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Kimberly D. Hogg Posts

Teaching: Iteration and Innovation

Iteration is at the core of teaching. Try, fail, rethink, revisit, reevaluate, retry: this is the heart of teaching the same courses year after year. It’s constantly necessary to innovate. The thing that worked this year isn’t going to work forever; the students I have today are not the students I will have next semester, regardless of how similar they may seem on the surface. The product development cycle is akin to how curriculum, classes and teaching develops over time.

While I reject the notion of the digital native, the reality is that our students need to be able to use and understand the technologies they are immersed in. Many of my students (and those of the teachers I talk to) don’t know half of what I do about using technology. Their smart phones are merely an entertainment device with a texting tool and a calling system attached. It is my duty as a teacher to make them think about these tools in a new way.

To do this, I need to move my curriculum in a new direction. Sure, I teach students how to write better paragraphs and speak with greater fluency. Any driven student can do this on their own, and any unmotivated student can hire a taskmaster to drive them through the process. This is not my role.

My role is to have my students think and consider themselves and their world in a new way. Yes, I’ll help you improve your grammar and pronunciation, but what I truly want is to empower you to use your tools to create change in your own corner of the world. Through learning how to use their tools, make connections between their experiences, and view things in a new way, I help them start to develop into game-changers. English and technology are just two tools on the path to change.

Knowledge Management, the EPSS and Badges

I had to make a podcast for class, and I chose to talk about badges to drive development and participation in an EPSS for Knowledge Management.

Here’s the podcast:

The podcast is the fourth in an imaginary series dealing with Knowledge Management for Education environments, the EPSS, tools with which to do it, and so on.

Here’s a link to the accompanying website, and I decided to make a Twitter account as well just for kicks.

Update: [March 29, 2014] My opinion on gamification has certainly evolved. While gamification provides some great external motivation, mere use of badges, leaderboards and points has its drawbacks. Next week I’m releasing my literature review on gamification and academic performance. Stay tuned!

Moodle, PoodLL, and EFL students

Summary: The PoodLL plugin for Moodle offers EFL and ESL teachers the opportunity to  do 1-on-1 assessment of learners, provide timely and specific feedback, and to supply students with personalized listening files for pronunciation practice. Learners need access to a computer with video and audio recording capabilities, which is standard in most laptops and smartphones produced in since 2009. Learners can record live to the Moodle website via the PoodLL plugin, or can upload a file to the server. File size should be considered when determining the length of the assigned video.

Article:

I’m experimenting with a new Moodle plugin with my EFL students (university freshmen). As my classes have about 25 students each, I find it hard to get around to each student in a timely manner to assess their speaking on specific metrics. The PoodLL plugin allows me to give formative feedback to my students in a timely manner and with individual attention. The plugin requires the students to use a computer with a video camera and microphone, which the PoodLL plugin can access directly (a smart phone, which all of my students have, works well here). Otherwise, teachers can make the option for uploading of files available. Be careful about the length of the assigned video and the maximum upload capabilities of your Moodle server. Keeping my videos short prevents any file size issues I may otherwise encounter.

Each assignment is a cloze assignment for the unit, designed to exercise specific grammar and vocabulary within a real-world context. I set a speaking target of 1 minute for the activity, but anything within 30 seconds of this target receives full marks. There is also another line in my rubric for the associated grammar in the task. I use the feedback boxes for detailed criticism, and the general feedback box for anything outside of the assessed material. I also have the PoodLL feedback (audio MP3 with download option) available to me to give specific feedback and examples where pronunciation needs attention.

Because I keep the assignment short (which is real; few of us orate for minutes at a time in a conversational setting), it’s achievable for students, and I can mark them all within an hour. As they are videos of the students, if I get interrupted I’m easily able to get back on track without keeping a live student waiting. I also can go back and review sections where I can’t understand the student to give pointed feedback on problem areas. Students can also review these sections to see where communication breakdown occurred.

Here’s an example using the second assignment:

From WorldView 1, Unit 16: In the Cafe

Grammar focus: modals for ordering (would like, will have, can I…?)

