Technically, I was particularly interested on learning Powtoon as a tool for presentations. Back when I was doing the Education program, I wanted very much to use it, but soon I realized that It was not as easy to produce something the way I had envisioned... this time, I really stuck my heels down and went for it. Perseverance really pays off when it comes to learning new tools, and I am happy I did that. Now I want to prepare other presentations on different topics. I think my next one will be assessment.
My favourite thing was writing the script and thinking of the timing, and what scenes I would bring to make the story come to life. Coming from a background in illustration and creative editing, I found that I enjoyed writing the flow of the story very much, but interestingly enough, my editing could have been done much better. I've heard the quote "I wrote a long letter because I did not have time to make it short" which originally I thought was attributed to Mark Twain... but it seems he was quoting Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). I could say that the repetition and different ways to say the same thing were intentional and not for lack of more time to edit, but I think my brain was just too fried to make it sound interesting as well as short.
I had a great time with my grade 9 students as well, who were more than happy to make a little skit for me to include in the presentation. Although they all said they would not like to be doing an online course strictly from home at the moment -- they said they would lack the motivation and discipline to finish the course without meeting the teacher regularly. I thought that was interesting and it also made sense given their young age and the fact that they are used to this structure and thrive in it. The unknown can make us nervous in the beginning.
You can watch the presentation below, or click here to watch on Youtube. Feel free to comment on it. The voice over text has been pasted directly below.
By Angela Jurgensen, Lindsey Watford and Helene Berube
As educators, one of the things that most concerns us is the learning process. We want to do the best for our students and ensure they assimilate the subject. We want to make sure we are using the right learning theories, (at the right time)… and that we keep current with the latest ideas in this digital age. …So, instead of simply looking at differences between online, blended and face to face environments, and trying to figure out which one would be better for teaching one subject or another, let’s first look at learning with a focus on the most important piece of the learning puzzle: (money?) No no... (content?) Nope... The learner.
The first question to ask ourselves, is, who is our learner?
Is he on elementary school, on secondary school, or is he a more mature learner?
Is she a kinesthetic learner? Tactile? Visual? Does she learn better reading by herself, watching a video or listening to an audio tape?
Is this a student who needs someone looking over their shoulders, or is this a self-motivated learner?
It is very likely that you have a combination of these students in your classroom, virtual or otherwise.
The next question to ask ourselves is, what is the student learning?
Is this a chapter that requires memorization? Is the student required to do a lab, or maybe perfect a manual skill? Is this a class where technology is an absolute requirement for project completion, or can the student demonstrate his learning through more traditional means? And perhaps most importantly, is the student gathering 21st Century skills and tools that will stick with him long after school is over?
We should also consider the student’s psyche when determining what delivery method would be most successful.
So, why the student has selected online or blended learning versus brick and mortar?
Many students require a certain flexibility to their learning. Some students suffer from anxiety regarding presentations, group work and even going to school, for a variety of reasons. Some have illnesses that stop them from getting out of their homes. Some students require individual learning plans with specific adaptations for their success. Sometimes, a student and a teacher will not be compatible due to a variety of reasons. In these cases, the flexibility of an online course can be very beneficial.
For other students, a face-to-face component is required. These are students who perhaps thrive in social opportunities, or who require a more immediate academic support and feedback. A student who is not self-motivated may find a purely online module insufficient to encourage learning, and may require a face-to-face approach.
A blended learning course offers the anytime, anywhere approach of an online course, but with the checkpoints and face-to-face meetings with the teacher, and can be very useful for students who need the flexibility of learning at their own time, while still having the human connection of a face-to-face check point.
This brings us to where this particular student will be most successful in their learning. While brick and mortar is limited to a geographic location and a predetermined time, the time for online learning is defined by the learner, on the learner’s terms. Students who are travelling or living abroad may need a way to remain connected to their classroom; Students who are working already, or who practice sports or otherwise need to work on odd hours on their coursework, respond better to the more unstructured option offered by online learning.
Let’s look at some of the differences in regards to delivery methods:
As far as course design, it’s a tie. “Doing it right” means that the material is delivered with the learner and the learning in focus, and that adequate support is provided, as well as accounting for differentiation. A constructivist and connectivist approach is particularly important when working with students online.
Relationship between teacher and students. On a face to face, teachers can be pretty traditional, and still learning can occur. On an online-only environment, for actual learning to occur, the teacher has to become more of a guide and allow students to make decisions. Simply putting a traditional coursework online and expecting learning to occur is not very successful. While on a face-to-face setting, confident students tend to dominate the classroom, students who are shy or anxious have an easier time asking the teacher online.
Hands on learning – Labs online have to be pretty creative, and are mostly demonstrations and virtual labs.
Inquiry process: It can be more challenging to set up a successful inquiry unit online. Delivery should be done in chunks, with clear goals and expectations. The results, however, can be quite amazing, with deep learning that will last for a lifetime.
Behavior issues: While teaching face to face can sometimes feel like swatting a barrel of monkeys, online needs minimal classroom management.
Oral presentations: These are much easier for students who attend online courses. The flexibility in methods of delivery can make students suffering from anxiety or stage fright feel finally at ease.
Collaboration: With the increasing improvements of online communication, this has become easier every year. Now, students can collaborate with other students from across the globe to produce creative displays of their learning, and sharing these online to their peers is a great motivator. Nowadays, young people are used to collaborating and sharing online, and it’s easy for us to tap into this naturally. So, the student role in an online setting is very different from the student role in traditional classrooms.
(Student: Traditionally passive learner - > active participant and creator of knowledge)
So, to answer the original question, does learning happen differently in an online and blended environment? The answer is, it depends on a variety of factors; the student, the teacher and the method by which the material is presented. Technology can be a very attractive and powerful tool, but it must be used creatively in order to be successful, under a student-centered umbrella.
In an ideal world, great and long-lasting learning can happen in a classroom just as often as through an online course. To quote Stephen Downes, “We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.” If we create our own education, then we must consider that we are merely guides towards our students’ road to discovery. The key is finding ways to engage each and every different style of learner with the material, no matter if you meet every day, every week or if you never meet at all. Regardless of the location of your classroom, there is simply no denying the amazing opportunities for deep learning, collaboration and growth that technology brings. The interest and comfort with technology has been growing every year, and learning different tools to reach our students can only strengthen their learning process.