We need to decide which technologies will fit the learning outcomes for our learners the most.

Due to a week off work, I have been able to do the second module of Learning to Teach Online this week too. (All content featured has been curated by the University of South Wales for Coursera). You can read about the first module here.

Module Learning Outcomes:

By engaging with the content, and completing the activities and related discussion in this module, you should be able to:

  1. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of open and closed technologies
  2. Develop an argument for choosing either an institutionally supported technology or one that is available on the open web
  3. Identify policies or strategies related to the use of technology in your own faculty, department, school, or educational institution

Overview Video

This course isn’t the ‘how’ of using technologies but this particular module will help with the understanding of the integration of different technologies from a pedagogical perspective. The institution’s LMS versus free tools will be explored and being able to make the decision between these technologies in an informed way is what this module will cover.

Setting a Learning Goal

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For this module (chosen from a list):

Gain confidence with tools and methods that I can use in my practice.

For the whole MOOC (chosen from a list):

I want to gain knowledge about blended/online learning and use this to re-design my course(s).

Key Concepts Videos

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Open and Institutionally supported technologies (Video 1)

Before you plan any online learning activity- you need to be aware of the options available to you so that you can decide what’s most appropriate for you and your learners.

LMS Benefits:

  • Students and teachers can access things easily from one login
  • Student performance data is built-in
  • Help is readily available
  • Management of data over a number of years is possible
  • Duplication of content to classes is easy via admin logins

LMS Challenges:

  • Daunting and challenging
  • Other approaches provide more autonomy

Web 2.0 benefits:

  • Complex admin set-up processes can be avoided
  • Platform compatibility and versions of software are not an issue- enabling collaboration across institutions, with parents, employers etc.
  • Privacy settings controlled by teachers and students rather than admin users

Web 2.0 challenges:

  • We often need to manage learners’ access manually
  • Different websites, passwords and logins can be a challenge for all involved
  • Institution doesn’t have access to the data
  • Institution may not provide technological support

A more integrated approach that draws on the benefits of both can be beneficial.

We need to decide which technologies will fit the learning outcomes for our learners the most. Speaking to colleagues to discover what has worked well for them and their learners is advised.

LMS or the Open Web? from a range of experts (Video 2) 

Learning Management System/ Virtual Learning Environment- secure and centralised

Free Open Access Environment- web 2.0 technologies and mobile technologies- available to anyone

LMS Benefits:

  • Assignment management is easy
  • Gives learners an identity without any pressure from the public
  • Provides data about learning
  • A larger amount of support from the institution

LMS challenges:

  • Licence fee- not free
  • You need to pay for staff to support the technology
  • Artificial piece of software- doesn’t reflect the normal way of working online

Web 2.0 benefits:

  • Implement easily and quickly yourself
  • Learners are already familiar with it
  • Students feel comfortable in these arenas
  • Learners are used to the structure of different websites
  • A wider range of opportunities for communication and collaboration

Web 2.0 challenges:

  • Tracking by the university becomes a challenge
  • Even if it’s free, running it effectively may have a hidden cost
  • What’s seen as being innovative today, in a year’s time, won’t be- I think this is applicable to the use of either an LMS or Web 2.0 though.

Blending the basics of an LMS with the real software at the right time

Safe, structured environment, with lots of scope for creativity within it

Blogs, wikis, real-time video interaction…into the mix- don’t just rely on the LMS. We can’t keep up with the likes of what Google are able to develop so we should instead integrate with things they can provide.

Using Google sites to build online portfolios (video 3)

Project work is the main focus at this school. A design portfolio has always been maintained and this had always been paper-based.

The purpose of using more online approaches was to enable learners to think outside of the square. Tactile handling of materials is the focus in the classroom and they make their learning visible via the online sites in their own time so the duration of lesson times isn’t solely used for reflection and portfolio creation.

Google sites was flexible, adaptable and could easily share with one another. They can also embed other aspects of the Google platform. Google sites allows the school to give complete control over the e-portfolio to the student.

Their final evaluation is conducted more as a 360 review so they offer evaluative comments to one another.

Pre-flight checklist for staff in creating the e-portfolios for their projects:

  • What is the purpose?
  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • Ensure we have the time to plan and prepare
  • The pedagogy is supported by the tools and not the other way around
  • Secure help that’s needed at an early stage so that solutions are there from the start

Marking on the screen instead of on paper can be an added complication and something they’ll need to get used to.

A flipped learning approach is used so that learners come to the lesson to problem solve. Others use lesson time to demo/model the online learning aspect in order to build learners’ understanding of what this looks like and what the expectations are.

Technology shouldn’t get in the way of learning but should support and enable it.

Student views:

  • Gives confidence to learners who don’t like the face-to-face aspects too much
  • Feedback from peers is valued
  • Time can be taken to reflect and evaluate properly
  • The teacher is helpful when she briefs us about what to do and how to do it. When she knows what all the apps do, that helps us to navigate projects effectively.

Teachers: you can see the progress that’s being made, rather than waiting to view a portfolio that’s remained unseen at home for weeks.

It’s been a worthwhile experience to see staff work in new ways with their students and new thoughts about ways of approaching teaching & learning. Teachers value the opportunity to continually develop their skills.

