Thursday, September 29, 2011

From “Sage on the Stage” to “Guide on the Side”

Online instructors and course developers face the challenge of reflecting on a philosophical and methodological shift from behavioral to cognitive perspectives and then from objectivist to constructivist perspectives.

The familiar teaching paradigm primarily derived from objectivist and behaviorist learning perspectives considers learning as a passive process in which the teacher’s expert knowledge is transferred to the students, who are empty vessels waiting to be filled. This view assumes that being knowledgeable is determined by the accumulation of a large number of facts. Students are classified by grade levels and then sorted into ability groups. The standard classroom features the teacher at the front of the room with her back to the class, writing information on the chalkboard. The students are arranged in straight rows and work individually to complete worksheets and questions from the textbook. They are to sit silently, passive and in competition with each other. Another scenario has the teacher, again standing at the front of the class, yet this time he is pontificating and dispensing his vast knowledge base to his students. The assumption is that anyone with expertise in his/her field can teach. Standardized tests with multiple choice, short answer, and true/false options provide quantitative measures of learning.

Research into how the brain works and theories which state that we construct knowledge from our social interactions and experiences challenge the traditional approach. The constructivist paradigm represents a student-centered approach that entails a shift in roles both for the teacher and for the student. Knowledge is actively constructed, discovered, transformed, and extended by the students. According to Piaget, learning is more than the accumulation of content; learning involves different kinds of activity to help learners construct links between new content and their prior knowledge. The teacher’s role is to support and develop students’ competencies and talents. Vygotsky asserted the importance of social interactions in learning—engaging and dialogue with others and gaining assistance from others. Instead of impersonal relationships among students and between teachers and students, education should be a personal transaction among students and between students and teachers as they work together. Instead of an individualistic and competitive learning environment, cooperative learning in the classroom and cooperative teams among faculty should be the norm. Learners construct their own knowledge by being actively immersed in a situation that provides social interactions, tools, content, and other information allowing them to explore, invent, create, and synthesize in an increasingly autonomous manner. Therefore, assignments represent more authentic, real-world applications such as case studies, problem-based or project-based learning, simulations, and cognitive apprenticeships. There is acknowledgment that teaching is a complex application of theory and research that requires considerable training and continuous refinement of skills and procedures.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Strategies for Designing Courses for Adult Learners

The rewards and challenges of teaching adult learners are similar to those of teaching traditional students; however, the adult learners' needs in an online environment may vary slightly due to age, life experiences, and technology skill set. Effective instructors initiate and maintain a positive student-teacher relationship and seek ways to present course content that is meaningful to all learners. In the words of Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, "Good teaching is teaching." Adult learners may need a little more consideration, especially in the online learning environment, in order to be academically successful and to achieve their academic goals.
  • Present information in chunks instead of one entire piece. Chunking reduces cognitive load and allows the learner to process the information more efficiently.
  • Make sure students can move through the material at their own pace. Remember, adult learners like to feel that they are controlling the education process.
  • Students need access to past materials so they can review on a regular basis. Therefore, don’t limit access to prior week’s modules and materials.
  • Students may not always see the "big picture," so help them understand how each chunk will help them progress toward their overall goal.
  • Provide timely feedback. Let the adult learner know what is being done correctly, as well as what needs improving. Grade assignments in a timely manner so the adult student receives feedback before the next assignment is due. This will give them an opportunity to make any needed corrections or ask questions.
  • State each assignment's purpose and its relevance to the course. If you can relate an assignment to a job the student may have when she graduates, even better!
  • Give the learners options and flexibility in assignments.
  • Keep the course requirements in perspective. Remember, adult learners have commitments outside your course. Make sure each activity is used to judge fulfillment of a course objective.
  • Make sure the adult student has the necessary technical skills to succeed in the course. Include detailed instructions related to any technology-related tasks. These same instructions can be used in other classes, as well.
  • Bend the rules when necessary. Empathize with the adult learner.
  • Make sure you demonstrate clarity and articulate well with adult learners. They have high expectations, and you will lose credibility if you communicate with slang.
  • Remember, adult learners sometimes have physical limitations. Use easy to read fonts and a clear organizational structure. Sans serif fonts such as Ariel and Tahoma are easier to read on the computer. Serif fonts such as Times Roman are easier to read in printed materials.
  • Use a variety of strategies to present concepts, such as graphic organizers. For more information on graphic organizers visit this Web site: Write Design Online
  • When possible, present the material in different formats to accommodate different learning styles. These modes can include text, graphics, audio, and/or video.
Additional Resources:
The Ultimate Educator: Achieving Maximum Adult Learning Through Training and Instruction
Adult Learners
Characteristics of Adult Learners
Building A Bridge: Supporting Online Adult Learners (YouTube video)
Spotlight on Malcolm Knowles (Youtube video)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Profile of Adult Learners