Vocabulary: Foods, quantities, money amounts

You are calling a catering company (Lunch Munchies, page 75) to order food and drinks for a party. Start your video AFTER the caterer answers the phone.

Caterer: Hello? This is Lunch Munchies. How may I help you?

(Start your video here):

You: Hello. This is (NAME). (Why you are calling). (What you want to order). (Party Date and Place). (Your Phone Number).

Target Time: 1 minute.

My sample video:

PoodLL Sample Video

The Rubric:

The minimum possible score for this rubric is 0 points and it will be converted to the minimum grade available in this module (which is zero unless the scale is used). The maximum score 4 points will be converted to the maximum grade.
Intermediate scores will be converted respectively and rounded to the nearest available grade.
If a scale is used instead of a grade, the score will be converted to the scale elements as if they were consecutive integers.
Completion
Between 0:30 and 1:30
2points
Too Short/Too Long
1points
No Journal
0points
Unit Language
Used Correctly
2points
Used (with errors)
1points
Not Used
0points

 

In addition to the rubric, it is possible to associate specific outcomes with these assignments, allowing teacher and student to track progress with regard to specific standards, not just an assignment grade. I like having this option as it helps me better assess exactly where weaknesses are occurring and to what degree.

When the students log in and check their assignments, they will see something like this:

screenshot

The student gets specific feedback about each part of the rubric if available, and also gets feedback about their pronunciation, as this presented a problem for this particular student. I recorded an audio file for them to compare against their own video and speech patterns. They can even download the file as an MP3 for their own practice.

So far I’m really enjoying using this plugin with my students, and I’ll be doing a mid-term assessment in a few weeks to see how they are responding to the assignment.

Perch and distance ed?

I’m listening to the CBC Spark podcast (Episode 225) where they introduce Perch, an always-on portal to help bridge the physical space for remote workers.

I have questions about how this might work for families with members living away, and even more how they might help students avoid feeling the “distance” in distance education. I wonder if this would allow students to have a workspace where they could set up such a system and be online to meet with other students for more of the discussion and unplanned conversation that happens in regular programs. The idea of a portal where you could see who was around and could instantly “drop in for a chat” opens the potential for synchronous conversations that are not place-dependent. I think there are a lot of advantages here over Skype, in which there are several barriers to success. With Perch and it’s set-it-and-forget-it approach, there are interesting options for ad hoc group formation that I find intriguing.

I also envision this “portal” as an opportunity to hold distance office hours for students. It’s not always possible for my students to get in to meet me at my designated office hours, but if they were able to hop on to a virtual chat and get help, or see I’m around at other times on the portal, I could potentially increase access for my students. It’s currently only available on iOS, but they’re looking for an Android developer, so that’s obviously not too far down the road (which is essential for me here in Korea, where Samsung dominates).

Here’s the promo video from Perch:

Good project outcome

I had a student tell me today our final project changed the direction of her life. Although she is an English major, she has decided to use her English skills as an instructional vehicle to teach Korean, her native tongue. These are the moments you live for as a teacher- learning that something you designed had a profound impact on the life of a student. I’ll be sure to put the project together in the existing and a revised form to share.

PBL for EFL in Korea

I’m working at the moment to transfer my classes to a problem-based learning environment in keeping with both the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s goals for Korean education, and my own personal teaching philosophy. I’ll be making some notes in this post as I go, processing through some ideas for how students can integrate specific skills into activities that will lead to a goal. I’m expecting to use some kind of gamification for this activity, as students don’t have real-world solutions they need to solve in English (at present), which makes the applicability of the language from class very, well, foreign.

If you’re interested in this project, contributing to and helping develop it, I would love the company. Right now I’m in over my head and I want to do more than tread water. Even so, I have to work at this for my own peace of mind.

Resources that might help:

Skills:

  • meeting new people
  • describing people
  • describing places
  • describing things and their relative locations
  • giving personal information

this post is a work in progress.

Is Competency-Based Accreditation the Death of the Credit?

I can only hope so. But don’t take it from me.

At the end of 2012, Carnegie Foundation announced it was looking into a new paradigm for the marking of student progress, away from the Carnegie Unit (more commonly known as the credit hour) towards a system based on competency (source). The Carnegie Foundation describes the Carnegie Unit as something that “was not intended to measure, inform or improve the quality of teaching or learning.

