Tuesday, March 31, 2015

4.3.1 The Synchronous Session Quest

Creating a true classroom culture is perhaps the most challenging aspect of virtual education. Facilitating learning in an online environment is quite different from teaching face-to-face in the classroom. Among all the different learning experiences offered in the virtual classroom, synchronous learning sessions represent the most similar experience to the traditional classroom. Because they usually take place only once a week, it is very important to plan these sessions thoroughly in order to ensure that this virtual face-to-face time with students is maximized.

Dedicating the first session to learn about students' backgrounds, interests, previous learning experiences as well as individual learning styles will give instructors the opportunity to collect all the information needed to make sure that the rest of the synchronous sessions in the course are engaging and relevant to their students. Equally important is that instructors integrate multiple collaborative learning activities within these sessions, giving students the opportunity to interact with each other in meaningful ways. Student-centered synchronous sessions are a central component to build a sense of community, a community of learners, in the virtual classroom. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

4.2.3 Discussions Quest

Discussion forums play an important role in the online classroom. From the student's perspective, discussion forums give the opportunity to exchange thoughts, share opinions, connect with each other, and build knowledge together. From the instructor's perspective, discussion forums represent a highly effective teaching and assessment tool. When students respond to prompts that require higher order thinking skills, instructors can use these responses to evaluate the mastery level of skills and standards. With this assessment data, instruction can be adjusted accordingly to meet students' needs.

In order to facilitate discussions effectively, it is essential for instructors to be present and active in the online forum. It is also critical that instructors respond to the first thread of all student responses to make sure that the essential elements are being addressed in the post. Lastly, when giving feedback, instructors must follow a rubric and be very specific regarding expectations and quality of student responses. Rigor is a key component in discussion forums' effectiveness.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

4.2.2 Digital Feedback

In order to promote student mastery and interest in the learning process in an online environment, it is important that instructors provide feedback that it is not only specific, but also that it is delivered in an innovative manner. Fortunately, there are innumerable tools that can be used to integrate digital feedback in the evaluation process. The ultimate goal is to heighten students' interest in the course content by providing usable feedback that can allow them to maximize their learning experience and feel accomplished.

For students that did not master a particular skill that was being evaluated, the following is an example of an outside resource that can be used to clarify concepts.

When a student has perfectly mastered a skill, a virtual round of applause is certainly well-deserved! (:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

4.2.1 Feedback Quest

Presentational Communication Task

GPS for Modern Languages Level II

MLII.P1B: Give brief, organized oral presentations, using visual and technological support as appropriate

MLII.IP2D: Demonstrate Novice-Mid to Novice-High proficiency in oral and written exchanges with respect to proper pronunciation, intonation, and writing mechanics.

MLII.P2A: Demonstrate Novice-Mid to Novice-High Proficiency in pronunciation and intonation when presenting material.

Un viaje inolvidable
An Unforgettable Trip

Students will go on a virtual trip to a Spanish-speaking country of their choice. They will create a multimedia presentation integrating the most important and interesting cultural and geographical facts of their country. Students will present their products to the class in a synchronous session. Below is the rubric that I will use to provide specific feedback to students about their presentational and speaking skills in the target language.

Oral Presentation Rubric

Student’s pronunciation is near native with consistent vowel sounds.
Student does not use consistent vowel sounds and/or struggles to roll the sound “rr”.
Student does not use consistent vowel sounds and struggles to roll the sound “rr”.
Student rarely uses proper vowel sounds and does not use proper consonant sounds.
Student’s flow of speech is fluid with pauses only as needed.
Student’s flow of speech is fluid with few unnecessary pauses.
Student’s flow of speech is moderate with few incorrect pauses.
Student’s flow of speech is slow with several incorrect pauses.
The presentation appears to be well-rehearsed, with excellent intonation.
The presentation appears to be relatively rehearsed, with a fairly good intonation.
Delivery is not smooth, lacking good intonation.
Delivery is not smooth, with poor intonation.

Monday, March 23, 2015

4.1.2 Rubrics Quest

Here is one of the rubrics that I use for online presentational tasks.  I created this rubric with RubiStar.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

4.1.1 Evaluation Methods and Communication Practices

How will students receive feedback? by giulia.forsythe, on Flickr
 Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  giulia.forsythe 
As stated in several of the resources provided for this quest, there is a direct relationship between ongoing communication and continued feedback and student achievement in the online environment. When effective communication practices are employed, feedback becomes an essential part of those communication practices. When instructors communicate with students, depending on each student specific needs, they determined whether direct or indirect feedback is more beneficial.

Regular, authentic feedback is one of the most effective practices to improve student performance. In online learning, regularly communicating to students what they are doing well and what they can do better helps students stay motivated and achieve at a higher levels. For instance, in language instruction, the feedback that error correction provides is essential for the development of a second language writing skills. Indirect feedback may be more appropriate when the goal is to encourage student reflection and self-correction. However, lower proficiency students may have difficulty correcting errors if direct feedback is not provided.

Instructors have the valuable opportunity to enrich students' online learning experience by providing timely, formative feedback. Formative feedback's focus is on learning, and not on grades. When students receive formative feedback through their learning process in a timely manner, instead of focusing on the final, summative product, feedback becomes an important developmental tool that gives students clear guidance on how they can improve and be more successful.

Friday, March 20, 2015

3.2.2 Differentiation Quest

For the Differentiation Quest, I created three examples of differentiated communication practices to announce the beginning of a new unit of study within a Spanish course. The resources that I decided to choose are Voki, Wordle, and Piktochart. Both auditory and visual learning styles are effectively addressed with these resources. The ultimate goal is to deliver course information successfully and increase student engagement.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

3.2.1 The Newsletter Quest

Newsletters play a very important role in virtual instruction programs. It is a creative and engaging way to ensure ongoing communication with all the stakeholders. Because of the virtual nature of online learning, continued communication regarding academic expectations and due dates becomes key to ensure students' success.

Smore, Lino, and Remind are highly effective methods of delivering important course information to both parents and students. For this quest, I created a weekly newsletter using Smore. I also created a Lino sticky to be posted on the course homepage bulletin board. Additionally, I will be sending Remind messages with the due dates for each assignment.

Monday, March 16, 2015

3.1.2 News Quest

News News News 323/365 by Skley, on Flickr
   Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic Licenseby  Skley 
As an online instructor, I find it vital to incorporate news items and announcements in a variety of ways, from the most traditional ones such as email and the news forum, to more interactive tools that include animation and audio. The goal is to reach every student and to capitalize in their particular learning styles to make the online-learning experience as successful and meaningful as possible.

The following is a Voki that I created to complement and redeliver an important message posted on the homepage bulletin board.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

2.1.3 Ongoing Communication

Undoubtedly, effective communication remains an essential part of online instruction. Since all student-teacher interaction takes place virtually, it becomes imperative that teachers use as many Web 2.0 tools as possible not only to individualize instruction, but also to communicate effectively. Unlike the learning environment in a brick-and-mortal school, virtual learning requires from the instructor a high level of responsiveness when communicating with both students and parents. Emails and phone calls should be returned within 24 hours to provide students the assistance that they need. Also, parents' inquiries should be addressed immediately in order to give them a stronger sense of connection and involvement in their child's education.

An example of an ongoing communication that could be sent to all stakeholders.

Friday, March 13, 2015

2.1.2 Communication Guidelines

DAY 29/365: Communication by dcosand, on Flickr
   Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licenseby  dcosand

