A Provincial K-12 e-Learning Consortia

Beaudoin (2009) defined a consortium as “a partnership among a number of educational institutions or other similar entities that have joined together to collaboratively provide instruction and other services to students that they might not otherwise be adequately equipped of inclined to do independently” (p. 113).  I was excited to see how an Alberta consortia called eCampus Alberta was finding success in a post-secondary setting.

Donovan (2012) shared four strategic directions that eCampus Alberta had taken.  First, it provided innovative leadership. Second, it was member focused (serving both learners and post-secondary institutions).  Third, it was learner centred.  Finally, the consortia could raise awareness for learners to see what the consortia could provide to them.

The question that arose out of what Donovan (2012) had spoke about was whether an e-learning consortia could be effective in a K-12 setting.  My district has its own virtual school and is trying to use a variety of e-learning strategies so students can find success.  However, many of the courses are basically text that students read online and then answer questions.  The learning occurs almost entirely asynchronously.  I have heard of other virtual schools in the province that have provided students with a more exciting and engaging way to learn.

The question I have is why are we not seeking out these other schools and tying all virtual schools together in a consortia?  Is it because each school district likes being autonomous?  I believe that with provincial curriculum providing commonality and e-learning being tied to learning outcomes, the idea of a provincial consortia is possible.  I agree that there would be challenges such as mentioned by Donovan (2012) such as not having a culture of collaboration, institutional costs, and choosing which LMS platform to use.  I do believe it is time for Alberta Education to step up and take leadership in regards to this possibility, rather than hoping someone else will find success and allow others to tag along with it.

Guiding question: Is a provincial consortia for e-Learning in a K-12 setting possible?  What do you believe to be the benefits and challenges of this setting?

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References:

Beaudoin, M.F. (2009). Consortia – a viable model and medium for distance education in developing countries. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 24(2), 113-126.

Donovan, T. (2012). (2012, March 12). eLearning Consortia [Elluminate session].  Retrieved from https://blackboard.ucalgary.ca/webapps/BB-ElluminateLive!-bb_bb60/links/buildRecordingJNLP.jsp?recordingId=1276148834808_1331597228442&course_id=_106438_1&environment=communication&roles=instructor&name=EDER+679.29++eLearning+in+Canada+-+Organization+and+Management&filter=recorded&startDateReq=1330585200000&endDateReq=1333259999999&userName=04226335&user_id=_3698_1

 

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Learning Management Systems

In my current school situation, we have declining enrolment resulting in less teaching staff each year.  Students are having to rely more on courses offered through our division virtual school.  What I have seen definitely has not been as effective as a traditional classroom setting, but perhaps with an adequate Learning Management System (LMS) it can hopefully improve.

I have been using the LMS Blackboard exclusively in my online masters courses through the University of Calgary.  I have been happy using that platform, for the main reason that most everything has been text based.  My school district uses the LMS Moodle for the virtual school courses.  The main reason that it is open source and is free to use.  The main drawback I have seen so far has been it being text-based for the most part.

In both of these LMSs, I do not see students easily being intrinsically motivated.  McNeill et al (2012) shared three settings that would encourage intrinsic motivation: competence (to reduce anxiety), relatedness (to values, belief systems, and networking with others), and autonomy.

I have never used the LMS Desire to Learn (D2L), so I was eager to see how Baker (2012) explained it in the February 15, 2012 Elluminate session.  He stated that the more visual an LMS is the more engaged a student is.  Unfortunately I was unable to see the LMS in action to know if is indeed more visual than Blackboard or Moodle.

Perhaps combining an LMS with addition of emerging web technologies as described in Saeed, Yang, and Sinnappan (2009) students could feel more engaged and have a better sense of community.  For example, students could use Twitter to ask quick questions that either their teacher or fellow students can help them answer.

The biggest hurdle to using any LMS is rolling out the technology properly (Baker, 2012) and effective professional development requiring “a range of information and training sessions to cater for different levels of experience and confidence” (McNeill et al, 2012, p. 63).

Guiding question: Do you believe an LMS can be an effective means for rural students to receive instruction?  Can it be used on its own or should it be used in a blended setting?

