Educators Microblogging Via Twitter

Carpenter, J. P., & Krutka, D. G. (2014). How and why educators use twitter: A survey of the field. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(4), 414-434.

Carpenter and Krutka offer a solid research article on the role Twitter plays in the field of education. Although usage of Twitter in the K-16 arena is often muddled and contradictory because some institutions block social media sites while others embrace these tools, the authors felt it was important to examine the “how” and “why” educators use Twitter. Their literature studies supported three key uses of Twitter in the classroom as of late including: 1) for communication purposes like events and deadlines, 2) for classroom activities like classroom happenings, subject matter questioning or to showcase finished projects, and 3) for teacher professional development. Most interestingly, to solicit survey respondents for their study, the authors disseminated their survey by tweeting an invitation and link and were able to get 755 K-16 educators to participate in their research.

The survey findings demonstrated that K-16 educators employed Twitter in diverse ways and that Twitter was most frequently used for professional development purposes to acquire and share resources and/or to connect with digital colleagues (p. 422). Additionally, the authors noted that many of the survey respondents prized Twitter as a valuable medium for its personalized and immediate nature as well as considered Twitter to be superior to traditional professional development (p. 422). Of special importance was how Twitter helped combat isolation in the classroom and connected educators with positive and creative colleagues and leaders. Although Carpenter and Krutka highlighted that their survey sample was not random and that the respondent population age was closer to 18-30, their research findings did align with other scholars’ assertions that participatory cultures thrive in online affinity spaces (Gee, 2004; Jenkins et al, 2009). Overall, their study findings have implications for educational institutions to consider the many reasons to tap into or leverage social media as a value-added professional development resource.

This study supports the great work that my district does with regard to social media usage for staff and students, yet reminds us of the work we still need to do to continue to refine and pinpoint best Twitter usage. Over two years ago, I offered virtual PD for staff to learn about Twitter through creating a Twitter account, finding colleagues to follow, finding a Twitter chat session to join and tweeting out lessons learned. I’ve also offered Twitter backchannel sessions for live PD as well as showcased the ways that Twitter can be used in the classroom to engage and extend student learning. Although there still is a level of enthusiasm for teachers using Twitter in the teaching and learning process, of late, it has felt more like a competition of what classrooms are doing, or better yet, “brag tweets”. It’s a great time to take stock of how teachers are using Twitter to communicate, interact with colleagues and showcase classroom happenings. Furthermore, it’s also a great time to figure out how teachers learn best using Twitter for PD and what Twitter activities most impact the teaching and learning process. #tweetwithpurpose and #tweetforeffectiveness

Works Cited:

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Teacher Practice – The Fourth Space!

Calandra, B. & Puvirajah, A. (2014). Teacher practice in multi-user virtual environments: A fourth space. TechTrends, 58(6), 29-35.

The authors presented an article on Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) as a practicable, situated and embodied virtual space where novice teachers can work with other pre-service teachers to practice being a teacher without the constraints and risks related to practicing in actual schools. MUVEs, at their simplest form, are either two or three dimensional computer simulated graphical environments where real-world participants represent themselves through online persona or avatars to interact with various digital artifacts or other avatars (Dede et al., 2004). Regarding the need for MUVEs, several researchers have asserted that teacher education programs need to have a greater focus on clinical practice because the deliberate inclusion of practice prepares teachers to perform tasks and activities more skillfully and with greater confidence by the time they enter the profession (Ball & Forzani, 2009). Thus, Calandra & Puvirajah suggest that it would be ideal to provide pre-service teachers with actual classroom practice, but that it is not always feasible and offer their research on MUVEs as a “fourth space” as a part of or a near-real solution to this dilemma.

