Stage 4 – Ready to go…

It Must’ve Been The Game

The downloading issues, and extreme slowness at school on Friday, I figure it must have been because every staff member and credit student was tuned into the Olympics hockey game.   I was thinking that maybe this speed is just how it is, that I’m going to have to get used to it.  Then I went home.

canadian_olympics.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoI don’t always take my work home, but when I get started on something, I usually want to finish it.  Especially if it’s cool.  So I loaded up the home PC and tried again to get through the material in Unit 3 of Stage 4.  It was lightning fast.  Point, click, video…  So I downloaded Hot Potatoes, WebSequitur, and WebRhubarb.  And the downloads did not take 1.5 hours.  Done in minutes.

Plan for My Course

The next thing I have to do is to start laying out the course and then create some Web 2.0 material for the group.  I am a visual person, so I need to see the course.  I’m going to need to set up a calendar, because I don’t want any time-related surprises.  Often I think of the course in 12 evenly distributed 1-week chunks.  I forget stuff like PD days, minor holidays, field trip days.  I’ve already got at least 5 field trip days planned, so already, 5 days gone.

From what I’ve learned already in Stage 4 (which, by the way, never ever google “stage 4” thinking you’re going to find a clever graphic), I know that I am going to look more into developing a WebQuest for the group.  I like that idea quite a bit, and think that it will work well with a Retail theme.

My Short List

  • make up a calendar for the next retail class
  • field trip plan: Fabricland, Bridal/Tuxedo shops (for fitting language), The Bay, Fanshawe College (Costume Design), WIL
  • enter the outlines into the course
  • find out how to add the students to the course (in Stage 3, I was given a number of logins)
  • start creating material using Hot Potatoes
  • talk with Jim about what I’m supposed to be doing (maybe this should be first…)

I knew I was always going to do Stage 4, and now I wish I had budgeted my time better back in January so I could have started it sooner.  There is a lot to get to know.  And the Unit/Topic #3 stuff?  I def. will be watching the videos more than once, especially once I start putting the material together.

I wish that there was a larger Stage 4 community so we could bounce ideas off of each other.  As it is, if you look at the forum, there hasn’t been action there in a year in some cases.  I feel like I’m the only person on the planet doing Stage 4.  And I know that one of my colleagues is as well.  We had once been logged on at the same time, and I excitedly sent her a message from the site, but never heard back.  You have to know to check your messages or they all just sit there in the virtual mailbox forever.

E-Learning Workshop

Workshop

In a workshop at the central library last week, a speaker gave a short presentation on e-learning.  I was able to go, but I have to admit, it was fairly basic.  I was hoping to learn more about LMS’s, and what others are doing with them.  It seems that LMS’s are too new for there to be a large group of people using them together in the same room.

The speaker has a guest account with a D2L platform for a credit high school English course.  She introduced the group to it briefly, but didn’t seem to know very much about the platform.  She indicated to the group that discussions were not used here, but could be in college or university courses.

Bells and Whistles

Discussions can be used in D2L; in fact, that is one of the main reasons why we are exploiting D2L and Moodle right now in SLT.  Discuss and share.  What is your experience like?  What are your thoughts on this particular reading or concept?  A teacher can choose not to include discussions in their platform, (which for me would be nonsensical, but to each her own), but discussions, and groups are a huge part of many LMS’s.

The speaker had responded to a question about student interactivity.  I did stick my hand up and share that yes, if the instructor chose, this option could be added.  As could blogs, groups, glossaries, and any number of other functions.

Choose what works for you

I know that for me, and for my learners, there are some functions that are more useful that others.  Having clear content, weblinks, discussions, handouts, and quizzes are part of the learning experience that makes sense to them.  Or so I think.

Podcast

What my learners prefer, and what they find challenging, I will find out on Friday.    I will create a poll in the LMS to ask the whole group, but for now, I will have two of my learners come to school to be interviewed about the LMS.  I chose two; one of whom always did everything I asked in the LMS, and the other who tried but struggled.  I think we need to hear both perspectives.

My Predictions

I think that both learners will talk about how difficult it can be to access the platform at home; that they both got so much more out of it when we had access to the lab at school.  The more technie of the two will likely be able to appreciate the practice and recognize an LMS’s applicability to the workplace.  I think that they will prefer the free-writing aspect of the system, but that they both will also comment on being able to access videos, links, SCORMs etc. outside of the classroom on their own time.  Yes, it can be hard to find the time, but when you do find it, you can enhance your learning significantly by using an LMS.

