Self Efficacy and grades?

Had a short conversation with my Ed Psych professor.  She mentioned a term “self efficacy”.  I have been thinking about it.

No kidding, I am not used to taking social science-orientated courses.  But I’m willing to take a crack at them.  Because I know in order for me to get where I want to be, this is the passage I must take.  And by golly, I’m gonna enjoy learning in the process.  I mean, truly, be awed by what I see and learn.  I want to have fun playing with the course material without worrying what grade I will get.

I have been conditioned all my life to seek external validation, as if getting a good mark really meant I learned well.  I have been trying to shake that mentality for the last few years.  Think about it, do you do this to yourself, do you feel happy when you get a good evaluation?  The society does it to us!  We do it to our children, …the behavior perpetuates.

So this is what I’m gonna do:  I will blog here periodically and document my journey in the Ed Psych course.  Let’s see if I can be honest with myself.  Learn because life in general is interesting and worth exploring, and I can’t capture all on my own.  So I go to the experts and learn knowledge from them.

My self efficacy is low.  Does it matter in the end?  I only have two  options:  If I cant’ seem to do the work, I should leave the course.  Or, I try with my darnedest effort, and see where I land.

Time to take a chance!  I think I will have a lot to gain!

Week 12 looking at my reflecting puddle

I can’t believe we are coming to the end of this course.  It wasn’t that long ago I was installing diigo toolbar, signing up for voice thread, and setting up this blog site.  Twelve weeks have gone by fast.

12 weeks ago I wrote my tagline on this blog as my “reflecting puddle”.  I still think it’s a puddle; it is still small(but so much deeper!).  I can recount the discoveries on this etap687 journey when I stare into the puddle.  I see the following things:

  1. I see more clear vision of myself as an educator.  During this summer course I was confronted with questions that challenged my teaching practices. I started asking myself why I wouldn’t try to trust my students more, let them develop the social presence in the f2f class?  What was the harm in that I wouldn’t even consider trying it?
  2. I’ve finally made the connection between theory and application.  I witnessed firsthand the benefit of social constructivism.  It can be done.  Our etap687 course is a living proof.
  3. I understand myself better as a learner.  This course pushed me to think honestly what I truly want to do.  I finished my master’s degree to deepen my content knowledge (math, Natural Sciences).  Now I wonder I can strengthen my foundation in education principles, what can I study that will make me a life-long learner and not get bored?
  4. For weeks and weeks I was obsessed with making Jing videos, trying new communication tools.  I thought WOW, these are the coolest things I’ve learned this summer!  Now the excitement of trying new tools has settled a bit.  I start to think how technology tools will impact my teaching.  What other tasks should be let go in order to make room for the new things in my practice?  What educational principles do I base on to justify the changes?  What kind of measured learning outcomes and students’ perceived learning do I anticipate after the changes are implemented?
  5. I have 2 weeks left before I set foot into my classes.  I will be facing a whole new batch of freshmen with excitement, enthusiasm, and youthful energy.  How soon will I begin to see the light in their eyes fade and being replaced by boredom?  How soon will they find that college is not much different from high school?  Sit in a class and take notes, and take a test every 2-3 weeks?  English, Psychology, Math, Intro to this and that, are taught in the same format?

I have 2 weeks left.  I want to make a difference.  I CAN make a difference.  I can use the web 2.0 applications as my allies.  There is enough time for me to plan and implement changes in the f2f courses before school starts.

My reflecting puddle may seem small, because there is so much to learn and I’ve just begun.  But my puddle is deeper and its water runs clearer now.  Taking education courses  is like a spring that feeds into my puddle, bringing fresh new perspectves and ideas.  I needed it.  It’s reshaped my outlook on teaching.

Joan (3)

week 10 where are you?

D.R. Garrison’s online community of inquiry review relates to what I do this week:

I spent this week reorganizing the learning activities.  I also have been working on making lecture videos.  It may seem like easy, touch-up kind of work at the first glance…but if I want to preserve the teaching presence and social presence in the course, all of sudden reorganizing the module content is not as easy as it seems!

I have been reading (and re-reading)D. R. Garrison’s report.  One thing that jumped out at me immediately was that, on page 4, …“the question initiating each of the online discussions  influenced the level of the responses from students”.  This statement has a profound impact on me:  I am in a constant debate with myself what question I should use to kick off each module discussion:

“Should I give a hint?”   I ask myself.

