I’m proud to be presenting at the Cengage Learning Computing Conference in Phoenix, AZ, this week.  I have culled together a number of resources, recommendations, and best practices for designing and teaching blended, synchronous, and synchronous online courses, and so I’ve included those links below for the participants and my followers to have those all in one place.  I hope these are helpful, and I would really like to know if and how you use them. So please drop me a comment below or feel free to contact me on one of my social media streams.

Supporting Webpages & Resources Mentioned in the Slides

  1. Planning an Online Course
  2. Introductory Email to Online Students
  3. Introductory Pages for an Online Course
  4. Online Course Content Page Template
  5. Online Course Project Page Template
  6. Tips for Online Course Management
  7. Tips for Asynchronous Communications
  8. Tips for Synchronous Communications
  9. Assessment in Online Courses
  10. Building a Course Site with PBWorks

Presentation Slidedeck on Slideshare.net

 

Synchronous Class Meetings, In-Classroom & Flipped Classroom Slide Templates

It is no secret that I am a fan of iSpring’s tools (particularly the free one!).  I regularly use them in my online courses to produce narrated Powerpoints that convert to Flash for embed into my course web pages. I’m hoping to find the funds to upgrade to the iSpring version that will also let me output to HTML5 for mobile devices, too.  I was able to beta test this version, and I found it pretty useful and successful.

On iSpring’s blog, they have a quick post about QR codes, which you guys also know I’m a fan of, so I thought I would share.  Here’s a quick snippet from the post, but I encourage you to follow the link to see their ideas for using QR codes.

QR codes have been around for a while. What seems clearly interesting is that process of consolidation of complex QR code initiatives seems to be occurring. Clear call to action QR codes, linking to edge to edge formatted information on your cell phone is gaining traction.

via Is the QR code on point or just a phase? | iSpring Blog.

To follow up on iSpring’s question, I do think QR codes are a phase.  The US is kind of late to the game on QR codes, and I believe they will be replaced soon with technologies like RFID and near-field communication (NFC).  However, the ease in which QR codes can be created and scanned is pretty unparalleled right now, and I don’t know the RFID or NFC can be produced quite so easily by teachers and university faculty members.

What’s your thoughts? Please share them in the comments. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: katiemarinascott via Compfight

PBL Rubric
I use project-based and problem-based learning a lot in my own teaching, as well as research it, recommend it, and present workshops on it.  Consequently, I am often asked about assessments and grading that come along with using PBLs and inquiry.  In conversations that I have with teachers and faculty members about using rubrics for grading student products, or learning artifacts, I consistently find there are two challenges that make rubrics not as effective as they could be.

Misalignment

The first challenge that I often observe or hear about is a misalignment between what the teacher or faculty member actually cares about and what is listed as criteria on a rubric.  For teachers, I usually see this as a mismatch between what they have listed on their lesson plans for the objectives or goals of the lesson and then what criteria they have listed in the rubric.

I try to remind teachers and faculty members that the objectives and goals of your lesson should be directly reflected (read as “obvious”) in the rubric.  That is, using the language from Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as “compare and contrast” or “analyze” or “explain,” that is embedded in your objectives or goals should be embedded overtly in the criteria for your rubric.

Often, I find that teachers and faculty members list criteria that are part of the requirements for the artifact, such as number of slides, number of pages/words, or spelling, but they fail to adequately list the very criteria for which they designed the lesson.  So, don’t forget to include criteria that delineate to students the quality you expect in their comparisons, analyses, or explanations.

Weighting

The second challenge I observe when teachers and faculty members use rubrics is inadequate weighting of criteria.  This is evident in a rubric when a student can do average or better (so maybe a “C” or better) with your rubric and still fail to understand the primary course content.

In my research, students told me it was easier to get a good grade with a project than it was on a test.  This calls into question the rigor of our rubrics.

Where I see this most prevalent is when teachers and faculty members use rubric maker tools.  I am a huge fan of tools such as iRubric, Rubric Maker and Rubistar.  I frequently recommend these tools to teachers as a beginning to building their own rubrics (see an overview at Edudemic).  I also always recommend that rubric designers (that’s teachers and faculty members) handle weighting in one of two ways inside of these tools.