As the economy worsens, and employers concern about the lack of skilled workers increases, adult learners are flocking to community colleges. Most of these adults were taught in a traditional and passive classroom, and the online learning environment is a new realm for them to explore. They can be successful but need your help.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “nontraditional” students have several traits in common. These traits can include:
  • Attend college part time
  • Work full time even while taking college classes
  • Are financially independent
  • Have a family and other commitments
  • May be a single parent
  • Lack standard high school education
  • Delayed enrollment into college
Even though most adult learners are voluntarily entering the education process, their responsibilities (families and jobs) and situations (transportation, child care, and the need to earn an income) can create obstacles in their progress. The aging process itself may present another obstacle for the adult learner. Psychomotor skills are acquired more slowly than younger students. It may be harder for the adult student to manipulate the mouse or to spend time reading material online. Images and text may be more difficult to see on the computer screen. The adult learner may also have emotional barriers to online education. Many adult learners did not grow up with computers, so the technology is new and different, which presents an added obstacle to learning the actual content of the course. However, it isn’t all gloom and doom! Most adult learners are highly motivated and task-orientated which helps them overcome some of these obstacles.

Pedagogy vs. Andragogy or Directed vs. Facilitative Learning
Most of us have heard the term pedagogy, the art or science of teaching. More specifically, pedagogy refers to the art or science of teaching children. However, the techniques and strategies used to teach children do not always lend themselves to teaching adults. Therefore, we employ the term andragogy, the methods or techniques used to teach adults.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tailoring Teaching Style to Learner's Needs

As you plan to meet your learners’ needs and educational objectives you will broaden the range of teaching methods and learning strategies that you can offer them. In considering which teaching method to use, you will be asking yourself the following questions:
  • What am I trying to achieve, what are my objectives?
  • What are the learners’ objectives?
  • Is this the best way of achieving them?
  • What other ways are there of achieving them?
  • What are the strengths of the way I have chosen?
  • What are the potential weaknesses that I will have to be on the guard for as facilitator?
  • How will I know that this way is the most appropriate way – for me and my learners?
  • How will I assess whether the objectives have been achieved?
Some teaching styles fit better than others with the various approaches to teaching and methods of learning.

Although you may initially build the class around the techniques that you have determined best fit your teaching and learning styles, you are never committed to using just those styles. If you determine that your students are not responding well to your style, then don’t be afraid to try something new. Remember the best teaching style is one that accommodates the student’s needs and makes them successful learners.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

According to Anthony Grasha, there are five primary teaching styles that describe the prevalent approaches in the classroom.

Expert – This style is common known as the “Sage on the Stage” model. The expert possesses knowledge and expertise that the students need. This style of teacher seeks to maintain his status as expert with his students. He is primarily concerned with disseminating knowledge and making sure that the students are well-prepared.

As with the Formal Authority style of teaching, the Expert has little inclination to develop relationships with his students. He is more interested in maintain his status as experts with his students. He also does not feel that developing relationships among his students is necessary to their acquisition of the knowledge he is transmitting.

Advantage: The information, knowledge, and skills such individuals possess.
Disadvantages: If overused, the display of knowledge can be intimidating to less experienced students. May not always show the underlying though processes that produced answers.

Formal Authority – The formal authority style of teaching is also teacher-centered and focuses heavily on content.  Teachers using this teaching method are more concerned with providing and controlling the flow of content than interacting with their students. These teachers are concerned with providing positive and negative feedback and the structure they need to learn. They emphasize learning goals, expectations, rules of conduct, and correct/acceptable ways to do things. 

Teachers using this teaching style are not as concerned about having relationships with their students or building relationships between students. These teachers rarely require student participation in class.

