Sunday, September 28, 2014

RSA3: Resource-based learning

            This week’s module centered around Resource-Based Learning (RBL).  In the resource-based learning model, the teacher and media specialist collaborate to provide a wealth of materials students may use to help research a topic.  Resources can be text, audio, or visual.  “Resources incorporated into planned, authentic tasks afford students opportunities to develop the skills and techniques necessary to become autonomous, self-directed learners and effective users of information” (Campbell, Flageolle, Griffith, & Wojcik, 2002, What is Resource-based Learning? section, para. 4). These tasks are often parts of projects that are then presented.  Over time, resources have developed, due to the availability of new technologies, to include various modalities.  Virtual field trips, Skype sessions with experts, simulation software, and educational games all have added to the pool of resources.  “The goal is to teach students to find, evaluate and use information to tackle the challenges they encounter along the way” (Campbell, et al., 2002, Role of the Teacher in Resource-Based Learning section, para. 1). There are many benefits and challenges to using RBL.  Advantages include high levels of motivation, developing information literacy skills, student freedom in selection of resources, the ability to use computer simulations to carry out tasks otherwise impossible, expanding upon higher level critical thinking skills, and flexibility (Campbell, et al. Benefits of Resource-Based Learning section).  The challenges are found in collaboration skills, valid authentic assessments, the reliability and validity of digital resources, inclusion of all students, and support from the administration (Campbell, et al. Challenges of Resource-Based Learning section).
            In this resource, Esch (2004) explores the concept of RBL in the realm of language acquisition in five areas: defining RBL, a background in RBL, how RBL and ICT relate in language learning today, RBL and approaches to learning, and current issues and RBL.  Esch (2004) defines RBL stating that this method:
Conceptualises learning as a process which foregrounds the importance of the resources available to learners and in so doing presupposes that the interaction between the learner(s) and the resources (which may include human resources) is the main structuring device of the learning situation. (Definition of RBL section, para. 3)
Esch (2004) continues to discuss the background of RBL in terms of cycles of resurgence in this methodology.  With the development of technologies, RBL was used as a way to assist in distance-learning systems (Background section).  RBL is a way of using information and communication technology (ICT) “helps one cope with the sheer amount of information now distributed worldwide on networks and in databases” (Esch, 2004, RBL and ICT section, para. 2). There are two cases in which approaches to learning will affect how RBL is considered: one way is student-centered, where students develop their program and the other way is when teachers disseminate the same resources to multiple students in an aid to face-to-face teaching.  Esch (2004) considers the issues in RBL in regards to learning materials, individualization, learning and feedback, and the role of the teacher.  The danger becomes the designer’s viewpoint of RBL becoming too rigid in selecting learning materials, that individualization can lead to isolation, that feedback is poorly structured, and that the teacher may not shift well in his or her social role in learning (Current issues and RBL section).
            This article complements this week’s module very nicely.  All of the resources corroborate in defining RBL as offering resources for learners to construct their own knowledge about a certain topic or concept.  Despite the resource being about language acquisition, the discussion of the shift of the role of teacher from instructor to guide is aligned with this week’s resources.  Esch (2004) offers a great example of an application of the RBL method in language acquisition saying:
Possibilities offered by the Internet make it possible for learners to watch how language is used, to carry out exercises, to interact with native speakers in a variety of configurations and to participate in simulations as well as to have access to explanations and feed-back. (RBL and approaches to learning section, para. 2)
Similar challenges were presented in the module and this resource.  It is important as educators to guide the students in information processing skills so students will be able to select reliable, appropriate, and relevant resources.  It also then becomes important to think about the feedback that we give students in terms of assessments.  Assessments should refer to the students’ ability to select resources that help them learn, as well as the content knowledge and skills outlined by the curriculum.  Ultimately RBL is a valuable learning methodology that could be applied across a variety of subjects. 

Campbell, L., Flageolle, P., Griffith, S., & Wojcik, C. (2002). Resource-based learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Esch, E. (2004). Resource-based learning. Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies Guide to Good Practice. Retrieved from

Sunday, September 21, 2014

RSA2: Learning how to design a technology supported inquiry-based learning environment

