Teaching Online in a Time of the Coronavirus

With all of the world moving to an online style of teaching and instruction, I’m worried how well our educators are designing their learning lessons. Recently I read an excellent article in the March 2020 ASCD Education Update, Six Teacher Moves for Deeper Learning.

For this article I’ve invited some of my educational colleagues to share how they’re redesigning learning to take advantage of the online platform that is their only choice right now for instruction. I think the key for any good instructional design is to have a framework that provides guidelines. I’ll take ideas from my colleagues and wrap them around the core principles that Monica R. Martinez and Dennis McGrath outline in their article focusing on Deeper Learning.

Empower students as learners.

According to Martinez and McGrath, “Given the social and economic world they will be entering, today’s students need much less passive rule following and rote memorization, and much more guidance and support in becoming self-directed learners. A common practice that all the schools focus on is helping students take responsibility for their own learning and the learning of others. They do this through both their culture and pedagogy.”

What does that look like in an online world where students are home due to the Coronavirus? Melissa Unger, a K-2 STEAM teacher for the South Fayette School District, near Pittsburgh, and Elementary Tech Integrator, Anne Blake, have developed a series of Design Challenges using ordinary materials. The projects can be done with parents, care-givers, or even by the kids by themselves. How many kids turn to YouTube to learn something new? Melissa has tapped into a tool that most young learners already use on their phones, tablets, or computers.

Contextualize knowledge.

Martinez and McGrath follow the tradition of Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins. We need to start by asking what are the Driving or Essential Questions. We need to think about how the learning is part of an interconnected fabric. We need our students to not just focus on facts, but the key ideas, relationships, and skills.

For instance, David Dulberger, an educator in the Frederick, Maryland County School District, is reaching out to his colleagues to share ways to improve the way they conduct formative assessment to document the key ideas, relationships or skills that students are learning . David has seen the success of using time-lapse video with students. David started letting students make time-lapse videos during indoor recess with a dry erase board. This eventually led to a realization that problem solving on a dry erase board + time-lapse video could equate to a great formative assessment. Why would this work during the Coronavirus Pandemic? Today almost all students have access to a phone where they can shoot and edit their own videos. The teachers just need to give the students a good example, like David has done.

What exactly is a silent solve video?

According to David, “A silent solve video requires students to demonstrate their thinking without any recorded narration. Students are welcome to talk out loud while making a video but the sound will not be captured when using time lapse. Jen Knox has started to use silent solve videos with her students. See an example by clicking here: Skyy’s Video”

Connect to Real World Experiences

When our students are in social isolation, how do we make them see the real world connection? Jill Tabis, a high school business education teacher and former colleague of mine at the Fox Chapel Area School District, reached out to people around her to do just that. I heard the call and used the opportunity to develop a video around Building an Entrepreneurial Mindset using my experience as an educational technology broker for the past nine years. Jill’s class will have a chance to pose questions for me and then I’ll follow up with a Zoom session to talk about their questions.

Inspire students by customizing learning experiences.

With all students at home, what can a teacher do to make each learning experience personal to the individual student? This doesn’t mean using an adaptive piece of software. It means thinking about projects that tap into personal interests or passions.

For instance, Melissa Unger challenges her online students to come up with their own solutions to the paper airplane flying challenge. Each student can test out new ideas, go online and research other options. This is one of the advantages of working in an online world.

Use tech to purposefully enhance rather than automate learning.

I’ve been a strong supporter of using technology to make students into creative producers. In my work for the Consortium of Schools Networked (CoSN), I helped to develop a paper on this topic three years ago. In the article Sylvia Martinez shared her insights, “What’s different now is the affordable, accessible and fun technology that fosters rigorous learning, Martinez says. “Today’s computational technology adds something that’s never before been available, which is putting computational power into students’ hands—programming through making devices that collect data, process data and interact with the world,” she says. “Physical computing—the interaction between the digital and the physical world—raises the bar. You aren’t able to say, ‘Oh, just making anything is good enough.’”