Activities

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Activity 1- This activity allows you to assess your own understanding and confidence about the use of open and institutionally supported (e.g. closed) technologies. The questions in the activity involve critical thinking helping you extend your understanding of how open and institutionally supported technologies work and what institutions require from their teachers in terms of following their policies to use technology. Based on your responses, you will be recommended suggested resources, modules and forums.

I was asked, why would an institution need to limit the type of technologies it supports?
I selected, from a list of options, ‘To introduce a standard system for distribution of learning materials, communication among teachers and students, conducting online discussions, allowing students to submit their assignments and monitoring students’ learning progress.’
I was then asked to indicate, from a list of technologies, which were open source and which were institutionally managed resources.
Helpfully, the links were then given to explore sites I was not familiar with:
I answered a series of questions about my institution- whether I would know who to ask questions to and what technologies are supported by the institution.
In response to the question about where my own apprehensions about technologies lie, I responded the following (selected from a list):
  • Some technologies I want to use do not have a free version available
  • Having to learn new technologies (more from a time perspective as I do enjoy it!)

These were the recommended resources to explore:

Activity 2 is aimed at assessing your knowledge of concepts such as open and institutionally supported technologies covered in Module 2. Based on the information we obtain from your responses, you will be recommended relevant resources.
We answered a question about the difficulties YouTube may pose if included as part of an assignment submission: age for an account, length of video upload, potential for sharing further than intended…
We were asked about the benefits of Web 2.0 technologies and one of the listed benefits that stood out to me most as being advantageous was, ‘Teachers can create their personal learning networks by sharing ideas with other teachers or other experts working in the similar areas.’
I was asked to share a couple of resources in relation to this topic that could be useful for others. I shared these:
These were the recommended resources for me:
How are students really using mobile technologies for learning? (full version)
This video supported, for me, the prevalent view that learners now are digital natives. They are but they still need to learn how to make the most of the technology tools as well.
Activity 3: Choosing which technology to use is a very important part of any online teaching initiative, and as we have explored in this module, there are many different issues to consider when choosing a technology to use in your teaching. We think that everyone, no matter how experienced can learn a great deal by relating the content of this module to their own context. This activity is designed to get you thinking about how you might relate what you have learned in this module to your own teaching practice. What you write here is to assist you and is not assessed, and won’t be seen by other students in the course. This is purely an opportunity for you to begin thinking about how what you have learned might relate to how you teach, or how you might want to teach.
Q. Thinking about all you have explored in the Module 2 activities, what do you think you need to investigate further when thinking about how you could use either open or institutionally supported technologies in your own teaching?
A. I need to consider how I can integrate what I do with open technologies with institutional systems so that the data can be managed. This isn’t something I had necessarily wanted to recognise the importance of previously. The challenge will be in maintaining the freedom and creativity of tools I have been using alongside what the learning management system can provide, without feeling as though learning has been ‘locked in’.
Q. What problems or challenges do you think might arise based on your potential choice of open or closed technologies at your your particular sector [e.g. K-12, ESL, Higher Education or other]? How might you address these problems?
A. Challenges I have most definitely experienced so far with the use of open technologies have been around learners remembering login details for each. My recommendation for them this year will be to use their Google login for all sites so it’s just one set of information for them to remember. The use of closed technologies this year may take learners away from the way in which they’ve been working over the last academic year.It will be vital that they can login just as easily at home and via their mobile as that’s what has made my recent approaches more accessible and engaging.
Q. What considerations would you make in selecting technologies to use with learners?
A. I would consider the aim of the activity first- what skills and attributes am I developing and does this technology enable those to be achieved? I would consider the individual learners in the class- How do they engage online? What kinds of activities do they engage with best? I would then consider the choice I give to students- I have found this to be effective recently- by providing a number of tools they could use to ‘present’ their learning, I have engaged all my learners as there have been options to appeal to each of them.

Discussion Forums

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In the thread about using Google, I replied with the following:

I am a huge fan of Google. The work they have done with Google Classroom is the most interesating for me.It will soon be a fully-fledged VLE platform. Here’s a summary of my Google journey.Recently, my colleague has created a staff development record using Google forms and a couple of add-ons, which will means we can track the data from all of their entries to the appraisal, 1-1s and development log- for free! This kind of work excites me and makes me think there will soon be no reason for an institution to buy an LMS in the traditional sense.

In a thread on getting the most from your LMS, the following two sites were referenced:

Articulate (which was also mentioned at this event I recently attended)

CourseSites (which looks very interesting indeed)

One thread introduced some considerations when designing a website for learners to access. This is something I will return to as I tweak my own class website over the summer but this article suggests what affects the time users may spend on a webpage.

Some of the comments on the forum threads are about student reaction when faced with learning online: they disengage because they’d rather be given the information by their teacher than explore/create/curate it for themselves. I think a great disservice is being done to our learners’ development for future life if we give into this. We are not here to make things easy for them; we are here to educate them and learning is often difficult and challenging.

In the end, I couldn’t find what I wanted on the forums: real, solid examples of effective Moodle or Blackboard courses that have all of the great open technologies there too. I’d love to hear from you if you can help with this!

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