Advantage: The focus on clear expectations and acceptable ways of doing things.
Disadvantages: A strong investment in this style can lead to rigid, standardized, and less flexible ways of managing students and their concerns.

Demonstrator –The demonstrator’s class is also teacher-centered.  The demonstrator believes in “teaching by personal example.” Teachers using this method see themselves as role models and will demonstrate the skills needed to complete the learning objective(s).  This teaching style puts emphasis on demonstrations or providing models.  When helping the student to learn the new skills, they will coach or guide students in developing or applying the required skills.  Their focus is on showing the student how to master the skill and encouraging the students to participate in the learning process. 

Although this style is still teacher-centered, instructors with this style encourage student participation and adapt their presentation to address different learning styles. The demonstrator expects students to take responsibility for learning what they need to know and to seek assistance when they don’t understand something. 

Advantage: An emphasis on direct observation and following a role model.
Disadvantage: Some teachers may believe their approach is the best way leading some students to feel inadequate if they cannot live up to such expectations and standards.

Facilitator – This student-centered style of teaching emphasizes the personal nature of teacher-student interactions. She guides and directs students by asking questions, exploring options, suggesting alternatives, and encouraging students to develop criteria to make informed choices.  This teacher focuses on activities with more of the responsibility for learning is placed on the student.  The teacher often develops group learning activities which require active learning, student-to-student collaboration, and problem solving.  The activities designed by the teacher often require the student to apply the course content in an original way to solve the required activity. The goal of the teacher is to develop in students the capacity for independent action, initiative, and responsibility. The teacher’s role is to provide as much support and encouragement as possible.

Advantage: The personal flexibility, the focus on students' needs and goals, and the willingness to explore options and alternative courses of action.
Disadvantage: Style is often time consuming.

Delegator – In the delegator’s classroom, the primary responsibility for learning is placed on the students.  The goal of the teacher is to develop the students’ capacity to function autonomously. The teacher often creates a project and then gives the students choices in the design and implementation of the learning activity needed to complete the required activity.  Student may work independently or in groups. This style requires that students be able to maintain motivation and focus for complex projects as well have the necessary interpersonal skills to work in group situation. The delegator’s style is to act as a consultant or resource person, providing direction only at the request of the students.

Advantage: Helps students to perceive themselves as independent learners.
Disadvantage: May misread student's readiness for independent work. Some students may become anxious when given autonomy. 

Grasha-Riechmann Teaching Style Survey Do you know what style you prefer?  If you know what your preferred teaching style is, you should be more aware as to whether it suits the learning style and needs of your learners. Then you should be able to adapt your teaching style to engage with them more effectively.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teaching Styles

Although there is no one “right way” to teach our students, we do determine how we will facilitate and what we believe are best practices for teaching based on how we view our students.  So, what do teaching and learning styles have to do with it?  Our personal teaching and learning styles influence the way we facilitate our courses although most of us adjust our styles depending on the instructional environment.

What has helped us develop our attitudes about learning and teaching?  How are our attitudes made evident in the way we teach?  Why do we teach the way we do?  Apart from the learning environment, the students, and our teaching styles, can we still accommodate the various learning styles of our students?

Have you ever had students in your class who seem to be uncomfortable, who demonstrate problems in learning, or who do not want to participate? Could it be that your teaching style has an impact on the students' ability to learn?  Although we don't realize it, we have a tendency to prefer a particular teaching style which may also reflect our own learning style.  If we limit our teaching to fit our own learning style, we may inadvertently alienate students with a different learning style. By recognizing our preferences in teaching and learning, we can work toward creating more effective learning opportunities for our students.

We all have preferences for how we teach and learn.  But based on the situation, these preferences can be modified and adapted to produce a better outcome.  It is important for you to understand your teaching style and how that may affect your students’ learning before you go into the classroom or begin an online class.  Furthermore, understanding your style will help you to adapt to the learning needs of your students.

