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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

3 Major Challenges to Teaching Online and How to Beat Them

While there are many advantages to teaching online, I want to begin with the challenges because those are the demons in the room that we have to confront.  This list is done completely from my experience.  I have purposely not reviewed the online lists that others have created because I wanted this to come from my heart.  After I complete this post, I will search the web for a few lists that others have created and might expand your knowledgebase with items that I may have missed or answers that I hadn’t considered.  It will be a learning experience for us all.

To keep this from being a Whiners Fest, I will try to include strategies that I am using to confront these challenges.  I can not say that my suggestions are the only answers to these challenges and I would be MIGHTY GRATEFUL if you could share your ideas for addressing these challenges.  I might also note that I am providing the  plans that I have had in my head and tried to implement.  Posting them here requires me to bare my soul to the world and makes it more of a commitment for me to accomplish them.  (Please note that these are not curricular challenges.  Those I will save for another day.  These are personal management challenges):

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind” – It can be mighty difficult to stay engaged in an online course.  We are advocates for keeping our students engaged, but it is easy to get involved in my day-to-day activities if my students are not going to be meeting with me in person on a regular basis. This is not to say that these students or their work are not important to me, it’s just that it requires discipline to keep engaged as a teacher as well as a student.

  • Schedule: I try to organize my schedule so that there are specific times when I am reviewing their work.  Most of my classes meet on Tuesday.  Their assignments are due the Monday before we meet so I have allotted Monday for reviewing their work and preparing for incorporating their work into our Tuesday meeting.  I don’t think that it makes sense to grade their assignments before we meet, so I will go through and take notes about what they said and then use that to guide some of our discussion.  I can use these notes to make grading much easier when I grade.  
  • Schedule to go online daily.  I haven’t fully achieved this yet, but I need to create a checklist of things that I will check on a daily basis in each of the classes.  This might include Checking email; Checking assignments submitted; and Reviewing discussions.
TimeZones -  This is a challenge for which there is no cure.  One of my sections begins at 6:00 AM CST because I have students in South Korea where it is 9:00 PM and a student in Nepal where it is 6:00 PM. I am also meeting at 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM (CST) that same day because I have students in Iowa who are home from work and ready to learn. 

  • Schedule: The key is to create a schedule that will work for all of you. I have to be flexible. It is my job to teach these students and there are more of them than me.  Most of them have teaching jobs where they work all day and then meet with me at night.  You can also address this issue by recording your class sessions and making them available online for students to watch at a later time.  I have had courses where there was just no reasonable possibility for the student to attend the course live so he watched it the next day as a video and then asked me any questions that arose. I even teleconferenced with him periodically to keep him "in the loop."
Providing Support for Students – When you have a classroom full of students, it is easier to tell if there are issues with group work or interest in the class than if the students are on the other side of the “Big Pond.” I try to deal with this by keeping an open line of communication going between the students and myself. Some of this is covered in my previous posting, Communicating with Students Online, but here are a few other things I have tried:
  • Use Email Filters: I use Gmail filters to sort my incoming emails into folders (labels). (I will provide a video later to show you how to do this.) I have asked my students to send me email through the Blackboard LMS that we use so that there will be a specific heading in the subject line. The filter that I have created will then move the email into a folder specific for that class. I have positioned these labels in such a way that I can see immediately whenever students have sent me email. 
  • Consider Your Students' Experience: This may be a no-brainer, but I was just discussing working with students in collaborative groups with my colleague the other day when something dawned on me. Working in collaborative groups can be difficult for students. I do what I can to discuss the roles of members in collaborative groups and how they can best work together. I was noting that the undergrads were having bigger problems with this than my graduate students when it hit me that our graduate students are mostly practicing teachers who use collaborative grouping with their own students in their classrooms and have had experience working together as professionals.  My undergraduates are less experienced in collaborative grouping.  Sure, they have had teachers do it throughout their schooling but they haven't had to take responsibility as an adult to "get the job done."  This means that I need to have weekly feedback from the group members about how they are progressing. I need to work with the students to address any situations where students are not doing their part.
  • Make Personal Connections As Necessary: Based upon what I just said above, let me say there is no replacement for personal contact. When one of your students informs you that isn't doing his/her work, there is nothing wrong with you, the teacher, contacting the students in need. At first you can do this by e-mail. But if you don't get a response from your e-mail, don't be sure about making a phone call. If your students are in your country or continent this probably won't be a problem in today's day of cell phones and no long distance charges. I have had many situations where it was simply a matter of getting the communication going. In some cases I had students who were working three jobs and having problems connecting with the rest of the team. But in some cases I just had students to work doing what they need to do.  Receiving a phone call from their professor often handled the matter.
  • Use Social Media: This strategy has an interesting twist to it. I have created Facebook Fan Pages in the past and asked my students to share their ideas and frustrations there.  These didn't seem to work. When I asked my students to create the Fan Pages and administer them, the students used them much more readily. They used this venue for asking each other for clarification about assignments.  They were sharing interesting stuff they found. They asked colleagues for advice on professional situations. They even use it to share things that they are learning (while they are learning it) in professional workshops.  The best part is that the Facebook Feed for this academic medium appears with their social feeds through Facebook.  It is a constant part of their lives.  It was much more effective because they took ownership.  Try it.
  • Online Office Hours: Having office hours is easy in a face-to-face world.  You just sit in your office for the same 5 hours a week throughout the semester and wait for nobody to come. =-)  In the online world, it's not that easy. First of all, you can't expect them to come to your brick-and-mortar office. Your students will need to meet with you through some online channel.  This might be by phone, but more likely they will want to video conference with you through Zoom, Google Hangout or Facetime.  I have identified 5 hours on Tuesday (2:00 - 5:00) and Wednesday (3:00 - 5:00) to meet with me through Zoom. This means that I have opened my ZoomRoom on my computer and I am sitting there (usually correcting homework) waiting for students to drop by. I have selected times that are after school for my practicing teachers but sometimes I set up specific meetings with students who contact me for evenings or weekends.  It's whatever it takes to assist my students.
Here are some additional resources for you to review:  
What do you have to add to the discussion? 
What is your greatest challenge (or fear) with online learning.  (Mine is that you won't leave a comment on this blog posting so that this PLC can respond to it.)

