A Framework for Effective Technology Use in Online Teaching

Since my retirement from the California State University system, I have enjoyed teaching online at several universities. My field is literacy and I am a teacher educator, but I have always been interested in the intersection of literacy and technology. Thus my students, usually practicing teachers who are returning to the university for advanced degrees and meaningful professional development are usually eager to learn about new “tools of the trade,” especially for use their K-12 classrooms.

All of us know that today’s K-12 students tend to be intensive media users who use the Internet for many social purposes. Students use media and the Internet to respond to literature, create compositions and fanfiction, and to connect with others in interest-driven communities, both outside of school and in classrooms (Grisham & Wolsey, 2006; Wolsey & Grisham, 2012). But what are we doing to prepare teachers to address the learning needs of today’s tech-savvy students? In the context of the classroom, teachers choose the content. We know what we want to teach and what we want our students to learn. Can we (should we) try new technological tools to reach and teach our tech-savvy students? When looking for new technological tools, I look for ease of use, application to curriculum and instruction, and positive impact on affect and learning of mystudents. This is what we (Grisham & Smetana, 2011) call “generative technology.”

In the online teaching environment it is relatively easy to answer that, as teachers (and teacher educators) must learn to use some new tools in order to participate in online coursework. But I would argue that we need to be both savvy and strategic about the tools we require them to learn. It is not new, but I like to use the TPACK model in my planning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) as shown in the figure below.

The TPACK framework or model suggests that three elements must be considered in planning instruction:  content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. Where the three intersect may be referred to as the “sweet spot” of TPACK and where we should direct our attention when we plan instruction.

I’d like to give an example of this from my own work. I have taught research methods for many years, originally in the brick and mortar environment of Washington State University, where teacher candidates did action research for their certification and MA degrees. I taught it for almost a decade at SDSU, and recently I have been teaching it online for two other universities.

Content Knowledge:  Teachers need to know about research paradigms and how action research fits into their practice. They need to know how to frame a research question, how to do a literature review, collect and analyze data and how to present and discuss their findings.

Pedagogical Knowledge:  As the instructor, I need to engage these teachers in both learning and applying their new knowledge. The key is engagement.  I can lecture, using a PowerPoint presentation (and I do some of that), but I want them to think and interact with others over the content.

Technological Knowledge: I want to find a tool that is relatively simple to learn and use that will provide my teachers with something “new” and useful to them beyond their own immediate learning (hopefully, something they will use for their K-12 students).

In my research classes, then, I have used another fairly well-known tool called Voicethread to provide an opportunity for my teachers to think and respond to what they have read about action research and use a visual to prompt their reflections.

I created a 4-page Voicethread and provided audio directions for responding to each page. Then I suggested my students should respond to the prompt via audio, which they did. The following screen capture shows the initial page of the Voicethread and if you follow the link below, you can view the page itself.

http://voicethread.com/share/2802061/

Students responded thoughtfully and appeared to enjoy the process from the feedback I received. Several of them also talked about using Voicethread in their classrooms (the Voicethreads can be kept private) with their K-12 students. Their action research projects also seemed to reflect a deeper understanding of the purposes of action research and evidence-based instruction.

In the same classes, I asked students to prepare Glogs and Prezis to summarize their research reports and have been really pleased with the results. I’m grateful that I have the TPACK model to remind me that technological tools have to be used meaningfully.

In a prior blog posting I made the following recommendations for distributing technology throughout teacher preparation and professional development programs, but I think they bear repeating here:

Whether or not you are teaching online, I would suggest the following guidelines for teacher preparation (and teacher professional development):

1)   Work collaboratively within the university to distribute technological use across the teacher preparation programs instead of relying on stand-alone  “Ed Tech” courses.

2)   Seek workshops on technology use for themselves and to learn at least one new tool each academic year to apply to their own teaching.

3)   Where possible, seek student teaching placements for teacher candidates in classrooms and schools where technology is being used productively.

References

Grisham, D.L. & Smetana, L. (2011) Generative technology for teacher educators. Journal of Reading Education, 36, 3, 12-18.