“Oh No, that’ll be too easy for them.  Joan, don’t baby your students.”    Well, no argument there.  Deep down I really dislike the fact that students just want to be shown what to do and how to do it.  They don’t want to learn ; they just want to get a grade and move on!

“But, remember we do not make any assumptions about our students!  You can’t assume they remember their high school basic math!  You can’t ask a question without giving them a lead to follow.” 

“I have high expectations for them.  I am going to make assumptions that, if they don’t remember something, they will ask me or search on the web.  They won’t just sit there passively and wait for me to spoonfeed them!” 

In the end I have decided to implement questions that are not directly related to the lecture series.  I want my students to learn how to  think.  If I just asked a question straight out of the textbook, they know how to find the answer without involving higher order thinking.  I started the first content module (mod 2) with 6 lecture videos, then I reduced down to 4 videos per module.  The last 2 content modules have only 2 or 3 lecture videos.  This is a deliberate move on my part.  My lecture becomes more and more brief, because I expect the students to get better at making connections on their own as the course progresses.

Another huge concern that weighs heavily on my mind is the discussion facilitation.  In Garrison’s writing he mentions “…without explicit guidance, students will “engage primarily in ‘serial monologues.””  I’m concerned about the students’ discussions for several reasons.  1) Given that  the concept of my teaching presence has not been easy for me to define:  I have had a hard time imagining where I can connect the math instructor’s way of presenting material with exactly what students can achieve.  I will have to be vigilant about shaping my students’  ideas and “pushing” them for harder, deeper discussions (like Beth Harris with her students.)   2) I will reduce the amount of my direct interaction starting in module 4 due to my resolve to follow the scaffolding principles.  My teacher-centered old self worries that students won’t achieve the depth of understanding without my direct instructions.  3) If  the students don’t jive and have been slow in making their socio-emotional connections, we may end up with a bunch of unanswered monologues!  I want to build the social presence as early as possible, I hope modules 1 and 2 provide adequate opportunities to help the students establish a sense of class community.

[making sure students are performing and learning the way I want] + [knowing when I should “fade” into the background] = the delicate balancing act that I have yet to learn.  This has to do with the fact that I have been  teacher-centered for so long; I don’t know how to trust my students.  But I am here now, committed to teaching this online course using learner-centered, collaborative learning.  I am determined to follow through with this new way of teaching.

I want to recap, reiterate, and remind myself why I have made the following changes in my course:

  1. I consolidated 3 forums down to just 1 forum in each module.  I studied Alex’s way of grading the discussion carefully, and figured out, at max 4 pts per post, at what frequency did she want us to participate in order to reach 48 pts?  Once I understood Alex’s grading policy, I understood her expectations of us.  As I combined 3 forums into one in my course, I changed the grades from 12, 12, and 8 points to 40 points.  I expect each of my student to make six to eight 4-pt posts, and a bunch of small posts in every module.
  2. I wish I had known about Seesmic sooner.  I like it even more than I do voicethread.
  3. I am not happy with the lecture videos I have made.  Some are passable.  Some have to be re-created.  Right now I’m just try to get ALL of them done.  If Jing would allow more than 5 minutes, I would end up doing more and more examples because I tend to slip back into my old teacher-centered ways.  I have made a conscious effort to demonstrate fewer and fewer problems as the course progresses.
  4. I am not sure if my lecture presentation meets the universal design principles at all.  This is a worry for me.
  5. I have not forgotten the promise I made to myself:  Scaffolding.  I will fade to the background make fewer responses in the discussion forums as time goes on.
  6. I added several communication tools.  I want the students to feel that I want to talk to them.  I want them to hear and see me.  (again, teaching presence and social presence.)
  7. I’m trying to downplay the cognitive component of my teaching.  I tend to dwell on how theorems/concepts are derived and give very little attention to how to plug and chug numbers.  I am worried that some students are going to get bogged down by their weak algebraic skills.  And they will RESENT  I haven’t provided enough calculation examples to show them.

