I think this is a reflection on what was done for the VoiceThread moderation:
Voice Thread moderation
How do you help students interact effectively in an online course?
A few of us have posted examples of how we help students interact effectively in our discussion areas. Although Chris has not held online discussions with students, she likes the small group approach. In addition she likes the idea of having students be facilitators. Bret confirms the importance of using multimedia and unique opportunities to engage a discussion. James also likes the idea of having student facilitators and freshness to the content, but cautions against overwhelming the students with too many new ideas or tools to learn. Sarah points out facilitator involvement is crucial, yet the facilitator needs to be careful to not become the discussion. Let the students be the discussion by finding a balance between facilitator input and student contributions. Earl stresses modeling effective communication so novice participants experience what they are expected to do in the discussion. So far our discussion has focused on group size, discussion format or setting, facilitator involvement that may involve student facilitators, and modeling what we expect of the participants. What other suggestions do you have about how to get students to interact in a discussion forum or even with wiki collaborations? We have a few more days left for this discussion, so please provide examples from your classroom, experiences with online learning, ideas from the readings, or unique perspectives you’ve acquired while in this or other online classes. What has motivated you to interact in our online courses?
How do you sustain online discussions?
A few people have shared aspects of online discussions including how the discussion is launched, what happens during the discussion, and how to prolong it. Kathryn stresses the importance of using open-ended questions to allow for freedom of expression of ideas. Bret cautions instructors to not assume that an open-ended question will guarantee student participation that stays focused on the topic. How would you build community building into the online discussion that may be more natural to create in a face to face environment? Sarah seeks the perfect balance between structure and flexibility. What suggestions do you have about how to create flexibility while still giving enough structure so students feel safe in the environment? Earl suggests extending discussions with hypothetical situations. With that in mind, what do you suggest we do to get people who have not posted to this discussion yet, to post to the discussion? Do the facilitators send out personal invitations to the discussion? Do we respect that for this discussion we are graduate students and therefore have the choice to participate or not? If you are working with adults like we are, but who may not be as comfortable with the online world as we are, how would you lure them to volunteer their ideas in an online discussion?
How do you keep a presence in online discussions without taking over the conversations?
So far, everybody recognizes the importance of having the facilitator being a part of the discussion. Kathryn points out that creating a social presence by providing feedback to participants. James suggests instructors target the posts that are not getting many responses by replying directly to those ideas in an attempt to stimulate discussion based on what is said in the neglected posts. Sarah’s audio file was not loading at the time I crafted this summary. Jessica recommends brevity while including leading questions to further the discussion. How do you suggest a facilitator follows these recommendations without overwhelming the discussion? How does one provide feedback, but not so much that it curtails further discussion?
How do you use online discussion in your blended courses?
So far we have heard a few ways people can use online discussion areas to allow for collaboration or submission of individualized perspectives on a topic. Glori has her students do mini-case studies by perusing the literature and deciding what they would incorporate into their own practice. Adam does a sort of jigsaw where he posts questions about themes in geography and allows students to self-select which ones they will respond to. Then he challenges students to visit a different theme and contribute to its thread. Bret confirms the uniqueness of using discussion forums as a review area for essay exams. He commends Adam for using the discussion area to stimulate student interactions and follows up with questions about procedures for doing such discussions. Kathryn suggested using the discussion areas as a place to do summarizing activities or for students to provide feedback on the course without having time constraints you can have in the face to face classroom. Sarah not only uses discussion areas as a place for students to brainstorm, but since it is out in the open, she can also give feedback and approve their ideas before students prematurely commit to a topic that may not be as fruitful as originally anticipated. What are some other concrete examples of ways you can engage students in an online forum?
This Communication Plan is supposed to cover:
- Routine Tasks
- Critical Thinking Prompts
- Management Issues and Strategies
- Online Discussion Forum Checklist/Rubric
- One original idea, category or thought
- Check discussion forums daily to see if there are new posts.
- Check email to see if students tried to contact me.
- See who has turned in assignments. If students who did not turn in assignments are on an IEP that requests they get additional nagging, nag them.
- Check to see what is coming up for due dates and post a reminder in the news forum or similar place.
- If there is a synchronous session about to happen, check my audio and video equipment to make sure they are working properly.
- Find a parent to call with good news.
- See if there are parents to call with less than happy news.
- Grade anything that needs to be graded.
- Write feedback to myself about how well things are working so I can note what needs to be changed the next time I teach this topic.
Critical Thinking Prompts:
Starting discussions with leads like:
- What do you think about…
- How would you determine…
- Why do you agree or disagree with…
- Evaluate famous person’s quote.
