Saturday, March 20, 2010

CEDO 525 - Week 3 Tools Review

I am reviewing 3 online tools for my MEIT Course. The three tools help one create and visually organize information. The tools reviewed are:


I chose to put together a map for a new employment opportunity. What are the things one should do when an opportunity presents itself? Using Bubbl, MindMeister and Webspiration I used the same information to see what I could produce.


Bubbl is free and easy to use. It took a minute or two to get the hang of clicking on the bubbles, adding text and spawning connected bubbles. Text formatting was not present, but one can use the icons to change the bubble colors. It would have been nice if the child and sibling bubbles defaulted to the color of the parent bubble. Each bubble can be dragged and dropped around the screen but one has to pay attention to the connecting line.

Bubbl lets you collaborate with other Bubbl users allowing edit access. One can also export the Bubbl map to XML and HTML code, send a link or embed the code on a Web-site. I chose to embed the code here on my blog. Note the controls available in the widget for zooming-in and navigating around the map. I would recommend Bubbl for anyone wanting to get an easy and quick start developing a map and extending it to fellow collaborators.


MindMeister is initially free with all features but after one month you revert to just the free subscription functionality. MindMeister is definitely more robust than Bubbl in that one can format text, add pre-supplied graphics and draw connections between items. I had a lot of fun with this tool as I am more visual than most and I tend to relate tasks/concepts to images. (This should be no surprise to anyone who has seen my prior blogs or presentations!). Visually, MindMeister does lets you create maps with more impact as the child tasks/connections are in a smaller font. At a glance one can tell what are the core topics and subtopics and their relation to one another.

MindMeister provides greater integration into other products with the full version. Calendars can populate with tasks and this does extend MindMeister into a project management/alerting tool. Notes, links, attachments and tasks can be added to the map via the 'Extras' menu. The 'Topic' tool lets one search for topics and inserts them as a link within topic areas of the map. I tried the Wunderlink under the 'Update Resume' topic area and it returned a site with tips on resumes.

MindMeister has plenty of export formats which include MS-Word and PDF.I decided that I wanted to share the MindMeister Map on my blog. First, I had to publish the map and then I could copy and paste the embed code for the blog. The MindMeister widget is more than adequate but I wish it was bit more like the one seen for Bubbl. I do like MindMeister and will continue to work with it to see if paying for the full version is worth the $5 a month.


Webspiration has a Beta version which is currently free for use. After signing-up and logging-in to Webspiration it seems that the features are more evolved over Bubbl and MindMeister. What immediately struck me was the vast selection of templates available for diagrams, outlines and templates. I chose the idea map to be consistent with early creations in Bubbl and MindMeister.

The initial object allowed me to easily add text along with underlying notes for the main idea or topic. There are many more options for formatting, inserting hyperlinks and graphics than MindMeister. Due to the additional functionality I found it took a bit longer to find just the features I wanted. I don't consider this a downside to Webspiration as it by far the most robust of the three products. I was very happy to find that I could copy a bubble and it retained the text and size. In my example I used this to clone or copy the 3 reference bubbles.

The export options from Webspiration were limited in that I could not share embed code and place my work in this blog. Please click on the link to see what I created in Webspiration. The collaborative aspects are rich in that one can create collaboration groups with access to the map/diagram. I feel that I merely scratched the surface with Webspiration and should revisit at a later time. The multitude of templates, ability to substitute boxes with graphics and insert hyperlinks has piqued my interest.

Bubbl is a quick and easy way to knock-out a map, MindMeister builds on that experience but has a greater feature set than Bubbl and Webspiration really shines with advanced features. It will be interesting to see what the production version of Webspiration brings forth upon its release.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cedo 525 - Week Two - Review + 3 Strategies

Feedback That Fits

As a teacher, I often wonder if I am providing good feedback to my students. Am I being too rosy and cheerful to the point of seeming insincere? Are my comments and coaching constructive and well-received by students? I read an article titled 'Feedback That Fits' by Susan M. Brookhart. The article is on the ASCD Web-site and offers insight into ways to provide effective feedback to students.

Brookhart states that good formative feedback leads to the student perceptions of understanding and control over their learning. But what does this really mean? Well, the student has to be able to hear or comprehend the feedback offered and apply it to the process. If a student hears feedback that can be applied to the current process and will garner greater reward it will become an effective and useful motivator.

