So, I can’t say for sure how good a teacher I am (only my students know, I guess), but I am (have been in the past?) a very good student. I’ve always been a very attentive and diligent student. With that being said, I am having trouble paying attention and staying interested when having to watch the webinars. And if I, who am very invested to pay attention, am having trouble keeping interest and not being distracted, then I imagine this is a problem for the general student populace.

My problems with staying on task during webinars or video lectures or voice overs in presentations:
1) The tone. They speak clearly, they enunciate, they have good pace…and yet it all feels kind of droning and monotonous. It is too slow for me most of the time. I know they are trying to speak to let it “sink in” but it sure doesn’t sound like how “people talk” and there is something alien about the voice most people use in webinars.
2) Lack of physical interaction. I rely on the teacher moving, pointing at me, walking near me, holding up a paper, shaking their fist to emphasize a point, running to the board to write a good response down, etc. MOVEMENT seems to help a lot of me. It is a constant reminder to pay attention and in webinars (and the like) it is usually a close up of a face with someone sitting and there is very little movement.
3) My computer. In class, it is just me and a notepad and my book. I never take a laptop. If I ever did, I assume I would just type notes in it because of upcoming point #4. However, for these webinars, I have to watch them on my tempting, tempting computer. Oh, while someone is talking about a part that is on a totally different subject matter for me it is so tempting to toggle over to check my email. And now I am distracted.
4) Can’t get “busted.” In class, I don’t want to be disrespectful or get busted. Thus, I pay rapt attention and participate. The pressure is on because eyes are on…me! Alone in my office it is too easy to start grading a paper while “watching” a webinar.

So, I’ve pinpointed what is distracting (or not engaging) me, but, with the exception of #1 and maybe #2 I am not sure how to solve this for students….

Yes, sure you will eventually “get busted” because your grade is bad because you didn’t pay attention or because you kept checking out other things on the computer, but that requires forethought and long term planning, which–if every student had–are jobs would be so easy they would be rendered nearly obsolete…..

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Everyone knows this and it is proven time and time again, but a “thank you” reminder is always nice.  I have been pilfering from all the rubric examples people have posted links to–recently and earlier in the MOOC–and now have a good base to choose from.  The best thing besides having an awesome rubric for online discussion is that, by reading them, I understand the expectations for online discussion posts.  They have definitely been informative to me and I can see the scaffolding of what separates a good comment from a great one much more clearly.

The Northern Arizona University site was a particular favorite of mine as well because it provided “classroom management” tools as well, like expectations for “attendance” and participation and “nettiquette.”

http://www2.nau.edu/d-elearn/support/tutorials/discrubrics/discrubric.php

The four methods of Questioning strategies were a helpful read.  I have already, like most teachers, utilized all four (to some extent) in my classroom, but it is nice to see them so clearly defined with key words and examples.  The “Socratic” method was the only one where I knew the actual name to the strategy and I rely on that one a lot–often with quite leading questions when necessary.  In the physical classroom, it is easy to start the “leading question” and then kind of leave it hanging while my facial expression clearly indicates that I expect someone to follow up.   In the online world, I suppose that is what ellipses are for.

Right now the only “online” component to my courses are my announcements on Laulima and my databank of all the materials in Resources.  But next semester I want to take everything I have learned about online discussions and move some of the readings and discussion onto the Laulima discussion board.

 

 

 

At first glance, when I read the blurb on the three types of learner interactions I thought, “Yes, that’s the same as in F2F!” I may be very new to online, but I am not new to teaching. The elusive target of having a beneficial, productive, and engaging learner-learner interaction is the goal of every teacher because it is the epitome of “teacher smarter, not harder.” To allow the students to take the lead saves us time, bring in new, fresh ideas and perspectives, and keeps it on a level of interest pertinent to the students. That said, as most know I think, it is very difficult to accomplish. Getting students to participate, equally (or close enough), and getting them to produce insightful ideas can be a battle. I love, as any teacher would, when the classroom is rife with electricity and we are on a roll and they are grasping the concept and throwing out real world examples or analogies and then someone brings up a point I never thought of. Some classes this happens often. Others it is a battle to the last day. So, when I read about goals for learner interactions with online classes, I figure the obstacles would be the same.

