Learning by Doing

and doing again

August 18, 2013
by annecdeutsch
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Work is Never Done

I would love to say that my work here is done. However, it feels like it’s just beginning.  How can you ever be done with a task as overwhelming as course design?  I have so many things that I know would make my course better and just haven’t had the time to make all the changes that I would like.  It’s frustrating that I received such amazing feedback from Alex and from Celeste, Diana and Keven but there is just no way to fit it all in over one week.  I tackled the notes I found to be most important.  Content first, aesthetics last.  I definitely haven’t dotted all of my i’s and crossed all of my t’s.  But it’s the best that I can do under the current circumstances and I’m pretty happy with it in general.

The learning curve in this course has been so steep I suppose I should appreciate that the end of the course signals a plateau.  I have no immediate plans to implement the course I built so I’m in a bit of a holing pattern for now.  But I don’t want to let go of the hope that I can teach this material online in the not too distant future.  Regardless of what happens with my course I’ve leaned so much and know that I have so much more learning ahead of me.  I won’t be taking a course next semester so maybe I’ll work on developing my very own perplexity fairy.  We’ll see what happens!

I’m so grateful that I had this experience.  I’ve learned so much from Alex and from all of my classmates.  I’m so used to turning to my professor for all of the answers and I can truly say in this class that I learned from every member of the class community.  When the course first opened I remember being so annoyed by all of the emails that came through from the course.  But pretty quickly I came to look forward to those emails so that I could follow the class discussions as they evolved.  I may not have participated in every discussion but I followed each and every one.  It’s amazing how much you can learn when you have so many instructors!

When I did student advising I would ask students all the time to name their instructors.  Chances were pretty good that if they were in a residential classroom they would know the name.  However, if they were in an online class they almost never knew their instructor’s name. It always stunned me.  In this course not only will I remember my instructor’s name – I will also remember my classmates’ names. That’s pretty remarkable!

My immediate application of what I’ve learned will come into play as I work with instructors who are teaching online and want to incorporate information literacy into their classes.  I will be working within a different framework – Blackboard rather than Moodle – but I know that it’s the concepts rather than the platform that are most important.  I will also be a guest rather than a primary instructor, and there are both advantages and disadvantages to that situation.  I just hope that I have an opportunity sooner rather than later to dig back into the online realm.

I suppose that this represents the major shift I have had over the course of the Semester.  I came in to this course eager to learn but not so eager about online education.  I wasn’t sure that I would learn as much online as I would in a residential classroom.  I was proven wrong!  I learned a tremendous amount with the help of my instructor and classmates.  This makes me more enthusiastic about finding future opportunities to both teach and learn online.

I wish all of my classmates the best as they move forward with their own adventures. And Alex I do hope that our paths continue to cross!

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August 12, 2013
by annecdeutsch
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Grit

I”m going to start with the “how did it feel” question, which is uncharacteristic for me.  But the question “what did you learn and how do you know you learned it” seems overwhelming right now.

I have felt anxious, excited, frustrated, engaged, overwhelmed, accomplished, and confused.  The good news is that I’ve pushed through the difficult to get to the rewarding.  I wish that there was an effective way to prepare students for the fact that learning is an emotional roller coaster.  Grit has been a hot topic in education as of late.  Here’s a TED video of Angela Lee Duckworth explaining grit.   Of course, this leads to the question,  how do we promote the development of grit (tenacity, perseverance, you get the picture)?  Duckworth refers to Carol Dweck and her growth mindset theory.  Dweck’s work explores how some students believe that their intellect is bound or fixed while other students see their intellect as continuously  developing.  It occurred to me as I was reviewing this material that reflection is a great tool to move students (or anyone for that matter) from a fixed to a growth mindset.  When you record your progress you are providing evidence of your own intellectual development.  I have understood metacognition and reflective practice intellectually, but the experience of blogging in this course has given me a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of these concepts. Hey – look at that – something I learned!  It’s funny in this course how many things I have understood theoretically now make sense based on practice.  That’s pretty powerful.  Here are some other examples

  • Constructivism
  • Student Centered Teaching
  • Active Learning
  • Self-directed learning
  • Self Assessment
  • Peer assessment

It has been a pretty powerful experience. And because my learning is based on experience my guess is that I will retain these lessons.