Add a Column

The first way to handle weighting in a rubric is to add a column for weighting, such as a percentage or with points.  (I know this seems a little obvious.)  Many rubric tools, however, do not include this in their settings.  So, you have to go in and add this column.  I also encourage you to make sure that you weight most heavily what you care about most.  If the “scientific knowledge” or “analysis” or “articulation of symbolism” is what you care about most, make sure it is weighted appropriately.  Again, I believe that a student shouldn’t be able to do average or better on a performance-based assessment without demonstrating the knowledge and skills of the assignment. There is a great post by Pamela Flash that walks you through step-by-step of building a rubric and weighting is the second step.

Add Criteria

The second way to handle weighting is to add more criteria for the knowledge, skills, or requirements that you care most about.  For example, if you are emphasizing “compare and contrast,” then you may be able to break this down into more criteria, such as “identified…” and “supported…” and then “compared…”  If there is scientific knowledge that you are expecting students to “explain,” then you may be able to break this down into specific criteria.  Again, you’re adding criteria in order to increase the weight for the set of knowledge or skills that you care about.

Bonus Tip!

While I encourage teachers and faculty members to share their rubrics with students ahead of time (as well as consider having students collaborate in the creation of the rubric!), I also think it’s a great idea to turn the rubric into a self-check checklist for the students prior to submissions.

Following Up!

  1. Here’s a great article by Madeline Marcotte about rubrics and the pros and cons of using them.
  2. There’s another great post by John Larmer and the folks at BIE on how to use their rubrics for 21st Century Skills and PBL, so you may want to take a look at that one.
  3. Finally, Grant Wiggins offers up a thoughtful post on how rubrics can be created and how they should be used.  It’s thoughtful in that it offers some philosophical viewpoints about when and how rubrics should be used and what their purposes can be.

I would love to hear your thoughts on rubrics and how they work for you and what you struggle with when using them.  Please share your thoughts and any additional resources in the comments below. Good ideas are always welcome!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Kathy Cassidy via Compfight

for ELLE Russia | denied
One of the strengths of project-based learning is flexibility.  There are certainly lots of ways in which PBL can be flexible, but I would like to focus on the production of learning artifacts.  As I’ve explained in my writings, learning artifacts are produced by an individual to represent his new knowledge or skills. However, I would like to highlight here that learning artifacts are individualized (or personalized) and can reflect new knowledge and skills in myriad ways.

New knowledge is individualized.

In workshops one of the statements I commonly make about PBL is that “Projects are not recipes.”  Project-based learning should allow learners to individualize, or personalize, the learning in multiple ways.  Every learner should not produce an identical artifact. This does not reflect the foundations and purposes of PBL.  Here’s a similar quote by Chris Lehmann:

When possible, PBL should offer learners choice in the topic(s) under investigation, process of investigation, or both.  The in-depth investigation that is part of PBL should be different for each learner.  For example, in an 8th grade unit on geography and human rights, I observed learners identify injustices across different countries they were assigned, but then they went on to focus on causes and possible solutions based on their interests and understanding of the problems.  So, their learning artifacts, of course, looked differently and contained different assertions.  I liken this to differentiation, which is a very hot topic right now in K-12. In other words, the learning is individualized by the learner, which is certainly indicative of a personal learning environment.

New knowledge and skills are represented in myriad ways.

In my own teaching and when possible, I try to offer students multiple ways to represent their new knowledge or skills.  For example, I emphasize the learning goals, or objective, such as “Analyze current teaching practices for elements of digital citizenship” or “Relate cognitive load theory to cognitive information processing theory.”  Then I suggest a number of different ways in which this may be represented, for example a blog post, website, digital presentation, slidecast, concept map, comic strip, video, etc.  In K-12 classrooms, you can, of course, include craft materials.