- Give feedback on the paper,- post a journal article or link to website for students to read
- Why is person’s ideas realistic, successful, or other adjective?
Discussion Board Strategies
- Have students start threads so that they can have a variety of places to share their “reply” type of responses
- I liked Adam’s suggestion of using a discussion forum as a way to do a jigsaw. Have questions already posted, students pick one question to answer, then they respond to something someone else said.
- Send students on a mission to find something online. It could be a picture, an explanation, or a specific website that gives specific information about a topic. They need to come back and share what they found to the rest of the group.
- Like we do here in the EDTECH program, students can post their unique projects to a forum for others to evaluate and to give feedback or suggestions for improvement.
- If there is a challenge question, you can have the forum set up so that you can’t read anybody else’s posts until you make one yourself. So let’s say there is a dilemma and you ask students to problem solve it. Each person needs to put up their own solution before they can read everybody else’s.
- I liked Glori’s idea of doing case studies. People would propose their recommendations for their case study. Then they would examine what everybody else put up to formulate a better idea or guide their peers toward more in depth thought.
- Ethical dilemma- students brainstorm how to solve an ethical dilemma. This is similar to a case study, but far less involved.
Management Issues and Strategies:
I am not excited about managing anything- my classroom management is pure dumb luck. I would kill my kids with kindness and make them feel too guilty to cause trouble for us. Discussion boards are not something I am looking forward to managing because I expect students to avoid them. So, to motivate students to post to boards or to continue posting, I can try:
- Positive feedback with words in the forum or through a personal email.
- Bribery with extra points as an incentive to just get students to be on the board.
- Ask students to talk about themselves. Let the discussion area be student-centric at least at first. Let students take ownership of the space before you squish their brains by having them expand their content knowledge in a forum.
- Use icebreakers. Our class came up with some amazing icebreakers to get students to share something about themselves. My peers did a wonderful job of organizing work we have done in the class and collected our icebreakers here.
- Do landscape style summary posts to recognize at least one contribution from each student up to that point.
- Although I will have a list of netiquette suggestions available in our first section, I want to invite students near the beginning of the class to share reasons why netiquette is important. I would also like to discuss what bullying looks like and why it is inappropriate. Some students may not realize that what they say is interpreted as bullying so I want to make sure students are aware of how to make our space safe. In this discussion I also want to include a review of what type of information is OK to put online, what information should not be shared, and the differences between where our class discussion happens and social media in general. Within this discussion I also want to point out why “I agree” or “Hello” posts are ineffective.
- In fact, we will have to have a forum where we set some ground rules, if I have not mandated them already. If this is my students’ first time in a discussion setting, we need to condition each other on to how to come to terms with too many posts to read. Part of the learning curve with online learning is to forgive yourself for not being able to read everybody’s posts. I want to discuss strategies with students about how to choose threads to open. I want to caution them about types of posts to make or not make if you want people to open your thread. I am an expert at turning people off in discussion forums so I know very clearly what to post to stop a discussion or truncate it before its time is exhausted. I can advise my students accordingly. We will have to have an introductory forum where we play with what to do and what not to do. I also want students to collaborate on strategies of what to pay attention to in our class’s LMS setting, what can be pushed aside until you have more time to spend reading, and what could possibly be ignored for a while without it causing too much trouble. (Number 7 is somewhat of a twist on what Palloff and Pratt say in chapter 4 of Building Online Learning Communities.)
- I want to have a survey always available for students to give anonymous feedback. I will address their feedback somewhere in the course so they can see that I am taking their suggestions seriously. If they know I care about their ideas and find them to be valid, maybe they will share more of them within the real forums?
- What is in chapter 7 will be very valuable. At the moment it is very difficult for me to hypothesize what my online classroom will be like because I have yet to experience an online classroom where I have freedom to make decisions like the ones that are described in many of the samples in chapter 7. I can make a list of what students can expect from me, though.
What students can expect from me, their instructor:
- Feedback from emails or phone calls within 24 hours.
- Someone who cares about students’ academic lives.
- Someone who expects students to make mistakes and to use those mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Someone who has high expectations and therefore will push every student to succeed. I will happily listen to challenges students face and will brainstorm with you ways to conquer currently perceived obstacles.
Online Discussion Forum Checklist/ Rubric:
Discussion Board Rubric
My discussion board rubric tool:
I am using the PBS rubric and Alexis Alexander’s rubrics to guide my discussion board rubrics. These rubrics rely on students being able to physically start a new thread when they reply to a general question. There is a diagram at the end that shows a graphic for how this type of forum can work.
