Responding to Authentic Learning Isn’t More Common

Thank you, Jim, for your thought provoking response to the question of “Why isn’t authentic learning more common?” with your post “Authentic Learning Isn’t More Common – Because It’s Too Common?” (10/10/13). 

I agree with your conclusion that people (and we as educators) don’t know what “authentic learning” really is. We can come up with a common definition, we have models (some really great ones were shared this week) which are a sliding scale/continuum of elements, but when we come down to it “authentic learning” means different things to different people. Something authentic to me, may not be for you.

You stated, “Perhaps a better way to approach authentic learning is to say that it’s an attitude toward teaching that makes the most of the instructional environment to simulate real-world conditions.” and I agree, but would like to add that perhaps it should involve more than attitude. Shouldn’t authentic learning be a movement in teaching where the instructional environment approaches real-world conditions? Just a thought…

Moving Toward Authentic Learning

I enjoyed reading Marilyn Lombardi’s “Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview”. I thought it was very well written and agreed with the points she made in the article. One question she raised toward the end of the article is “Why isn’t authentic learning more common?” She goes on to state “The reliance on traditional instruction is not simply a choice made by individual faculty – students often prefer it”. If students prefer traditional instruction, what are key motivators that would encourage faculty to move toward authentic learning? How do we foster an environment where authentic learning is the norm?

Making Sense of Connecting with Learners and Creating Community

I fell behind with creating my artifacts for the MOOC, but have been reading through the resources, viewing the webinars, and reading the discussion posting. I have tried to apply some of what I have learned by modifying the online course I teach. Here are a few things I have done and why.

  1. Getting Started Module – I revised my Getting Started Module. Although I had one before, I revised it with clearer prompts – What you should do first, what you should do next, when is the first assignment due, etc. Although all the information is in the course syllabus, I wrote it out clearly in the Getting Started Module. I revised this as a result of taking a step back and deciding how I wanted to teach this online course -part of Tony Bates’ webinar and 9 Steps to Quality Online Learning. I also read what others do to “orient” students to their courses and found some great ideas in the discussion posting.
  2. Technology In This Class – I created a new page with all of the technologies we use in the course on a single page. This page has video tutorials, resources, and links to tech support. In the past, I had the technology listed in my course syllabus and throughout the course modules, but now it is all in one place. I created this as a result of what Dr. Melissa Kaulbach said during a webinar that she is not tech support to all of her students. At times, I tried to be, but found that it was frustrating for both the student and me. It is much better to provide resources to the student and have them contact tech support to work out their computer problems.
  3. Connect with learners – I revised my introduction activity and my own introduction. I had been using Xtranormal to introduce myself. For those who are not familiar with it, Xtranormal was a free online animation tool that created movies that were posted and could be shared. I used to have students create one of their own as their introduction and they seemed to enjoy it. This past summer, Xtranormal closed. Based on the MOOC discussion, webinars, and content about creating community and connecting with learners, it seems connecting in the beginning is very important. It seemed important for students to “see” and “hear” the instructor and each other. I will be using Fotobabble to create my introduction and have students do the same. Fotobabble allows you to use a picture and your own voice for a short introduction. I will have them include their Fotobabble link as part of the written introduction on the discussion board. I also added two questions they could pick from to help them with their introduction posting. I learned from how Greg has structured this MOOC, that it is helpful to have prompting questions.
  4. Building Relationships – I revised my About Me information. Based on what Dr. Heather Farmakis shared, I revised and will continue to revise what I share with my students. In the past, I only shared minimal personal information and a photo of myself. However, based on what I’m learning in this MOOC, I can see how my story can encourage and positively influence my students. In addition to the Fotobabble, I am sharing how I started my career and took several turns to end up in education. I will share how my past experiences have shaped the way I teach, what I have learned, and why I enjoy teaching the course. Currently, my story is on a webpage, but I’m thinking of making it into a Prezi as Dr. Farmakis did or a Powtoon to experiment with using Powtoons.
  5. Teams – I’ve used teams in my online course for the last four years, constantly reviewing and revising the process each semester. A small change that I will be making –  I have always named my teams 1, 2, 3, etc. and encouraged the teams to pick their own names. Most teams never changed their name. Based on what came up in one of the webinars, I will change the team names to colors. I had always thought that it wasn’t good to name the first team Team 1, so I started forming the teams backwards (starting with Team 5 and ending with Team 2), but that didn’t work very well. I like the idea of using colors.  I also liked what Brent shared in one of the Weekly Roundups on how he assesses teamwork. As a result of what he shared, I created a Google Form for students to give me feedback at the completion of each project on how the teamwork went. I will give students a team grade for the project they turn in AND an individual grade based on their feedback of how the teamwork went. In the past, I only gave them a team grade for the project and assessed teamwork at the completion of all the projects. However, based on what I have learned in this MOOC, I will make a small change and assess teamwork after each project as well as after all the projects.
  6. Create a natural critical learning environment – I have used Problem-Based Learning (PBL) for the last four years and by using PBL students need to uncover/discover information on their own, use critical thinking and communication skills to synthesize the information into a meaningful product, and apply computer skills to present their findings. What I would like to incorporate more into the course is the questioning strategies brought up in this week’s MOOC. I would like to give students the opportunity to process questions and develop written responses to these questions. Greg has modeled well the power of reflection and asking thought-provoking questions and I need to think further about how that could be incorporated into my course.

I feel like I had a pretty good course before taking this MOOC, but making changes, tweaks, and additions will be improve the course and benefit the students.


The Blogging Cycle

In @suewaters “Introduction to blogging and what you really need to know to get started” webinar on Sept 3, she introduced the idea that the blogging cycle is a constant process with Review, Reflect, Revise, Evaluate as you arBlogging Cyclee constantly reassessing your ideas as you are post and comment. This parallels the instructional design process and the development of an online course. Great ah ha moment for me :-) Took me awhile, but I got there.

Week 0 – Introduction

Aloha #tomooc participants! So excited to feel the energy of the community and looking forward to the synchronous webinars. My name is Leanne Riseley and I am an Educational Technology Developer at Leeward CC in Hawaii. I am helping to facilitate this  How To Teach Online MOOC.

Although my background is in Educational Technology and I have been teaching online for nine years, I have never taken a class or a MOOC on How to Teach Online. So, what I hope to do is to learn alongside and from all of you to improve my online teaching. I’d like to take the time to explore what has worked for others and implement it in my course.

What issues do I think are important? I think the most important issue is to maintain student interaction throughout an online course, so students are interacting with both the instructor and other students in meaningful ways.

How will I contribute? I plan to read and absorb as much as I can. I will also try to help with facilitating and asking questions when appropriate. On other MOOCS I have signed up for, I must admit that I am guilty of being one of the 90% who didn’t actively participate and then ended up dropping out. I am planning to set aside time daily to read and respond to How To Teach Online MOOC and blog my own reflections.

As I reflect on my best and worse teacher and the types of behavior and interaction that were most memorable, I recall that my best teacher structured the course so that it was project-based and we worked in with others. The course wasn’t highly structured, but the expectations were clear. I remember spending many hours working with and learning from my team members.

My worse experience was taking a unit-mastery class where I would have to read from the textbook and take multiple choice tests based on the reading. I had no interaction with the instructor or other students. I may have passed the course, but I didn’t remember or apply any of that information.

As an online instructor, I am looking for ways to provide some structure to students learning, but give them the freedom to learn and apply that learning to their lives.

Looking forward to connecting with you all…