Introducing several new ideas to provide personalized, customized learning experiences for all kinds of learners! [Christian]

From DSC:
I have often reflected on differentiation or what some call personalized learning and/or customized learning. How does a busy teacher, instructor, professor, or trainer achieve this, realistically?

It’s very difficult and time-consuming to do for sure. But it also requires a team of specialists to achieve such a holy grail of learning — as one person can’t know it all. That is, one educator doesn’t have the necessary time, skills, or knowledge to address so many different learning needs and levels!

  • Think of different cognitive capabilities — from students that have special learning needs and challenges to gifted students
  • Or learners that have different physical capabilities or restrictions
  • Or learners that have different backgrounds and/or levels of prior knowledge
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Educators  and trainers have so many things on their plates that it’s very difficult to come up with _X_ lesson plans/agendas/personalized approaches, etc.  On the other side of the table, how do students from a vast array of backgrounds and cognitive skill levels get the main points of a chapter or piece of text? How can they self-select the level of difficulty and/or start at a “basics” level and work one’s way up to harder/more detailed levels if they can cognitively handle that level of detail/complexity? Conversely, how do I as a learner get the boiled down version of a piece of text?

Well… just as with the flipped classroom approach, I’d like to suggest that we flip things a bit and enlist teams of specialists at the publishers to fulfill this need. Move things to the content creation end — not so much at the delivery end of things. Publishers’ teams could play a significant, hugely helpful role in providing customized learning to learners.

Some of the ways that this could happen:

Use an HTML like language when writing a textbook, such as:

<MainPoint> The text for the main point here. </MainPoint>

<SubPoint1>The text for the subpoint 1 here.</SubPoint1>

<DetailsSubPoint1>More detailed information for subpoint 1 here.</DetailsSubPoint1>

<SubPoint2>The text for the subpoint 2 here.</SubPoint2>

<DetailsSubPoint2>More detailed information for subpoint 2 here.</DetailsSubPoint2>

<SubPoint3>The text for the subpoint 3 here.</SubPoint3>

<DetailsSubPoint3>More detailed information for subpoint 3 here.</DetailsSubPoint1>

<SummaryOfMainPoints>A list of the main points that a learner should walk away with.</SummaryOfMainPoints>

<BasicsOfMainPoints>Here is a listing of the main points, but put in alternative words and more basic ways of expressing those main points. </BasicsOfMainPoints>

<Conclusion> The text for the concluding comments here.</Conclusion>

 

<BasicsOfMainPoints> could be called <AlternativeExplanations>
Bottom line: This tag would be to put things forth using very straightforward terms.

Another tag would be to address how this topic/chapter is relevant:
<RealWorldApplication>This short paragraph should illustrate real world examples

of this particular topic. Why does this topic matter? How is it relevant?</RealWorldApplication>

 

On the students’ end, they could use an app that works with such tags to allow a learner to quickly see/review the different layers. That is:

  • Show me just the main points
  • Then add on the sub points
  • Then fill in the details
    OR
  • Just give me the basics via an alternative ways of expressing these things. I won’t remember all the details. Put things using easy-to-understand wording/ideas.

 

It’s like the layers of a Microsoft HoloLens app of the human anatomy:

 

Or it’s like different layers of a chapter of a “textbook” — so a learner could quickly collapse/expand the text as needed:

 

This approach could be helpful at all kinds of learning levels. For example, it could be very helpful for law school students to obtain outlines for cases or for chapters of information. Similarly, it could be helpful for dental or medical school students to get the main points as well as detailed information.

Also, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) grows, the system could check a learner’s cloud-based learner profile to see their reading level or prior knowledge, any IEP’s on file, their learning preferences (audio, video, animations, etc.), etc. to further provide a personalized/customized learning experience. 

To recap:

  • “Textbooks” continue to be created by teams of specialists, but add specialists with knowledge of students with special needs as well as for gifted students. For example, a team could have experts within the field of Special Education to help create one of the overlays/or filters/lenses — i.e., to reword things. If the text was talking about how to hit a backhand or a forehand, the alternative text layer could be summed up to say that tennis is a sport…and that a sport is something people play. On the other end of the spectrum, the text could dive deeply into the various grips a person could use to hit a forehand or backhand.
  • This puts the power of offering differentiation at the point of content creation/development (differentiation could also be provided for at the delivery end, but again, time and expertise are likely not going to be there)
  • Publishers create “overlays” or various layers that can be turned on or off by the learners
  • Can see whole chapters or can see main ideas, topic sentences, and/or details. Like HTML tags for web pages.
  • Can instantly collapse chapters to main ideas/outlines.

