Reflections on Media Enhanced Learning: Pecha Kucha Presentation

 

I thought I would try out the Pecha Kucha presentation idea to summarize my reflections on what I learned in my Media Enhanced Learning PIDP 3240 course.

I learned that the Pecha Kucha format  ” . . . was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public” (www.pechakucha.org).  

Translating the format to cover concepts in education meant that I had to do a lot of searching on the internet for free to use and relevant  images.  Keeping the flow between the images and concepts while being mindful of the Pecha Kucha framework of 20 slides for 20 seconds each also made for an interesting challenge.

I hope that you enjoy the presentation.

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Technology and Learning: Podcast

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Image Source: Wikipedia

I had lots of questions about learning and technology so I dropped in at Selkirk College in Nelson, B.C. and spoke to the coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Centre, Theresa Southam.

Theresa told me about a book, called Learning Medicine, An Evidenced-Based Guide by Drs. Wei and Chamessian, that her son, who is in med school, is reading to help him learn more effectively. A technology that the authors’ recommend is Anki.

For a summary of what I learned please listen to my podcast.  (5:16 minutes).

 

Reflections: Making Room for Diversity in an Online Course

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Image source: Pixabay

In my previous blog about diversity in the classroom I focused on 3 strategies: team teaching, mixing student groups and mixing modalities (Brookfield, 2015) as a way of addressing diversity in the face to face classroom. I briefly touched on addressing diversity in the online classroom in regards to gender equality and even revealed my aha moment when I realized that I did not even consider “how the curriculum and its delivery would be perceived by a male student” (para 3, Teachingadventuressite, 2017). (Which I am glad to say I have since addressed).

I have not, however, actually plunged into a full examination to see what the “ . . . pedagogical challenges” (p 235, Bowen) are in regards to addressing diversity an online course and what steps I should take to mitigate these as it seemed, quite frankly, overwhelming. Given that this is my last PIDP course I feel that this issue is no longer something I can and should avoid, so here are my interpretations and decisions regarding what aspects of diversity I feel are relevant for me as an instructor of an online, 13 week, perinatal course for post RNs, and what strategies I need to employ.

As noted by Brookfield (2015), the differences between students can be almost endless:

  • Age;
  • Gender;
  • Citizenship status;
  • Racial background;
  • Primary language;
  • Preferential learning style;
  • Talents and skills;
  • Level of:
    • Motivation;
    • Self-regulation;
    • Self-direction;
  • Personality;
  • Extroversion and introversion;
  • Sexual identity;
  • Social status;
  • Religious affiliation;
  • Cultural background.

Additional considerations unique to the online learning environment include:

  • Student access to internet may not be universal (Peterson, 2015);
  • Students may exhibit varying degrees of computer/technological skills (Narozny, 2010);
  • Online searching skills may be variable (Narozny, 2010);
  • Communication is heavily focused on the written word by way of content delivery, discussion forums, instructor feedback with grades (ie through rubrics) and the use of social media platforms for classroom discussions. This may be challenging for some students, particularly English Language Learners (Milheim, 2017);
  • Peterson (2015) notes that instructors have to work to find their voice in the online environment and that it is challenging to ensure that communication is clear and not misconstrued i.e., humour can be difficult to communicate through text only.
  • Building community in an online learning environment can be challenging, particularly if teachers attempt to apply the strategies they use for face-to-face classes (Peterson, 2015);
  • Thompson (2012) states that it is “ . . .extroversion that is praised and rewarded in our society, and the classroom sometimes mirrors the social values of society by favouring extroverts, who naturally dominate socially because they are three-quarters of the population and are skilful in dominating socially” (para 11). The online environment allows for the more introverted students to have a voice;
  • Peterson (2015) notes that some students may find that the anonymity of the online environment may allow them the freedom to break free of cultural norms of conformity.

This last point makes for an interesting segue into whether student cultural and racial information should be actively solicited by online instructors.

After surveying 41, American, online instructors Milheim (2014) states: “(a)mong nearly all of the participants there was a general acknowledgement that culture plays a critical role in the classroom. One individual stated that cultural difference “changes the landscape of our classes when we share” (p 5).

Milheim (2017) feels “(n)o doubt, a student’s cultural background is an important part of this conversation. Not only does culture have an impact on the overall classroom experience, it has been shown to affect learning, motivation, and satisfaction in a course” (para 1).

Laskaris (2015) suggests creating culture-sensitive content to increase productivity in learners in addition to improving the marketability of a course. Laskaris (2015) supports this claim by relating an experience of redesigning of a course for a particular cultural group. This is different from most online University or College courses where “ . . . it is difficult to identify cultural difference in an online setting since the online environment gives a sense of anonymity and masking of culture” (p 5, Milheim, 2014).

Conversely, in his qualitative analysis of five American, online instructors, Peterson (2015) states: “ . . . the instructors expressed sentiments indicating they felt that either student race and backgrounds are not important in an online environment or they felt they maintained a course of total inclusion” (p 65, 66). Peterson (2015) goes on to note that “(a)lthough this method of dealing with people of differing backgrounds does help avoid complicated conversations, it can potentially be a source of dissonance for students because their personal situation or experiences are not addressed or recognized” (p 66).