Now on to course revisions – I can’t believe we’re almost done.

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August 5, 2013
by annecdeutsch
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Total Immersion

It’s amazing how much can get done in a short period of time.  While I can’t say that my class is where I want it to be, it’s much farther along than where I could imagine it being given the time frame.  I keep having to make decisions about what is and is not doable and prioritizing in order to make decisions about how I will spend my time.  I also have to resist the urge to do things because they seem cool or innovative to me. I have to step back and think about what I am capable of, what my students will be capable of, and what will help them and what might distract them in meeting the core objectives of the course.  I should probably be keeping a list of discarded ideas in hopes that someday I will teach this class and will want to incorporate some of these ideas if my experience teaching the class over time indicates that they would be successful.  Here are some ideas I have had but not utilized:

  • Peer to Peer Forums
  • Student produced “how to” videos – I think these could be incorporated on a “value added” basis.  What functionality or strategy did you discover that was not covered in the course videos?  Each student could be required to produce X number of these videos.
  • I just thought of an immediately salvageable idea.  I had planned on making videos at the end of each module based on the questions that were asked and answered in the Peer to Peer Forums.  I still think that a “looking back to move forward” video would be helpful on a module by module basis.  I could give group feedback based on what I am seeing – both the positive and the negative.

Because I have made so many changes I am a bit worried that my course information documents no longer map exactly to the course.   I do need to take a look at them again.  I’m really looking forward to the peer review process.  I’m interested in what my classmates see in my course, and I”m sure that I will learn a few things as I review their courses.  I’ve peeked in on most courses and have been incredibly impressed.  At this point I feel like I’m so immersed in my course that I can’t even see it any more.  It will be great to get other perspectives!

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July 31, 2013
by annecdeutsch
2 Comments

Race to the finish

Well, it’s time to sprint to the finish line. Unfortunately I feel like I lost one of my shoes and I have a side stitch.  I have SO much to do and am feeling pretty overwhelmed.  I”m prioritizing to make sure that the most important content gets into the course.  I definitely have to work on instructions and assessment.  I”m not entirely sure why I’m getting hung up here, but I’m really stuck.  Whether or not the instructional videos I had planned on make it into the course is questionable at this point.  I suppose one option would be to have the students create instructional videos using Jing.  I’m just not sure how the timing would work out, but it’s something worth considering as it definitely falls into the active learning category.  I do worry that it’s a bit like dropping students in the middle of the woods with no compass and saying “good luck getting home.”  The question becomes – what could serve as a compass?  I don’t have the answer to that right now.  Having students create instructional videos does feel less scary that following Jim Grooms’s suggestion and having students design their own assignments.  While I love this idea in theory, I don’t think it’s something I would want to do my first time out in both instructional design and online teaching.  I’m actually less concerned with letting the students go wild and more concerned with assessment.  Anyhoo, this is all something to tuck away for later.

Another idea that I have resisted in the past, but I think I might be coming around, is gamification.  I wish that Bryan Alexander had said a little bit more about this topic.  The recent conversation about gaming and education in our discussion forum has been really informative.  I don’t know why I’ve been resistant, particularly since games in my f2f classes have mostly been great successes.  I would have students group into teams and compete and the games ranged from answering questions to solving problems to completing a task.  Not only would these activities lead to higher levels of engagement and enthusiasm, they helped groups of students bond and work together as a team.  Those moments when students with various strengths and weaknesses balanced each other out and worked out a solution as a team were fantastic.

I”m pretty happy with my “refurbished” discussion questions.  I feel like they are at a high enough level, away from the “how to”, to engage students and prompt lively discussions and interactions.  Alex’s interview with Beth Harris was invaluable on this front.  She really helped me elevate my thinking about discussion questions.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that she revisits those questions on a regular basis.  I suspect that if I ever get this course off the ground I’ll always be playing with the discussion questions to encourage the most learning and interaction.

I like thinking about rubrics.  I like learning about rubrics.  I like norming rubrics.  I like looking at other people’s rubrics.  I  don’t like creating rubrics.  This has been surprising to me.  More to the point, it’s a tremendous stumbling block! I need to really simplify my approach to make this manageable.

