How is a kitchen remodel like distance education?

I have to admit that when I came up with this topic that I was thinking it was an interesting title but that it should not take too long to make the connection.  I then said to myself this needs to be about my most recent kitchen remodel and that the readers need to understand that I just remodeled a kitchen at a rental property that was at a distance (some 140 miles away to be exact).  Now, of course, everyone would get it.

Not Quite!

Then I thought explain to them how you remodeled the kitchen without stepping one foot on the property until last Saturday to review the completed work.  Yes, right now they would understand.  Well, OK, I need to explain a little more.

So, during the most recent kitchen remodel, I knew I had one big problem.  Time and Distance.  The costs are real so I started using the Internet for resources.  First stop was Angie’s list where I found a great kitchen remodeling company with good reviews.  I contacted them and asked them to give me a quote.  I compared the quote to other companies, and I decided it was reasonable based upon comparisons over the internet.

Next I had to coordinate and settle upon a contract with the vendor.  The details were discussed, a contract was sent via text, signing occurred, and a four to five week wait was needed while the factory took the measurements and created the counter tops.

Also during that initial contract time I needed to visit Home Depot (one mile away) to pick out the Formica brand counter top number and style as well as sink, faucet and drawer options.  All information was communicated via text images and writings via a smart phone.

Obviously payment plans were easy over the phone and I set up a before, during, and after completed installments.  It was even nice to use the Bank of America 3% back on all purchases credit card.

I then reached out to my tenant to coordinate a convenient time for final measuring and future installation.  The installers waited for the counter tops to be built at the counter top factory then on two quick days (that were clearly communicated to all) it was installed.  During the installation process, I received timely photo updates from my tenant and communicated constantly with both the company and tenant via cell phone and email.

Then just this last Saturday I visited to see a wonderful kitchen remodel that has improved the value of this distant property.

Oh yes, so how is this like distance education?

To me, this series of events is similar to design of a distance education project.  I knew my subject matter ( a kitchen in a house that I have lived in previously for many years ).  I researched a company on a service that provided checks and balances, coordinated a clear project design document, and established a payment plan of checks and balances.  I communicated via email, text messaging, and phone calls with the project manager and the tenant at various phases during the project.  I was involved with the project, but I let experts do their job and gave ownership to key constituents.  I was at a distance so I never met or communicated with the installer but there were checks and balances in place to make sure it was done well (payments, project company, tenant).  Finally, I checked in, and  I followed through on the project.  And Yes, I recorded on iPad video the final project for documentation.

The kitchen is great, and so are distance education projects.  Project based learning really is the way to go to prepare students for a complex world that could easily give them a project that needs to be completed remotely.  Checking in with your students at various stages is extremely key in distance education as it promotes regular and effective contact, insures that students are following the rubric, helps you teach at a distance, and models what distance education is about for your students.   Always create checks and balances in your projects while leaving room for student creativity, engagement, research, and problem solving.

Thanks for listening to my crazy comparisons and as always I appreciate your positive feedback.  I am glad this did not end up the The Goldbergs kitchen remodel!

Creating Unique Project Assignments, Written Prompts, and Long Answer Test Questions

Although I wrote my last thought about creating unique tests per student and discussed how to harness the computer for automatic grading purposes, I firmly believe that those types of assessments are only valuable as formative learning moments when students need to understand basic facts prior to creating higher level thinking assignments or prior to moving to the next level of understanding.  The real observation of a student’s growth is in the project, written response, presentation, and long answer question, and this is why it is so vital to make unique prompts to promote individual responses and not easily copied responses.

Students are going to use the Internet, your textbook, its resources and links, friends, and the library’s resources to search for ideas when they are writing responses so your prompts need to be unique, clear, and scaffold.  For example, I know of a history teacher that writes prompts that put the learner in a time period and place, and he requires the learner to write from the perspective of a normal person during that time period.  I also know of a communications instructor who actually makes students go out into the public with their project and communicate to live audiences.  Both of these projects include clear rubrics to help the learner reach the desired goals of the instructor.

