Reflections

My ramblings through a semester of Edtech study combined with parenting a newborn and 2 year old toddler as well as teaching and loving my wife.

Note to self: Include relevant/interesting quotes with page numbers, postings from discussions, links to resources that you want to try, or specific tasks or activities that you have engaged in.

Week Quotes from Readings and Class Tasks and Activities Thoughts/Learning/Questions
1 Good teaching is good teaching whether it happens in a classroom or on a computer screen (or in a house, or with a mouse, or in a box, or with a fox, for that matter).
http://www.edutopia.org/stw-online-learning-ten-key-lessons
Perhaps it was the Dr Seuss reference that made me laugh but it just seemed so appropriate.
2 “The key shift for an online teacher is to go from the paradigm of thinking about what you’re going to teach and how you’re going to teach it to what the kids are learning and not learning,” says Boise, Idaho-based Holly Mortimer, who taught in a brick-and-mortar school before becoming an online teacher and who now works for three different schools. She notes that because most online content is created for the teacher in advance, “the focus totally shifts from the content to the student.” http://www.edutopia.org/stw-online-learning-ten-key-lessons Love this quote, it reminds me how important it is to be organised with your curriculum such that the planning and content is “out of the way”.  This can work in the blended/hybrid setting as well and will be my focus next Semester.  I want to get a complete course for Mathematics online so I can practice what I preach and “flip the classroom” as Salman Khan offers up in khanacademy.org.My other takeaway this week is my lack of surprise that overwhelmingly more women than men are taking online courses. The old “having kids” challenge was thrown around but it really isn’t acceptable.  It would be more appropriate to acknowledge the fact that women tend to care more for their professional development, feel they need to keep working at their studies to “keep up”, are more likely to “share” and “collaborate” online which are great skills for online learning.  Now I wonder if I can find any evidence to back this up?
3 LISTEN – what does it mean to you?LookInquireSummariseTake notesEncourageNeutralise Who would have thought you could do a “active listening” activity online? This activity just opened my mind to so many ideas, I was blown away at the simplicity of the active listening activity (grabbabeast).  Perhaps it was the catchy title but it was also the uncertainty of sharing with another person in the digital arena that is an online class. I didn’t know anyone save from reading their posts in a discussion and some mini profiles.I wondered how they would react to comments I had made in the previous weeks posts?  Would they bear grudges? Have they already judged me? I even wondered about whether I should start a new group and see if anyone chose me? How vain or insecure is that? Just so weird being a “student” again and addressing those fears head on. It truly is the best way to re-connect and appreciate what our students go through, sometimes multiple times a day.Lastly here is an idea about how I could transform and apply this activity to a blended / online maths environment.I’ve long had a belief that if a person can verbally and accurately describe the mathematical process of solving a problem/equation then they truly have mastered the concept. It proves they “know” all the fundamental processes involved because they know the correct name of the process and the steps involved. It could also be a way of “showing working” in a digital environment that is still struggling to show algebra and simple math processes in an easy to use format.So here is my first activity idea:
1) Have students pair up
2) Give each student a simple (but different) algebraic equation like 2x-8=2.
3) Then ask each student to solve it, VERBALLY, describe all the steps involved and give the numerical answer to your partner but do not tell them the original equation.
4) Your partner now has to work backwards to establish what the original problem looked like.
This could be done at varying degrees of difficulty starting from quite early on in Middle School or Junior School mathematics.
4 “From cohort to community” Misanchuk at al, what a apt description for the purpose of online learning.”A learning community – a group of people who are brought together to share and generate knowledge in a mutually supportive and reciprocal manner”. Misanchuk et al (1997) So how is a Professional Learning Community (PLC) different from a Professional Learning Network (PLN)?This is the question that popped in to my head after this week’s lesson and activities.  I’m a MASSIVE fan of PLNs and I realised that a PLC is basically the same thing perhaps with a little more interaction from all users and not necessarily a self organising system.As Sugata Mitra says “Education is a self organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.”This could easily by the applied to a PLN.  A network of like minded individuals who are connected and organised through various networked systems, like Twitter and LinkedIn, that provide constant learning.  Learning is certainly the emergent phenomenon I have been getting ever since joining “groups” within LinkedIn and following thought-leaders and experts in the field of Education and Edtech on Twitter.Initially it is an overwhelming experience, your inbox is bombarded with discussion posts from LinkedIn and the Twitter feed just gushes by like a swelling river. However pretty quickly you realise that you don’t need to keep up, you live in a digital world, it’s not going away. It will still be there, those posts will still be there… and suddenly it dawns on you, these connections are not going away, they are your new peers, colleagues, mentors, experts and possibly even future friends.  Once you make that realisation then you start to share and give back to the network / community and so it goes…
5, 6 & 7  Real time chat? Reflect what?