Communication Plan Outline

  • Welcome email:
    • Course name
    • Welcome message (my contact information and office hours)
    • Information concerning the date and time of the synchronous Welcome Session
    • Instructions concerning course access
    • Instructions accessing Course Schedules and Course Syllabi
    • Expectations
  • Individual phone call to each student welcoming him or her to the program and class:
    • Conference with the parent
    • Verification that all contact information, including emails and phone numbers are accurate
  • Personal notes versus mass communication to stakeholders:
    • Individualized performance feedback will be communicated to students, parents, and schools through personal notes.
    • Mass communication to stakeholders will be exclusively used for general announcements and updates.
  • Stakeholders:
    • Daily communication with students
    • Bi-weekly progress report sent to parents and base school
    • Automatic missing assignment/behind pace report sent to parents and base school
    • Brag notes sent regularly to all stakeholders
  • School Policies regarding Communication:
    • These policies will be followed and all contact will be documented for future reference regarding student performance, special needs, and/or academic issues.
    • All administrative team members will be informed about student concerns, academic violations, or parental issues as determined by the program’s policy for communication.
  • Tools available for effective Communication: The “News” forum, Lino stickies, email, phone, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, Remind 101, DialMyCalls.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2.1.1 Identify Stakeholders Quest

Buzzword Bingo: Collaboration = To work by planeta, on Flickr
  Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licenseby  planeta

The descriptions of the stakeholders' roles provided for this quest do correlate to my perception of the responsibilities that each stakeholder must assume in successful online learning. Regarding the role of the online instructor, I would add that establishing a great rapport with online students from the beginning of the course is very important. One way to do this is to send an opening email in a welcoming and encouraging tone. Another effective communication strategy is to post frequent announcements and updates with due dates to help students get used to the pace of the course. Timely and personal feedback is also critical to ensure students' success.

Concerning the online student's role, I like the idea of releasing responsibility and empowering students to take charge of their own learning. The virtual classroom provides great flexibility for both students and teachers to create a technology-rich learning environment that promotes student motivation and fosters student engagement. In my online classes, I structure communication so it is not just two way (me and each individual student). Since often times other students can relate to the questions better than I can, I encourage student responses to Help Forums and I just monitor to ensure accuracy in answers.

One of the stakeholders that was not explicitly mentioned in this quest is the school counselor. School counselors play a key role in the successful completion of online courses. From the initial recommendation for a student to take a course, to the follow-up process as well as the scheduling and facilitation of the final exam, school counselors are that additional support necessary to ensure that students are successful in the online environment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1.1.2 Laws of Communication

FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, must be observed by all educators in regard to communication, distribution of grades, student privacy, and instructional practices. Compliance with FERPA guidelines in online communication is crucial. John Orlando in FERPA and Social Media (2011) suggests some useful policy guidelines that can help avoid FERPA violations:
  • When students are assigned to post information to public social media platforms outside of the school LMS, they should be informed that their material may be viewed by others.
  • Students should not be required to release personal information on a public site.
  • Instructor comments or grades on student material should not be made public.
  • While not clearly required by law, students under the age of 18 should get their parent’s consent to post public work.

Regarding copyright laws and online learning, the method that will more likely ensure that copyright is not being violated is to avoid copying any content from the Internet. Most works on the Internet are copyrighted, even if there is no explicit indication. This doesn't mean that copyright requires that all work, images, words, and graphics must be original. Fair use laws allow us to use portions of copyrighted materials as long as we respect the legal boundaries of such fair use.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

1.1.1 Definitions of Communication

I couldn't agree more with Sherry Turkle's message. We tend to overuse digital technology to feel connected to each other when, in reality, this is causing the opposite effect. As innovations in technology have evolved, my individual communication skills have certainly changed progressively. In the work environment, written communication has become the main means of sharing information and ideas. As a result, my written communication skills are now more polished. I have also learned how to use word economy to make my writing more effective when presenting my ideas.

Advancements in technology have also altered classroom communication, and it's predictable that future innovations will continue to change classroom communication further. The influence of social media is very present in the academic setting. In my online classroom, I am very vigilant and constantly monitor that my students follow netiquette rules when communicating with each other and with me. In my opinion, it is essential that students understand the parallel between a physical classroom environment and a virtual classroom environment. In fact, the core rules of netiquette from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea can be interpreted as classroom expectations or classroom rules. There are certain behaviors that are expected and other behaviors that are not acceptable in an academic environment, physical or virtual. It is for this reason that, as mobile and social media continue to grow, netiquette should be enforced in online instruction through establishing clear expectations as well as consequences for infractions.