 

 

A rubric for evaluating e-learning tools in higher education — from er.educause.edu by Lauren Anstey and Gavan Watson
The Rubric for E-Learning Tool Evaluation offers educators a framework, with criteria and levels of achievement, to assess the suitability of an e-learning tool for their learners’ needs and for their own learning outcomes and classroom context.

Excerpt:

We organized our rubric’s evaluation criteria into eight categories (functionality; accessibility; technical; mobile design; privacy, data protection, and rights; social presence; teaching presence; cognitive presence). Each category has a specific set of characteristics, or criteria, against which e-learning tools are evaluated, and each criterion is assessed against three standards: works well, minor concerns, or serious concerns. Finally, the rubric offers individual descriptions of the qualities an e-learning tool must have to achieve a standard.

Although our rubric integrates a broad range of functional, technical, and pedagogical criteria, it is not intended to be overly prescriptive. Our goal is for the framework to respond to an instructor’s needs and be adapted as appropriate. For example, when a rubric criterion is not relevant to the assessment of a particular tool, it can be excluded without impacting the overall quality of the assessment.

The rubric reflects our belief that instructors should choose e-learning tools in the context of the learning experience. We therefore encourage an explicit alignment between the instructor’s intended outcomes and the tool, based on principles of constructive alignment. Given the diversity of outcomes across learning experiences, e-learning tools should be chosen on a case-by-case basis and should be tailored to each instructor’s intended learning outcomes and planned instructional activities. We designed the rubric with this intention in mind.

The Rubric for E-Learning Tool Evaluation offers educators a framework, with criteria and levels of achievement, to assess the suitability of an e-learning tool for their learners’ needs and for their own learning outcomes and classroom context. The rubric was designed with utility in mind: it is intended to help decision-makers independently evaluate e-learning tools.

 

 

 

Report: Accessibility in Digital Learning Increasingly Complex — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

The Online Learning Consortium (OLC)has introduced a series of original reports to keep people in education up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of digital learning. The first report covers accessibility and addresses both K-12 and higher education. The series is being produced by OLC’s Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership.

The initial report addresses four broad areas tied to accessibility:

  • The national laws governing disability and access and how they apply to online courses;
  • What legal cases exist to guide online course design and delivery in various educational settings;
  • The issues that emerge regarding online course access that might be unique to higher ed or to K-12, and which ones might be shared; and
  • What support online course designers need to generate accessible courses for learners across the education life span (from K-12 to higher education).

 

 

What teaching that lifts all students could look like — from kqed.org by Kristina Rizga

An initial comment from DSC:
I recently ran across this article. Although it’s from 12/24/15, it has some really solid points and strategies in it. Definitely worth a read if you are a teacher or even a parent with school age kids.

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

…his comments in class about the substance of her ideas, his feedback on her writing, the enthusiasm in his voice when he discussed her thinking. Over the course of a year, that proof solidified into a confidence that couldn’t be easily shaken anymore. It was that pride in her intellect that gave her the fortitude and resilience to cut through many racial stereotypes and negative myths as she made her way through high school and then Boston University.

For McKamey, the most important value driving her teaching and coaching is her conviction that being a good teacher means hearing, seeing, and succeeding with all students—regardless of how far a student is from the teacher’s preconceived notions of what it means to be ready to learn. When teachers are driven by a belief that all of their students can learn, they are able to respond to the complexity of their students’ needs and to adjust if something is not working for a particular individual or group of students.

 

 

The best way to improve teaching and reduce the achievement gaps, McKamey argues, is to allow teachers to act as school-based researchers and leaders, justifying classroom reforms based on the broad range of performance markers of their students: daily grades, the quality of student work and the rate of its production, engagement, effort, attendance, and student comments. That means planning units together and then spending a lot of time analyzing the iterative work the students produce. This process teaches educators to recognize that there are no standard individuals, and there are as many learning trajectories as there are people. 

 

 

 

Education startup OnlineDegree.com makes the first year of college tuition-free — from forbes.com by Richard Vedder

Excerpt:

If you were told that an educational institution existed that would enable you to earn a year of college credit at zero financial cost and with minimal hassle –from a for-profit private entrepreneurial venture — you would no doubt be suspicious. I receive several pitches a week from individuals trying to promote all sorts of innovations, so I was especially dubious of this proposition – until I talked to Grant Aldrich, the fellow who helped initiate this project, and after reflecting a bit on modern internet-based businesses.

