Friday, April 9, 2021

Analysis of digital literacies in the Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum (Brown & Jacobsen, 2021)

By Barbara Brown & Michele Jacobsen

Over the past couple of weeks, Alberta educators, curriculum experts and researchers have offered a variety of responses to the March 2021 Draft Alberta K-6 Curriculum [start hereherehereand here]. One journalist gave the draft top marks, but most experts, after detailed and critical review, assign a failing grade. Dr. Carla Peck, Professor of Social Studies Education, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, completed a detailed analysis of the draft K-6 Social Studies Curriculum and calls for a complete re-write. In a future post, we will address the clear disconnect between professional practice expectations of teachers (TQS), school leaders (LQS), and superintendents (SLQS) and the draft K-6 curriculum. The professional practice standards include competencies for applying foundational knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and culture in educational professionals’ work with children, and these ideas and concepts are only superficially addressed in the draft curriculum. 


An explosion of social media activity includes diverse commentary and sharp critiques that run counter the positive and defensive narrative from the ministry. We appreciate the detailed analysis of plagiarism in the curriculum documents provided by our colleague, Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, from the University of Calgary. The two of us (Drs. Brown and Jacobsen) have decided to weigh in on the relative lack of any meaningful role for learning technology and digital media in the draft K-6 Curriculum documents. Our initial analysis contributes a review of digital literacies and competencies, technology, coding and ethics from an educational technology perspective. The two of us hold teaching expertise and our doctorates in educational technology, conduct research in online and blended K-12 and post-secondary contexts, and have been involved in development of the Information and Communication Technology Curriculum (2000) and the Technology Policy Framework (2013) . We have both served as members of the School Technology Advisory Committee in Alberta. Alberta Education has been a world leader in the integration of technology for learning across the curriculum. The timeline of learning and technology in Alberta from 1975 to 2009 also includes various initiatives and research projects that we have both been part of and provides a foundation for our research in Alberta schools. We are also involved in designing and continually updating contemporary university programs for educators, such as the Leading and Learning in a Digital Age graduate certificate that invites critical inquiry on leading learning and teaching with technology across the curriculum. 


The following themes emerged in our analysis of close to 273 pages of draft curriculum documents including the competency progressions, literacy progressions, numeracy progressions, subject introductions and draft curriculum for ELA, Fine Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education and Wellness, Science, Social Studies, and Visual Arts. Our review does not include the French Immersion or French Language curriculum, Dance, Music or Drama. We suggest further analysis of learning technologies and digital literacy should include all of the draft curriculum documents.


Our initial analysis includes five key areas of concern related to digital literacies in the draft K-6 curriculum. First, we note that digital literacies and digital competencies are not part of the literacy progressions. We note that digital texts are referenced 5 times, as are vague notions of modes and media. We argue that specific reference to digital literacies and digital competencies must be included in the literacy progressions in a modern curriculum, especially if Alberta children are to learn how to navigate, evaluate and create knowledge in this post-truth era in which disinformation, appeals to emotion and fake news proliferates. 


Second, the outcomes that include the terms technology, technologies or digital are limited in frequency throughout the curriculum, include few expectations for the early grades and are unclear with a possibility for different interpretations:

