Saturday, November 22, 2014

Digital Portfolios

There are many benefits to using eportfolios in online learning environments.  Take a look at the amazing opportunities eportfolios provide for students:

- Provides a great self-assessment through the reflection process
 -Builds confidence: their self-esteem and self-confidence will grow as they take control of their      learning
- They develop their own goals for their learning
- They will have a record of personal learning and documentation
- The use of technology enables the use of many types of media such as video, sound, etc.
- They can be carried throughout the students learning journey and used to record, assess, evaluate, and reflect at any time

There can also be some challenges of using eportfolios in online learning environments.  Take a look below at some of the challenges in using eportfolios:

-When beginning an e-portfolio it can be very time consuming
- It can be hard to find the right system or approach
-Technical problems/support
-Students may not have the technology skills needed to select, collect and reflect on material

I personally feel that eportfolios are incredibly beneficial to students.  In my first grade classroom my students have their own data notebooks.  However, after learning and researching about eportfolios I am strongly convinced they are the way to go!  I am fortunate enough to have a 1:1 ipad classroom so the students have all the technology they need!  I’m sure it will take a little while to teach the students how to manage their eportfolios but I feel the benefits far outweigh the challenges eportfolios present.  To begin the eportfolio process I am going to have the students document their current reading level by recording themselves reading their leveled reader.  They will explain what they are reading, the level of the book, and skills we have been focusing on in the classroom.  They will use screencastOmatic for this or the video function on the iPad.    Students will also document their pre and posttest math scores in their eportfolios as well as their progress on their sight words.  The students will need constant feedback on their eportfolios so not only will I provide this feedback but I will also have students review each other’s portfolios to provide detailed feedback.

Below I have listed a few of the tools that are helpful in creating eportfolios! 




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Online Environments : Interaction and Community-Building

Research on Interaction and Community-Building

Many articles have been written pertaining to online environments and the importance of interaction and community-building within these environments.  I have had the opportunity to review two articles pertaining to this topic which include Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article, Online High School World History:  Does Interaction Make a Difference? and Shakelford and Maxwell’s article, Contribution of Learner-Instructor Interaction to Sense of Community in Graduate Online Education.  In reading these articles I have come to the conclusion that it is evident that interaction does play an important role in learning in an online environment.  In Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article many researchers were quoted in making comments that students seek to develop interpersonal relationships and that building a learning community with their peers is important. In Shakelfod and Maxwell’s article it speaks more from a standpoint of the online instructor and the great importance of students having a multiple ways of communicating with the instructor and peers.   However, although having a great deal of interaction and community building strategies for students positively  influences their perceptions of online learning, the research I have read in the above articles states that it appeared to have little impact on performance.  In my opinion, I feel it does have a large impact on student performance-how can that be truly measured?

My Experience in Online Learning
I am going to be completely honest -I have had some really great experiences in interaction in online learning environments and some that have just been horrible!  My most recent experiences have been fantastic.  I have constant interaction with my peers, I am able to communicate with them daily and feel like I have a sense of community within my class.  To be honest I think this all has to do with the professor and how they structure the class and lead by example.  In my current online course we are using the Canvas site which has been amazing.  My teacher gives constant feedback, we have multiple opportunities for interaction and we even have “live” class meetings. 
On the other hand, in the past I had a pretty negative experience with an online class.  Part of the problem was that the course was very disorganized and half of the time when we tried to meet online the program would not work.  There was little opportunity for peer discussion and interaction and I felt very frustrated with the course. 
Sometimes it’s good to have the positive and negative experiences in order to appreciate what good online teaching, learning, and interaction looks like!

My Future Plans
As so many of us do, we use our past to help shape who we are and how we will live our lives in the future.  My previous experiences with online learning environments will help me greatly in building interactively into the design of future courses.  I plan on creating very open and inviting courses in which students feel they are valued and are within a learning community.  I will ensure that I am organizing my courses in a way which are user friendly and I will constantly and consistently work on fostering peer relationships!

Check out this link for a great youtube video on building positive online environments!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Learning Objects and Authoring Tools- Why Use Them?

Learning Objects and Authoring Tools- Why Use Them?

Learning objects and authoring tools are extremely important and beneficial for teachers to use in their classrooms.  The learning objects are created by using authoring tools.  By using authoring tools teachers can open up a whole new world of learning for their students.  Interactive learning objects are pertinent for blended learning classroom environments and online teaching environments.  Let’s review some ways in which learners can benefit from interactive learning objects.

Easy and Fun to Use
Learning objects are easy and fun to use.  Students and even adults love the interactive and eye catching learning environment that learning objects present.  Learning objects are different from the everyday lesson administration.  For example, check out a learning object that could be created by Prezi, an authoring tool. 

Promotes Higher Level Thinking
Many times learning objects contain interactive information which is built in multiple layers.  These layers build upon one another and can be compared, contrasted and enhanced.  For example I had created a Thinglink (which is another authoring tool) which pertained to fairy tales.  This Thinglink started off with the students just creating their own fairy tale story in Microsoft word.  However, it continued to build and one step after another promoted the students higher level thinking skills.  The students not only created their story but then were comparing their stories to fairy tales in other countries and they would eventually Skype with a class from another country as well!
Check out the thinglink I referenced here!

Customized Learning
By creating learning objects teachers can easily differentiate their teaching for every child in their classroom.  The learning objects can be customized to the learning styles of each child and can be applied to the specific objectives each child needs to master.  Take a look at these specific examples of learning objects-  they are amazing!

As you have read, you can see how important learning objects are to educators.  They are easy and fun to use, they promote higher level thinking and help teachers to customize their students learning!