Is Online Learning the Answer? Research Post: Draft 1

In the world of education there is a push towards online learning, digital literacy, and for teachers to understand and present opportunities for students to engage with online learning and various technological formats. With the progression of technology and the understanding that many teachers have not been trained with digital literacies and online courses, how can we implement more online training and digital education support for teachers to be successful in this digital age? Should this be something that we push for, or should there be a push back against this digital age in favour of traditional classroom learning? 

Online teacher education can happen at various points in an educators career. Becker, Bohnenkamp, Domitrovich, Keperling, & Ialongo (2014), discuss what online professional development could look like for current teachers in a study about implementing a social emotional program where teachers learned the program material through an online course or in the traditional professional development style of an in person day long workshop. Misra (2014) reports on how an online teacher education program could be a solution to the teacher shortage that is currently happening in much of the world. Because of the inherent adaptability and flexibility that accompanies online learning, potential teachers could study through other work and family commitments at a pace that works for them. Graziano & Bryans-Bongey (2018) also look at the potential for online teacher education and training, while also discussing how new and preservice teachers are not properly trained in teaching online specifically. 

Personally I love technology and all things digital. I have taken some fantastic online courses and participated in many different professional development webinars. I think that the digital world has opened access to so much more learning and connections with other educators than we had before this digital age. However, I am aware that not everyone feels the same way about the amount of technology in our lives, especially when it comes to learning and education. Misra (2014) offers reasoning as to why it is not only beneficial to offer online teacher education programs but how it can help end the teacher shortage in various places around the world. Misra (2014) suggests that the major benefits of an online teacher education program are flexibility with study hours because of work or family commitments, convenience for those who may not be able to easily travel to a campus, and it creates an opportunity for a change in perspective as students can connect and work collaboratively with others from all over the world (Misra, 2014, p.378). While all of these things seem fantastic, there are some drawbacks to online teacher education. What happens when the learning materials and technology become obsolete? How can we ensure that the learners are receiving the support the may need if they are unfamiliar with the technology?

Graziano & Bryans-Bongey (2018), fits in quite well with Misra’s (2014) thoughts about online education for teachers. Graziano et al.(2018) takes a close look at teacher education programs and their lack of online teacher training. Their theory is that eventually all educators will be teaching online as all students will be opting for online courses rather than face to face courses (Graziano et al., 2018). While I agree that teacher training programs should be implementing more technology integration courses I do not believe that a computer will replace a classroom. Whether we like it or not, however,  we are living in a digital age and the technology keeps advancing. I have seen teachers new and experienced struggle with technology integration but as educators we need to be able to use the technology available to us in an effective way to support our students in their learning and demonstrate that we can explore and discover new ways to use technology in our lives, and in our classrooms. 

“..Pre-service teachers will need to learn how to provide effective online instruction, since many of them will be called upon to teach in such environments.” (Graziano et al., 2018, p. 262)

While Misra (2014) argues for a world where teachers can receive their qualifications online, and Graziano et al.(2018) foresees pre-service teacher education programs with more focus on online teaching and learning, it can be noted that “More than half of the principals indicated they would be very concerned if a teacher candidate applied for a position with a degree earned wholly or almost wholly online.” (Graziano et al, 2018, p. 263). So is online education really the ways to move forward, or is the stigma and social status attached to where you receive your education still too strong in our society? 

Becker, Bohnenkamp, Domitrovich, Keperling, & Ialongo (2014), look at online learning in the education world in a slightly different way. They question the practicality and potential for having working teachers use online courses and workshops for professional development and program implementation education rather than sitting in 1-2 day long intensive meetings. Becker et al.(2014) share their findings that the online learning was just as effective as the in person learning according to the teachers and administrators that participated. I mentioned before that I love doing professional development online. I have access to a whole world of educators sharing their successes and failures with various programs, and webinars with the how to on implementing those programs at the click of the search bar. I have personally learned so much through my computer but I wonder if my colleagues would say the same. To note from the Becker et al.(2014) study is that each set of teachers were provided with support during and after the learning sessions regardless of which way they were presented with the information. So what would have happened if there wasn’t the support for technology or program implementation? I wonder if the results would be similar, or if the teachers feelings about digital learning would be more negative?

I do agree with all of the articles in the idea that society is moving fast toward a digital learning landscape and education as a whole needs to be able to keep up. We are not preparing our students for the same world we grew up in, or even the world we are in now, we are preparing them for a world of technology that doesn’t exist yet. Teachers have the unique position of needing to be able to show students that you can keep growing with the technology and keep learning about the new advances without it taking over completely. But how can we empower our teachers to take the leap into something that may be quite scary? Misra (2014) discusses that the initial training of some teachers to then go and educate others is a solution. In my school district, each elementary school has a technology ambassador. It is the job of the technology ambassador to have a good understanding of the technology being used at the school and assist in educating other teachers on how to use it to the best of its ability. I believe that this system of teachers helping teachers is the key to successful teaching in the digital age of learning. 