Language and culture can also impact how written feedback may be interpreted (Milheim, 2017). Western students “for example, are more apt to view the instructor as a facilitator, rather than non-Western students whose cultural norm is to view the instructor as more authoritative in nature” (para 5, Milheim, 2017).

Visual culture “refers to how people see and interpret images, art, photography, movies, and so on” (para 6, Milheim, 2017). Laskaris (2015) also stressed the importance of finding images, vignettes and even names that students can relate to.

Eisner (2001) as cited in Peterson (2015) noted that basing curriculum on critical thinking activities versus tests is a sound pedagogy that allows for the diversity essential for mastery of the subject. Utilizing curriculum that is heavily text based is not, however, well translated across cultures, for while western culture relies heavily on written arguments where the writer’s arguments are supported through referenced quotes, “(e)astern discourse is based on the audience already having a shared knowing of previous works, and, therefore, the reader is expected to actively remember where the reference is coming from without attributing the quote to the original author” (p 12, Peterson, 2015).

Indigenous safety and competency is a topic that is relevant for the students I teach as they come from rural and remote regions throughout BC (and some even from as far as Nunavut). Presently, the online perinatal course I teach includes readings, videos, case studies and journal activities regarding this topic. It has not, however, been reviewed for how compatible the course design is with the Indigenous worldview.

Challenges that have prevented me engaging in this process prior to now is that I recognize that Indigenous populations are far from homogenous. Sammual (n.d.) makes the following suggestion for educators working in Saskatchewan.

“For an educator, the Medicine Wheel offers the possibility to reflect on resources or unit plans to see whether all four aspects are in balance. It is a chance to see whether our teaching is focusing more heavily on the mind or body, heart or spirit, or whether it is lacking one of these aspects. To integrate Saskatchewan Aboriginal perspectives into the teaching and learning of science education, all aspects of the Medicine Wheel must be in balance “(p 2).

Finally, the last topic that I would like to highlight is generational differences. There is much air time given to Millennials regarding the particular attitudes and emotional needs they have but for me, the most salient issue is a person’s exposure to digital technology in their lifetime and the affect it has had on their consciousness. McNeill (2011) notes that “(t)his most recent generation of college students has distinctive characteristics and a persona unlike those of their teachers. They have unprecedented access to technology and instant online information. They are globally connected to peer-groups spanning international boundaries. They are the first generation to come of age in a truly global society” (p 1).

Prensky (2001) identifies the students that have grown up in this digital age as ‘Digital Natives’ and describes them as “ . . . “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet” (p 1); while those of us who have adapted and adopted the new technology are described as ‘Digital Immigrants’ (p 2). Prensky (2001) goes on to state: “the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language”(p 2).

Strategies for Navigating the Challenges of Diversity in the Online Classroom

  1. Identify culture (Milheim, 2014).

At the start of the online Perinatal course I teach there is an introductory activity called ‘Room with a View’ (p 56, Conrad & Donaldson, 2004) where students are prompted to provide a brief description of who they are professionally as well as a brief paragraph about the view from their favourite window. They are also encouraged to weave in some biographical material about themselves. In the revision I will encourage students to include some cultural as well as biographical material about themselves. I will role model this by doing the same and will also show respect for the Indigenous people on whose lands I am a settler on by acknowledging them in my introduction.

I will, however, also allow students to remain relatively anonymous (aside from name) if this is what they choose.

  1. Reduce barriers.

For barriers created by things like limited access to the Internet, I need to be flexible. This means being flexible with due dates for assignments, and helping students identify what online resources they may need to print off ahead of time so that they can read them at home.

Many of the discussion forums include finding credible resources for new parents. Students are given support tools to help them with this process. I will now include a link to my infographic and podcast on Digital Literacy as an additional resource.

Last semester I tried out Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and hosted an Orientation to Blackboard session. It seemed to cut down considerably on questions about where to find folders/material etc.

I will continue to recruit a variety of mediums to present material as suggested by Peterson (2015). I am very excited about creating 10 new podcasts – one for each module to highlight key learning points and to increase engagement with the material by providing a narrative for the patient in each of the module’s case studies.

To ensure that the course content is balanced, I am very honoured to say that the local Aboriginal Patient Navigator (who is also an educator) has agreed to review some of the content. I am looking forward to hearing her feedback.

To ensure that my feedback and presentation style are appropriate and received in a positive and constructive manner I will include in the fall revisions a feedback assessment tool that will address feedback provided by the instructor as well as student perceptions of my role as a teacher.

Case studies and names already include a diversity of patients with learning incorporated into the case studies in regards to identifying the patient’s unique needs and possible barriers to care.

As a Digital Immigrant, I come with an accent that I need to ensure does not get in the way of learning. To do this, I need to ensure that I am well acquainted with the medium I am using as well as its applications. If I am not comfortable using a technology or medium, I am best not to use it. I am very grateful that the PIDP 3240 has provided me with the opportunity to gain more skills using technologies including the podcast.

Finally, a perinatal course is not a writing course, but does rely heavily on evidence-based material for making clinical patient decisions. In the revisions to the course I will reduce the weighting for case studies from 15% on writing skills to 5% and increase weighting to analysis and recommendations. Students are instructed that they are expected to follow APA format, however, and links for more information about this are provided.

