Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I've Been Meme'ed!

Karl Kapp tagged me to join the ranks of those among the Meme out there. This one -- Tell 7 Facts about myself.

First, posting of the rules!

The Rules:
  1. Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged
7 Facts

  1. I am a musician, turned educator, turned technologist, turned musician, turned educator. I am certain that cycle will continue -- it makes me smile when I think about how fortunate I am to say that.
  2. My hobbies become passions including Mountain Biking (1 did 1 race and decided to stick to it as a hobby), Cars (I spent 4 years racing, helping others in the sport, taking care of cars, doing mechanical work and detailing that I continue today), Photography (I learned in 9th grade and continue to be as active as I can be), Home Design (I learned in HS about drafting and love to doodle, even helped design our recent home addition), Interior Design (no training, just love to do it).
  3. I love dogs but could never have 1 - I am too fussy about the house and cars.
  4. I think saxophones are the most beautiful instruments!
  5. I have only blogged for 2 months and I am hooked. (For personal and professional reasons).
  6. My blog posts are all too long! No one has complained, but I get the sense!
  7. I must have chocolate every day -- it tames the wildest spirit, frees the mind and brings peace to all.
Now -- I have a problem. I don't know 7 people to tag who are blogging. I know 7 people, but not 7 bloggers. Boy, I need to get out more. I'll see who I can round up.

Have fun!

Monday, December 29, 2008

LMS: Delivering Media

Imagine a class full of NetGen students, eager to share videos, pics, creations etc. They live for the opportunity to share their lives through stories, pictures of their pets, their home, friends and family, or grassroots videos they have made. Those who have ventured into the musical arts are even creating sound files through Garage Band or various other MIDI or live recording/sound editing applications.

If you haven't seen what students are doing with media, watch this example below from SchoolTube.

As adults, we should not be surprised by the enthusiasm to share our personal media. This holiday season, the trend of sending "brag" letters seems to have really taken hold. My wife and I have been sending letters for about 3 years now. I am sure many of you can appreciate the same drive in students to share more than just what they have the chance to say in class.

As educators we certainly have some challenges in giving students a safe and organize environment to share their media. Some of those challenges:
  • Receiving many files from various students
  • Keeping a record of who's file belongs to whom
  • Screaning files for appropriateness.
  • Supplying secure access -- ie -- only students in the school or class can access the files
  • Organizing the files for distribution
  • Labeling the files for searching or locating files of interest quickly
  • Archiving the files for future use
In a recent workshop, the topic of using Facebook and YouTube came up. Now, I am an advocate of both services. However, in a classroom, I do believe as educators, we must first ensure the safety and security of the students to whatever level of control we see appropriate. While it may be perfectly fine to a parent of one of the students to allow them to use those services, I would not assume that every parent agrees. Thus, I suggest your school's LMS should be considered first when thinking about distribution systems. Leave the openness and global aspects of the other services as an option to the families and be prepared to discuss them if they ask however. NOTE: If your school does not have an LMS, there are ways to "lock" down access to accounts in both of the above that may be sufficient for your needs. In another post, I would like to look at SchoolTube. More on that later.

For now, lets look at what an LMS can do for each of the above challenges.

  • Receiving many files from various students
Most LMSs have a file sharing tool, messaging system etc. The important "rule" to establish when offering students a way to share media, is to ensure that students send files to you as the "moderator" ONLY. As a music educator, I have first hand experience in using student supplied media that was not appropriate. Lets just say how surprised I was when students supplied their own music for a project I had assigned. It was my first year teaching and WOW -- I was the coolest teacher in school after that. When the music played, OH MY ! I am not a fan of making censorship a big deal in the creative arts. So I will leave that for another topic. But, I did learn quickly that no matter what, we must teach students about class standards whatever they may be. So, submitting to you first and ONLY you, before posting, is a must in my opinion.
  • Keeping a record of who's file belongs to whom
Each time a student sends you a file, their account is associated with that file. Imagine having 20 -25 students in a class, and potentially multiple classes, all emailing you files they want to be part of project. That process would quickly become out of control. And, you would most likely have issue with file sizes filling your email system. Through an LMS, students can easily send you files, with names attached and through a system where the flow of larger files is a norm.
  • Screening files for appropriateness.
The simple act of the students submitting files to you for posting allows you to work with students individually, creating a really powerful learning experiences. Presenting "rules" up front in very simple terms can be done at the class level. However, if a student sends in a file that is not exactly educationally appropriate, dealing directly with that student 1:1 can be a memorable and lasting experience for the student. As a teacher, you can address specifics about the media and share what you are looking for and what traits of the media do not fall into those specifics. In direct terms -- "tell them what is bad and where they crossed the line for school."