TechCrunch writer Gregory Ferenstein writes in mid-April of this year that this shift may already be happening [ahead of whatever decisions the Carnegie Foundation reaches] opining the days of the credit-hour degree “are numbered” (source). Mozilla is helping push this forward with its Backpack and OpenBadges projects. These allow for institutions or individuals to award digital versions of the merit badge to users based on specified competencies and performance criteria stored in the metadata of the badge itself. The Backpack associates a user with the badge which can then be displayed on other sites, creating a virtual badge sash on which to display accomplishments and skills an employer or client may find of value.

The idea excites me, and I don’t fear that this is the death knell of the university or the public school. What I hope it does accomplish, however, is a revamping of education that is so desperately needed. Thinking of my own experience, I was not permitted to take time off after high school before going into university. As a result, I feel I could have made better choices about my program and where I invested my money. That isn’t to say I didn’t get value for my investment-I did-but I may have chosen a different career path with a little more time to reflect and consider where I wanted to go in life.

As a teacher, I’m excited for the possibilities this presents. I’m a proponent of standards-based grading and ongoing formative assessment for learners. I think too much stake is put into a test, and the tests don’t often give valuable feedback about what the learner is doing well and where they need more help. From a teacher’s perspective, I am also excited by the possibilities this provides for breaking down the walls of the school (quite literally), creating space for more cross-curricular and interdisciplinary learning. It’s not bad to become an expert in a subject, but no part of our life exists completely apart from the others. No subject is an island.

In my own classes, I’ve been desperately trying to pull my students away from grade obsession and the dreaded summative assessment. In a culture that stresses standardized testing and rote memorization I’m certainly swimming against the tide. That said, the tide is changing and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is calling for a move away from “rote-based learning and teacher-centered instruction towards practice-based learning and student-centered instruction” (source). Well, it certainly sounds nice. And while I’m reserving opinion on its success until I see it, I also know Korean opinion can shift tectonically overnight. This is a country of proud tradition and rapid change. Still, there seems to be a focus on compartmentalized instruction rather than integrated learning and competencies. I would love to start a school. Anyone want to fund it?

With the push for standards-based education and the Common Core in the United States, many teachers are pushing back, arguing that they’re no longer able to teach as they are being stifled by the tests NCLB requires them to meet (example) and going so far as to advise against becoming a teacher completely (example). My only hope is that this combination of standards-based grading, competency-based credentials and frustration with the status quo will lead to the revolution so many have been waiting for.

Is Korea Ripe for Badges?

Koreans are mad for certifications in their quest to one-up their competition on the job hunt. Computer skills, language; even slinging coffee requires a certification.

Would certification in the form of badges and portfolios add clarity or noise? It seems that Korea would be ripe for these sorts of credentials.

Standards, projects, and communicating the "what" with students.

This semester I dove headlong into Project-Based Learning with my two conversation classes. These efforts sputtered along in my lower-level class, and met with some success with my intermediate class. I stuck with direct-instruction (with an eye on flipping and peer-instruction at a later date) for my writing class.

Last week I put out an anonymous survey to my higher-level class to get some feedback on how things were going. While the comments were almost entirely positive, the few negative comments made me wish I had run the survey earlier to make constructive changes. My interpretation of the negative feedback was that the students were having trouble seeing the “why” and the “what” of the projects we were doing, although I thought I had presented them well. Obviously not well enough for everyone. This feedback tells me I should probably develop a more structured presentation of the projects so that the students better understand exactly what – and why – we do what we do.

Next time I will:

  • Clearly link the project to the text
  • Indicate which chapters the project addresses and how
  • Clearly lay out grammar and language goals for the project

I will try these changes and run another survey after the first project next time to see how the students are responding to it.

