That’s it. That’s all. My summary of learning for EC&I 834.

For my summary of learning I decided to test out some tools that I have said I wanted to test out for a while now; Powtoon, Piktochart and My Simpleshow. I divided my summary into three different parts covering three different ideas using the tools I mentioned above.

I was introduced to Powtoon in the fall semester of 2016 and never tried it out for myself. I had attempted to use it a few times but thought it seemed to overwhelming. I was happy that I tried it again and was able to make a finished product. It took some time to figure out how to make it work and how to edit things, but after some trial and error I was able to figure out and it was pretty easy to use.  Enjoy part one of my summary where I talk about the advantages and disadvantages of face to face, blended and online learning.

Simply stated, I love Piktochart! It is as user-friendly as it gets and the end product looks so professional. This would be an awesome tool to use with students as a way to present information to them as well as a way for them to create information. It is text based only and allows images to be used too, but there is no audio or video involved. Even though there is only text involved it is a great tool and I will be making use of it in the future.

Made with Piktochart.com

I decided to use My Simpleshow as it was highly recommended by Nancy. The only unfortunate part is that the free trial no longer allows you to record a voice over the video. I was going to make an audio recording over the video as it played using Screencastomatic, but I thought I would leave it with the “Mr.Roboto” voice over because if we use it with our students, that’s most likely the way they would have to do it so I wanted to show you what it actually sounds like. These are my final thoughts from this semester.

Thanks to Alec and Katia for another great semester. Another thanks to all of my classmates and colleagues who have made the semester so meaningful. The collaboration and sharing is greatly appreciated! I hope to continue connecting and sharing through Twitter as the years go on. I’m happy to say that upon completing this course that I am done my masters degree! Woooo hooooo!

Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

Deciding which tools to use for interactive purposes in our blended prototype felt a bit like a game of eeny meeny miny moe. With so many tools to choose from how can one possibly decide which tools are the best for what you are trying to accomplish. Fortunately my team and I were able to decide which tools we want to use without much debate. We are going to be using Canvas as our LMS so we will be using some features of that site as well as twitter and blogs. I will go into more detail as to why we selected these methods but I want to start with the quote from Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: 

For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

This quote really stood out to me and validated the tools we have selected as our community building tools. Nancy, Andrew and I have had a lot of discussions around Twitter and how much we have grown to love it over the past few semesters. I have said this before and I’ll said it again for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it before – I used to think Twitter was pointless and really served little purpose. I didn’t fully understand the value in it. Looking back I now realize that I felt that way because I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. I didn’t follow a lot of meaningful people, I didn’t understand how to use hashtags to my advantage and didn’t feel it was possible to share something meaningful in 140 characters. Twitter has become one of the most beneficial tool for me as a teacher. It has provided me with great resources, professional development and connections with other amazing teachers – all for free! I have really developed my PLN (personal learning network) and I can’t imagine my teaching career without twitter. I the teacher in this video has done an excellent job of discussing PLN’s and the role twitter plays in developing your PLN.

It is possible for students to build a PLN and we plan to encourage our students to build their PLN through using a course hashtag (which is yet to be decided) as well as hootsuite or tweetdeck. Students will be asked to interact on twitter by sharing articles, retweeting and quoting tweets from classmates within the class as well as people from outside of the class. By using hashtags students will be able to reach out and connect with others far beyond the four walls of our classrooms which will in turn help them improve the community within our classroom by sharing resources and information.

Another way we feel that an online learning community can be established is through blogs. George Couros shares 5 reasons why students should be blogging including developing a positive digital footprint, giving students a voice and allowing for student reflection. It is a great way for students to document their learning and share what they have been doing in class. Through comments on each others blogs the online community can further be established. Like Liz pointed out, it is important to consider digital citizenship and be sure that students are commenting respectfully and mindfully. Being that we are doing a digital citizenship course prototype we will be focusing on this early on in the semester. Students will be expected to follow classmates blogs through an RSS platform such as Feedly. Feedly is a user friendly way to follow blogs without having to go back to the individual blog and check to see if a new post has been written. We felt that this would be easier to use than creating a blog hub.