  • Words with technology appeared in 20 instances in the English Language Arts, Math and Science documents, and the term “technologies” also appeared in 20 instances but only in the Science documents. 
  • In the English Language Arts K-6 draft, the first of three instances of technology appeared in grade 4. Based on our research, we are concerned about this omission in K-3 in the English Language Arts curriculum and discuss findings from one of our studies with early learners using technology here. The way the term technology and technologies are used in the draft curriculum are ambiguous. For example, in the Language arts curriculum in grade 6 – “Vocabulary is contextual and influenced by emerging or changing conditions, including technology” is vague and can be interpreted as optional. 
  • In Math, the single instance of technology appeared in grade 5: “Create various representations of data, including with technology, to interpret frequency.”  
  • In the Science curriculum, the term technology appeared in the introduction and started to appear minimally in grade 2. The term technologies appeared starting in grade 3. However, the terms technology and technologies appeared most frequently in the grade 5-6 outcomes. Even in the science curriculum, we noted the ambiguous use. For example, in Science Grade 6, the term technology is used as part of a list (e.g., computers, coding and technology). 
  • Even though the term digital appears in over 130 instances throughout the documents, the term is mostly preceded by the term OR and can be interpreted as optional. For example, “use non-digital OR digital sources/texts” is commonly used in the English Language Arts curriculum. In contrast, a conceptual framework for emergent digital literacy from Australia used more precise language, “As we progress in the 21st century, children learn to become proficient readers and writers of both digital and non-digital texts” (Neumann, Finger & Neumann, 2017, p. 471). The Australian authors clearly emphasize the use of both digital and non-digital unlike the ambiguous wording currently used in the draft Alberta curriculum. 


Third, we are concerned that the use of coding in the curriculum suggests that computer programming skills are sufficiently integrated in the draft K-6 curriculum. While computer science is listed in the practical skills section, coding is simplified in the learning outcomes as a mechanical process that can be done with paper/pencil. When we searched the 273 pages, the word coding only appeared in 17 learning outcomes and all of these instances were found in the Science curriculum grade 5, 6. The integration of coding is limited to learning in one disciplinary area and is absent for younger learners. Where are the “algorithms, technology and engineering to design solutions to problems” evident in the learning outcomes? These omissions in the draft curriculum stand in direct contrast to contemporary research on the importance of coding and computational thinking for all learners worldwide.  Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director (March 22, 2019), asked “Should schools teach coding?, and presents important questions about coding and computational thinking that need to be better considered in the Alberta K-6 draft curriculum: “How can we focus learning on the “essence” of a subject rather than the ‘mechanics of the moment’? It is fair to question how working code on paper in a modern age offers any value beyond rote mechanics.


Fourth, we argue the curriculum should include explicit focus on ethics and technology at every age. The word ethics only appears in 3 instances and all of these were in the Science curriculum, grade 5. Here’s one of our recent books regarding the importance of ethical use of technology in digital learning environments to support our argument for increasing the curricular focus in this area. As they engage deeply in accessing and contributing knowledge a digital world, Alberta students and teachers need to be engaged in conversations and inquiry into contemporary issues such as personal privacy, access rights, copyright, surveillance, and security. 


Fifth, there is limited and superficial reference to technology and digital competencies in this draft curriculum. We would have expected a new curriculum to build on or further develop the concepts and ideas in the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF) from 2013. The LTPF, Policy Direction 1 described the direction for technology use with students: “to support student-centred, personalized, authentic learning for all students” (p. 5) and this could have been a great starting point for developing a contemporary curriculum for Alberta’s children. Instead, this draft curriculum takes us back decades in failing to adequately consider learning technologies, digital literacy and digital competencies for Alberta children. 


We recognize this is an initial versus comprehensive critique of the relative absence of meaningful consideration of educational technology in the draft. We anticipate and welcome more commentaries and critique to emerge over the coming days and weeks. Based on our initial analysis, we argue the ministry needs to go back to the drawing board to design a contemporary curriculum that prepares learners for their digital futures and digital economies, instead of our pasts. We also encourage everyone to get involved in the public engagement and provide feedback on the draft K-6 curriculum presented in March 2021.


Schleicher (2019), OECD, leaves us with this call to action: “To determine what tomorrow’s students should learn, we must assemble the best minds in a given country – leading experts in the field, but also those who understand how students learn, as well as those who have a good understanding of how knowledge and skills are used in the real world. Such knowledge sharing will allow us to more precisely determine and regularly re-examine which topics should be taught and in what sequence – without succumbing to the temptations of the moment” (P 9).


Some of the best minds and leading experts in their fields across Alberta, and school, classroom and university experts who understand how children learn, are analyzing, questioning and critiquing elements of this draft curriculum; will the Minister of Education listen? Or, will she continue to succumb to the ideological and political temptations of the moment?