I still have about 5-7 lecture videos to make.  I am worried I will not meet the Aug 2 timeline.  I’ve got to get to work. 

signing off…

Joan (4)

week 9 Conceptualize the course…again

As I go through the checklist, my thoughts keep drifting to this one question: If I were a student, I log on to this course and read a few links, will I feel confident that I can get through this course?

Because I am the designer of the course, and I have gone through the course content as f2f numerous times.  I tend to forget how hard these concepts must seem to students who only had Algebra II in high school.  Not to mention online learning is probably new to college freshmen (unless they had a teacher like Melissa in high school)!  Alex asked us to write our course information documents in first person.  She wanted us to develop learning activities that would engage students and build a learning community.  She wanted us to “reconceptualize” how the course content would be delivered, given the fact that online learning is highly collaborative and learner-centered. 

I am quite happy with my course design, although it is not nearly as polished as I would like it to be.  Let me get to my point here: 

I did go through a period of conceptualizing how an online math course would be and how I would teach it….It seems I am going through the 2nd phase of conceptualizing the course right now.  Let me explain:

Since the main direction of the course is already set (and I’m happy with the direction it’s going), I only need to tweak the details now.  As I walk through the course modules, I can visualize what kind of extra help students will need, and consequently, what extra tools I haven’t thought to prepare or install in the course.  (These are the small details that only come up when I try to understand the homework/discussion/project as a student.)  Each time I walk through the course, more items show up on my To-Do list.  This sends me to a state of panic!  The due date is Aug 1; I have to get everything done.

Here is my list of tasks that are still unfinished/unresolved/missing, then I will have to get right back to working on my course:

  1. Some grading categories have to be manually created in Moodle gradebook.  I haven’t set up the aggregated grading formula in Moodle yet.
  2. Lectures,…oh my lectures.  I am determined to work the MERLOT’s lesson demos into my lectures.  And I want to use my own lectures, I do not want to use the textbook’s ready-made lecture videos.
  3. I have to be careful with my lectures and homework discussion questions.  I find myself slipping back into teacher-cantered way of teaching.  I tend to give more and more examples in lectures to a point that I’m almost solving the HW problems for students.  NO! NO! I do not want to make lectures or discussions teacher-centered.  (Thanks to Bill Pelz, I no longer want to be “sage on stage”!)
  4. Creating a graph template for the Wave graphs; so when students submit their graphs, we will be looking at the same size grid.
  5. Creating a harmonic graph where 2 waves are added together.  I wish I had frequency sensor so I can screencapture the wave graph when 2 notes (like a middle C and another note) are played at the same time.  Maybe I can ask Mike if there’s software on the web I can use?

I use the term “conceptualize” because I can play out each event in my head and foresee what details have not been addressed.  Kind of like a wedding planner who walks through the empty reception hall and can foresee the problems with lighting, photography, food, and traffic pattern…  I am the course designer, it is my job to minimize any possible glitches.  It is my job to provide students with a doable and engaging learning environment.

Back to work!

Joan (3)

week 8 Who Am I?

As module 4 comes to the end, I continue to question myself who am I?

Who I am, educationally speaking, is defined by how and what knowledge I take in as a learner, and how and what I teach as an educator.  I am not the same person as I was 10 years ago.  I am not the same as I was 8 weeks ago.  I am not even the same as I was yesterday.  One post, one link, or one question can open my eyes to see new things each day.

