Netiquette Webquest – EdTech 521

The other artifact I chose for the media utilization substandard is my EdTech 521 Netiquette Webquest.  Students get to self-pace their search, and often must collaborate with one another as they complete a quest.  This can lead to lower rates of boredom among the students (Perkins & McKnight, 2005).  I organized the search in a way that they are building their terminology as they work through the quest.  It was meant for them to increase their knowledge base as they proceeded through the research.  Practice at effective online research is something my students sorely need.  The ability to read, sort, and synthesize information will aid my students in being successful in expressing themselves on assessments as Idaho moves toward adopting Common Core Standards.  These types of assignments prove that I have mastered the effective use of electronic resources for learning.

 

WebQuest: Netiquette Guidelines

In your World Geography class this year you’ll be spending lots of time in the computer lab using online tools to complete assignments.  Before we get started with this I’d like you to do a bit of research about how to conduct yourselves when “talking” to people online.  The communication may take place in emails, online group discussions, or instant messages while working on a project/assignment online.  Just like we have rules for being a good group member in our classroom (turn your chair to face the group, be an active listener, introduce yourself and remember peoples’ names, etc.), you’ll want to follow guidelines for being a good online group member.

Let’s get started.

Directions:  For each question, click on the blue underlined text be taken to a website that will help you answer the question.

  1. What are three things everyone should do when beginning an online discussion/email?

  1. Give two guidelines you should follow regarding the inclusion of personal statements when sending a private email/text.

  1. What rules should you follow about forwarding an email/text that has been sent to you?

  1. What are three ways to make sure that you act in a responsible manner online?

  1. When using online communication, what does typing a message in ALL CAPITAL letters mean?  Should you use this style or not?

  1. How worried to you need to be about correct spelling and grammar when using email and discussion boards?

  1. What is one of the reasons for using emoticons in electronic (text, email, chat, discussion boards) discussions?

  1. What is a meaningless message?  How can these be avoided?

Answers to WebQuest

Communication Plan – EdTech 523

The Online Course Student Communication Plan for EdTech 523 is another good example of “creating policies and regulations” that will govern how groups interact with each other while using instructional technology.  The Advanced Online Teaching course helped me to have a much better understanding of tools I’d need to have at my disposal as an online instructor.  As a traditional classroom teacher I don’t think about some of the following issues very often because the students are right in front of me and I can just handle things as they arise.  But online I’d need to plan for issues before they happen.  The assignment forced me to prepare for administrative tasks like posting forum discussion questions and then make sure that people got actively and meaningfully engaged in answering those questions.  Strategies like letting them know about myself to encourage sharing, being very clear with my expectations for their responses, and then giving them defined spaces (where I may or may not be monitoring their discussions) to collaborate have prepared me to manage online classes better.  A rubric was created that I can use to asses the quality of posts.  With this system in place, I can ensure that my feedback to students is timely and constructive, which is key for success in online courses (Herron, Holsombach-Ebner, Shomate, & Szathmary, 2012).  I feel one of the most critical parts of the plan deals with the personalities that can emerge online and how to deal with them.  Part IV of the plan outlines what those may be, and how an instructor can fix the issue while trying to keep all students actively engaged.  The final part of the plan gives some ideas for how to encourage community, which can be one of the most difficult tasks for online teachers.  I’ve had some professors who did a great job of trying, but sometimes as a student I just didn’t get plugged in with others in the class.  Having ideas prepared in advance is the only way teachers can hope to reel students in, which I feel I accomplished with Part V.  I’m sure that I didn’t cover everything that could possibly come up during a course, but I feel that my communication plans shows my mastery of having a plan for communicating with students in an online course.

Online Course Communication Plan

Part I:  Administrative Tasks

These are general suggestions for instructors that may help in managing discussion forums associated with online classes.

Posting Discussion Forum Questions:

  1. Questions should correlate to the unit/module instructional goals.

  2. Students should be directed to specific readings (class texts, online articles, etc.), podcasts, or videos that give them a place to find background information that helps them answer the question.

  3. If questions fit in with what students are already working on, they will be more likely to to have interest and application beyond the classroom.  Try to ask questions that help them solve a problem they might face as educators, use to complete a class project, or anything that might increase engagement.

Managing Discussion Forums:

As an instructor, put forth clear expectations about as many aspects of discussion forum use that you can think of in advance.  The following are just a few examples.