Onward…

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July 22, 2013
by annecdeutsch
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Lessons From The Past

Who am I as an educator?  Someone who raises her hand, often without full consideration.  Here is the perfect example.  Clickers arrived on my campus and nobody used them.  They just sat around and the administrator who bought them grew increasingly frustrated.  So I taught myself how to use them, brought them into the classroom, and even presented at a conference to spread the joy of clickers.  The next exciting project was video classroom observation.  I won’t go into the details.  Suffice it to say that the video, along with some helpful feedback, made it clear that I was using technology as an instructional crutch that was WAY too short.   I needed to step back and get a better handle on active learning and authentic assessment.  Now that I have practice in these areas I think that I could use clickers far more effectively, but I no longer feel the need.  I’ve also presented this experience at conferences – complete with video – it’s horrifying but instructive.  Anyhow, these experiences are a frame of reference for what follows.

Some of what I talked about last week has been stripped from my class – namely peer to peer forums.  As I listened to Alex’s feedback I could hear her (literally) pause at the complexity of my ice breaker activity that moved from a peer to peer forum to a discussion forum to the library cafe.  Her thinking out loud brought me back to a series of unfortunate events and reminded me of the importance of approaching my course from a student perspective.  While she suggested crafting clear instructions, I took time to step back and consider the bigger picture.  I will be a new online instructor and my students will be Freshman (fingers crossed that this gets off the ground at some point).  In order to model effective facilitation I think I should try my hand at it a few times before I expect students to do so effectively.  Bill Pelz is a pro, and I think he has it right with his student facilitated discussions, but I don’t think I”m ready. Instructors need scaffolding too!  My hope is that if I ask the right discussion questions and facilitate with a deft hand that the discussions will be an effective forum for peer to peer teaching and learning.   We’ve seen that take shape in our course.

A few words can make a big impact – “just because you call it a discussion doesn’t make it a discussion.”  I had to laugh out loud when I heard Alex say this as she evaluated my learning activities written exercise.  I laughed because she was right on.  I also  laughed because I recently moved back to New York after 4 years in Minnesota and I find East Coast candor refreshing.  My discussions were actually written exercises.  Alex encouraged me to prompt authentic discussion and engagement.  I immediately thought of  Beth Harris and her strategy of asking BIG questions in her discussion forums.  Interesting that I blogged about this but didn’t reconsider my own discussion questions.  I have revisited and revised my forum prompts using the big question model.  What is knowledge?  What is research?  What are the politics of research?  This reminded me that the most lively discussions in my f2f classes were inevitably about big ideas and controversy.  How enlivened can a conversation about controlled vocabulary really be?  Out of library school that is!

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July 16, 2013
by annecdeutsch
0 comments

So Many Venn Diagrams So Little Time

Librarians love a good Venn diagram.  Just say boolean operator and give us a white board and a pen – it’s ridiculous. The article “A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY learning network” by Shea, Pickett and Pelz (2003) is swimming in Venn diagrams.  In preparation for this post I took some time to ponder the various diagrams/models of an effective learning environment in an effort to frame my thinking about who I am as an educator and thinking about areas for development.

Starting with Bransford’s (2000) How People Learn I feel that the area that I will to focus most on creating a learner centered environment.  I’m pretty grounded in the knowledge and assessment areas.  Although I can talk a good game about constructivism and student learning, what really matters is how effective I am in designing, implementing (direct instruction), and facilitating a student centered classroom.  I find the design aspect most challenging because it’s the foundation and if built correctly should support the implementation and facilitation.  I really appreciate the definition of assessment from this model: “provide learners with many opportunities to make their thinking visible and to get feedback in order to create new meaning and new understanding” (p. 63).  This is an important reminder that assessment, at its best, is about furthering learning.

