Pedagogy First 2013-2-14!

I’m excited about the start of a brand new academic year with Pedagogy First! I participated last year as a student, leading a group of students in a cohort, who I also happened to be teaching in the doctoral program in Higher Education at the University of Alabama. The whole teacher as co-learner thing taken to the extreme! Good times!

Indeed, I enjoyed my time with the Potcert people so much that Lisa, Jim, and Laura agreed to let me hang around this year as well, as a mentor (I think that’s the official term). I’m looking forward to meeting and working with everyone this year!

If you’d like to know more about me, I have an “about me” page, that I hope to update, along with my other pages, this year!

Reflecting upon my blogging adventure with Pedagogy First

Ah the last assignment of Pedagogy First, the online course on teaching online courses. For our final task, we’ve been asked to summarize our blog posts for the year. So here goes:

Week 23: Learning theories. This was the topic for which I volunteered to make a short video. In developing this video, I learned that despite the fact I thought I knew something about learning theories already, I still had/have much to learn. I also learned that  it takes infinitely more time to develop a short video than I had imagined. This 9 minutes of vid took me ages to put together!

Week 22: Who to follow. For this week, students in a College Teaching course asked me for a list of ed tech folks to follow on twitter. Having only just tried out twitter, I didn’t actually have a list. So I put together one, and I think there are some awesome folks here (please feel free to suggest others). Now the trick will be deciding whether I want to go “all in” and actually follow the folks on my list or whether I’m just happy to know about them :-)

Also, Ralene Friend kindly followed me on twitter (I’m following her, too), although I don’t actually tweet very much at the moment. (Random: Is hers a cool last name or what? I have a new Friend friend.). Maybe I’ll have to give this tweeting thing a go after all.

Week 21: Learning theories. On this week’s post, I talked about the literature on learning theories and how jumbled it seems to me (also see week 24; this was to be my topic for my final video, and I believe I was a bit cranky about the state of the lit). I lamented the lack of a good diagram. Jenny Mackness commented with a link to a pretty cool diagram (in the comments of the post). It’s one of the better ones I’ve seen, as it shows disciplines and names, although for me at least, there’s still a bit of fuzziness about how all these relate to each other at their basic theoretical level…hope to keep talking with Jenny about it!

Week 20: Social constructivist instructional design. This week I went on for a while about what happens when you overlay a cognitivist design model on an attempt to develop a social constructivist course. I’m still not sure, and I’m not still not sure what a truly social constructivist “design” would look like, or whether one is possible or desirable. Interesting things to consider.

Week 19: What’s in a name? This week, I considered the definitions of online learning, hybrid/blended learning, and Web-assisted learning. I also considered the term the “flipped classroom” asking whether it really is blended learning or whether it is actually anything new (or is it simply active learning). Had good comments from both Cris Crissman (who’s video I thought was excellent) as well as Jenny M.

Week 18:  In and out of the box. For this week’s post, I talked about my conflict with learning management systems, indicating that I’ve sort of in theory been against them but in practice, and over time, have come to realize that they can be useful to students. Jim Sullivan, Laura Paciorek, and Ralene Friend had interesting insights to share.  And lo and behold, a student in one of the classes I’m teaching commented! I was particularly glad to hear her perspective, since she’s a member of the group I was talking about in the first place (she also is a faculty member, which also helps)!

Week 17: Time and online teaching. This week, I offered some key themes I see as connected to the issue of time and online teaching. I think many of us are worried about the time involved in teaching online, and it’s something that we need to be aware of. I’m not sure there’s great info out there about what to do about it, but at least being mindful has the potential to help us better manage our online teaching time.  Enjoyed hearing from Laura P!

Week 15/16: I chair dissertations. I agonized over what to do for these assignments, which as I recall was to do a screencast of something and do an faq. I probably could have done something quick, but I’d been thinking about dissertation students for some time and how I needed to make some information more available to them, so I decided to develop the “Major dissertation information” section of my blog, which required me to do an extensive overhaul. So I did, and I developed a screencast to show students how to search for empirical research articles and an faq related to dissertations. I’ve had positive comments from students, and fellow profs, so far, so it’s gratifying to have done something useful. I have more to do, however!