References:

Becker, K. D., Bohnenkamp, J., Domitrovich, C., Keperling, J. P., & Ialongo, N. S. (2014). Online Training for Teachers Delivering Evidence-Based Preventive Interventions. School Mental Health,6(4), 225-236. doi:10.1007/s12310-014-9124-x

Graziano, K. J., & Bryans-Bongey, S. (2018). Surveying the National Landscape of Online Teacher Training in K–12 Teacher Preparation Programs. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education,34(4), 259-277. doi:10.1080/21532974.2018.1498040

Misra, P. K. (2014). Online training of teachers using OER: Promises and potential strategies. Open Praxis,6(4), 375-385. doi:10.5944/openpraxis.6.4.155

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

Showcase: Learning Tools Blogger & Google Classroom

Chapter four in Teaching online: A guide to theory research and practice by Claire Major discusses different tools that have been used for online learning and what makes them so effective. There are 5 courses discussed in this chapter about online course structures, and each course was presented to learners in a different way. Some instructors decide to create their own platforms for students to engage in and some chose to use already created, but personalizable, platforms for students to interact with materials and each other. To encourage students to communicate with one another and herself, Cris Crissman describes how she uses a virtual reality platform as a class meeting space. She states that using a tool like Second Life, “..asks for a suspension of disbelief, a willingness to be open to change, and a playful, creative spirit—all valuable attributes for a twenty-first-century teacher.” (Major, 2015). I have taken a few different online courses throughout my time in post secondary education but each one took a very similar path of presentation and participation. This course, Open and Distributed Learning, has been the most stand out in how it offers students more freedom in presenting their thoughts and learning. Typically, I end up in a Moodle heavy, forum posting and commenting situation of online education, which is surprising/frustrating now that I am aware of the various platforms that online courses can take. 

One tool of online learning that is being explored more is social media. Another teacher/course developer from chapter 4 discusses how he used social media as a springboard to develop his course and connect to the students. By looking at what he knew already and what he wanted to accomplish with his students, he decided to use the service Blogger to allow students the freedom to expand their learning through commenting on each others blog posts and creating posts that were relevant and important to them. 

I really like the idea of using blogger as a facilitation tool in an online course because it really allows for students to be flexible in how they want to share themselves. Personally I have used Blogger a little and it was only written posts without minimal multimedia integration, but the program itself was straightforward and easy to master the basics. With more knowledge of what the program could do, you could have students share their learning through modes other than text; maybe integrate some personally created videos or audio recordings.

Because most online learning communities and classes are made for the high school level or post secondary education and I am an elementary school teacher, I try to look at online learning through a different lense. One program that is becoming more and more popular in elementary and middle schools is Google Classroom. Because it works as a main hub for students to communicate with their teacher and peers, and share information and projects, I am wondering how well it works when compared with systems like Moodle. 

As I am reading more about Google Classroom and the opportunities that it can provide, I find myself going down a rabbit hole of new innovative technologies and ideas. Website to website I am finding teachers of various grades who use the Google programs in such creative ways! The blogger, Two Boys and a Dad, shares specifics about how he uses Google Forms with his third graders. He suggests quite early on that when it comes to learning about new technologies and incorporating them into your practice, especially Google Classroom and all of its components, to start with one thing and learn it really really well. By mastering one topic before moving onto another you can offer your students a better experience and more learning opportunities because you understand more of what you’re doing and creating. I found this teacher author by doing a simple Google search of “google classroom grade 3”. I also found articles created for teachers about various activities and benefits of Google Classroom, and how it could be used in grades as low as grade 1 with the right group.* 

Initially I thought that Google Classroom was simply just a virtual classroom, but I am coming to realize that it offers so much more through its various connected apps and sharing channels. Google Classroom offers an online pedagogy opportunity that was not as readily available 15 years ago. After reading the article by Tony Bates about ETUGs 25th anniversary conference, I found myself reminiscing about the technology of my K-12 education. I love exploring new technologies and advancing my knowledge of the digital world, then discovering how to make that world accessible for students, but I remember when we had dial up internet, my mom used to make us get off the internet when she wanted to call my grandmother in Victoria, and I remember my teacher wheeling in the overhead projector with its’ clear plastic sheets, it was so special if a teacher let us do any writing on it. With all the technology available to us now it astonishes me that these advances actually happened very very quickly. Google Classroom and Google Apps For Education (GAFE) has really only been prominent in classrooms for the last, at most, 8-10 years. I wonder what the face of online education and technology integration for K-12 grades will look like in the next 8-10 years? 