3. Create safe places (Milheim, 2014).

Kennedy (2017) states: “(t)hat for faculty, modelling caring professional collegial behaviour that creates a we are in this together atmosphere underscore that learning isn’t just a one way street. Modelling also helps to create a safe space in which students are not afraid to post their understandings or make mistakes, allowing them the freedom to learn” (p 21).

I hope that by acknowledging the importance of culture in the content and by role modelling cultural sensitivity in my feedback, it will create a safe place for students. I also need to be open about my mistakes and acknowledge that learning is messy. I also feel that being flexible is an integral part of creating a safe place for students; if they need extra time for an assignment I give it to them. The resultant thoughtful and well-executed assignments I receive back from students has been inspiring.

4. Build community.

So far, in the 3 semesters I have taught the course, there has been a sense of community as evidenced by students posting more than the required number of posts to each other in ways that are supportive and thoughtful and by very collegial and engaged groups for the face-to-face portion of the course. I feel that there are a few external factors that help to make this happen; students from the same hospital are often taking the course; students know each other from past working experiences; or they feel a kinship with other students as they are working in a site that they have worked in before.

Another component is that I work very hard to provide students with lots of feedback to their questions via the 5 ‘Muddiest Point Survey’, through supplemental material provided on the ‘Course Updates’ and with weekly case studies and discussion forum posts. I feel that this too creates community as students see that all of their questions matter and that I am carefully reading all of their work.

Summary

No matter what culture students come from, the top 3 top student expectations of an online course are (Mupinga & Carole-Yaw, 2006, as cited in Peterson, 2015):

  • Explicit communication with professor;
  • Instructor feedback;
  • Challenging course curriculum.

To help students learn, we need to respect them, be aware of how our own culture and the students’ cultures impact learning, acknowledge barriers (and try our best to mitigate them), increase the richness and cultural sensitivity of the course by involving members from different communities to provide feedback, mix modalities, use authentic assessments that employ critical thinking skills and use technology wisely. Acknowledging and allowing for diversity will only help to improve learning.

References

Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass

Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Conrad, R., J.A. Donaldson (2004) Engaging the Online Learner Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved from: http://eltandtech.pbworks.com/f/engaging+the+online+learner.pdf

Kennedy (2017) Designing and Teaching Online Courses in Nursing Springer Publishing Company Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?id=NFICDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA228&lpg=PA228&dq=creating+safe+spaces+online+course&source=bl&ots=kdcFBsDPSk&sig=eGuBT3VAP-nIzIhlKIpuSbzjqtc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjjzveF_rLYAhVQ4GMKHUimAfI4ChDoAQhPMAg#v=onepage&q=creating%20safe%20spaces%20online%20course&f=false

Laskaris, J. (2015) Culture and Language Diversity in Online Learning Environment Talent lms Retrieved from: https://www.talentlms.com/blog/culture-and-language-diversity-in-online-learning-environment/

McNeill, R.G. Jr (2011) Adapting Teaching to the Millennial Generation: A Case Study of a Blended/Hybrid Course. University of Massachusetts – Amherst ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst International CHRIE Conference-Refereed Track. Retrieved from: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1747&context=refereed

Milheim, K. (2017) A Fundamental Look at Cultural Diversity and the Online Classroom. eLearn Magazine Where Thought and Practice Meet. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3041614 Retrieved from: http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=3041614

Milheim, K. (2014) Facilitation across Cultures in the Online Classroom International. Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 5, No.1, pp. 1-11, May. Retrieved from: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:laOM4bNf2rkJ:https://www.ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter/article/download/66/31+&cd=10&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca

Narozny, E. (2010) Designing Online Courses to Meet the Needs of a Diverse Student Population Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magma Publications. Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/designing-online-courses-to-meet-the-needs-of-a-diverse-student-population/

Peterson, J. (2015) Honoring Diversity in the Online Classroom: Approaches Used By Instructors Using an LMS. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1061&context=teachlearnstudent

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001). Retrieved from: https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Sammel, A (n.d.) Aboriginal Perspectives into the Teaching and Learning of Science Education: Beginning the Conversations in Southern Saskatchewan. Collaborative Inquiry Committee. Retrieved from: http://ourspace.uregina.ca/bitstream/handle/10294/1142/Aboriginal_Perspectives.pdf;sequence=1

Teachingadventuressite (2017) Trends in Adult Education Part #3: The ‘Aha’ Moment Retrieved from: https://teachingadventuressite.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/trends-in-adult-education-part-3-the-aha-moment/

Thompson, S., (2012). Introvert? Extrovert?  Tips for a Balanced Classroom. Jan/Feb Canadian Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from canadianteacher.archives http://www.canadianteachermagazine.com/archives/ctm_teaching_ideas/janfeb2012-introvert-extrovert.shtml

 

My Reflections on Using Dance Instead of Power Point to Teach

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Reflections Photo: L.. Schmidt

In my PIDP 3240 course, I had the opportunity to reflect on John Bohannon’s TED Talk: Dance VS Powerpoint a Modest proposal.

 

It is an awesome TED Talk, and one that I will say has opened my eyes to how powerfully and effectively dance can communicate ideas and concepts – even in the scientific field!