Hundreds of millions daily use at zero cost an immensely popular social media platform, Facebook. It provides much joy to user’s lives. Moreover, Facebook, Inc. has, of this writing, a market capitalization of $539.6 billion and its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is at age 34, one of the richest people in the world. I suspect Grant Aldrich thinks that the Facebook model can be replicated successfully in higher education. Aldrich’s website (https://onlinedegree.com) will provide users with free, high-quality online college-level courses, financed through advertising, sponsorships, etc., much like Facebook and Google do.

The venture is brand new and modest in scope and is just now ready to launch its project.

 

He is bringing market-based capitalism to higher education without the crutch of government-subsidized student loans.

 

Yet Aldrich claims that he is not out to destroy traditional higher education, but rather to revitalize and support it. Students ultimately would go from his online courses into traditional schools, saving at least 25% of the cost through credit transfer, making traditional education significantly more affordable and viable.

 

 


The information below is from Grant Aldrich, Founder of OnlineDegree.com (emphasis via DSC)


Rather than bypassing traditional universities like the MissionU’s or Coursera’s, we have a disruptive solution to innovate within higher ed to combat student debt and bring students back to a collegiate path.

Here’s the quick summary: At OnlineDegree.com, anyone could receive credit, up to their freshman year of college, completely tuition-free. All from home, on their own schedule, no pressure, and no applications.

We offer students free college-level courses and work with accredited universities across the country to award college credit for the courses students take.  With many options to complete their entire freshman year equivalence, there are potential pathways to receive up to 44 units of recommended semester credit at over 1,400 colleges throughout the US…and growing.

By understanding the predicament that working adults have, it’s obvious that the current educational system hasn’t made it simple or easy enough for them to go back to school.  They’re busy, can’t afford it, and have a lot of anxiety taking the first step.  We’re changing that.

Further information is below.



Who Are We?

OnlineDegree.com is a team of startup veterans, leading academics and PhDs (from NYU, West Virginia University, Georgetown, etc). We’ve been working for over 2 years to make higher education more affordable and accessible for everyone. It’s been an incredible adventure to combat entrenched roadblocks and norms. More about us here:

How it Works
Students take as many college-level courses as they’d like on gen ed topics like Psychology, Robotics, Computer Programming, Marketing, History and many more…free. We’ve then worked with participating accredited universities across the country like Southern New Hampshire University, Excelsior College and others, so students can receive college credit for the courses they’ve taken. In addition, there are pathways to receive credit at over 1,400 schools in total throughout the US.

Our courses are:

  • Online and Available 24/7 – No class schedules, no fixed times, and completely self-paced.
  • Easy to Get Started- No applications, No entrance exams, and most importantly, No tuition.
  • Interesting and Top Notch- Our professors are experts in their respective fields with PhDs and advanced degrees. The courses are incredibly interesting.
  • Recommended for over 44 units of semester credit by the NCCRS

Why Is This So Disruptive?
Working adults now have a “bridge” to start their path back to school in 1 minute instead of 1 year in some cases…regardless of their finances or busy schedules. They can test drive different courses and subjects on their own schedule, be better prepared for college-level coursework at a university, and potentially receive college credits toward their degree. Given the common unfortunate student perception that applying directly to a community college or 4-year is intimidating, inflexible and/or costly, we’re more like “wading” into the pool rather than expecting everyone to jump in.

How Have We Made It Free?
We will always be 100% free to students…we’re not going to compromise on that. We’re exploring a marketplace for tutoring, Patreon, Kickstarter, university sponsorships/advertising, private grants, and many other avenues. We are bold enough to look outside of the traditional tuition paradigm to ensure we don’t exclude anyone from participating. There are all kinds of ways to keep the lights on without charging students or sacrificing educational quality.

Why Now?
Despite overwhelming demand to go back to school in the face of eroding manufacturing jobs, robot automation, and a quickly modernizing economy, millions of working adults are still not going back to school at a traditional university. The key is to understand the predicaments of the working adult: accessibility and affordability. Other marketplace offers that circumvent higher education have become increasingly popular. We’re solving this by removing all of the barriers to enable that first critical step in starting back towards a traditional university.

 


Also see:

 


 

 

 

Online Learning Designed for the Deaf — from virtuallyinspired.org
Universities partner to provide accessibility through sign language focus.

 

 

Excerpt:

Bilingual Education Hybrid Course Project
Conceived within the National Plan for the Rights of Disable Personnel – Living Without Limits, a partnership was formed to create an online course focused on bilingual pedagogy in Distance Learning (EAD). The Bilingual Education hybrid course project is driven by the goal of train teachers so they can adjust their pedagogical approach to better meet the cultural and linguistic specificities of deaf students.