What is expected in a post:
- Minimum of 50 words; no maximum
- Relates to the question posed or directly reflects what someone else said in response to the question
- Unique ideas or properly cited if not unique
- Proper grammar and usage of the English language
What could make up a post:
- Additional questions that expand the breadth of what has been said
- Personal anecdotes that relate to the question posed
- Quoted responses from the readings with your interpretation of what it means
- A respectful dissension of what someone else has said
- Discuss a related issue about which you would like feedback
- Provide an additional source that contributes to this topic that was not already provided in the course material. Tell us why you think this is appropriate.
|When did you post?||Your first response starts a thread within 4 days of the forum opening. Your follow up two posts are within two weeks of the forum opening. You are not limited to only doing two follow-up posts; this is the minimum required.||Your first response does not start a thread, but your posts stimulate discussion in the forum.
Your first response happens later than 4 days after the thread starts, but it still stimulates discussion.
|Your first response does not start a thread, nor do any of your responses stimulate discussion.
Your first response happens after 4 days after the thread starts and it does not stimulate discussion.
|What did you post?||Initial post and responses are on topic, demonstrate thorough understanding of it, and stimulate other people to think.||Initial post and/or responses are somewhat on topic, demonstrate some understanding of it, and/or stimulate some productive discussion.||Initial post and/or response are off topic, demonstrate faulty understanding, and/or do not stimulate any additional productive comments because of the quality of what you posted.|
|Usefulness of posts?||What you say contributes to other people’s schema. Others can use your ideas to generate their own, or to expand their thinking. You are able to get other people to consider a perspective that they may not have already thought about.||What you say does not stop discussion, although there may only be a few people who can relate to your suggestions.||Your posts are difficult to understand, do not provide concrete ideas others could use, or are very limited with their application.|
Diagram of how forum responses can be structured:
DiscussionParticipation is a pdf copy of the diagram.
Naturally there are more than three students in the course. The idea is that each person does an initial post before writing a response post. You continue to write response posts until you run out of ideas.
One original idea, category, or thought:
Teaching presence- is it possible?
Several education scientists have published their views on how discussion forums work. They analyze what students say, when they say it, how things are said, and anticipate the learning outcomes based on this information. There are three main presences that have been described: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Much of our discussion in this class has focused on the social presence because that is the perspective our book, Paloff and Pratt (2007), uses when they explain how they see online teaching and learning will happen. To be thorough, they mention other presences even though they do not go as in depth with them. In 523 we had the opportunity to try out the teaching presence. Although I am usually an advocate of putting as much as possible into the hands of the students, I do not advocate having students lead discussions. I know that it is essential for those who want to be discussion leaders to be trained in how to facilitate a discussion and for some people in our class, this was their first opportunity. I bet it was amazing for them and they will have learned skills they did not realize could exist. At what expense is this done to the other students?
For this class, participating in the discussions was not a priority for me because I kept doing it wrong and therefore did not get the validation I am used to having in online classes that have active discussions. I think this is my twentieth online class so I arrogantly consider myself to be very experienced with how to maneuver in discussion forums. As you can see above, I am very much in favor of giving students the responsibility of starting threads. Within their thread, they own the pathway if they choose to respond to people who reply within that thread. I see it happen often in the 506 posts- we put up our image and people offer suggestions or ask questions. A dialogue forms between the one who started the thread and those who choose to volunteer their insights on the image that was posted. In a way the original poster can assume a teaching presence, although many of the replies to the original post are actually suggestions on what to improve and how to do it. In that way, a teaching presence can be seen in many of the posts.
In courses where the instructor oversees the path of the discussion, I rarely see a teaching presence allowed to happen by anybody except for the instructor. Even in some classes where students form their own threads, when the instructor posts in the threads, sometimes the discussion becomes one on one between the instructor and the person who started the thread. For me, I do not see that as being a productive use of time and space. Instead I think instructors should use email to directly address some of their questions designed to move a discussion forward that really only push one person to volunteer ideas. I see the instructor’s responsibility to help unify the group and interpret what others have said so that the ideas can get broader and more diverse. I am not convinced that students who have not had training in techniques that can be used to broaden discussions should be made the discussion leaders. Instead, I think students should be responsible for starting threads so they can have a microcosm of the discussion under their guidance. The instructor can still step in and offer engaging questions, but they do not have to be the only ones demonstrating a teaching presence.