Week 14: My first time teaching online.  The assignment this week was to do a slideshare, so I got a bit creative with it, at least for me, and used Cambell’s monomyth structure to describe my first time teaching online. Was fun to do, but in retrospect, the slides move way too slowly, and I wish I’d sped it up a bit. I used that information, though, as I developed my final video (week 24), which I think was much better paced.

Week 13: A room of my own.  I tried to do captions on a picture. I gave it my best effort, although I wasn’t entirely sure how to make use of this in my own teaching. I recognize, however, that it’s the kind of thing where the next time I’m teaching online, I could have an ah ha moment and realize that I do in fact need to know how to do it.

Weeks 1-12: Summary and reflection. Here’s a link to my thoughts about my posts from the first half of the course.

Overall comments about the PotCert experience:

I think that the blogging aspect of the program was particularly important for me. I like to write, but I usually do so in a much more formal forum/format. I’d thought about blogging, but I simply wasn’t sure I had much to say. I liked having the topic prompts. They made me realize that maybe I do have something to say, and through saying it, I certainly have much to learn.

The other thing about blogging that I’ve enjoyed is interacting with folks about topics we find of common interest. The comments I received on my stuff made me think more deeply about what I’d said. I tried to keep up with commenting on 3 folks per week and wish I had had more time for that, as folks are doing some really interesting work. Indeed, I hope to stay in touch with some PotCert folks in the future.

I’m fairly certain that I’m done with discussion boards and will be using blogging in my own courses (never say never of course, by I used bogs this term, and students seem to like them, and I like them!).

Finally, I think being nudged to try new tools was another nice feature of Pedagogy First/PotCert. We’ve had a structured walk through some new and important tools, while knowing others are sharing our frustrations with trying to get them to work and accomplishments when they finally do. The task-based approach worked for me!

TL/DR: I’ve learned a lot this academic year that I believe will help me improve my teaching, I am happy to have gotten to know so many smart and interesting colleagues, and I look forward to continuing the conversations about online teaching and learning in the not so distant future.

Learning theories and online learning

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about learning theory for a number of reasons, among them the fact that my assignment for Pedagogy First for Week 23 is to develop a presentation about educational theory and online learning. So I’ve taken my best shot at it.

I’m posting two versions of this presentation to this blog entry. The first is a youtube vid which I put together doing a screencast (by way of screencast-o-matic) of my power point slide. The video is 9 minutes, however, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, not everyone would want to listen to me talking it all the way through, so I’m also posting a slideshare of the same slides (more or less…prob made a few tweeks as I was doing the screencast) for impatient folks who might prefer to move quickly through the slides (and incidentally I would probably be among this latter group).  So here they are…


Slide share:

It was interesting and challenging to sort through some of this information, and I hope my summary makes at least some sense! As I suggest on the video, I’d be pleased for comments and suggestions for improvement!

Personal Learning Networks: Who to “follow”

I’m all about PLNs this week and will be for the coming few. I’m participating in Pedagogy First, and Week 22 of the program is focused on Personal Learning Networks…our assignment is to post something related to this topic. What to say, what to say?  I’m not sure….

As luck would have it, though, the semester is drawing to a close for me at UA, as is a class I’m currently teaching, and an interesting topic came up at a class session this past Saturday. The course is AHE 603: College and University Teaching, and students are working on their last assignment, which just so happens to be a plan for professional development that includes, you guessed it, a diagram or outline of their personal learning networks going forward from the class. So we spent some time on the topic of PLNs.

Several of the folks enrolled in the class have interests in technology, and on Saturday (our last onsite session incidentally), we discussed twitter’s potential in a PLN.  I mentioned that there are some amazing folks out there who are doing cool ed tech stuff and suggested that these folks would be great to follow. And, of course, the students asked me for my list.

Problem is, I don’t have a list of ed tech people to follow on twitter!  While I think twitter has great potential in theory, in practice, I’m not so good at it myself. I do have an account (@ClaireHMajor, for the curious amongst you). I’m following a few people (fewer than 20, I’m sure), and I may now have up to 5 people following me! Mostly I tweet about not tweeting (I know, I’m a goof, but you gotta start somewhere, right?).  That’s about where I am on the whole “twitter thing.”

So, I don’t have a list of cool ed tech folks to follow on twitter. And given my poor twitter practices thus far, I reckon that it’s fairly brazen of me to even think of recommending a list of folks to follow. Still… the students asked, and I do the best I can for them, so I decided to at least try.