Note: This post is also available on Dr. Barb Brown’s blog 

Feel free to connect with us: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  

Twitter handles: @barbbrown and @dmichelej

 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Advancing Faculty Development and Graduate Supervision Online: A Global Dialogue Forum (Brown & Jacobsen, 2021)

Overview of our global dialogue presented with Beijing Normal University on March 30, 2021:  In this session we discuss the challenges and opportunities for advancing faculty development and graduate supervision in online learning. We dispel myths about online learning environments and discuss how digital innovations provide possibilities for faculty and students to learn and connect globally. We also share our experiences with engaging pre-service, in-service teachers, and faculty in professional learning through an online pedagogy series and graduate supervision MOOC.

Presentation Slides - PDF

University of Calgary Links:

Werklund School of Education Graduate Programs, University of Calgary- https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/graduate-programs

 

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary – https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/ (open access learning modules)

 

 

Other Related Sources:

Brown, B. (2019). One-Take Productions for Student Feedback. Education Canada Magazine, 59(2). https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

 

Brown, B. (2020). Using Zoom to create weekly video message for students. 

http://www.drbarbbrown.com/2020/06/18/using-zoom-to-create-a-weekly-video-message-for-students/

 

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114.https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

 

Brown, B., Burns, A., Kendrick, A., Kapoyannis, T., & Delanoy, N. (2020). Adapting to changing K-12 contexts during COVID-19: Teacher education perspectives. In M. K. Barbour & LaBonte, R., Stories from the field: Voices of K-12 Stakeholders during Pandemic, Canadian eLearning Network, pp. 63-68. https://sites.google.com/view/canelearn-ert/

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses. In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

 

Brown, B., Jacobsen, M., & Lambert, D. (2014, May 9-10). Learning technologies in higher education [Paper presentation]. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to the Challenge Conference, (pp. 25-43). Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50588

 

Brown, B., Roberts, V., Jacobsen, M., & Hurrell, C. (Eds.) (2020). Ethical use of technology in digital learning environments: Graduate student perspectives. University of Calgary [eBook]  https://doi.org/10.11575/ant1-kb38

 

Brown, B. & Vaughan, N. (2018). Designing group work in blended learning environments. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning (pp. 82-97). Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

 

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

 

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework - https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

 

Graham, C. R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher educationInternet and Higher Education, 18, 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003

 

Irvine, V. (2020, Oct 26). The Landscape of Merging Modalities. Educause Review, 4. 

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/10/the-landscape-of-merging-modalities

 

Jacobsen, M., Friesen, S., & Lock, J. (2013). Strategies for Engagement: Knowledge building and intellectual engagement in participatory learning environments. Education Canada. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/strategies-for-engagement/


Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environments in higher education: A review of the literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, 
(80 pages).http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Martin, J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), 9-13. https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin

 

Mazur, A., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction.Canadian Journal of Learning Technology41(2), 1-26. https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/26977  


Note: This post is also available on Dr. Barb Brown's Blog

Feel free to connect with us for more information:

babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca  

twitter handles: @barbbrown @dmichelej

Monday, November 30, 2020

Exploring the Promise of Online and Blended Pedagogy (Jacobsen & Brown, Nov 30, 2020)

Interactive Technology Demos, Resources and References from our Synchronous Session in the WSE Professional Learning Series: https://werklund.ucalgary.ca/professional-learning-series

Overview:  Good teaching is good teaching whether it occurs online or in blended contexts. One myth of online learning is that it is inferior to meeting in person. In this session, we explored how teachers can cultivate strong relationships with students and create the conditions for learning in diverse digital spaces. We focused on ways teachers can engage with networked learning communities and access expertise and resources for teaching in diverse contexts. 