Moving on to Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education  I have a bit more to consider.  Not only are their seven criteria, but ideally they are activated at the intersection of Bransford’s three criteria.  This is starting to feel daunting.  For the moment I will consider them separately.  The areas for my greatest attention will be fostering student reciprocity and cooperation along with time on task.  Again, the other elements are already incorporated in my toolkit.  Again, I will need to dig into all of the elements of teaching presence to bring this all to life.  The opening ice breaker module will be extremely important in getting things off to a good start and building community. I”m hoping that the interview a partner and report out to the group will translate to the online environment.  I like the idea of starting introductions with conversations rather than reporting out.  The P2P forums will force students to interact and to switch traditional roles of student (asking a question) and instructor (answering a question).  I will also want to take a role in connecting students in the discussions if necessary (I”m guessing it will be, but I might be surprised!).  Time on task can make an appearance in course information documents as well as the course schedule.

Now we have Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s (2000) Critical Inquiry in a Text Based Environment and brings us to the focus of this module, teaching presence, which intersects with social presence and cognitive presence.  I really think that I will have to focus equally on instructional design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction because this is all new.  Right now, of course, I”m focusing on design with some direct instruction components thrown in for good measure.   And while I”m thinking about facilitation as I build these components, I will also be thinking about how I can improve design and direct instruction as I’m teaching.  I appreciate the distinction between teacher presence and teaching presence outlined in this article and will continue to develop pathways and support for students to develop their own teaching presence.

One of the things that I’m struggling with in this course is pacing.  I”m wondering if there is a way to build some breathing room into my course.  I don’t know what can be stripped out, but I think it will be necessary.  The course is designed for incoming freshmen and I want to keep them tuned in and engaged but not overwhelmed.  I will keep this in mind as I move forward.

Shea, P.J., Pickett, A.M., & Pelz, W.E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. JALN 7 (2)pp. 61-80.

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July 8, 2013
by annecdeutsch
0 comments

The Bar is Set High

I was listening to the interview with John Prusch about his online German class and when he said that it took him 300 hours of development and 15-20 hours a week to teach I was taken aback.  Now that I have the experience of being an online student I can  say that the workload is intense.  I have also been very aware of how much time and work Alex is putting in as our instructor.  With this experience and having listened to some of the instructor interviews I have to admit that the prospect of online teaching is intimidating.  But in higher ed a credit hour is a credit hour, both for students and for instructors.  I wonder if the push toward online will also entail a push to re-examine the credit hour?  I personally don’t think that they are equivalent.  I also wonder what structures are being put in place to support instructors who are taking the leap to online?  I know that SUNY has the OLN and some SUNY schools have local supports, but I wonder if this is the exception or the rule?

On another front, I was interested to hear Beth Harris discuss her online art history course.  She discussed the difficulty of teaching a course that many students didn’t find terribly exciting or relevant.  She also talked about how this made crafting discussion questions particularly difficult.  One strategy she employs is to ask questions that are not necessarily about art history but are asked to get students thinking about higher level concepts that are related to art.  Her example was “what does it mean to be human?”  The reason this struck a chord with me is that many students are either uninterested in research or they think that they are already expert researchers.  Unfortunately, very few of them have the research skills required at the college level.  This interview served as an important reminder to me that it’s my job to make the course both relevant and engaging.  I want to do my best at writing engaging and thought provoking discussion questions.

The bottom line seems to be that the interviews are making me nervous and intimidated!  There really is a high bar to get this right.  So I would say that my fear is my biggest resistance at this point.  I do have the luxury at this time of just playing with all of this because I don’t have anything lined up for this course.  I really do appreciate having this opportunity and am learning so much.  I”m looking forward to the next module.  Is that tomorrow already?

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July 4, 2013
by annecdeutsch
0 comments

Online Presence and Trust

When I first started teaching my primary concern was covering material.  I tried my best to follow the advice of a wise colleague – don’t over-plan because it won’t give you leeway to respond to where your students are and where they want to go.  But I can’t say that I was very successful.  Then I began working in an environment that was very teaching and learning focused.  We had weekly meetings that allowed instructors to share what was and wasn’t working in the classroom and provided more formal development sessions during each intersession.  Student centered teaching was the expectation and the norm.  I learned a ton and was able to practice and experiment both in my own classroom and when I taught in other instructors’ classrooms.  I came a long way in my teaching, but was beginning to work on encouraging more peer teaching and learning as my last class came to a close.  I continue to work on this practice during my “one shot” instructional sessions, but have been frustrated not to continue developing my practice in my own classroom.  This class has provided me with an opportunity to jump back in where I left off and to start thinking about how to design a student centered classroom online and how to facilitate learning within that space.

