Elise Braden of Carleton College has put together a nice compendium of mobile, online, and desktop apps for enhancing any instructor’s teaching repertoire. She calls it @apps for Instructors and it boasts over 250 listings “and counting.”
This week’s topic is blended content and assignments, another good reading. I liked the emphasis on integrating the online and face-to-face components of the course to make one, seamless experience for the students. There was a helpful discussion of learning activities with and without technology. I’d say the many apps and sites and services under the heading of Technique (How) only scratched the surface of what’s out there. In fact, Fargo.io, an outliner site/service, was mentioned on NPR on Monday.
In other, synchronicitous news, there was an article in Science Magazine reporting that lectures aren’t just boring–they’re ineffective. Active learning trumps passive learning any day. The more the brain is engaged in the process the better it learns.
And it was good timing that I also attended a Blackboard webinar on badges today. Lots of ways to make learning more engaging and active and rewarding! I’ve actually earned 12 badges so far in this MOOC, and one of them is displayed above. Badges may now be awarded in Blackboard too, and our OWU Blackboard is currently getting an upgrade to Service Pack 14 (all the way from SP 6!) Come fall, I’ll be doing a lot more to promote the use of Blackboard features to make courses more blended and more engaging.
This week’s topic is blended assessments of learning. I was able to read it early, for a change, as I’m working the primary election polls today.
I appreciate the emphasis on transfer: “The most crucial step needed in each unit of instruction is the preparation for students’ transfer of learning to new contexts.” This was a Teaching Circle topic earlier this semester and we read a wonderful tale of a teacher’s struggles with her cadaver dog and her class, with lots of examples of transfer. This is often when the satisfying “Aha!” moments happen.
While traditional multiple choice exams are probably most common, there are many other options, formal and informal. Here’s advice any instructional technologist likes to hear: “Any tool that can be afforded the student should be considered to improve learning.” At the same time, one must exercise caution. Students must have full support, and the Reader provides lots of guidance.
It’s interesting that commercial tools for remote proctoring are now available. I’d be curios to see some of them, but I can’t imagine a case for their use at a small, residential college like OWU.
When creating assessments, it’s important to account for all levels of learning, such as described I’m Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Reader claims that “Authentic assessment–assessing student abilities to apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes to real world problems–is not only possible in an online environment; it is getting more popular.” I agree. Many LMS offer statistics on student engagement, how much time they spend in the online environment and specifically where.
There is ample evidence that students who use self-testing do better on graded exams and other assignments. The more they engage with the course and course materials the better they will grasp it and transfer it. You can even allow students to generate their own questions and use some of them on an actual exam.
There was a nice discussion in one of the course forums on spontaneity in blended learning. Participants shared their challenges with allowing for or creating spontaneous interactions online. Stephanie Payzant suggested discussion forums as a place where this can happen asynchronously, as long as our processes and procedures are flexible. Someone else suggested projects where students must share information. Instructor modeling is key. And then another participant asked if “introducing spontaneity” wasn’t an oxymoron.
Blended interactions were the topic, and a lot of the reading and online discussion centered on the role of the educator in a networked world. When learning is decentralized, no longer one size fits all, and students are working within their own personal learning environment (PLE–an environment where people, tools, communities, and resources interact loosely, enabling an individual to learn in a world of fragmented and distributed information, rather than well organized and coherent,) what is the role of the teacher? The reading described four new roles for the educator:
The catchy designation, “Guide on the side” comes to mind (as opposed to “sage on the stage”.) This is helpful for faculty to re-envision their role in the classroom and a course. Once we can imagine it, we can start taking steps toward making it a reality. Having multiple models also makes coming out of a comfort zone more palatable. I’d say for truly effective, dynamic learner-centered pedagogy the teacher must be something of all four. I’m familiar with that role-juggling or hat-switching in my job as the Educational Technologist on campus: I do technical training in workshop settings where I’m somewhat of a sage but also a driver, ensuring that everyone is following along and no one is being left behind. I do one-on-one sessions where I’m more of a coach or personal trainer. I consult in various ways where I’m concierge, offering options faculty weren’t aware of. I publish a lot of content online, here on my blog, on the Self Help Site, or in the new EdTech LibGuide; in this manner I’m more of a curator. When I visit faculty in Teaching Circle or other, similar settings, again I’m more of a concierge, offering what they need when they need it. And I’m literally a system administrator for our LMS, WordPress server, and more.