Connect with us:

Email: babrown@ucalgary.ca and dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca 

Twitter: @barbbrown @dmichelej

Blog cross-posted: http://drbarbbrown.com/2020/12/01/exploring-the-promise-of-online-and-blended-pedagogy-jacobsen-brown-nov-30-2020/

Session Slides: http://drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Nov30-2020-Slides.pdf 


Interactive Technology Demos

  • Google slides, Google forms & Google jamboards
  • Zoom videoconferencing
  • Zoom polls, Zoom chat, Zoom annotations, Zoom breakout rooms

Resources & Networks

    • National Educational Association that amplifies how teachers, principals, superintendents, researchers and other education leaders are boldly challenging the status quo. 
    • Open access to Education Canada Magazine

References & Readings


Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2020, September 3). Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning. Blog:  http://girlprof.blogspot.com/2020/09/underlying-messages-and-myths-about.html

 

Brown, B., Alonso-Yanez, G., Friesen, S., & Jacobsen, M. (2020). High school redesign: Carnegie unit as a catalyst for change. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (CJEAP), 193, 97-114. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/68066

 

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses. In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8


Brown, B. (2019). One-Take Productions for Student Feedback. Education Canada Magazine, 59(2). https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

 

Brown, B., Jacobsen, M., & Lambert, D. (2014, May 9-10). Learning technologies in higher education [Paper presentation]. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to the Challenge Conference, (pp. 25-43). Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50588

 

Ferdig, R. E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., & Mouza, C. (2020). Teaching, Technology & Teacher Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stories from the Field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education eBook: https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/ 


Friesen, S., Saar, C., Park, A., Marcotte, C., Hampshire, T., Martin, B., Brown, B., & Martin, J. (2015). Focus on Inquiry. [eBook] http://inquiry.galileo.org/

 

Friesen, S. (2009). What did you do in school today? Teaching Effectiveness: A Framework and Rubric. Toronto: Canadian Education Association. https://galileo.org/publication/what-did-you-do-in-school-today-teaching-effectiveness-a-framework-and-rubric/

 

Friesen, S. (2015). “An Inquiry Stance on Practice: How the Process of Inquiry Produces Knowledge”. In Focus on Inquiry [eBook].  https://inquiry.galileo.org/ch5/an-inquiry-stance-on-practice/

 

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. 

Graham, C. R., Woodfield, W., & Harrison, J. B. (2013). A framework for institutional adoption and implementation of blended learning in higher educationInternet and Higher Education, 18, 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.003


Irvine, V. (2020, Oct 26). The Landscape of Merging Modalities. Educause Review, 4. Online:

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/10/the-landscape-of-merging-modalities

 

Jacobsen, M., Friesen, S., & Lock, J. (2013). Strategies for Engagement: Knowledge building and intellectual engagement in participatory learning environments. Education Canada, 

https://www.edcan.ca/articles/strategies-for-engagement/


Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environments in higher education: A review of the literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, 
(80 pages).http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

 

Martin, J. (2019). Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), 9-13. https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2019_16_1/martin

 

Mazur, A. D., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning Designs using Flipped Classroom Instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 41(2), 1-26.

 DOI: https://doi.org/10.21432/T2PG7P

 

Minero, E. (2020, August). Educators turn to Bitmoji to build community and engagement. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/educators-turn-bitmoji-build-community-and-engagement


Stelmach, B. M., Hunter, D. M., Brown, B., O'Connor, B., & Brandon, J. (2019). Optimum Learning for All Students: Highlights from the Research Literature. http://hdl.handle.net/1880/110447

Tucker, C. (2020, August 19). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: How to Design for Each Type of Learning. https://catlintucker.com/2020/08/asynchronous-vs-synchronous/

  


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thriving in Academia and Maintaining a Work-Life Balance: Being a Mom on the Tenure Track (Jacobsen, 2018)

Citation for re-post: 
Jacobsen, M. (2018, Sept 19). Thriving in academia and maintaining a work-life balance: Being a mom on the tenure track. Canadian Society for the Study of Education. Online: https://csse-scee.ca/blog/thriving-in-academia-and-maintaining-a-work-lifebalance-being-a-mom-on-the-tenure-track/

In the years leading up to my successful bid for early tenure as an assistant professor, I designed and taught two new graduate courses (of the five courses I was required to teach each year), led two major million dollar research initiatives, won a teaching award, published seven journal articles and three book chapters, presented at several national and international conferences, supervised two masters students who completed their theses, and gave birth to my first child. Far from this being the start to a hero story, the intense pace and heavy workload I experienced as an untenured, female academic also included an unplanned one-week hiatus in hospital to be treated for a peptic ulcer and lectures on finding balance from my physician.

