As with any classroom, online or face to face, there are many factors that ensure that the learning potential is maximised, not least the role - and skills - of the facilitator.
I think we all agree that all skills are important in order to create an online/blended learning environment. The facilitator needs to be organised and sessions need to be well thought out with clear objectives and outcomes fully communicated. The facilitator needs to support the learning and problem solve alongside the students. The facilitator must adapt to the needs of the students and the situation; as Bill stated. flexibility - in all senses of the word - is key.
It is also important to note that, as Ed Hootstein stated, the facilitator must also be able to change shoes and wear many hats and I think I am starting to realise why. As an online facilitator, all roles found in a school fall on you and your support network that you would normally have in a regular face to face environment - the teachers, support staff, admin - are not necessarily there.
You need to be the guidance counselor supporting the students that are struggling or need a little extra support. You need to provide the structure and organisation as well as the rules and expectations - like the Principal. You are the secretary - and this takes up a lot of the time - communicating, record keeping, updating, adapting, checking and also the janitor, cleaning up and dealing with all the crap... And you are the tech support too.
I currently use many different tools to gauge student understanding. I find that both Socrative and Infuse Learning are easy ways to get instant feedback using any device. I believe that blog comments & posts - on Weebly (or any other platform), and the use of Edmodo has been extremely useful. I also use something similar to Bubbl.us called Spiderscribe which is another mind mapping tool with other really useful features too!
However, I am going to focus on something relatively new that I use for formative - and summative -assessments, Google Drive... Within the one 'program' you can collaborate on documents and presentations and it is extremely easy to create surveys with a variety of question prompts including images. It is easy to see and comment on the students work at any time synchronously or asynchronously using the comments tab at the top right, you can share the document with colleagues, parents, students and even better you can link it to another tool that I have just started experimenting with called http://121writing.com/ which connects with Google Drive allowing you to give verbal feedback too. Very exciting!
A specific example would be to get students to present their work on a Google Document (or upload it from Word) and, as the teacher or a peer editor, insert comments about their work and suggestions for improvements and students can apply these changes. You could also add general comments and suggestions too using the comment button on the top right. You could also give specific verbal feedback while highlighting their work by connecting 121writing with your Google Drive. Once the assignment is completed, you could then ask them to reflect on the process and the product using a simple Google form; asking the students to 'check-in' with their understanding of the subject. I believe this would cover all parts of Tuttle's Stages of Formative Assessment.
I am really looking forward to trying Vialogues too - thanks for the suggestion Mick!
Here is my embedded video below. I have SERIOUSLY avoided doing this for the longest time. I have (with copious counselling!) NEARLY got used to hearing the sound of my own voice but the sight of an uncomfortable, self-conscious me on video is another thing entirely. I'm fine talking crap "live" but this is another thing entirely.... Strange!
My first ever 'front of cam' experience. Ever. Seriously...:
Social Media is an unknown, unforgiving entity that is dangerous, distracting and full of inappropriate content.
Social Media gives every individual a voice and an authentic audience; it allows global discussions and opens up (literally) a world of positive possibilities.
Every day I hear – or am involved in – this conversation between leaders, parents, teachers and students and the spectrum of opinions is astounding. Social Media is seen as a distraction and generally feared by parents and teachers alike because of the potential risks but is part of everyday life for our younger digital natives.
In my opinion, students must – from a very early age – understand the risks and dangers involved. Even my daughter, at the age of five, needs to understand NOT to click on the ‘Click here to win an iPad’ banner. At the same time, she needs to know that some TV channels could be scary or inappropriate. And some people online are not who they say they are.
As soon as we acknowledge these risks and expect our students to follow simple agreements (such as ‘turn off’ & ‘report to an adult’), we have normalized and not sensationalized these actions. Students then become responsible for their own actions.
What are your thoughts...?!
Transferring a course from face to face to online without losing the most important elements is a real challenge. As the possibilities of technology grow, ways to collaboratively communicate and create online also become easier and by using Web2.0 Tools, allows such a course to become accessible to all.
The ‘Propositions Project’ is an excellent example of project based learning where students are given the freedom to pursue their choice of content and are required to deal with an authentic problem; a real life issue that has a genuine purpose and conclusion. As stated in the video, there is no need to give the students the information or even direct them to research; In order to solve a real problem, students search for information to support their actions and have ownership on the project. The students are automatically ‘hooked’.
