Being a ringmaster… how ironic.

“Most synchronous venues feature more than one channel of communication that can be used concurrently…. If all of these channels are engaged at the same time, it can feel like a three ring circus. But even a circus with three rings has a ringmaster.” (Finkelstein, 2006)

This week wraps up the last week of the Fall semester at Boise State for 2012.  Module 6 of Advanced Online Teaching required me to work with a partner from the course and deliver a synchronous lesson to our fellow peers.  Now given I’m in Australia and the majority of my student peers are on the continental US of A this was going to be time challenging.  Thankfully I’d worked with Cary Tyler before and he had impressed me so it seemed like a no-brainer to team up again. This meant a 17-hour time difference (I was in the future!) so we had to be incredibly organised with scheduling our rehearsal sessions but in between these times we relied on Google Docs to collaborate and build our plan for the lesson.  Our google doc was used for everything from asynchronous chats, sharing links and research findings, through to reminders and structuring the actual script or plan for the meeting.  We had fun doing it and whilst the first minute or so was lots of tech testing and problems I think we pulled it off well in the end.
Here’s a link to our meeting recording

Given one of us has a journalism background and the other a Mathematics one we decided to skip the “content” option and design this lesson from the perspective of teacher training or professional development.  Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are at the centre of online teaching and all teachers know how necessary it is to be able to work with a user-friendly LMS. As such we decided to review two of the most compelling LMSs out there at the moment, Schoology and Edmodo. When I say “review” I use the term very loosely because this was a 10-15 minute lesson designed mainly to test out Adobe Connect and focus on collaboration and interaction.  As such we tried to use a Magnetic brainstorm activity using the whiteboard and conducted a live walk through of an LMS using a “guest presenter”.  Lastly we created an assessment tool using a live quiz platform called Socrative.

Personally I love this tool because not only is it real time but it gives immediate feedback to the class and the teacher.  Quizzes can be pre-made or designed on the fly, like the 10 quick questions to review a lesson at the end of a lesson.  There is a great little “exit ticket” function which is build in so the teacher can receive feedback on how well the lesson was received.  But this isn’t the only way to assess learning online.

This list was shared with us by our lecturer Glori Hinck and is by no means in any order of preference,

  • Feedback
  • Student Work – reports/portfolios/projects
  • Self-Assessments/Peer Assessments
  • Threaded Discussions – quality/quantity of interaction
  • Live Lesson – participation/polling/
  • Rubrics
  • Quizzes/tests

There are a myriad more that we could add to this list but almost all of them work both synchronously and asynchronously (except obviously for the live lesson) online.  I have also seen student orals for English or Science presented online via videos and in particular a synchronous lesson which encourages participants to demonstrate or talk through their working on a shared whiteboard is an equivalent formative assessment to checking a students book work in a traditional brick and mortar (B&M) class room.

Yes most of these look different to traditional assessments in B&M classrooms, that’s because most of us have not been forced to think creatively about assessments when pen and paper tests are just easy.  But when pushed most teachers would agree they are not ideal and that there are many other more interesting (for both staff and students) more productive and more engaging ways to assess a students learning.  Many of these are used in online teaching because those teachers that are treading that path had to be creative.

They’ve had to think outside the box as we like to call it, although ironically it all still happens inside a box doesn’t it?

Finkelstein, J. E. (2006). Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online. San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 978-0-7879-7921-8


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