This week in EDT 6030, the module was focused on inquiry-based learning. Inquiry is defined as, “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge -- seeking information by questioning” (Education Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, para. 2). Therefore, inquiry-based learning starts with a question.  Questions can be student or teacher created, depending on the ability of the student or the purpose of the learning.  Teachers focus on the inquiry process, not just the content, especially when content knowledge is always growing and changing.  “No one can ever learn everything, but everyone can better develop their skills and nurture the inquiring attitudes necessary to continue the generation and examination of knowledge throughout their lives” (Education Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, para. 8).  Teachers must prepare the learning environment with many rich resource materials, such as books, access to the Internet, and magazines.  Teachers shift to a role of a facilitator, guiding learning and information-processing skills.  Modeling is important for younger learners (Education Broadcasting Corporation, 2004). Assessment should not just assess a final product.  A rubric is one effective assessment tool for inquiry-based learning.  It could be used to assess students’ information-processing skills as well as conceptual understandings. 
In this article, pre-service science teachers were guided in creating WebQuests to create an inquiry-based learning environment in the field of science.  After identifying learning outcomes for student success, the teachers engaged in the design phase, which “consisted of four stages: topic selection, scenario development, finding resources and design itself.”  Upon completion of the design of these WebQuests, the teachers were then asked a series of open-ended questions regarding motivation, learning, technology and teacher as developer.  Teachers identified positive and negative aspects of this learning approach, including the allure of scenario based environments, the audio-visual aspects, and fun had by students.  However, some teachers were concerned about distractions that would detract from learning.  Teachers noted having learned more about the curriculum and the process of designing a technology to support learning. 
One teacher in the study by Hakverdi-Can and Sönmez (2012) remarked:
 While developing my WebQuest, I needed to do research about the topic. I had to investigate if the content knowledge and objectives that I’m planning to use were appropriate or not. I was involved in the process; therefore, I can say that my own knowledge has increased as well” (p. 345).   
Access was an important aspect of this research.  Students identified that positively students would have access to safe resources, but negatively that there might be limited access in classrooms (Hakverdi-Can and Sönmez, 2012, p. 346).
According to Hakverdi-Can and Sönmez (2012):
Participants identified the following benefits of learning in WebQuest environments:
1. It is flexible enough to allow students to work at their own speed.
2. Its capacity for individualization and fun can promote sustained learning,
3. Through problem-based learning environments, students are motivated to do research and therefore to become active learners.
4. Students can access content knowledge whenever required. (p. 345-346)
Ultimately, the participants in the study said they would use WebQuests in their classroom.
         A WebQuest is a great technology one could use to organize an inquiry-based learning lesson.  It could guide students toward processing the information from various online resources and points of view.  As the Educational Broadcasting Corporation (2004) states, “In good inquiry-learning classrooms, technology is available to help students develop their information-processing and analysis skills” (How can technology be used with inquiry-based learning? section, para. 3).   The WebQuest could be successful at breaking down the process of inquiry.  Each page could outline the steps to take to create questions, locate and analyze research, and to evaluate and summarize the research in order to answer the questions posed.  WebQuests are easy to navigate and thus would not interfere in the investigation.  This technology also aids students in the inquiry process.  Perhaps questions could be posted on each page of the WebQuest to help students pose real questions, find resources, interpret information, and report findings (20 Questions, 2013).  However, it is important to realized the shortcomings of developing a WebQuest.  According to Hakverdi-Can and Sönmez (2012), teachers were discouraged in the length of time and amount of effort involved in designing the WebQuest.  Also, researching and locating age-appropriate resources in an unstable Internet domain may prove to be difficult  (Hakverdi-Can & Sönmez, 2012, p. 346-347).  In conclusion, despite the downfalls of using a WebQuest for inquiry-based learning, it can be a useful technological tool to assist students in their investigations. 

(2013). 20 questions to guide inquiry-based learning. Teacher Thought. Retrieved from
Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Workshop: Inquiry-based learning. Concept to classroom. Ed online. Retrieved from

Hakverdi-Can, M., & Sönmez, D. (2012).  Learning how to design a technology supported inquiry-based learning environment. Science Education International, 23(3), 338-352. Retrieved from

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

RSA #1 - 4 Lessons to Learn from the "Failure" of MOOCs

     In my Education Technology graduate course EDT6030: Using Technology to build Learning Communities at Concordia University, we are investigating Module 2: Case-Based Learning.  One assignment has been a Case-Based Analysis of two online schools.  In my assignment, I research the Utah Virtual Academy (UVA) and Florida Virtual School (FLVS).  Many learning communities have begun to make education available in an online format. Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Germin and Rapp (2013) define fully online schools, such as UVA and FLVS, as schools that “work with students who are enrolled primarily (often only) in the online school. Cyberschools typically are responsible for ensuring their students take state assessments, and are responsible for their students’ scores on those assessments” (p. 9).  Both UTVA and FLVS offer technology-driven curriculum, certified teacher guidance, and social opportunities for students.  The structure of communication among the teachers, other students, and other families was striking.  In homeschooling situations, for example, many students may be isolated. The online schools seem to provide a strong network of families to support the social and emotional growth of students. In both schools, students can work at their own pace, resulting in a highly individualized approach to instruction.  I see this as the most beneficial aspect of online learning.  Students who do not benefit from the brick and mortar traditional school model, such as students who learn differently and at a slower pace and students who excel and learn at a faster pace, can truly benefit from online schools.

