Tag Archives: online learning

Flipped Learning & Motivation

by Backratze

by Backratze

This buzz term has gained traction over recent years and with good reason. Rather than explain flipped learning again, see this infochart.

Language learning lends itself to being flipped quite well as students could complete the passive learning of the language structure before the active use and production of it. How easy is that?

One observation that I have made, as well as others, is that the premise of flipped learning fails if the learner does not complete the work outside the class. Whether it is used as pre-learning or a post review, language acquisition is promoted the more times learners are exposed to the language.

I have decided to selectively flip only certain lessons of language learning in my class as I believe in utilizing a variety of pedagogy to suit the learners, their needs and the goals of the lessons. However, students in my foundations ESL class in a Middle Eastern university have largely failed to complete the passive part of the flipped learning more often than not. I recently spoke informally with my students and noted some reflections on the teaching and learning that happens in my classes.

To generalize, students lack motivation to complete all tasks at home. There are of course students who see value to this and understand the rationale of why I set some passive work outside of class and more active work in class. Some don’t have the internet so most of these lack the drive to complete the work using campus wifi before or after class. Some lack motivation to work hard on activities with no direct relation to their grade. There’s always one or two of these students in the class and this means rigid assessments that haven’t caught up to our changing classrooms are hindering progress. There’s a number of students who just don’t like learning English and the passive, individual learning, whether it be a video, audio recording, or a reading all with basic ‘getting started’ information and questions, just isn’t interesting to them. Perhaps the last two are push backs from students and John Sowash acknowledges this.

Whilst I believe that intrinsic motivation is the key for successful independent learning, I am taking the steps to provide more extrinsic motivation to perhaps get the ball rolling. I have noted a few times that the carrot dangling in front of students does produce some short-term motivation.

Online merit lists and weekly report cards are two options I will employ soon to publically highlight good standards of attitude, motivation and behavior. Badges are one upcoming trend with a number of educators and Educational websites are slowly seeing this and incorporating badges into their design. Additionally I will also review the passive learning input I choose to use and see if I can add to it. Adding emphasis, highlights, extra inset video, supplementary materials, editing resources for only crucial information etc… may all be effective in capturing student interest. I am also thinking of more individual consultations to provide positive praise and constructive feedback (probably face-to-face, the shock!). Of course I reason with students as to why we are doing the work in the way we are doing it but it is difficult to assess understanding among non-native speakers as feedback for everything.

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A Strong Backbone for your Course

Ever taught a course and wondered half way through where you’re going with it? Perhaps at the end you’ve been a little bemused as to where you came from? These thoughts might be particularly common with courses that you’ve adopted and didn’t design from the beginning. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this at the moment and I’ve decided that course alignment might be part of the problem and solution. Course alignment is when learning objectives are planned at the beginning, lessons and course materials are then designed to support learning towards these objectives, and finally assessment is used throughout the course in order to assess student learning (among other things). Course alignment is the backbone and gives structures to learning and teaching.

Learning objectives are essential as learning, content, materials, pedagogy, and assessment will all be guided to varying degrees by the objectives. Notice that learning is mentioned first because learning should be the center of the class. Teaching without learning is just plain egotistical. Learning objectives are the foundations to the course and must be understood by the teacher for further instructional design and also by the students to fully understand the learning journey they should be on (as opposed to the one they think they’re on). Learning objectives are crucial to online learning contexts when learning can be more learning can be individual and learners can feel more independent and, at times, isolated.

Content materials shouldn’t be chosen and materials or resources shouldn’t be prepared just because of the course’s name. This misguided practice can aid a teacher to stray too far from the learning objectives. Call me old school but activities, materials or resources used in lessons and learning that don’t meet learning objectives really shouldn’t be used in a course. Here with online learning, teachers may just throw up links on a CMS or pose questions on a discussion board for students to reflect upon. Whilst there may be room for this to a certain extent, if these aren’t going to help the learning process towards the objectives, then the teacher must evaluate it before assigning it to students.

