Since beginning my Master’s degree in the fall of 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a few areas of interest and to delve into topics that were terrifying to me. The last three semesters of classes I’ve taken with Dr. Alec Couros have led me down a path that I would never have imagined possible. Instead of fearing technology and its implications on education, I’ve learned to embrace ed tech and use my curious nature as a means to an end. One thing that lead me to where I am right now is a shift in my thinking about “Schooling” and “Learning” … and how we can design learning environments that will help our students learn in the 21st century with an antiquated model of school.
One of the big questions we discussed in EC&I 834 is how we can best design learning environments for students – regardless if the environment is in person, blended, or online. If I’m being completely honest with you, the traditional “school” is not an environment that is good for all of our students. No matter which school or which classroom or which teacher we put under a microscope, there is a good chance that at least some of the students are not learning. WHY? Because of how the environment is designed.
In thinking about and searching for inspiration about how I can help my students best learn in the classroom of today, I stumbled across a graphic that was designed in response to a blog post from George Couros.
The graphic really reminded me of the conversations we’ve had in our class, and the statement “If done the wrong way, school can actually go against what is needed for learning” from Couros’ blog resonated with me. I agree with this so much. There are bigger issues that some of our students are facing today, and they need to have a flexible learning schedule.
Maybe I’ll draw some fire for saying this… but it’s my opinion. Sometimes it feels like we as educators are being asked to push kids through the system as quickly as possible. Didn’t meet the outcomes at grade level? Doesn’t matter! Social promotion indicates the students will fare better with age alike peers. Until the student has missed so many outcomes that it is impossible to do the work … and then what? As a high school teacher, I see the implications of this every single day. Each student learns differently and at a different pace than their peers. That’s totally acceptable and I can roll with that. HOWEVER… we as educators are also being pressured to have all of these students graduate in a set amount of time. So we’re supposed to change the delivery and adapt to the circumstances … but we need to have them all reach the finish line at the same time? Why? Wouldn’t it be better if students could access the type of learning environment they need to be successful at all levels of their education?
I really do think that this is where Online or Blended learning can make a huge difference to students. By utilizing ed tech and designing learning environments in a variety of ways, we have the ability to reach more learners! Prompted by the need to help my students who are struggling to attend school, I dove into the design of an online Pre-AP ELA 20 course. As I continued to work on my course and after getting feedback from my peers in EC&I 834 as well as some of my colleagues IRL, I am confident that I am indeed onto something that could be REALLY GOOD for many students. Why should geography or school size dictate who has access to a particular course? Why is attendance at a brick and mortar school a requirement for learning? Shouldn’t we explore options for students who need accommodations?
I have a dream… or maybe the better word is GOAL. Online AP classes – blended! Sounds like a James Bond-style recipe for success, in my opinion!
It is my hope, based on my experiences in my Masters program so far, that I can continue to design learning environments that will help my students and other students in Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division. There are quite a few schools in our school division, but only a few that have Advanced Placement ELA classes. I would love to be able to have more students accessing these courses so they have the opportunity my face to face students have – to advance their critical thinking skills and learn university level material and strategies, all while completing the SK Ministry of Education ELA curricula. A bonus that they get as a result of their hard work is the opportunity to take the international AP exam in their grade 12 year – success on this exam could allow them to bypass the introductory English courses at whatever post-secondary institution they choose. saving them time and money in their program!
I know there are some barriers to having these courses available to all of our students. Accessibility may be an issue for some. Our school division works hard to ensure that our schools are connected and have appropriate bandwidth to use for learning purposes. Many students live in areas where accessing the internet from home is slow, costly, or isn’t always reliable. Therefore, for some students, most of the learning would likely need to take place during school hours. It might be a logistical nightmare, but maybe there is a way to do a synchronous online component where we all meet up and collaborate!
I’m not naive. I do know that this all will be much more “difficult” to make into a reality than I am implying here. Perhaps the most important aspect of this whole situation is the desire to make it happen. I became a teacher because I care about learning. I remain a teacher because I care about PEOPLE. I guess I have some goal setting and planning to do in order to make my dream into a reality.