Who am I as a learner —I cannot pinpoint which theory, which observation the exemplary instructor made, or which post that signifies who I am.  My thoughts and beliefs are shaped by a combination of factors.  About 25-30% of my learning in this course is purely informational intake.  The discussions, links, reading assignments, research findings on the web are brought to my laptop.  Reading and absorbing these bits of information is rather passive; I read and sort what is said, make notes and archive.  The next part of learning is the most challenging but also the most rewarding: it is having to synthesize and find applications for what I’ve learned.  This part of learning is visceral for me because it requires an input from my mind.  Given that the audience I work with (professor and classmates) is very knowledgeable, I have to study, research, sort and evaluate what’s worthwhile to investigate, determine my own stand on the issue (agree or disagree), then I begin to form my thesis, search for evidence or support, formulate how I should present my point, polish my draft before submitting it in the discussion forum.  This explains the reason why I cannot respond to my classmates’ posts immediately.  I often copy and paste my classmates’ posts, work and research offline for 2 days, then go online to submit a post; it’s almost like writing a mini-thesis.  Synthesizing and formulating a mini-thesis is where learning becomes meaningful for me; this is where mere information becomes MY knowledge.  This part of learning (internalizing information and producing an intelligent output) is about 45-55% of my learning experience in this course.  The remaining 25-30% is the hands-on designing process with my course. For example, I couldn’t identify teaching presence until about week 7.  I understood the theory and have seen it in our etap687 course.  But I wasn’t sure where the teaching presence would be in my own course.  It didn’t become clear to me until I listened to Alex’s podcast feedback on 7.4.2010.  As I listened to her combing though the learning activities, I began to understand how students would perceive these activities.  Knowing how to anticipate students’ reactions helped me see where and how teaching presence and subsequently social presence could be planted in the modules.  I would have to plan strategically to provide the opportunites.  I am still exercising this concept with much concerted effort.  It is not an automatic talent I can apply effortlessly.

Another strong influence on me is Beth Harris’s interview (probably more so than Bill Pelz’s).  Beth explains that every name has to be very clear and descriptive.  So the students know what to expect by just looking at the name of the activity.  Also, she is honest about having to work on how to phrase the questions to engage students.  Knowing how to pose questions to bring out the most profound learning continues to be a challenge for her.  If she didn’t get deeply involved in the discussion, she may not be able to get the students to see what she had intended for them to see.  I haven’t even taught my online course.  I constantly wonder if my students will step up to the plate.

Who am I as an educator—I am more open-minded than I was when I first started teaching.  I had been so focused on cognitive presence.  I didn’t take the time to consider peer-teaching (that teaching presence could actually come from other than me??!!), and social presence.  It has been a challenge to leave behind the teacher-centered way of prepping and teaching.  Dan Meyer talks about spending an hour each day to deconstruct/rebuild a math problem.  I find his observation extremely amusing and yet accurate.  Most the textbooks are written as teacher-friendly.  The concepts and questions are expertly arranged; it makes sense to an experienced eye.  But does it make sense to a novice learner’s eye?

In conclusion, my teaching, until this point, has NOT been an even 3-legged stool.  My teaching has been 40-60% cognitive, 20-40% teaching (mine), and roughly 20% social interaction (perhaps even less).  No wonder why students don’t think math is fun.  No wonder why only the androgogic learners like my classes. I love my subject, but I have failed to utilize the human nature to my advantage.  I forgot how powerful social interaction, motivation (how to engage), and the need to feel ownership can be in helping students learn. 

Throughout this module I have been reading and thinking about teaching presence.  I am still feeling a bit uneasy because I haven’t taught my online course.  I don’t know yet if my online students will step up to the plate, actively and enthusiastically contribute what they know to the community. As I write this blog, another newly-discussed idea came to mind: Making all activities compulsory.  That will ensure students to comply and participate!  They will resist first; but they will eventually see how rich and rewarding it feels.  That is, if they haven’t dropped the course during the 1st 3 weeks of school!  Realistically speaking, dropping is a concern.  Students tend to quit when the task seems too overwhelming. It’s something I have to play out carefully.

Joan (4)

week 7 where do you find teaching presence?

All this week we are discussing teaching presence in our courses.  I have been thinking about teaching presence in my f2f courses.  I “lecture” and “demonstrate”, but is that teaching presence?

I think about all the teachers and mentors that made an impact in my education.  Did I find their teaching presence when I was with them?  I must have felt their teaching presence; I just didn’t know the name for it.  Anderson and colleagues (A Follow-Up Investigation…Shea, et al)define teaching presence as 1) instructional design and organization  2) facilitating discourse and 3) direct instruction.  Given the nature of my undergraduate and graduate training, most of my professors gave direct instruction.  We didn’t have much philosophical talk.  Graduate school had a quite a bit of social presence; because none of us could master the topics completely.  We had to debate, supplement, and formulate solutions based on everyone’s contribution.  Graduate school was also very much of an individualized learning experience for me.  Some of my best learning took place late at night, alone, with just a pencil and pages of calculations.  That’s when I understood how smart my professors were; they planned homework that was so hard and seemed to have come out of nowhere.  Somehow if I dug hard enough, the homework path I took would eventually link back to the lecture.  It was a puzzle that I must complete by the deadline.  It was a challenge I must beat because the alternative was to fail the assignment; which was not acceptable.  In the process of making a difficult journey with the homework, I became an honest learner.

