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Initial thoughts on tools + learning

Don’t want to make this too in-depth since we’re all doing proper reviews of these tools next week and I don’t want to pre-emptively do anybody’s chosen tools.

Looking through the list of tools on the doc, I think I’ll tackle some of the prompts one at a time.

“How many of the proposed tools are contextualized primarily for teacher presentation (passive learning)?”

Well, as is, most of the ones that are the biggest / most popular / most well-funded tools there (Prezi, Camtasia, Khan Academy, TeacherTube, Moodle, iTunesU etc.) are very much tuned around that “sage on the stage” approach to delivering material. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I think, at some point all learning requires at least some listening, but it is striking that many of these things that people call “revolutionary” are really just digital versions of lectures and slideshows. The revolution has been digitized.

“Which have potential for active learning or afford students opportunity to display a product of their learning?”

Hmm. Not many, really.  Moodle sort of does, I guess, as does Evernote and Edmodo, but that’s pretty much it. Most of these tools are tools for teachers, not necessarily tools for students. I don’t think the list is really curated for student active learning, so maybe this is an unfair assertion, but it certainly looks like our list is passive.

“Which of the tools have potential for developing or enhancing the community of learners? Which features most actively support learner engagement in a community?”

I’m really biased in favor of the tools I use myself (Camtasia, Evernote, Drive) but I think learning community wise, Edmodo is going to be seen as the grandfather of some great tool that helps with this. It’s not going to be Edmodo, because it kind of sucks, but I think within the future of social media (yuck) we will find some new version of the old BBS forums from the mid 2000s that will help revolutionize the way online learning communities function.

And that, I think, is how I feel about all of these tools. I know the internet and technology move very fast but let’s not forget that technically all of these tools are infantile in the span of human development. It’s not surprising that the perfect online tools don’t exist yet since the internet only went public in our lifetimes (well, okay, not MY lifetime, but people who are older than me). I imagine my reviews next week will be of a “this will be great in the future” flavor, since that’s how I feel about a lot of educational tools online. That they work, right now, but once we have a workforce of teachers who can create and customize their own tools, that’s when things are really gonna get interesting.


Reflections on digital tools

As of Saturday afternoon, there were less than twenty tools on the list. I am thankful the list is still short; I feel I have a lot of exploration ahead.

This list seems to have a balance of digital tools that would support direct instruction as well as engage student demonstration of knowledge. Tools such as TeacherTube and Khan academy appear to focus on videos for direct instruction. I am planning to explore TeacherTube as I continue building the resources for my unit. I will be creating a movie for one of my resources, and TeacherTube has potential to assist me in developing that instructional video. (I would have to sign up for another account. My username and password list is growing and growing…). Camtasia is another instructional video creation resource that I am interested in exploring. Kim mentioned this as a resource during our Peer Review. I haven’t had the chance to look into it further, until now. The RF clickers were used in the school where I student taught, and they seemed to be effective and efficient methods of assessing students. I didn’t have a chance to use them, but there seems to be quite a few options for polling and assessment as a web based resource. I signed up to explore Socrative because I’m looking for assessment options for activities in my unit. My daughter’s preschool has just begun using Remind to send notifications when school is canceled. Communication is key component in education, and this resource has a lot of promise as a modern communication tool.

Some tools on the list have potential for content creation. Prezi, Toontastic and Bubble.Us are all tools where students can produce a product. When reviewing Project Based Learning, one component that jumped out at me was that storytelling enhances learning. Direction instruction and resources that allow students to convey understanding through storytelling promote higher level thinking skills. I had the chance to use Toontastic quite a bit in a Classroom Research course last semester. My daughter and I used the story spine outline provided by the app to develop her new stories. Then she was able to draw or select characters, create scenes, animate characters, and add music to make a final product that was pretty polished looking for a 4-year old. That experience was pretty powerful. She likes creating stories, but gets easily frustrated with writing text or coloring for very long. The active learning aspects of Toontastic kept her highly engaged for longer than working with marker and paper.

Storytelling isn’t the only social aspect of learning. Communication and voice are essential.
Learners need to be able to ask questions, discuss answers and opinions, and draw conclusions (in online or face to face classes). Discussion forums can be an effective way to bring students together when they are not physically present. I am under the impression that both Moodle and iTunes U are virtual classrooms where teachers and students can create discussions.

On my initial overview of the list, it seemed like several of the tools used for teacher presentation could also be utilized by students in a final project demonstrating knowledge they’ve acquired. Likely, this would be in the upper middle to high school level. It was tough choosing resources to explore for next week. Right now, I have decided on two, Camtasia and Socrative. I think they could be potential tools that will fit nicely with my unit of instruction.

Partner assignment for unit 5

Hi All

It looks like we are to organize ourselves into groups of 2 for this week and schedule a time to work together.   There may be a more sensible way to divide ourselves, but as I don’t have a preference (because you are all so good) and am interested in all the projects,   the most difficult aspect for me will be scheduling.   Can anyone meet sometime between 10 & 2 (Alaska Time) on Saturday?