If this TED Talk gets you as excited as it did me, do check out this year’s winners of the Dance Your PhD contest. (You will never think of Braid Theory in the same way again, I promise).

For more of my thoughts on the TED Talk, please check out my podcast here. 

 

Enhancing E-Learning with the Podcast

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Photo Source: Flickr Photographer Patrick Breitenbach

Podcasts are better than lectures” (p 113, Bowen, 2012).

There are times when I really enjoy listening to a radio podcast. I can get so invested in listening that I have been known to remain sitting in my car long after I have arrived at my destination, just so I can catch the last of a podcast. The intimacy of the medium combined with a compelling narrative is what I find so captivating.

Creating an appealing and informative podcast that will engage students and deepen learning is a very intriguing idea, especially as I teach an online course and therefore do not have any ‘lecture’ time anyways. I must say it has really gotten me thinking. Can students benefit from learning packaged in the form of a podcast as Bowen (2012) in the opening quote, suggests? Is it possible for me, a podcast greenhorn without any journalism training or fancy recording equipment, to produce an educational and interesting podcast and publish it so it is readily accessible for students online? Furthermore, are there any best practice guidelines that can use to help me create an educational podcast?

Podcasts, “a radio programme that is stored in a digital form that you can download from the internet and play on a computer or on an MP3player” (para1, The Cambridge Online Dictionary n.d.) have moved beyond something you just listen to on the radio and are readily available to listeners in today’s society, especially since the advent of the smart phone.

Sutton-Brady, Scott, Taylor, Carabetta and Clark (2009) state that “(p)odcasting enables lecturers and students to make connections” (p 220). This statement is reflected by a student in their study who provided the feedback “ . . . that listening to the podcast episodes felt “like the lecturer’s talking to you personally in a one-to-one case”” (p 228).

Sutton-Brady et al (2009) list the following as additional perceived benefits of the podcast to students as (Table 4, p 226):

  • Supported and enhanced learning;
  • Helped them to actively engage with learning;
  • Allowed them to be able to learn in their own time.

Another advantage to the use of this technology, as identified by students, was that the podcast “highlights important information’ (Figure 1, page 225, Sutton-Brady et al, 2009). Interestingly, the comments I hear repeatedly from my online learners is that learning from home is challenging because they miss interacting with the instructor and feel that they sometimes fail to identify the more nuanced points of the material as a result of this lack of interaction.

In 2009, George Washington University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, interviewed 262 world history students to determine the impact of podcasts on their learning and engagement (Roscorla, 2010). Some of their findings included (para 7, Roscorla, 2010):

  • Podcasts grab attention and maintain it;
  • Students conceptually understood the content, not just remembered it, and the scale of understanding seemed to tip toward the podcasts;
  • The students who said they weren’t that motivated at the beginning of the class scored higher on the test when they listened to the podcasts.

For instructors, a key benefit that was identified was “. . . the knowledge that students are able to revisit key topics critical to the course learning objectives and assessment” (p 228, Sutton-Brady et al, 2009). This was felt to be very important particularly with students for whom English was a second language (Sutton-Brady et al, 2009).

Podcasts, I learned, can be produced quite easily using a laptop and a suitable app like Garage Band (an Apple product). Publishing is simple and involves downloading the MP3 to an online platform like Podomatic or Podbean. The podcast is accessible to the public through a link provided by the online publishing platform.

In the online course I teach, students access course material through a series of 10 modules hosted through the Blackboard Learning Management System. Information is primarily presented to students in the form of written text with links to videos to enrich learning for select topics. Students interact with each other throughout the course via weekly discussion forums and case studies. My contact with students as the instructor comes through student specific feedback that is provided for discussion forums, case studies and quizzes and through email and/or phone if needed. This past semester, I created virtual classrooms for students to meet and discuss material with each other and with me through Blackboard Collaborate but found that while some students were enthusiastic to interact with the instructor most found that the fixed time did not work for them due to family or work commitments.

Since reading about the benefits of podcasting and learning of the ease of producing and publishing them, I have decided that I would like very much to develop 10 podcasts, one for each module in the course. To help me understand the elements that make an engaging and informative podcast I decided to listen to a variety of educational podcasts online. I must confess that some of the podcasts for educators I did not like at all as they felt more like an infomercial than an instructional podcast. One podcast I found to be quite enjoyable was a NPR hidden brain production called “Students and Teachers”, hosted by Shankar Vedantam. What made it enjoyable for me was that it introduced interesting and factual material in a story like way, featured the voices of the people involved in the story and ended with some fun and relevant stats about student – teacher relationships presented in a game like fashion.

Having a “ . . . story-centric eLearning script” (para 7) is one of the 7 tips on how to create podcasts for learning offered by Pappas (2016) as, just as I have noted above, “(t)he most compelling and captivating podcasts involve a great storyline (para 7). Other tips provided by Pappas (2016) include developing a detailed outline and choosing “ . . . the right voice” (para 5).

Time to walk my talk. Here are the guidelines I am going to use to make my podcasts for the online perinatal course I teach (adapted from Pappas, 2016):

  • Create a great storyline that will mesh together the 10 modules.