While I survived my own sprint to tenure, I almost sacrificed my health and wellness. Sadly, my experience is all too common. Many untenured professors are struggling under unwieldy workloads and relentless demands from colleagues, students and the institution. In order to thrive and maintain balance during the long marathon of a successful academic career, I have learned to be very intentional about how I balance a demanding academic career while still enjoying an active and healthy family life. Based on my experience as an academic and mother, I offer the following advice for surviving and thriving on the tenure track.

First, time away from campus can be great for reflection and personal growth, especially on gender dynamics, as well as for being productive. Leading up to promotion as an associate professor, I gave birth to my second child. What was different this time, in addition to having both a toddler and a baby at home, was that I took a maternity leave combined with a sabbatical, and worked from home. In between potty training, playdoh and naps, I reflected on and wrote down my long-term goals as an academic, wrote and published a book, edited a peer reviewed journal and supervised my graduate students. I also made time for selfcare and good habits, like walks and play time with my children, preparing and eating healthy meals with my spouse, making time for daily exercise and getting enough sleep (okay, this last one continues to be a work in progress). Lately, I find that bringing academic work with me to the arena is a strategy that helps me to balance watching my two teenage hockey players with marking papers, drafting reports and reviewing dissertation chapters. So, balance work on campus with work at home to strive for optimal productivity.

Second, learn when to say yes and when to say no. Along my own tenure track pathway in academia, while balancing research, teaching and a demanding family life, I have learned that saying YES to diverse and unexpected invitations and opportunities to become involved in councils and committees, engage in projects, new teaching and research initiatives, innovative course design work, collaborative design and research teams, using a new technology or design for teaching, working with educators in the ministry and leaders in the classroom, has expanded and enriched my career in rewarding and exciting ways. I have not followed a linear path.  A diverse range of projects, courses and leadership and service roles have challenged me to learn, grow and change in ways I could not have planned for and certainly didn’t imagine when I started my initial teacher preparation program almost 30 years ago. I am still excited and passionate about being a professor every day because of the dynamic nature of the work.

In the years between associate and full professor, I have also learned when and how to say NO. In part, saying no means that you hold yourself to your big goals, set priorities and establish boundaries. Set reasonable timelines for projects and block time in your calendar for this work. Blocking time for your priorities and projects gives you an idea of any “left over” time you might have for new requests.  Avoid putting your own work, your own scholarship, and your own teaching, last. Avoid procrastination and time sinks, like twittering away hours on social media. Go for a walking meeting instead of taking a coffee break. There is more than enough work to go around, so you do not need to do it all.  Learn the graceful art of saying no:  Thank you for this invitation to become involved in…. I appreciate being asked… I regret saying no, however, I am fully engaged in…  I am working towards a deadline for…  Two of my doctoral students are working towards candidacy… Please approach me again in the future. So, strategy two is to learn when to say yes and when to say no.

Third, manage your time or others will manage it for you. I have learned to make every moment in my day count through the use of routines, processes and tracking systems. For example, I attempt to clear my inbox each day by acting/responding, filing or deleting. I eat a healthy lunch while reading graduate student papers and chapters. I develop systems and strategies, like daily, weekly and monthly lists, project management plans, and accountability charts, to keep on top of my work and reward myself for getting things done. I regularly document and track my accomplishments, through curating my curriculum vitae, organizing and filing relevant documents (such as teaching evaluations, evidence of productivity), sorting and organizing printed materials in my yearly Performance Review folder.