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References:

Baker, J. (2011). (2012, February 15). Desire 2 Learn (D2L) [Elluminate session].  Retrieved from https://blackboard.ucalgary.ca/

McNeill, M.A., Arthur, L.S., Breyer, Y.A., Huer, E., & Parker, A.J. (2012). Theory into practice: Designing Moodle training for change management. Asian Social Science, 8(14), 58-64.

Saeed, N., Yang., Y., & Sinnappan, S. (2009). Emerging web technologies in higher education: A case of incorporating blogs, podcasts and social bookmarks in a web programming course based on students’ learning styles and technology preferences. Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 98-109.

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e-Learning in Small Rural Schools

I am the assistant principal of a K-12 school in northcentral Alberta.  In the past four years we have had a decrease of 5.5 teaching staff due to declining enrolments.  We have had to resort to combining classes in high school (i.e. English 30-1 and 30-2).  Our teachers are finding it difficult to do an effective job teaching all their students in these combined classes — it seems one group always seem to suffer.

Other than combining classes, we have had students take classes through our district virtual school and via videoconferencing.  Videoconferencing had moderate success since there was a teacher providing “face-to-face” synchronous instruction.  The main barrier to this was that our students could not take these classes if they interfered with their existing timetable.  Our virtual school provided asynchronous instruction, but was usually a printed copy or scanned copy of printed material that students had to read on their own and try to learn the material from it.  We have had limited success with our virtual school due to the fact the students get bored of the material.  As a result, the completion rate for courses is not where we would like it to be.

Guri-Rosenblit and Gros (2011) defined e-learning as “a generic term used to describe a wide range of applications of electronic technologies… in study environments, with a special emphasis on learning through the web” (para. 1).  They also stated that “e-learning programs require more than merely moving face-to-face encounters to an online setting” (para. 27).  I would hope that creating courses that students in my school could complete using effective e-learning strategies.

The Canadian Council on Learning (2009) described a number of benefits of e-learning, which include developing a culture of lifelong learning and providing a flexible learning environment.  The biggest reason they shared which bodes well for my current school situation is the “impoved allocation of teaching resources” which can be addressed by “sharing across institutions” (p. 55).  It will be up to me as a school administrator to have discussions with others within and outside my division to find courses that have rich learning content and that my students will find engaging.  Only then will I find a suitable replacement for what has been lacking in the past.

Discussion Questions: Do you believe that e-learning will benefit students of small rural schools?   Are there any success stories you have heard of that can be shared?

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References:

Canadian Council on Learning. (2009). State of E-Learning in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/E-learning/E-Learning_Report_FINAL-E.PDF.

Guri-Rosenblit, S. & Gros, B. (2011). E-learning: Confusing terminology, research gaps and inherent challenges. The Journal of Distance Education, 25(1).

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Leadership for Technology Integration

Wordle: Leadership

I was recently at the Alberta Technology Leaders in Education (ATLE) Conference in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was excited to learn more about new and existing technologies and how they can be used effectively to help students in our classrooms.  As I attended sessions and visited displays, the question I had for myself was “How can I convince teachers in my school and school district that these technologies need to be used?”  In pondering this question, I looked at my own leadership style and areas where I may need to change to make implementation more successful.

I came across an article by Afshari et al. (2009) that discussed technology and school leadership.  They based their discussion on the transactional versus transformational leader.  Watch this Youtube video for a good description of the two: What is Transformational Leadership?

Afshari et al (2009) brought up some good points about school leadership and technology:

  • successful technology implementation requires the leader to be aware of the future development of technology and its possibilities, while thinking about how their school might integrate technology into teaching and learning
  • a successful school leader inspires a shared vision to integrate technology and fosters an environment and culture that will allow that to occur
  • “technology is about change and change requires strong leadership” (p. 238)
  • successful technology integration is not about hardware and software but about being able to influence and empower your teachers

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2009) describes five
national educational technology standards (NETS) for administrators:

  1. Visionary Leadership
  2. Digital-Age Learning Culture
  3. Excellence in Professional Practice
  4. Systemic Improvement
  5. Digital Citizenship

In Alberta, the Principal Quality Practice Guideline (PQPG) was written to develop a framework for quality school leadership in Alberta.  It defines a principal as “an accomplished teacher who practices quality leadership in the provision of opportunities for optimum learning and development of all students in the school” (PQPG, 2009, p.
4).  It described seven leadership dimensions for school principals:

  1. Fostering effective relationships
  2. Embodying visionary leadership
  3. Leading a learning community
  4. Providing instructional leadership
  5. Developing and facilitating leadership
  6. Managing school operations and resources
  7. Understanding and responding to the larger societal context

I appreciated that in the YouTube video and the articles I referred to, visionary leadership is key.  My professional goal for this year is to become a better visionary leader in my school.  I need to be more bold in stating my vision and how I believe it will make my school a better place for students to learn.