*Each of these articles were not written by Google, but by other teacher authors who shared their insights and experiences.

**Original post here.

Dooly, R., Katie, Rahman, B., Heather, Laubscher, C., Jen, . . . Chretien, H. (2018, November 22). Using Google Classroom in the Primary Grades. Retrieved from https://theteacherbag.com/2017/04/01/using-google-classroom-primary-grades/ 

60 Smarter Ways To Use Google Classroom. (2019, May 24). Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/technology/60-smarter-ways-to-use-google-classroom/ 

Enriquez, C. (2015, October 18). How I Use Google Forms in my Third Grade Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.twoboysandadad.com/2015/10/how-i-use-google-forms-in-my-third.html 

Tony Bates. (2019, June 27). Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2019/06/24/back-to-the-future-open-pedagogy-learning-design-and-etugs-25th-anniversary-conference/

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Open Pedagogy and Resources

I really enjoyed reading the article by Jesse Stommel about using textbooks and the implications of them. I have been pretty fortunate in my post secondary education that my textbooks never equalled the cost of my tuition, but my fiance wasn’t quite as lucky. He finished out his degree with these massive textbooks that he spent a small fortune on and will never touch again. It is completely shocking how much that corporations can charge for something so simple, and then the universities require the students to purchase them. In one of my undergraduate courses we had a textbook that was written by our professor, and when he explained the text he shared his frustration about the textbook prices, as we were being charged just over $100.00 per book, and the actual cost to make it was only about $25.00. As a student I really appreciated when professors didn’t have a required book, but instead made the readings available to us online through PDF or websites that did not cost a fee. I feel that when it comes to education, K-12 or higher, every effort should be made to enable students to access readings and materials for study at the lowest cost.

 After looking at Bronwyn Hegarty’s article about open pedagogy I am really intrigued at how open pedagogy could be made accessible for elementary teachers to participate. So often teachers are already so busy with everything else going on in their lives, it can be a lot to ask them to start sharing everything they are doing in an open pedagogy online setting.

Personally as a new teacher I love reading teacher blogs and looking at what they are doing and what is successful. It helped me throughout my undergraduate degree with creating lessons and activities because I had no experience and could turn to their blogs to give me the insight. Often I found that using a teacher blog, with their less formal language and very honest insights, much more helpful when understanding a pedagogical concept about teaching than the textbook that we were required to read from. And while I love using that resource I can understand how difficult it may be for those teaches to continue to post and share. I am thankful that those teachers were able to find the time to share their experiences because even though its not helping their immediate students it is helping other teachers learn thus creating a larger learning community.

Image from: https://unsplash.com/photos/eMP4sYPJ9x0

Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of Open Pedagogy: A Model for Using Open Educational Resources. Educational Technology,55(4), 3-13. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/stable/44430383

Stommel, J. (2018, September 12). Textbooks, OER, and the Need for Open Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://criticaldigitalpedagogy.pressbooks.com/chapter/textbooks-oer-and-the-need-for-open-pedagogy/

Social Media and the Classroom

I would say that I go online to learn something new almost everyday. When faced with an unknown cook time, or unsure of which direction I need to travel, I pull out my phone and hop on my wireless network to find the answers. Whether I am at home, at school, or on the go I have access to learning new information at my fingertips whenever I choose to look for it. 

Google is a great tool for finding answers, but I also use various social media sites. In recent years Facebook in particular has exploded in its opportunity for group creation and online communities because it offers people connection to others with similar interests and questions about the world. Personally I am part of many different groups related to things I want (or wanted at the time) to learn more about. Throughout my university years, there have been many facebook groups created with the people I went to school with so we could connect about what we were learning. Having those facebook groups and as a result the messenger chats, have been instrumental in my success with university. I was able to recieve feedback and collaborate with my peers after course hours, and now that I have graduated I still have them to learn from. 

In my classroom I don’t think I would encourage using facebook specifically, but I like the idea of having a classroom social media presence for my students to share their learning. I found two videos about using social media in two different settings, in a grade 1-2 classroom and in university undergraduate classrooms. I found it interesting how in each video it stresses that teachers should be using social media and technology with their students to the best of their ability because students are already using it in every other aspect of their lives. Why not bring something they love into the classroom? It may shorten the distance between real life and school for many students. 

Image link: https://unsplash.com/photos/DfMMzzi3rmg

Google Terms of Service: Blog 2

Working with data privacy and protection this week was eye opening for me. I could not believe how much information we put out into the world without looking at who has access and what is being accessed. I spend a fair amount of time online, I love my social media and netflix time, and when I am prepping for teaching I am googling topics and looking into different online tools that may make the lesson a little more interesting and engaging. With all of this online time I never realized how much personal information I was sharing and how I was putting my privacy at risk. 

