Monday, 27 February 2017

Blended Learning....Why Not?

With my perspective around digital learning, specifically around flipping or blending the learning environment, I thought it would be interesting to look at why I should not. I have stated relentlessly, in the last couple years the multiple reasons for why I should flip/blend my teaching, but I have not every taken the time to find a reason not to. Similar to the other Kyle that's what this week has been about.

After reading a variety of blogs I found the 6 Disadvantages of Blended Learning by Scott Winstead, it had a very strong tone with a great question of why are we:

disrupting the battle-hardened educational system with its solid methodology, academic backup, strong instructor figures, and developed intellectual and psychological bonds, is hardly a wise thing to do.

I had to do some searching to find the origin of a couple of news reports, but the article Meet the Classroom of the Future was well wrote and is found through the NPR site.  This article got some news coverage and had a couple other reports wrote about it.  All in all, these articles broke down the 6 issues of a blended classroom as: Infrastructure,  Mentality, Pace of Advancement/Amount of Learning, Negative Impact on Teacher: Overwork, Negative Impact on Students: Cognitive Load, Plagiarism/Credibility.

Infrastructure is always going to be an issue, whether it is in terms of physical space, or digital one. This is never going to change, and the costs are always going to be there.  My thought on this... Deal with it.  The elected and hired individuals have a responsibility to ensure that the infrastructure is up to code/date.

Mentality is a harder concept to 'solve'.  This is because it deals with individuals perspectives and pedagogy around education and where they value their knowledge and their skill sets.  To overcome this barrier there needs to be an appropriate amount of PD put into place before any technology initiative becomes school/system wide.  Everyone needs to have a modicum of confidence and willingness to take on an initiative such as this.  

Photo Credit: Giulia Forsythe
Pace of Advancement is an interesting concept to have to battle through.  You want to ensure that your class is moving forward, while ensuring that each student is completing and understanding each task.  This in my mind is more of a planning issue with an individual teacher.  The assignments need to be chunked, and broken down so that you can have check ins with students in the face-to-face classes along with the ones who are predominantly online.  I believe as educators we can not allow a student to go days, let alone weeks/multiple assignments or classes without checking in with them in some regard.

Negative Impact on Teacher: Overwork is a big issue, especially in our political climate here in Saskatchewan with negative budgetary issues and scare tactics of prep time, or contracts being dismissed due to re-legislation.  This is a serious issue, but I do not believe it is independent to a teacher engaging in a blended learning environment.  My wife, who teaches with a more traditional classroom approach, brings home more "work" than I do.  While I see it as menial, she explains that it is all about prep and making sure she can use her time in the building for the things that need her full attention, and she would rather bring home the photocopying, cutting, and prep work to do at home.  All the while, I am on my phone checking in on my students and answering questions coming in from my LMS from multiple students about the homework due in the coming days.  

Negative Impact on Students: Cognitive Load is also a big issue, but similar to teachers being overworked, it is not independent to the blended teaching community.  Teachers need to know their students and they need to adapt or expand assignments for individuals who need them.

File:ME 109 Thief.png
Photo Credit: Nina Palay
Plagiarism/Credibility is a constant issue with my classes at the beginning of the year.  Students like to try to trick me, and get away with their assignments being rushed.  I have developed a variety of tools to demonstrate how easy it is for me to prove the students have not done the work in a proper manner.  From demonstrating how Google docs work, to simply copy and pasting sentences into a search bar and finding the documents they are plagiarizing from, or to the more complex ones of I have to search my own files for students work from previous years, but again it is a quick search and i am generally able to show the students, that I recognize when it is not their voice and I can usually prove it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Learning, Digital Learning, Teaching...

We as educators generally focus on the types of learners we teach and how we need to teach to them through a variety of ways that they will learn best. Through reading Bates article about the pedagogical differences between media I found it interesting that I see a lot of my own preferences within my own teaching. The main section that I found myself aligning with Jenn, that learning through video is probably my top choice. When I look at how I learn, relearn, or inquire into new tasks I always find myself turning to videos. Some of my favorite are usually around how to butcher game, to learning how to properly Sous-vide different foods.

I love to cook and am always trying new meals, appetizers, and techniques. The reason I use video so frequently is because I know I learn from seeing how the professionals do the technique and I try to emulate them. I have a plethora of cookbooks and I love to get my inspirations for flavours from them, but when they are talking about a new technique I almost always find myself searching for a video for confirmation of how to learn the new skill rather than reading about it.

