Oregon State University|blogs.oregonstate.edu

Hooking whales and whaling students

  November 7th, 2011

In terms of tools that have taught me the most in online classes (including this one!), I would say that narrated lectures, the opportunity to have peer-to-peer interactions, and independent reading were the most effective ways that I was engaged. I did like the use of quizzes and other content like this, but as a “Millenial” (and ugh, do I ever hate labels like that!), I find myself trying to “clock” the game in the shortest amount of time possible, instead of focusing on what lessons I should be learning from the exercise.

With the narrated lectures, as Sharon and Karen were saying, I can definitely see the advantage of keeping these shorter from a student standpoint (even if more total powerpoints were needed in order to encompass the material). It is actually quite challenging to find a fifteen minute block of time just to sit still and watch a lecture, so I imagine anything longer would be even more difficult for students to manage. However, it is amazing how much more engaging having a narrated powerpoint is over just reading a flat text file.

The peer-to-peer tools are excellent – I’ve learned a lot from our discussion board forum using the experiences of other instructors in the class. I prefer discussion board to the blog format, because it feels like you can see the interaction between different thread topics more easily…as clunky as the discussion board is when people get very active posting, it seems like it has more “flow” and interaction than the (reasonably) static blog format.

Reading, I think, has a similar purpose to on-campus classes. Allowing students to explore material on their own at their own pace seems like an effective learning tool. I guess the main thing here is that I need to check the material regularly to make sure nothing more relevant (or more readable) has come out for the topics of the course.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on what I found the most engaging tools in this course. As to how I will engage students? I’m hoping narrated lectures, using multimedia for labs, and “high-grading” for more interesting assigned literature will “hook” them into the subject of Whales and Whaling.


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Not a Sage on the Stage, Not a Guide on the Side: Who Am I?

  October 5th, 2011

A Guide on the Side, that’s one of the best things to be when you teach.

At least, that’s what I heard.  As a guide on the side, you never ignore the ways students learn from each other (and do not fall under a #5 pitfall of designing an online class!).  You center your perception around student learning rather than your own teaching.  I like this idea, but perhaps it’s the “on the side” part of the metaphor that throws me off; perhaps the “guide” part is more important.  I would like to guide students on their own path of learning toward the class learning outcomes. But what exactly does it mean to be “on the side”?

Sure, there was a Sage on the Stage, who, probably, was one of your favorite professors ever.

Wasn’t there? Well, mine was, because there were no other kinds. My schooling happened in traditional dimly lit classroom environments in Eastern Europe (former USSR) where classroom activities were not encouraged.  Even the chairs and desks wouldn’t move. However, the professors were passionate for teaching and learning, and they were inspired, inspiring, enthusiastic, and came across as a “students’ revered and primary access point to the desired knowledge”.  Many students held them as role models and wanted to become as bright and knowledgeable.

In graduate school I took classes from the US professors who came to teach to the former USSR countries. They were no less impressive in terms of how much they knew in their chosen discipline, yet a different breed altogether. They structured classes between lecture and discussion; they let students bring in what was important for them, but they always made sure that some topics got developed and some died out. Perhaps, the concept of a “content curator” describes this approach which shaped my learning in graduate school.

In the context where the word curator is used most often, that is, in museums, the curator is the one who has a lot of power and authority over visitors. The curator is the one who has the last word on what gets included in an exhibit and what gets taught in a program.

I have rejected being a sage on the stage, so I won’t want to fall for a curator.

I do like the way Elizabeth St. Germain continues talking about it, “the one who prunes and trains the branches that extend from your expertise out into the world”.  I like the idea of students growing the thoughts and ideas and me suggesting, “Feed this one with the works of C. Wright Mills, and it will flourish.”  “This idea needs some time in a dryer environment.”  “If you want to grow this, it might now grow here.”  Can I be a master gardener in an online classroom?

Being a master gardener in an online classroom means supporting the branches that lead us toward the learning outcomes. Perhaps, sometimes branches that lead away in a way that is putting the entire plant off balance can be snipped.  We all do it, and it seems to me that it is easier to do in the classroom face to face than online. What is said in the classroom disappears in the air if it is not supported by the instructor and the rest of the students. Online, it is written down on the discussion board.

How do you train and prune the branches on the discussion boards?

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