As for math and sciences, I have seen teachers ask students to teach a math problem, and I have watched very interesting descriptions of “my life as a cell”.  Once again projects are written that force unique perspectives from the student with clearly written rubric guidelines for the desired outcomes.  These projects, hence, are difficult to copy.

Many instructors who are new to this type of project creation are concerned about grading.  This is why you must create a rubric for the desired outcome and tailor the project clearly with scaffolding.  Once you create the first one, you will see how easy it is to change the rubric slightly and the project scaffolding slightly from term to term to continue to get unique project submissions.  In conclusion, these projects not only force unique responses, they require a generation to think, to express, to present, to support with fact, and to discern the material.  Isn’t that what we need in today’s world?

 

Online Testing – Generating Unique Tests per Student

Most online learning management systems have quiz creation tools with unique settings on them to insure unique test generations per student; consequently, online teachers can deliver unique instances of their tests or quizzes to their students so that cheating possibilities are limited.  These capabilities are allowing instructors to rethink the test taking time in more traditional settings also and many teachers in hybrid and on campus courses are beginning to set up quizzes and tests for remote test taking too.  If you are planning upon implementing this strategy in your course, make sure that you implement some of the most common settings of your quiz tool in your course management system.

One important feature setting is simply time.  Setting the timer for a student who takes your test is important.  By limiting the time a student may be involved with your test, you are forcing the student to be well prepared with the knowledge prior to taking your test.  Do not be lenient with this time as you can make exceptions for individual needs by allowing special access for an individual or letting another individual retake the test if needed.

Additionally most learning management systems allow you to randomize quiz question answers and quiz question order.  Because these systems just need you to specify a correct answer, you can manipulate the test engine to produce a random order of questions and a random order of question answers per question of an individualized student test.  For example, student A could have question 1 with answer B as correct, but student B would have that same question appear as question 9 with answer C as correct.  The power of computing gets harnessed when these settings are applied, and students will have to concentrate upon their own test and own test answers instead of their friend’s test.

Furthermore most course management system quiz tools are allowing you to take a set of questions from a pool of questions.  Which means that you are able to create unique sets of questions based upon many questions of the same value.  Many teachers are combining textbook questions with their own personalized questions and they are finding that they have too many questions for a test.  Consequently, if valued properly a teacher could have the computer select a set of questions from that pool of questions.  For example, two students could receive different questions or some partially different questions on a test instance that selects ten questions from a pool of twenty questions.

With all of the above solutions applied, you can begin to see how a test could be unique per student.  A student could have a unique set of questions in a unique order with unique answer orders that have to be completed in a limited amount of time.  Thus eliminating reasons for students to even try to collaborate on your exam because there are too many factors that would create false or antiproductive cheating scenarios.  For further information or more detailed examples please feel free to email me directly upon this topic.  I like the way computer science can be applied to test questions, tests, and test settings to create a unique environment that gets graded automatically.

Next time, I will discuss creating unique projects for your students to lower the chances of cheating.  It is all in the language that you use, the expectations that you created, and the objectives of the assignment.

FAIL SPACE

Wow, as I reflect over the past year, I find that I have missed many goals.  One is obviously that I did not update Zoombla over the winter break, and another is that I have somehow left this blog absent of good thought, advice, and personal experiences.  So why or why not should you continue reading . . . .

Because FAIL SPACE is important.  How we educate today is so dependent upon personalized learning environments where students can create, test, fail, and make better.  There is so much brain research that supports that when we struggle and rebuild we are building skills that are life long learning needs that will help is in any endeavor.  Consequently, we need classrooms that support project based learning, flexible design, group collaboration, making, designing, and presenting.  We need to place process over content, and we will find that students thrive, are more engaged, and take the redesign and editing phase as a game level to do better.  Students actually do like to break something and then figure out how to make it better or design, test it, and fix it.