I decided to start with existing lists of ed tech folks to follow on twitter, and actually I found quite a few. I didn’t recognize many of the people, however, so given that it’s a _personal_ learning network that I’m trying to construct, and to help students develop, I didn’t think that would fly. Ted Major (@tidmarshm), who is by far and away the best twitterer in our household, recommended several ed tech folks to check out a while back when I was doing some research and writing in this area–many of these folks actually agreed to make contributions to my project  (hope to finish the project up soon! stay tuned)–these folks were an excellent starting place for the list. I’ve also run across several interesting folks doing research on online learning, so I added them to my list as well.

So here’s my initial list, brilliantly organized alphabetically by first name ;-),

  • Alan Levine @cogdog
  • Alec Couros @courosa
  • Audrey Watters @audreywatters
  • Bonnie Stewart @bonstewart
  • Bryan Alexander  @BryanAlexander
  • Charlie Miller @design2research
  • Cris Crissman @Cris2B
  • D’Arcy Norman @dlnorman
  • Dave Cormier @davecormier
  • Gardner Campbell @GardnerCampbell
  • George Siemens @gsiemens
  • George Veletsianos @veletsianos
  • Giulia Forsythe @guiliaforsythe
  • Howard Rheingold @hrheingold
  • Jim Groom @jimgroom
  • Lisa Lane @LisaMLane
  • Matthew Koehler @matthewkoehler
  • Norm Friesen @ipse33
  • Todd Conaway @todd_conaway
  • Wendy Drexler @WendyDrexler

So how’d I do to start? Who have I missed? Who would you recommend adding to this list?  Inquiring minds want to know! Seriously!

Edit:  Lisa Lane made the following excellent suggestions (thanks Lisa!):

  • Ira Socol ‏@irasocol,
  • Mike Wesch @mwesch,
  • Martin Weller @mweller
  • David Wiley @opencontent


Sometimes you just need a diagram

I’ve been reading and watching videos about learning theories with great interest.  As luck would have it, I’ve also recently been writing a book chapter about learning theories, so the information is really, really timely and helpful for me. I have to say, though, that in my own readings in this area, I’m finding the literature a confusing mess.  While I think I generally understand the theories individually, I would love to better understand how they are related to each other: how they are interconnected, how they are different, what level of theory they represent, and so forth. In short, I need a diagram!  Well, a flow chart would also work, or maybe a taxonomy.  But I haven’t yet found a good one.

In trying to sort them out for myself, I’ve come to think of three primary psychological theories, that suggest that learning is a change that happens in the mind of an individual; these theories are behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I also think I’m seeing a grouping of more interdisciplinary or contextual theories, which rather than looking at learning as a change that happens within an individual, the change/learning is a larger/broader change that is socially shared with others and possibly (likely?) involves technological artifacts.  I think connectivism probably falls into this camp (could be wrong on this, but seems to me at any rate), as well as some other theories that consider learning as something that is beyond a single individual, such as situated learning.  tis in my mind at least a different kind of theory than the individual/psychological ones.

But then I wonder where do others fit?  Where would instructivism be situated in a diagram, or a flow chart, or a taxonomy of learning theories?  What about andragogy?  What about humanism? They just seem to be a little bit different than some of the other theories, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on how.

I really could use that diagram.

Social constructivist instructional design?

There are many good and useful models of instructional design, for example, ADDIE, ASSURE, CRESST, ARCS, 4CID, Component Display, Gagne’s Instructional Design Model, and so forth. These seem to me to identify some of the critical processes that instructors typically go through when teaching online.

What strikes me about these instructional design models, as the wikipedia entry on instructional design indicates, however, is that most of them are based upon cognitivist perspectives of learning. Indeed many of the originators of such models are well known for their work in cognitivism, and some specifically through their ideas about the information-processing model of cognitive learning theory.

Despite the suggestion that there is interest in constructivism amongst instructional designers, It still seems to me that most of the instructional design models still have at their core a cognitivist perspective. I’m not sure what this means really other than the processes that they walk us through likely are designed to help us create conditions for learning based upon the underlying tenets of cognitivism. So for example rather than leading us through the steps to enable a change in behavior or a change in constructed and multiple realities, they may well be leading us to design teaching and learning activities for changes in cognitive structures (such as schemata). If we have different goals, then we have different methods, and likely we have different outcomes.  These things are necessarily interrelated.

