Final Blog Post….. (for now)

Hello and welcome to my final blog post for EC&I 834.  This class has been a whirlwind of assignments, information, and relationship building and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Our major assignment for this course was the creation of a curriculum unit that could be taught online or in a blended classroom.  Together with my partner Nicole Brown, we worked to create a version of Macbeth that would be more accessible to learners of all abilities and language skills.  If you are interested in looking over the material yourself, the link can be found here.

Overview of the Creation Process:

I have found this aspect of the course to be the most rewarding because it allowed us to create something that is meaningful AND will allow us to use it in our classrooms.  With the (likely) decrease of PD money in the future, it is hopeful that I can use a Masters class to create projects that will further benefit my students.

Nicole and I used Canvas as our LMS for this particular project.  The first few forays into the site were focused on getting comfortable with the layout and understanding how we could use it to create a cohesive unit.  Once we were more comfortable we created assignments (some new, some we already had) and organized them in such a way so there was a logical flow to the play and the accompanying work.

Next we created a series of modules (short videos) to teach our students about different important aspects of Macbeth.  A further explanation of the modules can be found here.

Response to Feedback:

Upon completion of our course project, we were tasked with evaluating and providing feedback to our classmates’ projects as they did the same with ours.  These were certainly anxious times as we had no idea what other projects looked like and how ours matched up.

Thankfully, the feedback we received was extremely positive.  The reviewers appreciated our varied use of assignments and our creative modules.  One of the most positive pieces of feedback we received was about our modules and how they appreciated our plan to create several shorter modules, which would allow us to keep the attention of our students.

Another important piece of feedback was the positive response to our course rationale.  Unlike most projects that I examined, Nicole and I decided to create a video for our rationale rather than in essay form.  Universally, this choice was appreciated and perhaps more students will choose to do so in the future.

Now the feedback was not all positive, there were a few small issues to point out.  First off, it appears the Youtube version of the play was taken down for copyright violations since we decided to use it.  This is an unfortunate turn of events but it is a reality you have to endure when deciding to use Youtube as a teaching resource.  As well, the reviewers had issues accessing the “Quizzes” section.  At first, we were unclear why this was an issue, but after we discussed it further we realized it was because the reviewers were viewing the course from the outside, rather than being invited and working through it as students.  This is something that we are thankful they found and now we can address it before the course is evaluated for marks.

Finally, here is my summary of learning, in case you were wanting to watch an excellent Slam Poem.  This slam poem was created by myself and Nicole Brown. Enjoy!

This concludes our final blog post.  Hurray we did it! I hope you have enjoyed following me along on my journey and I hope to reconnect with all of you in a future Couros/Hildebrandt class!

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Closing Scene of Macbeth Prototype

Today’s blog post will focus on the process of finishing our course prototype.  Together with my partner Nicole, we worked hard to create a blended unit for teaching Macbeth in an ELA B10 classroom.

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If I were to sum up the process in one word,  I would describe this assignment as rewarding.  My favourite part of this assignment was how well it translated to my own classroom.

Too often in university, work is given that while it may be enlightening, it does not often translate to the classroom.  However, this assignments works perfectly, because upon completion of the course project, I am ready to integrate it into my classrooms.

Another enjoyable part of the process was creating the video modules.  After watching a number of examples, we decided to create five different modules in the form of a Crash Course video.  I found this process to be quite enjoyable and easy to edit with the iMovie program.  In fact, in the future I plan to have my own students create teaching sections using iMovie or MovieMaker.

Finally, I look forward to viewing the course prototypes of my fellow students to see where we are similar and where we differ.  Thankfully we get to do this in the upcoming week to see how my fellow classmates chose to set up their course profiles.

Until next time,

 

 

Classrooms as an Open Book

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Greetings all,

Today’s blog post focuses on the use of discussion forms in the classroom and how “open” our classrooms are for our students.  I feel confident in admitting that the classes that I teach in high school are not as open as they could be.

Therefore my blog will focus on where my classroom is now, and the available options I could take to move my class to where I want it to be.

Before starting EC&I 834, I never truly considered the openness of my class and how easy it was for students to give answers in a traditional classroom setting.  When I taught, I would ask questions for feedback or opinions on the subject matter but I tended to talk to only a select few students all of the time.  One way to improve that is explained very well in the following article, which highlights the need to clarify your expectations for participation and to model meaningful expectations yourself.

One possible solution to improving classroom discussions is through the use of discussion boards.

As we move towards a more technological society, students may feel more comfortable commenting in a written forum, rather than speaking in class.

While there is certainly still a need to develop oral language skills, a discussion board allows students in your class to engage in meaningful debate, rather than remaining silent.

Certainly the subject area we teach has a great deal of influence on the amount of openness and discussion forums that we have in class.  I am lucky in that I teach both English and Math, so I am able to see both ends of the spectrum.