     In this online resource, Miller is responding to an NPR story concerning the failure of online education.  However, this failure was mainly pointing towards MOOCs (massive open online courses), which is online one online learning model. Miller's article does address four lessons that can be applied to all online and blended learning.  In the first lesson, Miller discusses how we must not rely on the technology too much.  There is power in the relationship among students, teachers, and classmates.  He states, "online and blended-learning teachers need to continue building relationships with students to truly personalize learning" (MIller, 2014). In the second lesson, Miller discusses how collaboration is important, as education cannot be a solo act.  The tools for collaboration may be available, but students might not use those tools effectively.  Having students pick their groups around a topic they enjoy "will create not only a focused cohort of colleagues, but also a focus on topics and problems" (Miller, 2014).  In the third lesson, Miller states, "If students receive needed and timely formative assessment feedback, learning can be more personalized, and they will be getting the attention they need" (Miller, 2004). Various authentic ongoing assessments needs to be applied to all online learning.  Lastly, Miller suggests that blended learning is best because "when a course is blended, ongoing feedback and assessment can happen more readily, relationships can be strengthened, and collaboration can happen in varying spaces that meet student needs" (Miller, 2014).

     After exploring the assigned resources for this module and researching UVA and FLVS, Miller's advice is quite relevant.  I was concerned that students in virtual schools, especially those at the elementary level, would have their social and emotional needs neglected.  However, both these schools have means for retaining the human element outlined by Miller.  They offered in person social events and teachers are available through Skype, e-mail, phone, etc.  One aspect that I think both UVA and FLVA are missing is the collaborative space for assignments.  Students complete online and offline lessons, activities, and assessments, but these schools don't offer opportunities using Google Drive or other software that could foster these focused collaborations.  The schools do offer ongoing feedback that enables students to work at their own pace.  Certified teachers also act as coaches outlining progress and goals.  Miller suggests that blended learning is best and I would have to agree for the elementary and high school level.  Students at that age, even with the help of parents, probably should not be left to effectively manage their time.  I think online learning should be used as a supplement to face-to-face learning or for students in higher education.  I know I learn best in online classes, especially due to the flexibility in time and location.

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Germin, B., & Rapp, C. (2013). Keeping pace with K-12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice.  Retrieved September 6, 2014, from
Miller, A. (2014, January 30). 4 lessons we can learn from the failure of MOOCs. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SMARTBoard Lesson Review

In my grad class, we started looking at some SMART lesson plans on the SMART Exchange website, which has a bounty of wonderful lessons varying in subject, length, use, and grade level.

I decided to search a topic that I remember viewing in my observation classroom.  It was a lesson on telling time in an inclusive classroom.  So I typed in time and came up with this SMARTBoard Time Lesson submitted by user tleter.

Overall, the presentation is visually attractive and well put together.  What I really liked about this lesson is the ample opportunity for student involvement.  There are lots of practice questions to get students to come up and get involved.  Also, I enjoyed how the teacher instruction part of the lesson is shown in one manner and then the student practice part of the lesson has the students performing the same sort of tasks as they had been taught.  For example, on the teaching pages of the lesson, the instructions are to use the pen to draw in the hands, then later, when they practice, they are asked to do the same.

Some things I would change have to do with the consistency of the slides.  On slide 4, every other time has "o'clock" labeled.  I would keep all the same, or have none at all.  Also, on slides 7 and 10, the instructions on the page say "Type the correct time for each clock."  Unless I am unfamiliar, I do not see how one could easily type in the times.  Lastly, while I feel the interactive activities are good, I feel like there is much more that could be expanded upon.  Perhaps including some other multimedia, like a video  about telling time, would be a great addition to the lesson.

Also, I think many students may have difficulty with digital time compared to analog time, so maybe showing representations of the two forms next to each other could provide extra support.

What do you think of this lesson?  What's really great? What would you change?

Accessibility for All!

In my grad class, we are looking at the General Public License (GPL).  With GPL software, there is such a thing as free!  I am amazed that I haven't realized this before.  My brother was always the technology guru of the family and I would often tell him the woes of having no money, but needing some software.  He would always direct me to CNET Downloads where - unbeknownst to me at the time - I would download free software.  Now I am making the connection!