Here is the breakdown of the types of learner interactions from the MOOC website:
The first, is learner-teacher interaction. Social media, and other forms of digital communication, have opened new ways for the learner and teacher to connect through meaningful online interactions. The teacher (or subject-matter expert) stimulates learners interest/motivation, presents, demonstrates, guides learners’ application of what is being learned, evaluates learners’ progress, and supports/encourages the learners.
The second type of interaction is learner-content. Learner-content interaction is when the learner interacts with the contents of the course. The online learner is isolated and by him/herself and learning is mainly self-directed.
The third type of interaction is learner-learner. Learner-learner interaction is between the learner and other learners with or without the instructor present. This type of interaction encourages open thinking, deep critical engagement with the topic and with each other, debate, analyzation, collaborative learning, and much more.

THEN, I read on and considered the benefits of an online discussion. I figured it would lack that energy–that “in the moment” buzz of when a discussion is flying in the classroom. And it might. I don’t know; I am not teaching online yet. But the benefits to an online discussion do seem plentiful. To be able to let EVERY student have time to think of something to contribute is a HUGE plus. Obviously in the F2F class, shy students have trouble speaking up and are often “steamrolled” over by overzealous or simply confident ones. It is nice to know that every one has to participate, they can do so at their own (within reason) pace, and I have a definite record of it. This record is also a huge boon. To be able to go back and “keep” the really insightful ideas that came up or to allow students time to produce links that showcase what they are getting it is simply awesome. Now, following all those links sounds like it will take up a lot of time–way more than confining a discussion to class, so I need to think about how to balance encouraging sensemaking artifacts and bringing in ideas, exploration, and links of their own with the practical binds of time.

The level of engagement, or opportunity for it, does seem so much better though I do worry a bit about “misleading” comments. What I mean is–students get to comment, respond, and review straight to one another–great. EXCEPT, it reminds me of when we peer-edit papers in class. I usually collect the peer-edited papers and then write my comments and edits straight on that same copy. This allows me to 1) see how well the peer-editor did and 2) correct any mistakes they “corrected.” Many times students will suggest something or correct something and it is either (technically) wrong according to the rules of grammar or kind of misleading and just adding more confusion to a student who is trying to focus their paper. I have even (only twice) had to correct Brainfuse because they edited something wrong and the student blindly followed it (hard to blame them) and then they got those grammar mistakes marked off on their paper…and they even had it correct in THE FIRST PLACE and changed it due to Brainfuse’s suggestion before turning their final in. Now Brainfuse is just one entity and a professional one. But say you receive 10 comments/critiques/corrections from your peers. Sometimes, too many comments–too many ideas–can be overwhelming. If students are really responding and commenting and helping with ideas and suggestions, then the student receiving those will really need to know which ones are actually helpful and which to disregard. Is that a real-life skill? Yes! Does that mean it is easy to do? No. I was trying to buy baby bottles recently and there are five gajillion choices, each with their own little tweaks, and with all these choices I have no idea which way to go. I just want three to choose from. Three to really look at and figure out. But how do I get to those 3 out of 5 gajillion?

I hope this is making some sense.

Anyway, here are MOOC’s reasons why online discussion boards rock. I am mostly posting it for my own record so that I can just check my own blog when the MOOC is done for things I liked 🙂
extending the time allotted for discussions beyond regular class time to allow for in-depth reflection on comments
requiring students to move beyond listening to a lecture, stating their thoughts, engaging in well-articulated argumentation and critical reasoning
allowing each student to participate and join-in the conversation, rather than one or two outgoing communicators in the classroom
providing an outlet for students to pose their questions and receive feedback from not only the instructor, but also other discussion board participants
allowing students to reference and bring external sources of information into the conversation (e.g., “according to this web site…”)
storing a record or archive of conversations for use by future classes, researchers, others
allowing discussions to include perspectives from individuals outside of the original class (i.e., one engineering class at Virginia Tech, one at Purdue, and one at Georgia Tech, all discussing the same topic, perhaps including two or three professionals working in the field)


Discussion Questions

1. You do not want to just move your face-to-face course to an online version. We suggest re-designing your course to meet the requirements of your online learners. How do you want to teach online? Describe your basic teaching philosophy and role as an instructor. Look deeply and share how you are willing to be open and doing things differently.
I answered some of these in previous blogs. I realized that I would need to be more open and accessible on a personal level due to the distance and purposely weave in some social interaction between the students–at the beginning is best–that allows them to work collaboratively and get to know one another. Right now I do incorporate group work, but I do not use any time for “get to know you” activities. I also liked all the comments I have read on how to do comments! It is important to stress the tone that comes through with writing and that it is just a short agreement or a “good job.” Something new must be added or a more in-depth addition to the idea or a constructive critique.