What I try not to do ever is tell learners to “make a Powerpoint.”  I have found from my observations in classrooms that students then tell other students, you have to make a Powerpoint. Then the learning artifact and the essential purpose of the PBL is bound by “make a Powerpoint.”  “Make a Powerpoint” is rarely the point of any lesson.  Instead, I recommend that teachers and faculty members stay focused on what you’re really interested in learners doing, which is analysis, application, description, synthesis, justification, evaluation, etc. This is often easiest to do when related back to the driving question or central problem under study.  I have seen some K-12 teachers post a banner in their classrooms with the driving question, so that they can refer to it.  In an online course, it could be great to create a simple graphic that could be referred to or linked as needed in a discussion board posting. (Yes, you could create this as a Powerpoint slide. <wink> )

One of the bonuses to offering multiple outlets for the learning artifacts is that different tools have different “points of view.”  In education, we call these mental models, and different software offer different methods of how to accomplish a task.  For example, in this post at TeachThought.com, they present 25 different concept mapping applications.  However, some of these applications create concept bubbles (called nodes) that allow crossing linking lines, such as Mindjet.  Others, though, are quite hierarchical that force subordination of concepts, such as Mindomo.  Depending on the content and the individual, the learner may want to represent their knowledge differently.  The different tools may be a better match for one learner and content than another.

Multiple representations of knowledge

So, PBL affords learners the opportunities to represent new knowledge and skills in multiple ways.  Because learners are able to choose multiple paths through instruction, or learning processes, they may make decisions about how to tackle a topic, and subsequently, how to represent that topic.  PBL also gives learners choices about tools to construct their artifacts.  When possible, I recommend offering students a variety of tools and choices for constructing their artifacts.  We all have different abilities, so choice in tools allows us to use these abilities in ways that are often constricted with paper-and-pencil and computer-based testing.

What are your thoughts?  How have you seen PBL afford multiple representations of knowledge?  What challenges have you seen to implementing PBL this way, too.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Natasha Mileshina via Compfight

Late last week, Connie Malamed published a list of 100 Hand-picked Freebies for eLearning Designers as part of her blog The eLearning Coach. This was certainly a great list, so much so that I tweeted in out and +1’d it on Google+ too.

I wanted to highlight a few of the resources and tools that Connie mentioned as ones that I really value and use (or have used).

  • NuggetHead Studioz:  Kevin Thorn is a colleague/friend of mine here in town and took the plunge to go out on his own as a consultant.  Tom Kuhlmann also has a font for hand-drawn arrows and circles that I use regularly in elearning and slidedecks.
  • Articulate Community: The folks at Articulate know how to share.
  • IconFinder: IconFinder is one of my favorite search engines.
  • Jing: When I need to make screen captures, I use Jing almost exclusively.  I also use Jing to provide feedback to students on their work.  I like the 5 minute time limit, because it limits me as well to making sure that I mention (and point to on screen) the areas I care about most.
  • Poll Everywhere: I am a huge fan of Polleverywhere.com.  I regularly mention and highlight it in my workshops on mobile teaching and learning.
  • Doodle:  I used to use MeetingWizard; now I almost exclusively have switched to Doodle.

I’m Gonna Check These Out

From Connie’s descriptions, there a few that I’m going to be following up and spending some time exploring.  Here’s my quick list of ones I want to research:

Thanks for a great list, Connie, and thanks for sharing it with us!

I am super excited to be working with the Baptist College of Health Sciences here in Memphis.  I’ve been asked to present to their faculty as part of a faculty professional development day, so this is a great opportunity to share about problem-based learning, project-based learning, and some strategies to help with teaching online and hybrid courses.  This certainly overlaps with my work with the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, as well as some of the teacher professional development I’ve been doing recently, too. Below are the two slidedecks that I will be using.

[slideshare id=25621707&doc=pbl-recovered-130826222508-phpapp02]

[slideshare id=25621802&doc=engaging-backup-130826223037-phpapp02]

If you happen to have questions about any of these, please let me know.

As editor of The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, I wanted to give a quick update as to where folks are finding value.  In July 2013, IJPBL had 6349 full-text downloads.  The most popular papers were:

IJPBL is an open access journal focusing on inquiry methods, including problem-based learning, project-based learning, case-based learning, anchored instruction, and inquiry.  Our journal continues to be rigorous with an acceptance rate between 6 t0 16%.

As a reminder, this past spring we began a new section in IJPBL to highlight the implementations of inquiry by individuals, teachers and faculty members, schools, departments, and districts.  These “Voices from the Field” articles focus on implementation, are highly contextualized, and include reflections and lessons learned.  You can see the call for manuscripts at http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol7/iss1/12/.

