2013 ought to be moving us forward. We ought to have some good skills by now in how to connect and share. Learnist is a site which appears to have moved us all forward in terms of sharing and building our knowledge. It has a separate tab for education and yet the whole site predicates on sharing knowledge in skills. In a way it appears to be similar to Pinterest in that people create learning boards which they then share. One of the boards is about using Learnist in a High School classroom and the way the material/content is organised certainly lends itself to being a site which could become interesting and reliable for finding out things. I have noticed most contributors appear to be using real names and real pictures of themselves. I think we have reached that stage where we need to abandon the colourful names and avatars and just represent ourselves in virtual society without the barricades or dressing up. That’s another post, though! You can sign in with your email or Facebook and the site maintains you keep full control over your privacy. It is trying to keep people real and safe so that learners and knowledge seekers can relate to online people in much the same way as they relate to colleagues, authors, professors, teachers and experts in real life. Certainly worth a look if you are interested in learning.
If you read this post and watch the videos you will see that it has been highly successful to get students to build a computer and learn what they need to know as they go along. Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan designed the course and then put the information and resources online. it has been a huge download success and proof that a lot of students are willing to teach themselves if they have access to the right materials and resources. It doesn’t put teachers out of a job. If you listen you can see there is still plenty of teaching being done and plenty of knowledge sharing. We have options in delivering content these days and we have students who are used to being on a computer and accessing online materials. People have different learning needs and right now we have a chance to deliver content to groups who can help themselves. A teacher will then operate in a different fashion. The website supplies links to relevant sites and materials.
I did my first official online training as a teacher. I felt like I was in a goldfish bowl. When you are in a class there are ways and means of managing the time, the experience and the content. As an online learner I was channeled into learning whether I wanted to do it in that way or not. I know other jobs use online training as a normal way of ensuring their staff have requisite knowledge. All I can say is – please let teachers look at these online training packages and help with improvements in delivery. It wasn’t that the training was bad. Nor was the content poor. For me it boiled down to the fact I couldn’t press the next button until I had had the whole page READ to me. As an assistive technology this is a great idea. There will be people who will be helped by having the material read to them because they cannot see the text properly, or English is not their strong point, or because they learn better through oral language information. I can read and absorb quickly. I didn’t need it to be read. So were the trainers worried I’d click the next button and not do the course properly? An online course I have done just to see what online courses are like is Microsoft .toolbox. .toolbox is also into the disembodied voices which I hate but they talk you through the text. They don’t actually read it to you. .toolbox also sets some really tough questions at times to ensure you have read the information but also that you have THOUGHT about it. That to me is critical in an online course. You have to make sure people understand the content but you need to also ensure they have engaged their brains. For this reason I found the .toolbox quite interesting and it made me keep up my attention. When you work online you are isolated. You can concentrate really well but if you are railroaded then you just become frustrated. People are used to doing things at their own pace online. They are used to back buttons to go back over things and they are used to manipulating the content themselves.
What worked extremely well in the online training were the little videos. They had all sorts of experts and people in the field giving pertinent and relevant information in a very clear and friendly way. All these people were real people from where I live who knew about what we were learning. They could give examples, they could talk from experience and they could make my learning very real. They all had a good manner in front of a camera and all spoke in a genuine way…so authenticity means a lot to me in online training.
The other thing which was really good about the online training were the links out to sites and other information. A back button would have been fantastic. Maybe I can go back to the site and log in and try to access those sites again. That would be good. There was a real richness about the resources in terms of online follow up and then there were some good print resources which they had pictures of too. It meant I knew I had access to plenty of information should I need it but it also now a knowledge bank for the profession. There needs to be an online site where we can access this material as a profession and the best place is probably our new LearnLink site .
When it comes to talking in online learning I really think it might be better to have a little video of the person talking. Somehow you relate to that better. With a podcast or radio the voices are not a problem because the media present themselves differently. With slides of information being read to you or discussed without a face to relate to, then I actually find that hard. It has made me think we really do need to think about what makes a good online teacher.