What this leaves me wondering is whether those professors who have assumed or who want to assume a more social constructivist stance to teaching and learning can gain the most benefit from these models. Or do we need a way of thinking about designing for learning, one that engenders and more constructivist approach? Does such a model exist? Or do we need a new way of thinking about course creation?

In a post I wrote what now seems like ages ago, Jason Green suggested that it would be useful to have a design model that walks us through the important questions we need to consider, rather than the processes that we should follow. This idea has resonated with me, and I wonder whether such an approach would be a good starting place.

I also wonder whether choosing instructional activities that allow students some control of their learning enough to really be constructivist? Or do we also need to allow students some control of the course itself?  If it’s the latter, how do we do that, particularly when we teach online and must have many matters settled and many decisions made before the course even starts?


What’s in a name?

I’ve been thinking lately about some of the terms that we use to describe various forms of teaching with the Internet. It seems to me that we use these terms somewhat interchangeably, at least in the literature about teaching online.

The Sloan Foundation published definitions of types of online courses that I have seen most often in the literature:

  • Online courses (80% or more of content delivered online)
  • Blended or hybrid (30-79% of content delivered online)
  • Web-enhanced (1-29% of content delivered online)

This breakout was initiallly helpful for me because it helped me to understand that there are different degrees of online-ness in courses.  I soon started to wonder, however, about the real difference in a course with 79% of content online versus a course with 80%.  Are those really courses really in separate categories?  Also is a course that has 20% of content delivered onsite, is that really a fully online course?  Is content delivery the key goal anyway?

I like Ko and Rossen’s distinctions based on coures activities rather than content delivery. It helps me to clarify at least in my mind Web enhanced courses really may only have support materials offered online, whereas blended requires both onsite and online activities.

What works for me then is to think of fully online courses as those that truly occur all online, without onsite meetings; blended courses as those that use both online and onsite components; and web-enhanced courses as, well, pretty much onsite courses that have attending and supporting materials available online, with maybe the occasional online activity.

So here’s the one that is currently stumpping me: the flipped classroom. From what I’ve been learning about it, the idea is to have the content delivery done online, likely in the form of a video lecture, as homework, and to bring the activities or the homework into the classroom.  I’ve read articles that suggest that the flipped classroom is a form of blended learning which would imply that some activities/interactions with others happen online, and I’m not sure that’s the case. Is the flipped classroom really a form of Web-enhanced learning?
Photo credit: Gatheringzero

It may sound like hair splitting, but it seems to me that the terms we use are important. They can potentially help us to communicate and to understand each other, or alternately if we are using the same terms to talk about different things or different terms to talk about the same thing, well it seems to me like the language could potentially contribute to misunderstandings. Isn’t it important for us to share a common language so that we can really discuss the issues?

In and out of the box

I like to think of myself as an outside of the box kind of thinker, whether I really am one or not. Rightly or wrongly, I do think of an LMS as a box. Indeed, the first LMS I ever heard of was “Course in a Box.” So I initially thought I would like teaching online courses or modules better without an LMS.

The first time I taught online (way back in 2004), I actually taught two courses: one in the box (with WebCT) and one out of the box, just out there on the Web, so I had a direct comparison of two different approaches. (I thought I’d blogged about this experiences previously, but now I can’t find the post! If I’m being redundant, many apologies everyone!). While they both had some good features and they both had some challenges, when push comes to shove, the one I liked the most was in fact the one outside of the box. I liked my DIY approach (incidentally I developed the course with the full support of our Faculty Resource Center and around 6 staff members who took care of different things like art, music, video, programming, etc.– very DIY on my part) 😉

Because I don’t want to be put or kept in a box, Lisa Lane’s article Insideous Pedagogies really resonates with me. I think absolutely the tool drives many decisions. I absolutely think that the default settings drive some pedagogical decisions. I may not be getting this right, but it seems a form of functional fixedness that limits not only what we really can do but also what we think we can do.