So while the student centered approach isn’t new to me, teaching online is.  I’m most concerned about facilitation and establishing a positive environment in the online classroom where I can both challenge and encourage students.   In a face to face classroom two things are very clear on day one – I have rigorous standards and I’m  invested in student learning and success.  In COI, Social Presence and online learning Pickett discusses the importance of establishing trust in the online classroom.  One thing that has been surprising to me but upon reflection makes sense is that this is about both design and instruction.  The icebreaker module takes on a new significance in this light – as it’s not only the launch of the course but also the launch of the community.  In tandem with the design will be my presence. How do I introduce myself? How do I facilitate the first discussion to make everyone feel welcome and validated? How do I make myself “real” to the students and help make them feel a part of the community?  All of these elements combine to create trust.  Pickett discusses using “generous and genuine” compliments as well as using vernacular and addressing students personally.  I don’t think about being authentic in the face to face classroom, but I think it will actually take some work online.

While rigor can be introduced in any environment, it’s more likely that students will rise to the challenge when they feel trust with the instructor and with their peers.  Pickett raises the possibility that students can challenge each other – as long as it’s done respectfully.  My course material is all about critical inquiry and that should be a thread that runs throughout all aspects of the class.  I just can’t forget that modelling, a theme that runs throughout this course, becomes extremely important in this context.  I think that discussion facilitation will be an exciting challenge.

Somehow I have been interacting less in this module rather than more.  I”m not entirely sure why this is but I am aware, which I suppose is something.  One thing that has been taking a lot of mental energy is starting to think more about my course structure and how all the pieces do, and in some cases don’t, fit together.

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June 24, 2013
by annecdeutsch
0 comments

Frustration then Connections

In A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them Alexandra Pickett (2008) states “assume the role of the student in your course and review your course from that perspective.”  One of the things that is great about taking this course is that we ARE the students!  I was just reviewing my course documents before uploading them to Moodle and realizing that if I were a student in the course I would want more elaboration in some of the documents (evaluation) and less information in other documents (learning activities).  I was also seeing content in one document and realizing that it probably belonged in another document (there is some evaluation information in the activities document – while some of this information bears repeating – it doesn’t currently live in the evaluation document).  I am finding great benefits in sharing perspectives of student, instructor, and instructional designer.

I think that my biggest breakthrough during this module came from reading Gaspar, Langevin, Boyer and Armitage’s (2010) article Students’ Activity Focus in Online Asynchronous Peer Learning Forums, Listening to Bill Pelz’s interview podcast and observing his online class and the discussion I had with Maree Michaud-Sacks.  My discussion post that summarizes what I learned and how I applied what I learned is entitled “The intersection of collaborative learning and peer assessmsent.”  Due to my misspelling it can be easily found by typing assessmsent in the discussion search box – I supposed sometimes mistakes pay off!  The end result is that I am incorporating peer learning forums in my class to promote community, active engagement with course materials, peer learning and teaching, and to allow for formative assessment and reteaching.  I”m very excited about this – particularly as reteaching has been a theme for me since my very first discussion post.

What I learned about myself during this module is that I don’t practice what I preach.  I used to work with students on academic warning and probation.  Here is some of the advice I have given in the past and have completely ignored:

  • Plan on everything taking at least twice as long as you think.  Make that three times as long when the project involves research.
  • When you get stuck move on to something else and come back to it later.
  • Write down all important deadlines before your class starts somewhere that you will see them – ideally set up automatic reminders
  • Learning can be uncomfortable – don’t let frustration defeat you – persevere and your efforts will pay off (OK – I did persevere – but the frustration has been pretty fierce.  On the flip side the pay off has been rewarding.)

I’m hoping to do better next module!

I feel that I”m spending so much time trying to keep up with my own work that I’m not interacting with my peers as much as I would like.  I am really impressed and inspired by what everyone is doing but am just not sure how to carve out that extra time.  I will try to do better moving forward.  While I would love to suggest cutting back material in the course, I am finding it all to be valuable.  Because of this I don’t have any great feedback at this time.

turtle

Just Keeping My Head Above Water! Lori Branham Flickr CC

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