Analysis of digital literacies in the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum

 

By Barbara Brown & Michele Jacobsen

Over the past couple of weeks, Alberta educators, curriculum experts and researchers have offered a variety of responses to the March 2021 Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum [start here, here, here, and here]. One journalist gave the draft top marks, but most experts, after detailed and critical review, assign a failing grade. Dr. Carla Peck, Professor of Social Studies Education, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, completed a detailed analysis of the draft K-6 Social Studies Curriculum and calls for a complete re-write. In a future post, we will address the clear disconnect between professional practice expectations of teachers (TQS), school leaders (LQS), and superintendents (SLQS) and the draft K-6 curriculum. The professional practice standards include competencies for applying foundational knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and culture in educational professionals’ work with children, and these ideas and concepts are only superficially addressed in the draft curriculum.

 

An explosion of social media activity includes diverse commentary and sharp critiques that run counter the positive and defensive narrative from the ministry. We appreciate the detailed analysis of plagiarism in the curriculum documents provided by our colleague, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, from the University of Calgary. The two of us (Drs. Brown and Jacobsen) have decided to weigh in on the relative lack of any meaningful role for learning technology and digital media in the draft K-6 Curriculum documents. Our initial analysis contributes a review of digital literacies and competencies, technology, coding and ethics from an educational technology perspective. The two of us hold teaching expertise and our doctorates in educational technology, conduct research in online and blended K-12 and post-secondary contexts, and have been involved in development of the Information and Communication Technology Curriculum (2000) and the Technology Policy Framework (2013) . We have both served as members of the School Technology Advisory Committee in Alberta. Alberta Education has been a world leader in the integration of technology for learning across the curriculum. The timeline of learning and technology in Alberta from 1975 to 2009 also includes various initiatives and research projects that we have both been part of and provides a foundation for our research in Alberta schools.

 

We are also involved in designing and continually updating contemporary university programs for educators, such as the Leading and Learning in a Digital Age graduate certificate that invites critical inquiry on leading learning and teaching with technology across the curriculum.

 

The following themes emerged in our analysis of close to 273 pages of draft curriculum documents including the competency progressions, literacy progressions, numeracy progressions, subject introductions and draft curriculum for ELA, Fine Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education and Wellness, Science, Social Studies, and Visual Arts. Our review does not include the French Immersion or French Language curriculum, Dance, Music or Drama. We suggest further analysis of learning technologies and digital literacy should include all of the draft curriculum documents.

 

Our initial analysis includes five key areas of concern related to digital literacies in the draft K-6 curriculum. First, we note that digital literacies and digital competencies are not part of the literacy progressions. We note that digital texts are referenced 5 times, as are vague notions of modes and media. We argue that specific reference to digital literacies and digital competencies must be included in the literacy progressions in a modern curriculum, especially if Alberta children are to learn how to navigate, evaluate and create knowledge in this post-truth era in which disinformation, appeals to emotion and fake news proliferates.

 

Second, the outcomes that include the terms technology, technologies or digital are limited in frequency throughout the curriculum, include few expectations for the early grades and are unclear with a possibility for different interpretations:

  • Words with technology appeared in 20 instances in the English Language Arts, Math and Science documents, and the term “technologies” also appeared in 20 instances but only in the Science documents.
  • In the English Language Arts K-6 draft, the first of three instances of technology appeared in grade 4. Based on our research, we are concerned about this omission in K-3 in the English Language Arts curriculum and discuss findings from one of our studies with early learners using technology here. The way the term technology and technologies are used in the draft curriculum are ambiguous. For example, in the Language arts curriculum in grade 6 – “Vocabulary is contextual and influenced by emerging or changing conditions, including technology” is vague and can be interpreted as optional.
  • In Math, the single instance of technology appeared in grade 5: “Create various representations of data, including with technology, to interpret frequency.”
  • In the Science curriculum, the term technology appeared in the introduction and started to appear minimally in grade 2. The term technologies appeared starting in grade 3. However, the terms technology and technologies appeared most frequently in the grade 5-6 outcomes. Even in the science curriculum, we noted the ambiguous use. For example, in Science Grade 6, the term technology is used as part of a list (e.g., computers, coding and technology).
  • Even though the term digital appears in over 130 instances throughout the documents, the term is mostly preceded by the term OR and can be interpreted as optional. For example, “use non-digital OR digital sources/texts” is commonly used in the English Language Arts curriculum. In contrast, a conceptual framework for emergent digital literacy from Australia used more precise language, “As we progress in the 21st century, children learn to become proficient readers and writers of both digital and non-digital texts” (Neumann, Finger & Neumann, 2017, p. 471). The Australian authors clearly emphasize the use of both digital and non-digital unlike the ambiguous wording currently used in the draft Alberta curriculum.

 

Third, we are concerned that the use of coding in the curriculum suggests that computer programming skills are sufficiently integrated in the draft K-6 curriculum. While computer science is listed in the practical skills section, coding is simplified in the learning outcomes as a mechanical process that can be done with paper/pencil. When we searched the 273 pages, the word coding only appeared in 17 learning outcomes and all of these instances were found in the Science curriculum grade 5, 6. The integration of coding is limited to learning in one disciplinary area and is absent for younger learners. Where are the “algorithms, technology and engineering to design solutions to problems” evident in the learning outcomes? These omissions in the draft curriculum stand in direct contrast to contemporary research on the importance of coding and computational thinking for all learners worldwide.  Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director (March 22, 2019), asked “Should schools teach coding?”, and presents important questions about coding and computational thinking that need to be better considered in the Alberta K-6 draft curriculum: “How can we focus learning on the “essence” of a subject rather than the ‘mechanics of the moment’? It is fair to question how working code on paper in a modern age offers any value beyond rote mechanics.

 

Fourth, we argue the curriculum should include explicit focus on ethics and technology at every age. The word ethics only appears in 3 instances and all of these were in the Science curriculum, grade 5. Here’s one of our recent books regarding the importance of ethical use of technology in digital learning environments to support our argument for increasing the curricular focus in this area. As they engage deeply in accessing and contributing knowledge a digital world, Alberta students and teachers need to be engaged in conversations and inquiry into contemporary issues such as personal privacy, access rights, copyright, surveillance, and security.

 

Fifth, there is limited and superficial reference to technology and digital competencies in this draft curriculum. We would have expected a new curriculum to build on or further develop the concepts and ideas in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF) from 2013. The LTPF, Policy Direction 1 described the direction for technology use with students: “to support student-centred, personalized, authentic learning for all students” (p. 5) and this could have been a great starting point for developing a contemporary curriculum for Alberta’s children. Instead, this draft curriculum takes us back decades in failing to adequately consider learning technologies, digital literacy and digital competencies for Alberta children.

 

We recognize this is an initial versus comprehensive critique of the relative absence of meaningful consideration of educational technology in the draft. We anticipate and welcome more commentaries and critique to emerge over the coming days and weeks. Based on our initial analysis, we argue the ministry needs to go back to the drawing board to design a contemporary curriculum that prepares learners for their digital futures and digital economies, instead of our pasts. We also encourage everyone to get involved in the public engagement and provide feedback on the draft K-6 curriculum presented in March 2021.

 

Schleicher (2019), OECD, leaves us with this call to action: “To determine what tomorrow’s students should learn, we must assemble the best minds in a given country – leading experts in the field, but also those who understand how students learn, as well as those who have a good understanding of how knowledge and skills are used in the real world. Such knowledge sharing will allow us to more precisely determine and regularly re-examine which topics should be taught and in what sequence – without succumbing to the temptations of the moment” (P 9).

