engaging learners with new strategies and tools

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Engaging Learners with New Strategies and Tools


Engaging Learners with New Strategies and ToolsEDUC-7102-2/EDUC-8842-2 Principles of Distance EducationModule 4

October 25, 2011

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Learning cannot exist without there being topics and CONTENT. And that content cannot be transferred if COMMUNICATION does not occur.

During the learning process, it is also helpful to work COLLABORATIVELY. However, it is impossible to have collaboration without some type of COMMUNICATION.

Finally, to connect the cycle, the CONTENT that needs to be COMMUNICATED, can be COMMUNICATED through multiple avenues that include COLLABORATION with others.

WIKISPACES is an example of educational technology that allows for students to collect and build content, communicate, and collaborate in multiple fashions. Students can participate in "Discussions," create "Webpages," "Email" each other to communicate, and build other collections of work together.

Movement from the static towards the dynamic end of the continuum requires flexibility and earnest resolve in restructuring pedagogical and instructional methods for the 21st Century and its learners. A teachers job is not only to educate others but to glean some wisdom for themselves. This may mean finding equilibrium between what has been done and what needs to be done. The tools of the trade have changed. Technology and its resources have provided new means of finding information and creating knowledge. In a static stage we remain fixed and predetermined in our ideas while dynamic interactions can be characterized by growth and progress.

Teaching and learning in the 21st Century has evolved to include technological tools that facilitate collaboration in an online environment. Some of these tools provide authentic scenarios in which students can communicate with their peers and instructors. Siemens (2007) and Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford (2006), posit that distance online learning can result in high levels of engagement when we reconsider the role of educators and the tools implemented with millennial learners. Through use of tools that are already part of 21st Century students repertoire the strategies educators employ must include those which they are familiar with such as those mentioned in the graphic.

The overabundance of data available online presents the challenge of using the appropriate tools to sift through information in an effort to make a connection which results in new knowledge. The educational process can only be enhanced through the use of technological tools that have value in bringing students closer to experts in the field, current research, and significant learning experiences.

The number of online course offerings in higher education is growing at a rapid pace. According to a 2008 study conducted for the Sloan Consortium, 3.94 million online students were enrolled in courses in the Fall of 2007 (Allen & Seaman, 2008). This figure represents more than twice as many online students that were enrolled in 2002. The continued increase in the demand for online instruction compels more and more faculty to learn to change from the traditional face-to-face instruction format to the online medium (Durrington, Berryhill and Swafford, 2006). The on-line instructors integration and support of high degrees of presence in this collaborative environment promotes instructor-student interaction. This may bridge the potential physical and psychological gap associated with distance learning. The amount of interactivity with the instructor is significant to student retention in distance education and higher levels of interactivity tend to lead to positive student attitudes and increased performance in the virtual classroom. This interaction can be accomplished with one-on-one communication with the students via email and through prompt and regular feedback. It can also be accomplished in a global fashion, with weekly or bi-weekly updates with upcoming deadlines, matters of import and progress reports. This continual form of communication creates an environment conducive to student interaction with the professor.

Content-student interaction is accomplished through the use of a variety of modes to deliver course content that go beyond a primarily text-based web environment to ensure that the learners stay connected and motivated to return to the course each session. The use of lecture videos developed by the instructor can promote engagement and strengthen the instructors presence in the virtual classroom. These videos can be produced with footage of the professor or narrated PowerPoint slides for instructors less fond of the camera. A plethora of engaging instructional material can also be located at numerous online resources. Conventional websites such as Google Video, Blinx, and YouTube feature information that can be adapted for online instructional use. In addition, specialized educational online repositories exist that contain a wide variety of learning objects, such as videos, simulations, and demonstrations indexed by the subject matter. Many of them are prepared by instructors and hence they contain ancillary instructional materials, such as exams and assignments. MERLOT.org, and DiscoveryEducation.com are two such resources. If an instructor is unable to locate specific materials appropriate for the course, these resources provide the user with inspiration for ideas that can be adapted to meet the users needs.

Because technology has changed a great deal in the last 5-6 years, one should be knowledgeable in what each of the following technology is and how it may be used in a classroom.1. Google Tools Knowledge- Google Tools can be an important part of every catechists tool kit. All you need is a computer with Internet access in your parish, school, or home. Often we would like to have our students go beyond what they have learned in the classroom. Or maybe we would like to ENHANCE a class session with technology.2. Google Earth Knowledge- Google Earth can help you bring a world of information alive for your students. It can be used with all grade levels, and the possibilities are endless with your imagination! Students can use Google Earth to explore topics like the progress of human civilization, the growth of cities, the impact of civilization on the natural environment, and the impact of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Teachers can use Google Earth demos to get their students excited about geography beyond the static map, or use different Google Earth layers to study transportation, demographics, economics, and in specific local or exotic contexts.3. Wiki Knowledge- The Wiki is gaining traction in education, as an ideal tool for the increasing amount of collaborative work done by both students and teachers. Students might use a wiki to collaborate on a group report, compile data or share the results of their research, while faculty might use the wiki to collaboratively author the structure and curriculum of a course and the wiki can then serve as part of each persons course web site.4.Blogging Knowledge- In a broader and more educational system, blogs are about communicating. You observe your experience, reflect on it, and then write about it. Other people read your reflections, respond from their perspectives by commenting or writing their own blog article. You read their perspectives, often learn something through their eyes, and write some more. Blogging is about reading and writing. Literacy is about reading and writing. Blogging is about literacy.5.Spreadsheets Skills- Educators should be able to use some type of spreadsheet program to compile grades and chart data.6. Database Skills- Educators should be able to use some type of database program to create tables, store and retrieve data, and query data.7. Social Bookmarking Knowledge- This is a method for Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of online resources. Unlike file sharing, the resources themselves aren't shared, merely bookmarks that reference them.In other words, it is the practice of saving books marks to a public website and tagging them with key words.Tags can also be thought of electronic file folders. Social bookmarking has also been defined as a network of people who collect favorite or bookmarked websites, categorize them with keyword tags, and share them with others.8. Social Networking Knowledge- A social network service is an online service that focuses on the building of social/internet networksamong peoplewho share interests/activities.This service consists of some type of representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of other related services. Most social network services are web based and provide a way for users to interact over the internet, usinge-mail and instant messaging.Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.

9. Web Resources in content area - Each teacher should have access to and knowledge of web resources in their content area.The Internet has a vast amount of education related material in every content area. This material is easily accessible, downloadable and instantly usable.With the advent of Web2.0 tools there even more usable interactive, relevant tools for teachers of every discipline.All that is needed is the ability to find the information and to use it.There are a large number of educational portal type sites on the web that provide easy access to needed web based resources in all content areas.10. Web Searching skills- All educators should understand how to use the world wide web to search for and find information quickly. Many web sites have turned to databases to create web pages on the fly when requested by a user.The database contains the information, which is inserte