Teaching presence actually has two “definitions”. Both have to deal with who is guiding a discussion, but one focuses on the teacher and the other focuses on the students. For the community of inquiry, the focus is on how well the students are able to guide the discussions. The research does not measure what a good job the instructor does of being the guide on the side. It measures how often or how well students step forward to cause inquiry to happen. In other words, are students posing the questions that guide future discussion or is the only one posting questions the instructor? Be careful if you decide to research the teaching presence because some people elaborate on how an instructor can manifest their presence in the discussions rather than how to get students to take leadership roles in the discussions. When students take on the leadership roles, then they are exhibiting a teaching presence. Chapter 8 in Palloff and Pratt elaborate on how to get students involved in the class. They have sections called, “Dialogue as Inquiry” (p. 170), “Encouraging Expansive Questioning” (p. 171), and “Sharing Responsibility for Facilitation” (p. 173). Although they don’t publicize that they are giving strategies for creating a Community of Inquiry or for getting students to develop a teaching presence, their ideas in chapter 8 align with those theories.
Articles or publications that elaborate on developing a teaching presence in students:
Garrison, Randy D. and Vaughan, Norman D. (2008) Blended Learning in Higher Education.
Community of Inquiry- a website including explanations and papers
Video that addresses how to establish the course such that students are aware of the instructor- I did NOT create this video; it is just here as a resource for anybody who may be using this edublog for ideas
Instructions: You will explore and provide your perspective/reflection on one of the following elements, specifically how the word relates to or enables a better understanding of the definition of educational technology: (1) Study (2) Ethical practice (3) Facilitating (4) Learning (5) Improving (6) Performance (7) Creating (8) Using (9) Managing (10) Appropriate (11) Technological (12) Processes (13) Resources.
Definition of Educational Technology (2004):
According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.
The one I pick is number 3, facilitating. Even though it may seem like I picked facilitating because it was near the beginning of the chapter, that is merely a coincidence. When I read the description that goes with facilitating, it proved to be different than what I expected. I expected to read about how as education has become influenced more by the invasiveness of technology, the teacher’s role has been replaced by that of a passive facilitator who merely monitors the students. I thought that in this facilitator scenario, teachers do not have the responsibility of determining what gets taught or how to teach it because when the technology comes in to play, the teaching is exuded through whatever media the students are using. Turns out I was wrong! It has been known to happen.
As I read the passage about facilitating, I felt like I was reading my ideal job description. The way the authors described the teachers’ actions is more like the teacher being a coach who has made it possible for students to have open ended opportunities to interact with content such that they gathered the important parts and built them into their psyche. The teacher still scaffolds the lesson, but it is done in such a way that the students take ownership of the direction of the learning and therefore they have mastery of the subject and not just a spectator’s point of view. The concept of constructivism comes into play because the students are constructing meaning. Fortunately when I was taught how to be a teacher, I was taught methods that follow the constructivist approach. It is something that I’ve tried to embody in all of the classes I’ve taught, however the factoid based tests tended to interfere with the slower methods used in constructivism. That soapbox is one I shall stand upon at a later time.
Another aspect of the facilitating philosophy is that the teachers are not seen as the oracle of knowledge. Being in a classroom is not for students to sit and listen to a teacher talk at them. Even if the teacher is using “technology” via PowerPoint slides, the point of the technology is not to make lecturing easier on the teacher. The point of the technology may be to use the PowerPoint slides to engage the students by having them take roles in explaining concepts shown on slides. Technology is used to facilitate getting the information in the students’ hands so they can determine how to use it and to make sense of it. Page 4 has a statement that sums this up perfectly, “the key role of technology is not so much to present information and provide drill and practice (to control learning) but to provide the problem space and the tools to explore it (to support learning).” There are so many teachers I’ve taught with who really need to think about that statement. Too many times they act like they are doing the right thing because they are using the technology, but in reality they are merely fooling themselves because they’ve transformed the technology to be yet another way for them to control student behavior.
I hope that I will be able to become a facilitator of student learning by using technology to help students acquire and utilize information. I still want them to guide the direction and flow, but I hope to have the opportunity to build their scaffolding. The TECH museum in San Jose, CA has done just that by creating curriculum that empowers students to find solutions to what may seem like common everyday problems. With these projects, students construct solutions to the design challenges. Most of the challenges are low-tech, meaning the students don’t have to use anything that involves electricity to do their project, however if they found a technology that helps them build their solution, it certainly would not be discouraged. The point of many of the design challenges is for students to collaborate and come up with something that exists in three dimensions. They often create a prototype, test it, and then make changes as they see the flaws that remain. This is not dissimilar to what happens in educational technology where instructional designers use technology in a ethical manner as a way to foster student projects that reflect what they learned and the means by which they learned it.
Video of someone at the TECH museum in San Jose explaining how their Design Challenge activities work. This is one way constructivist ideas can be brought into the classroom:
Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1977). The definition of educational technology. Washington, DC: AECT.
Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 – 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). (2004)The Definition of Educational Technology.
Washington DC: AECT, Definition and Terminology Committee