 

Some of the best minds and leading experts in their fields across Alberta, and school, classroom and university experts who understand how children learn, are analyzing, questioning and critiquing elements of this draft curriculum; will the Minister of Education listen? Or, will she continue to succumb to the ideological and political temptations of the moment?

Note: This post is also available on Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s blog

Feel free to connect with us: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  OR Twitter handles: @barbbrown @dmichelej

 

Advancing Faculty Development and Graduate Supervision Online: A Global Dialogue Forum

Overview of our global dialogue presented on March 30, 2021:  In this session we discuss the challenges and opportunities for advancing faculty development and graduate supervision in online learning. We dispel myths about online learning environments and discuss how digital innovations provide possibilities for faculty and students to learn and connect globally. We also share our experiences with engaging pre-service, in-service teachers, and faculty in professional learning through an online pedagogy series and graduate supervision MOOC.

Link to Presentation  – Mar30-2021 Slides.pptx

University of Calgary Links:

Werklund School of Education Graduate Programs, University of Calgary – https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary – https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/ (open access learning modules)

Other Related Sources:

Brown, B. (2019). One-Take Productions for Student Feedback. Education Canada Magazine, 59(2). https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

 

Brown, B. (2020). Using Zoom to create weekly video message for students.

http://www.drbarbbrown.com/2020/06/18/using-zoom-to-create-a-weekly-video-message-for-students/

 

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

 

Brown, B., Burns, A., Kendrick, A., Kapoyannis, T., & Delanoy, N. (2020). Adapting to changing K-12 contexts during COVID-19: Teacher education perspectives. In M. K. Barbour & LaBonte, R., Stories from the field: Voices of K-12 Stakeholders during Pandemic, Canadian eLearning Network, pp. 63-68. https://sites.google.com/view/canelearn-ert/

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses. In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

 

Brown, B., Jacobsen, M., & Lambert, D. (2014, May 9-10). Learning technologies in higher education [Paper presentation]. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to the Challenge Conference, (pp. 25-43). Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50588

 

Brown, B., Roberts, V., Jacobsen, M., & Hurrell, C. (Eds.) (2020). Ethical use of technology in digital learning environments: Graduate student perspectives. University of Calgary [eBook]  https://doi.org/10.11575/ant1-kb38

 

Brown, B. & Vaughan, N. (2018). Designing group work in blended learning environments. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning (pp. 82-97). Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

 

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

 

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework – https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

 

Graham, C. R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 18, 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

 

Irvine, V. (2020, Oct 26). The Landscape of Merging Modalities. Educause Review, 4. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/10/the-landscape-of-merging-modalities

 

Jacobsen, M., Friesen, S., & Lock, J. (2013). Strategies for Engagement: Knowledge building and intellectual engagement in participatory learning environments. Education Canada. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/strategies-for-engagement/

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environments in higher education: A review of the literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, (80 pages). http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Martin, J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), 9-13. https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin

 

Mazur, A., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning Technology, 41(2), 1-26. https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/26977

 

Note: This post is also available on Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s blog

Feel free to connect with us: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  OR Twitter handles: @barbbrown @dmichelej

Two Exciting Master’s Degree Topics in Learning Sciences

Be a Leader in the Digital Age!

You are invited to join us in the Master of Education program, Leading and Learning in a Digital Age. Digital innovation and learning in multimodal contexts are a global focus. Explore the complexities of inclusive and high-quality digital learning environments using online pedagogies. This four-course topic in Learning Sciences is fully online and designed with flexibility for working professionals. You will: (i) examine the implications for designing and leading interdisciplinary and technology-rich learning; (ii) strengthen your competencies in technological literacies; (iii) explore ethics in technology-enhanced learning environments; and (iv) plan for leading and empowering citizenry in a participatory and digital age. Learn alongside instructors and invited guests who are internationally recognized in the educational technology field and experience a highly interactive online learning experience.