So on a soapbox I’ve been, raging against the machine, in this case the LMS. And then one day, a student asked me if I could post the syllabus for an onsite course in our then LMS, eLearning. I said no thanks, that I didn’t use an LMS, but that I’d happily email it to everyone. In a different course, a student asked me if I could post my ppt (which I don’t use often, but when I do, there’s a good reason for it!) in our LMS. I said no thanks, because I wasn’t using an LMS, but that I’d happily email it to everyone. In a different term, some students asked me whether instead of emailing my readings, which I did in large part because I was using open source readings and wanted them to simply be able to click the links rather than retyping them, I could post them to our LMS (BB by this point). Another student request was whether instead of linking student blogs to my blog, I could post all of the URLs in BB. Over and over and over time have come the requests for me to use my LMS. I started to wonder: what gives???

Did I jump in the box and start using an LMS? You betcha! But not before talking to the students to figure out what on earth was the deal. In addition to trying to stay out of the box, I also was trying to use technologies that they use in their real lives. Email, blogs, and so forth. Trying not to impose one for which they would have little other use. I could not figure out why on earth they seemed so into the LMS.

What I didn’t realize was that they use the LMS, and they use it _often_. In many classes, over many semesters, over years. They simply know it. They are familiar with it. They like it. They go back to it after the semester ends (I tend to leave things open). They want some commonality across their educational experiences, their educational tech. In short, an LMS is in fact tech that students use in their real lives, their real educational lives. It finally dawned on me that using one could be helpful to them.

I have found what is the most useful for the students I teach is to put resources on the LMS. Having a syllabus there, having readings there, having links there, it all provides a central repository of information. So an LMS can serve an important function. (Discussions, reflections, games, etc. so far seem to work better outside of the LMS; perhaps I will learn otherwise at some point).

So for now, as I’ve apparently always been, I’m both in and out of the box. I’m ok with that.

Schrödinger's cat in a box
Photo by Michael Rosa

Time and teaching online

I’m working on a book chapter about time and teaching online. In this chapter, I consider the way in which time changes when teaching online. Some of the themes I see are these:

Amount of time: The amount of time you spend teaching online is likely increased. Even if it is the same amount of time as you would spend onsite, it at least feels like it is an increase in teaching time.

Fragmentation of time: When you teach online, rather than having a block of time dedicated to teaching (3.g. 1.5 hrs two times per week), the time is much more fragmented (e.g. 5 minutes to answer an email, 30 minutes to develop a 5 minute video, later 10 minutes to post an assignment, later 30 minutes to respond to discussion boards, with spaces in between the activities), so teaching is stretched over a longer period of time

Siphoning of time: The strectched time occurs over a longer period, so we may be less efficient. That means that time that could have been spent for other activities (researh or service) is lessened.

I think these are themes I see in the research anyway. Do research and practice align in this case? Do online teachers experience these changes?

I’ve been thinking about how to manage such changes effectively. The materials provided by POTCERT this week are very useful. I also found these videos from the Sloan Consortium:

Part 1:

Part 2:

While I thought these were useful, I thought it was interesting that they also felt quite long to me! I wanted text so I could move more quickly through the information…and thus make better use of my time!

I chair dissertations.

Lots and lots of them.  The last time I checked, I had 8 students signed up for dissertation research with me in a single term.  That’s actually down a bit…

I’ve known for some time that I need to somehow streamline the information that I share with students. I always worry that I provide some information to some students but forgot to give others with the same information. There is just so much to remember to tell them!

For that reason, I was determined to make my assignments for PedagogyFirst, weeks 15 and 16, count.  It was my chance to do something that actually could benefit dissertation students! If I was going to take the time to develop a screencastomatic and an FAQ, which I probably wouldn’t normally do for the blended types of courses I’ve been teaching lately, I wanted them to be useful.  Not to mention the fact that it would be nice not to have to say the same thing 8 different times in one semester!

The challenge was that making it useful meant that I had figure out how to post this information. It didn’t fit in which the blog structure I had developed. Did I need a separate blog?  Did I need to add pages to the one I had?  How do I even add pages to pages?  I found even thinking about it daunting.

I don’t know if I made the right call, and I may well change my mind down the road, but I decided ultimately to add pages to my existing blog, in large part because I’m not sure I really blog enough to make another one work!

So here is my main page with three reconsidered/reconfigured pages.  The one called Major dissertation information contains new content that I developed for this assignment. In the section titled parts of a dissertation proposal, I embedded a screencastomatic in which I demonstrate how to use ERIC to find empirical research articles.  I also developed an FAQ to include.

I would be truly pleased to have suggestions for other information dissertation students might need as well as suggestions for other questions they might have!