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Online History Courses – Article Review #4

After completing the week’s assignment I wanted to find some literature on creating online courses for history classes. History is not always the most fun to learn. It has been my experience that students disengage really fast if the class is heavy with lectures. So I wanted to know what the challenges were in online history classes.

I found an article titled,  Teaching History Online: Challenges and Opportunities,  authored by Kelly Schrum and Nate Sleeter. Traditional history classes are taught with midterm and final tests. Students are required to memorize all information in-between these tests. The course discussed in this article was required to follow Virginia State Standards of Learning. So the curriculum was formed following those standards. “We started creating the online course entitled Virginia Studies  organizing it around the main chronological and thematic sections of the standards (Virginia Geography, Native Peoples, Colonial Virginia, Revolution and New Nation, Civil War, and Twentieth-century Virginia), including developing the content, topics, and structure of the course Web site.” (Schrum & Sleeter) The curriculum developers created content in multiple formats including audio, text, video, and images.

One particular aspect that this course did not address was the multiple forms of learning about history. In order to learn about history, students have to begin to see the content and resources critically. They have to sift through documents and photographs and be able to see what is authentic. “The course did not model interesting ways of thinking historically and equally important, of teaching students to this historically.” (Schrum & Sleeter) The developers designed a course that placed historical inquiry at the center. “We integrated interactive learning, personal choice in determining one’s path through the course, and a sense of discovery, and we balanced these with technical capabilities and design limitations.” (Schrum & Sleeter) This course now offers students the experience of multiple ways of learning about history. Students are asked questions that allow them to think critically about the topics in history. They can explore digital maps and links to diary entries that pertain to the topics they are learning about.

I think this was an effective model for designing an online history course. History is difficult because there isn’t really room for interpretation. We are learning about other peoples’ interpretation of history. And in Lummi history, our traditional knowledges have been misinterpreted so many times in the past, our people don’t want Northwest Indian College allowing students to continue down that path.

Schrum, K., Sleeter, N. (2013). Teaching History Online: Challenges and Opportunities.  OAH Magazine of History.  (27). pg. 35-38.

Situational Factors for a Native Studies course

Context

The Native Studies courses at Northwest Indian College range from 5 to 25 students. I usually see about 12  to 15 students in the course Reclaiming Our History. The course is lower-division. The course number is CSOV 120. Currently the class is taught twice a week for 2 hours. The online course will most likely meet during midterms and finals week face-to-face and the rest of the quarter will be online.

Expectations of External Groups

The society I will be addressing in this question consists of the larger Lummi community. Society expects these students to know how to write, to know who they are as Lummi people, and where they come from. Society expects these students to know where our original territory is and what their Lummi name was. Northwest Indian College is accredited through the NWAACU. This accreditation association expects Northwest Indian College’s work to lead toward fulfilling their mission. This will not affect this course because the NWIC Mission is, Through education, Northwest Indian College promotes Indigenous self-determination and knowledge. The course Reclaiming our History helps to fulfill that mission. The Native Studies program has a curriculum map that informs the institution of what Program Outcomes will be assessed in what courses and at what level of proficiency. This course will intend to meet Program Outcome #1: Skills of Leadership at the beginning level proficiency and emerging level of proficiency.

Nature of the Subject

I believe this course is convergent. It is a history course and the traditional knowledge of our people is not up for interpretation. There has been too much misinterpretation in the past. This course is primarily cognitive. There are some field trips that students have taken in the face-to-face modality. But if this course is redesigned as an online course it is unlikely that the faculty could plan field trips. I think Native Studies in general is always in a situation where competing paradigms are challenging each other. Through colonization, Indigenous knowledges have been seen as “less than”. And Western ways of knowing are always seen as the oldest forms of knowledge and superior. With this in mind, the reintroduction of Indigenous knowledges into education, even if the education is for their rightful owners, is met with some resistance. It really depends on the student and their beliefs.