Z

Saturday, June 16, 2018

RWLDs - Readings/Watchings/Listenings/Doings: Textbooks No Longer Sufficient

Textbooks are not enough anymore . . . Use RWLDs
California has tried to address these needs using eBooks to replace their paper textbooks. but that isn't enough.

Our students are in the Multimedia Generation. These Millennials spend most of their waking hours Reading, Watching, Listening to, and Doing multimedia. This means that their brains are wired to acquire and assimilate information through multiple forms of media but most of our teachers still use paper textbooks.

Sooooo, how do we provide recent and relevant materials for our classes? Our answer is the RWLD. RWLD's provide the Readings, Watchings, Listenings and Doings that will inform your students in their field of study. 

Readings: Just because you aren't reading form a textbook, it doesn't mean that your students won't be reading. It means that you will be able to direct them towards recent and relevant readings in the form of articles, books and reliable websites. Just because I list the resources on the web, it doesn't mean that I don't assign books to them to read. In my last Emerging Instructional Technologies course I had them read Disrupting Class by Christensen, Johnson and Horn.

Watchings: These are the videos or vlogs that you want them to watch. These may be videos that are already available for you to use, or they might be videos or screencasts that you have made to help educate your students. While YouTube is probably the most popular resource for ready-made videos , there are many other resources that you can access. 
Here are some of the educational resources:
Listenings: Some of your resources will be auditory. These will primarily be podcasts. There is a huge selection of podcast resources online.  The most complete directory of podcasts is iTunes. It doesn't matter if you are a Mac or Window or Linex user. iTunes is available on all of these platforms so you should be able to find them and use them.
My dream for using the Listenings is that my auditory-learning students will be able to download them to their MP3 players and then listen to them as they walk to school or workout. The only problem that I have had is that not all of my students knew how to download sound files to their players.  You don't necessarily know hwo to do that if you are a Digital Native. =-)   It may require you showing them or creating a screencast to instruct them in how to download these file.
Doings: These are the activities that your students will do. I have my students complete surveys, do online searches, create projects, or whatever. This is the section that filles the things that don't fit the other sections. 


Check Out These Successful RWLDs

Additional notes:
  1.  Notice that I create my RWLDs using a blog. This is the easiest way to get things on the web. Another advantage is that a blog will provide an easy RSS feed for students to capture their assignments on their PLN. Finally, it is even possible to feed the RWLD blog into their YouTube accounts - that means no excuses!!!!
  2. Include an image on each of the postings. Be careful about copyright - you are the model. You may find what you need using the Creative Commons selections at Flickr.com 
  3. These resources don't need to be ONLY teacher-found resources. I have opened up the RWLD to the students so that when they were taking over the class for a day, they could add their own RWLD resources.
  4. Another advantage to putting your RWLD in a blog is that you can reuse your postings. You just need to reset your postings to appear on scheduled dates at the beginning of the semester.
We have been using RWLDs for a nine years now and they have been quite successful. What do you think?  Will they be useful to you?
photo: flickr.com/wohnai

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

30 Resources for Stopping Bullying at YOUR School

http://olivialauraryan.edublogs.org
What are YOU doing to stop bullying at your school?  