Integrated into the case studies for modules 2- 5 is a central character for whom the students have to develop a care plan for and determine ongoing plans of care for as the modules progress. Focusing on the story of this character’s needs and experiences as she goes through labour and birth will be the framework for the podcasts for these modules. For the remaining modules I will integrate the characters from the case studies into the podcasts while remembering to include themes and learning from previous modules.

  • Develop an outline for the 10 modules

For each module I am going to write out the key points and themes that I want the students to know. The modules have been designed to incorporate learning from previous modules with increasing complexity so it is important for me to keep this in mind and pose questions/ present stories for each subsequent podcast that will stimulate a deeper understanding of the material. Maximum time limit for each podcast will be 15 minutes.

  • Choose the right voice

The tone I am going to use is going to be conversational with a pace that would approximate what I would use if I were actually speaking to the students in person. I think it would be really awesome to have someone else be the voice of the focal character! Perhaps I can enlist a friend to help me.

I have just created a podcast for the PIDP 3240 course using the Apple Garage Band app and found it to be very easy to use so I will continue to use this for producing the course’s podcasts. I will publish using Podomatic (as this is also what I just used) and will also provide students with the opportunity to download the MP3 recording of each podcast via Blackboard.

I am very excited at the idea of producing podcasts as an adjunct to the online perinatal course I teach. I will, however, keep in mind this quote from Roscorla, (2010)

“If your goal is to find a magic bullet that makes all students better, this isn’t it,” said Hugh Agnew, a professor from the Elliott School of International Affairs who taught the course. “But if your goal is to reach some students better that maybe you aren’t reaching so terribly well, then I think this is worth trying ” (para 4).

References

Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass

Buckler, L. (2017) 8 Ways Teachers Can Leverage Podcasts as a Learning Tool Emerging Ed Tech. Retrieved from:

http://www.emergingedtech.com/2017/08/how-teachers-can-leverage-podcasts-as-a-learning-tool/

NPR hidden brain (2015) Episode 4: Students and Teachers Host Shankar Vedantam.

Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/447215129/447215242

 

Pappas, C. (2016) 7 Tips To Create Podcasts For eLearning eLearning Industry

Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/7-tips-to-create-podcasts-for-elearning

 

Podcast (n.d.) in The Cambridge Online Dictionary. Retrieved from:

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/podcast

 

Roscorla, T. (2010) Do Podcasts Help Students Learn? Converge Center for Digital Education Retrieved from: http://www.centerdigitaled.com/classtech/Podcasts-George-Washington-University.html

 

Sutton-Brady, C., Scott, K.M., Taylor, L., Carabetta, G. & Clark, S. (2009) The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching, ALT-J, Research in Learning Technology 17:3, 219-232, DOI: 10.1080/09687760903247609. Retrieved from:

https://doi.org/10.1080/09687760903247609

 

 

Connecting with Students in the Online Classroom

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Image Source: Pixabay

Bowen (2012) states, “Teaching is about making connections, and the first thing we need to do is connect with our students. Relevance and credibility analogies are critical for good teaching; being unable to understand a fundamental premise of your students’ lives will make it harder for you to teach and to relate to them . . . If you do not have both LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, if you do not tweet or blog (or know that a tweet is like a Facebook status update), if you do not routinely use iTunes or YouTube, if you do not know how to share photos on Flickr, Snapfish, or Picasa, then you have an immediate credibility problem with your students” (p 30).

As an instructor of an online nursing course, I encounter many unique challenges, one of which is how to connect in a meaningful way with my students. Will engaging more actively in social networking circles and online technologies increase my relevance and credibility with students? If yes, which ones should I be engaging with and how best should these be used? And if no, what should I be doing to ensure better connectedness with my online students?

It turns out that for online students, knowing who you are as an instructor may not really matter. Researchers, Kelly and Sheridan (2010), interviewed 65 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in online courses in 2 large universities in the American Midwest and found that “(b)eing able to see or hear the instructor received surprisingly low ratings relative to some of the other indicators in the study. Being provided with a video of the instructor had the fourth lowest mean rating across the 64 close-ended items. Being provided with a website containing information about the instructor had the lowest mean rating across the items, suggesting that these methods of enabling students to get to know the instructor were of relatively little value to the students” (p 776).

In 2012, Orso and Doolittle asked students in their college to list 3 characteristics of an outstanding online teacher. From the 624 responses they received they found that only 18% found that the instructor’s personal information was important and less than 10 % found that other factors such as the instructor’s knowledge, technical competence and creativity were important.

Conversely, Orso and Doolittle (2012) found “communication/availability and feedback as the two primary characteristics that the students found important in their online courses. Students wanted frequent, timely communication and substantive feedback on their assignments” (para 4).

This is echoed by Kennedy (2015) who writes in her blog post that “(o)nline students, physically separated from the instructor and classmates, have a deep need for input, feedback, and attention from the instructor, as well as fellow students” (para 3). She goes on to suggest that “ . . . frequent, short bursts of feedback from the instructor are highly effective; this type of communication in the form of written text, and audio and video clips, is well-received by students” (para 3).

From my readings it is clear that in order to connect with students, I need to be able to be readily available to them, to be able to communicate effectively and to be able to provide frequent and timely feedback. In his book, Teaching Naked, How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning Bowen (2012) has some strategies that I can use to help guide me to meet these goals.