This is the first online bilingual education course done in Brazilian sign language rather than with small translation window in the corner of the screen. Content, materials created with deaf students at the center. Professors Bruno Galasso and Dirceu Esdras spearhead the project with a multidisciplinary team of graphic designers, educational designers, university teachers, and translator interpreters.

With a personalized virtual learning environment platform approach, the design team created bilingual teaching materials incorporated with digital objects and multimedia tools including a mental map, social network for collaboration, personal galleries where students can store their work. The diversified environment hybrid design also contains a gamification element, animations, a glossary with linguistic variations, videos, and learning tracks for real-time interactions in class and online.

Through the partnership, twelve renowned public higher education institutions (INES, UFAM, UEPA, UFPB, IFG, UFLA, UFRGS, UFC, IFSC, UFBA, UFGD, UFPR) expand the reach across Brazil make it possible cover the five-macro regions of the country.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I’m very grateful for the teachers that I’ve had in my life as well as for the teachers that our children have had throughout their lives! (This goes for the coaches and pastors that have been in our lives as well!) Many of those teachers really went the extra mile — making personal sacrifices while they contributed the additional time and efforts that it took to get the job done.

Teaching and learning is messy and very tough work.  For example, it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to simultaneously provide personalized/customized learning to 25-30+ students (and to do so every day)!

  • Not every student has the same prior knowledge.
  • Not every student has the same capabilities; some students have additional/special needs to help them learn.
  • Not every student learns at the same pace.
  • Not every student has the same goals.
  • Not every student has the same interests and/or passions.

The job can be very stressful, for a variety of reasons — one of which is that teachers have to deal with all kinds of agendas that are simultaneously coming at them.

So thank you to all the teachers out there who are making significant contributions to others’ lives.

Thank you for your service to others!

#TeacherAppreciationWeek2018

 

Special Education by the Numbers: A Look into Today’s Schools — with thanks to Caroline Linne and to USC Rossier’s Masters in Teaching online program

From DSC:
Here are a couple of excerpts from their infographic:

 

 

 

 

 

The problem with hurrying childhood learning — from edweek.org by Justin Minkel

Excerpts:

When he lectured in the United States, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget would invariably get what he called “the American question” from a member of the audience. After he had explained various developmental phases that young children go through in their understanding of concepts like length and volume, someone would raise their hand and ask, “How can we accelerate a child’s progress through the stages?”

Baffled, Piaget would explain that there is absolutely no advantage to speeding up a child’s progression. The point of knowing the stages is to be aware of what stage a child is in, so that we can create the conditions and offer the guidance to help her move to the next one. It’s not a race.

One of the most insidious results of the testing madness afflicting education has been an emphasis on speeding toward a particular outcome—a reading level, a cut score—without taking the time to ask what is sacrificed in that rush.

We need, of course, to pay attention to academic growth. It’s one thing for a child to be below grade-level or to be on a trajectory toward catching up over the next couple of years. It’s a fundamentally different situation when a child is virtually flat-lining in his progress, or is making such slow growth that if he continues at that rate, he won’t become a proficient reader in time to acquire the content and confidence he’ll need to thrive in school.

But I see too many kids who are hurried and harried toward the level they’re “supposed” to be on by the end of a given grading period, with too little attention given to the path they’re walking to get there. I see children begin to define themselves by test scores, grades, and how quickly they’re leapfrogging from one level to the next.

Here are two ways that teachers, parents, and administrators can take a deep breath and see past the timetables set by adults to the particular journeys of the children themselves.

But here’s the critical point about their progress: that growth is a positive side effect, not the end goal, of the block of time we call the “Wild Reading Rumpus.” The true purpose of that reading time is for my students to come to love reading, so that they will lead richer lives—not just in the future, when they go on to college or a career, but in the present.

 

When we celebrated their perseverance and hard work, I had children stand and be applauded not according to how high their score was, but according to how much growth they had made.

 

 

From DSC:
I just thought this was an excellent essay.

Too often K-12 education in the United States is like a run-away train. When the train’s leaving the station, you better hop on board. It waits for no one. Its speed is set. You better keep up. Good luck to those who don’t. “Best wishes!” our system cries out.

 

 

 

What online teachers have learned from teaching online — from insidehighered.com by Mark Lieberman
Online instructors offer wisdom they’ve gathered — what to do and what not to do — from years of experience teaching in the modality.