Take risks and learn how to use innovative technologies, develop your social learning network, and critically examine the literature and research in the field. Plan to make a difference in your work context to help others navigate the complexities of living and working a digital world. This topic attracts teachers and professionals in educational environments as well as professionals in other fields and disciplinary areas, world-wide.

Apply by March 1, 2021

For more information, contact Academic Coordinator, Dr. Barb Brown, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, Werklund School of Education – babrown@ucalgary.ca

Be a Changemaker!

Become a cohort member of this four-course graduate program in education  for those wishing to develop collaborative cultures of creativity in their professional workplaces, classrooms, and across connected networks. Learn to engage in interactivity and empathetic and generative  communication in a way to achieve high levels of collaboration that leverages the strengths of each group and community member to achieve what would be difficult or near impossible as individuals. This program is fully online and designed with flexibility for working professionals. Develop and empower your creative and collaborative potentials and of those around you.

A central feature of this program is continual collaborative engagement in contextual personal and professional creative problem solving across a wide range of real world contexts from the United Nations Sustainable Global Goals to the classroom or professional workplace. This is supported against a backdrop of both action and literature-based research into the fields of creativity, collaboration, and human-centred design. The Collaborative Creativity for Social Innovation and Human-Centred Design program attracts those from diverse educational and  professional backgrounds wishing to engage in a truly unique, transformative experience in a  highly interactive, virtual educational space.

Apply by March 1 , 2021

For more information, contact Academic Coordinator, Dr. Robert Kelly, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary – rkelly@ucalgary.ca

NOTE: The  two programs can be taken sequentially and then stacked with a third year (4 research courses) to complete an MEd degree. Alternatively, participants can take any one of the two programs for professional learning purposes (and receive a certificate). Both are offered fully online and completed over one year while working full-time. There are also numerous other program options that can be stacked with these ones if you are looking for a different topic.

Applications are open until March 1, 2021 for programs commencing in July 2021. Visit the MEd Interdisciplinary site for more information and Apply Now through to March 1, 2021!

 

Ethical use of technology in digital learning environments

Brown, B., Roberts, V., Jacobsen, M., Hurrell, C. (Eds.). (2020). Ethical use of technology in digital learning environments: Graduate student perspectives. University of Calgary. https://doi.org/10.11575/ant1-kb38

This open access book is the result of a co-design project in a class in the Masters of Education program at the University of Calgary, Leading and Learning in a Digital Age – https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs/leading-learning-in-digital-age

The course, and the resulting book, focus primarily on the safe and ethical use of technology in digital learning environments. The course was organized according to four topics based on Farrow’s (2016) Framework for the Ethics of Open Education. Students were invited to contribute a chapter and co-design the chapter with their instructor and peers. Behind the scenes, there was a team of editors and research assistants who worked to create the book and publish in the open access format. As a result, there are ten chapters in the book, including nine chapters written by students in the program and an introductory chapter written by the team of editors. It took one full year to complete the book from start to finish. The chapters were drafted during the early part of 2020 and the team of editors carefully reviewed each chapter and continued to work with the chapter authors throughout the year to make revisions and refine each chapter. Finally, the chapters were reviewed by a professional copyeditor prior to publishing the book. It was impressive to see the high level of student engagement and level of commitment demonstrated by the students even after they completed their course work and the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the MEd program in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, consider Leading and Learning in a Digital Age – https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs/leading-learning-in-digital-age

Applications for programs starting in July 2021 are now open and close on March 1, 2021.