NOTE: Many LMSs have discussion boards where files can be posted to a moderator. As the moderator, you can mark files as "approved" for distribution, simplifying the entire process. Also, this process is a great lesson for students to play a role in. Teaching them how to moderate a forum would be a wonderful way to apply the requirements to a hands-on, real-world application.
  • Supplying secure access -- ie -- only students in the school or class can access the files
LMSs are built around access and roles. So they easily handle the issue of secure, controlled access to certain areas of your course, club or school site. To put this into practical terms, imagine being a teacher who has a site in the LMS that covers all of your course sections for Sociology. You have 3 sections of the course. You decide you want the students to share media about their hobbies for 1 section of the course. The other 2 will do so at a later time and your others classes are working on other projects. Using Blackboard as an example, you create Groups within your site for each separate course. Next, you give access to the students in each section to that section only (for now). At this point you can now communicate, post files, have discussions, etc. that are ONLY accessible by those students in that group!
  • Organizing the files for distribution
For this challenge, think of the LMS as a website building tool. Most of us should have some experience building websites. If you are an educator and do not, you should! We know that we must format the pages, create labels for the files, create ways to link to a file, etc. If we are using a website building tool, all of this still take time. LMSs will still take time, but offer the essentials to you for supplying access to all of the student files. Keeping things simple will help a ton. Make a page, add items to the page, each being a link to a file, etc. and you have a great way to organize the files. You can create different pages for different themes if you like. Remember though, put all of these pages under 1 label or area for each access.
  • Labeling the files for searching or locating files of interest quickly
Considering that each file has a user attached, and you have the ability to add a description, LMSs are an easy way to ensure each file supplies credit back to the student who created it. Plus, most LMS have search capabilities. For example, if you want to find Britney Smith's file, you can search for her.
  • Archiving the files for future use
Lastly, LMS allow you to do various types of archiving. The one that I like the best is simply turning pages off. In Blackboard for instance, turning a page off leaves the page in the system, but keeps the page as part of the course. For future reference, you can turn the page back on. Or, if you need access but no one else does, you can simply user your UBER role and gain access to the file. If you want to use the course again, you can always copy the course, and thus all of the files, or archive the file into the LMS archiving system where courses can hang out for retrieval.

Remember, you are only limited by your imagination!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

LMS: Delivering Media Teaser!

Since I will be away for awhile, I thought it would be good to give myself and readers some homework! When I return after the holidays, I want to focus on "Delivering Media" through an LMS.

As educators, teachers and leaders have little time to devote to building and maintaining websites. Websites that allow for the distribution of media, photos, recordings etc. are particularly complex. Often, we don't want just everyone to have access to our files that we have worked hard to create. Some level of security and user rights are needed if we want to ensure we get the right files into the right hands.

Over the next few days, I will be developing my list of "how to's", strengths and advantages of LMS's for delivering media.

For anyone reading now, feel free to post some comments and ideas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Time!

Hello All

I will be traveling starting 12/23. I will return to the BLOG next Monday.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Customer Training as Marketing

As I walked around our local grocery, I heard a voice, very professionally speaking about the hum of the store. As I rounded the isles toward the produce section, the voice was getting louder and clearer. I started to realize the voice was coming from above. Looking up, I see a large monitor playing an instruction video. The video was demonstrating holiday cooking techniques.

The first thing that came to mind was - wow -- isn't that nice! I then proceeded on my quest to purchase the items on my list. Now that I have had time to digest my experience, I have some interesting thoughts.