Thanks to Alec and my classmates for another great semester of learning! You all inspire me to be a better educator!
After what feels like a bit of a whirlwind, blink-and-you-miss-it, semester of work, I am ready (?) to submit my course prototype for blended Pre-AP ELA 20. I submit this with some trepidation. It is not “finished” – meaning that the course is not completed. I intend to fully develop this course and use it this fall with my Pre-AP ELA 20 class.
Blended learning provides the best of both worlds – online delivery of content as well as the face to face interactions in the traditional classroom. I talked about my decision process in choosing this particular class to design in my blog with my course profile. Essentially, it was a necessity for me to attempt to create something that could be used for a few different purposes. The first – providing a thorough, enriching learning environment for students. Much of what we do in AP ELA is accelerated. The students do most of the reading on their own time so that we can use class time for discussions and group work rather than reading literature. Because of that, it is important that students be given access to background information and relevant activities that will enhance their understanding of the literature they are studying. The second purpose – to help students who may not be able to physically attend class on a regular basis. This is the most important element for me in designing the course because I am doing it with a few particular students in mind. AP ELA is such a rigorous course that missing class is often detrimental to the learning of the students. With a blended course, missing class doesn’t have to mean that the absent student has to be at a deficit!
The course modules I developed so far are the “Welcome to Pre-AP 20” introductory material, the Summer Reading of Daisy Miller, and the novel study for To Kill a Mockingbird.
For the first submission, I built the shell of the course. Then I developed some of the Welcome to AP material, including the “Read me first!” note, the course outline, uploaded the AP Essay rubric, posted the Introductory Survey I have my students complete, and created placemarkers for the other aspects of my course. I also created a screencast video of a Prezi I designed called “Character Relationships in To Kill a Mockingbird” – this can be found under the subheading “After Reading TKAM Chapter 1.”
For the final submission, I expanded the “Summer Reading of Daisy Miller: A Study” section to include information on the dialectical journal (blog) that the students will create as well as the rubric that I will use for the assessment of their posts.
I also put a significant amount of work into developing the To Kill a Mockingbird section of the course. I added: background information to the “Before Reading TKAM” section; “The Scotsboro Affair” reading and connection questions to “After Reading TKAM Chapter 8”; Video and connection questions to “After Reading TKAM Chapter 8″; Symbols and Motifs assignment to After Reading TKAM Chapter 11”; screencast of “Exploring Plot Lines of TKAM” power point to “After Reading TKAM”; Multiple Choice quiz for the novel using classmarker.com to develop quizzes and embedded the quizzes as links in the course prototype.
I am really quite excited to continue developing this course and to use it with my Pre-AP ELA 20 students!
Our reading this week from Tony Bates said that student Interactions in an online environment “need to be well organized by the teacher, and the teacher needs to provide the necessary support to enable the development of ideas and the construction of new knowledge for the students.” For the course I am designing, the method that would best develop this theory would be blogging.
Much as Amy describes in her blog this week, I was skeptical about having my students interact online up until I started taking classes with Alec last winter. Three classes later, and I am confident that I can make it happen safely and effectively with all I’ve learned about online interactions. With careful planning and management of the online environments as discussed in the Bates reading, I as the teacher will be an online presence for the students and will help them hold themselves accountable in their online interactions. Similar to what we do in EC&I 834, I plan to use blogging with my AP students as a way for them to connect with the texts we are studying as well as to respond to others in order to start conversations about the literature.
By developing their blogging skills and using social media, I am hoping to connect my students with other AP students, teachers, and additional people who can help them in their construction of knowledge. I am thinking about doing a “rotation” of blogging, where students can choose or sign up for the topic or chapter or theory or whatever the heck it is we’re discussing or learning. By giving students some choices, it would help to ensure that the conversations are more authentic. Sometimes it would need to be the teacher who decides (teacher-driven) so that all students are doing similar work in order for me to assess according to my division’s expectations, but with the help of my students and co-constructing the assessment guidelines, I could ensure that the students have more freedom within their responses.
