Throughout this course I have reflected on my own philosophy of education and the theories of instructional design that influence my role as a technology educator. For more than eight years I have been designing courses, curriculum and lessons for 9-12 and K-5 technology students. Some of my instruction has been online, but the majority has been problem-based, typically with results that express my students’ individuality and interests.
I am not an objectivist. I do not place importance on learning facts or terms, or principles, because technology is constantly changing. I am more focused on my individual students and their ability to use the tools available to them than I am on theories, terminology, or historical facts regarding technology. I don’t consider it my job to deliver content, but to present problems, and provide support in using digital tools to solve them.
My teaching approach is a cognitive process. It is my goal to help my students analyze and make connections to previously learned information in ways that allow them to solve problems and discover new skills using digital tools. I am also a constructivist, because I believe that each of my students processes and organizes information differently. I feel strongly that their personal experiences will allow them to make connections that are authentic. Their collaboration and discussion with one another will result in more effective learning experiences than any information I can deliver to them. In that way, my approach is one of constructivism. Learners in my course will be assembling their own knowledge regarding digital tools and processes that can be used in their classes.
My online course is designed to address the disabilities of my current school, rather than the K-5 learners within it (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). Despite having more than adequate access to digital tools and online applications, educators are untrained in using technology as an educational tool. My course provides learners (teachers) with examples of blended learning, while creating an environment in which they will explore digital tools of their own and share their experiences with one another. The team-teaching element that is offered in the course provides additional social interaction, during which learning can take place through shared experiences.
My UbD Plan includes foundational instruction in the form of two short videos about blended learning strategies. Small group discussions will immediately follow these videos, and learners will share any blended learning experiences they’ve had, and brainstorm others that could be used in their classrooms. Applicative instruction includes their creation of collaborative documents using Office 365, a tool that was provided to them (without training) by the district two years ago. This will provide them with experience not only in using Office 365, but in online collaboration as a learning activity. Remaining instruction as planned in my UbD includes additional collaborative discussions, exploration of the iPad apps available on our campus, and evidence of learning in the form of artifacts, shared documents and online feedback (surveys) throughout the course.
Online learning allows me to address content while promoting the development of skills needed for future employability. These skills include communication, independent learning, ethics and responsibility, teamwork and flexibility, thinking, digital, and knowledge management (Conference Board of Canada, 2014). They cannot be learned by themselves and need to be applied to content areas and authentic learning situations in order for mastery to be achieved.
The fact that today’s students are natives to a digital age means that they expect to use technology for daily processes and entertainment. These students don’t think of technology as separate from their daily lives (Wicks, 2014). To limit their learning environment to the traditional classroom is inconsistent with the world they live in, and can only complicate the learning process. Online learning makes it easier to integrate content with real-world applications. And while the audience for my online course is not considered digital natives, the need for them to recognize the significance of technology to the futures of their students is great. My online course is designed to become a “place” for teachers to learn from one another – a place that is shaped by the people within it (Morrison, 2015).
Additionally, online learning allows for instructors to reach larger groups of students and address the diversity of any group. No longer does class size need to be limited to the physical dimensions of a classroom, or the suggested ratio of students to teacher. In an online environment, students can learn from an instructor, independently, and/or from one another. A wider selection of resources can be made available to students. Scheduling is also more flexible, allowing students to work independently as time allows, providing them with ample time for personal reflection and a deeper and more authentic learning experience.
The fact that students are not merely consumers of the learning experience, but contributors as well makes them active learners with an investment in the educational process. Their contributions to the online environment, in a variety of media, serve as a portfolio of sorts, providing evidence of learning and examples of growth for the group as a whole, or for individual students.
As I apply what I’ve learned to my own teaching, I understand the need for my students to be skilled in the use of technology as it applies to them as individuals. While my online course is designed for educators, I have recognized that their learning abilities and strengths differ, just as my K-5 students’ do. Activities are collaborative in nature, because I understand that social influence and shared learning experiences are primary sources of learning for teachers. The design of blended learning strategies will be very personal to each instructor, and based on the needs of his or her students. The fact that time is dedicated for PLC’s each week means that what is learned in the online course can be discussed face-to-face, and that teachers can work together beyond my online course to blend their curriculum with the digital tools available to them.
Evidence of learning will come in many forms, depending on the needs and experiences of the learner. Participation in collaborative discussions and contributions to the media library will be significant in determining the success of the experience. Additionally, student feedback and use of digital tools in their own classrooms will demonstrate their understanding of the benefits of blended learning.
Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., Gordon, D. (2014) Universal Design for Learning – Theory and Practice. Retrieved from http://udltheorypractice.cast.org/login
Morrison, D. (2015, October 16). How to Make Online Courses a ‘Place’ for Learning. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/how-to-make-online-courses-a-place-for-learning/
The Conference Board of Canada (2014) Employability Skills 2000+ Ottawa ON: Conference Board of Canada
Wicks, M. (2010, October). A National Primer for Online Learning. Retried from http://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/iNCL_NationalPrimerv22010-web1.pdf