Article Review #5? Getting bored…

I’ve lost count! Almost forgot to do this one. You ever get really excited about an article’s title and abstract, only to find out it’s completely off course from what you were hoping for?

The article I’ve chosen this week is  Bored with the core: stimulating student interest in online general education,  which I chose in continued search of information on motivation. See what I did with my title there? You thought I was bored with article reviews, when really the article is about being bored. I won’t bore you (okay, I’m done) with an overview of their introduction; like every article on this subject they feel the need to remind us that research has shown that motivation and student interest are important to learning. Likewise, the same motivation problems that plague face-to-face education plague education online. You would think that would just be a given by now and we would not have to bother going through paragraphs of citations just to reaffirm those  facts. I know articles have to have literature reviews, but at some point if you are just retreading well-known territory, it feels as though you are wasting your readers’ time. Normally, you expect a literature review to be relatively short, but this one greatly overstays its welcome – taking up almost one third of the article.

When the article finally make its way to making arguments, it really warms up to being a lot more interesting. It takes, like I said, a third of the (short) article, but the section “Implications for online general education instruction” opens up some very useful ideas. Earlier in the article the authors detailed a certain number of factors (coherence, complexity, creativity, completeness) that they felt, from their research, marked engaging course design. Even here, they’re going over things that I feel like most people should already know about course design, provided they’ve ever taken an ed course. I’ll throw some quotes up to summarize so you can see what I mean. These are taken from the section of the article directly after their literature review where they’re starting to be more specific and offer up advice about course design:

“a course that presents instructional materials, for example, in an organized way, providing easy navigation and clear instruction, may contribute to situational interest” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013,  167).

“unit-level topics should be related to overall course themes” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 167).

” Assignments such as discussion board questions should flow from other materials in the course and link to course themes and topics” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 167).

“Assignments that require students to think deeply through analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of the course materials may serve to stimulate interest” (Pregitzer & Clements, 2013, 168).

It goes on like that for a while. It was around this point that I started to feel like maybe this article wasn’t written for me. Where at first I was disappointed, around here I started to see other applications for this article beyond people like us. The article is fairly recent but covers (very well, mind you) a broad range of things that any student of education  should  know from their introductory courses.

That said, I do not think this article is meant for trained educators. It’s published in an education journal but I imagine that this would be an excellent overview for someone who is either new (or out ot date) on their education studies or who is new to course design in general. This might not be a bad article to have as supplementary reading early on in future versions of this class, as it distills a lot of information from a large number of reputable sources (there are some big names in their references list) in an easily digestible manner. I also think it might fit into early sections of other ONID courses. They’re talking about course design at very broad levels (be creative, be complex) and that’s the kind of writing that kick starts thinking early on in the learning process, not this far down the road (not just in this class, but for me in general). It would be easy to follow the threads this article starts as you move through course design. That said, I think this would be more interesting for someone who isn’t involved in education at all.

To anybody who is, for example, creating a professional development course in an office or writing up online training, this would be a good introduction. It might be a little jargon-heavy for them, but I think that is easy to overcome. Obviously it is focused on core education at the K-12 level, but it doesn’t read that way. It’s covering topics that are relevant to education at all levels and it rarely dives into anything that would make you feel as though you could only apply this information to high schools. If you’re looking for something to frame course design with, this is fine. It is unfortunately just not what I was looking for this late into the game – it’s not detailed, it’s not specific, and it offers nothing new to me, but I think for the right person this would be an excellent starting point.





Pregitzer, M., & Clements, S. N. (2013). Bored with the core: stimulating student interest in online general education. Educational Media International, 50(3), 162-176.


Situational Factors in Rural Schools

I have, for some time now, been  slowly  developing a side-project of mine. I want to create some sort of skeleton course: an Alaska Native literature (and possibly history) online class that rural schools can use to supplement or replace a high school English credit. The class is taking shape slowly and I’ve received a ton of input from a lot of different people, but the scope of my original idea keeps narrowing for practical reasons. I’ve created  ambitious  mock ups of projects in the past, but for this course I hope to do something more realistic. Every time I try to put the course together and show it to someone, the whole thing becomes a lot more difficult. The ultimate goal is to have something that teachers around the state can take and adapt to their own needs. Obviously you can’t teach the same Native lit course to someone in Togiak and someone on Haida Gwaii, but I imagine many of the projects and many of the basic readings don’t need to be changed, only modified. So that’s my plan. Based on the research I’ve done on failure rates in the state, it seems likely that this will end up being taught more out West and up North, so those are the village situations I’m thinking about in this post. I’ve spent some time thinking about the basics of the situational factors (student demographics, mostly) but have never run through a checklist like this. Some of the situational factors covered in the book that I am expecting for this course are as follows:

Context of Teaching/Learning:

Probably no more than a couple students at a time working mostly independently, high school level students who are probably behind in terms of content level, online class, probably all asynchronous. Projects or units last between 1 and 3 weeks if the class is a semester long, longer units if it’s a year. No synchronous meetings because of the spotty village internet.

