Dustin’s Article Discussion
I have chosen to respond to Dianne Conrad’s article, “Situating Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) in an Online Learning Environment.” The article outlines the Online PLAR Program at Athabasca University.
I just completed ED 319 Preparing For PLAR in May of this year. PLAR makes up Milestone two and three of the B.Ed (HRD) program. It happed to be the first distance course I have taken and was surprised with how well it worked out for me. The course was taught by Natalie Worthen who is the Coordinator of Professional Development at Holland College. She did a great job setting up the course on SAM. In the past, the course used to follow a blended delivery format. Our class was the first time she has taught the course completely online. Natalie was easily accessible through e-mail or by phone anytime I had a question relating to the course.
The distance learning format was extremely well suited for my busy family, work, and school schedule. It allowed greater flexibility and reduced barriers that would have otherwise not allowed me to take the course. I worked on the it during my free time and often took breaks (sometimes for weeks at a time) to work on other projects. However, I had little difficulty picking up where I left off even after long periods.
PLAR is a unique course that focuses on personal reflection, selection of artifacts and verification of evidence. This is not a fast process, actually quite the opposite. The PLAR process encourages reflective, experiential, and active learning to help students realize the value of their past non-formal learning. PLAR helps to identify areas of strength that creates a type of learning platform. A known place to start formal education. In addition, it is used to acquire credits toward specific academic programs.
In the article Conrad states that students of Athabasca University have the option to build a paper or e-portfolio. For Ed 319 we used the paper based format, but I thought it would be interesting to make up an e-portfolio as well. It would be easy to organize and allow for more customization, however it is easy to over do it with the use of technology. E-portfolios should be kept simple with the focus on student learning.
The most challenging aspect of the online course was staying motivated and engaged. It was nice having open ended assignments, but made it very easy to procrastinate. I also missed out on the classroom chemistry that only a face to face learning environment can provide. I think PLAR is well suited to the distance delivery format, but may not be the best match for all learners.
I showed up with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I had heard mixed reviews from former CAE students who had previously taken Dave’s course, so I had no idea how things were going to unfold. When I arrived at the first class, I thought I was late. Everyone was working on their computers and giving each other a hard time. I was happy to hear the lighter tone in the classroom and I quickly got to work establishing a connection to Panthernet. The only thing I did to prepare for the course was opened a new Twitter account, but nothing further. I found it easy to follow along with the lesson and got off to a great start.
Digital networking was something that I had never heard of going into this course. I thought it was pretty cool when Dave asked the question to one of his professional buddies in Europe (I think) and got a response within minutes. It taught me how powerful twitter can be when looking for answers to complex questions. Community was also very interesting, I could totally relate to the example of moving to a different geographical location to join a new community. It takes time (and effort) to get to know new people, learn the way they talk and get a general feel for the people. It is important to give back to the community. I must admit that when I go onto a discussion form, I am usually looking for an answer to a problem that I have but never take time to answer questions of others. This is not a habit I am proud of and now that I understand it better, I hope to improve upon my give and take ratio.
I had no idea that security was so important to people. I think this was one of the most discussed topics in our class. I assumed that security was related to not giving out personal information like credit card or social insurance numbers. It turned out being a big deal to a lot of people in our class and I now have a better understanding of why online security is such large issue. As an instructor it was a valuable lesson that I was happy to learn with a group of my peers instead of learning the hard way with my students.
I learned that there are many smart people in the world and there is a good chance that one of them have developed a technological tool that could help me out with almost any problem that I may have. We talked about a ton of tools that I have never heard of before. Some were good and others, not so much. I liked how the focus was put on us (the class) to explore and figure out how to use the tools. Dave made a good point about how things are forever changing and it is more important to learn how to explore and problem solve than to record the steps necessary to do a particular task.
I thought taking notes in Google Doc’s was the coolest thing ever. Not only did I never have to search for a pen, my notes are conveniently stored electronically so that I will have them for future reference. Superfuntimes showed me how simple it is to organize my notes in one place and easily it could be shared with others. The collaborative feature of this tool is awesome.
I am going to do my best to keep the momentum going by incorporating technology into the block exam review that I will be doing with my current group of welding students. It is important for me to continue with the implementation of what I have learned in this course, otherwise I will forget about it in a few weeks time.
I really enjoyed the class and have greater confidence in my ability to search out and use new tools in my area of expertise. It was a Superfuntime and nobody cried.
I worked as a pressure welder in Alberta before returning to PEI to raise our children. Besides a calculator, the closest thing to a computer in our welding shop was the time clock. Lets just say the transition from welder to welding instructor was a little overwhelming at first. The good thing was that I had an open mind, willingness to learn and wasn’t afraid to ask questions. My co-workers did their best to help me out, but they were far from computer geniuses at that time. I would spend hours looking over their shoulder to pick up whatever tips I could.