So yes, I have failed you, my readers, in many ways this past year in the sense of content predictability, and while I have been engaged in large projects such as faculty development, the online educational initiative, student orientations, two learning systems management, and course review, I have failed this blog.  (or have I?)  However, you must also know that in my desire to fix, rebuild, create, and maintain this blog that I have simply written this post with gusto, in a quick manner, and with total belief in the success of FAIL SPACEs for the modern learner and, of course, me.

Webinar for Veteran’s Day Theme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

edWeb.net to host a webinar with Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Clint Romesha

PRINCETON, NJ, October 28, 2014 – edWeb.net and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation (CMOHF) will present a special live webinar, “Heroism in the War on Terror: An Interview with Clint Romesha, Medal of Honor Recipient,” on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

Teachers are invited to bring their students and their questions as they listen to Medal of Honor Recipient, Clinton L. Romesha, Staff Sergeant Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the October 3, 2009 battle at Outpost Keating in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. Five years later, in this interview with Medal of Honor Foundation President Ron Rand, Romesha will reflect on that day and the direction his life has taken since.

Now a working civilian, husband, father, and one of the youngest of the 79 living Medal of Honor recipients, Romesha dedicates some of his precious free time to sharing his story with teachers and students. During this webinar, he will take questions from the audience and share his thoughts on his experiences.

To join this important event, teachers can register here. Teachers are encouraged to submit a question from their students for Mr. Romesha.

Lisa Schmucki, the founder and CEO of edWeb.net, commented, “This is a very special honor to host an online community where recipients of the Medal of Honor can speak directly to teachers and students about their experiences and the values of bravery, commitment, and self-sacrifice.”

edWeb.net and the CMOHF have created an online professional learning community that is free and will host webinars and online discussions on the important concepts of courage, commitment, sacrifice, patriotism, integrity and citizenship. The webinars will provide an opportunity for Medal of Honor Recipients to discuss the importance of character and speak directly with teachers and students on their experiences. The webinars will be facilitated by an educator from the Medal of Honor Foundation and will include demonstrations on how to use the curriculum in the classroom.

If you are an educator, join the free learning community, Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice: The Medal of Honor Character Development Program, to stay informed about upcoming webinars, join in on discussions with peers and experts, and gain access to valuable resources.

For more information, contact: 

Jenifer Morack, Program Development, edWeb.net
609-439-8103 | jenifer@edweb.net

Cathy Metcalf, Vice President, Education, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation
714-609-4996 | cmetcalf@cmohfoundation.org

Designing Interaction into Online Learning for Distance Learners

Cover of "Student to Student"

Cover of Student to Student

Online learning programs are growing in demand and choice by students who are independently learning on their own through the vast resources available to them.  Some of these students are distance learners who have little or no actual class time with the teachers.  Motivated students who choose to learn independently need interaction in the course design so that they can understand accomplishments, reflect with other students, interpret the material, and create projects for teachers.  The following are various types of interactions that can be implemented in an on-line course that is primarily consisted of distance learners.

Student Reflection upon Material:  The benefit of writing on-line course materials is that teachers can express their own perspective upon the content and guide students through the skills that they have defined as most important or relevant to course.  Because students need to sense accomplishment after a targeted content goal is reached, courses need to provide reuse and reworking of ideas studied, and courses need self reflection of newly learned goals.  Activities need to be created that reuse the material in creative ways, and stages of growth need to be clearly identified to the user so there is a sense of accomplishment.  This does require a planned chunking of the data so that steps in learning are clearly identified to the user.  Web pages, screen capture software, and video provide great lesson explanation, but the teacher must have moments of sending content to the teacher that expresses an accomplishment of that learning.

Automated Feedback:  In addition to self reflection and teacher generated exercise, courses should take advantage of  automated feedback sites that provide students with graded responses.  Most textbooks today have an accompanying web site for basic skills review, and they generate reports for the teachers.  Reports are based upon participation and success levels, and the reports also help the course creator and teacher understand quickly which concepts are being understood and which concepts need better explanation and/or course design.  These reports while beneficial are only a portion of understanding a student’s progress, and there should be a clear understanding that students are expected to experience failure during those sessions and to obviously learn from that failure.