Guiding Question:  What type of leader or leadership style would make technology integration more successful?

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References:

Afshari, M., Bakar, K. A., Luan, W.S., Samah, B.A., & Fooi, F.S. (2009). Technology and school leadership. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(2), pp. 235-248.

Alberta Education. (2009). The Principal Quality Practice Guideline: Promoting Successful School Leadership in Alberta. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/media/949129/principal-quality-practice-guideline-english-12feb09.pdf

Doodle Slide. (2012, June 11). What is transformational leadership? Retrieved November 25, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60O2OH7mHys&feature=related

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).  (2009). The ISTE  national educational technology standards (NETS-A) and performance indicators for administrators.

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Using Games to Help Our Students Learn

My school district has joined in a partnership with Athabasca University in creating avatar-based games to assist with student learning.  It will involve creating apps that can be used on Android tablets by students.  I am part of the initial committee working on getting the project rolling.

The big concern I have is buy-in from teachers, parents, and school administrators.  One of the initial projects will be to create a virtual world that school administrators will use.  We are unsure as to what it will finally look like, but it may have something to do with the seven principal quality practice dimensions, which our evaluations are based on (see Alberta Principal Quality Practice Guideline).  Since school administrators are the educational leaders in their schools, we wanted them to try it first so that they could assist in the project’s implementation at a later date.

In our initial talks, there has been quite a bit of resistance.  Every administrator was given an Android tablet and asked to play around with them and try to find educational apps that could be used by students in their schools.  We have a few that are excited about the project and others on the other side who think it is a waste of time to let the students sit around and play games.

In my frustrations, I have turned to trying to find research behind game-based learning in order to see that it can indeed help our students, especially those who struggle in the traditional classroom.

I plan on sharing a number of articles, but I find that it may be easier to share with them videos and blogs.  In a brief search I came up with a YouTube video (Schools Use Games for Learning and Assessment) and a blog on Game-Based Learning.

 

Guiding Question:  Do you believe game-based learning will be a benefit to the students in our schools?

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References:

Edutopia. (2010, May 12). Schools use games for learning and assessment. Retrieved November 11, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-GVEANUEVo

Edutopia. (2012). Blogs on game-based learning. Retrieved November 11, 2012 from http://www.edutopia.org/blogs/beat/game-based-learning

 

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The FLIPPED Classroom

One of the teachers in my school had been having difficulty with a particular subject.  It was the first year the teacher was teaching that class, and was not feeling comfortable doing it.  The teacher found that using online videos was helping the students understand the topics a bit better.  Many of the lessons came from Khan Academy.

Here is an interesting video from Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy: Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

A teacher in another school within my district records lessons using the SMART Notebook software when he is going to be absent from school.  The substitute teacher just needs to play the video and have the students watch the lesson.

In both these cases, the students were learning the material during class time.  Is that the most effective way?  Most might say so, but I would argue that with proper training and time, using the idea of flipped instruction may be more beneficial to students.

While there are a variety of flipped classroom models, essentially what occurs is that students will spend time at home watching an online video from the teacher or another site such as Khan Academy.  They receive the main instruction at home.  Once they arrive at school the next day, the teacher will work with individual students on assigned questions, discussions, and/or projects.  According to Kronholz (2012), Salman Khan’s (of Khan Academy) idea for his website “was that youngsters would watch the videos at home and work on problems in class, essentially “flipping” the classroom” (p. 18).

Here is an excellent article I found online called “7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms“.  As well, here is a YouTube video of how a mathematics teacher uses technology to create his flipped classroom: Teaching Math with Innovative Technology.

Guiding Question:  Do you see flipped instruction working in your classroom, school or place of business?