Birdbrain Technologies is one of the physical computing tools that Sylvia Martinez recommends. (And as a disclaimer – it’s one of my clients.) With teachers no longer in schools to tap into the Hummingbird Kit or Finch, Birdbrain is offering fun projects, live classes, and online courses to inspire deep and joyful learning for students, parents, and educators.  (Most of the workshops require a Hummingbird Kit, but there are some sessions that just use scrap materials.)

Teacher as “Learning Strategist”

Martinez and McGrath finish their set of principles by stating, “For teaching to enable powerful learning experiences like the ones described above, the teacher has to fluidly shift among a range of roles, including learning designer, facilitator, networker, and advisor who coaches, counsels, mentors, and tutors depending on what is most needed to promote student learning.”

What does this look like for the educators I’ve included in this article? Each educator had to look their target audience and create appropriate learning materials for the age of the audience, whether the materials were for a student or teachers. Short hands-on YouTube Design Challenges are perfect for young children, but not necessarily for a high school class. A 12 minute mini-lecture is not the best tool for young children, but when it brings a real world connection to high school students, it works well. Silent Solve videos are great tools for educators to use to discover that their students are really learning at home.

Curating Tech Developments in Online Learning

[While this Campus Technology article focuses on online learning for higher education, it’s worth examining for anyone looking for ways to use technology to transform learning. The success stories provide strong evidence how technology can make learning happen in ways not possible otherwise. The projects range from an avatar for nursing students to bring the Great Barrier Reef to students through teleconferencing.]

By David Raths 08/10/16

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

New ways to deploy artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, gamification and robotic telepresence are making their way into classrooms across the globe every day. Two leaders in the field of online learning are building a website called Virtually Inspired to curate examples of what they consider the most promising efforts.

Susan Aldridge, senior vice president for online learning at Drexel University and president of Drexel University Online, and Marci Powell, chair emerita of the U.S. Distance Learning Association, looked at more than 250 projects deploying new technologies in online learning and initially narrowed that number down to approximately 50 they plan to highlight on their website, which is still a work in progress.

Aldridge and Powell want the site to provide one-stop shopping for faculty and administrators looking for innovative approaches to online learning. Increasingly, Aldridge said, students will not sit still for talks in large lecture halls, and still too much of online education involves a talking-head video rather than an engaging experience. As she went looking for new approaches that might be applied to Drexel’s curriculum, she and Powell decided to share those findings with colleagues in higher education, who could pick and choose what might be beneficial for them.

Read more…

Student-Source Mobile Apps to Stay Ahead of the Curve

[Crowd-sourcing or “hacking” has become a contemporary way to solve a problem by enlisting a team of programmers to tackle a common problem. In this Edtech article the problem involved Robonaut2, a robotic astronaut assistant. Last year I had a chance to observe from a distance how a colleague with a “crowd” of colleagues developed an app as a byproduct of Startup Weekend EDU.]

RoboAssist

NASA recently occupied the headlines, not for a shuttle launch or moon walk, but for successfully crowdsourcing a test of the Robonaut 2, a robotic astronaut assistant.

NASA was so impressed with the quality of the 3D modeling submitted by the community that the agency has already organized two more challenges — and it’s only the latest group to jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon. It’s time for higher education to be next.

Of the few pioneer universities that have applied a crowdsourcing — or in this case,student sourcing — model at their institution, all have experienced impressive results.

The model has been especially successful when used to design and implement new mobile applications. Not only is it high time, but it is also a necessity that colleges and universities leverage student sourcing as a means to engage the student body, decrease costs and time, and improve implementation of mobile applications at their institutions.

There are reasons top Fortune 500 companies have begun implementing crowd sourcing: access to a flexible workforce, a variety of creative talent, cost-effectiveness, fast project delivery and reduced time to market. Student sourcing has one key difference from crowd sourcing: a defined network of students.

Students are a university’s consumers. How better to provide consumers with the mobile resources they want than by involving them in the design process? If this student sourcing model is such a success, why not implement it for all university projects?

The key to successful student sourcing is an excited community, eager to volunteer its time. Mobile is the kind of project a student body will get excited about — even the least tech-savvy student dreams of creating the next AngryBirds or Snapchat app.

Read more…