Grisham, D. L. & Wolsey, T.D. (2006). Recentering the middle school classroom as a vibrant learning community: Students, literacy, and technology intersect. Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy, 49, (8), 648-660.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge . Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Wolsey, T. D. & Grisham, D.L. (2012). Transforming writing instruction in the Digital age: Techniques for Grades 5-12. New York: Guilford.

 

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Multimodal Supervision of Literacy Lessons

Since my retirement from the California State University in 2010, I have become a self-styled “Internet Freeway Flier.”  A freeway flier is what we used to call instructors who were employed part-time by several community colleges or universities. Those intrepid individuals “flew” over the freeways of Southern California from one assigned class to another.  I like teaching online—although I also like teaching in the brick and mortar university—so in the past two years, I have been asked to teach online classes at five different universities in five very different programs. Each assignment has allowed me to investigate the intersections (pardon the pun) of literacy and technology.

Most recently I was asked to teach an online supervision course in the Reading Language Arts Authorization (RLAA) program at Fresno State University. The RLAA is a graduate level literacy program designed primarily for experienced teachers as part of a larger Master of Arts in Teaching program. Usually, teachers come to a brick and mortar clinic where children also come to be tutored. The teachers are supervised by university faculty to make sure that they learn how to assess the students, how to address students’ identified strengths and needs through tutoring, and how to evaluate the outcomes of instruction in order to plan their next instructional steps. This recursive process requires feedback from the supervisor to the teachers. I have taught in such brick and mortar clinics before.

In this case, Dr. Glenn DeVoogd, Chair of the Literacy and Early Education (LEE) program at Fresno State asked me to do an experimental class, which he and I will be writing about at length in other venues. But for this blog, I’d like to immediately share how this course was structured, how teachers responded to it, and what they say they learned from the process.

Teachers were enrolled at Fresno State in a course, LEE230, which used to be taught on campus.  This class was taught in a 5-week time frame, so the pace was intense, and the teachers and I never met face-to-face. Teachers were required to spend 20 hours of tutoring a small group of students. Instead of coming to a clinic, teachers could select the small group from their own classrooms, from that of another teacher, or volunteer in a classroom if they were not currently teaching. All of these scenarios played out during the course.

Teachers turned in weekly lesson plans twice; on the Sunday before the school week and Friday or Saturday, after the school week, they re-submitted the same lesson plans with detailed reflections on their teaching. We met twice on Elluminate for class sessions to talk about readings. Students participated in discussion boards on pertinent topics and did a WebQuest (https://literacybeat.com/category/webquest/) on the CCSS.

But the centerpiece of the clinical course was the use of a smart phone application, known as Qik (http://www.qik.com) which teachers used to record 5-10 minutes of a lesson three times over the five-week course.

About Qik

Virtually every smart phone is supported by Qik and there is a published list of those on the Qik website. You can pay for Qik, but the free application allows you to store 25 videos, more than enough for our purposes. You can also use Qik on your iPad.

Teachers could point the phone and press record and make a video immediately. The videos are directly uploaded and  stored on the teacher’s Qik site, which is totally private, and teachers can invite others to view their videos in several ways—for example, videos could be shared via Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter. For this class, teachers extended an email invitation to me so that I could view their work.

Prior to the start of class, I sent a Qik introduction of the course to all the teachers enrolled before class began.

To view my introduction to the course, go to: http://qik.com/video/50810210

Students found it easy to make the videotapes, but capturing the lessons was more difficult unless they had someone to help them. For example, one teacher propped her smart phone on the table, but the student got enthusiastic, knocking against the table and the phone fell over. After two times, the teacher asked the student to be careful. Another teacher held the phone herself and only videotaped her students.

Other teachers asked students to hold the camera on the action and the example you will see enlisted the help of a fellow teacher.

Once students learned how to share the videos by email invitation (see the double arrow at the top of the figure below), I could access them and provide a response.

Responses

 Interestingly, the responses I provided were much appreciated by the teachers, who loved the personal nature of audio (MP3) files. Previously, in this blog I have shared teacher candidate podcasts (https://literacybeat.com/2011/04/15/podcasting-to-teach-content-literacy) and in another project special needs students made audio retellings of a folktale in a PowerPoint presentation (Castek, Dalton, & Grisham, 2012), so I had some experience with making MP3 files.