  1. “Establish in the syllabus how you will communicate” (p 32).

I have in my syllabus that students can reach me by my UNBC address and by my phone (call or text) but as I was doing this assignment I realized that I did not include how quickly students can expect a response from me! (I am happy to report that this information has now been included for the winter semester).

  1. “Limit the forms of communication” (p 32).

The primary mode of communication for the course takes place through Blackboard. UNBC requires that any additional written communication take place through the UNBC webmail.

  1. “Create a schedule for yourself” (p 32).

The course has weekly discussion forums, case studies and quizzes that are due every Sunday night. Students receive their assignments back with feedback Monday –Tuesday. Quizzes are marked as they are completed. Muddiest question survey questions are submitted every second module. (There are 10 modules). I answer these questions and post them to the ‘Clear as Mud” discussion forum post Wednesday – Saturday. Based on feedback from students, the schedule, while quite busy, is effective in keeping them on track with their learning.

  1. “Don’t mix the personal and the professional” (p 32).

As I learned from my readings, students do not want to know much (if anything) about me. I will therefore continue to only include information about course content in Blackboard and if students contact me directly, I need to stick to the issue concerning the student. I will not engage with students on Facebook as I feel there may be a risk of mixing too much private information without any extra advantages gained by using this social networking site.

 

  1. “It is fine and even useful to employ multiple methods of communication as long as you are clear and consistent” (p 32).

 I have not used anything except for Blackboard, email, text and phone so far with my students as Blackboard offers me quite a few options including discussion forums, live virtual classrooms that can be recorded and archived for students that are unable to attend the session, email capabilities and announcements that send messages automatically to students’ UNBC email and a grade book with lots of room for feedback.  When I use the virtual classroom, I post the time for the class on the announcements and then post the link to the recorded session on the ‘Course Updates’ discussion forum.

I have just signed up for Twitter which I will be using during this PIDP 3240 course. I am curious to see what advantages and disadvantages there are to using this form of communication.

From what I have learned it would seem that engaging more actively in social networking circles and online technologies will not increase my relevance and credibility with students as what actually matters to them is that I am accessible, that communication lines are open, the means of communication are identified and that timely feedback is provided. As students’ knowledge of me is not seen as an important part of their learning, it doesn’t matter what online technologies I am using personally, only that I am competent using the ones I require to meet their learning needs.

References

Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass

Kennedy, A. (2015) Making Online Teaching More Effective: Advice from a Student Perspective ValueED Education + Your Life Colorado State University Online. Retrieved from: http://blog.online.colostate.edu/blog/online-teaching/making-online-teaching-more-effective-advice-from-a-student-perspective/

Orso, D. & Doolittle, J. (2012) Instructor Characteristics That Affect Online Student Success Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications. Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/instructor-characteristics-that-affect-online-student-success/

Sheridan, K. & Kelly, M. (2010) The Indicators of Instructor Presence that are Important to Students in Online Courses MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 4, December. Retrieved from: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no4/sheridan_1210.pdf

A Field Guide to Taking Risk in the Classroom

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Photo: A.McKenzie

In Brookfield’s book, The Skillful Teacher (2015) the 9th maxim of the 16 he lists for skillful teaching is “Don’t’ be afraid to take risks (p 271).

For me, the word risk can invoke feelings of fear – fear of failing, fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear of making a fool of myself, fear of adversely affecting of my bank account or health – overall, rather stressful stuff. But I also know that risk is the very thing that makes my life exciting: every time I head out for an adventure into the backcountry – which I love to do – I take risks because, according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, an adventure “is an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks” (n.d., Adventure definition #1). So how can taking risks cause me both anxiety and excitement? Why are taking risks a part of skilful teaching?

To take a risk is to knowingly put yourself in a situation that will challenge your abilities. If your abilities meet or surpass the challenge, you will succeed and you may even say that it was fun. Csikszentmihalyi as cited in The Pursuit of Happiness (n.d.) states “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  (The Pursuit of Happiness, n.d., para1).

Risks will push us to success or failure; they define what level our abilities are at and, when we reflect on the situation, what we need to do to be able to succeed next time. Taking risks is, as Thorton and Harris (2015), state “ . . . how we learn, create, even adapt (para 1). They improve critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and give students more self-confidence (Thorton & Harris, 2015).

If the risk is greater than your abilities you will fail. Failing makes us feel awful. But it doesn’t have to stop there. “People shy away from risks because they fear failure — but what’s so bad about failing? Some of the greatest moments of understanding happen after we’ve “failed”” (para 6, Thorton & Harris, 2015).

“Risk is endemic to skillful teaching. Good teachers take risks in the full knowledge that these will not always work” (Brookfield, 2015, p 271). Just like in life, taking risks in the classroom means we will encounter success and we will encounter failure. We will have times when we will be in flow and times when we feel we are falling into the abyss: the times when we actually learn the most.

Taking risks will help everyone to learn, so as teachers we need to create an environment where we can all feel that these risks will make for a wonderful adventure and not a mission of self-destruction. As teachers we need to create a place where “ . . . kids take chances because risk is honored, because risks are taken from a comfortable platform, and because there’s always a soft spot to land” (para 5, Thorton & Harris, 2015).