I remember being very impressed with the organization of files and documents on one of the guys computers. It was the first time I had seen so much information in one place. He would often say that he could never organize papers like this, but had no trouble with it on the computer. It was around this time that I was starting to accumulate a number of poorly titled documents of all shapes and sizes. There were little bits of everything everywhere. I started out with a couple of folders, named by the course information that would be found inside. In no time at all I had all of my stuff labeled and stored in places that made logical sense to me. Since making the big transition to the file folder my progress in the organizational department has been at a standstill.
I received an e-mail today from Integrated Technology Services full of tutorials of some great tools. OneNote, OneDrive, Skype for Business and some Collaboration/Sharing stuff. Looking back, I wish they sent this e-mail last week. Perhaps I could have done my presentation on one of these tools instead of Poll Everywhere.
Getting back to organizational tools. I had a chance to look at the OneNote tutorial (at least for a few minutes) and I think that it is something that will help me with lesson plans and course curriculum. It would be really cool to use as a review tool with the welding students that I am currently working with. It would be neat to create a document together containing the essential study material they need for their upcoming block exams. One of the most challenging things for me is implementing my ideas. As we all know, talking the talk and walking the walk, are two totally different things.
Dave’s article on Self-assessment and Self-remediation was a very logical approach to teaching today’s learners. It makes perfect sense to me, provide learners with the tools necessary for self reflection, identify areas of weakness, and how to fix their problems. However, I feel there may be a larger issue to address before we will see learners utilize these skills.
The biggest challenge I deal with in the classroom today is attitude. Millennial learners feel entitled. It seems that they have it pretty good. From what I can tell, a large majority of them are what I refer to as “spoiled rotten”. Catered to by their parents for their whole life. Driving around in a cars and talking on cell phones that they have never had to make a payment on.
Dave mentioned that he grew up working on his family’s fishing boat and went on to work in a lead/silver mine for a number of years. I think that it is safe to say he learned a lot of life skills during that time. I can relate to his story because I grew up on our family farm. This is where I learned the importance of punctuality, hard work, integrity, and the value of a dollar.
It is my opinion that we have become a soft society. A little tough love never hurt anyone. Right? How about sending students out to work after high school graduation and see how they get along. I bet they will come back to school with a better attitude. I would put money on it!
The other thing I was thinking about when I read this article is in regards to self assessment. Personally, I know there are areas that I am weak. Take math for example, I am not really an algebra guy and to be honest, I am fine with that. What bothers me is the skills that I am missing (or need improving) that I am not yet aware of. About a year ago I got my eyes checked and the doctor flipped a prescription in front of me. I was floored with how much better I could see. I had no idea that I needed glasses until he showed me what I was missing. How can we ensure students will have the skills to identify weakness they dont know they have?
Technology has changed the way the world works. Information at our fingertips twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. I think it would be very difficult growing up during this period of time. I am hoping that attitudes become more positive in the future.
I took a course a couple of years ago that used a grading contract. It was pretty cut and dry:
You do this much and you get a 70% to 80%.
You do this much, plus some other stuff and you get between a 80% and 90%.
You do this much, plus some other stuff, with the addition of an additional bucket load more, you receive between 90% and 100%.
It was the summertime and to me, a grade is just a number so I decided for middle of the road. I thought it was a cool way of doing things and was pleased with the end result.
Today’s contract negotiations were quite different than my previous learning contract due to the flexibility of the assignments and the given weight of each. I am glad that we all got together and made some decisions. Like many others in the class, I require some specific goals/targets before starting any project. Today’s class helped solidify most of those things for me, with the exception of the complex explainer. For some reason I still cant wrap my head around that one, but that’s OK because I will make up for it somewhere else in my contract.
The reading mentioned “student buy in” and in my opinion, this is huge. It is something that I focus on in my classroom. I am flexible with most things and enjoy facilitating student learning. This approach allows me to give students some say in how we approach a project or course. It has been my experience that when students “buy into” the idea, whatever the topic may be, the end result is far greater than if I was to lead the group. I must admit that it has not always worked out that way, but when it works out, its a great experience for everyone involved.
I feel that with greater flexibility comes greater challenges. Today’s class was a good example of a group of students hashing it out trying to create something that worked well for everyone. I actually thought it went rather well. I think my good night sleep was a contributing factor.
I am going to be honest, I found today to be a little slower than the first two classes. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy learning about the tools because i thought most of them were really cool and easy to use. I think my real issue was the lack of sleep I had last night due to some evening coffees. Should have went for the decaf.