Exploring the Promise of Online and Blended Pedagogy (Jacobsen & Brown, Nov 30, 2020)

Interactive Technology Demos, Resources and References from our Synchronous Session in the WSE Professional Learning Series: https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/professional-learning-series

Overview:  Good teaching is good teaching whether it occurs online or in blended contexts. One of the myths of online learning is that it is inferior to meeting in person. In this session, we explore how teachers can cultivate strong relationships with students and create the conditions for learning in digital spaces. This session focuses on ways teachers can engage with networked learning communities and access expertise and resources for teaching in diverse contexts. Session slides: Nov30-2020 Slides

Connect with us:

babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca 

Twitter: @barbbrown @dmichelej

 

Interactive Technology Demos

  • Google slides, Google forms & Google jamboards
  • Zoom videoconferencing
  • Zoom polls, Zoom chat, Zoom annotations, Zoom breakout rooms
  • Using Zoom to Create Messages

Using Zoom to Create a Weekly Video Message for Students

Resources & Networks

  • EdCan Network – https://www.edcan.ca
    • National Educational Association that amplifies how teachers, principals, superintendents, researchers and other education leaders are boldly challenging the status quo.
    • Open access to Education Canada Magazine

References & Readings

Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2020, September 3). Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning. Blog:  http://girlprof.blogspot.com/2020/09/underlying-messages-and-myths-about.html

Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses. In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

Brown, B. (2019). One-Take Productions for Student Feedback. Education Canada Magazine, 59(2). https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

Brown, B., Jacobsen, M., & Lambert, D. (2014, May 9-10). Learning technologies in higher education [Paper presentation]. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to the Challenge Conference, (pp. 25-43). Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50588

Ferdig, R. E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., & Mouza, C. (2020). Teaching, Technology & Teacher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education eBook: https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/

Friesen, S., Saar, C., Park, A., Marcotte, C., Hampshire, T., Martin, B., Brown, B., & Martin, J. (2015). Focus on Inquiry. [eBook] http://inquiry.galileo.org/

Friesen, S. (2009). What did you do in school today? Teaching Effectiveness: A Framework and Rubric. Canadian Education Association. https://galileo.org/publication/what-did-you-do-in-school-today-teaching-effectiveness-a-framework-and-rubric/

Friesen, S. (2015). “An Inquiry Stance on Practice: How the Process of Inquiry Produces Knowledge”. Focus on Inquiry.  https://inquiry.galileo.org/ch5/an-inquiry-stance-on-practice/

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework – https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

Graham, C. R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 18, 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

Irvine, V. (2020, Oct 26). The Landscape of Merging Modalities. Educause Review, 4. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/10/the-landscape-of-merging-modalities

Jacobsen, M., Friesen, S., & Lock, J. (2013). Strategies for Engagement: Knowledge building and intellectual engagement in participatory learning environments. Education Canada, https://www.edcan.ca/articles/strategies-for-engagement/ 

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environments in higher education: A review of the literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, (80 pages).http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

Martin, J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), 9-13. https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin

Mazur, A. D., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning Designs using Flipped Classroom Instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 41(2), 1-26. https://doi.org/10.21432/T2PG7P

Minero, E. (2020, August). Educators turn to Bitmoji to build community and engagement. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/educators-turn-bitmoji-build-community-and-engagement

Stelmach, B. M., Hunter, D. M., Brown, B., O’Connor, B., & Brandon, J. (2019). Optimum Learning for All Students: Highlights from the Research Literature. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/110447

Tucker, C. (2020, August 19). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: How to Design for Each Type of Learning. https://catlintucker.com/2020/08/asynchronous-vs-synchronous/

Werklund School of Education Research Partnership. Optimum Learning for All Students: Implementing Alberta’s 2018 Professional Practice Standards. Online: https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/community-engagement/partner-research-schools/research-partnerships/optimum-learning-all

 

This post is also available on Dr. Jacobsen’s site –http://girlprof.blogspot.com/2020/11/exploring-promise-of-online-and-blended.html

 

Technology Used to Support Learning in Groups

 

Brown, B., & Thomas, C. (2020). Technology used to support learning in groups. International Journal of E-Learning and Distance Education, 35(1), 1-26. http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/1158/1802