First, how much time do the grocery store owners think I have to spend in the store? the video was demonstrating an entire recipe. When I go to the store, my mind is set on 2 things. Getting in and getting out. The time it would take me to watch an entire dish being prepared is not in my schedule.

In-store broadcasting seems to be growing in popularity. From an instructional perspective it would seem we have the potential to share the broad spectrum video casting into something more targeted.

The grocery store topic could turn into a great conversation in and of itself. But, my point is not that. My point is to dive into how organizations are using Customer Training as a marketing tool. What methods are being employed? If my customers are walk in customers like a grocery store, what are my options for offering training? Virtual customers would seem easier, but maybe not. What about service providers such as Financial Consultants, Accountants or Wellness Counselors. In each of the services, there is often a face to face component of doing business while the bulk of the time is spent independently doing whatever it is that the customer or service provider does. How would training be applied to these businesses?

My other thought is that this concept could really be applied to some great lessons at the high school level. For example, as I type this, I can think of some great projects dealing with the ethical and economic issues of customer training as marketing. For example, where does the training stop and marketing begin? Also, what is considered training vs a marketing message? Having students design an training session as part of a marketing campaign would be an incredibly powerful lesson.

Thoughts? Please share.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Backup Blog!

Did you know you could backup your blog? Give it a try -- Go to Settings, Basics -- there it is. This feature will download an XML file for backup purposes.

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LMS -- Keeping Parents Up to Date!

As we near the holiday season in the US, many schools including colleges will have an extended vacation. Because this time of the year gets pretty hectic and stressful, it is easy for educational activities and the details associated to get lost in the shuffle. Also, as a teacher, this is often one of the times of the year when we want to reach out the families of our students. So, how can an LMS help?

It is a good idea to review our list of topics and see where we are in my original plan. Remember, all the items in red have been discussed.

  • Homework Assignments
  • Recording Live Sessions for review
  • Community Building
  • Direct Parent Communications
  • Progress Reporting
  • Course Content Delivery
  • Group Projects
  • Gradebook use and distribution
  • Enhancing Teacher Preparation Skills (and Instructional Design)
  • Delivering Media
  • Assessments
  • Reaching Non-Participants (from your class)
  • Assisting with Absenteeism
  • Substitute Teacher Prep (thanks Dr. Karl Kapp)

Starting with the last thought, reaching out to the families. First, I am surrounded by educators. My wife, ALL of her 3 sisters, her son, most of our friends and even a few neighbors. The one thing I have found in common with most of us is that we like to communicate. At this time of year, that desire, the NEED, is heightened. I hope all teachers have that passion. But, back on topic.

If your school uses an LMS, all parents should have accounts. If not, working with your technology leader, make this happen! If the LMS allows, link the parent account with the student account. For example, Blackboard uses the "Observer" role to do so. It is not perfect, but it does allow some vision into the students. But, more importantly, the parent themselves should have an access account.

So, now what. First, send a holiday (make it generic) message to all parent accounts. Send it only to the parent accounts, not the students. Talk about the last few weeks of class, what the students have accomplished and what is yet to come. Keep it simple, don't overwhelm them by documenting the entire curriculum. Be specific enough to be interesting, but general enough to do this in one paragraph. In the same message, give them a quick overview / tour of what they have access to. For example, point them to the general space (if your LMS has one), point them to the discussion board (again, if that is a feature). In preparation for them to visit those spaces though, have something ready for them to view. For example, in the Common area, post some student projects for viewing. In the discussion board, make sure you have a new thread that will be timely. For example, post a thread "Holiday Education Activities" where ideas can be shared. But, keep in mind the very first comment I made - this is a busy time of the year. Don't be disappointed if you don't get a ton of responses. The important thing is to get the messages out there. Many parents, just like Bloggers, will lurk. That is OK!

At about this time (Dec. 17th or so) is also a great time to let parents know about educational gift options for students. I remember WAY, WAY back in elementary school, one of teachers would send home a list of gift ideas, including books, games, educational project kits, craft ideas, etc. Today, an LMS can handle that task and then some. For example, creating the list in the LMS so that others can make comments OR, better yet, add a POLL to your LMS about gift ideas. This would allow other parents to submit their ideas and for all to read feedback from each other. A specific example are video games. Today, a friend and colleague posted on his blog a list of educational video games for various ages and systems. What a great idea. You can see his list at Karl Kapp's Blog.