Here are some tips I learned about how I (as a teacher and as a student) can ensure that my adventures in education will be a safe, exciting and filled with lots of great learning.

Model how to take risks

Develop the skills to be able to succeed at taking risks.

Critical thinking skills – “When people think critically they try to identify the assumptions that frame their thinking and actions and to check out how far these assumptions are accurate and valid. They do this by looking at their ideas and decisions from different perspectives. On the basis of this they then take what they hope are informed actions” (Brookfield, 2015, p 155).

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Share scenarios from maternity where I did and didn’t apply critical thinking.
  • Share critical thinking steps with students.
  • When I encounter failure in the classroom, review my errors in critical thinking with students and what I could have done differently.
  • Review my assumptions about my abilities before I take a risk in the classroom like trying out a new instructional strategy.

Tips for me as a student:

  • Share with peers critical thinking steps for case studies.

Be confident and organized (Svinicki, 1989-90) – “When the students are convinced that the instructor is “in control” and knows where the class is going, they will feel more comfortable about taking risks”( para 7).

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Know my material Make a plan A, plan B . . .

Tips for me as a student:

Ensure Soft Landings

Provide risk-taking opportunities (Svinicki, 1989-90) – “Allowing students to struggle and take wrong turns helps them learn something from the process” (para 11).

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Ensure that I have created a positive learning environment where students will feel safe to take risks – show respect for them, make them feel valued for who they are and what they know. Value failure as a positive learning experience and opportunity for growth. Ensure privacy and confidentiality with students when discussing failures. Practice and foster a growth mindset.
  • Ensure that I have created a safe learning environment where students will feel safe with me taking risks like trying out a new teaching strategy.

Tips for me as a student:

  • Ask for formative feedback while learning is taking place.

Learn from each other

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Before I try out something brand new in the classroom, talk to my colleagues and find out if they have tried it before. Some of the teaching strategies I used in my online course were exercises I did when I took the PIDP 3250 course online. By trying them out and watching how my instructor managed the class I was able to learn a lot about what worked and why.

Tips for me as a student:

  • Share presentations and problem solve in small groups first before having to go to a large group to share. Reid (2010) suggests having students break into small groups for Think-Pair-Share as a way to increase student interaction and risk taking behaviours.

Start with baby steps

“Not all students have the same level of risk tolerance. We can scaffold risk-taking behavior, beginning with risks most students can participate in (brainstorming questions) before we move to more complex tasks (proposing solutions)” (Reid, 2010, para 5).

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Before I decide to radically change a class, start with a few changes first so that I can gain confidence with how the new changes will impact learning and classroom dynamics.
  • Take time to develop my skills and confidence working with new technologies by integrating them slowly into the classroom.
  • Ensure that the students have the skills to be able to manage the challenge of the learning.
  • Keep the stakes low as students are learning and then increase the stakes as mastery is gained.

Tips for me as a student:

  • Try taking risks when the stakes are lower so that I can develop the skill first before taking on risks with higher stakes. For example, before taking on a simulation that requires multiple complex skills to be successfully completed, start with one complex skill and gain proficiency before moving on.

Get in the flow!

Increased skill means increased opportunity to handle more challenges, which will create more opportunities to get into flow, which will increase learning!

Applications for me as an instructor:

  • Finding my own flow will lead to increased personal satisfaction with teaching which will lead to more passion and more enthusiasm which means more learning for students!
  • Provide the right amount of challenge for students and frequent formative feedback so that they can they can get into flow.
  • Provide a positive learning environment where students will feel safe and will be able to focus.

Tips for me as a student:

  • Take measures to create an environment where I can get into flow.

 

Taking risks are part of the adventure of learning. Critically thinking, planning, working together, taking baby steps and ensuring that there is a safe place to land will safeguard that no one gets hurt in the process.

Bring on the next adventure in learning!

References

Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Merriam- Webster Online Dictionary. (n.d.) Adventure definition #1. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adventure

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (n.d) The Pursuit of Happiness. Retrieved from:http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/

Reid, S. (2010) Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magma Publications. Retrieved from:

https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/teaching-risk-taking-in-the-college-classroom/

Svinicki, M. (1989-90) If Learning Involves Risk-taking, Teaching Involves Trust-building Essays on Teaching Excellence Toward the Best in the Academy Volume 1, Number 2. A publication of The Professional & Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (www.podnetwork.org). Retrieved from: http://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/V1-N2.pdf

 

Thorton, M. & Harris, C. (2015) Creating Space for Risk Schools that work edutopia George Lucus Educational Foundation. Retrieved from:

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/creating-space-for-risk-michael-thornton-cheryl-harris

Professional Ethics

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Photo: A.McKenzie

I work in health care, a field where ethical dilemmas are not in short supply. One of the most recent ethical dilemmas to challenge nurses is that of medically assisted death.

Nursing is a profession that was rated as one of the top 5 most trusted professionals in Canada in 2015. Nurses work with some of the most vulnerable in our population and when a violation of this trust occurs, the effects are catastrophic.

To protect those in their care, Registered Nurses in Canada are bound by a Code of Ethics developed by the Canadian Nurses Association (latest edition is from 2008). While the Code of Ethics is not available for viewing online there are multiple case studies and examples of ethical dilemmas for nurses to read and learn from here.