Calandra & Puvirajah offer four spaces for pre-service teachers to learn and hone their classroom practices: 1) traditional lecture-driven classroom, 2) microteaching and role-play, 3) practice teaching in actual schools, and 4) teacher practice takes place in MUVEs. The first space of learning, is about reading and listening to others or perhaps better described as canonical knowledge with learners being passive recipients. The second space, opens the door for microteaching and role-playing in contrived scenarios usually in a university classroom with peers and the result is a simple and/or obvious solution to a teaching problem without genuine classroom distractions and within an artificial time frame. The third space, is practicing teaching in an actual school and offers pre-service teachers the opportunity for situated, authentic and valuable learning. However, the authors note that actual pre-service teachers might not be able to handle the large sensory load and the high pressure that is inherent to physical world classrooms while also learning the essentials of teaching. That idea was supported by Korthagen & Lagerwerf (1995), when they posited that teachers in these (pre-service) situations might produce more visceral or instinctual responses to occurrences in the classroom rather than connect praxis decisions to theory via repeated practice and careful reflection. Thus, the fourth space was constructed by Calandra & Puvirajah, to include the ability to: 1) occupy a virtual persona within a near-real simulation, 2) work within a social, distributed environment, 3) fail in a low stakes setting, 4) repeat a given task many times, and 5) isolate a particular aspect of the experience for careful reflection (p. 32).

I think there is incredible value to constructing a MUVE for pre-service teachers to try out a variety of different classroom tasks such as lecturing, working in groups, practice questioning techniques, working on classroom management strategies, interacting with parents, etc. I think a classroom MUVE could provide a much more natural, organic and authentic space where learning would occur for pre-service teachers where they would have to think on their feet, react to the myriad of situations that occur and reflect on their actions. Speaking from experience, when newly minted teachers work in our district, I clearly see the struggles, large sensory loads that impact their classroom happenings and the general feelings of being overwhelmed. All new teachers want to be the best they can be, but in reality teaching is an unpredictable and highly variable endeavor. MUVEs might be the catalyst and fourth space needed to simulate the possible spectrum of classroom activities and best prepare new teachers for their first teaching job. At the least, MUVEs are worth additional studies to determine if they might be a viable option to complement existing pre-service teacher preparation programs.

Works Cited:

Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. M. (2009). The work of teaching and the challenge for teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 497-511.

Dede, C., Nelson, B., Ketelhut, D. J., Clark, J., & Bowman, C. (2004). Design-based research strategies for studying situated learning in a multi-user virtual environment. In Proceedings of the 6th international conference on Learning Sciences (pp. 158-165). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Korthagen, F., & Lagerwerf, B. (1995). Levels of learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(10), 1001-1038.

Online Peer Feedback

Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., . . . , & Mong, C. (2007). Using peer feedback to enhance the quality of student online postings: An exploratory study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), 412-33.

Ertmer et al., constructed a comprehensive study to examine students’ perceptions of the value of giving and receiving peer feedback on discussion postings in an online course. The authors deemed this study important because in the mid-2000’s, limited research had been conducted to examine either the impact of feedback in online learning or the impact of using peer feedback to shape the quality of discourse in an online learning course. Ertmer et al., posited the following research questions:

  • What is the impact of peer feedback on the quality of students’ postings in an online environment?
  • Can the quality of discourse/learning be maintained and/or increased through the use of peer feedback?
  • What are students’ perceptions of the value of receiving peer feedback?
  • How do these perceptions compare to the perceived value of receiving instructor feedback?
  • What are students’ perceptions of the value of giving peer feedback?

To support their research questions, the authors performed a detailed literature review revolving around key themes to shape their study including the following: role of feedback in instruction, role of feedback in online environments, advantages of using peer feedback, and the challenges of using peer feedback. Ertmer et al., used a case study framework to conduct their research on a semester-long, graduate course. The authors used both descriptive and evaluative approaches to examine fifteen participants’ perceptions of the value of the peer feedback process and evaluated the impact of the process on the quality of students’ postings (p. 416). For this study, a numerical score was assigned to each posting. Bloom’s taxonomy was selected as a means for determining posting quality because of the familiarity of that tool with the students. In addition, a rubric was constructed to serve as a concrete tool for both student and instructor feedback scoring of weekly postings. Once completed, all peer feedback, was channeled through the instructors prior to being distributed (p. 418). Operating in this manner provided the instructors the opportunity to review the student feedback, handle any problematic student feedback, and ensure study anonymity. For data purposes, quantitative and qualitative data were collected via student interviews, rubric ratings on weekly discussion posts as well as responses to entry and exit surveys. The study findings indicated that although participants’ perceptions of the importance of feedback in an online course significantly increased from the beginning of the course to the end, the participants continued to believe that instructor feedback was more important than peer feedback (p. 425).

