Friday, November 26, 2010

CEDO 550 Week 5

This week in As the CEDO 550 Turns has been a busy one.  The course is one semester's worth of work packed into 6 weeks.  Now I understand what is truly meant by an accelerated Master's Program.   I have been examining online tools and spent some time looking at a poplar LMS called Moodle.  Moodle is short for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment and it is designed to support a social constructivist framework for education.  Moodle appears to be appropriate for most online learning strategies but it lacks a synchronous classroom component.  Not a problem, I could always link-in Elluminate or another platform to fill the need. 

My experience with online communities includes the launch of Lithium at Pharmacy OneSource, wikis, and social media sites like Facebook and Linked-In.  All online communities require active participation if members are to find it interesting or valuable.  In our MEIT program we use discussion boards to post topics and review ensuing posts from cohorts.   My personal learning is enriched with the immediate feedback and the diversity of opinion that results from these asynchronous posts.  Linked-in allows me to network with professional groups, read about new jobs and participate in discussions.  The latter provide insights into what is currently happening in the job market and focuses my efforts in my career field. 

I believe the biggest benefit of collaborative groups is that it creates an opportunity where the depth and breadth of individual experience is brought to bear on a common problem.    In the MEIT program I often meet with cohorts on a collaborative project.   In our team  we define the project scope and move forward eliciting comments and discussion from everyone.  I never cease to be amazed at the different views and insights individuals share or add to a discussion.   Sure, I have 'my take' on things - but is that the right one?  I feel reassured that my group finds a consensus and we are able to explore the project and together create a viable product we can all feel good about. 

I believe the greatest challenge for collaborative groups in business is that it requires a corporate culture that supports group vs. individual competition.   Teams take on greater responsibility and authority for solving problems while creating improved products and services.   Traditional management roles have to change so that managers and supervisors become team facilitators.   I recently worked within the Agile model of software development and it was a breath of fresh air.  The multidisciplinary teams consisting of software developers, quality assurance and technical liaisons helped the company roll-out better product in a shorter amount of time than traditional approaches.  But, it took a brand new Chief Technology Officer driving the culture shift from the top-down to foster the collaborative vs. cooperative environment. 

My thoughts regarding the social development and socialization issues are unsettled at this time.   Online schools rely on student-centric curriculum involving heavy interaction between teachers, peers and parents.  Online schools further learning outcomes and foster 21st century skills through planned collaborative activities.  Social interactions are planned and are the basis for much student learning.  In the online world, students can open-up to their peers without regard to race, creed, color or economic status.  However, the study we looked at showed the importance of extracurricular activities on online students.   

Online learning does refine remote social skills but it still takes physical interactions to create a well-rounded, socially adept and effective individual.   Do 2 or more kids meet on a playground or basketball court and text each other and reflect on the comments?  Well, it may look that way these days but it is important that social skills furthered in the online environment support face-to-face interactions that people will have with future employers and colleagues.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CEDO 550 - Week Four

Week 4 of CEDO 550 kicked-off this past Monday with my leading a 15 minute synchronous Web discussion using my synchronous discussion plan.  I felt good about the execution but I wish that I had had better control and fluency with Elluminate.   I had several takeaways from this session and I would suggest the following to anyone planning a synchronous session:

1) Practice delivery in advance. 
2) Master use of the intended tools to be utilized
3) And just like  with Radio broadcasts, smile while talking and avoid using those 'ers',' ums' and 'ahs'.  

In reflecting on my teaching experiences to date, I would say that the proportion of teacher centered lessons dominate my student-centered lessons.   That being said, I've always pushed for student-centered activities where they practice with software or discuss issues in small groups.  In the latter, I have acted as the facilitator seeding questions and transitioned from the central authority to being a co-learner.  This past week I took an existing teacher-centered course and created a student-centered course which can be taught online.  In the student-centered course the participants are active in their learning and meet with others to deepen meaning and understanding.

I was able to identify more than one authentic assessment to measure mastery of a single concept lesson when I established the standards for my lesson.   One needs to ask, "What should students know and be able to do?"  I came-up with 3 standards for my Advanced Tech sailing course and found that I could have 3 separate assessments for each.
 The rubric I created for my lesson clearly defined expectations and scoring for the lesson so that my students could best understand their level of proficiency in 3 main concept areas of heavy-weather sailing.  Sailing in heavy or high winds is an extreme activity and sailors need to act immediately and with actions that are appropriate.  Any single slip-up or misunderstanding will have dire consequences for the safety of the boats and crew.  Students share the task work, reflect and state in their own words what they need to do before leaving land and while on the water.

While working on this module I had success/difficulty while doing something new involving the assessment of student participation in the collaborative tasks.   As a teacher, how do I know if one student has done all of the group work or others have contributed as best they can?  In the rubric I state that students will collaborate and take turns using TypeWithMe to describe their responses.  TypeWithMe is a document sharing tool where multiple people can type together at once.  The application software is free but it color highlights individual user contribution and identifies users in a color key.  Using this feature of TypeWithMe, I will ask students to complete collaborative responses, e-mail the link to me and after I review responses, I can gauge level of student participation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

CEDO 550 - Week Three

If you think online teaching is easier than face-to-face, then you got another thing coming!  This week I planned an asynchronous and synchronous discussions using a topic of my choice.  I get to put both into practice with a threaded discussion and leading a live session on Monday.  I have been putting a lot of effort and preparation time in for both.  Between now and then my course instructor asked me to reflect on a few topics.

#1 What is the greatest challenge that I have encountered as an online teacher/facilitator and how did I manage it? 


Back in 1996 I began teaching DataBeam's customers how to use synchronous Internet collaboration tools such as Farsite, neT.120 Conference and Learning Servers.  Customers were early adopters yet they still felt compelled to have me travel to their facilities to conduct face-to-face training.  Hey, it was nice of them to foot the bill and I traveled the world on their dime, but how could I help them become true believers in the online experience?  Well, I had to recreate their traditional experience and facilitate a transition to the online world.

I would setup my equipment in the customer's state of the art training facility.  Overhead projector, sound system, personal computers on every desk connected to the 'net.  I would ask the class 'Can everyone see on their PC screen see what I have on the overhead?'  Wait for heads to nod in agreement and then turn-off the PA to the room.  'Can everyone hear me through your PC?'.  Wait for heads to bob up and down again.  I would then smile, turn-off the overhead projector and say 'I guess we really don't need this then, do we?'   Oh, how the jaws did drop towards the keyboards! 

Towards the end of the training session people would come-up to me and say, 'You really could have done this training remotely, couldn't you?   I would sheepishly reply, 'Yes, but I did get to fly here from Wisconsin in the middle of winter and meet all of you in person'.  Truth be told, I really do enjoy traveling to new places and meeting new people.  However, as DataBeam's Software Evangelist/Trainer I needed my customers to have a transformational experience.  Sure, I used a little PT Barnum showmanship but I got them to a place where they realized  it was no longer necessary to teach within the confines of a centralized physical building.

#2 What are some things that I feel are important to consider about synchronous and asynchronous facilitation as I prepare to facilitate my threaded (async) and web conference discussions?

Without a doubt I want to help foster discussions which facilitate higher thinking processes.  I must withdraw from being a 'sage on the stage' and facilitate dialogue while planning group interactions.  This entails asking probing questions from the sidelines while using an appropriate neutral voice.  I want to help shape and steer the experience without taking the helm from the participants.   It is easy to intellectualize a plan but it is another to put it into practice with my words and actions.   I have been role-playing situations that may arise so that I am prepared in my role as a facilitator.

#3 Why did I choose 'The future of virtual schools in Wisconsin' as my topic?

Change is all around us.  Myself and program cohorts are enrolled in the Cardinal Stritch University MEIT program because we are responding to the economic and technological transformation in education.  I selected a Wisconsin Capital Times article titled 'Virtual Schools growing throughout state'  for the threaded discussion and a quote from it for the Web conference.  Specifically, not only are virtual schools viable but they are pulling local school district funding with the students they attract.   The topic is timely, relevant and authentic for my program cohorts.  Via threaded discussion and Web conference I am hitting home the fact that the future has arrived and cohorts need to assess their roles as edu-technology leader in their local school districts.

#4 One thing I thought about when developing rubrics for the threaded discussion and Web Conference

The asynchronous rubric seemed straightforward but the synchronous proved trickier.  The asynchronous rubric was summative while the latter examined group interplay and social skills.  I found it harder to find the appropriate quantifiable terminology for the synchronous rubric as I tried to avoid subjective assessment. Upon further review, I need to spend more time examining rubrics for synchronous activities.

Thank you for reading my weekly blog post.  I'm sure I'll have lots of Eureka moments as I see how my asynchronous and synchronous discussions pan-out in the real world this coming week.

Friday, November 5, 2010

CEDO 550 - Week Two

The second week of CEDO 550 has us exploring the use of synchronous and asynchronous tools for use in online learning.  Synchronous activities are those that are happening real-time with little to no delay or time lag.  Elluminate and Skype are both fine examples of synchronous tools which could help me in my online teaching.  As a corporate trainer I was often called upon to lead Webinars for our employees and customers.  I could use Elluminate for the virtual meeting place and its built-in audio and video bridge would permit a large number of users to be in constant communication.  Elluminate has a superb shared whiteboard, chat and support for break-out sessions.  On that last point, I could make the Webinar more meaningful by placing participants in break-out groups so that they might benefit from peer-to-peer discussion.

Although I would use Elluminate for Webinars and a virtual classroom, Skype is yet another synchronous tool which can fill a niche.  I can see using Skype for one-on-one check-ins with students.  In an online world I want to ensure that students are doing well and a good way to do this is by having office hours.  Skype acts as the virtual office where I meet and discuss progress and offer encouragement to students.  Skype is free so any student with a decent computer can reach me.

Asynchronous tools are ubiquitous these days.  The MS-Office Suite, Adobe and Google Docs permit multiple users to collaborate on a document or presentation.  Google Spreadsheet is free and students could collaborate on science projects requiring data collection.  How about Blogger?  I am using Blogger right now for my weekly post.  Just like in my MEIT program I could ask students to blog on certain topics and require that they respond to 2 other students.  

Some examples of tools and activities I could use for students are:

1) Wiki.   Almost all companies have an internal wiki or some variation. Students in corporate training courses can post reflections prompted by the instructor. 
2) MS-Word.  Students or colleagues could collaborate on questions posed to them as a group using document sharing tools found within MS-Word. I can also use MS-Word for homework assignments and ask student to return completed work in this format.
3) Prezi.  A new tool we used in the MEIT Digital Storytelling course, students could use Prezi to storyboard their approach to a presentation or problem. 
4) Google Docs.  Students can use Google Presentations much like they might use MS-PowerPoint.  The big difference is that Google's offering is free and has different sharing rights for greater collaborative opportunities.

A big part of online learning is setting the right tone from the onset.  The initial contact via e-mail or phone should be clear, concise and positive.  This past week I drew upon my experience teaching an online course for a pharmacy software program.  The main audience had been internal employees and I used a blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities for the course.  I crafted an initial contact e-mail that I might have used with students.  So what's the big deal?  Can't one just be like Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet with just  the facts?

Online learning has technical hurdles that need to be cleared but one needs to explain what the course is about, expectations and do so in a warm and inviting manner.  You don't want to be so sugary as to seem insincere.  It is best to demonstrate genuine concern for students and present a positive atmosphere.  This will diminish apprehension and open-up avenues of communication early on.