Abstract: Across disciplines, researchers recognize that working together in a small group can be a challenging learning activity, particularly in an online course where group members meet remotely. This 2-year, design-based research study focused on improving group work in both online and blended sections of an undergraduate course for pre-service teachers. Surveys were completed by instructors (N=15) and students (N=361) at three different junctures during the course to learn about how technologies were used by students and instructors to support group work. Interviews were also conducted at the end of the term to gather in-depth descriptions about the types of technologies and how they were used by students and instructors to support group work. Findings indicated that students and instructors selected a combination of technologies, including institutionally supported and mainstream applications such as shared workspaces to coordinate, track, and monitor group progress. Students and instructors also described using communication technologies to manage group challenges related to scheduling, communicating, and integrating tasks into the project. Findings contribute to our understanding about how technologies were used to support process and product when working on a group assignment

Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning

Barbara Brown and Michele Jacobsen

There are many underlying messages about online learning that we have been noting in the communications and decisions related to school re-entry plans. We thought it might be helpful to provide some trustworthy information and research citations to help counter some of these myths:

 

  • Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning
  • Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person
  • Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online learning

 

Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning

Online learning designs have been proven to be effective for learning. In fact, research occurring during the pandemic demonstrated that even during a crisis-response and rapid transition to remote teaching, this mode of learning online can be effective for a diverse range of learners. The promise and possibilities for robust online learning designs increase when instructors have ample lead time to collaborate and design digital learning plans and strategies for their students.

 

  • According to Donovan et al. (2019), blended and hybrid learning have been proven to be an important part of Canadian post-secondary education prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Online learning is accepted (e.g., online credentials are as respected as face-to-face credentials)
    • Demonstrated Student Satisfaction (e.g., Students are as satisfied with online courses as they are with face-to-face course)
    • Online learning designs often promote innovations in teaching
  • Barbour et al. (2019) indicated that approximately 300,000 K-12 students in Canada were engaged in distance and/or online learning in 2018-19. In March 2020, educators and students across Canada pivoted from in-person classrooms to educating over 5 million students remotely in less than two weeks.
  • During the pandemic, researchers shared many examples of effective teaching, technology and teacher education during the pandemic (Ferding et al., 2020). Some key findings that help support the notion that even a rapid transition to online can be effective:
    • 50 – research shows eLearning presents challenges for parents, teachers and administrators, argues for field placements online, professional development for teachers, and additional research is needed for a thoughtful digital learning plan
    • 67 – a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, collaborative tools, can be supportive for students with diverse learning need and can provide equitable access when approaches are grounded in patience and flexibility
    • 78 – classes that were using technologies pre-COVID found it a seamless transition to fully online and using the same technologies
    • 94 – social interactions are important and this can be achieved online
    • 132 – relationships and professional collaboration can be achieved online

 

Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person

Some presume there is less interaction in online courses when compared to in-class, face-to-face teaching and learning (Watts, 2016). However, it has been proven that interactivity, engagement and strong social and community presence can be fostered in online courses for students and instructors (Garrison, 2017; Young & Bruce, 2011). Contemporary learning technologies enable teachers and learners to connect, collaborate and communicate effectively in diverse ways using an intentional blend of “live” (synchronous) and teacher or self-directed (asynchronous) learning designs (Jacobsen, et al., 2013; Tucker, 2020). For example, a teacher can collect, curate and assign relevant podcasts, videos, and textual resources to be accessed and viewed by learners prior to a real-time or live modelling session the teacher leads with the entire class. Known as flipped instruction, this approach to blending asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences and opportunities is an effective pedagogical approach teachers are using to design online learning experiences that are highly interactive (Mazur, et al., 2015).