In my reading this week, I looked through the Teaching and Learning Online Handbook from the University of Massachusetts. This handbook reinforced what the Bates text said and provided some valuable examples and guidelines for communication, collaboration and assessment. One thing that I am interested in encouraging students to use is the discussion forum section of my course in Canvas.
I think the discussion forum could be useful as an interactive space for students that will allow them to connect with one another for support, questions, and to interact in a more relaxed forum than the blog, which will be for their serious academic writing. I like the idea of having a discussion forum because it is a way for me to monitor the conversations. My AP class currently has a group chat through an online app… but not all students want to be involved and at least two have technical issues with using the app on their brand of phone. I foresee the Discussion forum being a place where students are more in charge of the conversations. The UMass handbook guides teachers to: “[e]ncourage students to discuss among themselves. Do not respond to every comment—interject and guide the discussion.” The UMass handbook also provides a sample rubric that instructors could use to assign a mark to online interactions.
Honestly, with my course being blended, I’m not entirely sure what else I could or should be using. Many of the interactions that I have planned are designed for face to face, with the course I’m developing being more of the supplementary materials and activities. However, that is not to say that it will stay that way as we use the course. I anticipate that the course will evolve just as surely as my face to face classes have evolved throughout the course of my teaching career.
This past week I have had a chance to reflect on the feedback I received from my peers about the course profile, course shell, and first module design. The course shell came together fairly quickly as I found Canvas quite easy to use. It is mostly intuitive. Based on the feedback from my peers I will do some more investigating and see if there are ways to “spruce it up” – I agree that adding more visual appeal would help enhance the content a bit. Being that the course will be blended, I’ve tried to utilize the LMS to deliver content that doesn’t require me to be physically present with the students or as a way to organize the supplementary information that is beneficial to the students’ learning about the literature we are studying. My peers gave some great feedback on how to keep doing this effectively and assured me that I am on the right track.
My course modules that were reviewed were said to be thorough! Phew! It was so hard to know how much was TOO much content and how much would be too little. Knowing that the goal is a blended course, I am confident moving forward with the next phase of this project that as long as I include the information I think they need, I can adapt to fit my students’ needs and can clarify or explain issues or concerns in class.
One small criticism was with the amount of information that is included on the AP Essay Rubric. I agree there seems to be a lot of information on the rubric and would never give a rubric this detailed normally! Our AP students are taught this Rubric in depth and it is used by our entire AP vertical team throughout AP grade 10, 11, and 12 classes. Looking at it from an outside perspective, however, I agree that there might be some tweaking we could do to make it look less intimidating. I will chat with my AP team about this!
A suggestion that I may look into is importing my character relationships video to EdPuzzle so that I can add some questions about the character content. I do have some paper worksheets and other activities that I use to help students keep the characters straight and the video is more of an auditory/visual help to enhance that learning. However, the suggestion has me thinking that I could combine the video and other things I do into one activity. I am going to think more on this!
I am so thankful to have incredible classmates and want to thank Altan, Amy R, and Brad for the relevant and helpful feedback they provided for me about my course profile, shell, and module. I’m excited to continue building this course!
For our post this week, we were asked to read about/explore an aspect of online/blended learning of interest, and then blog about it, being sure to touch on our thoughts/reactions. We could respond to a particularly interesting article, or an exploration of a mode/format/strategy for online/blended learning that we haven’t touched on, or further research into a course topic of interest. The broadness of this was offputting at first – where do I begin? Then, I realized it was a huge relief because I could focus my time on something that would be of value while designing my blended course for my AP students.
Of particular interest to me at this point in the design process is what I could use to incorporate testing into my course. There are certain assessments that I use consistently with my AP students – for example, these kiddos need to practice AP style multiple choice questions. We currently do these as a pen and paper exam, which takes a full class period to administer. Then, we take some more time and correct them together. After compiling the data on which questions they do well on and which they seem to struggle with, I go back and reteach concepts, vocabulary, or whatever else they seem to need. The whole process is time consuming. To be honest, I dread the time it takes to gather the data. Of course there is a better way – use technology to make my job easier. Work smarter, not harder!