I think the ability to download, see and edit code, and redistribute the software is a really interesting idea.  It reminds me of Wikipedia in that no one is getting paid or making any profit by writing or sharing knowledge in this online encyclopedia.  Similarly, on Source ForgeFresh Meat, and Open Science Project, people are coming together to collaborate on software or in the case of the latter, science projects, to create better products.  

So I looked into Source Forge for some software that I would like for free.  I was thinking about my love of music.  In one class in undergrad, I had to compose a short piece of music.  While I was using staff paper and pencil, I wanted to be able to create the music in a software program.  I used the likes of Sibelius and Finale, but these were expensive, and the free trial versions were very limited.  Sure enough, I type in music in the search bar and I come across MuseScore.  This sheet music generator has all the aspects of Finale that I enjoy, but it's free!  It plays the music, I can create notes, rests, ties, etc.  I can save, print, export, import - it's amazing!

As far as educational uses - I can think of a few.  I definitely would like to incorporate music into my teaching when I finally get into a classroom.  One way I could do this is by creating or downloading songs to sing or play on the piano.  Using this free resource - it would be a cinch!  Perhaps if I run an after school chorus or even if I want to incorporate mini music lessons into my classroom teaching, this would be a great tool to use!

What do you think of the GPL and sites like Open Source?  What cool software have you found and downloaded for free?  How could you use GPL software in the classroom?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The ABCs of PLEs - LMNOP?

Hello cyberworld!

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for my absence.  But I am back now and ready to rock and roll!

So to catch up, I would first like to discuss my reaction to a very interesting read on the PLE (Personal Learning Environment) from Mohamed Amines' PLE list.  The article I read is entitled "Envisioning the Post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network" by Jonathan Mott.

My initial reaction to learning about Personal Learning Environments was what is with all of the abbreviations?  Just in skimming the passage I came across LMSs, CMSs, PLEs, PLNs and OLNs.  I guess it is constantly easier to talk about each one with the abbreviation, but I got confused, so perhaps you did to.  Here's a quick cheat sheet:

  • LMS - Learning Management System
  • CMS - Content/Curriculum Management System
  • PLE - Personal Learning Environment
  • PLN - Personal Learning Network
  • OLN - Open Learning Network
Ok, we've now got that all cleared up.  I realized in my research of PLEs that there was a great deal of discussion, debate, and compromise amongst these terms.  I realized throughout my reading of this article I had some experience with LMSs - Echalk (High School) and Blackboard (College and now Grad School).  I often thought about my experiences with these LMSs as I read.  

The author points out three limitations of LMSs:
  • "First, LMSs are generally organized around discrete, arbitrary units of time — academic semesters. Courses typically expire and simply vanish every 15 weeks or so, thereby disrupting the continuity and flow of the learning process.
  • Second, LMSs are teacher-centric. Teachers create courses, upload content, initiate threaded discussions, and form groups. Opportunities for student-initiated learning activities in the traditional LMS are severely limited.
  • Finally, courses developed and delivered via the LMS are walled gardens, limited to those officially enrolled in them. This limitation impairs content sharing across courses, conversations between students within and across degree programs, and all of the dynamic learning affordances of the read-write web."
The first point I was not made aware of until I read it! It was so true.  I can't even tell you how many times I've wanted to revisit an old class' notes or submissions after it had been erased.

The second point makes sense, and the third does as well - again, points I was not made aware of until reading this article.

So then the article talks about PLEs/PLNs.  Immediately I thought of the George Siemen's theory of Connectivism and realized how well PLEs align with the theory.  As the author stated in this article:
"Value accrues to the system as a whole because the more users or ‘nodes’ there are in a network, the more possible connections there are.”

So the benefits and weaknesses of LMSs and PLEs are wide not really complementary, but using the strengths of both, we can create an OLN. The author suggests that by taking both of these models and attempting to integrate them will result in this OLN.

I realized that the Grad course for which I am maintaining this blog (besides my own pleasure of writing blogs) is attempting to do just that, meld the two worlds of LMSs and PLNs to create an OLN.  Something that is:
  • "Secure and open 
  •  Integrated and Modular 
  •  Private and Public 
  •  Reliable and Flexible"

Or as the author put so eloquently in this article:

“However, a one-or-the-other choice between the two is a false choice between knowledge-dissemination technologies and community-building tools. We can have both.”

I know it is difficult to maintain an OLN, but if we keep trying, I know it will be excellent!

What is your experience with LMSs, CMSs, PLNs, PLEs, and/or OLNs? I would love to hear your thoughts!