But none of us likes what we look like on video or sound like on audio. I am no exception! So I gathered up my courage and decided to give audio responses to teachers’ lesson videos.

Being a Mac user to the core, I employed Garage Band to record my responses. First, I watched the teachers’ videos and made notes. I compared what I had seen in the video to the written lessons the teachers had posted in advance to Blackboard. Then, I recorded the responses, which varied from about 90 seconds to almost 4 minutes over the three videos submitted by all 13 of the teachers for a total of 49 responses overall.

Once the recording was made in Garage Band, I “shared” it with iTunes, converting to the MP3 file format. Then I downloaded the MP3 files and attached each one to an email to the teacher.

Based on questionnaires administered after the course, everyone LOVED the responses.  They felt a connection. I believe that teachers need validation for the work they do. Teachers can also accept criticism, as long as it is couched in positive terms. Writing can be very impersonal, but the voice can convey support.

In response to the question about the MP3 responses, here are what two teachers wrote:

“Again, something new to me in this class, but incredibly useful. The audio feedback was terrific. It made me feel like I was in an in-person class. Very personal. I think every online class should have this.”

“I enjoyed being able to gain almost immediate feedback from the videotaped lessons. It was nice to know that someone with experience could see areas of concern and help me shape my teaching more effectively.”

An Example of the Lesson and the Response

Written permissions were obtained for students to be videotaped and the teacher whose videos you see here granted permission for me to share her video.  The second file is the audio response to this lesson.

https://qik.com/video/51301456

LopezV3PedalPostReadResp

Concluding Thoughts

The growing number of online and/or hybrid classes is remarkable. Technology changes were referred to as “deictic” by Don Leu back in 2000 and deictic means a veritable onslaught of transformations that are irresistible and ever-evolving.  Combined with an economic downturn and increasingly diminished higher education budgets, administrators may increasingly turn to the more economic option of online classes. It is popular right now to regard online classes as somehow “less” than brick and mortar classes, and in some cases this may be true.

But online classes offer access to many graduate students who cannot attend a brick and mortar university. In another course that I teach at a different university, a middle school teacher from Happy Camp, California (way up in rural Klamath County), was able to improve his practice by learning in an Innovative Masters Degree program that afforded him new ideas, new strategies, new collaborations with colleagues, and new ways to serve his mostly Native American population of students.

In addition, we have new technologies (such as Blackboard, Elluminate, smart phones, and applications of all kinds) that permit us to make the online courses more personal and more relevant to the students we teach. We can give of ourselves as teachers and mentors through these new technologies. Our students can benefit from what we do online, as shown by the reactions of teachers to the LEE230 class.

I am greatly interested in what others think about online learning and hope you will read this blog and share your own experiences!

Secondary Teacher Candidates’ ePosters

As you know, I have embraced the possibilities of Web 2.0 technologies even though I am what is known as a “digital dinosaur” according to my age (*). I used to make fun of my advancing years by joking with students that I was in the classroom when “dinosaurs roamed the earth.”  My students, most of them, anyway, are in their 20s and 30s. They sort of laugh nervously when I make this joke. I’m beginning to believe they might actually visualize me roaming the plains with velociraptors, so I’ve quit making this joke. This decision was further cemented when I saw the following YouTube segment.

In Literacy Beat, we have talked before about how teaching content literacy to secondary teacher candidates is a challenge for literacy researchers and educators, as students come from all disciplines to take this one required literacy methods course. This summer I taught two sections of this class for the California State University, and, as usual, I wanted to try something new with—and for—my students. In prior years, I asked students to make audio podcasts (see https://literacybeat.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/podcasting-to-teach-content-literacy/ ).

As I am also insatiably curious, I like to study my own teaching—after all, I need to walk the talk, too—so I’ve done a little research on what this summer’s secondary teacher candidates felt about technology and teaching. I’m also curious about what technologies they learn from their teacher preparation program, other than in their stand-alone educational technology course. For now, let me share with you some of the ePosters they created.