The challenge in transferring this to an online environment is minimized by the fact that the teacher is not the catalyst for motivation; the project itself is. We are no longer relying on the driven, enthusiastic, motivational teacher but on the authenticity of the task in hand. And by allowing students to self-select – both the content AND the possible colleagues – the motivation is instantly internalized.
As long as the content is authentic and engaging – which, in this case, it certainly is, moving such a course to an online setting becomes more about the structure and organization, and above all facilitation; facilitating the discussions and the learning and deciding on the vehicle(s) to get you there…
To accomplish this, providing specific types of tools to collaborate online at the different stages of the project is of paramount importance; finding effective and reliable ways to brainstorm, comment, discuss, collate data & information, question different points of view and, of course, collaborate and reflect on the final product. Selecting an effective range of tools while still allowing a balance of freedom for individuals to select their own way to express themselves would be a challenge in itself.
Another area for consideration is feedback. Without feedback, motivation and enthusiasm dwindles. In a face to face situation, this is easy to monitor; recognizing which students look stressed, distracted or disconnected is easier to pinpoint and rectify. However, online is a different story – almost impossible to monitor unless the student approaches you. Therefore it is vital that the facilitator or group leader initiates conversations online and regularly checks in and asks the right questions.
However, there is also a flipside to this. As the online environment is more ‘anonymous’, there may be some students – the more quiet or shy ones – who may respond more positively to online prompts and discussions; online learning levels the playing field in a number of ways.
I thought it would be interesting to get a closer look at a program which seems to be one of the furthest in style to what I currently have experienced. eCADEMY is an ‘online driver’ model of blended learning. I think it is difficult to contemplate what this would look like in my current school since it is a completely different - almost opposite - model, however it may be interesting for those students who have individual passions or interests, where an additional 'online driven' course - almost as an After School Activity - could complement their work within the school...
For better or worse, eCADEMY’s main claim to fame is that it is a money saver. It requires less space, less facilities, less teachers. eCADEMY has changed the way teachers are paid and when they work. As it is made up of predominantly online courses, traditional holiday ‘restrictions’ no longer need to be enforced. Teachers get paid per student per semester and can work all year round and administer multiple courses. A point of note is that all teachers are required to have a district recognised online teaching certification.
Students begin each of their courses face to face but then are able to do the rest of the course online, providing they maintain a sufficient grade. eCADEMY also cites parent relations to be of paramount importance and as disciplining has decreased with the move from the traditional face to face environment, parents and teachers are able to focus more on the successes of the students in their communication.
The physical ‘brick and mortar’ school is open longer each day (from 8am-10pm) to allow for flexibility but as students choose when and indeed if they need to physically go to school, the facilities are of a much smaller scale (and therefore cheaper to maintain) than other schools with a similar population. Teachers are on location at all times if students want more face to face interaction.
This model seems to be flexible but rigorous and even though it is predominantly an ‘online’ course, the face to face interactions are still there. As Salman Khan (2012) points out, “You need the human to do the mentorship. You need the human to understand the emotions of the child. You need the human being to really guide the student through rich, deep, open ended projects.”
However, my one major concern of all of these blended learning models is that what is lacking is the human interaction, not only with the teacher, but primarily with peers. In a world where personal interactions are rare, what does reducing the possibilities of peer to peer interactions, problem solving, compromise, communication, conflict resolution etc do to the youth of today? Although educated and certified, will these students have the skills to be successful in society? What are your thoughts on this?
To participate in the class discussion, please create a Youtube video or a Glogster poster, or a multimedia introduction of your choice, and embed it into a post. Please include the information from the placemarks that you added to the class map.
2. Online vs. face to face Venn Diagram
3. Collaborative Presentation of Web2.0 Tools
4. Designing an online discussion
5. Establishing an Accessible Social Presence
6. Designing a comprehensive Assessment Plan
7. Online Course Syllabus
8. Reflection: iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching
Hello, I am Tony Potts, the Director of Digital Learning, PK-12 ICT Coordinator, ICT teacher and technology integration specialist at GEMS World Academy, Dubai. Please feel free to ask me ANY questions...