 

A few years ago, I wrote a book chapter with Janette Hill at The University of Georgia on the complexities of implementing student-centered pedagogies, like project-based learning and problem-based learning.  This chapter “Weighing the Risks with the Rewards: Implementing Student-centered Pedagogy within High Stakes Testing” was published in Understanding Teacher Stress in an Age of Accountability edited by Richard Lambert and Christopher McCarthy, and it seems to be even more relevant as we head toward Common Core implementations and PARCC assessments in Tennessee.

In addition, I feel that there is a growing interest in inquiry and student-centered pedagogies within STEM disciplines. So, I thought I would provide the chapter and link in case you’re interested.

http://www.academia.edu/894278/Weighing_the_Risks_with_the_Rewards_Implementing_Student-centered_Pedagogy_within_High_Stakes_Testing

While somewhat theoretical, this chapter is grounded in the work I’ve done over the years in project-based learning and problem-based learning with K-12 and higher education.  In addition, it presents a balanced view of how students and teachers must adjust and work within their environments.

A few days ago, MindShift, a site published by KQED, published an article about project-based learning (via What Project-Based Learning Is — and What It Isn’t | MindShift).  It focused on one teacher’s vision and goals of project-based learning.  Azul Terronez is an eighth grade teacher at High Tech Middle in San Diego, CA. You can see the description of Terronez’s project-based learning below in this excerpt from MindShift’s article:

When an educator teaches a unit of study, then assigns a project, that is not project-based learning because the discovery didn’t arise from the project itself. And kids can see through the idea of a so-called “fun project” for what it often is – busy work. “They don’t see it as learning; they see it as something else to do,” said Terronez. “They don’t see the value.”

For Terronez, the goal is to always connect classroom learning to its applications in the outside world. He’s found that when the project is based in the real world, addressing problems that people actually face, and not focused on a grade, students are naturally invested.

A Continuum, though

I can honestly say that I don’t disagree with Terronez’s description and goals at all for project-based learning.  In fact, it’s how I would prefer project-based learning to occur.  However, it does seem to discount the other possibilities for project-based learning, or “project-oriented learning” as it’s called in the article.  In my research, particularly with former student Dr. Suha Tamim, we found that there is for sure a continuum of which teachers implement project-based learning.

Some teachers do choose to do projects as Terronez’s describes, that is as the single method of instruction for students to learn new content.  However, we found that other teachers use projects as Terronez also mentions as reinforcement.  But we also found that:

  • some teachers use projects as a method to allow students to go deeper,
  • some teachers use projects as a method to allow students to represent their learning in multiple ways, and
  • some teachers use projects in all of these ways.

From our small research study that we hope to be published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning soon, it seemed likely that teachers used project-based learning with an alignment to their own pedagogical beliefs about how teaching and learning should occur.  Moreover, teachers felt constrained by their school, district, assessments, or curriculum to not do things differently.

And Value?

And maybe that’s the significant point to note from this article. High Tech Middle is school-wide initiative committed to project-based learning as Terronez describes, a variation on High Tech High’s model.  If an entire schools adopts project-based learning to this level, then the supports and scafffolds for teachers and students to teach and learn in this method are there. (Frankly, I’m jealous of the work happening at High Tech Highs and now High Tech Middles across the country. A real model that should be considered more.)

However, if a teacher is doing project-based learning alone, then variations are inevitable, because the same supports are not available to the teachers or the students.  But that doesn’t make the variations ineffective at achieving learning goals. Nor should they be discounted as valuable.

Edutopia released a new teacher and school guide for mobile devices to support learning.  You do have to register in order to download the file.

New Guide! Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know

Getting kids engaged with learning, focused on working smarter, and ready for the future.  This guide can help you better understand how mobile gadgets — cell phones, tablets, and smartphones — can engage students and change their learning environment.

What’s Inside the PDF?

  • Introduction: Pros and cons? Bridging the digital gap?
  • Know your mobile devices
  • Resources for teachers getting started with mobile learning
  • K-12 Apps and Web tools: elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Getting parents on board the mobile train

via New Guide! Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know | Edutopia.