 

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However, despite the perceived lack of discussion in a math class, I need to work on creating an environment where discussion is more prevalent.  As I researched the subject, I came across this article, which gave a number of interesting solutions to adding discussion to math classes.

A final point to mention is the importance of safety in your online forum.  Nicole does a great job of highlighting this effort parent/student permission forums.

Ciao,

Let’s Discuss Discussion Boards

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Welcome back!  Today’s blog prompt wants to discuss what type of interactions will take place in our course project.  My partner, Nicole Brown and I are utilizing Canvas as our Learning Management System and within Canvas we will be focusing on the discussion board.

We are quite happy that Discussion Boards are a feature on Canvas, because, as the following article states, “discussion boards can serve a variety of purposes and can be used to meet a wide range of instructional objectives”.

The article also states that discussion boards can help create a community of learners, a community that is difficult to create if all answers are submitted only to the teacher.

A great feature of the Canvas discussion boards is the option to hide student responses until you have written your own answer.  This should allow for a wider variety of responses and should spur further discussion, instead of students just copying what their friends may have written.

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There is some trepidation that a discussion board can never truly match the type of discussion that can be had in a traditional classroom. Richard Schwier states that “technology facilitates virtual learning communities, but also may inhibit their growth”. As a solution, he offers that we must “employ technology that allows meaningful communication and is easy for participants to use”.

We believe that the Canvas discussion board is very accessible for students and can certainly allow meaningful communication.  Furthermore, to the idea that a true discussion cannot be held in an online form, I believe the opposite.

Traditional classroom discussions are often dominated by a few students who feel most comfortable sharing with the class.  The discussion board allows a voice to those students who may not feel comfortable sharing in class.

I look forward to the opportunity to use this course project with my high school students and to truly get a read on how effective the discussion board is.  In the comments, I would love to hear about what types of interactions you are using for your project and what I can learn from all of my knowledgeable colleagues.

 

 

Look on the (not) Bright Side, the drawbacks of a Blended Classroom

For today’s blog, I decided to take a contrarian point of view.  With good reason, the majority of instruction has focused on the positive aspects of blended learning.  Therefore, I decided to research some articles that focused on the negative aspects and drawbacks of a blended classroom.  However, being that I am an eternal optimist, I will attempt to offer a solution for each negative aspect.  Let’s begin.

My inspiration for this blog format came from one of my favourite childhood cartoons Anamaniacs.  Let’s take a break and remember, Good Idea Bad Idea.

CON #1

The first article I read opened with the most obvious concern, that being the financial cost of establishing an infrastructure necessary for a blended classroom.  Factors such as school location (urban/rural), economic status, and internet connectivity, are all capable of derailing a blended classroom. In the same way you need water to fish, you also need infrastructure to create a blended classroom.  If the schools cannot afford to create this structure, then the idea of a blended classroom is over before it can begin.

SOLUTION #1

While there is no perfect solution to solving this problem, there are some potential workarounds.  The most obvious solution is BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology).  A vast majority of students now own their own tablets, phones, or devices.  If we are capable of creating a blended classroom that is accessible

CON #2

Jennifer Hofmann discusses a number of different challenges and their solutions.  One of the issues she discusses is “resisting the urge to use technology simply because it is available”.  Teachers who are not as well-versed in technology, may simply push technology on their students without a full understanding of how to do it effectively.

SOLUTION #2

The easiest solution to this problem will come with time.  As more teachers become comfortable with technology and how to effectively integrate in the classroom, they will be able to pass this knowledge on to their colleagues.

Now of course, there will always be pushback and trepidation from teachers.  The best bet is to bring those teachers along slowly, allowing them to see the benefits themselves, rather than simply piling it all on their plate at once.

CON #3

The final issue we will discuss is brought forward by Arumina Majumdar, who states that “trying to keep track of learners’ progress can be the most difficult challenge to address”.  Arumina discusses how students may complete an online course, but if they have not developed a deep understanding, then the learning impact is wasted.

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SOLUTION #3

The answer to our third and final problem can be found in the type of assessments we provide for our students.  The students must be given both summative and formative assessments, to ensure that their learning has reached the appropriate level.  Furthermore, because we are discussing a blended class, and not just an online course, teachers must utilize the in-class time to evaluate and discuss the learning objectives with their students.  For me personally, I can examine the assignments a student hands in, but my best method for determining their level of understanding is from reading their faces after the explanation of a question.

Despite all the technology at our disposal, we must integrate it with traditional teaching elements in order to ensure the understanding and knowledge of our students.

In the comments, I would love to hear about other issues you could see arising from blended learning, and how best we could defeat these challenges.

Thanks,

 

 

 

Evolving Math past the Chalkboard

Today’s blog post focuses on Chapter 7 from Tony Bates’ textbook on Pedagogical Differences Between the Media.  My personal take on the topic will focus on how Math was taught to me as a student and how I can evolve my own Math teachings now and in the future.