This study has significant merit to the current and future landscape of peer feedback as a value-added instructional strategy for online learning courses. In order to better understand the value however, it is important to take a step back and review what makes peer review as a process so important instructionally. Peer review is closely related to self-assessment and encourages students to take an active, reflective role in learning, which promotes advanced critical thinking and higher-order cognitive skills (Lui & Carless, 2006; Topping, 1998). Furthermore, as a peer reviewer, students develop problem-solving skills because they must analyze, clarify and correct each other’s work through identifying areas needing improvement and providing constructive recommendations (Dochy et al., 1999; Somerville, 1993). From the opposite lens of peer reviewee, students must digest a diversity of viewpoints which helps them to clarify their grasp of the content and enhances their ability to select ‘good evidence’ (Biggs & Tang, 2007, p. 187). It is through these meaningful interactions with peers that students can grow an impressive array of skills that not only impact their classroom learning, but also their future workplace environment. Thus, the “why” of peer feedback is grounded in solid research footing. The answer to the “how” becomes a critical question that must be addressed by future researchers soon in order to change the mindset of online learners and their uncertain perceptions about the effectiveness of peer feedback.

From an online educator perspective, this study serves as an important reminder for the need to fully plan and prepare before undertaking and utilizing this type of feedback in a digital environment. Not only is the instructor workload impacted, but there are other critical components of the online peer feedback process that need to be addressed up front. These components include development of a peer review protocol and rubric, beginning of course training for students on the process and tools, finding a software tool or web-based tool that can capture all postings and feedback efficiently with anonymity, determining the role grading will play, etc. Through reviewing this study, and other current online peer review studies, the educational impacts can be quite positive for the students. These include gaining diverse perspectives on the content being studied, receiving timely and frequent feedback, developing a deeper level of content understanding, growing 21st Century skills that are valued in the workplace, etc. In the end, several studies have shown that peers are capable of providing reliable feedback that is of equal value to that provided by the instructor (Cho et al., 2006; Gielen et al., 2010). The online peer review process is quite complex and definitely merits further studies to more fully understand the interplay between the students, instructors, the learning, the class work, the grades, and tech technology tools to move this value-added pedagogical practice forward.

Works Cited

  • Biggs, J., & Tang C. (2007). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Berkshire: Open University Press.
  • Cho, K., Schunn, C. D., & Wilson, R. W. (2006). Validity and reliability of scaffolded peer assessment in writing from instructor and student perspectives. Journal of Educational Pyschology, 98(4), 891-901.
  • Dochy, F., Segers, M., & Sluijsmans, D. (1999). The use of self-, peer and co-assessment in higher education: A review. Studies in Higher Education, 24(3), 331-350.
  • Gielen S., Tops, L., Dochy, F., Onghena, P., & Smeets, S. (2010). A comparative study of peer and teacher feedback and of various peer feedback forms in a secondary school writing curriculum. British Educational Research Journal, 36(1), 143-62.
  • Liu, N. F., & Carless, D. (2006). Peer feedback: The learning element of peer assessment. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(3), 279-90.
  • Somerville, H. (1993). Issues in assessment, enterprise and higher education: The case of self-, peer and collaborative assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 18(3), 221-33.
  • Topping, K. (1998). Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3), 249-276.

New Literacies – Web 2.0 and Beyond

Leu, D. J., & Forzani, E. (2012). New literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …∞ world. Research in the Schools, 19(1), 75-81.