Lastly, I know it is another topic, but I can't talk about communicating with parents without address the real reason to do so -- to talk about their student and the student's progress. This is a really important topic because we have to think about how we want to communicate progress at this time of the year. I think at this time of the year, we can really help students and parents understand what the students need to work on. But, do it in a way that is supportive and assisting. For example, a stock and trade progress report at this time of year showing a student failing -- not very helpful. I would add, this is not very helpful at any point in the year. That is a different topic. I think this holiday season is a great time to be targeted and specific. So, for example, a progress report to struggling students could be a simple note saying "Angie's class participation in Geometry is much improved over the beginning of the year. I spoke to her about her enjoyment of the class and subject and she says it is getting better for her. She said the tutoring is helping. She and I discussed testing strategies since she seems to freeze on exams. Over the next few weeks, I have supplied her with a link to a test preparation website that works on test taking skills. The link is in the homeroom. I will talk to her after the holidays and work on the skills with her."

Now, this example sounds a bit TOO perfect - I know it is. But, it is a good example of how I could use the LMS (sending the message and posting the link) and good communication practices to reach out to the parents at this time of year.

So, in summary, an LMS can offer resources, link parents to other parents, get feedback from parents, provide for targeted communications and offer relevant, timely communication methods for your classroom and school.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teacher as Developers

I am always a bit conflicted in regards to teachers being developers. I know that just in saying so it sounds as though I am saying teachers should not be developers. No so. On the other hand, learning how to develop content for online or LMS delivery was something I and many others have studied specifically. Those who have earned the degree are better suited for content development -- right? many developers have no teaching experience and are very good developers. Back on the other hand, teachers ARE trained on how to develop lesson plans and deliver education. They (we) are able to put together content for a class and adapt it to differing learning styles, and deal with discipline and deal with environmental issues and ..... So, building content for a teacher is second nature.

I have began to realize that this debate should die. I want to personally stop thinking about titles and who has the "right" to call themselves a developer and who does not. I know some amazing teachers who could not develop a single lesson and I know non-teachers as I mentioned above that can build targeted instruction with all the educational pedagogical features and benefits needed for a client.

I do think that what has kept teachers from honing their development skills are tools. After all, being a teacher is a full time job. So, developing technology based content either becomes an all consuming passion, or it is always just something a teacher dabbles in with limited success due to the lack of tools, or in most cases, the lack of insight into the tools that are out there.

Without sounding like an ad, I was introduced conceptually to Articulate last week (thanks Vince -- Bloom IIT). After looking at it a bit closer, it does sound promising, not sure yet. My first thought was, how could I use this in a school system, where the goal was to integrate an LMS or other technologies to help support classroom instruction.

In addition to the lack of insights to tools, I couldn't write this without acknowledging that often all teachers need is help with a vision. While I may have been the teacher who was always looking for ways to bring a subject closer to the students through technology, not all are. Many teachers struggle personally with that goal, but are just too overwhelmed to try and find a solution on their own.

I know I have posted before that my philosophy of helping teachers with technology is -- "Get past the initial training quickly." As a technology resource, I would add "Supply intuitive tools for development" and most importantly "Help shape their vision."

Are teachers developers? Yes, in my mind they are well suited -- with our help. We have to remember that developers did not become developers without help. We all were introduced to the tools, we all spent focused time discussing a vision of technology and how it can aid instruction and we all received tons of feedback from skilled trainers and professors.

I may have just written this to remind myself what my job is as I go into schools and help them integrate technology, not sure. But I do feel a bit more focused now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

LMSs - Do Students HATE Them?

Yesterday was Bloom U's graduation. Sitting in the audience I had the opportunity to hear the class President's speech. He was very well spoken, humorous, and honest.

In his speech he said there were things that he did NOT want to remember from his experiences at Bloom. I gasped when he said -- I knew when I first logged into Blackboard, that was something we would all not want to remember. I don't remember the full quote since I was too busy thinking -- "Did I just hear that?" So, do students in brick and mortar schools really HATE the integration of LMSs into their classes? Is this a unique sentiment in the college aged student population? Is there a need to look deeper into LMS features and benefits?

