Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Student-Centered Online Learning?

Student-Centered Online Learning?     Is it possible?

This is one thing that I have been having problems with in my online learning classes.  Years ago, I was teaching online though Adobe Connect and some other video conferencing tools but I was unsatisfied.  I wanted all of us to be able to see each other online, but we just didn't have the bandwidth. I would complain to our technical gurus but they just reminded me of the laws of physics that limited the amount of data that could be shoved through a digital hose at one time.

So, I began to teach online like the rest of the professors where the students watched me and then responded by typing their comments in the chat box (see lower left box above.)  The problem was that it was too ME-centered. Yes, some of you may have just dropped your gum hearing me say that, but learning isn't about the teacher talking. It is about the students interacting in the process of discovering new ideas.

Anyway, this is the way that I have been using video conferencing as a teaching tool for the past couple of years and it has been less than rewarding. I would talk and students would type.  I was proud of my ability to read the scrolling written discussion as I spoke and incorporating it into my talk without a stutter.  It just didn't have the interaction that I typically have in a face-to-face classroom.

Last semester I was teaching my Selection and Integration of Instructional Technologies course to our Instructional Technology Masters students. One of the assignments involves small groups of students finding journal articles that relate to our study module. They lead online written discussions about the articles but then they also have to lead a video-conferenced discussion as well. This process involves these students using their webcams to show their likenesses and then leading the discussion. Please note, I (Dr. Z) turn off my webcam AND mute my microphone so that I have no input into the discussion except for an occasional text message telling them that we need to "move on."

I LOVED this!!!!  This is the way it SHOULD be!!!!  Students are sharing their ideas and leading the discussion. They are taking control of their own learning and I am sitting at the side guiding the process in a forwardly direction - whatever that may mean.

SOOOOOOOO, I am teaching my Selection and Integration class again this semester. I have been talking and the students have been typing in the notes section. We haven't begun the Articles assignment yet, but I wanted to get the students more involved tonight. The question was - How?

I begin each class (before we begin recording) by verbally greeting each student. I expect them to respond verbally. I even ask them to use their webcam when available, but they seem a little shy for that. Tonight, we were discussing the definition of Literacy and New Literacies.  I began the discussion but asked students to use their webcams when they responded. It was slow at first, but most of them allowed us to see them as they spoke. I shared the screen with them for while, but eventually turned it off and the light "only shone on them." I spoke to provide some direction occasionally, but found that just sitting quietly when students weren't talking was quite successful because teachers can't stand "Dead Air" and they rush to fill the void.

As class proceeded, the students took over. See the screenshot ↑↑↑↑↑ UP THERE ↑↑↑↑↑ The students are in charge and Dr. Z is no where to be seen.    HOOORAY!!!

It was a successful evening and I look forward to our future discussions.  Many of the students mentioned that they enjoyed the process and looked forward to doing it next week and in the future.

I believe that this is a significant step in my journey to make my online courses more student-centered.  Online learning is not necessarily 21st century learning.  It can be just as 19th century as boring lectures in the flesh only they can do more damage across a larger stretch of land.   =-)

The key is in the pedagogical design that places students at the center of their learning experiences.

What do you do to help your students take control of their learning in your online courses?

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

EduCon 2.5 in Philly this Weekend!!!

EduCon 2.5 is happening in Philly this weekend!!!!Educon 2.5 is a national conference in Philly this weekend. It has some of the leading minds in 21st Century education attending.

Here are the guiding principles behind EduCon
  1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.
  2. Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen.
  3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
  4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate, and collaborate.
  5. Learning can — and must — be networked.
At this time, there are 278 attendees.  Here is a link to a page with their names and photos.

You can see the schedule of presentations down the right side of the page. 

Wish I was there, but instead I can watch the conversations through live streaming video.  You can TOOO!   

  1. You have to begin by signing up and creating a profile.
  2. Go to the Conversations and find ones that interest you.
  3. You just need to select the conversation and then sign-in.
  4. The list of conversations look appetizing and the people presenting them are leaders in our field.  These aren't lectures, they are interactive sessions with attendees discussing ideas and the presenters facilitating discussion.
  5. You can watch it occur as it happens because they are using YouTube Broadcast to stream the presentations.  The greatest part is that if you miss a session, the session is posted immediately for your enjoyment.
You can also follow some of the happenings through Twitter using #educon

This is a MUST experience.

Good luck and enjoy your first Virtual conference.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

End of the Semester Humor

Does this sound like your interaction with some students?

Brittany and her professor discuss her success in class.

Another student complains about his grade.


 Hope you had a good semester.