Amanda and I spent time this week meeting over Google Hangout and working on our online course unit plan. After she met with Mr. Williams, the 6th grade ELA teacher at her school, we were able to review his unit plan and discuss the adaptions with MinecraftEdu. Our goal is to show teachers that they don’t have to invent new lessons but can adapt current unit plans in creative ways to engage students using the game. We have been using Versal but have spent a lot of time trying to upload documents without luck. For some reason, we can link to our documents in Google Drive but they don’t show up in the lesson. We both tried over several days and couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. I ended up switching to OneDrive and that worked fine; I was able to upload a PDF copy of the main text selection for the unit. Ideally we’d like to continue using Versal because we wanted the course site to allow students to interact and study the content online, but the difficulties we’ve had may not be worth the time we have to complete the course. We switched gears and focused on completing our UbD of the unit plan and use that to inform our decision about selecting an appropriate course site.
During our class Hangout on Thursday we shared our progress on our online courses and it was great to see what Ali and Matthew had been working on with their courses. Ali had started to create her course for integrating technology into teaching, something she will use in her work with teachers. I think it will be great for her to have a tool that she can reference and have teachers use for professional development; she can also continue to update the content very easily. The limited features in Google Classroom however, were what prevented me from using it in my course design. Ali also pointed out that the assignments are listed in the order they are written with the most recent one always showing up on top. This prevents a user from going through the course in order and forces them to scroll to the last post to “start” the course. Matthew shared his course in Blackboard Learn which was very well laid out; it was a good balance of tools to helps students and guide them but also helps the teacher keep track of students. He has minor issues to work out in terms of organizing how students will start the course, but overall, I think he has a great course plan.
In our class meeting we discussed our upcoming Teacher Training for Survivalcraft and assigned tasks to complete for next week. I am going to work with Matthew on the two Survivalcraft teacher guides for Lord of the Flies and for the Maze Runner. Matthew and I started reviewing the Givercraft guide in a shared Google document and we’ve been discussing changes over email. It should be a straightforward process to update the guides, then we can work on incorporating diffi-tools and creating the training modules online. We also decided that we will use a Weebly site to host our online Teacher Training course to keep all the information in an easily accessible site for teachers to study and reference through the Survivalcraft experience.
Reading the others blog this week brought home some important points about continuing to stay relevant in distance learning, some summaries of my comments on the others blogs:
- Teaching practices are important and innovative technology in distance education is only effective if the instructor is knowledgeable in effective teaching methods and strategies. Teaching methods and strategies need to continue to evolve and improve – that’s what separates an experienced teacher from a novice, the trials and errors that have informed the experienced teacher’s practice. Even without technology, ideally a teacher should improve their practice over time. For a distance teacher, they can’t just rely on their good practice anymore, they need that understanding of the distance learning experience and the technology needed to make that experience effective and meaningful. Understanding the possibilities for technology tools to enhance the distance learning environment can continue to make a distance teacher relevant in their practice.
- It is increasingly easier for teachers in the classroom and at a distance to stay current on technology trends as well as global, economic, and social factors that impact students’ learning experiences. It’s so much easier now to stay current, connect with and learn from peers, and to curate resources because of a wide range of social tech tools – Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Feedly, Glogster, Diigo, Evernote, Slideshare, etc.
- Distance educators have a great responsibility for staying current on technology, teaching trends, and local and global issues that impact their students. They don’t have a local group of students, so using the context of their immediate community or environment is not easy. They need to understand issues and trends on a much larger scale to meet the needs and interests of learners who are located in different places and have varying means to access information and technology.