Fourth, find ways to become fully engaged with your academic community, on your campus and with colleagues at other universities, and seek out positive colleagues who generate energy rather than take energy.  Work with trusted mentors and credible information to prepare for the tenure and promotion process. Too many new professors, myself included, experience fear and anxiety about the tenure and promotion process because they get seduced by urban legends and hallway talk, or get discouraged by sour colleagues, instead of talking to positive colleagues in senior leadership who have experience with the process.  Instead, I encourage junior colleagues to seek out high performing and generous colleagues as mentors and coaches who will advise you, review your CV, recommend strategies to strengthen your research, teaching and service portfolios, and outline the tenure and promotion process at your institution. Talk to trusted mentors instead of getting distracted by horror stories, hallway talk and disenchanted colleagues.

Finally, develop a knowledge mobilization plan and project timeline for your research activities, grant writing, journal articles, conference papers and presentations, and other outcomes of your scholarship. Great advice I have been given and now live by is to set timelines and goals for the “productivity pipeline,” which means I aim to have a few manuscripts in preparation, a few manuscripts submitted for consideration, and a few works in press. I do keep track of new ideas that can be shaped into proposals for grants, conferences or journals.  Prior to conference presentations, I try to work with my colleagues to develop a plan and deadline to prepare and submit the paper to a journal. Do not fly solo! Enhance your growth and productivity as a researcher by working with a collaborative research team that shares expertise and is willing to work on several manuscripts, with different leads on each on, at a time. Finally, and importantly, an investment that always pays off huge dividends is to mentor and support your graduate students as first authors by coaching them on academic writing, and also by co-writing articles and co-presenting at conferences with them.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning (Brown & Jacobsen, 2020)

Underlying Messages and Myths about Online Learning
Barb Brown and Michele Jacobsen

There are many underlying messages about online learning that we have been noting in the communications and decisions related to school re-entry plans. Dr. Barb Brown and I thought it might be helpful to provide some trustworthy information and research citations to help counter some of these myths:
  • Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning
  • Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person
  • Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online learning
Myth#1: Online learning is less effective than in-person learning

Online learning designs have been proven to be effective for learning. In fact, research occurring during the pandemic demonstrated that even during a crisis-response and rapid transition to remote teaching, this mode of learning online can be effective for a diverse range of learners. The promise and possibilities for robust online learning designs increase when instructors have ample lead time to collaborate and design digital learning plans and strategies for their students.
  • According to Donovan et al. (2019), blended and hybrid learning have been proven to be an important part of Canadian post-secondary education prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Online learning is accepted (e.g., online credentials are as respected as face-to-face credentials
    • Demonstrated Student Satisfaction (e.g., Students are as satisfied with online courses as they are with face-to-face course.
    • Online learning designs often promote innovations in teaching
  • Barbour et al. (2019) indicated that approximately 300,000 K-12 students in Canada were engaged in distance and/or online learning in 2018-19.  In March 2020, educators and students across Canada pivoted from in-person classrooms to educating over 5 million students remotely in less than two weeks.
  • During the pandemic, researchers shared many examples of effective teaching, technology and teacher education during the pandemic (Ferding et al., 2020). Some key findings that help support the notion that even a rapid transition to online can be effective:
    • p. 50 – research shows eLearning presents challenges for parents, teachers and administrators, argues for field placements online, professional development for teachers, and additional research is needed for a thoughtful digital learning plan
    • p.67 – a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, collaborative tools, can be supportive for students with diverse learning need and can provide equitable access when approaches are grounded in patience and flexibility
    • p. 78 – classes that were using technologies pre-COVID found it a seamless transition to fully online and using the same technologies
    • p. 94 – social interactions are important and this can be achieved online
    • p. 132 – relationships and professional collaboration can be achieved online

