Successful Online Learning

I came across the following survey which does a very good job of helping students to determine if they have the requisite learning preferences, attitudes and work habits to be successful online learners. Some of the important considerations were;

The flexibility afforded by online learning means students can set their own schedule, but they need to have the self-discipline to complete assigned tasks on time, participate in online discussions and monitor their progress to make sure they meet all of the academic requirements.

Students need to be independent, effective problem-solvers in the event that the teacher is not online to provide clarification or feedback to a question or an assignment. What strategies will they be able to employ in order to identify possible resources that could help them to find the answers to their questions.

Strong reading comprehension skills will enable students to follow written instructions for course activities, and to make sense of contributions by classmates in the discussion board. The ability to articulate oneself clearly using text is also an important skill since it is the primary form of communication for an online course.

Technology also serves as a distraction. Students need to be able to remain focused on their academic tasks while they are online as opposed to surfing the web, chatting or texting with friends, playing video games or listening to and downloading music.

Apprentissage électronique

Aujourd'hui je fais ma première entrée de mon blog en Français. J'ai enseigné le Français pendant les quatre dernières années. Dans une édition de Pour parler profession j'ai lu un article sur l'apprentissage électronique où l'enseignante Rebecca Lupton a parlé de ses expériences avec son cours et ses élèves en ligne. Selon elle, toutes les formes d'enseignement ont les mêmes objectifs, 'aider les élèves à réussir'.

Alison Slack, du ministère de l'Éducation a confirmé, 'que la relation enseignant-élève est au centre du processus d'apprentissage.' Je ne suis pas surpris que beaucoup d'enseignants en ligne disent qu'ils connaissent leurs élèves mieux que des élèves en salle de classe. On est limité au temps et l'endroit dans une salle de classe traditionnelle. C'est vrai qu'on peut utiliser les stratégies comme penser et partager de paire pour évaluer la compréhension des élèves en classe mais souvent on n'a pas assez de temps à parler avec tous les élèves et de demander les questions plus élevées.

En ligne les élèves ont plus de temps à réfléchir sur les questions et les contributions des autres élèves et de composer leurs réponses. Aussi, on peut bien voir le processus de leurs pensées et comment ils sont arrivées à leurs conclusions parce que la conversation est documentée dans le tableau de discussion. C'est un outil important parce qu'on peut explicitement montrer aux élèves comment ils peuvent améliorer d'exprimer leurs idées en faisant référence à des domaines spécifiques dans leurs commentaires. Cette stratégie aussi aide les élèves à mieux comprendre comment ils peuvent améliorer leur travail. On peut aussi garder les exemples des contributions pour chaque niveau pour clairement indiquer aux élèves ce qu'ils doivent faire pour réaliser les niveaux plus hauts de succès (quelles sont les différences entre une contribution de niveau 2, 3 et 4).

Instructional Technology in the Classroom

The March issue of professionally speaking has an article on The High-Tech Class. What I really like is the format of the profile they provide on the 4 teachers that are using technology in their classroom. Each profile begins by identifying the instructional challenge that prompted them to re-examine their teaching practice in order to select a teaching strategy and technology which would help to address the challenge.

An excellent example is that of the grade 6 teacher, Kent Manning, who used a project of stop-motion animated movies to address the difficulty of inspiring boys to want to write. An examination of existing data revealed a tremendous gender gap in writing. Previously unmotivated students became engaged in the process of writing through storyboarding. The project required students to improve their understanding of story-telling structures and to apply this knowledge to make animated movies.

Did the technology enhance the learning all on its own? Absolutely not. It was the forethought and analysis required by the teacher that made this instructional technology effective in addressing the challenge that was identified. Selecting the correct teaching strategies to employ in concert with the technology was what made this project a success with students. The re-examination and reflection of one's teaching practice is a critical piece, otherwise mapping one's existing teaching practice onto new technology is not likely to lead to improved outcomes for students. As Danika Barker in the article suggested, "don't make the mistake of implementing 21st century teaching tools while hanging on to 19th century teacher-centric pedagogy."

A comment in the editorial section referred to the previous article on Using Social Media in the Classroom and suggested that, "we need to ask ourselves whether this type of learning is really better?" I think we need to move beyond the debate about which method of learning is better. There is no doubt that reading books and interacting with other people in person is an effective way to learn. Technology is not the panacea of teaching and learning. If used correctly instructional technology can become one of the many ways in which teachers can effectively differentiate instruction for students. Tony Bates has a great quote at his website.

"Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology but technology will never save bad teaching".

I couldn't agree more.

Using Social Media in the Classroom

In a  recent edition of Professionally Speaking, I read an article about Using Social Media in the Classroom. I agree with OCT registrar Michael Salvatori when he says that social networking sites can be essential instructional tools and that we should be encouraging their use.

Some of the interesting examples sited were;

Using Ning (customized social networking site) so that students could interact and role-play the characters of a Shakespeare play online. The teacher indicated that it was an immersive experience for students which allowed them to grasp the meaning of the play and the characters.

Twiducate (secure social networking site for schools) to facilitate communication between students and teachers and to establish communities of practice.

Using blogs to connect with teams of scientists that are researching the topics students are studying in their classrooms. Students are able to expand the boundaries of their classroom to incorporate a more global perspective because they are exposed to a variety of view points and cultural practices.

French students used Skype to connect with other students in France to talk about activities in their community and classrooms. Students are engaged in authenticate conversations about topics that are relevant to their lives and they improve their aural comprehension skills by listening to other people speaking French.

Sometimes there is reluctance to adopt these kinds of instructional tools for fears of encountering improper online conduct or protecting student privacy. However, as the article points out , "there is no safer place than school itself to discuss the proper use of tools like social media, privacy, digital identity and respectful language."

A New Direction

I have decided to change the location of my blog. It was a laborious process because I was unable to find software capable of converting the export file (.txt) from the previous blog to an .xml file that the blogger software was capable of rendering properly. Given the comments I received on my previous posts it appears that readers found the insights informative and that's why I thought it was worth it to move everything over. The focus of this blog will be shifting from eLearning in post-secondary education to what is happening in the K-12 sector. I hope you continue to find this information useful, as I will be reflecting on my experiences implementing the Ontario Ministry of Education's eLearning strategy.