The authors presented a multifaceted description of many new literacies and issues that have evolved due to the rapid emergence of the Internet and its applications in education. Leu & Forzani showcase a wide variety of articles to articulate the changing landscape and provide their analysis to tell the new literacy story. The articles selected revolved around adolescents and social media, the home and school involvement of young children in digital spaces, the usage of tools and literacies in an ELA classroom, the 21st Century literacies in Teacher Education, reading multimodal texts, and much more.

This review of articles can either be viewed as fascinating and enriching or overwhelming and not achievable to an educator. However, when these articles are placed in context, it becomes quite obvious that these new literacies are only the tip of the iceberg. The authors illustrated in their review that literacy can mean many things to many people, but that these new literacies have the potential to make the teaching and learning environment very rich and robust.

As I personally read this article, I appreciated the concept of the “turn-around” pedagogy as a strategy for reconnecting youth with the academic literacies of school and plan on talking to some of the middle school teachers in our district about this approach. Another concept in this article that caught my eye, is the important need to document literacy acquisition of our youngest learners as they experience digital media and traditional forms of literacy simultaneously. Our district currently runs a “best fit” program for all Kindergarteners as well as offering a personalized digital platform to work on reading and math literacies. Spending some time looking at the data we are receiving and perhaps talking to both the teachers and students can broaden my understanding of how students acquire skills in this digital age. Finally, one other concept that continues to be a topic of discussion in our district and also appeared in this article revolved around teachers as designers. For teachers to continue to grow in this area, they will need a framework to help categorize and conceptualize new online literacies. At the present time, TPACK could serve this purpose. Overall, the Internet plays a powerful role in the teaching and learning process and requires educators to embrace what it has to offer today, tomorrow and in the future.

Improving Online Motivation Through Emails

Huett, J. B., Kalinowski, K. E., Moller, L., & Huett, K. C. (2008). Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-based e-mails. The American Journal of Distance Education, 22, 159-176.

Huett et al., created a study to examine how periodic mass email messages could improve the motivation and retention of students enrolled in an online course. They felt there are significant challenges when it comes to retaining online learners and were searching for a simpler approach to motivating those learners in a cost-effective way, fit within the time constraints of the class or for the teacher, and could be seamlessly integrated into the teaching and learning process (p. 160). The authors selected the ARCS model as the overall framework for creating the motivational mass emails because the approach attempts to synthesis behavioral, cognitive, and affective learning theories and demonstrates that learner motivation can be influenced through external conditions (Huett et al., 2008). Through their research, studies have cited that motivation can account for 16% to 38% of the variations in overall student achievement (Means et al., 1997), thus the importance of designing appealing instruction to manipulate learner motivation for online learning courses.

According to the authors, there has been little research in using the ARCS model for motivational messaging in online learning. I do believe there is value in studying this phenomena as a potential mass intervention to improve learner motivation and performance in an online learning environment. The ARCS model is quite comprehensive and broken down into two parts. The first part of the model is a set of categories (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) that represent the components of motivation and the second part of the model is a systematic design process that assists in creating motivational enhancements that are appropriate for a given set of learners. Overall, the study revealed that there was a statistical difference in means between students receiving the treatment and those who did not receive the treatment. In fact, Huett et al., highlighted that there was a statistical difference in every measure of motivation except relevance in the study and explained why given the nature of the treatment that their results made sense (p. 171). Additionally, the study yielded greater student retention as well as a lower student failure rate for the treatment group. Any positive findings related to new motivation and retention strategies should warrant further studies.

In my district, we do offer online learning courses for students who need credit recovery, a class that is not offered for a specific hour or trimester and/or for a class generally not offered. The program is administered through our Alternative High School and students who participate must take their online classes within the school district in designated locations during the school year. Although the online programming is somewhat manageable now, as the number of students requesting online classes continues to grow, I feel it is important to develop a set of strategies and interventions to support a multitude of learners and realize that not all communication exchanges can be personalized each and every time. This study gives pause to current and future practice and potentially represents another tool to use to complement our current efforts.

Means, T., Jonassen, D., & Delaney, H.D. (1997). Enhancing relevance: Embedded ARCS strategies vs. purpose. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45, 5-17.