How we were taught is often reflected in how we teach.  But no matter how engrained our preferences, they can be modified based on our teaching successes.  The successes influence our attitudes toward teaching and the methods we embrace when seeking information and attempting to identifying our personal skill level.  Just as with teachers, these methods also vary significantly among learners.  Luckily, just as teachers can adapt their teaching style, students can adapt their learning style.  Therefore, the first step is to identify both your teaching and learning styles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Multiple Intelligences

In additional to understanding your students and your own learning styles, it is helpful to be aware of current research related to multiples intelligences. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory is a relatively recent influence on education.  Traditional views of intelligence favored particular cognitive processes, including certain types of problem solving (mathematical-logical intelligence) and language abilities (linguistic intelligence). According to Gardner (1983), however, these are just two types of intelligence. Five  other intelligences—musical, visual-spatial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal—must be considered. Gardner later added two additional intelligences, naturalist and existential.

The following definitions describe each intelligence and the related occupations and directions an intelligence might take. These are by no means the only examples, nor does the development of any one intelligence suggest the exclusion of others. All healthy people possess all the intelligences, which they blend in various ways when they create products or perform meaningful roles or tasks. Gardner also asserted that although each individual possesses all eight intelligences, she may excel in some areas and struggle in others. Gardner identified cultural and gender differences in the expression of the intelligences. Therefore, teachers should plan activities that address all areas of learning so that each student has an opportunity to show his or her abilities.

Verbal-Linguistic intelligence—This intelligence type is one of the most favored in schools.  Linguistic intelligence involves the ability to communicate and use language in a variety of ways—through speaking, writing, and reading. They are also fond of rhymes and have an enhanced sensitivity to sounds.  Solving word puzzles, role playing and storytelling are also a favorite pastime activity.  These learners learn best when saying, hearing, seeing words.  Students who enjoy playing with language, telling stories, and who quickly acquire foreign languages exhibit linguistic intelligence. People with this intelligence type often seek out careers such as editors, journalists, politicians, teachers, writers, or actors.

Logical-Mathematical intelligence
—Schools also favor this intelligence type. Logical-mathematical intelligence is involved when we order objects, assess their quantity, and make statements about the relationships among them. Logical-mathematical learners use reason, logic, and numbers to make connections with information.  These learners are inquisitive and will use experimentation to arrive at the answer.  They are problem-solvers who can work through abstract concepts to categorize and classify information.  Performing mathematical calculations and arranging geometric shapes helps them to figure out the relationships between information. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers all display strength in these areas. You can observe this intelligence in students who can carry out complex calculations in their heads, enjoy finding patterns in shapes and numbers, and excel at making logical arguments. Career paths for these people include computer programmers, scientist, researchers, engineers, and accountants.

Musical intelligence—We put into practice musical intelligence when we create and perceive sound patterns. These learners understand and process patterns and relationships between sounds.  They are very aware of pitch, tone, melody, rhythm and other auditory information.  They may be heard humming, singing, or taping their foot to a beat.  These learners learn best through spoken instruction and other auditory means.  They may use jingles or rhymes to help them remember information.  Students who sing well, enjoy making rhythmic sounds, and can distinguish between notes are displaying musical intelligence. Composers, singers, conductors, and musicians exhibit this intelligence, as do poets and others who use word sounds and rhythms in their writing.

Spatial/Visual intelligence—We use spatial intelligence when we perceive a form or object (either visually or through touch), when we remember visual or spatial information, and when we recognize and imagine objects from different angles (Gardner, 1985). Spatial ability is often assessed by having people copy shapes or match one visual image with another. Spatially intelligent learners excel at reading maps, completing jigsaw puzzles, repairing machinery, and drawing diagrams.  These learners often have good visual memory for details and are good at visual problem solving. Spatial intelligence can be observed in students who understand and can create visual images of their understanding— like charts, diagrams, or maps—as well as students who are drawn to the visual arts.  Architects, mechanics, and engineers possess strong spatial abilities.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence—Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is visible when people use their bodies to create products or solve problems. Students strong in bodily-kinesthetic abilities show good coordination and gross motor skill—on the stage or playing field—or the fine motor skills involved in making models or sculptures. They learn best by using their tactile sense and movement as part of the learning process.  They prefer direct contact with what they are learning rather than reading about the process.  These learners remember more of what they are exposed to when they can use it in an active way. Athletes, surgeons, dancers, choreographers, and craftspeople display competency in this area.

Interpersonal intelligence—People exhibit interpersonal intelligence when they display an awareness or sensitivity to others’ feelings and intentions. Students exhibit this intelligence when they collaborate well, when they show thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward their friends, and when they interact with ease with others of all ages.  They learn best when using their people skills as part of the learning process.  Interaction with others through committees, group projects, and other interpersonal communication is preferred by the interpersonal learner.  Teachers, parents, politicians, psychologists, and salespeople rely on interpersonal intelligence in their work.