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References:

Benilde – St. Margaret. (2010, September 16). Teaching math with innovative technology. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlY-hafkOwM

Educause Learning Initiative. (2012). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

Khan, S. (2011, March). Let’s use video to reinvent education.  Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

Kronholz, J. (2012). Can Khan move the bell curve to the right?  Education Next, 12(2), 16-22.

 

 

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The Future of Teaching?

I came across the following video the other day:

2020 Teacher Model

While I plan on being retired or close to it in the year 2020, I was really excited to see what Daly(2011) had envisioned for the future of education.  I also noticed that more teachers are already taking the lead.  Teachers are becoming facilitators of learning, not just the providers.  Education is now becoming more interactive and collaborative.  Students can learn with a constructivist method of education (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(learning_theory)#cite_note-SML-0).

In my school district, there has been a bigger focus on inclusion just for the sheer reason of declining enrolment: we cannot afford to hire as many teachers as before.  What results is combined classes where inclusion and differentiated instruction becomes a necessity.  Daly (2011) stated that learning will become individualized and autonomous.  While some may see this as a challenge, I see it as an exciting opportunity.  We can use technology to provide a more effective means of instructing our students.

Web 2.0 is becoming more popular as a teaching tool.  It has allowed students and teachers to become more collaborative and create effective collectives.  What I wonder is how the development of Web 3.0 will affect education?

Image from http://www.rockcheetah.com/blog/images/websummary.jpg

Will education become more intelligent and omnipresent as shared in Evolution Web 1.0, Web 2.0 to Web 3.0?

I would appreciate comments to expand on this thread.

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References:

Daly, M. (2011, June 6). 2020 Teacher Model. Retrieve October 14, 2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TWvVWaZQws

EPN. (2008, September 28). Evolution Web 1.0, Web 2.0 to Web 3.0  .  Retrieved October 14, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsNcjya56v8

 

 

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Rural Schools + Inquiry Learning + Web 2.0…. Connected or Disconnected?

I was trying to come up with a new topic to discuss, but I would like to see more discussion on Inquiry Learning and Web 2.0 in rural schools. My school district says that they are near the top of the province for technology in schools, yet I am not really seeing technology used to its capabilities in my school or when I have visited other schools in my district. In wondering that, I have come across some research that I thought might explain the disconnect.

Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) came up with three key findings:

  1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works.  If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
  2. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a
    conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate
    retrieval and application.
  3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.                                                                                         (pp. 14-18)

As a result of the findings, Bransford et al. (2000) discussed three main
implications for teaching.  First, teachers must work with their students’ pre-existing understandings. Second, teachers must teach some subject matter in depth.  Finally teachers need to integrate the teaching of metacognitive skills to their students in a variety of subject areas.

The problem that can arise, especially in small rural schools, is that there may not be a teacher in the school who may be an “expert” in a particular subject and may not be able to teach to the depth needed.  So is that the answer to why teachers are not using technology?

I believe that using Web 2.0 and inquiry learning can fill that void.  Students can look beyond what their teacher is teaching and connect with real experts using Web 2.0.

When using Web 2.0, there needs to be a proper balance between pedagogy, content,
and technology.  The TPACK model described by Harris, Mishra, and Koehler (2009) shows the proper interplay between the three.

Retrieved September 30, 2012, from http://www.tpck.org/

Here is a YouTube video that gives a brief, but effective description of the TPACK model:

TPACK in 3 Minutes

Many students can surf the Internet and create PowerPoints.  Using Web 2.0 tools can move a student from just having technological knowledge (TK) or even technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) or technological content knowledge (TCK) to having the outright goal: technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).  It will take work from both the teacher and students to get to that ideal.

The unfortunate thing is that other than teachers not being comfortable using technology or feeling the time crunch, I feel that students would find more success when inquiry learning using Web 2.0 tools.  Any thoughts?

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References:

Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academic Press.

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416.

Kimmins, R. (2011, March 22). TPACK in 3 Minutes.  Retrieved September 30, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wGpSaTzW58

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Web 2.0 and Inquiry-Based Learning

Traditionally, our education system involved the teacher giving instruction to the students and then asking questions of the students. Students would not ask too many questions, and only answer what the teacher had expected of them. When I started my teaching career, those were my personal expectations as well.