And then there was a nice exploration of student involvement with several tips to promote it. I like the advice that is the section heading: Construct assignments that encourage expression. …kind of like this one for #Blendkit2014
I actually got into the Week 2 Webinar–last week’s had maxed out before I got there! Here is what I look like while I’m attending:
A comment in the webinar on Monday: “At its heart, Blended learning is about diversity: diversity in learning styles, diversity in time, etc.” I like that, and feel that more instructors need to honor diversity in their teaching.
Our topic for this second week is blended interactions. How do/will we interact with our students in face-to-face versus online encounters? Discussions can take place in both modalities, online may be asynchronous in discussion forums or synchronous in chat rooms. F2F should reinforce/compliment online interactions and vice-versa.
Another comment in the webinar, in response to faculty balking at blended learning, calling it a fad: “They have to experience it to be convinced.” I sure hope not. The fact is that blended learning has been around for over 10 years and has been well documented. And as the saying goes, experience is the best teacher but only a fool learns from no other.
Avoiding ‘a course and a half’ or adding additional work for the students when incorporating online interactions was discussed. The importance of keeping it simple was stressed.
One piece of feedback on the technology used for the course, and this is feedback specifically on Adobe Connect: the interface is cluttered and clunky, especially compared to the much simpler interface of tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts or BlueJeans.
Lastly–for now–the importance of balance has been a recurring theme, balance between f2f & online, as well as balance between structure and flexibility. I think it’s great that blended learning mirrors life. In life, in general, you have to find balance in lots of different ways. Blended learning is not overly analytical, not too emergent, not too this or too much that. And that brings us back to diversity. 🙂
So the first week’s reading in the BlendKit course is on Understanding Blended Learning. It starts with defining the term, which is simply a mix (blend) of online learning and face-to-face learning. How much of one versus the other may vary from course to course and depends on various factors, including the level of the students/course, the subject matter, and the geographical spread of the students. While exclusively online learning offers modest benefits over exclusively face-to-face learning, Blended learning has proven advantages over both. The two approaches complement each other well when done well.
How to do blended learning well is a good deal of the reading. The planning process must begin with learning goals. I’ve always said that education must lead technology, not the other way around. It may be useful to consider ways to present and engage with a topic on a continuum from online at one end to face-to-face on the other. One should also consider synchronous–whether online or in-person–and asynchronous activities.
There were two approaches outlined, one illustrating blended learning as a controlled process and the other as an emergent process. While the former included a helpful list of key ingredients, the latter was described as “making patterns from clouds.” I think, even if you use the first option, you’ll still need to be an agile teacher when the rubber meets the road. Both offered structure, very helpful when teaching in multiple venues/media.
Then there were two case studies, one featuring a nice grid of different considerations for each type of learning:
All of this was helpful in understanding blended learning in greater detail. The course is geared toward people planning or preparing to actually offer blended learning courses. I hope I get to share this knowledge I’m gaining with the faculty here. Perhaps a Teaching Circle or faculty lunch seminar presentation. It would also be nice to actually consult and advise on blended course design.
An interesting development. From the introductory video, “The Case for Blended Learning“:
“…this course, which is essentially a Blended Learning 101 with an important caveat: we’re interested in high quality blended learning. We’re not interested in just layering technology on top of existing systems or pushing computers into the classroom. We’re interested in folks who are redesigning the structures and core concepts of how school works to make education more engaging for students, a more effective process, and increasing students’ ownership of the learning process.”
~ Michael Horn, Exec. Dir. Clayton Christensen Institute and Brian Greenberg, CEO Silicon Schools Fund, facilitators of the course
While their focus appears to be on K-12, the fact that they’re focusing on high quality pedagogy is relevant for higher ed. As primary schools improve their teaching and learning through blended learning, students will come to expect it more and more from their higher education institutions, and those that offer blended learning and do it well will differentiate themselves from other institutions that still look like remnants from the 19th century.
Did I mention that I like the emphasis on high quality blended learning?
One other note: there’s more and more information, research, and resources being released on blended learning every day. I’m glad I’m taking the timely BlendKit 2014 course with a cohort of my ISIS colleagues.