I post this as evidence that creating an engaging integration strategy for an LMS is critical. We as educational leaders must recognize that if we are just now thinking about integrating tools like Blackboard, Moodle, Angel and others into our educational systems, we are already arriving late to the prom. When we think about integration, we must not revel in the spectacle of the actual integration, claiming victory over all that is educationally and technologically on the cutting edge. Getting a system up and running alone in my opinion is not what we want to accomplish. We must consider all of the hard work to get the system up and running and everyone trained as the preparation for what we really want to accomplish, engaging students!

Where the rubber meets the road -- Students will give you many answers -- listen, take their advice, take their subtle hints, listen to their speeches; they can teach us a ton! I feel invigorated by his speech. I think he laid out a challenge for Bloom and for all schools and Ed Tech leaders. His speech means to me that LMS integration has made an impact, good or bad. It made enough of an impact to create a reason to speak of it at such a monumental event.

What can we learn from his speech?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Music without borders!

Ok - so, I posted already today and now I am posting again. Why, the more I have been thinking about Community and what it means and how we can educate students, the more I have been looking for how we solve what have been huge hurtles in the past.

YouTube has created an amazing opportunity through the YouTube Symphony.

The composition has been composed and posted online. Musicians download the music and practice. However, they can also play along with the conductor. The conductor has been filmed conducting the score with videos available with or without the music track.

Once players are ready, the record themselves performing the piece. They submissions are judged and all those chosen will travel to Carneige Hall to perform the piece together in April.

That is a pretty amazing example of building a community!

LMS Advantage: Community Building

A few days ago, I participated in a great video exchange regarding a simple question: What is Community?

In my discussions regarding LMS integration into Brick and Mortar schools, a topic is "Community Building."

  • Homework Assignments
  • Recording Live Sessions for review
  • Community Building
  • Progress Reporting
  • Course Content Delivery
  • Group Projects
  • Gradebook use and distribution
  • Direct Parent Communications
  • Enhancing Teacher Preparation Skills (and Instructional Design)
  • Delivering Media
  • Assessments
  • Reaching Non-Participants (from your class)
  • Assisting with Absenteeism
  • Substitute Teacher Prep (thanks Dr. Karl Kapp)
There are some interesting posts, but I tend to think there are many more thoughts out there. See my post under my username viaEdTECH.

Community Question: Define Community (Cole Camplese)

Point 1: While it may seem obvious that students have the best avenue for creating community in brick and mortar schools (ie - they actually attend a school), I would posit that community is not automatically created when people are in direct contact with each other.

Point 2: Schools have an obligation to create community with all students. Think about the students who are reserved, those that do not participate in class often, don't raise their hand, or speak with other students. While we as educators should help those students socialize, forcing them to stand up in front of class often is more harmful than we can imagine. We should not forget that those students need a community and potentially, virtual communities can be a welcome addition to the class for them.

Point 3: Community for a school means inclusion of parents, local citizens, community leaders, business leaders, volunteers, local and not so local experts, school officials, school board members, etc.

So here is my challenge -- take all of the people from Point 3, get them together at the school enough times to build a common community (referring to Point 1) and ensure students from Point 2 take an active part in the conversation. How would you do it?

Post here - I would love to review your responses.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Virtual Tools For Acheiving Great Things

I have been working with/using Elluminate software for several years now. It is not alone in the virtual classroom / meeting space technology arena. WebEx is another application, WIMBA another.

Check out this great effort by Elluminate

Fire and Ice -- Learning Across Borders

Today, while talking to a colleague, we shared technology philosophies. I shared my thought -- "Get the teachers past the basics as quickly as possible so they can spend more time on the benefits of the technology."

The link above highlights how making use of technology should be the real goal of Educational Technology Leaders. Basic training and "how to" sessions should take less than 5% of our time. The other 95% can then be spent on the true benefits.

After reading from the page above, I am inspired to take my own philosophy more seriously.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Instructional Quality Models

This morning I have been thinking about my past posts and decided it was time to think a bit about teacher oversight. Think about the challenge of a Technology Director within a school system: Ensure technology based educational tools contribute to the institution's educational goals.