Characteristics of the Learners

Most of the students at Northwest Indian College are full-time students and many have full-time jobs and families. In the last 2 or 3 years Northwest Indian College has seen an increase in traditional students, or students coming right out of high school. But in the past the student demographics were mainly non-traditional, older, and full-time employed students with families to support. If someone were to ask students at Northwest Indian College why they are in school, I could confidently say the 2 main answers would be 1) better their tribal community, and 2) find better employment to support their families. As an instructor of this course I am always surprised about how much knowledge Lummi students don’t have in this area. Very few students who have taken this course know traditional fishing methods or how to prepare native foods. And I see the same lack of knowledge in history lessons that are after the time of contact like early settlement of Whatcom County and the Treaty.

Characteristics of the Teacher

In order to teach this course the instructor needs to have a general knowledge base about the history of Lummi. The instructor also has to have a knowledge based about their own family history that is deeper than surface knowledge. The instructor has to have an understanding of Indigenous knowledge systems that existed and still exist today in Lummi. The online modality of this course will be new. There are no instructors that have taught it. I have a high level of competence around the topic. As the administrator of the Native Studies program I will ensure the next instructor is confident in their own knowledge base. I do have an instructor in mind. She is a recent graduate of the Native Studies bachelors degree. She currently does not have experience in teaching. But she does have some of the foundational knowledge base that is needed to teach this course.

Special Pedagogical Challenge

Students will begin to see the use of Indigenous knowledges in modern times as valuable to their lives. Students will no longer see our Indigenous history as strictly in the past. We still live it.

Peer Instruction for the New Age

School today is a much different place from 2002. Thinking back to my public school experience. We had very few computers, instructors used over-head projectors, and technology was still evolving. My six-year-old son knows more about Apple products than his grandmother. He teaches  her how to use certain apps and games. I often wondered if I would set stricter limits on his technology use. When he was in pre-school we used to get weekly newsletters from his teacher. One of them focused on the use of technology and children. The newsletter stated children should only be exposed to 30 minutes of technology on a daily bases. I wondered if this fact was outdated. When I watched my son play learning games, he learns so quick and he is engaged.  My son is autistic, so technology may be easier for him to process then human expression. I often wondered what practical skills my son could learn from technology and learning apps. And how we can recreate his engagement in the classroom. After reviewing this week’s resources it seems it is possible.

Seedy-Brown discusses technology and what it is capable of teaching to new students. Students who are literate in the technological world can navigate wealths of information in short periods of time. The internet allows us to have access to more information than ever before. And this article also discusses the possible skills people can acquire from gaming. Strategic planning, evaluation, program development, and daily maintenance are all necessary skills in order to be a successful leader in gaming. I really appreciated this article articulating the skills acquired through gaming. I knew gaming taught participants, I just couldn’t make the connection to education and practical learning.

Mazur’s Peer Instruction model allows students to reflect on their own learning then engage with other students about the concepts being discussed in class. The students then reach consensus on what they believe to be the correct answer. This process allows students to think about their argument, articulate their argument and assess the concepts with other students. I believe this method to be built from the constructivist theory. The learners are interpreting their own response to the knowledge, they observe what other students claim to be their own personal reality, and they apply their knowledge when they have to defend their argument.

As I was watching one of the Youtube videos I was reflecting on my own learning. He asked the students to think of something they are really good at, then to think about how they learned it. When he asked the students if they learned this thing they are really good at in a lecture – no one raised their hand. It made me think of how I learned what I am really good at. It wasn’t in a lecture. I learned by experiencing it and living it. When I listen to lectures, I take notes, and ask questions. But I don’t become fully confident in the information presented. Learning does not work that way. So then I wondered, why do we teach this way? He also made a clear point when he said, your mind is being held captive during lectures. When I give lectures in my classes, I am able to see when students tune out. They are only able to listen for so long in one class session. So I try to reengage them by asking questions. But after listening to Mazur I realize disengagement may not be the only issue here. It may be a symptom of a larger issue, which is the methodology we chose to use.