Then I think about the etap course now.  The teaching presence is so apparent.  I see it from the professor in the way shes asks questions and my classmates in their posts.  I listen to the exemplar courses interviews and think “wow, it must be interesting to be in that course!”  All these thoughts, facts, tips, and questions are blended in my head and have recrystallized into something of my own.  And still I struggle to define my own teaching presence.  I seem to have hit the technical marks (I am very good at giving direct instructions, and I’m proficient at organizing the instructional material.  Occasionally I facilitate student contribution in class), but I’m not sure I have achieved the big picture. 

I went to Parker Palmer’s talk years ago as a pre-service teacher.  He said good teachers came in different forms and styles.  I was fine with that statement for years until now.  I don’t really care how students categorize me as a certain type or style of teacher.  I want to know if I am a good teacher in terms of challenging students to obtain knowledge. 

I am not playing with words here.  Having teaching presence in a course does not mean students are learning.  Think about it.

I want students in my classes (online and f2f) to say, ” yeah, Joan Erickson is not easy but she can get you to do really good work.  And you know you are learning stuff in her class.”   This is going to be a multi-step process.  I first need to define my teaching presence, then I can begin to analyze how well the students are learning.

week 6: why do I do things the way I do?

Ohhhhh, this is going to be another long blog.  Where do I begin?

I have to admit, my etap classmates are very intellectually stimulating for me.  They stir up my thoughts and challenge my previous beliefs.  6 weeks ago I came to this course with very shallow, incorrect opinions about online education.  Now my course design is completely different from what I had envisioned; it is BETTER!

Let me explain why I choose the learning activities and what influenced my design:

The most significant departure from my original design is the discussion component.  Initially there was only a lame “homework comment” forum where students would post their reflections on homework problems and anticipate how these concepts would relate to the exam.  In my very f2f way of thinking, quizzes/exams were 60-70% of the entire grade; group project, homework submission, and discussion made up the rest 40-30%.  Weeks 2-3 was the major turning point for me.  I was confronted with Alex’s question, “Online tests are open book, take-home, and potentially collaborative.  How are you going to truly assess how much student s are learning?”  Not only did I not have a sage answer to the question; a series of other questions ensued.  I didn’t have a reliable way of developing  and measuring the students’ calculational skills.  I couldn’t even begin to touch the lofty goal of fostering critical thinking!

I had two choices: 1) digging in my f2f heels and refusing to  adopt different methods, or 2) leaving my comfort zone and exploring methods I had little training in. 

Even though I knew I was only designing the course to fulfill the learning objective as a student in etap687, I had to be honest with my own teacher role.  Would I be able to teach this online course with the way it was designed?

Fast Forward to present day, gone are the 60-70% quizzes and exams from my course design.  Right now there are 3 major discussions in each module and they make up 50% of the grade. 

  1. homework problem forum where I watch who is strong and who is weak, who is helping who, and who is learning what.  I monitor how they exercise their caluclational skills.  After all, they can articulate the solution all they want, the calculation must be reduced to the right answer.  (You can’t fudge a numerical answer in math. )  The first 3 modules are going to be equally student-student and student-faculty interactive.  Starting with module 4 (chapter 3), I will fade to the background.
  2. study tips forum where students post observations and conclusions on the concepts learned in the module.  They also create  mock test questions (they don’t know yet but I plan on using a few student-made questions on the exam.)  I also challenge their understanding by posing counter examples.  This is where critical thinking will take place.  Students have to ask themselves “Can I formulate a fail-proof way of solving?”  “What will make my calculation fall apart?”  And “what kind of mock test question can I create that makes sense to me and my classmates?”  Beginning with module 4 (chapter 3) I will reduce the frequency of my responses to only address essential issues in the discussion.
  3. reflection forum where students revisit the exam questions.  This is the “closure” part of learning.  Learning is not complete if misunderstanding has not been confronted and corrected.  I want to see how students probe and reflect their own learning progress.  And I want to send encouraging feedback to them.

