509 Summary of Learning

Evidence: Summary of Learning Video

Learning Outcomes:

  • Critically assess and evaluate resources for best practice in online learning
  • Consider potential design/implementation opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies
  • Research and identify emerging technologies with educational applications not yet adopted by mainstream education or in early adoption phases

My Summary of learning was designed as a Pecha Kucha. Unfortunately due to the upload size constraints of WordPress, I had to save it as a video. I wanted to express my thoughts and understandings of what I learned in OLTD 509 with imagery and quotes from my cohort as much/most of what I learned came from discussion with them.

Disruptive and sustaining innovation in education is changing how we teach our students. It is important to remember that just because technology is shiny and new we should use it only if it fits with the pedagogy of what we are trying to accomplish. Technology should be used not for technologies sake, but for solid educational reasons. To that end it is important to consider not only the advantages to using emerging technology but also the disadvantages and challenges around it.

The seminar I taught with Charlene & Stephanie (which can be found in this post BYOD seminar) really showed me how powerful it can be when students use their own devices to enhance their own learning. However, most of my students live below the poverty line, not all have or can afford their own device. I cannot make having a device a requirement of the class as that would prevent some students from taking it. The disruptive innovation of BYOD would be a challenge to use in in my teaching practice, despite the opportunities it gives. In comparison, Virtual Labs, which are also an emerging technology, is something that does work with my students. At VIU there are many computer stations for students to use 24 hours a day. Prior to this class, I was using virtual labs. OLTD 509 allowed me to explore the advantages (and disadvantages) of virtual labs. I come away from class understanding why the best practice for lab work is having both physical and virtual labs. I am no longer doing it for convenience but because it is sound educational practice.

BYOD Seminar

Evidence: BYOD Seminar Website

OLTD Learning Outcomes:

  • Research and identify emerging technologies with educational applications not yet adopted by mainstream education or in early adoption phases.
  • Consider potential implementation opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies.

Charlene Stewart, Stephanie Boychuk and I facilitated a seminar on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where we asked our participants to examine the pros and cons to students bringing and using their own devices in class. Allowing students to bring their own devices to class, and use them, is an example of disruptive innovation in education.  With any new innovation there are both benefits and challenges.

One challenge that I had about this topic was I knew very little about it myself! As we planned the seminar (our planning document can be seen on the website) we quickly learned about the topic. Thankfully, one our cohort was familiar with the topic and and allowed us to interview him (full interview can be read on the website).

Over all I am please with how the seminar went. We asked participants to update the website themselves. We also asked them to cross post in our Google + community so the rest of our cohort could participate if they wished. If I were to do a similar seminar, I would have a place on the website for participates to list there pros & cons about the topic, as well as the rest of the activities.

My opinion on BYOD? I love the idea. I love letting students take more control over their learning. I love the idea of students all working on the same document (without using a blackboard, really, who loves chalk all over their hands, and few like writing at the front of the room) at the same time. Having personal access to the knowledge of the world is a game-changer in education. The thought of going paperless as students could access all materials, texts, PowerPoints etc brings joy to me.

My difficulty is I teach in Adult Basic Education at Vancouver Island University. Most students (71%) taking upgrading courses live under the poverty line despite working while attending school. Not all of my students have or can afford their own device. Unlike the forestry department, I do not feel that I can make having a device mandatory. Students can borrow a textbook. It is unlikely that we will have a device-borrowing system soon (though it would be wonderful). Requiring a device would be a huge barrier to some.

Virtual vs Physical Labs

One emerging or disruptive innovation in education right now is Virtual Labs. I just completed a seminar on Virtual Labs and wanted to capture my thoughts here.

Virtual labs create opportunity to:

  • Play – it is safe to mix, try, combine online in a way that it is not possible for students to do in real life (as explosions can be very bad). Curiosity can be satisfied safely virtually
  • Practice – students can review what they need to do in a lab through an online lab. This gives them confidence in their abilities. A procedure, especially those requiring expensive or rare chemicals, can be repeated many-time virtually so students feel prepared to do it in person.
  • Participate – not all students have access to a lab or lab materials. Virtual labs can allow these students to have a lab when previously they may not have. Also, in the case of very expensive lab equipment, students can book time in a physical lab for the experiment to be conducted. The experiment is performed and the results are reported back in real time.

Virtual Labs also have some challenges:

  • Replacement – some cash strapped schools may see virtual labs as a way to replace costly laboratories. Virtual labs serve a different purpose than physical labs. If possible, the experience of hands-on learning should be remain. Mixing two chemicals together and feeling an exothermic reaction is different than mixing two chemicals online and seeing a thermometer change temperatures.
  • Access – most virtual labs require reliable broadband. In many parts of the province this can be difficult. While virtual labs can permit many students to experiment and participate without requiring a physical lab, without reliable internet, participation is still difficult.

In my teaching practice I do have some virtual labs. The reason that my colleague, Charlene Stewart, and I started to have some virtual labs (about half) in our blended Biology is limited class time. As our lab only permits 12 students and our classes are double that, we would have to use two days a week for all our students to participate, severely limiting our face-to-face class time.

One challenge we had in implementing virtual labs was prep time. It takes quite a long time to fully prepare labs so they are suitable for the grade/students. There are a lot of great sites with prepared virtual labs (https://sites.google.com/site/virtuallabessential/) but they still need to found, tried & altered. Last semester when we were implementing the shift to half the labs being virtual, we were lucky if the labs were ready to go more than three days before the students attempted them. Having dedicated development time would really have removed much anxiety around implementation.

The results so far? There have been a few ‘hiccups’ but overall I am glad that we have changed from just physical labs to half & half. Students seem to learn from them, perhaps because they can take as long as they need to do them and can work when they feel like it, not when they are told to. Having only virtual labs would not permit the skills development that students need. By using both virtual and physical labs, students get the best of both worlds. They get the benefits of virtual labs while are still are in the physical lab enough that they can practice the lab skills that they need to continue on in Sciences.

Further Readings:



Technology in the classroom

When I first started working at VIU, there were signs on the door of every classroom asking students to turn off their cell phone. People discussed ways to get students to keep the phones put away or turned off (on vibrate IF there was a pressing reason). I, following the culture, asked students to keep their phones and laptops out of the classroom. Only students with special permission were able to use their laptops. About a year or so later, I started to question this concept. I realized that I did not know everything about a topic and students can ask challenging questions that I may not know the answer to. I began to remove the ‘no cell phones’ signs from the doors. I began to ask students to find out and look up information that they did not know. I am only one source of information for students.

(Siemens& Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 10)
(Siemens, 2009, pg. 10)

They need to be able to make sense of a world where information can come to them from many different places. It is part of my job to help them to build their own personal learning network. By allowing technology in the class, I am helping them to “make sense of, and manage, the incessant waves generated by an increasing sea of information” (Siemens& Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 10).

When other instructors ask about cell phones and computers in the classroom I tell them that I am o.k.with it! Sure, I get Candy Crush sometimes, but in all fairness, those students would probably not be paying attention to me anyways. I need to help students learn how to focus “while undergoing a deluge of distractions” (Siemens & Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 28). If too many are distracted, I need to asses what I am doing, or perhaps call awareness to it. With technology students themselves can find out more details about the topic. Usually they share the information with the class, enriching the learning environment.

It has been a slow, silent, very personal initiative to encourage technology in our building. It is still a work in progress. The signs are almost entirely gone. I have shared my beliefs with many colleagues. While a number do not agree with me, it feels like I am gradually getting somewhere.
Siemens, G. & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning