On My Mind…Higher Ed. Online Learning

As more and more K-12 institutions consider adding online learning courses to their learning pathways, it becomes more important to read about the reasons for heading this route i.e., what are the lessons learned, how institutions should prepare for the shift, what constitutes learner readiness, what courses yield better results, what training should be provided to teachers, etc. With the online learning movement spreading to the K-12 industry, now is the time to study the good, bad and ugly. Higher Ed. institutions had to cross the teaching/learning chasm a few years ago in order to retain students, meet diverse student learning styles & other needs, secure highly qualified instructors, and keep costs contained to name a few. Listed below are some initial readings to begin to gain a better understanding of the underpinnings and frameworks needed to support online learning:

  • Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Bures, E. M., Borokhovski, E., Tamim, R. M. (2011). Interaction in distance education and online learning: Using evidence and theory to improve practice. Journal of Computer in Higher Education, 23(2), 82-103.
  • Dikkers, A. G. (2015). The intersection of online and face-to-face teaching: Implications for virtual school teacher practice and professional development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 47(3), 139-156.
  • King, S. E., Arnold, K. C. (2012). Blended learning environments in higher education: A case study of how professors make it happen. Mid-Western Educational Research, 25(1/2), 44-59.
  • McDonald, P. L., Straker, H. O., Schlumpf, K. S., Plack, M. M. (2014). Learning partnership: Students and faculty learning together to facilitate reflection and higher order thinking in a blended course. Online Learning Journal, 18(4), 1-22.
  • Picciano, A. G., Seaman, J., Shea P., Swan, K. (2012). Examining the extent and nature of online learning in american K-12 education: The research initiatives of the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. Internet and Higher Education, 15, 127-135.
  • Reece, S. A. (2015). Online learning environments in higher education: Connectivism vs. dissociation. Education and Information Technologies, 20(3), 579-588.
  • Richardson, J. C., Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 68-88.
  • Smith, S. J., Basham, J., Rice, M. F., Carter Jr., R. A. (2016). Preparing special educators for K-12 online learning environments: A survey of teacher educators. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31(3), 170-178.
  • Vaughan, N. (2007). Perspectives on blended learning in higher education. International Journal on E-Learning, 6(1), 81-94.

Virtual Technology Coach

Sugar, W., Slagter van Tryon P. J. (2014). Development of a virtual technology coach to support technology integration for K-12 educators. TechTrends, 58(3), 54-62.

This article attempts to offer a possible non-traditional solution to meeting the needs of K-12 districts in their quest to provide ongoing technology integration professional development. The authors explored the development of a virtual technology coach position to help teachers incorporate new knowledge and skills related to technology integration into classroom practice both short and long term. According to Sugar and Slagter, a coach creates a non-confrontational environment where teachers can share their thoughts, instructional practices, and generally learn from one another. Additionally, the article highlights how important continual professional development as opposed to a one-time workshop has been deemed more effective in supporting teachers’ abilities to learn about new teaching strategies, new technologies and other ways to change their classrooms. For the study, the authors created and issued a survey to sixty teachers to find out what benefits and services a virtual technology coach could provide in an online setting. Additionally, the research included teacher prototyping sessions to develop an initial set of virtual assistant qualities and resources. The study analysis yielded seven main themes of need for a virtual assistant support including: collaboration, discussion, learning, news, profile, sharing and technical.

As K-12 school systems continue to purchase large quantities of technology for teaching and learning as well as reshaping/updating instructional strategies, there is definitely a need to develop a learning community for collaboration, sharing, teaching, tech integration, etc. Sugar and Slagter’s thinking about a virtual technology coach is in alignment with the International Society for Training and Education (ISTE) white paper on Technology, Coaching and Community as well as the NETS-C (coach) standards. The authors work does bring value and vision to the possibility of what a next-generation school employee might look like – possibly virtual! The real question becomes, should this new job position be an online tool called a virtual technology coach or an actual person acting as a virtual technology coach on call or facilitating learning communities from a remote location?