I thought our group twitter conversation was pretty cool. I think that I was like some of my classmates that felt a little uncertain of how to follow along. There is a lot going on all at once. Its kind of like sitting in a room full of people who are talking in small groups. It is loud and confusing if I tried to listen to it all at once, I had to pick and choose. I am looking forward to doing it again now that I feel more comfortable with it. Oh, and I did a little searching and found the coolest “jobs for welders” thing/group (I wouldn’t call it a person) that now follow on twitter. It provides me with up to date Canadian job postings for welders in Canada. It is very cool. I can see my professional digital network growing.
Tech tool presentations
First time I heard of Slack was yesterday in class. The presentation today gave me a basic idea of what it can do. It was neat, but I am not sure how I could productivity use the tool with my students
Some people are obsessed with Prezi. I think its alright. Just a fancy PowerPoint as far as I am concerned. I am sure the students would fall asleep just as fast watching a Prezi show vs PowerPoint. Sure it could be used effectively, but I think it would be just as easy to load it with info and teach to the screen.
I might use this one for something.
I am very interested in learning more about the features of Google Docs. It is a tool I would like to become more comfortable with.
First I heard of it, very cool. I will use this for sure.
I would like to learn more about Dropbox? I see it as an option when I save a file, but I dont know much more than that. I guess I should just take the time to explore it for myself now that I know how easy it is to search these tools on the internet.
I wouldn’t mind checking out Linkedin as well, however I dont like how it sends out mass e-mails to everyone on my contact list. I imagine that there is a simple solution.
I am going to bed early tonight.
Hey, this blog entry is in response to the reading “Cheating is Learning”.
I found it easy to relate to this article, it made a lot of sense to me. I find it difficult to store information in my memory for any period of time (unless I get to apply it). My mind is not wired that way and I think that a lot of people can relate to the way I feel.
I work with an instructor in Georgetown that recently graduated from the B.Ed (HRD) program. He has been a huge help to me both as a teacher and a student. I mention him because he is a prime example of someone who uses the internet as an information tool. He is forever looking up something, whether it be trying to find part numbers, learning how to fix something, or figuring out how to use a feature in his outlook e-mail. He has figured out how to incorporate the internet into solving the challenges that he faces each day. He has also taught me a bit about organizing information on my computer and shares helpful trade related teaching material with me. I consider him to be a valuable member of my network and have benefited greatly from his professionalism.
Through this article and in class discussion, I have identified the value of having a professional digital network and I now understand that there are many more helpful tools out there to solve more complex problems. It was pretty cool to see the fast (almost instant) response of Dave’s SocioViz question today that he tweeted to members of his professional network. I can see how this could work for me in my teaching profession.
I do use the internet as an information tool, but I have never taken the time to become part of a digital network. For example, in the past I have searched for information in old posts that I found in discussion forms. I have never taken the time to join the group to ask questions or provide feedback to others.
The first couple of classes have opened my eyes to the value of professional networking online. The next time I catch myself wasting time searching for answers in an old discussion form, I am going to take the time to join the group and post my question. With a little practice, I think it will be more efficient use of the resource.
I have not been living under a rock for the 10 years, however, this is my first entry into the blogosphere.
I have a very specific goal/activity that I would like to become more familiar with heading into this course:
Each year I have students do a short (5 minute) group safety presentation that focuses on personal protective equipment (PPE), hand/power tools, and stationary power equipment. This year I would like students to use their smart phones to video their presentation, upload it to you tube, and share it with the class.
This is not a new idea. I had a co-worker who took this course a few years ago and applied this activity in his classroom. He has since left the college to pursue a career with the Charlottetown Fire Department, but the activity he created worked so well that the new learning manager that replaced him (who is not at all tech savvy) continues to use it.
I would prefer to gain confidence and understanding of the necessary steps and use of technology before applying it in the classroom. Perhaps I could even improve the idea using a new form of technology that was not available a few years ago. Another thing I have been thinking about, is timing of this activity in relation to the school year. Safety, tools, and equipment, is the first course of the year and I believe that if this activity happens to go south, it may give students the wrong impression of my teaching ability. Although I like to try new teaching strategies in the classroom, I am cautious not to get in over my head, especially with the use of technology.
There is also the Twitter thing. I have used twitter and tweet deck in a couple of other courses and tried to use it a bit on my own, but quickly lost interest. I am willing to give it another attempt and hopefully get a more use out of it this time around.
I thought our first class went great, not only did no one cry, nobody got up and left ether. I am enjoying the witty humor both from classmates and our instructor Dave and I am looking forward to streching my mind with the group during our time together.