CN: Unit 1 – Learning Theory

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit you should be able to:

  1. explain the difference between an archetype, a paradigm and a model; 
  2. discuss the key characteristics of Davies’ three educational technologies; 
  3. discuss the key principles of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism; 
  4. explain the key differences between behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism; 
  5. discuss the difference between the objectivist and the subjectivist epistemologies; 
  6. discuss the implications of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism on instructional design and development; 
  7. explain the five perspectives on teaching; and 
  8. appreciate the value of different approaches to teaching and learning.

1. Archetypes and Paradigms

Reading:

Davies, I.K. (1978). Eucational Technology: Archetypes, Paradigms and Models. In J.H. Hartley & I.K. Davies (Eds.), Contributions to an Educational Technology, Volume 2. (pp. 9-24). New York: Kogan Page.

Questions for Reflection:

What is the difference between an archetype a paradigm and a model?

Archetype:

  • “the viewpoint or perpective used by someone engaged in an act of inquiry” (16)
  • appears to be consistent with what some would call a “worldview”
  • in education, an archetype serves as a common set of beliefs and assumptions the community operates under.

Paradigm:

  • a theory with legs.
  • includes definitions, statements and interrelationships between them
  • often qualitative
  • mind-map type models may be used to help explain the relationships
  • limited in scope
  • new and appealing enough to attract adherents from other paradigms
  • open-ended enough to be applied to a variety of problems, which thereby allow for refinement of the paradigm
  • is created to be disproven with the purpose of finding a more accurate paradigm

Model:

  • technically paradigms
  • more quantitative in dimension
  • used to determine effect on larger population in simulation with real individuals is considered largely unethical.
  • seek to represent reality accurately
  • is created to be used to solve a problem
  • usually specific to a particular phenomenon
  • different models will approach the same phenomenon from different paradigms.

 

What are key characteristics of Davies’ three educational technologies?

Technology 1:

  • Takes an engineering/hard sciences approach to application, focusing on better hardware
  • the latest machines make the best tools, ergo best education
  • focus on efficiency of education: bigger, broader audience outside of traditional boundaries
  • focus on transmission and reception problems

Technology 2:

  • behavioral science approach, focused on better software
  • technology = learning aids, facilitating new models of education
  • technology enhances teaching, providing guidance to new teachers and propelling experienced teachers to breakthroughs
  • focus on purposeful shaping of behaviour

Technology 3:

  • combination of hardware and software approaches
  • organic rather than mechanistic development
  • deep focus on processes and products of teaching and learning
  • more group than individual
  • concerned with quality and relevance of the experience
  • warmly human, total and integrated approach
  • emphasis on a range of contrasting skills
  • fundamentally a problem-solving approach*
  • problem boundaries may be hard to determine; incremental rather than substantial change for piecemeal progress
  • effectiveness > efficiency

*It strikes me that all of the technologies seek to answer problems, but they each see the problem differently.

 

What are the key characteristics of the audiovisual, the engineering and the problem-solving archetypes of educational technology?

Audio-visual:

  • oldest of the three
  • hardware is used to help present information
  • gives students (some) access to otherwise inaccessible content
  • can expand the learning environment to a larger geographical sphere
  • new instrument for assessment by speeding up and automating assessments

Engineering

  • influenced by Behaviourism
  • linear approach to learning, with defined edges and process
  • teacher vs. machine
  • Davies disapproves, argues that modifying the paradigm misses the need to assess the foundations of the theory

Problem-solving

  • started around 1973-74
  • as of 1978 not widely adopted although gaining ground
  • changes arise from dissatisfaction, moving to satisfaction as quickly as possible
  • solutions are situational, based on specific needs

What archetype, paradigm and model of educational technology do you think most of your teaching would fall into?

Archetype: Problem-solving

Paradigm: Subjective/qualitative

Model: ? I didn’t see any models in the article. As far as other pedagogical models are concerned, I subscribe to a constructivist model, and am presently reworking lessons to make use of problem-based learning and standards-based grading. This is in an almost completely (I say almost because although I haven’t seen otherwise I am cautious to say it doesn’t exist) direct-instruction environment where for my discipline there is essentially no curriculum. It is overwhelming to try to eek out a curriculum where there is so much disjointedness but I take it as a challenge and an opportunity to really teach what I think my students; a situation I know many of my North American colleagues would give teeth for.