Myth #2: Online learning implies less interaction than in-person

Some presume there is less interaction in online courses when compared to in-class, face-to-face teaching and learning (Watts, 2016). However, it has been proven that interactivity, engagement and strong social and community presence can be fostered in online courses for students and instructors (Garrison, 2017; Young & Bruce, 2011). Contemporary learning technologies enable teachers and learners to connect, collaborate and communicate effectively in diverse ways using an intentional blend of “live” (synchronous) and teacher or self-directed (asynchronous) learning designs (Jacobsen, et al., 2013; Tucker, 2020). For example, a teacher can collect, curate and assign relevant podcasts, videos, and textual resources to be accessed and viewed by learners prior to a real-time or live modelling session the teacher leads with the entire class. Known as flipped instruction, this approach to blending asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences and opportunities is an effective pedagogical approach teachers are using to design online learning experiences that are highly interactive (Mazur, et al., 2015).

Myth #3: More time should be spent on synchronous activities in online classes

Both self-directed asynchronous learning tasks and activities, and scheduled synchronous activities and interactions, are important for learning in online courses.
Asynchronous activities provide students with time to reflect and think before interacting with their peers in discussion groups. Students can view multi-media educational resources at their own pace with accessibility options. These are important elements of active and engaged learning in online courses (Lee & Brett, 2015; Watts, 2016)
Synchronous activities, such seminars, webinars and conversations with instructors, peers and expert guest speakers, are also important for learning in online courses (Martin et al., 2017; Watts, 2016).
Live interaction matters but relying on too many synchronous activities can promote inequities for those unable to connect/attend scheduled events (Banna et al., 2015)
An appropriate range and blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities using communication applications for collaborative knowledge building (Brown et al., 2013; Brown & Eaton, 2020; Watts, 2016) are ideal with flexibility for individual student needs, circumstances, and access to reliable technology.

References:

Banna, J., Grace Lin, M., Stewart, M., & Fialkowski, M. (2015). Interaction matters: Strategies to promote engaged learning in online introductory nutrition course. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 249-261.

Barbour, M., & LaBonte, R. (2019). State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada.
https://k12sotn.ca/reports/

Brown, B. & Eaton, S. E. (2020). Using a community of inquiry lens to examine synchronous online discussions in graduate courses (Chapter 10). In L. Wilton, & Brett C. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Online Discussion-Based Teaching Methods (pp. 229-262), IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-7998-3292-8

Brown, B., Eaton, S. E., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no3/brown_0913.htm

Donovan, T., Bates, T., Seaman, J., Mayer, D., Martel, E., Paul, R., . . . Poulin, R. (2019). Tracking online and distance education in Canadian universities and colleges: 2018. Canadian National Survey of Online and Distance Education, Public Report. Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. https://onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca/

Ferding, R. E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., & Mouza, C. (2020), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/p/216903/

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice (3rd ed.). Routledge.

Jacobsen, M., Brown, B., & Lambert, D. (2013). Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature. Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. November, 80 pages. URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1880/52244

Lee, K. & Brett, C. (2015). Dialogic understanding of teachers’ online transformative learning: A qualitative case study of teacher discussions in a graduate-level online course. Teaching and Teacher Education, 46, 72-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2014.11.001

Martin, F., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., & Budhrani, K. (2017). Systematic review of two decades (1995 to 2014) of research on synchronous online learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 31(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2017.1264807

Mazur, A. D., Brown, B., & Jacobsen, M. (2015). Learning designs using flipped classroom instruction. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 41(2), 1-26. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21432/T2PG7P

Tucker, C. (2020). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: How to Design for Each Type of Learning. https://catlintucker.com/2020/08/asynchronous-vs-synchronous/

Watts, L. (2016). Synchronous and asynchronous communication in distance learning: a review of the literature. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 17(1), 23–32. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1142962

Young, S., & Bruce, M. A. (2011). Classroom community and student engagement in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/young_0611.htm

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This co-authored blog post has been cross published by both authors; please access Dr. Barb Brown's post here [http://www.drbarbbrown.com/2020/09/03/underlying-messages-and-myths-about-online-learning/