Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Little by little, step by step

We've gotten through eight weeks of this 10-week course now. I've been very pleased in general with how well this has gone. I really wish that teachers had a way to try the new techniques with students while they're in the course. Since this is summer, that's not really an option. So we'll have to wait until fall to see what people actually do try and what actually works.

I'm very hopeful that a cadre of learner-centered, technology-aware teachers in developing. Critical mass is necessary for change to begin and to take root. Iraq is on the edge of widespread technology development and use. When that happens, then the teachers who have already started using technology in their classes will have a real advantage. I hope they'll also be ready to train their colleagues so that all students will be able to benefit.

I'll be very curious to see what the teachers do this week. We're working on going from theory to practice - developing course sites and creating activities and handouts to use online or offline. Now the proverbial rubber will hit the road - and we'll see who zips along and who gets stuck by the roadside. I'm sure there will be quite a few very good courses and exercises created. I'm just hoping that there won't be too many technical barriers in the way!


Friday, August 7, 2009

A blog about blogging

Using blogs as a way for teachers to share their ideas and reflections was an addition to the course this term. Blogging is a relatively common activity these days, and it's easier to create a blog with Blogger than to try to create a web page with Tripod or another free site.

Now that people are getting more familiar with blogging, though, we're starting to see the limitations of this site. It's easy to add graphics, video, and links, but not easy to add files. I'll put together instructions on adding files to the course wiki, right-clicking to copy the link address, then adding that link to the blog. It's more complicated than just uploading a file, but there are limits to what you can ask of a free site. (I've linked to the instructions: This will only work for course participants)

Another information bit that I'll put together - maybe as a Tech Tip - is using Delicious (www.delicious.com) or other bookmarking sites to store bookmarks. People are starting to accumulate bookmarks from the course and elsewhere, so some sort of organizing tool would be useful. I had an earlier Tech Tip about saving files, creating bookmark folders, and the like, but it's very helpful to have bookmarks that you can access from anywhere, not just on one computer.

When you think about it, it's amazing how much is available for free. It's easy to complain about what the free tools don't do, but best to keep in mind what they will do - and for free.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer, projects, and changing focus

Week 5 had a project-based learning theme, with Tom Robb as the guest moderator. WebQuests were the second topic - a specific form of project-based learning. Since this is summer, it's much more difficult to have the "aha" moment where teachers try something and see that it works. We'll have to wait until school starts up again, when I hope I'll hear about the different techniques that participants in the course tried.

In the meantime, there were a number of good project ideas. Only one person actually put together a web quest on Zunal so far, which was a bit disappointing. Again, working in the summer may just make all sorts of adventuring more difficult.

Week 6 is working on learning styles, alternative assessment, and rubrics. These are all things that were in the Shaping course, so they seem pretty familiar. Adding a technology component is what's been more challenging. I'm still working on getting everyone to move from abstract to concrete - not just summarizing theory but describing what they actually will try in their classes. Everyone seems well on board with the idea of pair and small group work - a positive change in practice that may have come with the Shaping course. The concept of appealing to different learning styles also seems clear, though I'm less sure how much of it is actually implemented in classes.

All of these are elements that can lead to a shift from teacher-centered to learner-centered to learner-directed learning. We seem to be moving toward learner-centered in mindset, but we've still got some distance to go to achieve learner-directed learning. This is true not only in what the participants are teaching, but also in this course. I'm starting to see discussions where participants are routinely sharing their ideas about teaching practice with each other and guiding the discussion. I'm delighted to see the sharing in blog posts and on the course wiki, as well. It's not easy to create rubrics and tasks, then hand control over to learners do the work and assess themselves and each other.

Perhaps it's time for a self-assessment activity in the course... something to think about implementing for next week. An interim project report might be good as part of that, too, asking participants to answer a question like, "What would you do with something new that you've learned in this course, something that uses technology resources in a way different from what you've done before?" Needs a bit more thought - and any comments would be welcome.