Davies wrote his article in 1978, over 30+ years ago. Is it still relevant to the thinking of using technology in teaching and learning, today? Why or why not?

It is absolutely relevant. Although the technology has changed, the basic approaches (I, II and III) to educational technology have endured. Of note were some comments from page 12 that struck me as particularly insightful:

“Instead of viewing educational technology as an opportunity for renewing educational practice, it has, too often, been conceived as a means of doing what has always been done- only more efficiently” (pg. 12)

“technology is probably considered less self-limiting than our own perception or view of it” (pg. 12)

In my experience in speaking with other teachers and administrators, I can see how this has often been the case. Buus (2012) found that even today teachers need scaffolding to use new technologies for new pedagogy rather than pasting the new technology over the old pedagogy. This recent study supports Davies’ (1978) argument that it may only be a matter of increasing efficiency rather than determining how to readdress education entirely, which is the crux of his argument on the morality of education. If we fail to address why we teach something when new technologies present new possibilities, we are ignoring the very value of what we teach. It is a very common-sense and yet profound argument on the nature of education and its purpose to society.

This lack of insight, consideration of value, and attention to possible transformative nature of education technology is fortunately not global. There are teachers who are actively working on the what, why and how of doing education as new technologies offer new possibilities. In some ways, teachers are latching on to technology to move their pedagogy forward, with constructivist, standards-based, project-based and other de rigeur methodologies and curricula taking the front seat, but in other ways their use of these technologies paves the way for other teachers to jump over to more student-centered teaching styles away from direct instruction and other teacher-centered styles. As this jump is made, and technology is being used in new ways, they are employing what Davies (1978) refers to as “[t]he skills of effectiveness” (15).

2. Epistemological Traditions

Reading

  1. Pratt, D.D. (1997). Indicators of Commitment (pp. 22-25). Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing.

Questions for Reflection

As you read this excerpt, consider the following questions:

  1. What are the defining characteristics of the two epistemological traditions?

Objectivitism: holds that knowledge exists empirically, and it can be known in the same way by everyone. This knowledge exists whether or not the learner is interested in it, or is aware of its existence. Discovery. Modernist/Rationalist/Enlightenment ideas- through rational thought one can come to know the world. Amoral, neutral, detached. “Truth is a matter of the accuracy of reproduction (in language or action) of reality as judged by some authority.

Subjectivism: holds that knowledge is constructed by the knower. Interpretation. Post-modernist- reality is pluralistic (reality can be expressed in a variety of cultural paradigms) and plastic (people make or mold their own realities). There is no absolute Truth, only what people experience in the moment.

Objectivism seems to break down on the “some authority’ level, where some person through their own interpretation determines truthfulness. It seems, despite ones best efforts, that there is subjectivity in this- or that there very easily can be. While I agree with the idea in theory, especially for science and anything amoral, there are likewise personal aspects of truth that are subjective. The Truth of these subjective interpretations are also bound to some rationality. I quite like the conclusion of the objectivity section: “There is within objectivism another, slightly softer, belief about the separation of facts and values. It acknowledges that they are not actually separate, but interdependent, yet claims objectivity may still be achievable as long as values are allowed to dictate problems (what we examine) but not prejudge solutions (what we find). Therefore, we may allow that values will influence what we decide to teach, but we must guard against values distorting the content or influencing our decisions as to whether the content has been correctly learned.”

In the stump metaphor to describe subjectivism, I would say that while all the observers thought they were seeing something, it did not morph the stump into a policeman, a friend, or a foe. It was yet a stump. While the brain interprets the world for us, and we interpret it through our values, it doesn’t make something empirically true. It might true for us, it might be what the individual believes is true, but that doesn’t make it Truth, but rather, it is an interpretation. Interpretations have value, but they cannot supersede empirical truth. Where empirical truth is not knowable (for example, in determining someone’s motivations), interpretations (including the person whose motivations are being determined) may provide insight and valuable information leading to Truth.

  1. What do you think some of the implications of each tradition would be for the design of instruction?

Objectivists would have a list of facts or knowable things for someone to learn. Answers would be correct or incorrect. How students come to that knowledge may be through direct instruction, but may also be through project-based learning or other constructivist pedagogies, with the teacher serving as a guide, leading students to a particular outcome.