Back in my Day…

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When I was in high school (so long ago it seems), Math was taught the same way every time.  The teacher stood in front of a chalkboard, or a whiteboard (this counted as innovation in our time).  Here the teacher would do 4-5 examples and then assign further questions from the textbook.  This was a common teaching method and thankfully, it worked well for me.  My learning style matched up very well with this way of teaching and therefore I was successful.

Because I was taught math in this traditional method, I often tend to teach it this way myself.  I have not looked to evolve as much as I should.

As Bates states, this method of paper and textbooks gives a high suitability for independent analysis, however he also notes that it is far less useful for showing processes.  The textbook allows the student who already understands the content to push themselves further with more difficult and engaging questions.  But what about the students who still do not understand the content when the teacher’s lesson is finished?

A Vision for the Future…

I believe the biggest area for growth in my own math teaching is through the use of video.  As Bates states, a strength of videos is the ability to stop and start, allowing students to progress at their own speed.  While there is still definitely a need for traditional instruction, watching videos such as Khan Academy (example shown below), allows the students to hear the explanation from a different voice in perhaps a different method.

As a teacher, I do not care how the students come to acquire the knowledge, instead I just want them to be comfortable with the concepts and able to apply them on their own.

It is my pledge to begin to use more technology in my math classroom, in hopes of providing another medium for the students to acquire the necessary knowledge.

In the comments, I would love to hear from fellow math teachers, how do you integrate technology into your classes?

Thanks,

 

 

Two Modules Enter, One Module Leaves!

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Following this week’s class, I felt much more comfortable in my understanding of what a online module is and how to best create my own.  The only remaining question was to decide which was the best type of module to emulate.  My personal favourite was the Video Blog (Vlog) method.  Vlog’s focus is a combination of video of the broadcaster and pictures/videos to help aid in understanding.

To further my understanding and comfort level with these Video Blogs, I decided to watch two different Vlog’s, focusing on the same content to decide which elements of each I preferred.  As well, I will ultimately decide which Video Blog is the “winner”.  I believe this exercise will help me create the best Video Blog that I can for my own module.

The Contestants:

Contestant number one is Hank Green, who is primarily in charge of the Crash Course videos on YouTube.  He currently has over 5 Million Subscribers and his videos cover a wide variety of subject areas.

Contestant number two is Wisecrack, a Youtube channel with over 1.5 Million Subscribers and videos covering numerous subjects.

The Course Content:

For today’s competition (comparison), I will examine the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Both Crash Course and Wisecrack have created a video explaining the key concepts of the novel.

Video #1: Crash Course

Positives:

  • While Hank does tend to talk very quickly (allowing him to pass along a ton of knowledge in a short amount of time), he includes close captions at the bottom of the screen in case you would rather read instead of listen.
  • The video is more than just a camera shot of Hank’s face, it also includes a number of different visual aids to help guide your understanding
  • An underrated feature is the use of different camera angles.  While it is still just Hank talking to the camera, the different angles allows it to feel fresh.
  • When discussing the plot summary, Hank uses a creative cartoon to play while he is speaking, to allow for visual stimulation instead of just listening.

Negatives:

  • While Hank does attempt to integrate humor into his videos, the jokes tend to fall flat with high school students.
  • This can only be seen as a partial negative, but it does need to be addressed.  The Crash Course videos can get very in-depth, very quickly.  Depending on the grade level you are using the videos for, a lot of the information may go above their heads.

Video #2: Wisecrack

Positives:

  • This particular video is hosted by Sparky Sweets, and the first thing I notice is the relaxed atmosphere and clothing worn by the host.  This allows the students to feel more relaxed when watching.
  • The best aspect of the Wisecrack videos is the humor they contain.  The summaries and explanations are quite funny, which in turn will lead to your students being more engaged.
  • Despite the language and the informal nature of the video, the content presented is still very deep and engrossing.  As well, the constant humor will lead to your students being more active listeners and viewers.

Negatives:

  • The language used (while certainly less informal and intimidating) could also be seen as inappropriate.  Therefore, it is best to think about the maturity level of your class before playing these videos.
  • Similarly to Crash Course, the Wisecrack videos also use animated videos during plot summaries, however these videos are much worse in quality compared to Crash Course.

And the Winner is:

This turned out to be a tougher decision than I imagined.  I had assumed that the Crash Course videos would win decisively, but after watching both of them several times I am having a difficult time making a decision.

In a shocking upset, I declare Wisecrack to be the winner of this contest.  Their emphasis on humor will lead to the students being more engaged and therefore learning more as well.  This is in no way a sleight to Crash Courses, as they certainly produce enlightening videos in a (somewhat) entertaining way.  If you would like to read a more in-depth review of Crash Courses, feel free to check out Kelsie’s Blog.

In the meantime, I would love to hear in the comments which video blogs you prefer to use with your students.

Thanks!