Of course this assumes that all schools have an educational plan and a technology plan that work together. But, that is a different subject. Non-the-less, as we continue to discuss the integration of an LMS into the brick and mortar classroom, we can not overlook the need for rethinking the process of observing teachers. Technology leaders must realize that while they guide and shape the overall technology integration efforts, the professionals who carry out the plan are the teachers. If a school system is still observing their teachers using the same old model from years past - ie - adminstrators visit the teacher's classroom once a year and discuss the overall classroom environment, student behavior, their lesson plan book and grade book status, etc., it is time for an overhaul.

A good place to start is to consider re-defining the observation process into a more holistic "Instructional Quality Model (IQM)." An IQM will be made of:

  1. Teacher Qualifications and Performance Reviews (the act of conversing about a teacher's performance in a private, thoughtful review session)
  2. Classroom Visits
  3. Student Academic Performance Reviews
  4. Professional Development Plans (ie -- remediation plan)
  5. Technology Performance Assessment/Survey
  6. Teacher Mentoring and Coaching
  7. Incentives
As part of a well thought out IQM, technology leaders can then shift their attention to resources that specifically help them plan a process around technology based learning skills and responsibilities. While many of my experiences have been working in the online environment, many resources typically thought applicable only to online are very useful to the broader educational audience.

The SREB (Souther Regional Educational Board produced a set of standards to ensure quality online teaching. The SREB Standards for Quality Online Teaching.

This document respresents a starting point for sure, not an end product. No technology leader can take this report and walk into a classroom visit. The report is much to high level. Even though the plan is focused on Online Learning, the skills are applicable to a teacher integrating technology into any classroom. Take away the mention of technology and I think the document is valid for all teachers, regardless of delivery method. I think that is why this type of document is very powerful.

It is tough to cover the full details here, so I am really looking for some comments from all regarding resources, documents, exisiting processes, etc. The take away is that as we think about new ways of reaching kids, our IQM must support the technologies and techniques and offer support and quidance to teachers who have not spent all of their days thinking about the technologies at the level we as tech leaders have.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

LMS - Designing and Delivering "Homework"

Now that we have a conversation going regarding the hybrid lives of our students, and the need for us to get classrooms and schools connected, I thought I would prioritize my discussion topics on LMS utilization. I moved student focused topics to the top to bring out additional ways we can initiate some vision for others to follow.

Here is the list -- those in red have been discuss (for everyone keeping track).
  • Homework Assignments
  • Recording Live Sessions for review
  • Progress Reporting
  • Course Content Delivery
  • Group Projects
  • Gradebook use and distribution
  • Direct Parent Communications
  • Enhancing Teacher Preparation Skills (and Instructional Design)
  • Delivering Media
  • Assessments
  • Community Building
  • Reaching Non-Participants (from your class)
  • Assisting with Absenteeism
  • Substitute Teacher Prep (thanks Dr. Karl Kapp)
Some really insightful points came from comments on my last post -- a need to get all curricular areas plugged in, shifting our thinking from "computer classes" to an integrated approach, and awakening to the realization that technology prevalence is on the rise, not decline in the lives of our students.

In one of my posts below, I mention the topic of assigning homework. So, before we can talk about how technology, in particular, the use of an LMS can help in the area of homework, I thought I would talk about what homework should be.

First, I would like to petition for the removal of the work "homework" from all World Languages. Please post a comment to vote with or against me -- I will see if the power we build behind this will initiate change ;-) Why remove it? Well, fess up -- as teachers, when we say, "Now, for your homework.....", what do we hear in response? Mostly, ahhhh, oohhhhhhh, grooooaaaannn, ohhhh man, yuck, etc. etc. Now, not that we should always follow the reactions of our students, but sensing the immediate resistance, we should think hard about the purpose and role of "homework."