Learning in the 21st century has to engage technology. There is no way around it. The generations coming up, like my son, are going to have the capabilities to learn more about technology than ever before. I think limiting their technology use to 30 minutes a day may be too much. When I see how much he can learn from technology, I see possibilities. The Framework for 21st Century Student Outcomes include content knowledge, innovation skills, information technology, and life skills. These goals align with Mazur’s Peer Instruction in that it uses technology and allows students to think critically about the concepts discussed in class. I only saw one  example of the Peer Instruction and it didn’t link the concepts learned in class to real-world situations. One goal for the 21st Century Students Framework is real-world practical skills. Students need to learn how to navigate the outside world. That was not shown in the videos I watched. It doesnt mean Mazur is lacking in these areas, I just didn’t see them.

Humanness – Article Review #2

After reading a quantitative heavy piece this week, I wanted to search for an article that discussed the human side of online learning. I wanted to bring some emotion back into online learning education. So I found an article that I thought was particularly interesting, it is titled,  High Tech and High Touch: The Human Face of Online Education.  This article focuses on the learner as a partner in the learning process. “This chapter explores the human face of online education through an examination of the subjective experiences of both the learner and course facilitator, including the emotional and perceptual changes that impact learners and facilitators in this new educational experience.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) For many students, online learning is new and requires a new set of skills. Learning these new skills can be challenging and problems can arise.

The authors discuss technophobia which is a condition that causes anxiety when dealing with new technology. “Brosnan associates technophobia with anxiety, prior experience, confidence, self-efficacy, cognitive style, and persistence.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) These emotional reactions to new learning environments can cause students to disengage from the learning process. At Northwest Indian College we are currently transitioning from Moodle to Canvas software for our online courses. I see students and instructors with anxiety over learning new technology. Some instructors continue to use their preferred videoconferencing software, in most cases it is Zoom, instead of learning how to use the teleconferencing on Canvas. The software Zoom requires a subscription, which means the instructor would rather pay their subscription to Zoom instead of learning how to use Canvas. Students alike have anxiety about Canvas. One student came to my office last quarter and asked if he could send his discussion responses directly to his instructor. He was not Native and didn’t grow up in an Indigenous community. He didn’t know if his responses to the discussion questions would offend any of his fellow classmates and didn’t feel comfortable writing on the discussion board  for them all to see. He made an observation that stuck with me about online discussion boards. He said that people are more comfortable saying what they really feel while discussing topics online. This made him uncomfortable because if he said the wrong thing, he feared students would lash out at him. The authors suggest creating a positive learning environment and use a variety of instructional strategies. “Rather than focus solely on the cognitive and motivational processes, these authors emphasize the importance of a sound emotional experience to learning.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002)

This perspective is really interesting to me because in Indigenous research and Indigenous education, one of the most important pieces to create an engaged classroom is the relationship. In Indigenous communities relationships are so important. The instructor cannot engage learning without first building a relationship with their students. The authors suggest the course facilitator create a safe environment for their students. “The facilitators suspected that given the virtual environment was new to both themselves and to the learners, that the constructivist educational principles of being ‘guides’ and ‘co-learners’ with participants would apply more online than it did in their onground teaching.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) The instructors in the Native Studies department are attempting to serve as guides throughout the transition to Canvas. But as the instructors continue to learn about the software themselves and don’t always have all the answers, it is sometimes difficult. The first day of videoconferencing class is usually spent walking students through the course webpage. There are some students who are completely new to online learning and some that have used Moodle in the past. There are very few students who have used Canvas before. So we are all learning.

I chose this article because I feel its important to ensure we are creating a learning environment for our students. And I think its important to include the humanness to online learning. Students are human and have emotions directly linked to the technology they use. And as an educator I need to take that into consideration as well.

Works Cited:

MacFadden, R.J., Maiter, S., & Dumbrill, G.C. (2002).  High Tech and High Touch: The Human Face of Online Learning.  Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc.