The College of Registered Nurses of BC states on their web page that the “ . . . public expects competent nurses to provide safe and ethical nursing care. In British Columbia, the public has entrusted the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC), through the Health Professions Act, with the responsibility for establishing, monitoring and enforcing standards of practice and professional ethics for registered nurses and nurse practitioners” (Introduction Professional Standards para 1).

As a practicing Registered Nurse, I have to follow these standards and provide evidence that I am meeting my professional competencies. Complaints regarding care or competencies are investigated by the CRNBC.

To ensure that the care provided to patients meets approved standards, policy and procedures are continually being revised and new ones drafted. These policies and procedures can be found in manuals on the units and on the health authorities’ web staff page.

Unlike nursing which has a very cohesive and national approach, teaching seems to be a bit more piecemeal. The BC Teacher Federation has a Code of Ethics that is available online here. I found it interesting that one of the “rules’ of ethical behaviour for its members is that the member adheres to the provisions of the collective agreement.

There are also Codes of Conduct for employees of institutions like this one from UNBC.

The Ontario College of Teachers, in their ethical standards for teaching, has chosen to focus their efforts on what they see as a vision of professional practice, choosing the words, Care, Respect, Trust and Integrity to focus their statements on. Their standards of practice are not unlike the competency framework we developed. The 5 practice standards are listed as follows (Standards of Practice, n.d):

  • Commitments to students and student learning;
  • Professional Knowledge;
  • Professional Practice;
  • Leadership in Learning Communities
  • Ongoing Professional Learning

When I think of hotly debated ethical topics in education, I think of sex education. A topic that creates issues for younger students, but not for the adult students I teach.

Below is an awesome video from a PIDP student that looks at a situation involving college students and the teacher’s out of classroom relationships. The issue is analyzed using Kidder’s Ethical Dilemmas Framework and resolved using Kidder’s Nine Steps for Ethical Decision Making. It is a framework that I will be using in my practice as teacher.

References

Introduction Professional Standards (n.d). CRNBC The College of Registered Nurses of BC. Retrieved from: https://www.crnbc.ca/Standards/ProfessionalStandards/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Standards of Practice (n.d.) Ontario College of Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.oct.ca/public/professional-standards/standards-of-practice

My PIDP Journey in Review

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Photo: A. McKenzie

The 3260 Professional Practice course marks my 5th course in my PIDP journey. At the risk of sounding clichéd I will state that the program has been nothing short of transformational for me.

3250 Instructional Strategies

My first course felt like plunging off a cliff. It was exciting, overwhelming, frustrating and rewarding. I spent the first part of the course getting my head around all of the unfamiliar educational terms and theories while trying my very best not to sound completely clued out on the discussion forums. Setting up my blog was a huge learning curve but gave me a lot of insight into how technology can be used to encourage higher order thinking. The pinnacle of learning for me, the peak learning in all of the mountain of strategies, theories and concepts that I chewed through and pondered, was how truly powerful self-reflection in learning is. I have since incorporated self-reflection into the workshops and courses I teach as a way to increase metacognitive thinking.

3210 Curriculum Development and 3230 Evaluation of Learning

I did these together as part of a face-to-face and online hybrid course at Selkirk College. These courses had me super pumped! I really love doing curriculum development! I was blown away how, when I kept the principles of course alignment in mind, all of the assessments, content and learning activities came together like magic. Now I understand that with proper course alignment, the course will feel rich and satisfying and without it, it will feel disjointed and haphazard. Having well thought out and defined learning outcomes is the DNA of curriculum development.

I also learned about the power of feedback for learning. I have set up weekly assignments in the online course I teach with feedback provided for each assignment (in addition to the rubric) so that students are given lots of opportunity to adjust and reflect on their learning. Learning about test validity made me seriously question the quizzes that I am required to give to the students for one of the mandated workshops I teach for the health authority. Excited by my readings about gamification I followed up on my plan and gamified the quizzes. Students loved it! There was lots of great discussions about the content covered in the course and the collaborative learning was highly valued by the students (as per the feedback instrument). The only problem was that the folks that oversee the course were not impressed with me. They felt that quizzes were the only way to truly assess knowledge. I think I may invite them to join in on one of my next workshops :).

3100 Foundations of Adult Education

In retrospect I wish I would have done this course first as it really does lay the foundation of the concepts and principles of adult learning, but as it was, it gave me an opportunity to deepen my learning and take on concepts like social constructivism with more understanding than if I had only learned about it for the first time. This course helped me to nail down the educational concepts I need to be able to continue to build my practice as an educator.

3260 Professional Practice

This brings me to my 5th course – this one! I have really enjoyed this course so far as it has brought home to me the importance of feedback and strengthened my enthusiasm for self-reflection as an educator. Reading the Skillful Teacher by Stephen Brookfield and reflecting on the concepts in the book has provided me insight into not only how I can be a better teacher but how students can perceive teacher behaviours. I have already included the Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire into my fall workshops. I am looking forward to what I will discover! Developing the competency model in the face-to-face workshop and having that to draw on as an educator is an important part of ensuring I stay on track.

Well, that is a summary of the journey so far. Thank you so much to my instructors and fellow colleagues who have inspired, challenged and encouraged me along this wonderful journey.