One of the activities for this section was to download and use Lightbeam, a Firefox addon that shows you who is accessing you and your information while you browse the internet. I don’t typically use firefox so I just browsed a couple of my usual sites for a short period of time, but I was shocked by how many third party sites were connecting to me through what I thought were very safe and protected websites. 

One of the websites I use the most is Google. I like to use the search engine and its tools like drive and docs. I use my Google account to log on to many other websites because it is so easy and convenient. Because I love using google services and would like to learn more about using Google Classroom with my students, I decided to take a closer look at their Terms of Service (TOS). I was surprised that the TOS and privacy policy were not actually part of the same document, they are on different tabs completely. The TOS states pretty typical information about using the services like how you have to comply with them, they reserve the right to stop, change, or add services and policies, they have the right to access and analyze any information and documentation that the user creates, saves, uploads, or shares through their services including emails, and they can use, modify, reproduce, share, publish etc. property that is on their services. 

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” (Google Terms of Service, 2017)

While I feel that Google has a pretty typical TOS, I didn’t realize before this unit that my intellectual property doesnt always stay mine when I post it, especially with Google services. I love collaboration and working with others to share ideas and build new and innovative creations, but knowing now that others can just come in, take and modify my ideas is a little unsettling. I wonder how younger students would feel knowing that their work and ideas could be taken and shared with people and corporations that they don’t know.

Google Terms of Service – Privacy & Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://policies.google.com/terms

Web Learning Tools: Blog 1

Chapter four in Teaching online: A guide to theory research and practice by Claire Major discusses different tools that have been used for online learning and what makes them so effective. There are 5 courses discussed in this chapter about online course structures, and each course was presented to learners in a different way. Some instructors decide to create their own platforms for students to engage in and some chose to use already created, but personalizable, platforms for students to interact with materials and each other. To encourage students to communicate with one another and herself, Cris Crissman describes how she uses a virtual reality platform as a class meeting space. She states that using a tool like Second Life, “..asks for a suspension of disbelief, a willingness to be open to change, and a playful, creative spirit—all valuable attributes for a twenty-first-century teacher.” (Major, 2015).

Another teacher/course developer from chapter 4 discusses how he used social media as a springboard to develop his course and connect to the students. By looking at what he knew already and what he wanted to accomplish with his students, he decided to use the service Blogger to allow students the freedom to expand their learning through commenting on each others blog posts and creating posts that were relevant and important to them. 

I really like the idea of using blogger as a facilitation tool in an online course because it really allows for students to be flexible in how they want to share themselves. Personally I have used Blogger a little and it was only written posts without minimal multimedia integration, but the program itself was straightforward and easy to master the basics. With more knowledge of what the program could do, you could have students share their learning through modes other than text; maybe integrate some personally created videos or audio recordings. 

As most online learning communities and classes are made for the high school level or post secondary education and I am an elementary school teacher, I try to look at online learning through a different lense. One program that is becoming more and more popular in elementary and middle schools is Google Classroom. Because it works as a main hub for students to communicate with their teacher and peers, and share information and projects, I am wondering how well it works when compared with systems like Moodle. After reading this chapter, I have a good idea of what aspects need to be included for a successful online class and how creative you can get when facilitating online learning.

Major, C. H. (2015). Teaching online: A guide to theory, research, and practice. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press

Welcome and Introduction

Before you get started, please send your instructor an email with the URL to your site, which will be [yoururl].opened.ca. This step is critical as your work will be completed on your blog and I need to know where to find you.

First tasks you should explore with your new blog:

  • Go into its admin panel by adding /wp-admin at the end of your blog’s URL.
  • Tap “Settings” and change the email address to your email address, then make sure you check your email and confirm the change.

change email address

  • Add new categories or tags to organize your blog posts – found under “Posts” (but do not remove the pre-existing “edtechuvic” or “Distributed & Open” categories)
  • See if your blog posts are appearing on the course website (you must have the course categories assigned to a post first and have provided your instructor with your blog URL)
    • It can take an hour or so for your posts to appear on the course site.
  • Add an “About Me” or a page welcoming visitors to your site.
  • Embed images or set featured images and embed video in blog posts and pages (can be your own media or that found on the internet, but consider free or creative commons licensed works, like found at unsplash.com or pexels.com)
  • Under Appearance:
    • Select your preferred website theme and customize to your preferences (New title, etc.)
    • Customize menus & navigation
    • Use widgets to customize blog content and features
  • Delete this starter post and the test posts.