There is a balancing act between the form of feedback and the content. If the format is not timely or correct for the learning experience it can become detrimental to the student outcomes. Brookhart differentiates that feedback should be more immediate than delayed with certain activities. As a sailing instructor, it is best that I provide feedback during the sailing drills than delay until a later time. Immediate, constructive feedback allows the student to understand how they are doing in the process and apply that feedback to help them become better at sailing. If I delay the feedback to when the process is over then the student does not have the opportunity to apply or try a different method and this can lead to frustration.

Brookhart discusses the mode of feedback. Should feedback be written or oral? Is it productive to deliver feedback in a group or in one-on-one settings? It all depends on what you are teaching and what the students should be learning. One-on-one interactions can make the student feel like an individual who matters – but the feedback, no matter what the mode, should be non-judgmental. The feedback should relate to the goals of the class or process and help the student work towards that end.

Group feedback is useful in that it challenges the students to collaborate and apply it towards the class. At work I often ask employees to discuss material covered and how it relates to issues our customers face in the health care industry. The feedback I offer during this process is often in the form of posing questions during the group discussion. The overall purpose is to shape and promote the individual and group outcomes during the process and employees wind-up providing feedback to each other without there being a judgmental, authoritarian figure.

Not being judgmental ties back in with what the students hear during feedback. Brookhart concludes the article with examples of feedback that does not work and what can work better. Feedback does need to address the process, acknowledge what the student has done well and focus on ways for the student to build upon what they have done already. I found a lot of value in Brookhart's article and it has provided a fulcrum to help me balance the timing and content of feedback for all my students.

Objectives, Feedback and Recognition

The second week of CEDO 525 finds us examining 3 strategies: setting objectives, providing feedback, and providing recognition. Reading are from chapters 1-3 of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works”. Although I have already touched upon feedback, the three strategies intertwine and technologies are present which support them.


The purpose of asking students to discuss the class objectives helps clarify and set the learning direction. Objectives narrow the focus and establish a framework for the learning experience. Objectives should be flexible yet specific enough that they are measurable. Educators can use KWHL charts where they ask students at the beginning of the unit to define what they know, what they want to know, how they will learn and at the end, what they learned. Another tool is the online survey which can help the teacher understand what the students already know and what areas the teacher should emphasize in the course.

Word Processing software and Web-sites can be used by students to generate and update KWHL charts and teachers with class rubrics. Rubrics can be shared with students via e-mail, class WIKIs or collaborative Web spaces. The rubric is a guideline which helps students stay grounded in terms of tasks, activities and measurable outcomes. At work I provide employees with a course syllabus and the assessment criteria in advance and discuss during the first class meeting.

It is incredibly important that students and teachers are in accord about what the objectives and assessment criteria are for the course. Objectives create a common understanding and agreement which establish the ‘contract’ between students and the teacher. Objectives need to be clearly communicated and provide a basis for evaluation which establishes a contract or agreement between the teacher and students.


Feedback, as previously discussed, is another strategy which promotes student learning. Feedback should be non-judgmental and technologies, in general, can permit students to focus on the content. It should not be overlooked that students should have the ability to provide feedback to teachers and peers. Word processing applications such as MS-Words or Adobe Buzzwords allow tracking of version changes and comments. Documents can be shared amongst groups and individuals for generating individual and peer feedback.

Data collection tools permit immediate feedback from students. In an online virtual classroom a teacher may share Q&A sets and note individual as well as group responses to gauge student learning. Some data collection programs can chart the results which the teacher may share with the class. Automated grading software is beginning to become more viable as a quicker way to provide grade results to students. The lag time for teachers grading assignments and getting them back to students can create gaps of uncertainty for the student as they forward within the unit/course.

Web resources which host games are increasingly seen with value for learning and feedback. The image of games as being recreational or just a plain waste of time is getting an extreme makeover in teaching. Games challenge students, provide immediate feedback. When used by groups of students, games can be a source of competition and encourage greater learning.

Communications software consisting of Blogs, Wikis, e-mail, Instant Messaging and Video Conferencing can all be utilized by students for peer-to-peer review or with the instructor. Blogs and Wikis are asynchronous, generally seeded with topics by the instructor and require student reflection for posts. Instant Messaging and Video Conferencing afford synchronous, real-time interaction for feedback. All of these technologies promote prompt, feedback and the opportunity to suggest actions for students to improve their practice.