What I have seen over the past number of years is that when students are involved in their own learning and assessment, they take more ownership and responsibility. Inquiry-based learning gets students more involved which leads to richer understanding. As a classroom teacher, I need to provide context for questioning, a framework the students will follow, and a focus. If successful inquiry takes place, students can apply that knowledge to other situations.

Web 2.0 is “a collection of technologies and software applications that allow people to interact, collaborate, create, and share information with others” (Kitsantas & Dabbagh, 2011, p. 101). There are three main categories of software that students could use with Web 2.0: communication tools (i.e. Skype), resource-sharing tools (weblogs and wikis), and social networking tools (i.e. Facebook). Web 2.0 sites allow someone to interact and collaborate with people from all over the world, creating a virtual community or social network. Collins (2009) stated “Children raised on new media technologies are less patient with filling out worksheets and listening to lectures”. With Web 2.0, teachers are allowing their students to move beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers can give their students the opportunity to share their learning with their peers.

The combination of inquiry-based learning and Web 2.0 seem to be a natural fit. The inquiry taking place in the classroom can be extended to other networks of students, teachers, and other professionals. Inquiry-based learning, using Web 2.0, can be effective for a wide variety of students.

For more information about inquiry-based learning, watch this video: Inquiry Based Learning (Robins, 2011)

Here is another video you might find interesting: A Vision of K-12 Students Today (Nesbitt, 2007)

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References:

Collins, Allan (2009). Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, p. 176.

Kitsantas, A. & Dabagh, N. (2011). The role of Web 2.0 technologies in self-regulated learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 126(summer), 99-106.

Nesbitt, B. (2007, November 28). A Vision of K-12 Students Today.  Retrieved September 12, 2002 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A-ZVCjfWf8

Robins, A. (2011, November 14). Inquiry Based Learning. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLqi0raxld

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Digital Citizenship

Ribble (2009) defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour with regard to technology use” (p. 1).  I find it useful sometimes to try to go to different sources when discussing a topic, but it seems like Mike Ribble has really nailed it when it comes to the topic of digital citizenship.

He identified nine general areas of behavior that make up digital citizenship:

  1. Access
  2. Commerce
  3. Communication
  4. Literacy
  5. Etiquette
  6. Law
  7. Rights and Responsibilities
  8. Health and Wellness
  9. Security                                       (Ribble, 2010, p. 17)

While all nine areas are important to discuss with our students, I believe the areas that my school needs to spend more time focussing on is etiquette, law, and rights and responsibilities.  What was once schoolyard bullying has now extended to remarks posted on Facebook.  I have fielded numerous calls from parents asking me to deal with a student because their son or daughter has been the victim of cyberbullying.  While this rarely happens during school time, parents are wanting us to deal with it as a school issue.  Should that be our place?  In some ways, I say yes.

It seems like the idea of ‘in loco parentis’ has now extended beyond regular school hours.  We need to be the ones that are making our students responsible digital citizens.  Along with their parents, we need to be teaching our students the repercussions of posting something negative online, which, depending on how a student has set up their Facebook page, could in fact be seen by everyone who is online.

Some parents have wanted us to ban Facebook at school.  What I tell them is that if they look at the time the post was made, it was usually outside school hours.  Banning it at school is not going to stop that from happening.  What I now tell parents is that we will deal with the culprit as if the bullying did happen at school, and teach all students effective digital citizenship.

The Alberta government is in the process of passing a new Education Act, which will replace the existing School Act from 1988.  Kleiss (2012), a writer for the Edmonton Journal, wrote “The legislation also makes clear that schools have the power to suspend or expel bullies, whether the bullying takes place in a school hallway or through online social networks. Judges in Alberta have already ruled that schools have this power; the act makes it law”.  As a result, it is even more imperative that we be teaching digital citizenship to our students, even from a young age.  Having a child and/or their parent sign an acceptable use policy at the beginning of a school year is just not enough.

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References:

Kleiss, K. (2012, February 12). Act 2: Revised education bill aims to improve high school graduation rates. The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved from http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Revised+education+bill+aims+improve+high+school+graduation+rates/6153359/story.html

Ribble, M. (2009). Citizenship recast. Education Quarterly Magazine, October 2009.

Ribble, M. (2010). Raising a digital child. (A)Way Magazine, january 2010.

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