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Posts Tagged ‘sensing

Like some educators, I have been facilitating lessons exclusively online for the last two years because of the current pandemic. Unlike my fellows, I have experience during my graduate student years and the last seven consulting years of teaching online. 

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One classroom practice is getting a sense of one’s students. The collective persona they possess can make or break a teaching-learning relationship.

Even though most teachers would prefer going back to face-to-face classrooms, I see the value of online ones. One plus of an online-only class is how more immediately I can get a sense of who my students are even without the social immediacy of meeting face-to-face.

One of my standard practices is sending my students an online poll one or two weeks before our first session. Whatever the course I facilitate, I collect some basic demographics, learner experiences, and learner expectations. This is part of my getting-to-know-you process.

Another part of sensing my learners is how quickly they respond. I am already quite impressed by my incoming batch of students. I sent a poll out in the wee hours of Monday morning. By lunch time of the same day, just over a third of the class had already responded. This is a good sign!

The sensing does not end there. They still need to complete their asynchronous work and respond to my feedback. We still need to video conference during our synchronous sessions. A few will invariably stay back to chat.

But this fact remains: I get a head start in sensing who my learners are before we meet. I get to know them not just in the normal face-to-face way. I gain insights online that I would unlikely get if I relied on the normal way of doing things.

One thing I do to sense changes in my field is watch relevant YouTube videos. YouTube’s algorithms take note of what I am interested in and recommend similar videos.

For example, in 2017 I watched and archived in a playlist this video about how an engineer explained virtual reality (VT) to learners at five different levels.


Video source

Last week, YouTube recommended the video below to me.


Video source

Not only was this one way of staying current with technological trends in education and training, it was also a useful resource for a Masters course I will be facilitating soon.

Some folks like to complain about much current technologies seem to know about us. They might forget that strategically letting some information go can be a good thing.

TPACK+ model
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

If you asked me what the most important things to take away from the TPACK+ model of technology integration are, I would suggest:

  1. Planning for technology integration is only effective if you concurrently consider the nature of the content, pedagogical strategies, and technological affordances. This is the “sweet spot” of the TPACK+ model.
  2. An even more vital consideration is the context. This might not be obvious in the model because it is labelled at the bottom. However, it surrounds the entire model. Context should dictate decisions about technology integration.

I take context very seriously and model this for my courses and workshops. I do this by first finding out as much as I can about my learners.

For a course that just ended two nights ago, I had to make changes to adapt to participants who were collectively different from those that took the same course just five months prior.

Why? This batch learners was youthful. Seventy-one percent (71%) were teachers while the rest were leaders or managers. The same proportion had less than one year (9.7%) or no (61.3%) official teaching experience.

Five months ago, the proportion was about even between the newbies and the more experienced educators. The batch before that was almost the polar opposite: Almost two-thirds were experienced teachers while the rest were fresh faces.

If I did not conduct a survey, I could have simply gauged their experience and ICT readiness by their preferred technology. Given the choice to bring a device, my most recent class had a total of only two or three laptops. Everyone else was clutching an Android or iOS device. The earlier batches were laptop dominant and I had to cater for power strips all over the room.

The shifts were visually and qualitatively obvious to me. The shifts were clearer with quantitative data. But both forms of sensing were pointless if I did not adapt to the changes in context.

While there are many contextual elements — for example, physical environment, time of day, overall energy of learners, social cohesiveness — the technology context was a key consideration if I was to provide similar content and leverage on powerful pedagogical strategies.

To those ends, I used the new Google Sites as it seamlessly adjusted to screens on large or small devices. I embedded tools and resources that were mobile-friendly.

The access and consumption was flawless. However, creating on mobile is still an issue. For example, mind mapping tools like Coggle and even Google Docs still do not work evenly across different mobile browsers. Some of my participants could view, but not edit. Fortunately, they were grouped with others who could. Therein lay another benefit of group work.

This is the bottomline: It important to sense shifts in the ground; it is just as important to adapt to changes. Just as there are differences between individuals, one group of learners is different from the next. I reflect more so I need to react less.


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