So, what do we do instead? How will the world survive without homework? Homework always seemed sporatic to me in school. In other words, just before the end of the class, the teacher would yell out, "Now, don't forget your homework assignment." (enter similar but louder reactions from previous paragraph). The assignment would often be left over work that we did not complete in class, or reading that we did not get too because someone in the class was a slow reader when reading aloud, or preparation for a the test on the next day, etc. In each case, the homework seemed like busy work. But, more importantly, it seemed UNPLANNED! I often wondered if my teachers even knew what the homework assignment would be that day. Or, were they as surprised as we were? Also, it seemed that homework was a once and done assignment. For example, we would do something, turn it in, and it would never be pulled out again. Each homework assignment had a life and death of it's own. It would be completed, turned in, and forgotten.

So, back to the use of an LMS. Based on my thoughts about homework, the goal is then to create engaging, connected, relevant, planned, challenges for students. Oh, I used the "challenges" not so off the cuff here. If we think about how students learn, the role of completing a challenge is certainly more in tune with modern day living than completing HOMEWORK!

An LMS can help do all of the above. Here are some ideas.

Engaging Homework
  • Interact with an online game
  • Interact with an online video and respond to the embedded questions
  • Create files, pictures, sounds, music, etc. to demonstrate understanding -- ie -- reading a poem with music in the background, typing a poem over a picture and creating a graphic file, using Powerpoint to demonstrate understanding of a mathematical formula, creating an ingredient list for baking cookies and posting it to the class website, etc.
Connected Homework
  • Group students together so students do not work in isolation, form team roles
  • Posting products on the course site and REUSE those products in future classes.
  • Peer reviews of student submissions, thoughts, ideas, etc.
  • Videos or sound files from past class presentations (class recaps)
  • Videos or sound files for upcoming class presentations (teezers).
Relevant Homework
  • Connections to outside resources (guest presentations only available online, podcasts etc.)
  • Experts in the field commenting on student discussion boards, students asking questions of them.
  • Use parent community to build value to assignments -- ie -- online class presentations, parents offering positive comments to classwork, etc.
Planned Homework
  • Assignments Lists always available
  • Due dates always available
  • Late submission policies available
  • Turn adhoc homework off and turn on only assignments that were planned -- builds a trust in the students -- ie -- assignments are thought out, valued and not busy work.
  • Make students part of plan -- ie - with vision into plan, they can offer feedback ahead of time re: other school activities that could conflict. For example, the soccer team is going to states and will not be home for 2 days at the same time an assignment is scheduled. LMS tools can help coordinate, or even allow assignments to be submitted away from home.
  • Eliminate excuses -- I forgot it at home, I lost my paper, I didn't have my book at home last night, my dog ate it (although, "My dog ate my laptop" is become a pretty popular excuse).
Challenging Homework: With all of the above put into place, homework does become more of a challenge. LMS's offer tools to help deliver quality homework. But first, we must redefine what homework is and shift our thinking. If we do that, the use of an LMS to deliver quality assignments will seem obvious.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hybrid lives at home, but not at school?

Think of all the ways we (adults) have integrated technology into our lives. Everything from basic communications to filing taxes to enjoying music and movies. The list is extensive. Does this mean we are living "hybrid lives"? We have some things that are not virtual, while other things are? Or, has the technology just become ubiquitous and thus not really a way of life, but just more -- LIFE itself?

For me, the web (and the outcropping of technologies) where an add on for the first few years of my exposure. THEN -- ALL OF A SUDDEN -- the concept that they were add ons to my life dissipated, and they just became "part of" my life. Now, I am in no way a superuser. But, without the web and the technologies I use, my life would be missing something for sure.

So, now think about kids (k-12). They are not from my generation. They did not have to make a transition from simply using tech tools to living by them. (That sounds strong, but I will leave it for now).

As I watch the kids get on the bus this morning, I think of how many of them will go to school, enter a classroom, and be asked to "turn off" from their technology assisted world? How many of them will sit in a classroom, listening to a teacher teach using the same methods that I learned from? I am not being critical, it is just a question. But, it is a good question.

Are we asking our kids to go to school and "disconnect"? If we are, we should rethink that. How many of us go to work and disconnect from the technology and tools that help us live? Very few I would imagine.

So, maybe this is our challenge. Maybe the challenge is to understand how kids live and how we actually live DAILY and apply that to education.