Bullying comes in many flavors. It can be angry gangs on the playground. It can be a punch in the shoulder or repeated namecalling in the school hallways as students move between classes. It can be "cool" girls making fun of others to add to their feeling of superiority. It can be "macho" boys intimidating their gay classmates. It can be a class of students standing around a special needs student calling him "Stupid." It might be kids (or parents) waging anonymous online wars against a classmate who "rubs them the wrong way."

Fortunately, the anti-bullying movement is actively engaged in a fight against this aggressive behavior in our schools and in the general public (online or not). The U.S. government has taken a stance against bullying and supported with the StopBullying.gov website and grants for fighting this problem. The most important thing is to be informed of what can be done.

Here are some resources that I have found you might find valuable in building your program:


Stop Bullying Songs:

Bullying Stories

 Stop the Bullying Programs

Stop Bullying Websites

Stop Bullying Articles

Stop Cyber Bullying

NOTE: This is based upon a posting I did on Stopping Bullying back in 2013.  After talking about it in class today, I realized that it shouldn't languish in old posts.  It needed a rebirth. I have added some resources.  
Do you have other stories of success, programs for fighting bullying or ideas about how to combat this unfairness?  If so, please provide your ideas in the comments below.
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Friday, November 03, 2017

Dr. Z Reflects on a Successful Lesson in Ed Tech that He Just Taught

This is a first for me.  In the past, I have internally reviewed lessons that I have taught.  I have made notes about how I might improve the lesson next time I teach it.  I have never shared any of these reflections with others - - - until now.  Dr. Z Reflects - for real!

This is an extemporaneous reflection on how I introduced our final project.  Instead of just beginning the session by saying "Today we are going to be learning about our final project for the semester."  Instead, I began by contextualizing the upcoming project by beginning with us reviewing an article I had asked them to read before class, Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching.  I broke them into groups by tables and had each group review a specific characteristic and discuss how the assignments we had completed this semester fit that characteristic. They all share good observations and they agreed that we had been following the characteristics.  I followed this with an explanation that this final project is the culmination of our learner-centered experience and I showed them some examples.  The students left completely involved in anticipating the upcoming challenge.  Watch the 9-minute video and it will complete my story.


Here is the reflection.  I have some more ideas and resources that I will post below the video.  I hope that you find this interesting. PLEASE provide feedback in the Comment section at the bottom of this post.




Here is the graphic for the "5 Characteristics" article that I asked our student (Emily Caylor) to create.

Motivating Achievement

I also tried something new with our students.  We have a couple of assignments that they are responsible to complete throughout the semester.  
  • One assignment involves having them create a Blog and write 4 blog posts about things they are learning or things that interest them concerning educational technology.
  • The other assignment challenges them to expand their Personal Learning Network.  This means that they connect with other educators through Twitter or Facebook or ???
The problem is that many of them keep "putting it off" and the end of the semester is rapidly advancing. Many of the students are sorely behind on this assignment.   Last night I was talking with one of my Instructional Technology masters students who is interested in research the effect that self-monitoring can have on students.  I thought that one way for my students to monitor their own progress on these two assignments by sharing their successful progress on these assignments.  

At the beginning of class today, I created a table on the whiteboard that asked them to post their name if they had worked on their blog or their Personal Learning Network. As they entered the room, I suggested that they might want to put their names on the board if they had worked on either of these projects.  Twenty of our twenty-eight students registered success.  It will be interesting to see if that number increases next Friday.



So what do you think?  Was this reflection meaningful for you (it DEFINITELY was for me.)  Do you think that you will be doing some vlogging on your blog?

Respond in the comments below

Friday, September 15, 2017

Happy International Dot Day and National Online Learning Day!!

Just wanted to wish you a happy International Dot Day.    

This is based upon Peter Reynolds' book, "The Dot"  It is a short picture book that celebrates creativity and helping develop the creative mindset.  Here is a 4-min read aloud of the book.  You will LOVE it!