Friday, March 6, 2015

4.1.1 Trend Impact

In my opinion, the trend that will make the most impact on digital learning over the next five years is Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This model for delivering online courses provides free, universal access to high-quality education, and it's provided by the world's best universities and colleges. MOOCs' greatest potential seem to go in the direction of training and professional development within the corporate world. As they continue to grow, higher education organizations are doing more research and investing significant resources seeking to improve MOOCs' reach as well as the number of learners that successfully complete their courses. It seems likely that, in the near future, corporations could start shifting from the use of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to MOOCs in order to satisfy their training needs. This could probably lead to mutually beneficial partnerships between higher education institutions and corporations. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

3.2.1 Tools for Deciding on an LMS

After researching several of the most popular Learning Management Systems (LMSs) associated with K12 education, I have selected the five top LMS options that seem to better fit the needs of all K12 stakeholders. All these five options offer features and tools that completely fulfill K12 requirements and help create an engaging, effective learning environment. Another criteria that I've considered when making my selection are reliability and technical support. Additionally, as a principle and in order to minimize cost, open-source solutions are always preferable in the K12 setting. All the LMSs included in my selection are open source.
  1. Moodle
  2. Schoology
  3. EDU 2.0
  4. ILIAS
  5. CourseSites by Blackboard

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

3.1.4 LMS Reporting

Schoology, the LMS that I have explored during the Navigate skill, presents individualized and course-wide analytics in an easily read format. Graphs and assessment data are available at the individual, class, and system-wide levels. Although the system-wide level is certainly very important, in my opinion, the levels that are most valuable for the online instructor in regard to student performance are the individual and class levels. For instance, with Schoology, instructors can generate reports that detail how students performed on each question during a test or quiz. This way struggling students can be quickly identified, as well as concepts or skills that need to be revisited and retaught.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3.1.3 Tools within the LMS

Schoology is the LMS that I chose for my Navigate quest. The following are the academic features offered in this system:

  • Personalized Homepage 
Schoology aggregates all the academic information in one easy-to-use, familiar interface.
  • Course Profiles 
Schoology makes creating unique and flexible course profiles simple with a whole suite of student-centric content creation and learning tools and an easy-to-use, intuitive interface.
  • Flexible Instructional Tools
Schoology empowers instructors with the tools to easily differentiate instruction, pace students individually, and implement group-based learning.
  • Badges
With the ability to create custom badges using a choice of shapes, colors, and any image or animated GIF available on the web, educators are better able to build incentive and reinforce positive behavior in a fun way.
  • Calendar
Schoology's calendar is an easy-to-use, robust way to manage personal and course events, ensuring communication for all. Schoology’s calendars are color coded, provide automatic updating, and can synchronize with other web-based calendars such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar.
  • Online Assignment Submissions
Schoology's Assignment Submissions feature simplifies and centralizes the process of submitting, annotating, grading, and returning assignments so there's no unnecessary repetition.
  • Create Assignments and Events
Schoology’s robust content creation tools and user-friendly interface make creating diverse assignments and events simple. Created assignments and events are automatically organized in the course, group, and personal calendars.
  • Create Tests and Quizzes
Schoology’s assessment creation tools provide instructors with simple ways to create media-rich assessments using new, repurposed, and standards aligned content.
  • Extended File Support
Schoology supports Common Cartridge, Web Content, QTI-compliant content, and other ZIP files to ensure that educators and administrators can use their existing third-party content in Schoology without losing its formatting.
  • Make Learning Mobile
Native mobile apps extend this award-winning LMS to all iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire mobile devices for free, enabling cost-effective 1:1 and BYOD initiatives. Everything from assessment creation, submission, and grading to media-rich discussions are easily achieved from a mobile device.
  • Online Gradebook and Attendance
Schoology’s Gradebook and Attendance save time by automating the redundant tasks of inputting grades and taking attendance. The gradebook offers custom grading scales and easily editable settings.
  • Customized Grading Options
Schoology provides the tools to create custom grading scales. The easily editable settings make it possible to create rubrics as well as customize percentage scales and point-based scales.
  • Standards and Outcomes Alignments
Schoology enables instructors and curriculum specialists to easily align content, assessments, and rubrics to Common Core, State Standards, or custom learning outcomes. Standards or outcomes-aligned test and quiz questions can also be archived for quick and efficient assessment creation.
  • Track Student Usage and Course Analytics
With individualized and course-wide analytics presented in an easily read format, Schoology helps better understand students’ needs and develop strategies that improve their engagement and comprehension.
  • Application Marketplace
Schoology's App Center provides educators and institutions with access to high-quality instructional and management applications that are seamlessly integrated into the platform.
  • Email Address and Username Support 
Schoology lets students choose whether they would like to login with a username or an email address. This makes it easy to use Schoology with students that might not have an email address.