Intrapersonal intelligence—Intrapersonal intelligence helps individuals to “distinguish among their own feelings, to build accurate mental models of themselves, and to draw on these models to make decisions about their lives” (Kreshevsky & Siedel, 1998). Self starters, independent workers, inwardly focused, and following their on instincts is a good description of this learner. Students who understand their strengths and weaknesses have an awareness of their own emotional states, and are thoughtful when they make decisions about their lives are displaying intrapersonal intelligence.  The learning environment that best engages this intelligence style uses tutorials; self paced courses; and interactive computer games.  They enjoy self-reflection, higher order reasoning, and are good at analyzing their own strengths and weaknesses. Therapists, philosophers, poets, and religious leaders may exhibit strength in this intelligence.

Naturalistic intelligence—Naturalistic intelligence allows people to recognize and classify species and other aspects of their environment. These learners have keen sensory skills that keep them more in touch with the natural world.  They have the ability to notice things in the environment that others may miss.  Their interest focuses around plants and animals and they often keep scrapbooks and journals about what they have observed around them.  They enjoy observing nature and find it easy to learn and remember characteristics and names of animals and plants.  They learn best when they are actively involved with plants and animals.  Farmers, veterinarians, gardeners, botanists, geologists, florists, and archaeologists all exhibit this intelligence.

Existential Intelligence – These learners look at life’s “big picture,” focusing on the meaning of life and questioning who else may live in the galaxy.  They focus on their existence and how to make their lives meaningful.  “Does God exist?” and “Is there life after death?” would be some of the questions that you would hear these learners ask.  These learners learn best when they can manage their own learning.  They work well independently, and are good at evaluating their own performance.  They will sometimes have difficulty accepting their mistakes and adapting to others expectations.  Psychiatrists, philosophers, ministers, and counselors all exhibit this intelligence.

Multiple intelligences theory shows promise in developing appropriate instructional strategies for students who do not fit the traditional mold or do not excel in the math or linguistic areas. This theory also provides insight into how we can better meet the different learning styles of the Net Generation.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Effective Professional Development and Assessment Using Digital Content and Web-Based Tools

Technology, Learning and Change: A Webinar Series

This webinar series, based on the new book Technology for Learning: A Guidebook for Change, provides information about the process of creating effective, robust technology initiatives based on real-life practitioners’ successes. The three webinars will focus on the issues that help educators to transform today’s schools into thriving digital learning environments. The goal is to help you to identify and plan for key success factors and strategies that will help you get started, expand your existing program, or take your program to the next level.

2nd in three-part series
Tuesday September 27, 2011 | 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST
Click here to register for this free webinar

Using digital media and web-based content has tremendous potential to transform teaching and learning. It offers students engaging learning opportunities that provide the right level of challenge. In order to get do this effectively, teachers need ongoing, collaborative, and integrated professional development that builds their capacity to transform classrooms, raise student achievement and create high performing schools. As part of the process, educators must assess student performance carefully and adjust instruction to meet learning needs. When all elements are in place, the result is a transformation in teaching and learning. This webinar will focus on using digital content and web-based tools, providing effective professional development, and assessing the impact of change. Leaders from districts that have shown success will discuss how they got to this point and where they intend to take their strategy in the future. 

Marianthe Williams, Director of Technology, River Dell Regional School District, NJ
Leslie Wilson, CEO, One-to-One Institute 

Learning Styles

Most people develop their learning styles as children and continue to prefer that style as adults. An assessment of a person’s learning style will give us, as teachers, clues as to how that person will best take in information.  Understanding a person’s learning style helps to identify the best conditions for that person to achieve an optimal learning outcome.  Additionally, learning styles describe how a person will best process information and the most effective way for them to retain that information.

As with teaching styles, there is no “best” learning style.  Most people use a combination of learning styles although they may prefer one style over another.  Different approaches to learning are personal and it becomes a part of who that person is.  When teaching, it is important for the teacher to understand a student’s learning style.  Understanding how a student best processes information allows the teacher to capitalize on that student’s strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.  A person’s learning styles just identifies their various learning habits.