The Future of Learning

I hear, regularly and often, that learning is changing, that education is changing, and that instructors need to be ready to embrace this change.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here – there is no one stop shopping for learning.  There is no one model or method or pedagogy that works in all situations in all times. We don’t work that way.

As Jim Edgar told me once (he was quoting someone but can’t remember who), technology is not going to replace teachers.  But teachers who use technology are going to replace those that don’t.

Why not surf this wave and see where it takes us?  If there are authentic learning opportunities available for our students, lead on, MacDuff.  If these authentic learning opportunities will open up doors for our learners in the workplace, then we have a duty to support them.

Resistance is futile… or at least, annoying.

Not All Are As Excited As I

I am, at this moment, gearing up to start an exciting new project at work:  I get to develop an LMS and train* two other instructors who are in the same SLT group as I.  I am super excited about this because I know that learners need these skills, and not only that, these are skills that effectively are transferable to the workplace.

There are some details to sort out before we dive into this project for January, but I was interested in feedback from the two other instructors with whom I’d be working.  One is similarly excited, and keen to learn about how to use an LMS with her program.  In the lunchroom, we talked briefly about how she’d use it, and how my role would be to help her develop and support her in the smooth functioning of her platform.  The other, not so much.  She believes that her course is fine the way it is, and that she can’t see how an LMS could be worked into her schedule.

That got me thinking.  Now, I know that learning a new tool can be daunting.  I also know that instructors are wary of the next best thing.  This instructor has said it would be a challenge to make the time to learn and to use this tool.  Her 5.6 hours per day are solidly booked. She asked “Are they paying me extra to learn this? Are they giving me more hours?”.  No.  They’re not.  And she’s an employee, not a volunteer.

She’s got a point. But it’s disheartening all the same.  At this point in time, I believe it would be doing our learners a disservice not to include an element of technology in a workplace SLT program.

An LMS is a  REAL WORLD Tool – Why not Introduce it?

If any of our learners are moving onward and upward in their education, there is a good chance that they will encounter a Virtual Learning Environment.  In fact, last I checked, 90% of colleges and universities in the US have some kind of LMS. (Jon Mott, 2010 http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/envisioning-post-lms-era-open-learning-network).  I’d hazard a guess that Canada is up there too.

I’ve read before that one of the biggest obstacles facing the development of a LMS is instructor resistance.  Why?  Really, why? I’ve got some thoughts on this:

  1. An LMS makes you accountable, both to the learners and to your employer.  Your program becomes transparent to everyone enrolled. Your program, then, is much more open to feedback for development and improvement.  Transparency does not appeal to everyone; in fact, it makes some nervous.  I can understand this.
  2. Time and effort:  anything worth doing takes time to sculpt, create and maintain.  If you don’t have the time, you don’t have the time.
  3. People in general can be creatures of habits.  If you’ve been doing the same thing for many years, why change?  Opting for something new can often mean dropping something that has worked effectively for the instructor.
  4. Technology can be intimidating.

If You Force it, You Will Fail…

I’m not about to try to force anything on anybody who has already decided against using advanced technology in the classroom (by “advanced”, I mean more than just PowerPoint).  If you want to find a surefire way to fail at a project, impose it on someone.  Give them no choice.  Then watch them dig in their heals and all your efforts go up in smoke.

How to Get Instructor Buy-In

Idea: I’ve got to sell this.  I’ve got to use what I have been doing in Moodle & D2L, show examples, and sell it to my colleagues.  I can’t just stand at the front of a meeting room, blathering on about engaging learners with technology – I’ve got to take pieces of my platform, throw it up there on a screen or whiteboard, and show them how it can be used.  I need them to recognize the benefits, and want to develop this in their CALL times.  I need to show them that it’s not rocket science.  Well, maybe the grader tool is a little rockety, but most of it isn’t.

You’ve heard the expression “if you build it, they will come.”  In my case, I very well could build an LMS, and the instructor will choose not to use it.  The thing is, if you want an LMS to fail, you can find a way to do so.

On the flip side, if you want an LMS to be successful, you can make it happen.

* Note: I can’t actually “train” my colleagues.  This would be in violation of our Collective Agreement.  What I do is part of something called “PD Partner Model” which calls the action “sharing” and claims no expertise on the part of the sharer. Am I training or sharing?  That’s the rub.  Resistance comes in many forms, and a skilled Resistor employs whatever resources she can.  In this case, that’s the Union.  Big sigh.