Archive for October, 2007

Blog dynamics

October 31, 2007

Dr. Lowell questions the motivation of why people blog here. The motivation for writing a blog varies by person, to say that all people can learn the best from a blog is a stretch. Do some people communiate to a larger community in different manners? of course don’t artists do this all the time?

But back to why people blog?  If we take out the people who are forced to blog for an assignment I think that you will find a variety of reasons to blog. Political, social and financial reasons are all there and accounted for in the blog sphere but the group that is the most interesting to me is the group that blogs for enrichment or interest in a subject.

When you begin narrowing the topic that you are interested in it is hard to walk down to the local hang out and talk about it in depth with people. The same thing happens with forums on specialized topics to a similar extent, except the audience is already present.  Forums attract people with an interest in the topic since all of the individuals are already aggregated together.

The blog sphere work differently in that if you want people to hear your voice you need to attract them to you. If a person wants to get their message heard they must concentrate on a specific audience and determine that tone that they want to convey. If the writing and comments are good the blogger may develop a following of individuals that will engage in discussion about the specifics of the topic of interest. The beauty of blogging is that you have an empty area that you may fill with whatever you would like and there does not already have to be a forum or discussion board previously established.

You my have some of the most beautiful and insightful ideas that have ever been developed but if no one will listen to yo they may go unnoticed.

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Distance ed versus “real” classes

October 30, 2007

Barbara made me think about classes in person versus distance education classes. I agree students should be learning the same information since  the students whether in person or at a distance are earning a credit. But the class should and look different when taught as a traditional class versus an online learning experience.

The online environment would likely be an exchange of ideas based upon product exchange over a distance. By product I mean what the student produces whether a blog post, an animation or a podcast. The other students can then view the product and add their own thoughts about the product.

A traditional class would look like….a traditional class with the participants in rows or maybe a circle discussing in person what they have learned and writing papers about various topics.

Both of these styles depend on the instructor or person leading the educational experience. Both can be great or terrible, we have all been there, but both can teach the same content just in different manners.

Am I being watched?

October 28, 2007

Obviously I am writing this blog as part of a class and we are discussing assessment. But how am I being assessed in this class? The answer? By my writings in this blog, which is an open ended assessment. I am allowed to write whatever I want on a topic which allows me a fair amount of individual freedom to explore and discuss topics with others.

But upon further consideration, isn’t everyone in the class watching me take a test every time I compose a post, just in the same way as I review their assessment every time they compose a post? This made me think that the lines between assessment and learning can blur in distance education. I am graded on my learning by reviewing how well I am able to add new information to my current body of knowledge and construct new meanings out of the material.

This approach may sound very similar to learning in context in the classroom, but there is something more organic about the experience. I sometimes consider it an even better environment for learning since the discussions do not have to take place in the time during the class meetings. I often catch myself considering and thinking about blog posts on my way to school in the morning or during my drives to Lexington on Monday or Tuesday nights. When interacting during a lecture or “in class” discussion we have all left the class with other questions on our mind or only to think of a great comment or discussion.

So to sum it up, distance ed in a sense allows me to take my test during the whole semester, but I just have several other individuals watching and helping me with the assessment along the way.

Can assesment be another learning activity?

October 28, 2007

I am one of those teachers who went about getting “certified” to teach with an alternative certification through the MAT program at Morehead State University. Prior to returning to get my Masters, I worked as a shift supervisor in industry. I was amazed at the individuals that worked for me in terms of lack of preparation for the real world; so, to make a difference, I went back to get certified to teach.

Based upon my experiences learned from industry, I gear assessment towards real life experiences and real life experiences require writing and doing things. One of the things that really shocked me in industry was the lack of ability of individuals to do things that required thinking or communicating about problems.

Everyday connection has been a big part of my assessment, even in my science classes, and students tend to hate it at first. However, I really feel that we need to do these “portfolio” type things to prepare students for the real world. For example the first big writing that my students encounter is a lab report on an experiment that we perform in physics class. The ideas are not really complex, but the students must organize the ideas in a competent manner so that laymen could understand them.

What really shocks me each year that I require students to do this assessment is the amount of learning that takes place during the assessment, that is during the writing. I require my students to write a standard lab report in a scientific manner that does not allow for “fluff” or other types of flowery writing. This scientific style and rules of writing makes the students revisit the ideas that they have developed and actively manipulate the information so that they may communicate the ideas to others.

I also found this out my first year of teaching. Obviously I knew my subject since I passed the praxis assessment without issue, but when I had to teach the content to my students I started understanding chemical and physics concepts at a deeper level since I had to explain the interconnections between subject content. With writing, hopefully I can place students in a situation that will allow them to also make those connections.