When I developed my course profile I decided I would include some online AP multiple choice quizzes/exams that my students could take on their own time (or in class, if we decide to go that route), which could be “marked” automatically. This will provide me with data to guide my teaching and what our next steps should be. It could also provide instant feedback to the students on their exam success (or lack of success), and will allow students to practice their multiple choice strategies. So, as my exploration for this week, I investigated the use of Classmarker as a tool for developing the online tests.
I found out about Classmarker because I’ve taken tests on the site. The sport governing body for which I’m an executive board member (Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association) uses Classmarker as a component of the coaching certification process. Coaches are given an access code and must complete the exam within a specific time frame (30 minutes) and with a certain percentage (80%) to be considered a “pass.” Coaches get three attempts – if they exceed their attempts without a passing grade they must pay for another access code. The prospect of having online testing such as this for classroom use really intrigued me because it has the potential to make my life so much easier! For a quick video describing how Classmarker works, click here! For a more detailed demonstration of how Classmarker can save you time, click here!
Watching a video that tells me how easy something is versus the actual experience of using the tool is always an interesting comparison. So here is my take on using Classmarker…
Signing up is simple and the site usability is very good! The format of the “back office” part of the website where you create quizzes is pretty standard, I’d say. It is fairly easy to navigate, mostly intuitive, and the parts that had me confused were easily explained by clicking on the “help” buttons. The hardest part of the whole process was entering my questions – since my questions were all on paper and not yet digitized (and since I haven’t yet upgraded my account), I couldn’t use the handy importing tool.
The differences between the free account and the upgraded account can be found here. For an “Educational Professional 1” account, the cost is $19.95 usd per month – or if you pay for a whole year you would get two months free ($198 usd for the year). That’s fairly pricey for a single teacher to use, but if our whole ELA department wanted to share an account, for example, that would make it much more affordable! That would allow 400 tests to be taken – probably way more than we would need in a month. The two months free is a bit funny… so the two months I have of “summer vacation” could be considered free? There are also Credit packs that users can purchase to allow them more tests. This would likely be what I would utilize if it were just me and I found I needed the upgraded features. More information on the Education pricing options can be found here. Business options are also available at about double the rate of the Education pricing.
The upgraded version of Classmarker allows for tests to be embedded directly onto a website for an online course. By using Webhooks/API, the instructor does not have to divulge usernames or passwords in order for third parties to collect data. This seems like a really good thing if you think about, say, a huge MOOC with hundreds of students. You can check out the information about how Webhooks/API works here.
In my AP classes, the students sometimes use pre-developed units from Prestwick House. These are great time-savers for teachers, especially those new to AP! There are Practice Multiple Choice tests in the units, designed to help students become more comfortable at answering the MC portions of the AP exam. These are some of the exams I am hoping to input and have students access via Classmarker.
Overall, I am pretty happy with the benefits of using Classmarker, but I also think that the testing options on my chosen LMS (Canvas) could prove useful as well. I’m still exploring this! In my explorations, I found a great collection of online exam software here as well as this list geared specifically to teachers with some paid and some free options. Another article I stumbled across gave a breakdown of great options for WordPress online exam plugins (some paid and some free).
If you are wanting to develop online testing, there are many options to choose from. The key will be to know what features are important to you and then you can find the product (and price!) that will work best.
If you had told me two years ago that I would be happily enrolled in grad classes with technology as their focus, I would have laughed at the absolute hilarity of ME – a technologically challenged 40 something year old – willingly working with technology. But here we are. I truly enjoy delving into what ed tech can offer to my students and to me by extension.
Imagine trying to teach high school students about irony. Now imagine doing so for every class you teach every semester every year of your career. That’s a lot of talking about irony! We know students tune us out sometimes… just like we tuned out our teachers! So maybe there is something we can use to grab their attention and have their learning be a bit more fun.
For the blog assignment this week, I chose to look further into a tool I could use in my classroom. I originally started by searching Khan Academy … but found the topics did not fit what I was looking for. I did find a useful grammar component on Khan but it wasn’t something I could utilize with the course I’m planning for my project (which I talked about in last week’s blog post). Khan Academy is pretty interesting, though, and you should check out Melinda’s blog post about her findings!
