Online teaching techniques

This is a part of an annotated bibliography about online teaching techniques that was done for the u.c. of Processos Pedagógicos em Elearning (Universidade Aberta, Mestrado em Pedagogia do Elearning).

Of the books and articles that I present here I particularly liked Salmon’s book. This year I’m trying to have my eight year History students participating in online debates and so far I haven’t had much success and this book showed me how to implement this although I will probably face a similar problem to the one discribed by Di Marco et al that concluded that the students in the case they present weren’t participanting in the forums because “they have plenty of occasions to interact directly” (of course I face another challenge: my students are 13-14 years old and although digital natives as we like to call them they are not used to this kind of activities since the classes they attend are mainly expository).

Blees, I., & Rittberger, M. (2009, June). Web 2.0 Learning Environment: Concept, Implementation, Evaluation. eLearning Papers (15). Retrieved November 11, 2009 from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media19743.pdf

Blees and Rittberger introduce the concepts of the eLearning 2.0 and Personal Learning Environments that were implemented at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. The environment uses several web 2.0 tools like wikis, blogs and RSS feeds.

The web 2.0 represents a qualitative leap that turned a static web into a place more creative, participative and socializing. The authors, however, ask if this new environment has also “triggered a revolution in learning? Do education and learning require re-thinking in view of the continuous change of information and communication technologies, and do we need new concepts and designs for respective working and learning environments?”

Blees and Rittberger think that the technological change brought by the Web 2.0 tools has caused a cultural change and believe that Wikis and blogs are “suitable for participate definitions of objectives and governing learning processes as well as for collaborative production of knowledge”. The authors are not alone in this believe – Will Richardson (see below), Michael Hannafin and Janette Hill or John F. Lyons, also think that blogs and wikis are a great places to collaborate.

An important aspect that is discussed is autonomy, a “central feature of a eLearning 2.0 setting”. eLearning 2.0 is defined here as the application of social software such as wikis, blogs or RSS feeds in collaborative learning activities and are used by the students for their own learning objectives.

In the article, the authors present the characteristics for a Web 2.0 environment:

  • Openness, permeability :
    • The learning environment is not an isolated island, but a learning portal.
  • Participation:
    • Learners and teachers actively participate in the development of the learning environment. Learners can integrate known instruments that are already in use.
    • Learners and teachers work with the same platforms and tools, for preparing units of learning, working on them and distributing them.
    • The participants use a free choice of tags and they incrementally develop a folksonomy, reflecting their stock of interests and knowledge – the learning units are thus structured and made navigable.
  • Motivation:
    • The learning environment should make the individual engagement of every learner visible in a transparent way.
    • The learning environment should advance the setup of a learner community, where learners and teachers can introduce one another in person.
    • Teachers show their presence in the learning environment: they deliver resources, make contributions and suggestions, for instance by participating in discussions.
  • Monitoring, feedback, evaluation:
  • Teachers trace /pursue individual and shared learning activities.
  • Teachers offer regular feedback and assess contributions in an appropriate fashion apt to encourage motivation.

Finally, the authors present the implementation of a learning environment consisting of several modules where the MediaWiki is a Learning Centre and the it’s didactic contribution to the learning experience.

Dalziel, J. (2003). Implementing Learning Design: The Learning Activity Management System. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Barker, & J. Baron (Ed.), Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (pp. 593-596). Adelaide: ASCILITE. Retrieved November 10, 2009 from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.130.4886&rep=rep1&type=pdf

In this paper the author presents an example of how to “create sequences of learning activities which involve groups of learners interacting within a structured set of collaborative environments” and how to re-use this activities.

The example presented is for a learning activity sequence based on the question “What is Greatness (in a human being?)” and the author shows the steps week by week. For every week there is a small description of what the students must do. After the presentation of this template, the author shows how to adapt this activity to a music course where the main question is “What is jazz?”.

I found this rather small paper very interestig because it shows in a very practical way how to implement learning activities.

Di Marco, S., Maneira, A., Ribeiro, P., & Maneira, M. J. P. (2009, September). Blended-learning in Science and Technology. A collaborative Project-Based Course in Experimental Physics. eLearning Papers (16). Retrieved November 9, 2009 from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media20250.pdf

The paper presents the adoption of asynchronous and synchronous e-learning tools and strategies by the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) in the Applied Physics course and the identification of critical points and recommendations on the use of project-based learning in a course where laboratorial activities are a relevant part of the curriculum.

According to Krajcik and Blumenfeld, in project-based learning students learn by doing and applying ideas and engage in real-world activities that are similar to the ones found in real settings. The problem is how to implement this method online.

The authors describe the work done since the 2004/05 school year and how they passed from a mainly objectivist approach to a constructivist one. The process of implementation of the collaborative project for problem-based learning and the conclusions are described in depth. In the end, the authors present the students’ reactions and opinions.

Most of the students appreciated the way the course was structured. “[students] took it very seriously and they seemed to feel involved not only in collaborative problem-solving, but also in role playing, acting as real members of a company (…)” (p. 7) and reported that through project development their knowledge acquisition was enhanced and felt motivated.

The participating professors were also satisfied with project-based teaching and felt that it promoted stronger student participation. According to the professors, the students revealed a different attitude on the experimental lab work and were more creative and problem-solving oriented.

Although the authors consider that e-learning and experimental collaborative activities can be successfully combined to develop meaningful learning, the usage of this method is demanding in terms of effort and time. This opinion is shared by other researchers.