2. Knowledge is finite and defined. I am an expert in the subject matter who knows more than the students, and thus my job is to ensure that I transfer as effectively as possible that information or knowledge to the student?

It is great to be able to just put all the resources on laulima for them–so that at any point if they lost something or want to know more they can check our their resources and re-see their instruction sheets and rubrics or find the samples that I posted or the websites that I have posted as extra tutorials. Motivated students have a wealth of teacher-picked examples of additional tutorials they can use to get ahead or to help with understanding the current concept.

I liked reading in one of the MOOC’s posts about how we have to say things clearly and concisely. Now, I always tell me students that when they write–do not make it longer than it needs to be! Do not add in superfluous paragraphs! But, as an English teacher, it is easy for me to keep “elaborating” or explaining on and on until I have covered every possible way to define this concept….and lost my audience due to boredom. So pick one or two good procedures, go over them in clear, short steps, and keep the material so that someone sitting at a computer will read. I liked the idea of incorporating 5-10 min videos of me–I can see how that would help with getting to know your teacher and some concepts are best explained.

3. Focus is on developing learners skills and the ability to question, analyse and apply information or knowledge. Do I see myself more as a guide or facilitator of learning for students?
Online I can see the teacher as both depending on the assignment. For discussions, I am hoping to facilitate and let the class take the lead. However when it comes to the actual MLA requirements on this paper and how to find evidence and synthesize it, I think I need to be more of a guide. What I would look forward to is asking students to contribute materials or “sensemaking artifacts” to the announcements or class “board.” I’d love to have a “student wall” where they can post any TIPS or additional materials on whatever we are focusing on that week. Oh, we are learning about comma splices? Cool, someone can post a link to a cool youtube video they found or create a short worksheet and post it. Oh, we are trying to find topics for our big position paper? Cool, someone can post a website of the best pro-con ideas or a website to a really cool magazine where they think students can find a jumping off point.

4.Taking into account the four factors below, decide and describe what ‘mix’ of face-to-face and online learning will be best for your course, and why your “mix” is best.
So, I haven’t taught online yet and don’t know yet if I want to. That’s the main reason I joined this MOOC. I knew absolutely nothing about teaching online before and know I feel I know a lot more about the philosophy and the type of student who signs up, but I feel very lacking in technical details: what are my resources? how do I use them? How do I grade? How do I manage the class? I have no idea!!! If I every do foray into the world of OL, I would like to try a hybrid class first with one day a week of F2F and the other OL. I don’t even know all the acronyms and short cuts–so that takes up a lot of my time. I just learned “F2F” and am just using OL for the online classroom, not sure what the acronym for that is. So, for me, I mix of both would be needed considering how far behind I am in the world of technology….baby steps!

5. I have not taught online yet, thus I can only speculate on how I will manage the class and all the technical details of who commented on what and who posted and what’s going on. Online Classrooms seems like a lot of juggling plates in the air and having to remember toggle between all of them. That part kind of blows my mind. Right now I am only juggling between checking my email and doing this blog!

I’ve been reading week 2 resources on how to connect with your learner…and they all seem to follow a familiar theme of being friendly, open, accessible, and connecting on a personal level. Now, this is not revolutionary news as it is pretty much what I was taught while getting my teaching baccalaureate and what I have heard every year after while actually teaching. Get to know your students! Share something personal with them to help them relate to you! Lend a friendly ear! Etc. But that’s not who I am. I am cranky and sarcastic and that’s how I have been in the physical classroom for 10 years and it has worked very well for me. Students also appreciate honesty and don’t like a “fake” who is trying to win them over and that would be me if I adopted that approach. I strongly feel that my students still feel very comfortable and safe in my classroom and they still seem all-too-willing to tell me their problems or what’s going on in their lives even though I never ask, never share anything personal with them, and always say, “how does this relate to our work in class?” They seem to revel in my over all “grumpiness” and love the sarcasm–I mean, come on, sarcasm is awesome. And funny.