Student to Student Interaction:  Scaffolding a project so that students can collaboratively create educational goals in a new and creative way is important.  Give students the right background to take your content to the next level though research, design, writing, and presentation.  Students who are learning through design, evaluation, reediting, and presenting are developing skills that are important in a technologically changing world.  Teachers must provide projects that require collaboration with other students outside the classroom, and teachers and course creators need to develop the virtual classroom space so that students sense the social impact of the course too by experiencing other learner presentation and opinion.

Student to Expert:  Experts in the field produce, develop, and create materials that discuss their content for free.  They even respond to motivated learners who are framing their questions and opinions appropriately.  Teachers should never underestimate the good will of experts who will respond to students who go above and beyond in contacting expert professionals.  Students can easily document this interaction and provide samples to teacher of the learning moment.

Student to Teacher:  As course objectives are met in the course students should submit clearly defined learning outcomes to the teacher.  Those can easily be placed as emailed objectives throughout your online course.  In addition to this the teacher should have times when the students can communicate directly with the teacher as a class via on-line learning virtual space and individually through online office hours to ask those real time questions that can’t be properly expressed or lose their meaning in an email.  Milestone type or level type projects that represent a mastering of a skill, concept, genre, and/or other definable learning objective should be clearly made available to the on-line student for proof of accomplishment.  This also provides a sense of learning FLOW that keeps the learner motivated.

These particular thoughts were based upon an online learning program that is truly for distance learners who don’t have access to the live classroom for a blended learning scenario.  This is not an exhaustive list, but I do believe it helps frame the online teacher’s mind in how he/she needs to communicate with his or her learners.  This type of online learning needs to read like a conversation between the teacher and the student, and it needs to engage the student by providing check points for knowledge gained so that the student feels connected to the material.  If you have other ideas that I should place upon this list please comment below.

 

 

 

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Improving Technology Usage Among Faculty

The title simply states a goal for all administrators and school communities.  As technology improves so do the needs for teachers to teach with those technologies and to provide lessons that allow students to create with those technologies.  Because teachers have little time to be trained, timing is always an issue, and realistic goals should be assigned to allow for these changes.  Also in class sessions, while valuable for teachers, are only successful when “just in time” learning approaches are designed to support the teacher during the school year.

arcsAs we look at the ARCS model of adult learning theory, educational technologists need to keep in mind that most adult learners especially teachers know what they need to learn.  Therefore, making that learning relevant (the R in the model) is extremely important.  One on one sessions with faculty can help them design lessons that use the current technology or that can help the teacher create better learning scenarios with that technology. Teachers also find satisfaction (the S in the model) by getting immediate feedback in a personalized learning environment where they can ask a technology expert for specific skills or creative lesson planning that is unique to his classroom.

Confidence (the C in the model ) is extremely important for an educational technology program as teachers who do not feel confident will simply not use the the tool nor provide the projects for the student.  Educational technologists need to be present for the “just in time” support as teachers do not always know what the technology will bring about in the process of teaching or what students will need during the project.  Open labs with after school support and free period support are great ways to increase confidence among students which then leads to the teachers seeing value in assigning these types of projects again.

Attention (the A in the model) is the hook to get the student and/or teacher to try the technology in their projects.  Teachers know that technology grabs student attention, and they know that the technology can be a valuable tool for knowledge transference.  However, what are we doing to remind them of that?  Best practices must be researched and provided as additional resources for teachers in your school.  They can understand a great project (end result) easily, and they will use or modify the best elements of it in their own lessons.  New approaches and best practices are in constant need of sharing.  A community that shares ideas either within the school or through local conferences with other schools is growing from the reflection of others and the evaluation of how technologies can work in their individual classrooms.  Educational communities are better when they are reflecting the craft, sharing ideas, and improving lessons, and educational technology should simply be an extension of an this type of educational community.

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