  1. Make sure that participants know they will be expected follow netiquette guidelines at all times when posting for class.

  2. Be clear as to how many times a day/week students should be expected to check specific class forums.  Students should be active in forums at least every other day.

  3. Let students know how often the instructor will be checking forums posts.  Going to the forum multiple times a day is suggested.

  4. If there are any days that the instructor will not be looking at the forums, let students know in advance so they don’t expect responses on those days.

  5. Keep an eye out for posts that go unanswered for a lengthy period of time (this may be as little as two days).  Respond to the person who wrote the post and try to help if possible.

  6. If there are ‘watercooler forums’, ‘tech corners’, or other less formal discussion forums that may not be related to course content, check in daily.  However, don’t feel the need to jump into discussions unless you are invited.  These areas may be perceived as instructor free zones, but do monitor them for problems that may arise.

Part II:  Discussion Forum Strategies

The following are ideas for ways to make discussion forums more engaging and worthwhile for students.

1. Break the Ice!

We’ve all done icebreakers in traditional classes, but they can be even more essential in an online class where you almost never see or speak to classmates.  Whatever you choose to do,  pick activities that get the students involved together in a fun and non-threatening manner.

YOUnique Icebreaker

This example of an asynchronous online icebreaker focuses on what people may think are things that only they have experienced.  In some type of forum students will post a list of things they think are unique to them.  As students look at each others’ lists to find out who is the most unique, they also learn about their similarities.  A more in depth explanation can be found here.

More examples of icebreakers can be found on this wiki.

2. Let them know who you are.

Post a YouTube video, slideshow, or podcast that gives them some insight as to who you are.  It can be easy for students to feel isolated in online settings.  Feeling they have a connection with the instructor at the start of a class can make the difference in how well they complete the course.

3. Make it clear

Students should always know exactly what is expected of them when completing initial posts and replies.  Make sure the prompt is easy to understand.  If there is a word count that must be met then state that fact.  To help them ration their time it may be good to have a date during the week by which they need to have made their initial post, and another date closer to the end of the week by which they need to have replied to a certain number of their classmates’ posts.

4. Give them some space.

A forum where students can  chat about various class, or other, issues may be useful.  This can be called a general forum, watercooler forum, or whatever makes it sound inviting.  Let them know that you will be monitoring posts from time to time, but that you’ll only join in if specifically asked.  Some instructors will allow anonymous posts in areas like this; but that is up to you.  Check with your institution before making a decision on that either way.  A tech forum, where students can discuss hardware, software, or other technology related issues may also be helpful.  These types of areas can help students form connections that aide them in the class.

5. Give yourself some space.

Students can do classwork at all hours.  They need to understand that you won’t be available at all hours to answer every question.  Instructors should check their forums several times a day, so let your classes know that you will do that.  Also check your email often, but tell students that they can expect a reply within 24-36 hours.  It can be sooner; whatever you are more comfortable with.  Take at least one day a week off and let students know which day it is.  By setting boundaries and letting students know when they can expect your attention, you can avoid many problems.

Part III:  Discussion Forum Assessment

There are many ways to grade forum posts.  Make sure that you have a rubric in place that students are aware of from the beginning.  It can be as detailed or general as you prefer, but should be something that is easy to understand and is defensible by the instructor.

Unsatisfactory    3 points

Basic   4 points

Proficient   5 points

Syntax/Netiquette

Writing has many spelling, grammatical, punctuation, or style errors. Rules of netiquette were not followed.

Writing was mostly free of spelling,grammatical, punctuation, or style errors. Basic rules of netiquette were followed.

Writing was free of spelling, grammatical, punctuation, or style errors. Netiquette rules were strictly followed.

Content Knowledge

Writing showed little content mastery or knowledge. Almost no relation to the required readings or content was shown.

Writing exhibited basic knowledge of content. Information related to the required reading(s) was evident. At least one source is cited.

Writing showed a clear and vibrant connection to the required reading(s) and content of the unit. Content mastery was obvious. Two or more sources are cited.

Value Added

Writing added little or no value to the class discussion of the specific topic. There was no evidence that the author

Writing in posts/replies try to add outside information to the discussion. They also make an effort to engage classmates into deeper thought about the content of the module.