Now through reading the Bates Chapter, and skimming through peoples blogs I am realizing how prevalent text is within many of the videos I use to learn, and that I share with my students when learning. As I was reading Kara's blog I agreed with her comments about how I read, and what I do when I am reading, which is to highlight, jot down notes, and even go to the extend to type notes into a Google Doc to ensure I do not have to rewrite/type information when it comes time to write responses. Therefore I am realizing that even though I may enjoy the video aspect, I do learn most through text.
Flickr: House of Cards

One thing that also made me connect my enjoyment of text is within TV shows (House of Cards is a favourite) and movies now. When someone receives a message the message in some shows, or movies is being overlaid on the screen so we can see who it is from and what the message is. This idea made so much sense to me and I have commented on it a few times as my wife and I watch different shows.

With respect to my own personal learning, I know that one type of learning is never enough. I know that even when I am strictly reading, I do not get enough out of the straight text, so I typically read out loud to help myself keep focused and I know I retain more information when I read aloud to myself. Similarly when listening to an recording of a book, or I am following someone read, I have a hard time not reading as they speak. This is where the love of video comes from. I feel I need to be as engaged as possible. I need multiple stimuli occurring to keep my focus. That may be due to the fact that I should have been diagnosed with some form of squirrel watching/bike riding/need to be active diagnosis, but I also have realized that the more interactive, whether it is physically, or multimedia style of learning is where and how I learn best. One is never enough.

Fig 7.7 from Bates, 2011

As I look at the pedagogical framework from Bates' article I found myself being mostly a connectivist style learner. Most of my learning come from blogs, YouTube, Wikis or straight up Google searches. Where I see my classroom, spans all three of the categories. I feel most of the deep learning comes in the connectivist zone, but we typically work through the objectivist, and constructivist areas in the early and middle portions of the year to get the students ready to be work within their own inquiry based topics.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Critiquing my Math Instruction Tool

For almost all of my math lessons I like to connect a digital lesson to the assignment so those students who miss a class, are sick, or need a refresh at home while they are working on their homework. I use Raffi Kouyoumdjian's videos most of the time.

This week we are working through Volume of Right Rectangular Prisms

I like these because of his interactive Smart Board and he teaches using the formulas very similar to how I expect my students to work through their math problems. I feel that our teaching styles are very similar and make it easy for my students to recall my lesson when they watch his videos.

No looking at critiquing his digital instruction there are things that could be added into his teaching. When talking about quality I feel that the video quality is very good, but the audio can be distracting because you can hear the background sounds of the intercom, occasionally students in the hall, and a constant buzz from something. Certainly the lighting and production quality is not that of a professional video, but in a way I like that it shows he is just a regular classroom teacher who isn't tied to a big company.

Some things I think he could use is to integrate some better sound system, whether that is incorporating a microphone to reduce the background noise or ensuring there are no disruptions when he does his videos. I think he could overlay some graphic onto his video as reminders.

There are some sections within the video that when he is using his smart board the information is behind him and blocked by his body. This is where I think incorporating a Screencast technique may help improve this digital lesson. He could record what he is doing on the smart board, then piece that together with a stop animation tool to ensure nothing gets missed by him accidentally covering up the lesson with his body.

In terms of production difficulty, I do not think this would be hard to create. It seems as if he has used a camera on a tripod and hit record as he does his lesson. Of course he has some sharp cuts with iMovie transitions between 'scenes' to cut down on instruction time. I like that he jumps from one question to the next without showing all the steps it takes to erase the smart board and pull up the next slide or question. I feel this speeds up the lesson and keeps the learning going.

For my use I have found that students and parents appreciate having a video linked to the assignment so they can rewatch/relearn the concept to work on their struggling math concept. Therefore, the impact I have seen on student learning is a positive aspect. Specifically for the early lessons in math units where we look at more of the holistic approach using models and activities to get the learning process started. These lessons frustrate parents, but when they view the lesson, they are then capable at helping or understanding the concept along with their child.

These videos are a valuable tool for me, but I would like to begin creating my own, not only so I have them, but also to have more ownership over my own classroom and material I am distributing. While I have appreciated using Raffi's videos, I would like to incorporate some of my suggestions and develop my own digital teaching lessons around these concepts.

Does anyone have another collection of math videos that are similar they would like to share?