The last way that we thought we can try to establish a community is through the discussion feature on Canvas. An edutopia article lists many benefits to using a discussion board in an online course including critical thinking, improved reading & writing skills and reflection. The article also suggests having students come up with the guidelines for using the discussion board and just like Sarah I feel like this would be a really great idea. The chart discussing Bloom’s Taxonomy in relation to activities for discussion boards really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for activities through a discussion board. Although I see the discussion board being used primary for students to connect with one another to ask questions or get help with information related to the course I can see it be useful to have an activity thrown in there every once in a while too.

I feel like there are so many other tools we could have selected but I feel like these are the tools that will help our students build a community online, much like I have experienced in all of my EC&I classes with Alec and Katia.

Are there any other great tools we have overlooked for our course prototype in terms of building community online?

I’m not an artist, but I could sure use this Canvas

After spending some time exploring different LMS this week, our group has decided to go with Canvas. Both Nancy and I have extensive use with Edmodo and after exploring Google Classroom last week we realized that it’s very similar so we didn’t want to go with that option. Andrew suggested we explore Canvas a little further and after some exploration, we decided to go that route. If you have never used Canvas, Andrew created a video demonstrating how to navigate the dashboard in order to set up you class. I’ve included that video below and you can read more about his thoughts on Canvas on his latest post.

When I started exploring Canvas I found that it was pretty user-friendly. I appreciated the classroom set-up checklist that was included when you start a class.  This takes you through setting up a class step by step. I found it to be really helpful and easy to follow. However, there were a lot of features that weren’t discussed in the guide that I missed out on the first time I explored Canvas. After reading Kyle’s blog it was brought to my attention that outcomes can be attached to the assignments or lessons you are adding to the class. I didn’t know that it was an option prior to reading his blog. After reading that I decided to look into the outcomes option to see how it works. Unfortunately, the outcomes that are already uploaded are American based so I would have to enter my outcomes on my own (which isn’t a big surprise, but would be nice to have the outcomes already loaded to select from).

This brief product video also taught me a few things, one of which is the ability to connect apps with the classroom you have created. I use Khan Academy to teach coding to my students in some of my technology courses so being able to connect that content to this platform is great. It eliminates the need for students to go to multiple sites in order to take part in the class which makes things a little more user-friendly for the students (and myself).

Canvas has a Commons area in which you can share courses as well as use courses that have been developed by other people. It is basically a digital library create by the users on Canvas. The courses seem to be built around standards and themes from the United States, but that is probably because those are the majority of the people sharing their work. It would be nice to see some more courses being added from people in Canada, more specifically Saskatchewan. Hopefully after this class we have a few courses that can be shared on Canvas. Another thing I noticed about the Commons area is that a lot of the courses are partially finished having only a few assignments or modules. The Commons area provides access to courses, modules, assignments, documents, quizzes and a variety of other resources.

Screenshot of the Commons Area

Screenshot of the Commons Area

I should also mention that I was shocked (in a good way) to receive a phone call on Friday at work from Matt at Canvas. He was simply calling to check in and see how my initial experience was and wanted to help answer any questions I may have had. He was able to answer the one question I did have at that time which was whether or not the student and teacher dashboards looked the same. He told me they look almost identical minus some menus that the teacher has to edit the course that the students don’t have. The reason they have it set up this way is so that there is little confusion going from one to the other. It makes it easier for teachers to help students if they need help navigating their course. I really like that it looks the same for teachers as it does for students. I was impressed that they took the time out of their day to call me and make sure everything was going well so far. I feel confident that if I have any questions help is only a call or a click away.

After reading Kyle, Logan and Liz’s blogs this week it is clear that I still have a lot to learn with Canvas. I’m looking forward to using this with my group to develop our course. I think it will be a great LMS for our project.