Writing in posts/replies add outside information or connections to the discussion. They also successfully engage classmates in deeper thought about the content of the module.

Quantity/On-time

The initial post was less than 150 words and/or was not turned in on time.  Did not reply to the assigned number of classmates posts.  Replies showed no depth of knowledge, making no connections between the material and the posts.

The initial post was 150-199 words in length and turned in on time. Replied to the minimum number of assigned classmates posts. Replies were basic in nature.

The initial post was at least 200-300 words, and was written by the prescribed deadline. Replies to classmates posts met or exceeded the number assigned.  Replies were thoughtful and/or probing.

Part IV:  Management Issues and Strategies

Problems are always going to arise in a classroom full of individual personalities, and an online setting is no different.  It’s best to have a plan of action in place ahead of time for taking care of such issues.  Below is not a comprehensive list by any means, but can give you some ideas about what you may experience and possibilities for dealing with it.

  1. Absent students

When you notice that certain students are not completing posts and/or have replies that lack depth, you have to step in to try get them back on the right track.  Ask if they are having any troubles outside of class that need to be addressed.  Depending on the age of the student, a call or email to the parent(s) may be needed.

  1. The loudest typer

Sometimes a student or two can become overaggressive in responses to posts.  These types of students can dominate the conversation and can discourage others from adding their opinions.  Instructors may need to interject themselves into a discussion, or even go as far as to email the student to correct the problem.

  1. The expert

Another type of classmate that can alienate others in forums the one who seems to feel that they have all the answers.  While their information may be right, the way they go about sharing it can be a problem.  They are often frequent posters.  An email pointing out some netiquette rules, and some suggestions for how better to interact with classmates could be helpful.

  1. Poor quality posts

This could possibly be a lack of direction from the prompt; look to make sure you’ve given as much direction as needed for students to complete good work.  Give adequate readings or informational sources from which they can complete research for the post.  If the fault lies with students, try putting a motivational post into the forum.  Reiterate what your expectations are as an instructor for student posts.

  1. Replies lack depth

Encourage students to include quotes from their classmates in their replies.  Seeing that someone values what they said can encourage everyone to do better.  Remind them of your expectations for the number and quality of replies.  It may be needed to highlight examples of good student work, hopefully motivating others.

  1. Students turn in work late

Make sure that you as an instructor have clearly posted the due dates for all aspects of the discussion forum.  If you have made all of your expectations clear, it is up to each teacher whether or not to receive late work.  Some teachers will give each student one free pass on late work while others do not accept it at all.  You may want to look at the background of the student to see if this is something out of character for them.  An email to the individual(s) may be in order.  Be careful not to make exceptions for one student that you wouldn’t make for others.

  1. Lack of netiquette by students

Sometimes ‘flaming’ messages show up on forums.  Things can get misinterpreted or taken out of context.  Students might respond in the heat of the moment and later regret what was typed.  Instructors may need to involve themselves in the forum to remind all parties about proper rules of netiquette.  If things do not get better, emails to the people involved, or even a phone call may be necessary.

  1. Students sharing too much personal information

The anonymity and/or isolation provided by online classes can lead some students to share uncomfortable or inappropriate amounts of personal information in forums.  Again, point out proper netiquette and remind them of boundaries.  Sometimes this can be the result of personal issues; resist the urge to try and solve the problem yourself.  If need be, refer them to the proper department on campus to help.

  1. Technical issues cause delays in the course

There is always the chance that the best prepared instructor or course can be derailed, no matter how temporarily, by technology glitches.  Whether servers are down at the learning institution, students/instructors have lost their internet, or hardware/software have failed to work correctly, it can cause big headaches.  As soon as possible address the problem and let students know what the solution(s) will be.  The quicker you can let students know things are going to get back to normal, the better.  If it is something like a laptop being disabled or destroyed for a student, give them suggestions for ways to complete assignments and keep in touch until they can replace theirs.  Be a calming influence if at all possible.