The district I work in does not have any instructional coaches. Teachers collaborate, provide training and generally support one another during school hours. The district does provide teachers leadership opportunities and curriculum days to learn or train others, but overall our school system is considered a flat organization structurally. The district maintains a lean organizational structure so that the high-quality and cutting-edge student programming can be offered at the highest possible level. This article really accentuates a potential new future for how to best support teachers in their transformational teaching and learning practices. I feel this concept of virtual technology assistant is just another lever of Clay Christensen’s Disruptive Education framework. Only time will tell if this non-traditional solution can become a reality in a K-12 setting!

TPACK: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge

Misha, P., Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technology pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

The authors proposed a conceptual framework as a way of thinking about effective technology integration and specifically the knowledge associated with integrating technology effectively into learning environments. Constructed as an extension of Shulman’s (1986) formulation of “pedagogical content knowledge”, the Mishra and Koehler framework is known as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK. This model showcases the interweaving of all three key sources of knowledge: technology, pedagogy, and content. As highlighted in the article, there is a critical need to have a conceptually based theoretical framework about the relationship between technology and teaching that can transform the conceptualization and practice of teacher education, teacher training and teacher professional development (p. 1019). Especially so, since teaching is a complex cognitive skill occurring in a dynamic, interrelated and sometimes ill-structured environment.

This model has revolutionized how some teachers, districts and higher-education organizations view, support and justify technology integration. High-quality teaching requires a deep understanding of the complex relationship that exists between pedagogy, content and technology. Also, there is no one-size-fits-all with regard to technology solutions for classroom teaching and learning. Mishra and Koehler suggest that TPACK serves as a great resource to guide the design of curriculum in an approach they call learning technology by design. The authors suggest that this framework allows teachers to tease apart some of the key issues that are necessary for scholarly dialogue about educational technology classroom integration (p.1046). Having a better handle on how technology supports the learning environment can afford students better opportunities to transcend the passive learner role and instead take control of learning through authentic and engaging ill-structured problems that reflect a complexity of the real world (p. 1035).

Personally, I have been training teachers on integrating technology into their classrooms for over nine years. My first year in the position, I continued the district-driven, skills-based approach to teacher technology training. In year two, I quickly realized that teaching just the technology tool skills had little to no impact back in the classroom even though that’s exactly what the teachers wanted. Through a variety of learning frameworks including TPACK, the district moved to a messy professional development model that is content-driven, pedagogically supported and technologically enhanced. Teachers come to training to have the tough conversations, work on their perceptions and/or fears, developed sound instructional units and “play” around with the content-pedagogy-technology relationship. We still have a long way to go as a district, but we are having the best and deepest conversations about effective technology integration these past couple of years. TPACK is a great conceptual framework that our teachers can reference, easily relate to and work through to construct new ways to teach and learn.





On My Mind…TPACK Model

This week’s EDU800 readings revolved around the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge developed by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler (2005). Their framework most famously known as TPACK was built to understand and describe the kinds of knowledge that teachers need to employ for effective pedagogical practice in a technology enhanced or mediated learning environment. The TPACK framework examines the relationships between pedagogy, content and technology. The articles listed below provide a point of view about the TPACK contextual factors through the lens of specific grade levels, departments or programs:

  • Blackwell, C., Lauricella, A., Wartella, E. (2016). The influence of TPACK contextual factors on early childhood educators’ tablet computer use. Computers & Education, 98, 57-69.
  • Jang, S., Tasi, M. (2013). Exploring the TPACK of Taiwanese secondary school science teachers using a new contextualized TPACK model. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(4), 566-580.
  • Olofson, M., Swallow, M., Neumann, M. (2016). TPACKing: A constructivist framing of TPACK to analyze teachers’ construction of knowledge. Computers & Education, 95, 188-201.
  • Smith, S. (2013/2014). Through the teacher’s eyes: Unpacking the TPACK of digital fabrication integration in middle school language arts. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(2), 207-227.
  • Wetzel, K., Marshall, S. (2011-12). TPACK goes to sixth grade: Lessons from a middle school teacher in a high-technology-access classroom. International Society for Technology in Education, 28(2), 73-81.



Video Podcasts in Education

Kay, R. (2012) Exploring the use of video podcasts in education: A comprehensive review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 820-831.