Subjectivists would likely allow for more free-form, self-directed learning and interpretation of results. I have no idea how this would be “fairly” assessed by the instructor, or what the assessment would look like.

Summary

With this very brief introduction to two major epistemological traditions let’s move on to examine three different theoretical perspectives on learning, beginning with behaviorism.

3. Behaviourism

Reading

Choose one of the following readings and consider the questions below.

  1. Elias, J.L. & Merriam, S.(1980). Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education. (pp. 82-90; 102-107). This article provides details on the background of behaviorism and some of its educational applications.
  2. Skinner, B.F. (1958). Teaching Machines. Science, 128, pp. 969-977. This article by B.F. Skinner provides a concrete example of how behaviorism has been applied to teaching.

Questions for Reflection

To focus your reading consider the following questions:

  • What are some of the ways in which the behaviorist principle of reinforcement has been applied to education?

Competency-based and criterion-referenced education, programmed instruction, computer-assisted instruction, mastery learning, teaching machines, contract learning, Personalized System of Instruction (PSI), Individually Guided Education (IGE), Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI); the responsibility to learn is on the learner.

  • What are the roles of the teacher and the learner in the behaviorist framework?

The teacher should design environments that will evoke the behaviour that will ensure the survival of the species, societies, and the individual. The student is to respond to the environment in the desired way, acting for reinforcement and correction. They will demonstrate learning through specific behaviors.

 

  • What are some of the criticisms of behavioral objectives?

Learning is more complex than simple stimulus, response and reinforcement, that the behaviours pre-determined to indicate learning may be inadequate, learning doesn’t need to be structured, and may stem from the whole rather than through segmentation. Furthermore, behaviorism may not be the most appropriate form of learning for all subjects and has no guarantee of transferability.

  • What epistemological tradition (objectivism or subjectivism) do you think underlies the behaviorist view of learning?

Objectivist- if learning happens through breaking into chunks and memorization through repetition, then knowledge must exist outside of the learner and their interests.

  • Can you think of anything you do as an instructor that is influenced by the behaviorist view of learning?

Observation of change to determine outcomes. If my student doesn’t show improvement over the course of the semester, it is very difficult for me as an instructor to gauge how much they have or haven’t “learned.”

While this is more an issue for K-12 classes, discipline is also largely influenced by behaviorist approaches, on a consistent reinforcement schedule for infractions, and intermittent for rewards.

In designing lesson plans, the language is in behaviorist terms – students will be able to/will demonstrate/etc, and also the criteria for assessment, whether rubrics or otherwise.

  • In what contexts do you think it would be appropriate to use a behaviorist approach to teaching?

For EFL, it can be useful for learning new vocabulary and expressions. The common wisdom and research in the field show that repeated exposure is necessary for acquisition, at higher rates for active vocabulary than passive vocabulary (CITATIONS REQUIRED HERE). To achieve this in a situation where learners have little exposure to the target language outside of the classroom environment, repetition has been used to assist learners in their quest for greater vocabulary (and other language “chunks”) to aid in self-expression and fluency.

  • In what contexts do you think it would be inappropriate to use a behaviorist approach to teaching?

I believe that there are many instances where behaviorist approaches are inappropriate. It may be easier to approach answer the previous question than this one. In particular, where students need to engage in critical thought and need to be able to process information, to learn by “rote memorization” does not allow for internalization in such a way as is conducive to allowing space for failure and growth. That space for failure- and indeed, the expectation of failure- is foundational to scientific inquiry. In any area where students need to explore possibilities and reject incorrect ideas or outcomes, Behaviorism does not assist in this style of learning.

As a final note, I found the necessity of student activity (for reinforcement) to be interesting. If the student does not act, what is the teacher to do, from a behaviorist perspective? Is this a failure of the teacher to create a successful environment (one that elicits the desired behavior) or failure of the student (for not acting)?

References

Buus, L. (2012). Scaffolding Teachers Integrate Social Media Into a Problem-Based Learning Approach? The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(1), 13–22.