Part V:  Encouraging Community Among Students

I tried this a number of years ago with my traditional seventh grade class, and it worked better than expected.  I feel that it could be easily transferred to an online setting.  It was called “Super Groups”.  Students chose from a list of superheroes based on the characteristics they admired.  After some maneuvering we ended up with groups of four to five students who would meet as often as needed for the rest of the school year.  Before starting a big project they would meet to bounce ideas off each other, check for understanding, or complain about who was in their project group.  These groups served as a sort of touchstone that was a safe place for them to be.  A similar selection process could occur in the first week to two of an online class.  These core groups could spend a module or two getting to know and trust one another, and then hopefully be a resource for each other the rest of the term.  Building community can be so difficult, and no one idea is going to solve it for every student, but as teachers we need to try new things to find the best way to help our students connect.

Technology Usage Plan – EdTech 501

The Technology Usage Plan for EdTech 501 is the artifact I’ve chosen for this standard. This was created by myself, Glynda Pflieger, and Nancy O’Sullivan. In it we analyzed why we felt a need for a technology plan, the vision for our students and institution, and the specific process we’d use to develop the plan. Building a team to help formulate the plan meant we’d need to involve people from various sections of the staff, and some strategic members of the community who could help us meet our goals. That team would then assess the equipment and training needs of our staff, building, and students. Once the needs are clearer, we would set forth objectives and a timeline to that guided their completion. The plan also calls for the team to come up with some benchmarks that will gauge the success for all parts of the plan. I think it is a very comprehensive plan. By representation from staff at various levels, we wanted to achieve consensus that everyone in the building could support. The plan would surely be considered long range. Just forming the committee could take weeks knowing the staff in my building. One of the major drawbacks I see with creating a technology plan is the speed of technology evolution. If we had started to implement this plan at my school four years ago, many of the hardware and connectivity requirements could have been outdated by now. However, almost anything would have been an improvement. Despite the constant changes, I do feel like this plan solidly meets the standard for strategic long-range planning.

Icebreaker Activity Synchronous Evaluation Tool – EdTech 523

My Synchronous Evaluation Checklist of an online lesson for EdTech 523 is the artifact I’ve chosen for this standard.  We all submitted icebreakers that we could use at the beginning of an online course to help develop a sense of community.  We were given a rubric that evaluated the classmate’s activity on eight criteria.  The formative evaluation was based on our ranking of criteria of Not Observed, Basic, or Proficient.  If too many of the categories were marked as Not Observed, then the project would be given a failing grade. Scores of Basic would show that some of the elements were in place, but not developed enough to be considered challenging or beyond rudimentary.  Only those that received consistent marks of Proficient should be seen as highly developed and not in need of further adjustment.  Depending on what ratings one was given, they should know which areas of the assignment needed to be addressed.

I feel that summative evaluation was completed at the same time by providing comments in each appropriate box (those comments could be seen as formative as well).  By reading the comments, a reviewer could judge whether or not the icebreaker activity was developed enough or suitable for a specific online course.  The criticisms could provide an instructor with information they’d need to decide if it was something they wanted to use or not.

Livability WebQuest Rubric – EdTech 502

I created two rubrics for the Livability Webquest that was assigned in EdTech 502. Students could have completed the assignment with a pictorama or synthesis paper. In either case they were provided with a rubric to self-evaluate during the creation of their item. The same rubric was also used for grading by a peer group and the teacher. I worried that the students who peer reviewed the products would not follow the guidelines of the scoring because they didn’t want to be hard on classmates, and in some cases that was true. But as some research has found, in most cases peers do a reliable job of rating fellow students with the use of a rubric (Hafner & Hafner, 2003). I really wasn’t relying on the students to do the grading for me though. The main purpose was for them to be able to see what standard they should be aiming for depending on what grade they wanted to get. Also, I felt the peer review process provided students with a chance to critically evaluate another’s work with the hopes of improving the ability to assess their own. By providing them with a rubric, I met the standard for providing criterion-based measurement of student mastery of content.

Peer Review Screencast – EdTech 543

The Peer Review Screencast for EdTech 543 gave me the chance to go through what my students have. We had created a MOOC for the main course project, and were then supposed to share it with a classmate for evaluation based on a rubric provided to us before we began the project. There have been many times I’ve had students in my classes evaluate each other based on a rubric, and then wondered how they could have given such a high score. They always tell me they feel bad giving a low score, or are afraid others will give a bad grade if they do. When I did the peer review of the MOOC, I have to admit I felt a little bit apprehensive about being totally honest in the video. But I got over it, knowing that the whole thing is only valid if we’re able to be truthful in a constructive way. The unit I reviewed had some trouble with the use of folders in Edmodo. My classmate had trouble making the folders for her three units, and when I went to the site could not access her documents. I told her about it and she still wasn’t able to get it done correctly. I understand that sometimes we just can’t figure out how to do some things, but I had to grade her down on that section of the rubric because if students had tried to access that it would have posed a problem for them. I thought the activity was great when done as a screencast. When that technology becomes available at my school for the students, I will definitely be doing it. Having provided two examples of using rubrics to gauge content mastery, from both sides of the equation, shows my completion of the standard.

