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W22: Personal Learning Networks

One of the things that I find particularly interesting is to collect ideas and inspiration from outstanding lecturers, teachers and writers.

From Ko & Rossen, Chapter 14: “Taking Advantage of New Opportunities”, I have found interesting proposals on activities that I would like to further develop in relation to online teaching:

  • Training covering teaching methods and curriculum development
  • Methodologies about Lifelong Learning
  • New ideas and technologies
  • Short online courses and tutorials in particular software platforms and tools

Another example is Dean Shareski, in the video “Sharing: The Moral Imperative“, arise questions and reflections of value for the analysis about the personal culture of sharing:

  • Why would I do this? (sharing)
  • Is this worth my time?
  • How do I make it valuable and meaningful?
  • and also about the culture of sharing of our educational institutions:
  • Is this an obligation?
  • Does my institution see value in sharing?
  • How will it help my students?
  • Sharing has always been part of the teacher’s job

A good and inspirational Video from Alec Couros, “Teaching and Learning in a Networked World (2010)“, which mention own and others ideas, as:

  • Connect with others: colleagues who are local, and more internationally. Build a personal learning network, as with Twitter.
  • Create a culture of sharing: in schools, within the structure, sharing resources (David Wiley’s “open content” — without sharing there is not education).
  • Stephen Downes: (we) should move beyond the idea of education as being something provided for us, and toward something we create for ourselves.
  • Will Richardson: about the 21st Century Learning – explore what happens to traditional concepts of teaching when we can learn anything any time?

My Personal Learning Network

I started the creation of a personal site with iGoogle for some years ago, connecting my favourite news sites, my blog, additional interesting blogs, Web 2.0 tools and some useful personal bookmarks, both in English and Spanish.

The last time I have reflected a lot about the way I’m working with my personal learning, specially using technology to expand my learning network.

This picture reflects my preliminary conclusions.


Sharing and Teaching (Should) go Hand-in-Hand (Week 22)

This got me thinking…

ed quote 2

I know the above quote is a bit off topic this week, but I couldn’t help ponder it.  Are we sticking to the “same old thing” in the classroom because it’s convenient for us?  Or are we too afraid to try something new for the fear of failure?  Or is it that we just really don’t know what else to do?  I think having a Personal Learning Network can help us get out of the rut of doing the same thing over and over  in the classroom, even if the results aren’t what we want.


Something that stood out for me this week was a quote from Dean Shareski’s video:

“If teaching is sharing;  if there is no sharing, there is no education.”

As educators, we love to share our knowledge with others, and that shouldn’t stop in the classroom.  However, although all of the readings and videos we watched showed teachers happily sharing ideas, best practices, and assignments with each other, this isn’t always the case.  Where I teach, over 50% of classes are taught by associate faculty who have no real job security from semester to semester.  These instructors can be apprehensive in sharing their ideas and best practices with others when there is no guarantee of a future teaching position.  It’s almost like they want to keep their ideas to themselves to lesson the competition.  I also wonder if teachers don’t have tenure or if “results based” pay increases become the norm, will we see this willingness to share ideas fade?  It’s something worth questioning, for sure.

Luckily, I am in a department where all associate faculty are happy to share ideas with each other.  In fact, a few of us make it a point to get together at the end of each semester and talk about what worked, and what didn’t in our classrooms.  But, beside that (and this POT Cert course), I really haven’t developed a Personal Learning Network – and I think that has hindered my growth as an educator.

So, what am I going to do?  Well, first, I think I’m going to check out Pinterest in more detail.  Sure, I use it to Pinterest to pin favorite recipes and home decor ideas, but I haven’t used it for education yet.  I see many of my friends who are elementary school teachers “pinning” lots of great ideas.

Twitter:  Back at the beginning of this course we were asked to explore Twitter and I just didn’t like it.  But, after listening to Alec Couros, I think I need to revist this program and give it another shot.

Facebook:  I’ve said a few times how I’m interested in starting to use Facebook in my classes, and I still am going to attempt it this Fall.  I guess this wouldn’t necessarily fall into my own Personal Learning Network, but it would allow me to connect with students where they already are and allow them to connect with each other on a difference level as well.  “The medium is the message”, right?