That being said, I can see how that would not translate over to the online forum where I have only my written word to rely on and they can’t see my expression or the reaction of other students who enjoy it as humor. I read that in one of this week’s posts and it made me think hard about it. Do I have to change my nature to be a good online teacher? Or just curb it in? Perhaps the online world is not for me. This blog is my first, and only, form of social media so that is telling about how comfortable I am with posting personal thoughts and letting it float in the internet stratosphere. Hopefully, through the rest of this MOOC, I can find ways to be a good, effective online teacher while not having to change my personality.

I also feel bad because many, many of the MOOC contributers are currently teaching online classes and therefore have way more insight and knowledge to share. I feel like I am just taking, taking, taking from their expertise and experience. I joined just to learn about it–haven’t tried teaching online yet so everything I say is pure opinion and theory….

I read “Reflection Activity — Breaking out the Black Hat” on the Community Wall and definitely agree that there are huge problems. Education is filled with huge problems that always seem to boil down to the same issue: idealistic vs. realistic. In an ideal world, group work is awesome! Team work, collaboration, multiple brains and personalities coming together to create! In the real world, even in the traditional classroom, it can be a pain. Student schedules never match up, personalities can clash, someone always has trouble finding a group and feels like the odd one out, and then, within the group, someone always doesn’t do their “fair share” and discontentment stews.

Solution? My only solution so far is to either 1) have the group work be a very small project that is mostly just practice or just one small step of a bigger paper OR 2) make very clear, defined roles within the group project so that when someone doesn’t pull their weight or show up I know who it was. I always make students designate tasks beforehand, instead of doing a reflection afterwards, and if the group project has, say, 10 components to it I try and design it so that 8-9 of those components can be done by individuals on their own and they really only need to really on the group for the last 1-2. Is it even truly group work? Well, they need to meet up initially and assign tasks and roles and create (and turn in) a strategic plan. And then for the end they need to produce or present the project or paper together…though someone’s role could have been the “assembler.”

Online has even more, and bigger, problems when it comes to group work. I imagine they would have to start their own side forum/discussion and do something similar where they all chose different tasks and keep posting their progress and someone will have to piece it together…..

I was reading a post that brought up an interesting conundrum about what is acceptable in terms of writing and standards on an online class. If you are “tweeting” or posting something on facebook should it be held up to the same standard as a “formal” paper turned in for a “grade?”

This paragraph gave me pause:
“In this scenario, the teacher as sole evaluator is replaced by the concept of real world audience, and the ultimate test of correctness may be reader response. But this may create disconnects. For example, a work receives a top grade from a teacher, but no one or only a handful view it. Another work receives a mediocre grade but goes viral online as much for the content as the style. Which is the more effective? Or, more important, How should we define effectiveness?”

This is a tough situation. I totally get what they are saying and could argue for either side right now. However, the teacher might be the sole evaluator but she or he “represents” the academic world and, probably, the standards of most bosses in the job market in terms of what they would want to see on a job application, proposal, or report. Lots of pieces with so-called terrible-writing go viral and get many views–but how long does that impact last? It might have had a bigger impact than the teacher, but it often seems to be fleeting and is quickly forgotten and replaced. Plus, even in the world of viral videos, memes, and social media, I feel being able to clearly and accurately express yourself is still incredibly important. Magazines may be on tablets now and they may be about pop culture, but the pieces are still well-written. Youtube clips from shows (like SNL), that pay professionals and give them the “big bucks,” are well-written and a lot of thought goes into the dialogue and “sound bites.” Most of the popular web-tv shows are well-written, like Lisa Kudrow’s web therapy that got picked up recently. Yes, some people get paid for tweeting, but that is not a majority of the population and those who do can’t usually live off of it. The ones creating a career off of this digital age are doing so by incorporating smart writing into this new form. Right now, at least, social media is mostly a form of just that–social connection. If students want to think money and career, they still need to think about their writing skills. Blogs are huge and many people get paid to blog–several have managed to secure lucrative book deals. These were not terrible writers with no grammar and who used immersive “text-slang” while doing so. They were all writers who wrote well thought-out blogs with complete sentences and punctuation (for the most part.) Anyway, this argument could go on forever, but it is one that we probably should have an answer to, in our own opinion, for when our students want to know “why” they have to still check grammar….