So what is a flipped classroom? I kept reading about it on the #edchat Twitter stream from American teachers. Sounded intriguing and sounded interesting. It was also sounding successful. The TechSmith explains it quite well and offers link to further information. Jackie Gerstein goes to a lot of trouble on her blog to clarify it and she offers a wealth of implementation support and explanation. Basically you set the homework of a video/podcast of your content and then use class time to explore this in a more meaningful and personal way with students. You could even do it for staff and faculty meetings – make a video of your content, get your staff to create and develop ideas as they are watching and then use the meeting time to discuss issues. You would need to develop questions sheets, feed back sheets or something like that so you could make best use of your real time with real people. It’s worth considering given students and staff have online access at home by and large. You’d have to look at any equity issues. It might mean my iPad would get better use at school instead of just sitting on my desk. There are lots of things I could share with students that way. Given our school has specialist commitments to music and volleyball I am not sure how we could ensure that all staff and students would be able to watch the material at home on a regular basis. It’s certainly worth considering as an option and then looking at how I could make use of a flipped classroom and when.
The Aquarium of the Pacific has this fun fish building game to teach students about the parts of fish but it is also a serious site for getting some high level and current information about the aquatic environment of the Pacific. It has an education section and the multimedia section has videos by experts in the field and there are podcasts you can subscribe to. It is one of the largest aquariums in the USA so if you live there or are visiting the country you could actually take a tour of the aquarium. Its site has a commitment to educating all ages and provides materials that anyone can use to improve their knowledge of the Pacific Ocean.
If you are like me and not sure whether Google Docs is for you and your classroom , you need to watch this video about asynchronous editing in Google Docs which @wootang01 kindly made for me! That is the power of the Internet and online learning. @wootnag01 just happened to mention Google Docs on Twitter so I asked a bit more and a bit more…in the end he made me a video. That is how you teach someone!! Show them how and give them their own copy so they can take it all onboard in their own time. The one time I was going to use Google Docs last year for synchronous learning and editing the site was blocked. It wasn’t supposed to be blocked, but these things happen in schools. By the time it was resolved the teaching moment had passed so now I want to pick that up in this new school year. I can see a lot of value in us working as a class on a document. It would really improve our writing skills in French and I know my students would love it. My concerns about asynchronous editing is that someone could hand me in work which had actually been written by more than that student. I need to know I can verify the authorship and I won’t know that until I use it. I am very appreciative of @wootang01′s help but you know, this is what technology in education is all about…and social media! You do not have to wait to learn. I can also recommend the other video on Google Docs for language exchange where all of this started. For some reason neither of them will embed in WordPress , neither by URL linking nor by using the embed code.
Well, that has given me a LOT to think about, how about you?
I have participated in some online/video learning and we do now need to consider how we could change ourselves and the next generation of teachers, in particular, into online educators. It is not simply about edutainment. There is a danger we shall confuse edutainment with creativity when real creativity comes from skills excellence and knowledge i.e. high level learning and knowledge. To get me and you started along the thinking path of what would make a good online teacher, then I offer the following ideas:
1.sense of audience/stage presence, as in a number of the TED talks. These people are often teaching a live audience as they are videoed and talking to us, so they have a real sense of audience needs and real capacity to engage the audience. Online teachers have to have some drama and television skills!
2.animation – of face, voice, body. I have watched number of dead pan educational deliveries on You Tube and it may not stop me learning but dead pan delivery with a droning voice is not going to have long term success.
3.interesting voice – the voice is crucial. It has to sound friendly, it has to be clear. It needs to be conversational and warm. It needs to vary its mood and tone.
4.some humour – works like a charm whether it be anecdotal or visual.
5.visuals – things to look at besides the person works well online so images, videos, diagrams all add to interest and the absorption of material, even if it is only text which highlights the main points.
6.good content – learners want to know. They do not want great preambles and context . Context can be integrated as you go along in the conversation. Content needs to be clear. The aims and objectives of what is to be learned need to be explained first. The structure of absorbing the material needs to be well thought out.
7.content reviewed – as you go along, reminders, connections and then a review at the end of what has been learned. Content is king.
8.narrative – content is always absorbed better if it attached to some kind of narrative so a logical context is established and the reasons for knowing this knowledge are unfolded. This is where something like the TED talks really do work well and someone who explains the value of the knowledge succeeds. People need to know what they can do with the knowledge and that is critical to online content because it is often delivered to a lone learner.
9. questions to think about – yes, why would you want to know what you are being taught. What might it be able to do for you? How might it be further developed. Make learners curious. Have they thought of what they could learn next?
10.colour – colour works well online. Colour in clothing, in images, in video, in the surrounding. The bland background is dull. The white screen is dull.
So it is a matter of finding the good examples of online learning and deconstructing them and analysing why they work so well… and it is always warmth, humour, animation and value.