Separated by distance, connected through a screen – online education.

My experience with distance education has been fairly minimal. This is my fourth online class as a graduate student and I took one as an undergrad way back in 2007…or 2006. Although the classes are online, I have never really consider them to be included as distance education. I guess that’s because I live in the same city that the courses are being offered, but just because I live in the same city the courses are being offered doesn’t mean they aren’t distance education courses. They are exactly that. Tony Bates describes what distance education looks like:

Students can study in their own time, at the place of their choice (home, work or learning centre), and without face-to-face contact with a teacher.

Photo Credit: MyTudut Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MyTudut Flickr via Compfight cc

Obviously technology and the internet play a huge role in this process. I think it’s important to discuss the different ways that these courses can take place. Our courses are synchronous meaning that they happen at the same time for everyone. There is a specific time and place that we need to be online to participate in the class each week. Another way the course can be presented is asynchronously  in which participants work at their own pace completing modules or learning tasks by a specific date. And the last way a course can be offered is through a blended method. A blended classroom offers both online and face-to-face components.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all methods of learning online. I have found that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. The biggest advantage for me has been the convenience of being able to work from home. Working as a teacher and having two toddlers at home makes this method ideal for me. I also appreciate the collaboration and network that is created within the class through the media we use. A disadvantage for me is that I find it harder to stay focused during class as well as be productive outside of class. This goes back to a previous post of mine discussing the internet and productivity. 

I don’t know that I would enjoy an asynchronous method because I feel like I need the ability to connect with others. Luke did a really good job discussing the importance of making the connections and establishing networks while we learn. This is something that we need to consider when we are looking at how courses are delivered. If I had to base the course offering method solely on how students are able to connect obviously I would put synchronous first, followed by blended and then asynchronous. However, this order would change depending on what factor we are looking at. For example, asynchronous might be best for those people who have busy schedule that would be better suited by the flexibility of the course.

Photo Credit: Janitors Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Janitors Flickr via Compfight cc

Like many of my classmates have already mentioned, zoom is a great tool to use for an online class. Stephanie talks about the user friendly aspect of zoom as well as the social aspect and I would have to agree that they are both positives in my mind as well. Since most of us in class are familiar with zoom I won’t go into too many details about the usefulness of the platform but I will take some time to talk about Google Hangouts because I was just introduced to it this weekend at an SBTA meeting. At our meeting we were trying to find a more user friendly way to collaborate and meet rather than having some people travel from 2+ hours away to have these monthly meetings. I had suggested Zoom because I am familiar with it and another teacher mentioned Google Hangouts (learn more here). Both tools can be used for free with certain restrictions on the free accounts.

Photo Credit: Piyushgiri Revagar Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Piyushgiri Revagar Flickr via Compfight cc

As Elizabeth mentioned in her blog, it’s great that we are trying to create more online learning opportunities through videos or online content, but we have to remember that adding a computer to stream content is not too different than us teaching the content at the front of the class. I strongly encourage you to read Audrey Watters take on online education. Audrey makes it very clear that providing content using the web doesn’t change how we are teaching it or the way students are learning the materials. The web allows us to do so much more than simply read, write and listen. We are able to connect and collaborate with others from great distances. We can choose what we learn and how we want to learn the material. We need to remember that many of the platforms we use online control a lot of what we do by using templates and algorithms creating these “template selves”.  Online education will not reach it’s full potential until we can break free from these templates and create our own information, our own learning experience and share our own thoughts.

Regardless of the learning method used online I feel very strongly that there needs to be a social and emotional connection between the learners as well as the teacher in the class. Zoom allows us to connect with each other in ways that we may not be able to in a face to face class. It allows communication to always be flowing through discussion in the chat and allows us to share resources using links. Having said all of this I haven’t taken a blended or asynchronous course before, have you? What did you find were the advantages and disadvantages? Do you feel that we need to have a social connection within our learning environment to learn? Can we have those same connections through a chat or email? Or does that make it more difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.