This summer almost 50 secondary teacher candidates in my classes wrote a lesson plan using a literacy strategy relevant to their content, but they also made an e-Poster (they could choose either a Glog or a Prezi) that supplemented, extended, or became a part of their lesson plan.  First, I made a Glog and a Prezi to show students. I figured if I can do it, anyone can. The Glog was pretty easy, but the Prezi took a little longer. I showed both to the students and gave them their choice of which to use. Prezi on Martina (http://prezi.com/qf7guf6milsq/martina/ and Glog on the WORD conference 2011 (http://dgrisham.glogster.com/site2011/)

Every single student was able to do the ePoster, mostly without complaint! Then came the good part! They posted their lesson plans and e-Posters to Blackboard and responded to each other’s work.  As usual, I am impressed by the people who choose to go into teaching! No, they didn’t all like the assignment, but many did and they were also able to recognize the possibilities for their grades 6-12 students to use media creatively!

I’d like to share their work with other teachers and they’ve all given me permission to do so.

Best of the Prezis and Glogs by content area:

Prezis were in the minority as many students found the Glogster site easier to use (13 total of 47 ePosters). The Glogs are much easier to do, but sometimes harder to access through linking. Here are several that you might find interesting.

Mathematics:

Allen Amusin

http://prezi.com/rrdqm30vjifb/modeling-list-group-label-with-triangle-unit/

Katyana Sacro

http://prezi.com/vpdkmmaacmy2/euclidean-geometry/

English:

Ronny Smith

http://prezi.com/gimqtlp1pfs9/growing-up-is-hard-to-do/

Angelica Vila

http://msvila.glogster.com/the-lottery/

Science:

Joshua Stroup

 http://prezi.com/2nqto0ogc2hh/bay-area-faults/?auth_key=9fce2fc2fb8d9ae4b8da972f32e7c987dae233a3

Chuck Faber

http://prezi.com/8j-c23-v51di/natural-selection/?auth_key=055d05a0721903140769080893141a180838b574

Eric Kemper

http://spudow.glogster.com/ct-lesson-plan-biology/

Social Studies:

Rich Seeber

http://prezi.com/3w-sbpdfwf3t/writing-a-persuasive-letter/

Art: 

Lauren Shahroody

http://msshahroody.glogster.com/its-just-pigment-of-your-imagination/

Physical Education:

Brandon Allen

http://allenbr3.glogster.com/ted-5320/

Thoughts on ePosters

Many students commented on the relevance of using technology in their content areas. They analyzed each other’s work and a number of them praised their colleagues for the ePosters they had done.  Here is a brief example:

“The video you attached to your glog, alongside the differentiation between the first and third person narrative, is truly an efficient way of supplementing classroom learning in regards to this specific lesson plan. I will be sure to look further into this “Zoom” book you have mentioned and utilized so effortlessly in an academic manner. In regards to using this book in correspondence with the California English/Language Arts Standards, “Zoom” seems to be extremely intriguing, very useful, and incredibly original. Great lesson plan!”

However, some students did not see the relevance very clearly. I’d like to leave you with an honest comment that I found both poignant and hopeful. Poignant because it still appears very teacher centered. No matter how often or intensely we discussed the necessity of focusing on their students’ learning more than on themselves as teachers, it was difficult for some students to “decenter themselves.” Perhaps it is because they lack experience, but I fear it is because some teacher candidates did not get the basic message that teaching (no matter how skilled) does not equal learning. The hopeful part of this message is that the student is still thinking about the topic.

“But my point is that I am not sure if you can really use much technology in your classroom. Maybe you could use it more by having kids look at stuff online when they are home. So using a prezi or glog might still work, but more as a study aid or a way to present things for the students to look over outside of class. I think this lack of a need for technology might be a good thing. I think many teachers use it as a way to trick students into being interested in boring lessons, except technology for students isn’t some fascinating new thing, they use it everyday, so to really interest students the lesson itself needs to be interesting. This is more of something for me to think about – only using technology when it is legitimately useful and adds to the lesson, not just using it because it is there.”

(*) He who shall not be named! First, I’m a digital immigrant, which is bad enough; now I’m a digital dinosaur. You all know who I’m talking about.

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