Providing Recognition

Providing Recognition is a way to positively acknowledge students’ accomplishments towards attainment of a goal. Recognition can be in the form of praise or tangible rewards but the overall strategy is to help the students feel positive and motivated towards greater accomplishment. It is important that the recognition is related to specific criterion for it to be sincere and authentic.

Technologies can be used for recognition beyond the ‘Great Job!’ or a plus symbol across the top of a quiz or essay. Recognition can be extended through peer group accolades via data collection technology as well. Picture students using rubrics reviewing other students work and the results shared with the class. And, the student being evaluated by peers may remain anonymous until the results are posted with the class.

Multimedia is an easy and practical way to provide recognition in the form of certificates of achievement. Most word processors and many online sites permit one to create individualized certificates for students. Web showcases can extend the paper version of a certificate by sharing it on the school Web-site or via electronic copies sent home to parents. One does save on the printing of the certificates but the recognition can reach a larger audience within the student community and home.

Communications software such as e-mail and Video Conferencing allow for a more personalized and social recognition experience. Audio files can be recorded by teachers or students, attached to e-mails and played over and over by the recipient and even shared with family members. Video conferencing connects two or more endpoints together promoting real-time sharing and recognition amongst students and teachers. Face to face meetings with video promote personalized, genuine recognition from peers or teachers in a real-time social setting.

All three of these strategies make sense whether or not one has access to some of the technologies mentioned above. One can employ them in a traditional, face-to-face classroom or extend with various technologies. Just by being aware that these technology tools exist and can support accepted strategies, adds to the bag of tricks teachers can draw upon with students.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

CEDO 525 - Week One - Learning/Teaching Principles

CEDO 525 Enhancing Learning Materials through Technology, has us examining strategies for effective learning. Although the MEIT program has a technology focus, one needs to have a basic understanding of the various strategies for learning outcomes. The course will have weekly readings and discussion from "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works". The nine strategies our course will examine in the coming weeks are:

  1. Identifying similarities and differences
  2. Summarizing and note taking
  3. Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
  4. Homework and practice
  5. Nonlinguistic representation
  6. Cooperative learning
  7. Setting objectives and providing feedback
  8. Generating and testing hypotheses
  9. Cues, questions, and advance organizers
Pitler, Howard, Hubbell, Elizabeth, Kuhn, Matt, & Libraries, Association. (2007). Using Technology with classroom instruction that works. USA: ASCD.

An assignment for this week is to read the Principles of Teaching & Learning presented by the Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence. The Eberly center emphasizes a learner-centered approach to teaching presented in the Learning Principles
and Teaching Principles on the Web-site. To say that the main take away from this site is 'Know your audience' may sound like an oversimplification, but it really is the essence!

As a student, I often struggled with courses and assignments that were rigid and left me wondering, 'Am I doing what I should be doing?’ I always found areas within the course that piqued my interest and were relevant to me. Alas, sometimes I found that there was a divergence from what was expected of me and what I learned. In hindsight, I should have asked for greater clarification from my teachers.

The Eberly site brings all of this together by stating the relevant principles of teaching and learning. Teachers want to teach, but they can't make a student learn. It is up to the student to reflect and apply what they are learning. The teacher can take on many roles as a facilitator, moderator, etc. But all of this is meaningless unless the teacher understands the knowledge, experience and motivation for their students. If the teacher does come to understand these and other student learning factors, they still need to do something. Course activities and tasks need be custom tailored to mesh with the student.

Teachers need to be less rigid in course design and accommodate students with different motivation, abilities and ways that they learn. The Eberly site proposes that teachers should clearly state what will be required of the students and what they will learn. The clear stating of objectives helps demystify and establish a contract between students and teachers by which all can judge how they are doing. The assessment of the students needs to include an assessment or evaluation of the teacher and course design.

As a teacher I informally ask students about their backgrounds and motivation. Granted, I wear two hats; one as a corporate trainer and the other as a sailing instructor. Corporate training tends to be, well, just that, training. Employees are well-motivated to learn as it directly impacts their immediate career. Sailing students at the University Wisconsin come from all walks of life and have different expectations about how they will use their new sailing skills and knowledge. I need to start getting feedback from both of my teaching areas to help assess and tailor learning objectives that meet the needs of my students - not just what I think they need to know. In the end, my teaching will be more effective if I can first better understand my audience and then apply that knowledge to course.