Change the assesment in schools

October 28, 2007

All of the talk of assessment reminded of me what we are checking for, the skills needed to succeed in the real world. Jason discussed here a new approach to the design of the school that places emphasis on the reason behind organized education, to prepare people to be well rounded and able to succeed in the world.

Kids Are No Longer Expected To Earn Their Rewards Every year the school system in the U.S. marches farther and farther down the path to just giving kids credit for being present, rather than for actually learning and doing the work. At some schools students have to be unable to learn or apply over half of the material taught in the class before they fail! What’s the point of the class if you only require them to learn half of the material?

I don’t want to sound like some nut job fundamentalist but in lieu of some effects of the flattening of the world a new approach needs to be taken. I feel that we have become so keen on patting ourselves on the back that even though our educational system is falling behind on the global scale Americans remain unresponsive to the problem.

I am not advocating fundamentalism, I think that students should also have exposure to the liberal arts. But the central ideas that drive our society uses to guide assessment goals needs to be revisited to deal with the changing of the world.

Distance Assesment?

October 27, 2007

So how do we know that students are doing their own work? If a course is designed so that the instructor and student are never face to face then you may never know if the student is cheating or not.

During instruction with the teacher and learner in the same room the teacher can monitor the students to be sure that the work that they turn in is their own.

The old saying goes that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Teachers must also “sell” the instruction. If the assignments are pertinent or at least quasi interesting I think that the incidences of academic dishonesty will go down.

Another way to limit cheating in the distance education is to gear the instruction in a manner that allows/requires students to actively complete projects. If a student did try to let someone do their work for them they would have to reteach the class to that person up to that point.

You can never remove cheating totally but instruction can be produced in a manner so that the students are driven to do the work.

Assesment

October 26, 2007

How do I know that my students have learned? And how do I know that the content my students have learned is valid?

To begin planning my assessment the goals that the state wants me to shoot for must be examined. I try to determine what a person who knows the information in the core content statement would be able to do to demonstrate to me that they know the material. Most of my  students have gotten used to to test bank questions which most times are just memorization exercises which prove very little about learning.

I am a big proponent of transfer as evidence of learning. For example in the physics class I teach my students have been studying projectile motion. The class has watched videos, heard me discuss the materials, worked with java applets simulating projectile motion and performed 2 mini activities to learn about projectile motion.

As an assessment I have assigned a performance event which requires students to launch a marble into a cup at a variable distance to determine as the  projectile unit assessment. Yes they do not like these types of assessment at first but eventually they have grown to look forward to them, but back to assessment.

So how does this performance assessment demonstrate learning? We teach so that students may use the knowledge in the real world, not the abstractions that the world of academia imposes upon students. I feel as though if students have really internalized “aka leaned” the information they can best display this learning through application in a unique manner.

Yes different subjects lend themselves to performance assessment better than others but I feel that all subjects can be varied to assess in this manner.

Just so you know

October 24, 2007

I now officially declare myself an “information addict”. I attempt to stay away from the term Internet junkie since it sounds so tawdry and common. You may wonder why I say this. I have noticed that the content that I look at is varied and immense (I usually spend 2 hours an evening on the net).
This evening stood out particularly well after reading here how to avoid a monkey attack (apparently an official in New Delhi was killed by monkeys.) I was directed here by one of the blogs I read,please don’t think I stay awake at night thinking that the monkeys are going to get me;)

Then on to a more relavent piece that I found here that pertained to the educational theories that we have been discussing. Pretty useful but the contrast really struck me, am I the unique one or do all people wander the Internet aimlessly also? Am I really just constructing new information by roaming the net aimlessly? Also I wondered about another distance ed problem, how do we keep students on task when the net is out there to let them look at anything that they are interested in? I often get on to specifically look at stuff for distance education but end up roaming for a few hours. Just a thought.

Reminded me of Larry the cable guy

October 21, 2007

Wow,A really good post here by Pete on Ed tech journeys. He states what he believes in quasi manifesto of educational vision statements. I just thought of Larry the cable guy’s bit from blue collar comedy tour.

Covers some good points about constructivism and how he believes transformation in the educational system should happen.

Why get the cart before the horse?

October 21, 2007

I really enjoyed dancing Nancy’s entry here about when and how new teachers are exposed to theory. I also recall during my undergraduate education classes researching all of those theories and thinking to myself “so this is what teachers do?”So I get to thinking, which is always scary, but since this is theory week and all I recall something in our discussions about teaching by doing? Wouldn’t it have been much more beneficial to ask the wanna be teachers to teach using their ideal style of instruction? That way they had a feeling or experience to connect their learning to. I know that for me it was a big shock the first few times that you actually teach that your feelings about the theories versus application of teaching change.