Besides beefing up the communication component of the course (50%), the group project will extra-reinforce the student-student collaboration (15%).  Homework is still essential but carries smaller weight (15%)in the grade.  Quizzes and exams are only 20% of the grade, and students have 2 attempts at them.

It is hard to pinpoint which article, which discussion, which etap assignment shaped the way I am today.  As I write my blog, separate lines of thoughts on Andragogy, Vygotsky vs. Piaget,  scaffolding, Alex’s multiple breeze presentations and other , Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS), Bill Pelz, Beth Harris, how to engage, definition and research of online learning, higher order thinking (different from Socratic-led), Angelo, online teaching as catalyst, Universail design learning (UDL), netiqutte, M Knowles, redundancy, MERLOT/JOLT, research on online assessments, and my classmates’ observations are all blended in my head.  This may not be visible to other people, but when I see my course design, I can see the influences of Alex, Bill Pelz, my classmates, and pointers archived in  the diigo library.

P.S.  I stopped embedding links to the phrases in my blog. It’s silly to embed only one link to each key word. Diigo etap687 group houses a vast collection of varius topics, numerous articles on each topic.  I cannot say which article is the most valuable; they all have left impression on me.

Joan (4)

week 5: Vygotsky and Piaget came for a visit

While I was preparing the research for the discussion forum, I came upon many articles on critical thinking, Socratic diaogue, Vygotsky’s scaffolding and later ZPD, and good’ol Piaget’s stage theory.

At the first glance all these separate lines of thoughts don’t have a close connection with one another; certainly don’t pertain to what we do in etap.  In a way Vygotsky and Piaget are like my old friends; it’s been so long I have forgotten what these two old guys’ peculiarities were.  Now that I have been teaching for a few years.  My two old friends ask me what kind of teacher I am.

Well, I am transitioning to be an online teacher.  I tell my friends.  Naturally, I explain that I am adopting the Socratic dialogue to promote discourse amongst student-student and student-teacher interactions.  I will determine how much they are learning based on what they demonstrate in their discussions.  Besides, Socratic way of discussion triggers learners to evaluate the new knowledge in depth.

Vygotsky is glad I am mostly using his ideas.  After all, the very essence of scaffoling is very much based on social, collaborative interactions between the experienced and the novice, which mirrors the nature of online education.  And online teaching requires a lot of planning in advance,  which is attested by my etap instructor Alex’s famous 120 hours (Pickett, Keys to Success).  I tell him this wonderful website and he must scroll down midway to see the important stuff.

I also say I want to do a combination of lecture demo and PBL (problem based learning) in my future f2f class as well.  Piaget asks me if there is still anything piagetian remaining in my teaching.  Of course there is.  I reply.  I have been a hardcore piagetian for years.

Because my students are a mix of concrete and formal operation thinkers, I provide the following steps

  1. give short instruction and concrete examples (assimilation)
  2. give opportunities for small groups to work on “increasingly complex” projects (accommodation)
  3. challenge them to confront open-ended situations (diseuilibrium)
  4. watch the students formulating and applying logical, systematic approach to any new situations (mastery or proficiency)

But, through it all, discourse is always happening.  And I try very hard to introduce the steps seamlessly.  This is where the Socratic dialogue comes in.  I start with doable calculation problems in a module, assign homework problems with increasing difficulty.  The students have to share and collaborate back and forth while I monitor the intellectual exchange.  Then they are confronted with an exam or a much more abstract question in the discussion forum; the module will close with the summative reflection to demonstrate the level of understanding they achieved.

Piaget wrinkles his nose at me.  It sounds like fluff talk.  He says.

OK, let me recap:

  • My students are mixed, some are strong in math, motivated, quick-learning, tech-savvy (the formal operational thinkers),  and some other students  are not (the concrete thinkers).
  • I provide initial instructions to get everybody (even the lower thinking students) warmed up for the chapter
  • The homework assignments are planned with increasing difficulty; I step back and let students take over the problem-solving process
  • exam (or discussion) questions are abstract and much harder, and there are no direct examples in the book.  Students have to collaborate, debate, formulate their best solution.  In the mean time, I keep asking specific questions to hint and direct where I want them to end up. (Socratic leads to critical thinking)
  • Reflective entries are made to capture/outline the core knowledge introduced in the module (Socratic –>critical thinking –>mastery)

Vygotsky argues what I do is not exactly Zone of Proximal Development, not even scaffolding.  Perhaps not ZPD.   After all, the students don’t get to witness how I solve problems. (I don’t want to be teacher-centered any more thanks to Bill Pelz’s 3 principles.)