It has been suggested that teachers should assess their students learning styles and then adjust their teaching methods to best fit those styles.  Although not all authorities agree that this is important, a large number of studies do suggest that teaching to a student’s style is beneficial.  If a student is not being taught using his/her preferred style, she/he may not perform at the optimum level and could be mistakenly labeled as an underachiever. The majority of learners typically possess portions of all three learning styles.  To engage the largest number of students, a multi-sensory approach works best most of the time.

According to the VAK Model, there are three basic learning styles; Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

Visual learners are learners who need to see what they are learning.These students need pictures, charts, and other visual images to help them comprehend what they are studying.  These students relate to words such as see, observe, and imagine and may use a phrase such as “I see it this way.” To help visual learners retain what they learn, the instructor will need to help them create mental images of the information. The visual learner needs written instructions to help them master the required skills.  By reading and following directions and by using charts, diagrams, and other visual images, visual learners are able to be successful in their studies.

Auditory learners need to hear the information.These learners prefer to hear a lecture or have someone talk them through the steps needed to complete a science lab.  They are often associated with phrases such as “I hear you or I hear what you are saying.” It is not uncommon for auditory learners to talk to themselves as they go through the steps to complete a task.  Auditory learners prefer to do the task themselves while having someone else read the instructions to them.

Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners.They prefer to do something to aid in their learning.These learners learn through movement and often do well as performers or athletes.  The kinesthetic learner is associated with phrases that incorporate the word “feel.” They work well with their hands and are typically well coordinated and have a strong sense of timing.  They prefer learning a physical skill or doing something that requires practice. Simulations, lab sessions, and outside fieldwork allow kinesthetic learners to work with the material.

Much research supports the idea that when students’ learning preferences match their instructor’s teaching style, student motivation and achievement usually improves. David Kolb, who is credited with initiating the learning style movement, notes that it is more effective to design curriculum so that there is some way for learners of every learning style to engage with the topic, so that every type of learner has an initial way to connect with the material, and then begin to stretch his or her learning capability in other learning modes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Valve Offers Portal for Free

According to Valve, "One of the biggest challenges in teaching science, technology, engineering, and math is capturing the students’ imaginations long enough for them to see all of the possibilities that lie ahead. Using interactive tools like the Portal series to draw them in makes physics, math, logic, spatial reasoning, probability, and problem-solving interesting, cool, and fun which gets us one step closer to our goal—engaged, thoughtful kids!"

Valve is offering the Mac and PC versions of Portal, the 2007 physics-based puzzle game that took the world by storm, for free via Steam until September 20. Valve is giving the game away in honor of its Learn with Portals  program. The educational program hopes to leverage the way video games are increasingly playing a role in education by using Portal and Portal 2 to teach physics and critical thinking skills to students.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Free Webinar Series: Improve Your PowerPoint Presentations

Ellen Finkelstein is hosting a free webinar series--learn how to eliminate Death by PowerPoint and make your presentations come to life. Listen to guest experts share their best techniques and answer your questions!

There will be seven sessions on Wednesdays at 11am PT/2pm ET beginning today, September 6, 2011 and running through October 26th (no session on September 21st). Each webinar lasts 1 hour but may run over slightly. Each webinar will be recorded so you can view it later (up to 2 weeks after the session). Register for the webinars now! You must register, even to view the recordings.

Each week, you'll hear from an amazing lineup of guest speakers who will reveal their secrets and strategies on presenting and speaking effectively. Visit the PowerPoint blog to see the list of speakers. Or visit the website. 

Register here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Second Annual Global Education Conference Call for Proposals

The second annual Global Education Conference, a week-long event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world, will be held Monday, November 14 through Friday, November 18, 2011. The entire conference will be broadcast online for free using the Blackboard Collaborate platform (formerly known as Elluminate/Wimba). 

The Global Education Conference, a collaborative and world-wide community effort organized by the Global Education Collaborative and Classroom2.0, is aimed at increasing opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives. Last year’s conference featured 387 sessions and 60 keynote addresses from 62 countries with over 15,000 participant logins.