Krämer, J., & Seeber, G. (2009, September). E-portfolios as tools to assess generic competences in distance learning study courses. eLearning Papers (19). Retrieved November 11, 2009 from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media20251.pdf

The paper present a theoretical and organizational framework for the use of e-portfolios to assess generic competences in distance education and the authors sketch a competence model to use with the framework and conclude that e-portfolios can be used to develop and assess generic competences in university distance learning and present some conditions for the design and implementations of portfolios.

The authors of this paper consider e-portfolios as “a method to document knowledge acquired in electronically open access environments” and it’s their intention to develop an assessment portfolio that integrates elements of self-reflection and feedback as a method to develop and document competences and allow the teacher to assess performance. For Krämer and Seeber the use of e-portfolios for assessment means that we can combine different assessment techniques in a flexible way.

Although the authors consider e-portfolios as suitable tools to develop and assess generic competences they think that the following four points should be taken into consideration:

  • Combination with a domain-specific qualifications training;
  • Practising of a period of time to provide proficiency and time for improvement;
  • Variability of tasks to evaluate the acquirements of generic competences. They arise in different situations while transferring them on domain-specific subjects;
  • Evaluation over a period of time as generic competences are developed in lapse of time.

The paper has given me some material to think about how to implement and assess e-portfolios with my students.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press

Although there is a newer version of this book I decided to use this 2006 edition even though the latest tools are not mentioned and some addresses are no longer active because the book is still a good read for someone who is looking for a start book on how to include Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

Richardson defends that web 2.0 is a way to transform much of how we teach and learn. “The read/Write Web holds transformational changes in store for teachers and students of all stripes. But, as is often the case, education has been slow to adapt to these new tools and potentials” (p. 3). With the ability to easily publish content online we must rethink the way we communicate, teach and learn.

The book shows how teachers, schools and other users of the web 2.0 can use bolgs, wikis, podcastings and the social web to teach or increase the sharing of information and ideas. Richardson’s main points is that technology gives us the possibility of collaboration, self-publishing and knowledge construction. According to the author the web 2.0, with it’s new way of producing and consuming information and how we communicate, is transforming the kinds of literacies that are relevant for the teachers.

In the end, Richardson asks what all this changes mean. “So now that you have a good idea of the tool and the pedagogies, what is going to be the impact on education? Obviously, that’s a huge question, but it’s important to try to put some meaning to the message” (p. 125). The author considers that the web 2.0 classroom is going to be “one of seemless transfer of information; of collaborative, individualized learning; and of active participation by all members of the class” (p. 127), marked by a continuous process that involves the creation and sharing of content and a reexamination of how we teach. This process involves 10 big shifts:

  1. Open content – the students and teachers have access to continuously updated information and, in some cases, teachers and students have begun to write their own textbooks.
  2. Many, Many Teachers, and 24/7 Learning
  3. The social, collaborative construction of meaningful knowledge – it is now “easy for students to produce work in truly collaborative ways for large audiences. (…) Information created and published in this way takes on a new social context that requires us to change the way we think about what we ask our students to produce” (p. 129).
  4. Teaching is conversation, not lecture – “By inviting students to become active participants in the design of their own learning, we teach them how to be active participants in their lives and future careers” (p. 129).
  5. Know “where” learning – “In thre Read/Write Web classroom, it’s not as essential to know what the answer is as it is where to find it” (p. 129).
  6. Readers are no longer just readers – “Today, (…) readers cannot assume that what they are reading has been reviewed by someone else with an eye toward truth and accuracy. (…) Readers themselves must learn to be critical consumers of the information they consider” (p. 130)
  7. The web as a notebook – “Weblogs and wikis and the like were born out of the need to save and organize the digital ideas we find interesting so that we can annotate them with our own interpretations and easily return to them we need to” (p. 130).
  8. Writing is no longer limited to text – “As we move away from plain text on the page, we move toward a totally new definition of what it means to write” (p. 131).
  9. Mastery is the product, not the test – “(…) Students can display mastery in countless ways that involve the creation of digital content for large audiences” (p. 131).
  10. Contribution, not completion, as the ultimate goal – “Instead of simply handing in countless assigments to teachers to be read, graded, handed back, and most likely thrown away, we can now offer our students a totally new way of looking at the work they do” (p. 132).

Salmon, G. (2004). e-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (2nd Ed). Londres: RoutledgeFalmer

Salomon describes a new way of teaching through the use of what she calls electronic moderators (e-moderators), which are defined as a person who “presides over an electronic online meeting or conference, though not in quite the same ways as a moderator does. Computer mediated conferencing (CMC) actually requires e-moderators to have a rather wider range of expertise” (p. 4).

The author considers that e-moderating is becoming a new way of teaching, particularly in higher education and presents the benefits of CMC compared to face-to-face learning: does not require participants to travel to a certain place; participants can ask questions at the same time; it is possible to ‘rewind’ a conversation which gives online discussions a more permanent feel; the participants can choose when to participate; participants do not need permission to contribute and they can help each other…

The book includes several resources for practicioners with many important advises like skills for online socialization, treading on cultural toes, e-moderation principles for productive conferencing, knowledge sharing and construction.

Salomon presents a five-stage model for online education and training that tries to understand the e-moderator’s role which is the focal point of the book. This stages of the model are access and motivation, information exchange, development, online socialization and knowledge construction. Each of this steps is explained in terms of technical and e-moderating skills.

e-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online is full of practical examples and testimonies taken from courses in Open University that shows how to use online communication for teaching and learning. Although the main focus of this book is high education, the resources and examples presented will benefit anyone who uses CMC in his teaching.

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