have included, the Paul-Elder Model of Critical Thinking, to help the learners think is a helpful way to start for our teachers. As an instructor, I can definitely see the benefits of using the prompts or suggested question starters that authors included on page 157 in online courses to promote deeper understanding and conversations. I see how, as a learner, I could use these in our discussion forums as I comment on my peer’s post. Using the idea of creating Micro Credentials allows the teacher to apply these new skills to any content and reflect on the process. I also want to make the research analysis worksheet and credibility/reliability criteria for evaluating resources as other micro credentials for our district. These are all the soft skills our learners need to have in order to be successful and teaching this through micro credentials allows our teachers to learn it asynchronously and at their own pace. In general, the chapters gave some relevant suggestions of how to implement skills in your teaching. It is very helpful and have been able to put these suggestions into use for the next step our district is moving towards.

There are such a variety of tools for educators to use in order to promote social and cognitive presence in their teaching and student learning. One that I really encourage our educators to use is blogging, both professionally and for student learning. Hsu, Ching & Grabowski features some of the recent research on blogging. Blogs can be used as learning logs, publishing and sharing the learning process. It is a valuable reflective tool for the learners, using reflective thinking skills and to track their learning. Blogs can support and achieve collaborative tasks in group work. It can also be used to build communities of practice for learning in authentic and meaningful platforms. Using blogs as a portfolio of the work is advantageous to showcase the work and, again, reflect on their learning process.

Stavredes, Tina. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Hsu, Y., Ching, Y., & Grabowski, B. (2014). Web 2.0 tools and practices for learning through collaboration. Handbook of Research and Educational Communications and Technology, pages 747-758. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5_60

Self Directed Learning Model

After reading the chart Grow’s Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, I view myself as between the “involved learner” and “self-directed learner,” though I truly believe it depends on the content. In the beginning of my master’s program at BSU, I started in the dependent/interested learner when I took the website development course. I had no prior experience in building a website in Dreamweaver and relied on the instructor to get me through the course. I was motivated to learn it, but had little confidence in completing the assignments. I relied heavily on the instructor videos, which I would watch step by step, trying to gain the confidence with each assignment. I think, in general, when I began the master’s program I was in this mindset because it was all new to me. Back in school after 12 years, and a bit unfamiliar with online courses. Now, after 9 courses, I feel I am more self directed in my learning. Most, if not all, assignments I have some prior skills and knowledge in the subject matter. I am confidently motivated to set my own learning goals and manage my time to complete the tasks set out for me by the instructor. I look to the instructor for support when I need it. I look for the instructor to guide us through the learning process, supplying the resources to begin our modules, but I tend to also go out and research and dig into the content a bit more. The one area I continue to work on is the self evalution of my work and knowledge gained. I tend to be harder on myself than I should be in many instances.

So, what does this imply for me as an online teacher? I need to determine each individual’s needs, in the beginning of the course, to ensure they are successful and continue to pursue their learning. It is critical I have a plan in place for each type of learner and meet the needs as much as I can. I will continue to monitor each individual and offer as much assistance as they will allow me. Just as I continued my master’s program, I became more self-directed in my own learning and they, too, will increase as they gain more experience and confidence.

Designing Effective Online Courses

In order to design effective online courses, the instructor needs to understand the diversity of online learners, both the primary and secondary characteristics and the cultural differences that can make an impact on one’s learning. Primary characteristics consists of aspects that do not change over time, such as age, gender and ethnicity. I found the data interesting that was shared in the book on page 3, referencing a study conducted in 2009. Out of about 69,000 learners, the majority of the learners were female, between ages 25-34 and primarily white in ethnicity (Stavredes, 2011). Secondary characteristics are obtained or can change over time, such as career, income, education, marital or parental status. It is also critical to know the needs of online learners because they all come to the course with different experiences, backgrounds, challenges and needs.

Online courses can bring anyone around the world together onto one platform.  Some of the cultural differences the author mentions is power distance status, or where one fits into their society, can determine whether they view the learning should be more teacher or learner directed. Uncertainty avoidance was defined as how comfortable one can be in a learning environment that is more or less structured. Does one need the answers from the teacher or their peers through discussion? Another dimension discussed was individualism vs collectivism, or the relationship one has with others. Is the learner participating for themselves and unmotivated/uncomfortable to learn from peer interactions? The final cultural is based around gender, whether the cultural background is masculine or feminine. In a masculine dominant culture, men make the decisions, the learning is more competitive. In a feminine culture, decisions are made by both men and women, and is more learner driven.

Knowing how to support each individual and facilitate in their learning, their characteristics, can assist in the success of designing a successful online course for the learners. Providing choice, having some flexibility and alternatives to allow for success of the diverse group of learners.

Evaluating Authentic elearning Courses

Ch. 8 – Evaluating authentic elearning courses by Herrington et al.

This chapter entailed a general overview of the process for evaluating a program. Having taken 2 courses at BSU, in regards to instructional design and evaluation, I was able to make many connections to this chapter. There is an immense amount of work involved in evaluating a program that I just never realized until I went through the entire process. I recently completed an evaluation on a Blended model we are implementing in our district. We had a goal for the program; we wanted to determine whether the blended model would give students more opportunities to use the 4 C’s, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. I sat down with the team who trains the teachers and developed our whole plan; a purpose of the evaluation, the outcomes of the program, the methods of evaluating and who would be involved. I took away many “ahas” from the process, but most of all the importance of each step in the process. I was fortunate to be working with the stakeholders, as we are the team who is implementing the PAC4-Blended Model. I did not have to build the relationship, because I already have one with them. This also helped with the negotiations of why we needed an evaluation. As the chapter said, having skills in negotiations is critical. This is a personality trait that I lack, but I knew the background information of the program and could persuade the team into allowing me to conduct the evaluation. We needed the data for our other stakeholders to tell the story of the PAC4 for future implementation and sustainability.

As a team, we also learned the area of concerns for the program and discussed the ways to improve it. This is a challenge people have with conducting or having an evaluation complete for a program. You expose the gaps and failures  and no one wants to have those exposed. However, it can lead to a stronger program in the end because you have the opportunity to focus on the issues and fix it.

Design with Navigation in Mind

Ch. 7 – Design with navigation in mind by Smith

Many of the tips included in this chapter were relatable to me either as a student/participant in a course or the instructor. I have no idea if a professor has used a call I have used a call log in the classroom to document conversations I had with students and parents. It showed a pattern of conversations among certain students, which is critical for documentation for IEPs, 504 and such. This is in a traditional classroom setting. However, I see the value of using it for online courses as well. If there is a pattern in a content, link, or concern that students are contacting a professor for clarification, it shows a need to be addressed. The professor can then fix it at that time, depending on the issue, or create a running list of issues or changes to be made at the end of the course. It is also very important to check all links before the course starts for every semester. This was mentioned in the article and is very accurate. One does not know when a website changes locations or is taken off the web. That management piece if critical.

I have also found benefit to having a FAQ section. One course I just completed last semester had this, recorded the question a student asked, and had the answer with it. I referred to this frequently when I had questions. It can be a participant’s first attempt to locating the answer, before maybe asking a student/class in a “cyber cafe”. The professor, often times, can be the last person to contact. It is similar to being a classroom teacher…ask 3 before me.