Something else that got me thinking was the idea that online students “don’t want” that face to face interaction – that’s why they are taking the course online.  I really did believe that, and maybe a few students do feel that way.  However, as I’ve gone through this course (this week in particular) I began to think that maybe the online student is one who, due to circumstance, cannot make it to a face to face class, but is still craving those connections with others.  I need to be the facilitator who can allow those meaningful connections in an online environment, and I need others who have done it to guide me there in my Personal Learning Network.


ed quote 1






W 21: Introduction to Online Education Theory

Really interesting article Larry Sanger, Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age (2010), especially regarding the three common strands of current thought about education and the Internet:

  1. The instant availability of information online makes the memorization of facts unnecessary or less necessary.
  2. The virtues of collaborative learning as superior to outmoded individual learning.
  3. Lengthy, complex books, which constitute a single, static, one-way conversation with an individual, are inferior to knowledge co-constructed by members of a group.

Larry deepens around the strand of Unnecessary Memorization. Inevitably, if I say that I know something is because I remember. The bad reputation of memorization is associated with the mindless and not reflected repetition.

This article discusses other arguments worth mentioning:

  • if you read an answer to a question, you usually need fairly substantial background knowledge to interpret the answer.
  • you need knowledge in order to know what questions to ask.
  • a good education is not merely to amass a lot of facts.
  • If you do not have copious essential facts at the ready, then you will not be able to make wise judgments that depend on your understanding of those facts
  • we should “learn how to learn”
  • the ability to learn new things is more important than ever “in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed.”
  • “Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times.

I stopped a little longer in the article: George Siemens, Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching (2007). Interesting reflexions on what he calls learning ecology around which I have built the attached presentation.


Week 21: You mean there are different theories on education?

Here is my reflection on this week’s work.  Trying out Screencast-o-Matic again in conjunction with Powerpoints….


Week 20: Instructional Design

Back at it again, later than expected – after my laptop crashed and had to be sent off for repair.  Not the best start to the summer term, but I am plugging through!

So this week’s reading material and videos were a bit confusing to me.  I guess I’d really never thought about “instructional design” or how the design of your course (either online or face-to-face) can really make a difference in student outcomes.  But after reading the material and reading through other posts on instructional design, I think I’m starting to develop a better understanding of it all.

A few things that stood out to me:

In Lanier’s article Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind, he states, “Students conceive of themselves as relays in a transpersonal digital structure.  Their job is then to copy and transfer data around.”  This got me to thinking about the “research paper” I have students write.  That’s exactly what they are doing – tranfering data around.  If I’m lucky, they’ll actually summarize the data in their own words, but other times, students are literally cutting and pasting information.  This isn’t learning, they aren’t learning to think or learning to process the data.  Part of me thinks that writing a research paper is a “rite of passage” or something that they should know how to do as part of the college experience.  But then I question what students are really gaining by doing so.  Very little thought or processing is going on and I think it is more a practice in formatting than it is in learning.  So, now, off to rework that assignment and really come up with something that is going to engage the students instead of  seeing how well they can push data around.

I think the issue for educators dealing with technology in instructional design is that we are unaware of or afraid to use various technologies because we are not comfortable using them or familiar enough with the technology ourselves.  Then, if we do attempt to incorporate some sort of new technology (such as TV in Schwier’s example), we just go about teaching the same old way without regard for what the new technology could actually do for us.

Personally, I need to shift my way of thinking about technology (and teaching) from the “spray and pray method” (spray all the information at them and pray that they absorb it all) to a much more focused approach.  Now, back to the drawing board….


W20: Educational Technology and Instructional Design

A hard week full of definitions, reflections and summaries. But at the same time, and there’s the key, an entertaining week. This week included subjects of particular importance to the design of learning content and activities with the support of ICT.

Instructional technology

As explained by the definition, the term educational technology is often associated with, and encompasses, instructional theory and learning theory.

But the definition is not what matters most to me. The question surrounding our thinking is how we do to make this technology really helps us to improve education at least in the environment of our work and academic activity.

