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Posts Tagged ‘rationale

I recently concluded online-only lessons for teachers who had to learn how to infuse ICT.

Today I share design elements to make an online lesson a blended one. Note: Blending is NOT just about combining online and face-to-face activities. It is also about seamlessly mixing different teaching strategies, tools, content, evaluations, etc.

Each of my three-hour sessions was a blend of asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences. Instead of requiring a three-hour Zoom session, I designed for 1.5 hours of asynchronous work followed by 1.5 hours of synchronous work.

Asynchronous and synchronous elements of my lesson.

The asynchronous tasks were scaffolded with questions, tasks, and resources in Google Site pages, and recorded with individual and group Google Docs for each student. One example of an asynchronous task was to first choose a scenario they could most relate to and then share their thoughts in a group Doc (scenario-based focus area).

The synchronous Zoom-based lesson followed up on their focus area. This was a topic that they identified with and provided answers based on what they already knew. Design rationale: This was a way of providing ownership to learners and to determine their prior knowledge (PK). Gauging PK could highlight gaps in knowledge to learners.

My students’ answers were varied but superficial. This provided an opportunity to introduce theoretical frameworks that could be used for planning and/or evaluating ICT-based lessons. DR: Linking PK or gaps to new information was a way to motivate learning. This design helped student answer the question: Why do I need to learn this?

Throughout the online lesson, I leveraged on a new Zoom tool, student-selected Breakout Rooms, which simulated station-based learning (my critique of the tool). DR: While not ideal, the tool allowed students choice of topics and provided opportunities for cooperative learning.

I also relied on the random breakout rooms so that students did not get too comfortable with their group mates. DR: There is a tendency to get complacent if you get too familiar.

I limited latter groups to three students each so that there was enough time for students to peer teach and listen to one another. DR: Some students choose not to speak in groups larger than this while others do not get enough air time because someone else dominates.

I provided opportunities for groups to read and evaluate one another’s work, to reflect on their group’s work, and to reflect on their own learning. DR: We do not learn much from experiences because they are new and messy; we learn from slowing down and reflecting on those experiences.

Addendum: The scenario-based focus area depended on homogenous grouping, i.e., students in each group had a common interest. The second strategy relied on heterogenous grouping, i.e., students had different topics to peer teach and different perspectives to share.

For individual learning, I refrained from asking students the generic “What did you learn?” question. Instead, I asked them to complete an exit ticket by completing two statements: 1) I used to think that… and 2) Now I think that… DR: Learning is about change. It is important to try to capture that change.

Reflecting on course design is my way of planning for the next semester. Looking back informs my look forward because remembering potholes in the past reminds me to be careful of them in the future.

Something I heard on a podcast reminded me of a design principle I am using for online learning.

In the podcast, one person told a story of how her mother found a tool to create word searche puzzles for that person’s grandmother. This was an attempt to stem the mental deterioration of the grandmother.

To make activity more meaningful, the mother used the names of relatives so that the grandmother would not forget them. The grandmother appreciated the effort, but she also remarked, “Who the hell are all these people?”

I laughed. I also reflexively thought about how this was similar to pedagogical design — there is a gap between the intent and the outcome.
 

 
How so? The design of online resources is often about the content, activities, and time spent on both. They are about the what, how, and when of learning. Some learners will just do what they are told. Others will not.

My learners are teachers and educators. Sometimes these are the toughest learners because they are comparing their own teaching and learning experiences with an online one I design for them. I have decided to include short design rationales with each activity. I am telling them why I have designed something that way and why they need to perform that task.

I hope that making design rationales clear helps my learners connect better with the processes and products of learning. I am revealing my state of mind so that they are less likely to ask, “Why the heck am I doing this?”

Lego family visits Shakespeare's Globe.

I cannot remember HOW a family holiday in 2015 came to mind, but I know WHY.

We were in a departmental store when a burley security guard tapped me on the shoulder and told me to carry my backpack in front. I asked him why and he told me to just do it.

I could guess why. Pickpockets preyed on tourists and the store did not want to deal with the victims. Having my backpack in front could prevent such crime.

The security guard focused on WHAT to do, but not on WHY.

Even though explaining why takes more time, there are benefits to doing this:

  1. People realise that the store has their interest in mind.
  2. They understand the reason for the action.
  3. The same people are more likely to apply the practice on their own and apply them in other contexts.

For similar reasons, I like to focus on the WHY of the HOW/WHAT of pedagogy. This way teachers and educators:

  1. Realise that the practice is for the good of learners.
  2. Understand the rationale for the change.
  3. Are more likely to adopt and adapt the practice in their own contexts.
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This week marked the end of the first round of walkabouts at the MxL. We continue with another round next week.

What are walkabouts, you ask? I conduct walkabouts by getting my preservice teachers to present their final projects in a less conventional manner. They are assigned a booth at the MxL and they can set it up any way they wish.

I think the more important question is WHY I prefer walkabouts. I have a few responses.

I firmly believe that teachers tend to teach the way they are taught. So one of my goals has always been to model alternative principles and processes.

I have nothing against traditional presentations. There is a time and place for them as long as they have a clear purpose. However, traditional presentations tend to be (but are not always) summative in nature. This week’s walkabout was formative as it was designed to allow the presenters to test their ideas and to make improvements. Traditional presentations require presenters to showcase weeks of work in a very limited time. They also require the audience to sit through presentations that may not be of interest to them. The Q&A that typically follows is also limited in terms of time and scope.

I think that a walkabout allows the best aspects of traditional presentations while allowing for more meaningful learning to take place. The non-presenters can choose which projects to listen to and participate in. They presenters can take as much or as little time as they wish (within reasonable limits, of course). In other words, this approach is not one-size-fits-all.

The presenters get to present several times and over a longer period of time. They have to think on their feet more often as they respond to questions and attempt to engage their self-selecting audience. They interact with smaller audiences so they can address their needs better. In other words, presenters have to step out of the mindset of what I like to call PowerPoint-pedagogy (blindly following a rigid sequence regardless of the need at hand). They can also get more critical and relevant feedback as a result of a more intimate setting.

Finally, the walkabouts allow me to contextualise the presentations in two settings. First, as a presentation to teachers from the same cluster of schools in Singapore. I think that this context helps preservice teachers to think more like full time teachers and less like students. They must be more attuned to what and how other teachers think.

Second, the walkabout was a way of celebrating the end of the course. As my trainees were allowed to bring refreshments, they could feed their audience’s minds and bodies! Furthermore, this air of informality might relieve some stress of presenting a project.

I look forward to the walkabouts next week. I hope that my preservice teachers do too!


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