TED-Ed is TED’s youth and education initiative. TED-Ed’s mission is to spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world. Everything we do supports learning — from producing a growing library of original animated videos , to providing an international platform for teachers to create their own interactive lessons, to helping curious students around the globe bring TED to their schools and gain presentation literacy skills, to celebrating innovative leadership within TED-Ed’s global network of over 250,000 teachers. TED-Ed has grown from an idea worth spreading into an award-winning education platform that serves millions of teachers and students around the world every week. source
What are TED-Ed Animations?
TED-Ed Animations are our signature content: short, award-winning animated videos about ideas that spark the curiosity of learners everywhere. Every TED-Ed Animation represents a creative collaboration between experts. Such experts may include TED Speakers and TED Fellows, as well as educators, designers, animators, screenwriters, directors, science writers, historians, journalists and editors. These original animated videos, paired with questions and resources, make up what we refer to as TED-Ed Lessons. source
I signed up for a TED-Ed educator account and dove right in to the fabulous world of TED-Ed videos.
One of the videos that caught my attention was Situational Irony: the opposite of what you think. After watching this video I was sold on the idea of using TED-Ed in my classroom (like why have I never done this before?). I’ve used TED talks with my students in the past, mostly as listening activities, but I didn’t realize that I could customize or enhance the content of the videos (indeed, ANY video online) for use in my classroom with my students.
Just to give you an idea of what can be done with TED-Ed and how quickly you can start using it:
Sign up for an Educator account. They will ask you to check your email and verify your account. Easy peasy! TED-Ed even sent me some how-to emails for creating a TED-Ed lesson and how to review your students’ work on your lesson. Whoa. So helpful!
Begin browsing videos. Knowing I wanted to discuss irony with my students in the next week, I searched for videos about irony. There were a few that popped up. Here’s a quick screen capture of this process!
Watch the video…. and then Customize the Lesson! That’s right! There is a red button to push (we know we like to push buttons) that will allow you as a teacher to develop a lesson for your students to use.
Once you have customized the lesson to your liking, Publish your lesson! I liked the questions and material that was already linked to the video so I published it to my account as it was. I’m sure once I begin using the lesson, I will tweak the questions and add some more links to help enhance my students’ learning, but for now I will go with what is done!
After you publish, you are given options of how you’d like to share with your students. You can require them to have an account, or you can email them the lesson, or share through other avenues such as a special link or on social media. For me, the TED-Ed account or email is preferable, but I used the link creator so I could share it with you!
Students can work through the lesson online – watching the video, responding to the set questions, and digging deeper to find out more information about the topic. Their work is saved for me to go in and review/assess. Awesome!
I did all of these steps above within a 30 minute time span, and that included watching the video and looking through all of the content! So the ease of use is definitely one of the biggest strengths of this tool. Another strength of using TED-Ed as a tool is that there are already a variety of videos ready to use. Reinventing a lesson each time is totally at my discretion. I can use the videos as they are, or I can add my own content to the video lesson. This is so valuable to me as an educator who is often strapped for time. Plus, it’s free. Huge bonus. It is incredibly easy to use and there is help available should one need access to it. There is an ever-expanding library of videos that are ready to use which is fantastic! The content is designed for students and teachers so there is some comfort there in knowing that the content is appropriate and relevant to our classrooms – though I will ALWAYS preview everything I show to my classes, it is nice to have content that is supported and made available by a reputable and reliable organization. A strength for my students is that they can replay the video however many times they need in order to learn the material – unlike in the classroom where I say things a few times and then we are moving on.
One of the weaknesses is that if a video for a topic I want to cover doesn’t already exist, I would have to create something myself. I could search for relevant content online or create my own video content. Again, this would take time … but the flip side of that is that creating content is not as difficult as I once thought. Like my classmate Nataly talks about in her blog post, using a screen capture tool like Screencastify can help me create my own content. I think, overall, the value of using this tool far outweighs the weaknesses. Eventually I feel that I could create my own content, using some of the tools and apps that I’ve learned about in the last few years such as Bitmoji, screen capturing tools, and voice recording. TED-Ed can provide me with content for use right now and I can search for other content to adapt using TED-Ed.