 

Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online classes

  • Both self-directed asynchronous learning tasks and activities, and scheduled synchronous activities and interactions, are important for learning in online courses.
  • Asynchronous activities provide students with time to reflect and think before interacting with their peers in discussion groups. Students can view multi-media educational resources at their own pace with accessibility options. These are important elements of active and engaged learning in online courses (Lee & Brett, 2015; Watts, 2016)
  • Synchronous activities, such seminars, webinars and conversations with instructors, peers and expert guest speakers, are also important for learning in online courses (Martin et al., 2017; Watts, 2016).
  • Live interaction matters but relying on too many synchronous activities can promote inequities for those unable to connect/attend scheduled events (Banna et al., 2015)
  • An appropriate range and blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities using communication applications for collaborative knowledge building (Brown et al., 2013; Brown & Eaton, 2020; Watts, 2016) are ideal with flexibility for individual student needs, circumstances, and access to reliable technology.

 

References:

 

Banna, J., Grace Lin, M., Stewart, M., & Fialkowski, M. (2015). Interaction matters: Strategies to promote engaged learning in online introductory nutrition course. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 249-261.

 

Barbour, M., & LaBonte, R. (2019). State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada.

https://k12sotn.ca/reports/

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses (Chapter 10). In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

 

Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no3/brown_0913.htm

 

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

 

Ferding, R. E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., & Mouza, C. (2020), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/

 

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge.

 

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. November, 80 pages. URL:  http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Lee, K. & Brett, C. (2015). Dialogic understanding of teachers’ online transformative learning: A qualitative case study of teacher discussions in a graduate-level online course. Teaching and Teacher Education, 46, 72-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2014.11.001

 

Martin, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., & Budhrani, K. (2017). Systematic review of two decades (1995 to 2014) of research on synchronous online learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 31(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2017.1264807

 

Mazur, A. D., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 41(2), 1-26. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21432/T2PG7P

 

Tucker, C. (2020). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: How to Design for Each Type of Learning. https://catlintucker.com/2020/08/asynchronous-vs-synchronous/

 

Watts, L. (2016). Synchronous and asynchronous communication in distance learning: a review of the literature. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 17(1), 23–32. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1142962

 

Young, S., & Bruce, M. A. (2011). Classroom community and student engagement in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/young_0611.htm

 

 

This co-authored blog post has been cross published by both authors; please access Dr. Michele Jacobsen’s post here:

http://girlprof.blogspot.com/2020/09/underlying-messages-and-myths-about.html 

Back to School: In-Person or Online?

Today I was interviewed by Angela Kokott on 770 CHQR Global News Radio and discussed back to school for Fall 2020. Here’s my reflections about today’s discussion and some suggestions to help parents  prepare for a new school.

Going back to school will not look like it did last year or the year before. Many families are faced with making a difficult decision about the mode of schooling to select for Fall 2020. Making a decision is difficult with limited information and so many unknowns.

  • What will school look like if we choose to go back to school in-person and in the building?
  • What will school like if we select online learning?

Each option will be different from any past experiences. Learning in the classroom will have many health restrictions and this will change the ways students will be grouped and will move and interact throughout their day. Parents will need to consider back-up plans for days when a child has an elevated temperature or sniffles. There will need to be plans for when a child or adult has a positive COVID-19 test result. A typical day at school will look and feel different.

Online learning in the Spring 2020 was a crisis response and was not a model of what quality online learning can be when it is planned and intentional. Families might wonder if online learning is a good option for their family. Families will need to consider if they have supports in place to accommodate online learning? Some of these supports might include, a workspace for the child, adequate technology, adult supervision as well as other specialized supports to accommodate individual learning needs. Parents might wonder if online learning might involve excessive screen time and live webinar style sessions with the teacher and the class. How might this impact Internet access at home if sharing connections or technology with siblings or parents also working from home? How will students interact with peers? Will the teacher assign group work or will all the work be independent and self-directed? How will online teachers accommodate students and families when they are not feeling well? Will the school provide curb-side pick-up service for text books and other school-issued resources or will they deliver to the home? Can parents volunteer and help in online classes? There are so many questions.