Expectations of External Groups:

Well, it’s an Alaska Native literature course, Alaska Native input on course selection, appropriate interpretation, appropriate writing projects, etc.  is required. Any where I was to use this, it would need input from the local community members. Still has to meet state and federal standards. NCTE standards too but those are easy. Most schools don’t have a department that would cover this, so I don’t know if that’s a concern.

Nature of the Subject:

Subject is divergent – English has few “right answers,” and is primarily cognitive and social. I guess I’m not sure if the field is “relatively stable” or not…the study of Alaska Native literature, and American Indian literature in general, is relatively new and there aren’t nearly as many Native teachers or scholars being published in literary journals as one would think (and you wouldn’t think there’d be a lot). I guess in an academic school sense it’s a kind of new-ish topic but to Alaska Natives it is quite old…stable, I guess, but not stationary.

Characteristics of Learner:

Rural Native students are the target. All the things that typically go along with that – time for subsistence, unsteady home lives, school issues, history of weak schooling for a variety of reasons, possibly spotty internet at home. Enrolling in the course as credit recovery – that’s what I’ve always envisioned. At least a mid-ish high school level of writing skills. Learning styles will be all over the place but the research I’ve read indicates that most Native students are kinesthetic learners…hard to accommodate in an online class. English isn’t really the most kinesthetic to begin with. I don’t know how I would work with that, short of creating kinesthetic projects that they would do away from a computer, which is possible but difficult.

Characteristics of Teacher:

Fairly knowledgeable on topic, I think, and really looking to blend Western literary approaches with Native interpretations and place-based / community-based projects and skills. Never taught the class before but I’m pulling in lots of input from those who have. I’d like to teach the course again, but, really, I’d like to send it out as a template for lots of people to use if it’s successful. Very confident in the subject, not as experienced in the delivery.

Special Pedagogical Challenge:

Biggest issue I’ve realized from this chapter is that I was planning it project-by-project and topic-by-topic, not really “integrated.” Gotta work on that. Also have to revamp some things because I didn’t realize until I was typing this that synchronous meetings might be impossible…at least videos. In certain school districts  it might not be totally out of the question to have students occasionally meet face-to-face (say, once a semester) but I don’t know what that’d look like. Another big question I’ve thought about is how the writing process seems to develop much differently in online courses than in face to face courses. There’s a potential, especially in Google Docs, for some kind of more organic and more consistent teaching-while-writing, but I haven’t worked out how that will work yet.


PS – tried my hand at being succinct this week 🙂

Article Review #3

After reading this week’s readings and watching the videos I wanted to know more about Peer Instruction and non-traditional methodologies that instructors are using. I found an article titled,  Changing Classroom Designs: Easy; Changing Instructors’ Pedagogies: Not So Easy…  The title interested me in the beginning. I wanted to know more about how technology and methodology interact in the classroom.

According to the authors, traditional classroom settings are teacher-centered. In this model, the instructor delivers knowledge to students and this is the only transmission of information. In non-traditional classrooms, such as Peer Instruction, students are able to construct their own knowledge and share it with other students. This approach is student-centered.

The purpose of the study was to find out if technology played a role in the success of student-centered methodologies. The authors claim that the student-centered pedagogy and technological classrooms go hand-in-hand. One finding was that active learning pedagogies had higher success rates than teacher-centered pedagogies regardless of the classroom technology. In the Youtube videos we watched, Mazur used clickers for the initial student interaction. And the study found that this method works equally well with flashcards or other tools.

I thought this article was interesting because the Youtube videos grasped my attention. I really enjoyed watching the student initiated discussions and interactions. This pedagogy is something I would like to be more deliberate about introducing in my classrooms. Students learn from me in the classroom but really, in my own educational experience, I learned more from my peers. I learned more going to dinner with peers after class then from lectures sometimes. It makes me reflect on Mazur’s question of how we learn. Most people do not say they learned how to do something really well by attending a lecture.

Works Cited:

Lasry, N., Charles, E., Whittaker, C., Dedic, H., & Rosenfield, S. (2012). Changing Classroom Desings: Easy; Changing Instructors’ Pedagogies: Not So Easy…  Physics Education Research Conference, AIP Conference Proceedings. 238-241.  



My name is Lexie Tom. I am currently a student in the Indigenous Studies Ph.D. program at UAF. I am taking classes from Bellingham WA. I am the Department Chair for the Native Studies program at Northwest Indian College and we are making a transition to offer more of our courses online. So I thought this class would benefit the program I administer. I am new to WordPress, Twitter, and diigo but I can learn fairly quick. I will be editing each site in the next few days. I am looking forward to getting to know the new technology and all of you this semester.

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