My Cup of Tea

This week’s reading was not my cup of tea. But I learned a great deal about the literature surrounding online learning. There were a few discussion points I wanted to write about this week, one being the concept of objectivity and the research design. In the literature review summary, the authors discuss the relevance of the articles. They mention possible biases with research produced by teachers currently in the field. I believe this can be argued both ways. On one hand, teachers bring expertise to the field that a researcher hired by the Department of Education may not be able. I’ve heard this happen before when I was touring immersion schools in Hawaii. Language immersion schools have been operating in Hawaii for over 25 years. They are present in public school systems and charter school systems. When it came time to redesign their assessment strategies the Department of Education preferred a standardized test for all immersion schools. The state then hired consultants to create the test and the people hired  did not work in the immersion schools. They created tests that were accurate in the Hawaiian language but did not reflect immersion at the K-12 level. Students were confused and teachers were afraid students would fail these tests. This is an example of expertise versus outside objective consultants leans more toward the expertise in the field. Though there is value to hiring objective consults for some research jobs. If the Department of Education would like to know whether or not online learning is more effective than face-to-face learning, they might want to hire an outsider to conduct the study. They may feel that face-to-face instructors may be swayed if they feel their income is directly tied to the outcome of the study.

Objectivity is something I feel has value in some cases and doesn’t in others. Due to to the history that research has in Indigenous communities, objectivity is not always a good thing. Indigenous research encourages Indigenous people who are conducting research in their own community to not separate themselves from the research. This is because Indigenous people are very connected to their communities and that does not simply go away because they are conducting research. If I were conducting research in my community and interviewed my elders, I think they would be offended if I referred to them as informants and discussed my community like I am not a part of it. This brings me to the research design reflected in the reading. Quantitative research designs are very systematic. There is a set of steps researchers need to take in order for the research to be considered quantitative. One initial observation I made in this report is that the literature review holds a lot of weight in quantitative studies. The literature review actually forms an agenda. So in other studies where the researcher actually goes out into the field after completing a literature review they have an agenda. In Indigenous communities research agendas are not viewed in a positive light. In the past, research agendas have prompted researchers to pry into the lives of our elders and it feels very extractive. I also see value in quantitative objective-based research. But these are just a few of my thoughts about conducting research.

If I were to design a class based on the finds of this report, there would be a few considerations. The first being the course design. I would think about whether this course should be strictly online or a blend of face-to-face and online. According to the literature the blended courses had stronger learning outcomes. At Northwest Indian College we have several types of hybrid courses. Some of these courses are offered through videoconferencing for students who are not on campus and face-to-face for students who are on campus. This seems to work well for students. In the Native Studies department, we decided to design the courses a little differently. Instead of meeting every week at an allotted time our courses are designed so that students meeting once or twice a quarter. The majority of the course work is conducted online. And the instructor plans a time and date for the students to meet face-to-face during midterms and finals week. This allows for face-to-face instruction to take place, as well as at the online learning environment. The second consideration would be instructor participation. According to the literature, collaborative instruction and instructor-directed instruction were positive and independent online learning was not. This tells me the instructor needs to be facilitating the courses throughout the quarter. The courses designed through the Native Studies department do put an emphasis on instructor facilitation. Each of the instructors do weekly check-ins with the students. The first few weeks of the quarter the instructor will meet with the students in videoconferencing twice a week. Usually the first week is about walking students through the software. And gradually as the quarter goes on, the instructor will meet with students once a week for check-ins. The third consideration is about student reflection. According to the literature, “The practice with the strongest evidence of effectiveness is inclusion of mechanisms to prompt students to reflect on their level of understanding as they are learning online.” (USDOE, 2010) Educators go back and forth on the effectiveness and relevance of student reflection. My view is that there is a time and place for student reflection. If student reflection is effective in online learning than it should be included in the class. For me as a student, I see value in reflecting on my learning as I go along. It helps me put into perspective a clear picture of where I am in my learning. That allows me to grow. Some educators see student reflections as a filler in the curriculum, perhaps this is because they don’t see the value in it. I believe it is important.  