This LMS also offers valuable social features that are necessary to effectively host and facilitate an online course:

  • User Connections (Professional Networks) 
Schoology lets educators collaborate and share instructional resources with colleagues in your school and other schools around the world.
  • Messaging
Schoology facilitates better communication by providing instructors a way to send messages and share resources efficiently with their students and peers, and by providing students a simple and safe way to contact their instructors.
  • Customizable Notifications
Schoology makes staying connected simple with email and SMS text notifications so everyone is always up to date.
  • Announcements
Schoology's announcement feature turns any update into an announcement with one click, pinning it to the top of the activity feed so everyone gets the message.
  • Discussions
With Schoology, instructors can create interactive discussion pages, engaging students on a more personal level. Discussions are threaded to allow for easy replying and organization.
A wide range of files (including documents, pictures, audio, and video files) can be attached to any post. Instructors can also connect their discussion pages with other class sections and courses for a more widely interactive experience.
  • Group Workspaces (Collaboration)
Schoology’s learning environment facilitates collaboration on a number of different levels. Students and instructors can collaborate easily with each other and their peers by participating in live discussions, sharing resources and ideas, and much more.

From a language teacher's perspective, of all the tools listed above, the most valuable ones in an online learning environment are those that maximize student interaction and engagement. When students have more opportunities to participate in discussions and collaborate together using the target language, they gain a deeper understanding of the language and its culture.


Monday, March 2, 2015

3.1.2 Creation and Investigation into Courses

The process of creating a course shell and adding content is something I am very familiar with. Among all the LMSs I have worked with, Schoology is, in my opinion, the easiest and most intuitive management system. 

After creating a new course, which I named TOOL Section 1, I clicked on Add Materials and then on Add Web Content. I attached the zipped package provided in the 3.1.2 quest, and I finally clicked on Submit. These are all the simple steps that are necessary to complete in order to fully load a zipped package and make it viewable. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

3.1.1 LMS Tool Categories

From an online language teacher's perspective, the most relevant features offered in a Learning Management System (LMS) are those that provide more opportunities for students to interact and demonstrate their mastery of the target language. One of those tools are blogs. I utilize blog tools to provide students a mechanism to create journals as well as post reflections and long-form responses. Students greatly benefit from using an online journal to communicate with their classmates using the target language. Blogs also have great academic potential in second language instruction. They can be used to integrate content vocabulary in a meaningful way when analyzing facts, summarizing events, and expressing opinions.

Discussion forums have also many benefits as an interactive way of assessing students' level of understanding. This formative assessment helps me guide and differentiate my instruction according to students' needs. Often times, the discussion tool allows me to identify what students might benefit from specific remediation activities, and what students could deepen their knowledge through enrichment opportunities.

Another LMS tool that can contribute to increase the effectiveness of online instruction is the calendar. Calendar tools are mainly used to communicate upcoming dates and timelines for course events. However, I also have my students utilize the calendar as a virtual agenda to help them complete their assignments by the due date. This tool can help them greatly as they work on their organizational skills as well as their time management skills.