This article was constructed as a comprehensive review of research on video podcasts over the past decade to guide educational practice as well as provide a path for future studies. Robin Kay quickly recaps the history and growth of video podcasts in education, types of podcast categories, ties to previous literature/research reviews, discusses the benefits and challenges of using podcasts, and the methodological concerns. The author also highlights purposes for podcasts such as for viewing an entire lecture in a substitutional fashion instead of or after a face-to-face meeting, viewing podcasts that have been segmented or chunked to support classroom instruction, and viewing podcasts to practice targeted skills or specific problems. One pedagogical concern raised in the article related to the relatively passive manner in which most video podcasts are viewed.

With flipped learning gaining steadfast momentum in the educational community, Kay’s literature review serves as a great first read by a novice researcher in need of baseline knowledge of video podcasts for educational use. Data collected through student surveys in the research evaluated pointed to some key reasons for using video podcasts in education including preparing for class, taking better notes, improving learning, using as a self-check for understanding the content, for missing a lecture, etc. Additionally, the literature examination calls attention to the student attitudes toward video podcasts as predominately positive, enjoyable and motivating. As with any examination of studies, attention must be given to methodological concerns as well as pedagogical shortfalls. Those highlighted concerns help researchers unify, improve and extend the quality of future research in this area.

This article has significant impact in my district. There are many teachers realizing the benefits of flipping lessons such as seeding concepts before being taught, segmenting or chunking learning with short videos for tough concepts, and students using videos as test prep. These same teachers are also reframing how they teach to support flipped learning. The teachers now realize that they no longer need to stand and deliver that instruction, but instead utilize a workshop model approach to address the individual needs of each learner or small group of learners. The students seem to enjoy being in control of their learning, like knowing about the content in advance of the class as well as having video podcasts available to study before a test. Additionally, my district has spent the last three years preparing the technology infrastructure by reshaping and increasing district broadband services, installing more robust wireless, offering video repository locations and student BYOD. I do agree with the passiveness component that video podcasts can have, but recognize that there are web tools to leverage student interactivity, video segmenting and other unique ways to get the learner actively involved, i.e., Blendspace, personalized playlists, LessonPaths, ThingLink, Nearpod, Pear Deck, etc.

Capturing Videos on Classroom Teaching

Kleinknecht, M. Schneider, J. (2013). What do teachers think and feel when analyzing videos of themselves and other teachers teaching? Teaching and Teacher Education, 33, 13-23.

Kleinknecht and Schneider present a detailed study about the specific effects of the types of videos on teachers’ cognitive, emotional and motivational processes while watching instructional videos. The researchers suggest that having classroom instructional footage allows the observers to draw multiple connections to their own practice and to achieve a deep level of engagement and involvement (p. 14). Furthermore, the analysis of classroom videos not only activates the cognitive processes, but it also impacts the teachers’ emotions and motivations. Through a quasi-experimental design, the authors conclude that teachers observing others’ teaching through video are better able to concentrate on critical situations and analyze sequences in greater depth versus viewing their own classroom videos (p. 21). Additionally, the study findings reveal that there is no significant difference with emotion and motivation regardless if a teacher is watching their own classroom video or watching another teacher’s instructional video.

I think research on this topic is very important to building capacity of teachers for professional purposes. As mentioned in the article, taking video of teachers teaching in their classrooms capture the essence of the teaching and learning process in an authentic manner and serves as an artifact that can be viewed by the teacher and his/her peers or the evaluating administrator one time or multiple times. According to Kleinknecht and Schneider, there are some limitations to their study, such as a small sample size that limited the generalizability of the results as well as limited video review conditions to a specific set of goals and instructions. Recognizing these limitations, the authors suggest that future video viewing processes should be tweaked to allow teachers control over how many times they view their videos and that it is important to prepare teachers for the analysis of observing their own teaching in individual settings to gain deeper cognition and the same level of reflection from watching others’ videos.

