Integrating Technology with Learning

Applying Theory to Practice

 

Developing Blended Learning Environments

(April 2010 to present)

Introduction

Most of my courses consist of three blended environments: 1) traditional face-to-face (F2F); 2) WordPress site/blog; and 3) a Learning Management System (LMS). This allows students who are shy in classroom settings to enjoy success in online activities (or vice versa) and it also affords more opportunities for me to address some well researched aspects of modern learning theory.

The Three Environments of My Blended Courses

F2F CLASSROOM

  • Pros: Easy interactivity; clearer communication of subtleties; affords social learning
  • Cons: Intimidating for shy students; inflexible time constraints; expensive
  • Purpose: fosters social interaction, collaboration, & relationship building; provides space for student-teacher Q&As, & practice/graded activities

WORDPRESS SITE

  • Pros: Intuitive and attractive interface; responsive design; easy navigation
  • Cons: less secure/private than LMS; frequent updates occasionally break the site
  • Purpose: provides overview of course; hosts video tutorials to help students get started on LMS; acts as a portal to helpful resources and important sites

ONLINE LMS

  • Pros: Security & privacy; some interactivity; hosts assignment, feedback, & grading info
  • Cons: difficult for computer illiterates; unattractive interface; limited by LMS creator
  • Purpose: hosts assignment, grading, & supplemental info.; affords secure space for online collaboration, peer review, & teacher feedback

The Process

The courses begin with the usual F2F class where the usual introductions take place and course overview is presented. The mainly Korean students are informally surveyed and I usually discover that only one or two out of 20+ students have ever taken a BL course before. I then very carefully explain to them that blended learning is not passive learning and that, when they are online, they need to be motivated and attentively involved with the online interactivities and, by doing so, collaboratively building useful knowledge with one another – and for themselves. I then inform my mainly EFL learners that another word for “build” is “construct” and that, because my students usually work in groups (so they can socialize and learn together), I am what is called a “Social Constructivist.”

At this point, most of the students begin looking somewhat bewildered, so, to help them more fully grasp the concept, I explain that this means that I give as few lectures as possible and that current research indicates that students learn better when they work together on problem solving and projects than they do by sitting and taking notes. Once the majority of the class looks like they are beginning to appreciate this, I usually then ask the students, “How many of you love lectures and want me to stand here for the rest of this class – and every class – and give long lectures so you can take notes and try to stay awake while doing so?” Usually the response is “No!” with some nervous laughter, at which time I show them the beginning of the orientation video (first of the four posted immediately below), point out their homework (posted on the course page) and tell them that, because it is such a heavy load of important homework (usually something like buy your textbook, familiarize yourself with the course site, get properly set up on the LMS, and prepare a 1 minute self-introduction to be presented in the next class.), they are free to go and use the remaining class time to get started on it.

Video Tutorials

Video tutorials are a vital part of the process. As the following samples demonstrate, they provide learners with just enough information to complete certain key tasks and, considering that I do not spend time storyboarding, script writing, editing, and polishing them to impeccable professional standards, they have proven to be extremely effective. Why? I think the reason is because students quickly realize that there are some huge advantages to hybrid courses – particularly in regards to being more adaptive to different learning styles and flexible for easy time management – so they quickly engage with the course objectives and dive into the work.

The Support

Part 1 – Presentation Skills

To engage the students even further, I have developed websites for them. Most of the courses I teach involve varying levels of presentation skills. Our department holds a high profile Professional Academic English Presentation Contest (PAEPC) every year and, in 2013, I created the PAEPC website. In addition to providing contest information, it also hosts inspirational and instructive videos of student presentations. Furthermore, I developed a way of combining those hosted videos with learning activities that teach students about both the important skills they need to learn and the rubric that grades them on those skills. The first video below explains:

To see a live demo of the Google Forms version of this activity, please click here.

Part 2 – Multiple Literacies for the 21st Century

In 2012,  I was asked to develop a blended course in multimedia writing. Designed primarily for EFL learners in Korea, a primary objective of this course was to involve learners with such literacies as filmmaking, digital storytelling and blogging. Another objective was to encourage the development of advanced critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. 

In October of 2013, I created a website to support the annual Hanyang English Film Festival (HEFF) by posting rules, important dates, tutorials, and inspirational student films. I also used the HEFF event and website to motivate and engage the students of my multimedia classes. As a result, many students from the multimedia class have also participated in the festival and produced some excellent films, as shown in the examples below. 

