Monday, October 24, 2011

Gold Nuggets from Pro-d Day: Think Big and Start Small

I attended an inspiring and energetic presentation today in my school district titled "Show What You Know" The focus of the presentation was on how to provide students opportunities to both learn new information and  show their knowledge in ways in addition to traditional reading and writing and how to properly assess these opportunities.  In other words, it was a great reminder of what good teaching practice looks like.

Here are some of the big ideas that were discussed:

1. Think big and start small.
I'm an idea person and I have no shortage of things I want to accomplish in my role as a DL teacher. One slide "Think big and start small", resonated with me. I need to list and outline my projects, prioritize and then take one action, however small, towards reaching my goals.

2. Create communities.
Students need to feel a part of a community to feel comfortable to take risks, to be part of something that would be less without them. Despite my students being primarily online, creating a sense of community is vital yet obviously a challenge for a number of reasons.

3. Get students out of their comfort zone but not into a fear zone.
Too often in the distributed learning world, we start with trying to give the students what they want, but not necessarily what they need. In a DL course student can be in the fear zone because of the computer technology itself. Good design should take away that fear and make way for learning to occur.

4. Bring attention to learning outcomes and assess based on those outcomes.
This is an example of good practice that can be overlooked. In an online course, Ministry standards dictate that the learning outcomes be visible. Many of the older courses can have up to fifteen objectives for one lesson! This is overkill for the students for sure. In addition the criteria for assessment is often based not on the learning objectives but vague things like effort and creativity. I like the example given "The poster title" where a student can work for hours on a beautiful poster but not actually include the necessary content and therefore not earn a good mark. A good point was made that a different rubric does not have to be made for every choice in a project assignment if the assessment reflects the required content. In an age of limitless online free tools, I think we need to be careful that we are still assessing what we want our students to know.

5. Choice that doesn't overwhelm.

While the learning outcomes should be the same, the way a student can show their learning can be in different ways. Singing, drawing on windows, filming, modelling and movement are all choices. I have incorporated some assignments in my online course where there is more choice. Ironically, I have seen where too many choices can be overwhelming. Especially for students working online and mostly independantly, I need to provide exemplars, and clear criteria for these choices.

So thank you to Judith, Erica, Anita, Jeff and Naryn for providing focus to my ongoing goal of providing quality online learning as a choice for students in our district.

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