Assessment. The rose petals or the rose thorn? If the learning objectives are aligned with the content, materials, and resources, then chances are you’ll have an easier time designing assessment. I’ve been thinking about course alignment ever since I started designing, planning and teaching a new course recently and my view of assessment changed. I no longer felt the thorns but looked past them to the petals. After deciding on my objectives, I almost thought of content and assessment simultaneously and I believe that there was a synergy between the learning that took place and the way I assessed that learning. I integrated principles and practices of blended learning into my new class and found that it was easier because of the alignment running through the course. I was constantly aware and reflecting on this alignment to ensure quality learning and teaching would be the result.

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A Reappropriation of Propaganda

a single microphone

Key Features

Podcasts are downloadable multimedia (audio or video) digital files made regularly for listeners. Anyone with a microphone and internet connection has the ability to make a podcast but Propaganda is software that easily produces quality podcasts. The biggest feature of Propaganda is the timeline which is intuitive and beneficial for extra quality productions. The layout of the panels ensures users can organise their clips and users can edit the sound levels, include transitions, add background effects or music, and split and edit clips. For pair or group projects, each clip can be labeled systematically so that multiple users can record and add clips into a single Propaganda file. When exporting, users can choose to save as an mp3 or upload directly to a website via FTP.

In 2010, it was reported that 45% or over 12 million American adults have watched or listened to a podcast (Webster, 2010) and it is estimated that between 34,000 – 100,000 people make podcasts to make their voice heard (Mahalo, n.d.). Very few people actually make them and in the academic world, I imagine that very few podcasts are student-made and it is professors who are posting lecture podcasts online.

Potential & Recommendation

Podcasts do offer agency to the user so teachers must decide with whom they want the agency to lie: teachers or students. Lazzari (2009) reports that students have competitive agency when they produce podcasts in higher education classes as they work harder towards producing podcasts that are perceivably better than their peers. It was also reported that students were engaged in and encouraged by podcasting and this resulted in social-constructivist learning as students effectively became teachers and their zone of proximal development was increased (Vygotsky, 1978).

These signs are certainly encouraging to the integration of podcasts projects but giving students free production reign, as Costello (2009) states in his theory of transactional control and argued above, is worthless without knowledge of how to use it.

Propaganda is only software and teachers must reflect carefully on the substance of a podcast; a podcast with weak content in terms of structure, organization and development is weak no matter the quality of the podcast (Keery, 2011). Therefore, making podcasts is not necessarily so far removed from the traditional written essay as the podcast still needs in-depth research and a script that is structured, organized and developed. From a social-constructivist viewpoint, listening to one podcast from a lecturer is limiting. Listening and experiencing a number of students’ podcasts will give more diverse opinions and information with which to make connections, reach unique conclusions, reformulate their knowledge, and reflect (Gould, 2005).

Costello, E. (2009, 27-28 August). Teaching and Participatory Media. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference of the All-Ireland Society for Higher Education, Maynooth, Ireland.

Gould, J. S. (2005). A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning in the Language Arts In Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Keery, P. (2011, April 5). Good-bye Essay, Hello Podcast. Retrieved September 02, 2011 from http://dialogueonline.ca/goodbye-essay-hello-podcast-new-literacies-21st-century-skills-1482/1482/

Lazzari, M. (2009). Creative use of podcasting in higher education and its effect on competitive agency. Computer & Education, 52(1), 1-13.

Mahalo (n.d.). How many podcasts are in iTunes? Retrieved September 8, 2011 from http://www.mahalo.com/answers/how-many-podcasts-are-in-apple-itunes

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambrdige, MA: Harvard University Press.

Webster, T. (2010, December 13). The current state of podcasting. Retrieved September 8, 2011 from http://www.podcastingnews.com/content/2010/12/edison-state-of-podcasting-2010/

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