Google Docs screenshot

The real time chat in Google Docs

 Yes this week we actually had to reflect on a real time chat. It didn’t really go to plan for me being on the other side of the world and working full time it was near impossible to coordinate with other Northern Hemisphere students. However I was surprised at the similarities in routines of like-minded individuals. I usually work late in to the night after the kids are asleep and the house is quiet and at this point in the course I am on a two-week vacation at my parent’s farm in outback Australia with a 2yo and 4 week old in tow.
As it so happened a real time chat just happened as a result of the powerful medium in Google Docs.  Our group assignment needed some tweaking and when I logged in to the shared Google document I noticed a group member typing in real time… from China! So we simply started chatting, we used the end of the document and changed our font colours so it was easier to see what each of us was composing.  The simplicity of being able to scroll up in the actual collaborative document was powerful, however you did need to “think about the medium” as it was kind of like an old text-based role playing game where you had to describe exactly what you were going to do.. ie. “Now I’m going to go to the second paragraph from the top and show you what I would like it to look like, follow me.” It was fun and creative and very productive.  In under 20 minutes we were able to converse in real time from outback Australia on a 1Mbps ADSL connection to a regional province in China.  We formulated and reviewed the goals of the task and created a draft. The only thing I had to remember was to delete the chat from the document before we published it. Because that would have been awkward.;-)
8 Review the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching. In your journal reflect on these standards.  In my typical way of playing the Devil’s advocate I immediately sort out the “gaps” in the standards and have highlighted them here.(1) In Standard A – why are teachers not “required” to prove evidence of belonging to a PLN, ie. having a twitter account, blog, linkedin profile and regularly posting to them.  Being a part of their local and/or national professional association etc?(2) In summary, Standard A is basically about the theory and academic knowledge behind you; Standard B is checking that you’re a IT helpdesk troubleshooter and early adopter of Edtech tools; Standard C is about your actual practice in the virtual classroom, designing lessons and getting your hands dirty in binary digits; Standard D is all about how you communicate with students, do you do it quickly and positively; Standard E is about legal stuff and being a role model; Standard F is about special needs students and whether you plan for them or not; Standard G checks that you can write adequate assessments for the platform; Standard H could really be a part of Standard G as it is checking that your assessments meet your local/state guidelines and standards for learning; Standard I reminds us to actually use the data we collect, something many teachers rarely get time to do; Standard J could also be rolled in to Standard D as it is also about communication but this time with your peers and the community at large.
And what about Standard K you say? Should these really be optional? I get why they are as some LMS/CMS systems are restricted by how you can layout your information and sometimes you might be required to teach a course you personally haven’t put together from scratch BUT these standards are still incredibly important.  I think iNACOL has chosen to sit on the fence with these. On one hand you could include them as part and parcel of the pedagogy of online teaching and hence should go in Standard C but there are a couple of design specific attributes which could work in the theory aspect of Standard A.It’s a good second revision iNACOL but I would always be looking to simply and follow the KISS principle.
9 Once you have a good idea about your own learning style, brainstorm a list of online technologies and strategies that you feel would be best for your learning style and for a learning style that is different from yours. Record this list in your reflective journal. My learning style is definitely visual, I love graphs and graphics that contain multiple layers of information.  Online sites and tools like visual.ly and gapminder.org are wonderful for quickly gathering data rich information and presenting it in a digestible format.  I’ve also recently noticed blog sites like Alltop using infographicsto present interesting, comical and topical information. I guess it’s that old adage, a picture can say 1000 words.But not everyone learns this way and in retrospect whilst I believe I was a very visual learner in high school I also appreciate that it has been my years as a Managament Consultant that really brought out the uber-infographic geek in me. So how can we combine this style with others, such as aural or even those individuals who need to converse and debate a topic to see it from all angles?…This is where a resource like Voicethread is so powerful.  It has the ability to not only contain clear images for visual learners and to stimulate the brain but the teacher/presenter can ask or post questions and audio attached to that image.  Students can then respond in context to build up a common viewpoint about the image/topic.  It truly is an incredible resource.
10 Kit Kat brand logo This week in the absence of a specific reflection focus point I chose this image. Chocolate. Mmmmm.
I have really let chocolate become a dominant force in my late night work sessions and it has to stop. So from hereon in Chocolate, it’s time for a break! No it’s not you, it’s me.
11 Self-evaluation can be an effective way to prepare learners for the final process in project development – grading. Practice this strategy using your work in this class. Use the rubric for the lesson development assignment and evaluate your own presentation.  Link to Rubric.
12
View the video in the resources above and reflect on you own teaching style. Is it primarily teacher-centered and lecture-driven? In online environments, the lecture component of any lesson can often be delivered asynchronously as preparation for live meetings that are reserved for those times when interactions are critical for learning. Think about this shift and what it means in terms of your own teaching. Create a list of lesson ideas or strategies that might be especially suitable for live meetings using synchronous delivery tools. Post this in your reflection journal.
13 & 14 Optional: I will not be giving you a topic for the final weeks so you can reflect on whatever you choose. We’ll reflect on class activities in the open discussion forum.  Mid way through this semester I was overwhelmed with family needs (new 2nd baby), schoolwork (new principal and many changes to roles) as well as this course! On top of that I threw in a 14-day Juice Fast to help me clear my system and mind, it worked amazingly well. They were the calmest two weeks mentally, even though they were some of the actual busiest, throughout the whole year. Check it out here if you’re interested. http://lovenudefood.com/
15 & 16 No postings in the reflection journals for the final weeks of class. I will begin grading these on December 2 so if you need to add missing reflections, now is the time smile  Nil

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