Excerpts:

When I first began teaching online, I noticed a disconnect between students and the course content. While I worked to make it relevant to their lives, I often saw students doing the work simply for the grade. Clearly something was not translating. In the last year, I’ve become more focused on helping students connect their passions to the course content. My courses still have objectives. However, I ask students when the semester starts to identify one to three goals and create a short video about what they want to achieve in the course. They reflect on these goals and can modify them at the midpoint and the end. During the semester, I ask students to consider what they are doing during the week to help them meet their goals. They don’t always need to share this information, but having this as a thread in the course helps them stay connected to the content and each other. Students are aware of what their colleagues’ goals are and often reach out and share ideas and resources in support. [Hall]


I also began to see that teaching online could support learner variability better than teaching in a classroom. I observed one student with dyslexia express herself eloquently in video, while her written expressions were fragmented. These experiences illuminated the value of Universal Design for Learning, opening a new world of opportunities for teaching online. [Brock]

I’ve been teaching online since 2008 and entirely online since 2013. When I first started teaching online, I was afraid to create new content or change the course in any way once the course launched. I thought the course curriculum and online environment had to stay “frozen” and intact or I would risk confusing students. Now, I create additional tutorials as needed, using screen-casting tools, videos and podcasts to add additional content to assist students. I have also since learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to online teaching and learning. Some students prefer basic content and straightforward assignments. Other students like to interact with the instructor through instant messaging, email and discussion boards. I started doing optional webinars for students who wanted more interaction and personalized learning, but I don’t require them. I find that the same group of online students in each course (who enjoy interaction) usually attend the webinars. The webinars are recorded for students who couldn’t attend or prefer the recording format.

Over all, I’ve learned to be more laid-back, multimodal (e.g., webinars, podcasts, etc.), proactive and flexible for my students.

Semingson

 

 

There need to be more active learning activities in an online course.

Greenlaw

 


In a typical class, students talk only to the instructor and each other. Resources, questions and information that are created and shared rarely transition to the next course. In true community, all students and instructors within a program could regularly access information and ideas in a shared space regardless of the content they are currently learning. [Hall]

There are numerous tools and strategies for interacting with students, like web-conferencing platforms, course audio and video tools, and collaborative tools that allow for synchronous or asynchronous interaction. There are simply more ways to communicate, to collaborate and to create. [Hobgood]

Insert from DSC:
Re: this last quote from Hobgood, I love this idea of creating an online-based community of practice — or community of inquiry — that spans across classes and semesters. Great call!

 

Efforts to improve student access to online courses are key, but we also know that equity gaps get worse when minority students learn online. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Relationships are at the core of meaningful college experiences and they’re particularly important to underserved students who are more likely to doubt their academic abilities. Underserved online students need the presence of an engaged instructor. If you teach online, your human presence matters. This has been my greatest takeaway from 15 years of teaching online and, perhaps, more striking is that this point still seems revolutionary to so many.

Pacansky-Brock

 

 

 

Addendum:
7 Steps to Better Online Teaching — from chronicle.com by Esther C. Kim

Excerpt:

Provide suggestions for a strong classroom climate. At the start of the semester, I offer ways for students to stay engaged in an online classroom environment, and I explain the importance of remaining on camera and on audio. Without a proper explanation, students mistakenly think that they can multitask during live class sessions. Among the tips I offer them:

  • Refrain from opening email, texting, or browsing the web.
  • Choose a space where you don’t encounter distractions, which could include family members, laundry, dirty dishes, or a busy street outside your window.
  • Avoid sitting on a comfortable couch or bed.
  • Pay close attention to peers’ comments and ask yourself if you agree or disagree, and why. Add to the dialogue by sharing your thoughts.
  • Avoid taking class from coffee shops or other public spaces. The background noise can create a distraction both for you and for the entire class. Also, internet connections may be inconsistent in public spaces.

Don’t use the chat box when you can speak instead. On my university’s platform, there’s a chat box in which students can type messages in real time. This could be a useful tool if used properly. But I often find it difficult to simultaneously read the chat box while listening to a student who’s speaking. The same goes for when I am speaking and someone is typing comments or questions in the chat box. If there’s a robust dialogue happening among a few of the students and others want to interject, they can place their comments in the chat box. Otherwise, I ask that they take advantage of the face-to-face online time by verbalizing their questions or comments.

From DSC:
Esther’s point on how difficult it is to both read/respond to the chat area while also trying to listen to someone else speaking is a great example of cognitive load — and it being overwhelmed with too much information to process at one time.

 

 

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