Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Learning and Technology

This main page of my blog has my first general thoughts as I began learning about educational technology.  As I have moved into other courses that expand my knowledge of the subject, I've expanded the pages on my blog to include my thoughts and answers to a number of deeper questions about instructional design. 

Please feel free to browse through my pages focusing on Learning and Technology.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Journal review i wanted to remember

Finding Opportunities for Unique Online Interaction for Writing Students

My key interest in studying educational technology is to find clues and keys for ideas that I can translate into my own developmental writing classroom. I was intrigued by the idea that I found in Mary McVey’s article in the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, titled “Writing in an Online Environment: Student Views of “Inked” Feedback.” It was the inked feedback that first sparked my interest. I have strong memories of reading through professor’s reviews of my writing assignments and having those handwritten comments, directly beside and intertwined with my text, was an excellent learning tool.

McVey’s research reviewed the challenges that arise when technology takes the place of the traditional pen-in-hand response from an instructor. The study focused on a format for providing effective and useful feedback specifically on writing for students in an online course. Students in a child development course had the opportunity to have their instructor’s offer feedback through a template that complies with a standard writing rubric, along with the additional component of hand-written comments through the inking feature of a Tablet PC.

The article includes a quick, but thorough review of studies that link the role of effective feedback in the learning process. The studies that McVey noted highlighted the need for immediate feedback that offers ideas and suggestions students can use to improve in their next performance. The McVey’s research also addressed one of my biggest concerns in using technology, in that the personal aspect of feedback can easily be lost. In an online environment, the e-mails, instructions, grades, etc., can be the only communication between instructor and student so building and maintaining a sense of connectedness with the “class” is especially difficult.

Students who took part in the study were given a template where they could paste their final written work. This template functioned as a rubric to outline the instructor’s expectations for the writing assignment. When students received feedback from the instructors, it was based on this template, but with the addition of the inking from the tablet students also could see what how their writing assignments had been marked up for grading. The tablet PC allowed the instructors to write, as they would with a pen on top of the document that the students submitted for grading. So the traditional arrows that show this sentence would have been better here or the question marks that highlight that a particular portion of a paper is unclear would or at least could be written all over a student’s “paper.”
Using the inking feature proved to be convenient for the instructors in that they did not have to copy and paste sections of the students papers for comment or type out long explanations indicating where problems had occurred. Students responded to the study survey, commenting that the feedback inked onto their papers “gave a more human aspect to the feedback” (McVey, 2008, p. 41). The interactive manner of the feedback also showed students that the instructors were actively reading their work, adding to the connectedness of the experience. This type of feedback also made a visual impact, which allows for a wider variety of learning styles to be accommodated.

Students also indicated that the specific feedback they received helped them identify problem areas and areas in which they were doing well. The specific feedback gave these students information they could use in their future writings. On the whole, students very well received the experiment with the main negative response from students being that on occasion the instructor’s inked feedback was difficult to read. The outstanding difficulty was the handwriting of the instructors more than all-else.

“The survey responses send a clear message. Students saw this feedback method as providing personalized contact with the instructor, and, they viewed that connection as being especially valuable in the online setting” (McVey, 2008, p. 42). As an English instructor, the written word is an integral part of how I express myself, but having studied English (or even if I had not) there is no doubt that written communication is open to interpretation in a way that personal interaction is not. There are no nonverbal cues to guide our understanding of a written passage, and it is in the interpretation of or feeling generated by feedback that the sense of connectedness between an instructor and a student could suffer.

During my second class meeting this semester I had a student ask me if I had sent a mass e-mail to the class outlining the next assignment or if I had sent each student an individual message. It was clear that he was impressed with the idea that I had responded to each student individually as they had sent a test e-mail to me. It is in this sphere of personalized contact that I see my clearest concern with educational technology that is used solely for simplifying the instructor’s workload or for any of the very valid reasons for adding technological components to a course—if these components are not carefully handled with a personal touch from the instructor.


McVey, M. (2008). Writing in an Online Environment: Student Views of "Inked" Feedback. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), 39-50.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Oh, so that's what I could do ...

Throughout these past eight weeks, I have had several “Aha!” moments. My first was in using iMovie to create my first concept map. It is one of those standard features on my Mac that I never really played with or considered. I had fancy Adobe movie programs for splicing and editing. What I discovered is that the biggest and fanciest tool, may not be the best tool for the job. So I learned to keep it simple instead of letting myself get carried away with the technology and possibilities.

My next “Aha!” moment came during wiki week. As an open dialogue tool, I was very leary of the idea of using a wiki for anything but documentation. I thought it was too free a format for use in a classroom setting. I have been working in a wiki for years and so the wiki we used was one of the early wikis and is nowhere as simple and straight-forward as the new wikis we used on this class. So, in this instance, I learned that technology always moves forward, and even though you are familiar with a tool the technology to use that tool will move forward as well.

My biggest “Aha! Moment came in seeing all the ways that people within the class are planning to use their new skills and understanding. I’ve always used technology a great deal in my work, and being married to a techno-geek, I hear about technology advances all the time. I had come a bi complacent in my thinking about technology and in my understanding of how technology could be used. I thought I had a whole lot more figured out than I actually did. What was key in this whole process for me was hearing the ideas of others. While I plan to keep looking for and playing with technologies, I know that I also will work to keep sharing ideas with colleagues.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Still Watching the Oscars but finished this ...

I built my teaching plan keeping in mind two things.
First – a large number of my students do not have internet access at their homes, so they aren’t able to access many of these great tools from home. I don’t want to build a teaching plan that requires a heavy commitment of additional time online, beyond what is already required for their essays. I don’t think it would be a benefit for them.

Second – My primary goal has to be to teach my students to be better writers, so I can’t spend too much time introducing new technology.

I want my student to share their ideas and see what technology is out there. I don’t want to take hours away from writing instruction to spend it teaching how to make a wiki work. I do believe that I can create a page they will look at, and this project will introduce the possibilities of technology to my students. I think that if I add in the piece about having them text me their responses, I may draw them in based on a technology they ALL use (occasionally even in class).

When I started teaching, I got a little discouraged that the students didn’t have the technological skills base to put some of the things that I had hoped to use into practice. I didn’t think technology was going to be something I could end up using in my classroom. Instead, I think I can make it an opportunity to introduce new technologies to students and to build their familiarity with technology without the pressure of making it an assignment. I would rather intrigue them with cool new things, than annoy them with assignments.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010