But I am a scaffolder.  I set up the framework; the students have to collaboratively figure out how to climb to the top.

Joan (4)

week 4: what have I learned, what do I want to use in my course?

Believe it or not, I have been pondering about these self-assessing questions.  It’s not that I have a hard time thinking of things to say and share.  My problem is actually the opposite.  I have gone through so many changes internally, where do I begin to tell you?

What have I learned that I didn’t know before?  What can I use in my online course that I hadn’t thought of using in my f2f classrooms?

I have learned to embrace online education as a learner-based, colloborative method of learning.  You might think this is such a common knowledge, what’s the big deal?  But for someone like me, who teaches f2f mainly the traditional way, this was a huge step for me.  I want to reference Alex’s breeze presentation and her posting, “…online assessments can be open book, take home, and potentially collaborative….how are you going to assess students’ learning fairly?”  So adopting new assessment instruments was the first thing I’ve learned to do.  I had to seriously question myself : How do I assess students’ calculatonal skills?  Once I understood that online assessments were vastly different that of the traditional class, it was easier to explore and implement assessments.  I have also been reading the articles on redundancy(not bookmarked, I could not find it again in out diigo etap group), peer-evaluation(Scroll down and see virous articles), and critical thinking.  Given that there are so many factors to consider in course-designing.  I have decided to focus my efforts on the following:

  1. I want to incorporate UDL elements.  Recently I opened my eyes to UDL (Universal Design Learning) because our classmate Kelly was talking about it. I am inspired to conduct my lectures with UDL in mind.  Kelly summarized 7 main points in her week 1 blog; I found them a bit intangible because I had no training in LD.  However, I later found some Youtube video clips (1 and 2).  I listed them in the Discussion Forum.  I strongly recommend for people to take a look.  I don’t know much about UDL but would like to give it try.
  2. I must mention the exemplar courses audio interviews.  Bill Pelz, Beth Harris, and Steve Zucker shared their experiences candidly.  Bill still makes changes in his course after 10 years of teaching.  Beth has been teaching for a long time and she had some resistance from other faculty at FIT in the beginning.  She talks with open candor how “freaked out” she was the first time she conducted her online course.  Steve talks about how the Internet offers the students a wealth of information on art instead of buying a very expensive textbook.  I learned something different from each interview.  Most important of all, I learned to be open minded.  Other instructors encountered challenges in their online teaching, but they found ways to cope, improve, and continue to pick up new strategies.  I found these interview clips very informational, almost every statement in the conversations can be turned into an essay. I would recommend people to listen to Beth Harris again.  I learned from her interview that I will not be able to get everything right the first time, but I will continue to work on it.  Have you noticed?  Most of the authors we read about on the web, Alex, these exemplar online course instructors are all saying the same thing: Keep working.  Make it better.  Maintain what worked and tweak what was not well received.  Listen to what students suggest, and continue to perfect the course no matter after how many years.
  3. The last thing I want to share is the actual designing process of my course.  I’m beginning to understand why Alex uses the term “Reconceptualize” when it comes to designing.  We all faithfully followed through A Series of Unfortunate Online Events, and What Works, Breeze.  We know we need to make the essential information consistent and easy for students to find.  The word “reconceptualize” began to make sense when I was trying to write up the resources links in the introduction module.  All the things we could say on the first day of class in a traditional class have to be “said” in a different way online.  Online students don’t get the visual cues from me, so how can I make the course information, course outline, rubrics, grades, etc very clear to them?  With all the communication tools that I want the students to use, how do I introduce the technology, and give instructions on how to use it, without overwhelming them? 

Speaking of ovewhelming, do you remember how we felt the first week in the etap course?  Now I can understand how students feel. Does content of  the article Do Online Students Dream of Electric Teachers? come to mind? (becuase it discusses empathy and understanding. )  For me, it  feels like every assignment we did in this module has come a full circle.