Student Evaluations

Following are some strong indicators that students generally approve of the blended learning environments and social constructivist principles that have been implemented since early 2010. 

Student Approval Ratings Since Spring, 2013

The following bar graph illustrates student approval ratings between Spring 2013 and Winter 2015

  • 2015 – Winter 97.5%
  • 2015 – Fall 92.57%
  • 2015 – Spring 95.17%
  • 2014 – Winter 97.00%
  • 2014 – Fall 92.17%
  • 2014 – Summer 94.00%
  • 2014 – Spring 89.00%
  • 2013 – Fall 92.80%
  • 2013 – Summer 95.00%
  • 2013 – Spring 92.80%
Tap/click to view PDF of all HYU student evaluations since Spring, 2010

Tap/click to view a sampling of student evaluations from the multimedia writing class

Reflections

Shortly after joining the Hanyang University faculty in early 2010, I became interested in improving the methods of delivering information to my students – especially those students who exhibited considerable difficulty in understanding my spoken English. I was a great proponent of both the theory of Multiple Intelligences and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, so I decided to build a website that would provide students with as many different information delivery modes as possible, including print, video, and audio. I also wanted to give learners access to materials being produced by recognized Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), so I began posting (in the Focus on Learning blog) both print and multimedia content from other reliable sources, including educational YouTube channels and RSS feeds.  

At the same time, I wanted to provide my students with up-to-date grading information that they could access securely at any time and give them a safe place to interact online for some writing assignments. As a result, I began using the Canvas Learning Management System. Most of my students had never worked with an LMS before, so it became necessary to produce a number of screencasts that showed them exactly how to set themselves up on the course LMS. Those videos can be found at the main WordPress site, Focus on Learning, on most of the Help pages. 

Future Plans

In a word: mobility.

With mobile devices that are now so fast and easy to use, with powerful new apps being developed every day, and with more people going online via their phones than with their desktop computers, there is little doubt that the next major paradigm shift in education will be towards mobility. I am already seeing it in my classrooms. 

As documented in one of my master’s projects, I have had entire classes where nobody could speak or understand English and, if it weren’t for a simple Augmented Reality app called Google Translate, we would have had a very difficult time. (I speak very little Korean.)

Thanks to the mobile app for Canvas, an entire class of 24 students can now get themselves registered and set up in the LMS during class time if I give them a few minutes to use their smartphones and help one another. A few years ago, when I didn’t allow smartphones in the classroom, this very basic task could drag on for weeks because many students could not understand my English voiceovers in the screencasts that I had prepared for them to use on their home computers.

Today, one of my key goals is to use mobile learning much more: to the point where the row of three columns at top of this page must add a fourth column and include one more element that should be used in all BL courses. It would look something like this:

F2F CLASSROOM

  • Pros: Easy interactivity; clearer communication of subtleties; affords social learning
  • Cons: Intimidating for shy students; inflexible time constraints; expensive
  • Purpose: fosters social interaction, collaboration, & relationship building; provides space for student-teacher Q&As, & practice/graded activities

WORDPRESS SITE

  • Pros: Intuitive and attractive interface; responsive design; easy navigation
  • Cons: less secure/private than LMS; frequent updates occasionally break the site
  • Purpose: provides overview of course; hosts video tutorials to help students get started on LMS; acts as a portal to helpful resources and important sites

ONLINE LMS

  • Pros: Security & privacy; some interactivity; hosts assignment, feedback, & grading info
  • Cons: difficult for computer illiterates; unattractive interface; limited by LMS creator
  • Purpose: hosts assignment, grading, & supplemental info.; affords secure space for online collaboration, peer review, & teacher feedback

MOBILE APPS

  • Pros: can be used almost anywhere and save time; apps can enhance communication and collaboration
  • Cons: not affordable for all; compatibility & connectivity issues; limited battery life; can be distractive
  • Purpose: give immediate help if peers or teacher are unavailable; encourage development of student relationships & learning community 

Online Component of Blended Constructivist Unit

MET Course: ETEC 530 – Constructivist Strategies for E-learning 

(Selected Excerpts) 

Reflection of the Online Constructivist Lesson sample:

Because this lesson came from a course that I actually developed with a blended approach, there have not been any radical changes in this revision. It turns out that I have already been using constructivist strategies that are key aspects of the Constructivist Instructional Model (CIM) (Driver & Oldham, 1986), Predict-Observe-Explain (POE) (White & Gunstone, 1992) and Conceptual Change Model (CCM) (Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog, 1982) approaches, but I just didn’t know the labels for them.