I first found this book a few years ago at the ITEC conference in Des Moines.  They had Peter Reynolds as a guest speaker.  Peter spoke about The Dot book in his presentation and I immediately fell in love with the book.  I stood in line for an hour to get him to autograph a couple of copies so that I could give them to our grandsons.

My favorite part of this story began while he was drawing a picture related to the book in the front cover.  I asked him, "When you draw, do you have the picture in your mind and then work to represent it on the paper?"  He thought about it for a minute and replied "No, I see the picture on the paper and then I just need to connect the dots."  Fascinating!



Originated by an Iowan

International Dot Day was originated in 2009 by Terry Shay, music teacher at North Tama High School.  Last year, I had a student in my Ed Tech and Design class who had Terry Shay as a teacher. He said that Mr. Shay was an amazing teacher.

Wait, There's More!

Just found another video created by the author, Peter H. Reynolds, that explains how he creates wonderful graphics . . . all beginning with a dot.




BTW,

This is also National Online Learning Day.  This day "showcases how students of all ages are thriving with the ability to learn online—anywhere, anytime."
There is another webpage where you can read other students' online stories or share your own:

Follow the Twitter discussion today using the hashtag #onlinelearningday

Have a GREAT DAY!!

Z

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane-Affected People - Use Zello to Communicate

Hurricane-Affected People! Communicating with your families and friends can be a difficult thing to do in a disaster like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Texting isn't always enough and phone calls take too much bandwidth. 
I have been told that people are communicating using a walkie-talkie-like phone app called Zello. I found a link to a set of directions that were written as an article about how you can sign on and use it.
Since it is filled with ads, I have condensed it to a 3-page .pdf format. This could make the distribution simpler. (Please note that I have included a link to the original article.)

Our hopes are with you and your well-being.  Please contact me if there is anything that we can do to help you.  zeitz@uni.edu or through the comment section of this blog.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Students Building their Personal Learning Networks

21st century learning is all about teachers and students being connected people and resources around the world. 

This is often discussed in teacher education classes but how often is it really experienced?  Do students' assignments include challenges that encourage them to find and contact practicing teachers or subject experts as part of the learning process?

Unfortunately, the answer is usually "No."

We teach the required Intro to Technology course for preservice teachers at the University of Northern Iowa.  This course, Educational Technology and Design, is designed to engage the students in learning about learning with the support of technology.

We introduce the concept of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to our students and challenge them to find and connect with other educators, authors, and experts around the world. We have them draw a map of their PLN at the beginning of the semester and then a post-map at the end where they depict how their PLN has grown and reflect on the process. 

Here is a link to the assignment that we use. 

Building Our PLN through Twitter

Last week I was introducing this assignment to my students. We were discussing why it is useful to be connected to other educators as well as how we might do that.  I pointed out that if we wanted to connect with 2nd grade teachers, we could just search on the #2ndchat hashtag on Twitter and we would have a collection of tweets for those teachers.  We could use the same process to connect with 4th grade teachers (#4thchat) or 8th grade teachers (#8thchat).  (There are hundreds of other educational hashtags - you can find them here.)

Anyway - I suggested that we do a search on #2ndchat to find some 2nd grade teachers. We found scores of tweets from the primary grade teachers. Most of them were sharing
their strategies, experiences and fears about school starting. We scrolled through and found a posting with some interesting photos of a teacher's classroom (See tweet image above.)

I suggested that we send a tweet to this teacher. Many of my students (freshman to senior undergrads) said thought that making such a connection was a little creepy. I pointed out that the reason that teachers post things on Twitter is so that others can benefit from them and these teachers would be interested in talking with other teachers.

While in class I sent a tweet to this teacher, Hannah Hartman, to begin a conversation.



This kicked off an interesting conversation with Hannah Hartman from San Francisco that lasted over the Labor Day weekend. We even had another 2nd grade teacher, Shawn Reed, from Vallejo, California get into the discussion. Here are the tweets:





The day before I was going to meet with my students again, I asked @teacherhartman if she would be interested in Skyping with my students for 5 minutes on Wednesday. Hannah was excited about the opportunity and we decided to Skype at 8 AM (her time) and 10 AM (our time).

Unfortunately, some things came up with her 2nd grade students so we had to cancel the session but we plan to connect our classes in the near future.

Here are the classes that are engaged in this process (photos posted with permission):




Twitter IS a great way to build your Professional/Personal Learning Network. Find some interesting tweets and send a tweet directly to their authors . . . you will be glad that you did.

How have you been building your PLN?
Share your experiences with building your PLN in the comments section.