I recently participated in a national educational conference where a school superintendent talked about the teachers in her district videotaping their classroom lessons with the Swivl robotic platform to improve instructional practice and submit as proof for their teacher evaluation eportfolio. The superintendent felt that capturing and using video in a classroom setting is a powerful, authentic and safe way for teachers to reflect on their practice and motivated their teachers to try new ways to engage and instruct their students. I plan on sharing this approach with our district administrative team to consider implementing initially as an opt-in staff basis. Based on what I read and what was shared on this topic at my conference, I would probably extend this approach to include having the teacher find a trusted peer to share videos with for reflection and collaborative purposes, add in a Google Hangout component with an instructional coach to help facilitate deeper reflection and also offer any other needed supports to foster positive teacher growth.

On My Mind…Reading on the Internet

I recently read a few interesting articles in my EDU800 Research Foundations course on reading hypertext. My studies prompted me to do a little more research due to my curiosities with web reading and researching for classroom learning. I feel assumptions are sometimes made when assigning students web reading work. As a profession, I feel we assume students (oftentimes middle schoolers) have the necessary skills to read web materials to acquire knowledge which they will then apply to classroom activities or projects. Web reading is a very complex process and many learner variables need to be considered so that classrooms can capitalize on reading through connectivity. Listed below are some additional articles or research articles I read to grow my understanding of the why, how and what of web reading for lower elementary students as well as middle school students.

  • Coiro, J., Dobler, E. (2007). Exploring the Online Reading Comprehension Strategies Used by Sixth-Grade Skilled Readers to Search for and Locate Information on the Internet, 42(2), 214-257.
  • Sayler, D. (2015). Reading the Web: Internet Guided Reading with Young Children. Reading Teacher, 69(1), 35-39.
  • Wang, T. (2011). Developing Web-based Assessment Strategies for Facilitating Junior High School Students to Perform Self-regulating in an E-Learning Environment. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1801-812.

Learning From Hypertext

Shapiro, A., & Niederhauser, D. (2004). Learning from hypertext: Research issues and findings. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed), Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 605-620). New York: Macmillan.

This article provides a solid historical view of the primary affordances that hypertext on the web offered the teaching and learning environment over a decade ago. Shapiro and Niederhauser highlight just how complex reading and learning from hypertext can be online due to the fact that learners can access hypertext in a non-linear fashion, there are greater metacognitive demands to facilitate content acquisition, and also the many learner variables that influence learning outcomes. The authors clearly outline the role that learner prior knowledge and interest plays in supporting hypertext reading on the web as well as how well-defined or ill-defined structured learning experiences using hypertexts can support a variety of learner variables, skills and abilities.

Although the Shapiro and Niederhauser research is somewhat dated due to the ever-changing structure and function of the modern web, this article showcases the important role that hypertext played in the early stages of the internet with regard to the access of flexible, transferrable knowledge that could be gained from hypertext reading as directed by a teacher or initiated by a student. According to the authors, there is a potential concern for a reader to become disoriented while navigating through hypertexts on the web which can lead to potential intellectual indigestion, loss of goal directedness or even cognitive entropy (p. 614). The bottom line is though, if hypertext reading is treated like traditional reading for reading strategies, attention or modeling is provided for stronger navigational understanding, learning experiences are crafted to include teacher explicitness about the learning goal, and tasks or assignments have been appropriately structured to capitalize on learning, considering all of those factors can lead to a more positive learning outcome for students.

This article really opened my eyes about how little time is spent preparing our students to be successful with web reading or research activities, knowledge acquisition and assignment or project completion using the modern web. In the K-12 setting, it’s fairly well known that every teacher is a reading teacher because regardless of the subject matter taught, reading is always a critical element to gaining more knowledge and understanding. Now is the time to extend that same practice to web reading and research. The web is a great place to fact find, explore topics of interest, curate specific material and even develop web content. From a learning perspective, we know that for students to own their learning that they must use prior knowledge, deconstruct the knowledge they’ve been taught or found and then apply that knowledge to new situations to reassemble a deeper application of the content. The web is here to stay, so instead of just assigning web reading or research projects with little thought or preparation, taking time to craft online reading and researching activities appropriately for a variety of learner variables, sets the web experience and learners up for a successful learning outcome.