I recently contributed to a panel for the K12 Online Conference 2015 about the changing role of technology in teacher preparation. The project was led by Wes Fryer, and other panelists included Cyndi Danner-Kuhn and Dean Mantz. The K12 Online Conference is completely free, completely online, and completely full of excellent presentations about innovative practices in classrooms across the country. This is my second time to be involved in a presentation, and it is a great experience.
Of the many ways ITC has changed (and is changing) education, none seem more obvious than e-mail and learning management systems. It seems students these days expect ubiquitous, continuous access to course content and their teachers. How do I know this? Well, for one, I commonly get e-mails from students in the middle of the night. I am no longer surprised when I wake up in the morning to e-mails from students, most of them sent well past midnight. I do not think they expect an immediate response, but it reveals a student’s mindset when you see he has sent a message in the middle of the night the instant he had a question about an assignment or grade. Second, my students are quick to let me know if they cannot access a course document or cannot see their grade. If the gradebook in my LMS were a section of the Oregon Trail, it would look like this.
Everyone is talking about the “flipped classroom.” I just attended a conference where this term was used approximately 57 times every hour for 4 days. My first response to this term was positive when I heard it a few years ago. The flipped classroom is a teaching approach where teachers provide resources for students to build their background knowledge outside of class and use class time on activities that leverage face-to-face interaction, such as discussion, group problem-solving, and collaboration. This contrasts with the “traditional” model, where instructors spend class time transmitting information, and then require students to engage in the aforementioned higher-level learning tasks on their own outside of class. This concept has so much curb appeal because students, generally speaking, don’t like lectures, and instructors don’t really like the behaviors associated with lecturing (e.g., falling asleep, playing on phones, doing homework for other classes).
A few months ago I wrote about using Ustream to broadcast an online study session with my large class. I used it twice, and it worked pretty well both times. The main hangup I had with this tool was that I had to download a separate program to display my screen to the students. I was able to figure it out pretty easily, but I prefer tools that do not require any downloads.
Tonight in my graduate technology class, we spent most of the meeting testing and discussing a variety of video conferencing tools. I had a few criteria for choosing the tools we would demo:
- The tool had to have at least a free entry-level account
- The tool had to stream a video feed in real time
- The tool could not rely on installed software on both sides of the call (I strayed from this criterion with Skype)
So, my criteria were pretty simple, but considering the context of my learning environment, each of these was pretty important. I teach in a computer lab, and the computers do not allow installations. I did not have time to install software ahead of time, so I stuck close to applications that don’t require a download and installation. The tools I chose were:
North Texas has literally been shut down for the past 3 days, with a 4th day impending. We had an arctic front blow in on Monday night, leaving a sheet of ice and snow, and sub-freezing temperatures to keep it intact. Every college, school district, private school and many businesses have been closed since Tuesday.
I have been experimenting lately with using PPT as a simple animation editor. This functionality has been around for a long time, but I have only started using it recently. The first animation I created was a short cartoon used to tell my students about an upcoming assignment. I thought it would be more entertaining to do it this way, and the students could watch it multiple times. I did notice a decrease in the number of e-mails from students asking for clarification, and some of the students mimicked this technique in their final projects. This is the highest form of flattery, right? Or kissing up. You can see this movie here.
It’s summer, which means I have once again agreed to teach a couple of online classes for a college in my hometown. I have done this intermittently for the past 7 years (either online or face-to-face), and it’s always a great experience. I’ve tinkered with the class since the first time I taught it, and I think I am ready to roll for another semester. An article I read recently discussed multi-scaffolding for multimedia enhanced instruction, which prompted me to rethink some of the ways I’m using technology in the online class.