Because the assignment called for the development of an online instructional/workshop lesson that included about 1 hour of instruction, I did have to make some changes in a few areas, though.  For example, the self-introduction was put on video and I eliminated many administrative aspects of the real-life course’s first two weeks (such as setting up students on Gmail and a learning management system) in order to focus on the most essential elements of the course curriculum: developing digital literacy through blogging, photography, writing, and filmmaking. I also added online surveys that would enable even the quietest, shiest students to have a voice by making predictions about key aspects of online privacy, the future of the internet, and digital footprints. Not all the surveys require students to identify themselves, so under guarantee of anonymity, they are able to reflect sincerely and “speak” honestly about their true beliefs.

This is rarely possible in a face-to-face environment—especially on the first day of classes. Surprisingly, many internet users are still sadly unaware of the need to take reasonable precautions when going online. As a result, Part 1 of the lesson attempts to encourage students to engage in the most serious possible self-reflection before they get started with building their blogs. This is not so easy to do in the classroom.

Part 2 of the lesson is very similar to the way I currently teach it. Rather than lecture or do a live demonstration of how to set up a WordPress blog, I provide students with short video tutorials that provide just enough information to get them started, but also leave out a lot of details.  This is partly because students generally lose interest after about 6 minutes of video, but mainly because I want them to experience the challenge—and success—of struggling through their Zones of Proximal Development (McLeod, 2014; TCU Psychology of Thinking and Learning, n.d.; Vygotsky, 1978).

Because many of my previous tutorials had become outdated (because of changes in the WordPress interface), I thought that Assignment 2 would be a good opportunity to remake the videos and ended up producing a total of eight. I also discovered, while building the site, Padlet makes it easy for students to post their blog URL’s on the parent website for the course.  This is something that I have always done myself—and students have frequently expressed the desire to do it themselves, so this is a change that I may be implementing very soon in the real-life course.

I tried several online collaboration apps and ruled out those that don’t work on Android or that require students to register. (Popplet, Spiderscribe, etc.)  I favored eduCanon, Padlet, and Google Forms because they give teachers the option of allowing learners to interact without being required to log in.  I used Camtasia to create the video tutorials and found the basic WordPress setup tutorial to be the most difficult to produce.  This is partly because WordPress’s interface has changed and become much more complicated than it was when I made my first tutorial.  However, I am pleased to note that the vast majority of WordPress setup tutorials are exponentially longer than mine.

I take a more holistic approach to evaluation because, although blogging is an important aspect of digital literacy, it is also a very ambiguous one, beginning with the issue of how to name a blog: should one use a pseudonym or real name?  If one uses a pseudonym, doesn’t that detract from the authenticity of that blog? On the other hand, is the blogosphere becoming too dangerous for one to use a real name?  Other ambiguities include a wide range of other issues — from aesthetics to politics to art appreciation to the old Apple vs PC debate.  Evaluating blogs, images, videos, or anything else related to digital literacy is not a black and white process.  It is not like math or physics, where the facts are the facts—and very little grey area exists.  With so much grey area in the realm of digital literacy, I think it is presumptuous to formulate a precise set of criteria by which to evaluate students’ work.  For that reason, my rubrics take a decidedly holistic approach.

Although I enjoyed working on a one hour online lesson, I found it impossible to compartmentalize all the best constructivism into just one hour.  In Part 3, students are set up for a 3 week project in which they will collaboratively learn about filmmaking shots—then produce some of them in their own work.  And Part 4, I suspect, may not be doable at such an early stage of the course. It may be more reasonable to ask students to share their newly made blogs after they have had more time to get them organized and looking good.  This, among many other aspects of this lesson, is something that will require careful assessment and reflection on my part.

References 

Excerpt A: Selected Video Tutorials

Following are four short video tutorials that were made with Camtasia Studio. Students would work on them immediately after using a longer video tutorial to set up their WordPress blogs.  

Excerpt B: Interactive Formative Quiz Video with Feedback 

Interactive Video:

Please take the interactive video quiz. (It does not count for marks!)

After answering each question, the correct answer will be displayed and, after viewing the entire interactive video, you will then be able to get more feedback from the explanation video in the toggle below.

Please Note: When this quiz was first created, a site called eduCanon provided the interactive capability. Because eduCanon has since closed, the interactive technology is based on a site called EDpuzzle. The interface is slightly different from that of the old site: Instead of clicking on a green arrow (as instructed in the voiceover) users need to click on a green Submit button followed by a blue Continue button.