Technology Maturity Benchmarks Evaluation – EdTech 501

I remember feeling like a true intellectual when I was doing the research for the Technology Maturity Benchmarks project in EdTech 501.  I had never really thought much about most of the data I collected for the assignment.  The facts related to my middle school, but I changed the name for the project.  As the title states, we gathered information to evaluate the technology maturity of an institution.  This meant, to what level has ‘Northside Middle School’ involved itself in the use of technology at various levels (administration, curriculum, support, connectivity, and innovation).  First I described our clientele in terms of racial and financial backgrounds.  Being able to understand what types of backgrounds our student clientele has can help understand what problems we may face in meeting their technology needs.  Each of the five above mentioned categories were then broken down into subcategories.  Those got a rating of island (almost no evidence of technology use), emergent (some signs of use, but underdeveloped), integrated (there is use of technology, but not at optimal levels), and intellectual (the technology is a fully functioning part what the school does).  Also, ratings focused on the infrastructure that was in place as well as the behavior/attitudes of employees and students.  Northside didn’t score intellectual on any part of the assessment.  In many areas there was no evidence of a plan to integrate technology into our organization or teaching.  It wasn’t even welcomed by many staff.  I identified that our curriculum used little to no modern technology at all.  Some teachers were still using slide projectors.  LCD projectors were not in all rooms yet.  We didn’t have WiFi.  Our computers were well over five years old.  Our attitudes were even older.  By completing this evaluation I was able to recognize the deficiencies of my organization.  Today, the administration is willing to let me encourage staff wide use of Google Docs to save money on copies for staff paperwork and to help us connect to our clients outside the school day.  I’ve assisted many staff in creating class websites, and all the social studies teachers in the district share lessons and materials via Google Drive.  All this started when I realized how poorly we scored on the technology maturity benchmarks assignment.  I know that doing these types of evaluations is something I’m capable of doing and can use to gather data for future problem solving.

 

Northside Middle School Technology Benchmarks Evaluation

This technology evaluation is for Northside Middle School.  It is in a district that is 67% Caucasian, 29% Hispanic, 2% Native American, and 1% each of African American and Asian.  In our student body, 12% have limited English skills.  Students eligible for free or reduced lunches sits at 58%.  The following is my evaluation of how Northside ranks on the technology maturity benchmarks.

 ADMINISTRATIVE

Policy

behavioral – Emergent or Island (I see no hard evidence of a plan, hadn’t cared until now)

resource/infrastructure – Island (Have seen no policy or TUP, could not locate one)

Planning

behavioral – Island (Haven’t seen a plan, but some of the things done would have required  one)

resource/infrastructure – Island (Again, not much evidence of planning, I have never heard of teacher involvement on a committee about technology)

Budget

behavioral – Island (teachers usually fundraise to get equipment, or buy it with district monies)

resource/infrastructure – Island (I have not seen a copy of our tech budget.  There have been some moderate improvements made, but nothing extensive that would allow for total integration of tech into the curriculum)

Administrative Information

behavioral -Integrated (We all have access to some level of technology, but still rely mostly on methods available 15 years ago)

resource/infrastructure – Integrated (We all have access to some level of technology, but still rely mostly on methods available 15 years ago)

CURRICULAR

Electronic Information

behavioral – Island (Most instruction is done with traditional methods like handouts and texts, but websites for research are sometimes used.  It depends on when you can get a lab date)

resource/infrastructure – Island (One of the biggest barriers to student use of technology is that computers are not available except in the lab.  Some, but not most teachers may have a bank of 1-4 computers in their room)

Assessment

behavioral – Island (Most assessments are done on paper.  PowerPoints are occasionally used.  I used to feel I was doing a good job of putting the test questions on the screen via projector)

resource/infrastructure – Island (We just this year got a set of test clickers)