Parents could use more information about what to expect with each option. It would be great to have an orientation or video-tour to help parents learn more about what a typical day might look like if choosing in-person classes and how families might prepare for periods of school closure.

It would also be great to have a video tour of a typical day in the online environment to reassure parents that class sizes will remain manageable in online, screen time will not be excessive, that there will be a balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and that students will be working closely with peers and developing relationships with their teachers and classmates.

From a research perspective, I can reassure parents that online can be just as effective as in-person learning. Online credentials are as respected as face-to-face credentials (Donovan et al., 2019). Online learning can be highly interactive and you can develop strong relationships online (Garrison, 2017; Young & Bruce, 2011). Online learning is best with a range of activities that are whole group and all together as well as activities that can be done independently or collaboratively in small groups (Brown et al., 2013; Brown & Eaton, 2020).

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses (Chapter 10). In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no3/brown_0913.htm

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Young, S., & Bruce, M. A. (2011). Classroom community and student engagement in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/young_0611.htm

High School Redesign

Abstract: Researchers examined seven schools in Alberta undergoing high school redesign and removing the Carnegie Unit, a time-based metric for awarding course credits. A mixed methods convergent parallel design was used to gather data from leadership teams in the schools and to examine evidence of impact on student learning. Qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed concurrently and then merged for the analysis. Findings illustrate that removing the Carnegie Unit was a catalyst for redesign and learning improvements.  Five constitutive factors enable high school redesign, including a collective disposition as a learning community, a focus on relationship building, obtaining student input, collaboration, and making changes to learning tasks and assessment practices.  The findings provide insight into the ways in which leadership teams formed complex adaptive systems to enable change and may serve to inform practitioners and school leaders, schools and systems, and those who study policy changes in schools.

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

Using Zoom to Create a Weekly Video Message for Students

I like to send out messages to my students at the start of the week to describe the assignments for the week and provide any other important messages and reminders.

Here’s a summary of my steps:

  1. First, I create a script and decide what I plan to discuss.
  2. Next, I select visuals that can support my points. If I’m discussing a reading, then I open website in a new tab in web browser. Likewise, if I’m using my own visuals or slides, then I have those ready and open on my desktop.
  3. Once I have all the text and visuals ready and open on my desktop, I start Zoom. I open a new meeting, but I don’t invite anyone else. I’m the only participant in the meeting.
  4. I turn on my video and start recording. I usually start my video for the first part of my video message so I can wave to my students as part of the introduction. After saying hello, I generally turn off my video. This keeps the file size a bit smaller.
  5. I pause the recording at any point when I need a break to move between visuals. Once I have the visual in place, I resume recording and continue with the video. I repeat this process as many times as needed. I also find it helpful to pause the recording when I need to slow down and take a breath.
  6. Once I’m finished the message, I stop the recording and end the meeting.
  7. Ending the Zoom meeting will then render the video. The output will be in audio (audio_only.m4a) and video format (zoom.mp4). Another format is also offered (playback.m3u) – for single entry playlists. If my presentation incorporated visuals, then I select the video output (mp4) to share with students as a screencast. If my presentation did not have visuals, then I select the audio output (m4a) and share with my students as a podcast.
  8. I use the learning management system provided by my school to share the file with my students. I can post a news item for students and add my video message. I can also send out a note via email and provide the link to the message as well as a copy of my script. Some students may prefer to review the script and the video. The script also allows students to check over any words they may not have understood. The video can be watched more than one time if needed and provides a personalized way of communicating with students regularly.
  9. My final tips for creating a weekly video message for students is to aim for “one-take production.” I wrote about how I use one-take productions to provide students with video feedback. Similarly, I advocate for one-take productions when creating weekly video messages. This means, I usually record the video one time and I don’t worry about stumbling over words or any background noises, or other interruptions. It shouldn’t take hours to create a video message. Be yourself, don’t worry about creating a polished or theatre ready production, and most importantly have fun!