If you wish to view the interactive video in fullscreen mode, just tap/click on the button is in the lower right corner corner of the video.

Feedback Video for 'What Do YOU Know about Online Privacy?' (tap/click to view)

To gain some additional insight about online privacy, please watch the feedback video below. When doing so, please try to remember what your original answer was and reflect on what you hear in the feedback so you can better understand the realities of online privacy. When you build your blog, it will be “out there” and live on the internet, so it is extremely important for you to remember and respect those realities.  

Tap or click here to check out the references for the "formative quiz" artifact.

References

The excerpted sections above are taken from a complete sample lesson that was created in WordPress. There is also a new Storyline version of the same content. To see all contents of either the old WordPress sample lesson or the new Storyline sample unit, use the buttons below. Please note that they will open new tabs/windows in your browser. 

Design an Interactive Online Presentation

MET Course: ETEC 512 – Applications of Learning Theories to Instruction (core)

Background Info 

  • URL: learningstuff.net
  • Platform: Self Hosted WordPress site
  • Theme: Divi (by Elegant Themes)
  • Number of group members: 3 (one in Korea; one in Vancouver; one in Vancouver and Calgary
  • My role: to set up online work-space where our team could collaborate and develop an online presentation 

Goal(s) 

  • Development of an Online Learning Community (OLC) by building in synchronous and asynchronous interactivity that included interactive videos, live chats, comments, and  the Tricider social voting system system
  • Easy navigation and responsive design for mobile, tablet, and standard PC screens

This following 90 second animation was my first PowToon creation. There is an audio reflection below and a written reflection in the toggle (also below).

Reflections on Making a PowToon Animation

Our three person team worked well on this project, with each of us using his/her greatest strengths to contribute to the effort. My best contributions were in the technical realm: looking after the web design, producing some videos, and creating this PowToon animation.

I had seen them on other teachers’ presentation sites and really liked the pen-writing effects and hand transitions, so I decided to learn how to make a PowToon animation for our Vygotsky presentation. The learning curve wasn’t bad at all–slightly easier than most other cloud apps! However, I was disappointed by two things: the price for a premium account is far too high and, in a later incident (while trying to make a similar animation for another ETEC course), the site didn’t automatically save my work and I ended up losing everything after spending a lot of time working on the new animation.

Despite those concerns, I still think animation is an excellent way to engage the audience without overwhelming them with too much “up close and personal” content that is often found in podcasts and vodcasts. Of course, one should always consider the demographics of the audience first–then decide on whether to use animation, live video, or some other type of engaging media.

Tap or click here to check out the references for the PowToon animation artifact and reflection.

References

Integrating VAK with Video 

In 2012, long before starting on my master’s degree, I put together a video tutorial in which I made a deliberate effort to integrate some of the multiple modality theory I had studied years earlier. It turned out very well.  Since producing it to teach students about basic MLA Style, I have never had a problem with getting at least 99% of my students’ writing assignments done in the proper format. 

Visual – To enhance the visual component, I used colourful animated callouts, zoom-n-pan, and English subtitles that were easily generated with a high quality super-cardioid condenser microphone and standard speech recognition software. In the first semester this tutorial was used, forty “beginner” level students worked through it and achieved a 100% success rate, with all writing assignments being formatted according to MLA standards.

Auditory – To support the auditory style, I used clearly articulated and slightly slower speech, with no background noises or audio distractions.

Kinesthetic – To address the kinesthetic learning style, students were instructed to have their word processors open while watching the tutorial and use the video playback pause button while following the step by step instructions on their keyboards. This learning style has always worked for me, so I assumed that it may work for others.

To sum up, his tutorial is successful because it includes carefully considered kinesthetic, auditory, and visual components that are much stronger, clearer, and effective than usual. Based on my experience in Special Education, I speculated that a video that included emphasis on all three of these learning styles might be more useful for language learners than the usual stuff that is commonly posted online.  And, according to my EFL students, the most influential factor is the integration of accurate subtitles.

 

First Interactive Video – 2012

This is the first interactive video I made with Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio product in 2012. Although Camtasia showed a lot of great potential, I found that the Screencast.com site (where Camtasia interactive videos need to be hosted for WordPress sites) was very slow, with constant rebuffering and interruptions.  This is why I had to embed a lower quality and smaller version of the interactive video using an iframe, which does not work with responsive design. Furthermore, since the launch of Windows 10, Techsmith appears to be struggling with the new protocols and Camtasia has not been updated since August 25, 2015. Perhaps it will soon be time to move on to another video editing application.