Curricular Integration

behavioral – Emergent (Almost none of our curriculum depends on technology to make it work.  A teacher could go all year in our curriculum without using technology)

resource/infrastructure – Island (We have some resources available, especially math and science, but they are limited)

Teacher Use

behavioral – Emergent (The computer lab reservation sheet is dominated by 2-5 teachers throughout the year.  Science, math, and Language Arts use it the most, but it totally depends on the style of the teacher)

resource/infrastructure – Integrated (The lack of use isn’t because we have no access.  Some of the problems lie with teachers fear of blocked sites stalling a unit or lesson)

Student Use

behavioral – Emergent (Students are increasingly using technology to enhance their education.  However, if a student has no access at home, they probably are behind in their ability to use technology while at school)

resource/infrastructure – Island

SUPPORT

Stakeholder Involvement

behavioral – Emergent (I classified this as emergent because I would be considered a stakeholder, and have never heard of meetings on planning in technology, but have been in many planning meetings regarding other areas of school improvement)

resource/infrastructure – Emergent (From what I could gather, one or two administrators and the district IT leader make most decisions)

Administrative Support

behavioral – Island (With standardized testing, budget concerns, and parent interaction, I feel they have little time for this area)

resource/infrastructure – Island (Little measurable action in this area)

Training

behavioral – Emergent (Most professional development is focused on teaching methods not involving technology)

resource/infrastructure – Emergent (Any training we get that involves technology is ancillary, and the ideas being taught are more important than the technology used to deliver it)

Technical/Infrastructure Support

behavioral – Emergent (The small number of staff who want to use technology in their classes seek out information to help them achieve their goals)

resource/infrastructure – Island (We have good IT support.  The main problem I’ve faced is that getting many sites unblocked can be annoying and it feels like you are making your case to a jury)

CONNECTIVITY

Local Area Networking (LAN)

behavioral – Island (Each student has their own spot on the network that they can save work to, but I feel they rarely get a chance to use computers for assignments.  For most students, there is no way for them to connect through the network)

resource/infrastructure – Island (The only places the network can be accessed is the three computer labs, four machines in the library, or any units in classrooms.  Most classes have no student-accessible computers)

District Area Networking (WAN)

behavioral – Emergent (Each teacher has an in/outbox on the network, but I use mine once to twice a year.  If students are rarely able to access the school’s network while at school, why should I bother to put work there or force them to turn in work to my inbox.  Recently when I tried to have them turn in work to my inbox, they were blocked.  I instead had them upload work to edmodo.com)

resource/infrastructure – Island (Again, with little access to lab time or in room computer banks, the small network resources we have don’t mean much practically)

Internet Access

behavioral – Emergent (All teachers have access, students have limited access.  Teachers mostly use computers to record attendance, keep grades, and do research.  I feel it is rarely used as a tool in the classes like a textbook)

resource/infrastructure – Integrated (We have good access for teachers, but could have more for students)

Communication Systems

behavioral – Island (Email is used for communication, unfortunately they send out the same items on paper as well, not trusting that emails get read)

resource/infrastructure – Island (Almost all students have no access because it is blocked.  I recently got access for my classes through gaggle.net. I had to get special permission from our IT leader at the district level.  I found that only two teachers in our district use this service)

INNOVATION

New Technologies

behavioral – Island (I would give us island status since we don’t reject the new technologies, we just decide it isn’t worth the time and effort to adapt and integrate them into curriculum)

resource/infrastructure – Island (One reason I believe new ideas aren’t implemented is that we get little to no professional development in the technology area.  If it isn’t important to the district to show us how to use things, then they must not be good enough for me to learn on my own)

Comprehensive Technologies

behavioral – Island (All rooms now have projectors connected to our computers.  However, I know some teachers who use them rarely because they know replacement bulbs are expensive)

resource/infrastructure – Island (The school has two digital cameras that can be checked out by teachers.  Teachers may use state allotted money to by a scanner, but none are given by the school.  Next year, due to budget cuts, teachers will receive not state money)

Overall, I would rank our school in the islands range.  That is where we stood in the majority of categories, and it really sums up our overall attitude towards technology integration.  We have the tools, but they don’t work well with each other or our personnel and students.  Implementation could be much higher and better functioning.  Not much of what we do could be considered integrated, and most is not intelligent in design.