Clearly, we can achieve great benefits such as:

  • Accessible educational materials
  • Attracting and motivating students
  • Support the development of reading and writing skills

Personally, it helps me a lot to know other experiences, theories, models and recommendations. But what helps me is tracking innovative academic experiences.

Instructional Design

It is a subject that has fascinated me. In the design of any content or learning activity assume a huge responsibility with the goal of improving student learning. But if it does not help?, If you do not have the time and sufficient resources?, If we fail to involve teachers interested?, If we do not consider aspects of prior knowledge, context, time?, To name a few. These questions arise precisely because we are interested in finding answers.

Instructional design models

We have all known at some time models like ADDIE, Dick and Carey and others.

A particularly attractive model is The Backward Design, to assist teachers in designing or redesigning teaching materials to enhance learning understanding. This model and the related conceptual framework: “Understanding by Design” was developed by recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. This model is well suited for the academic community and two of their biggest contributions are:

  • The “backwards design” instructional design model
  • The “Six Facets of Understanding”

As I show in my particular slides summary

The backwards design model centers on the idea that the design process should begin with identifying the desired results and then “work backwards” to develop instruction. This framework identifies three main stages:

  • Stage 1: Identify desired outcomes and results.
  • Stage 2: Determine what constitutes acceptable evidence of competency in the outcomes and results (assessment).
  • Stage 3: Plan instructional strategies and learning experiences that bring students to these competency levels.

See you next week!

w19-Web-Enhanced, Hybrid and Open Classes

The educational use of Internet pursues pedagogically relevant answers to enable the building (and improve) a sociocultural learning environment.

These teaching environments: face-to-face, hybrid or fully online need to answer the fundamental question: whom do I want to learn?

The educational use of Internet is not just about the integration of tools and web resources to the teaching-learning process in order to enhance learning. Internet main contribution is to incorporate means, resources, languages ​​and social interaction dynamics that enrich the relationship between students and instructors.

It is clear that the internet is more present outside than inside the classroom. Internet for education aims to “synchronize” the classroom with the reality existing outside the classroom. This process not only involves the insertion of technological solutions, but in the development of an autonomous, constructivist, critical, and collaborative learning environment.

What about the MOOCs?


George Siemens makes an interesting reflection on MOOCs focused on two factors:

  1. The learning potential for society (globally)
  2. The learning theory and pedagogical models that influence different types of MOOCs.

Although George Siemens considers the latter as a secondary factor, it seems to me important to analyze regarding the MOOC Completion Rates.

The ratio of high initial interest registered participants and the high level of abandonment is related, among other factors, to:

  • The effect of initial attraction produced by curiosity
  • No evaluation of prior knowledge requirements

It is likely that the high registration of participants attracted by curiosity diminish over time and MOOCs attract really interested participants. On the other hand, curiosity has been for me a very important factor to learn (and to review) about MOOCs, although I have completed a few courses.

The requirements that currently use most MOOCs are simple test with a low level of evaluation. These assessment systems is still in its early stages of development, and include assessment methods such as Peer Review, Calibrated Peer Review or Automated Essay Scoring. These systems are currently being studied in depth by MIT Edx (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Read Stephen P. Balfour, ASSESSING WRITING IN MOOCS

Week 19: Online, Hybrid, MOOC’s….Oh my!

I’m still plugging away at completing these last few weeks of the POT course.  I’m finally moved into the new house, but most of my material is still packed away in a box someplace – so my post is “low-tech” today.

First off, I have to say that I just completed my first online course as a student….Traffic School!  I definitely experienced some of the frustrations our students must have when dealing with unfamiliar technology.  Videos that wouldn’t upload, quizzes that were incorrectly scored, page after page of extremely borning text-only material.  Being a student in an online course gave me a new appreciation for my students and the issues they may have when starting a new course!

So, I have taught both fully online courses and completely face-to-face courses, but have never attempted a hybrid class before.  I know many instructors are doing hybrid classes with great success, and I think it would be very interesting to combine both the face-to-face and online worlds into one course.

