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?

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Connectivism, PLN’s and Media Literacies

I wrote an earlier post this week about my growth and learning experience with Twitter. I thought it was a great week to write the post as we had some assigned readings that I thought tie into Twitter quite well. We watched this youtube video on networked students. I highly recommend watching it as it describes a new ‘type’ of student. I believe this ‘type’ of student is going to become a lot more prevalent in our classrooms. We are already seeing students make connections beyond that classroom more than ever before and I believe this will continue to evolve.

As Genna stated in her blog, these networked students won’t eliminate the need for us as teachers but it will change our role as teachers. I think that we will begin to move towards a more supportive and collaborative role with students by working with them to reach their learning outcomes as opposed to try pass information on to students. In this new shift it will be important for us to focus on teaching the media literacies that Howard Rheingold describes in his article: Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies.  I feel the most important literacy he describes for us as teachers to teach these networked students is critical consumption or “crap detection”. If students have the opportunity to reach out and locate information going beyond the classroom, we need to help them determine if it is reliable information or not. I have had many students come to me and tell me that they found an easier way to do a math question for me to turn around and tell them that the easier way won’t always work for every question and show them why. We need to make sure we are working with these students to make meaningful connections in which they can collaborate with others for a bigger reason than the sake of connecting.

Photo Credit: aquopshilton via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: aquopshilton via Compfight cc

Connectivism is a learning process in which information is always flowing. It is important to be able to determine which information is purposeful and meaningful as opposed to not. I feel like Twitter is a great metaphor for connectivism. George Siemens has described the principles of connectivism and I have connected Twitter to a few of them.

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
    • If you’ve been on Twitter you have seen thousands of opinions. Some valid, others maybe not so much, but regardless we can certainly learn from each of them.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
    • On Twitter we use #hashtags to make these connections
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
    • We have an endless capacity on Twitter.
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
    • By quoting, liking and retweeting others tweets we are able to learn from each other through connecting.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
    • Twitter provides us with up to the minute updates
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
    • This last point ties in the critical consumption that Howard Rheingold described. With the constant flow of information on Twitter we must decide what is important and what is not. We can decide who to follow and who can follow us. We are able to search for words or hashtags that interest us to learn about the things that we want to.

I have always had a fear of students using youtube or the internet to find answers to questions in math. Mostly because I am worried that I am going to have to go back and fix errors in “simple methods” that they have found on line or reteach them to make the corrections. I like the idea of students being able to use tools and connect with others to find answers so I think it’s important for me to be able to help them with the “crap detection” part of it all. I think a starting point for me will be to encourage students to use resources like Khan Academy and Math10.ca to help them along the way. If anyone has any other high school math websites that you use for additional resources I would love to know what they are. Just as it is important for us to expand our PLN’s I think the same can be said for our students PLN’s or PLE’s. Students are used to making connections online to be friends with someone so we will need to encourage them and help them make connections that go beyond being just friends and move towards educational purposes.