Sessions were held in multiple time zones and multiple languages over the five days, and are currently archived as a standing educational resource at

The Call for Proposals for the 2011 event is now open at Presenters can submit proposals for general sessions focused on one of four possible tracks: Teacher Track; Student Track; Curricular Track; and Policy and Leadership Track. Proposals should focus on ideas, projects, and initiatives that promote global understanding and collaboration. The deadline for submissions is October 15 and participants will be notified of acceptance by October 30. Keynote presentations are by invitation only. 

Session proposals are to be non-commercial. Interest in commercial sponsorship or presentations should be directed to Steve Hargadon at

For further information, please join our network at and follow us on Twitter (@GlobalEdCon) and using the hashtag #GlobalEd11.

Follow-Up Course Design for Learning

I am currently participating in a discussion with the ISTE LinkedIn Group. The discussion started out with asking for ideas for integrating Google Maps into Learning Activities; however, a side discussion lead to a conversation regarding designing learning activities/courses.  The following is my response, which references my previous post/presentation Course Design for Learning.

All too often I've seen Education faculty require their students to create lesson plans and/or activities out of context. However, when the students get into the "real world" they will need to consider a lot more. I like to have my students essentially develop a case study scenario in which they define the state standards and learner characteristics for their classroom--then build a thematic unit plan (rather than a series of individual learning activities) so they see how to integrate technology (and multiple disciplines) throughout the unit.

I'm a great believer in metacognition--understanding WHY you do something. Therefore, I see the course design process as a reflective process. What I try to get my students (and faculty) to understand is that your goals and objectives drive the activities and ultimately assessment. You have to think through which concepts need to be "covered" and what you want the students to be able to do/understand first. That means you have to know what your state/county/district wants you to teach as well as what your students know/don't know. (The ISTE standards (NETS) are another consideration.) Knowing your students is as important as knowing your objectives. You also have to consider your learning environment--what kinds of technology do your students have access to--at school and at home? What kind of support will they need--you provide? Then you need to consider the teaching and learning process--teacher-centered/student-centered or a combination. Teachers need to have a toolbox of instructional strategies that fit their teaching philosophy and think about the materials/resources that can support those strategies (be they low tech or high tech or no tech).

NOTE: Course design is an iterative--not linear--process. Although I listed assessment last, it actually needs to be considered throughout the process (formative vs. summative). 

The following related Chronicle of Higher Education article was recently shared on LinkedIn Updates: Planning a Class with Backward Design Mark Sample referenced the book, Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTigh. Wiggins and McTigh call the process of designing courses around learning goals “the backward design process.”  They offered a three-stage diagram of the backward design process:
  1. Identify desired results (What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is worthy of understanding? What enduring understandings are desired?
  2. Determine Acceptable Evidence (How will we know if students have achieved the desired results and met the standards? What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and proficiency?)
  3. Plan Learning Experiences (With clearly identified results (enduring understandings) and appropriate evidence of understanding in mind, educators can now plan instructional activities.)
Just as I outlined in my LinkedIn post, during the first stage, consider your goals, examine established content standards (national, state, and district), and review curriculum expectations. Imagine the first stage as a series of concentric circles or nested rings. The first stage allows us to prioritize what you need to teach. The outer ring represents knowledge “worth being familiar with” for students. This area represents the field of possible content (topics, skills, and resources) that might be examined during the unit or course. The middle ring encapsulates knowledge and skills “important to know and do.” In this area, we begin to set priorities by identifying important knowledge (facts, concepts, and principles) and skills (processes, strategies, and methods) that are essential for students to master. Another way of looking at this area is this is where we specify the prerequisite knowledge and skills needed for students to successfully accomplish key performances. Finally, the smallest ring, the inner ring, represents “enduring understandings”—the fundamental, "big" ideas you want students to remember days and months and years later, even after they’ve forgotten the details of the course. These understandings should anchor the course or unit.

ALPS, Active Learning Practice for Schools, developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Project Zero defines the enduring understandings as Throughlines. Throughlines are overarching describe the most important understandings that students should develop during an entire course. The understanding goals for particular units should be closely related to one or more of the throughlines of the course. 
The enduring understandings, the throughlines, should be the target for developing our course/unit/learning activity. In developing the enduring understanding goals, ask yourself, "When my students leave my class at the end of the course, what are the most important things I want them to take away with them?" You may have to review several learning units to find common themes or skills/knowledge that seem to resurface each time you teach. Sometimes it is easier to phrase the overarching goals as questions rather than statements.