Something that caught my eye in reading Chapter 13 of Ko and Rosen’s book this week was the quote, “Making the use of the internet optional rather than incorporating it into the curriculum dooms it to failure.”  I provide a Blackboard site for my face-to-face students where they can view lecture slides, videos, and submit their assignments (I would say 95% of my face-to-face students do submit their work online).  However, I do make it optional & now I’m beginning to question that.

I was under the impression that if we were teaching a face-to-face course that we could NOT require students to participate in online activities outside of class.  I guess a couple of my assignments do require students to use certain websites to access information, but for some reason, I thought we couldn’t require face-to-face students to use Blackboard or other Course Management Systems.  (Something about students taking face-to-face courses because they need/want the instructor interaction or may not have computer access outside of school.)  Am I mistaken here?  I really hope that I am becuase I would like to explore more online options for my face-to-face students.

Has anyone used a Facebook page for a class and had success with that?  I am seriously contemplating how to include a class Facebook page in the Fall.  There are so many current events and news articles surround health topics, that I think Facebook would be a natural choice to share these articles and have students comment on them.  However, if we aren’t supposed to make online activities optional, I’m not sure how I could monitor and grade participation on a site like Facebook.

I’m also confused about the implementation of MOOC’s in higher education.  In theory, MOOC’s sound fantastic – free classes to anyone who wants to particpate… where do I sign up?!  However, how in the world are assessments given to thousands of students at a time?  I could see MOOC’s being used for a seminar or just for people interested in learning about a given topic, but I don’t understand how they could possibly used in a setting where students must be evalutated for their work and obtain a grade for the course.  I sure know I wouldn’t want to be grading thousands of students at a time!

I guess I have more questions than answers this week!  Hoping some of you are still viewing these posts and I can get some insight on what everyone else is doing/trying in both their face-to-face and online courses!





The Course (or Learning) Management System

Wordle: CMS/LMSThe CMS/LMS is a technological tool, right?

Simplifying reasoning, we can say that technology and tools are constructed to facilitate and streamline the processes. At its core technology and tools are neutral. Their use depends on who is behind each tool.

A tool can trigger different effects. The result of the action of a hammer depends on whether the hammer is in the hands of a carpenter or a torturer.

Ideological tools?

But this simplification does not reflect the reality of modern tools such as mobile phones, operating systems, web browsers or CMS / LMS. The neutrality of these tools is in question, since they contain elements that guide their final effect. These elements, hidden at first glance, does guide or facilitate a particular type of outcome or include a pedagogical approach “embedded” as is the case of the CMS / LMS.

Lisa puts it well: “Today’s enterprise–scale systems were created to manage traditional teaching tasks as if they were business processes. They were originally designed to focus on instructor efficiency for administrative functions such as grade posting, test creation, and enrolment management.” Lisa M Lane, Insidious Pedagogy (2009)

In general, teachers are not aware of the pedagogical approach built on the CMS / LMS. Most use these web tools like neutral tools. They assume that they, the teachers, have full control of the pedagogical approach.

In my experience in supporting teachers in the use of LMS, I usually start with a session using the basic functions of the LMS. I reinforce the intuitive nature of the presentation and exercises, considering that most of the participating teachers will use a similar approach in the construction of their own content. In this way I build a basic structure, which becomes a template that each participant applied in the construction of their own subject as final work in a constructivist perspective.

My main criticism of the CMS / LMS is related to its inflexibility. The teacher maintains the role of generator of content and learning activities. What is worse, the use of a CMS / LMS as a simple repository of documents dramatically reduces interactivity and communication levels lower than those of the worst face-to-face session.

Is it possible to adapt a CMS / LMS to an innovative pedagogical approach?

Yes, building the course based on a pedagogic model, using for example the Three Stages of “Backward Design” proposal by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins:

  1. Stage 1—Identify Desired Results: What do I want students to learn?
  2. Stage 2—Determine Assessment Evidence: How do I check they have learned? how I measure the result?
  3. Stage 3—Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction: How do I teach to achieve the learning outcomes?

CMS/LMS, to be or not to be?

I use the CMS / LMS, Blackboard and Moodle specifically in existing subjects in my university and for the construction of new subjects, in many cases related to teacher training or projects with universities in other countries, adapting to the educational objectives relevant to the subject and target group.

One of the most important advantages is the flexibility and participants have an advanced knowledge of Web 2.0 tools integrated into the course. This applies to social networks like Twitter and Facebook that students know and use every day on their mobile phones and tablets. Disadvantages highlight the lack of functions, already integrated inside of LMS like Blackboard and Moodle, enabling the delivery of assignments and evaluation in a personalized manner.

My contacts with other groups that implement similar models is invaluable, and allow the sharing of experiences and suggestions, which in this specific case can provide solutions such as:

  • WordPress Plugins (gradebook, submitting assignments, etc.)
  • Independent Web 2.0 Tool (e.g. Engrade)
  • Using an LMS in addition to assignments and assessments (proposed for Lisa Lane).

Regarding Jennifer Demski, Rebuilding the LMS for the 21st Century (2012), I agree that Web 2.0 tools and cloud-based technologies can enhance teaching and student centered learning. , I also agree when Jennifer says that is not enough to provide an LMS to blog or wiki functions. Why re-invent these tools when we can use social networking tools that already exists and that everyone uses?

Renewal or Revolution?

Experts in education for many years are pointing in the line of revolutionizing education in transforming a functional educational model to the industrial revolution that no longer serves us today. To mention a few: Ken Bain, John Biggs, Richard Felder, Jay Mc Tighe, Chomsky, Ken Robinsson. But we can go back in time and remember to Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy.

Why do we tie to an educational model obsolete? What interests prevent their return? It is evident that as the economy, some people and groups are not interested in that change.

Classroom Management and Facilitation

Organizational and procedural measures to keep a class to move along.

I post my selection of the tips from Ko & Rossen, Chapter 11: Classroom Management and Facilitation combined with tips from my own experience. Is my intention to recommend these tips to the online courses I’m managing.

1. Record Keeping and File Management

  • On your own computer, create folders that reflect your course structure with subfolders for course content, Lectures, readings, videos, exercises.
  • Make sure your students specify how to identify the assignments files and mail subject, for example: first name + last initial + assignment name/number.
  • Set up folders for student assignment and messages in your email program and filter incoming messages to any folder automatically.
  • Take notes on the contribution of individual students
  • Create a shared spread sheet on Google docs with other teachers to record students participation.

2. Manage Communication and Manage Your Workload

  • The course primary announcement area will be Twitter
  • A good habit is to make regular announcements on a weekly basis.
  • Ask students to first post a question in the appropriate discussion forum and wait 24 hours for a replay before attempting to email the instructor

3. Encourage Student Participation

  • Create smaller groups of 5-6 students for the purposes of discussion topics and projects.
  • Specify a number of participation activities as required and graded.
  • Use online testing with automatic grading for at least one-third of your assessments.
  • Make at least one individual assignment with a small project group. Consider students use a peer-review rubric to evaluate themselves and other group’s members.
  • One third of the participation grade will be based on the student participation in the discussion forums.
  • Maintain a pattern of frequent visits to the online classroom (at least 2-3 times/week).
  • Prepare a FAQ of questions based on your experience.

4. Balance between Student and Instructor Centered Activities

  • Use Web 2.0 tools to allow students to generate content (Concept Maps, diagrams, short videos or podcast, etc.)

5. Foster Asynchronous Discussion

  • Start the major topic threads yourself
  • Address students by name and encourage students to signal topics and clarify responses.
  • Establish a pattern of frequent response to at least 2-3 times/week (best short but frequently activity)
  • Don’t try to respond to every posting. Encourage students to interact with each other, not only with you.
  • Provide feedback that stimulates higher-level thinking, like “What are the implications of your statement?”, “Does anyone want to add to/dispute/verify that?”.

6. Establish Instructor Facilitated Synchronous Communication

  • Limit each session to a maximum of 1 hour (20-30 minutes of the topic presentation, 20-30 minutes of discussion). Announce the time limit at the start.
  • Post the topics or agenda in advance.

7. Planning Team Teaching Online

  • Team teaching online requires even more advance planning than the face-to-face option.
  • Ask students to send any emailed queries to both instructors.