 

Article Review #1

As I was reading Mohamad Ally’s article I came across the term globalization. “Because of globalization, information is not location-specific, and with the increasing use of telecommunication, technologies experts and learners from around the world can share and review information.” (Ally, 2008) These concepts of globalization and online learning struck my curiosity and I wanted to know more about them. I work at a tribal college. The knowledge that we teach is place-based knowledge. The history and culture that is taught through the Native Studies program and foundational courses for all programs of study is based on Lummi history and culture. We also have extended campus sites at Northwest Indian College in neighboring tribal communities. The history and culture taught at these sites is also place-based to their tribal communities.

So the idea of globalization struck my curiosity because it seemed to be the opposite direction from where we are going. And I wanted to know the perspectives around this concept. I found an article written by Kirk St. Amant titled,  Online Education in an Age of Globalization: Foundational Perspectives and Practices for Technical Communication Instructors and Trainers.  The article discusses the interest in online education and how it is increasing all around the world. It also discusses the development of the courses and best practices for delivery.

Though there is much interest in online education around the world due to decreased funding for brick and mortar universities, the areas of study seem to be limited. When looking at a global context, there are only so many areas of study that apply. This article mainly discusses business. Business is an area that does have its own language that has spread throughout the world. Students from Korea can take the same classes in business with students from America and their knowledge will be relevant no matter where they decide to look for work. For the purposes of offering online programs in business, I see value in global online learning. There can be positive attributes and negative attributes to globalizing education. One positive attribute is that students could take classes from anywhere and work anywhere. Their degree and expertise would most likely be recognized at any of the countries that accept those online degrees. One negative attribute is that when you are learning about business in the world, there is very little room for specialization.

When I first heard this concept of globalization I instantly wanted to know if it would be in conflict with place-based learning. But I now see they are two very different concepts of learning and really they are both based on student interest. A person who would like to know more about their identity and focus their academic career on their home community would want a place-based education. A person who hopes to move away from home and would like an opportunity to work anywhere could choose a global online educational system.

Ally, M. (2008). Foundations for Educational Theory for Online Learning.  In Andersen, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.).  The Theory and Practice of Online Learning  (2nd ed). (pp. 15-44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.

St. Amant, K. (2007). Online Education in an Age of Globalization: Foundational Perspectives and Practices for Technical Communication Instructors and Trainers.  Technical Communication Quarterly,  16, 13-30.

Putting Learning into Action

As I move through my own academic career, these concepts in the readings bring me to different places. This is most likely due to the fact that I’ve had many experiences as a learner so far. The novice/expert concept brought me back to Western Washington University where I received my BA. The subject I was studying was all new information and the environment was new. This week the reading about different learning styles and teaching methodologies brings me to reflect on my experience at The Evergreen State College where I received my MA.

Mohamad Ally discusses the constructivist theory. This theory presents insight to active learners. Active learners put what they are learning in the classroom into practice and that is how deeper levels of learning take place. This reminds me of my experience during graduate school. I was enrolled in a Masters of Public Administration with a focus in Tribal Government. When I first started this program I didn’t know much about the administration of my tribal government. So after starting this program I got involved in tribal affairs. I started attending General Council meetings and public hearings. I joined commissions and attended community events. These experiences gave me the background knowledge that I needed to move forward in the program. This experience also allowed me to discuss in class what I was learning and this dialog developed into deeper conversation and deeper levels of learning. In a way I was bringing this experience back to the classroom to help the learning process.

I also joined a grassroots group that was pushing for an amendment to a tribal code. This became a major learning process for me. This grassroots group became known as the grandparents committee. These community members saw an issue in the way our courts dealt with Indian Child Welfare. Even thought there were federal laws that protected our children from being adopted outside of our community, the courts were still allowing this. The grandparents committee wanted to amend Title 8 in the Lummi Nation Code of Laws which was the Children’s Code. I started attending their meetings and soon I was in charge of the minutes for the meetings. I was even able to witness this code amendment. This experience allowed me to put to use the tools I was learning in my master’s program. I shared my experiences in class and discussed with classmates possible solutions. And through this experience I developed deeper levels of thinking about this issue.

I think in order to really understand what we are learning in school, we have to see it from another angle. At least in  my own experience, I had to see these theories and tools being used in my community in order to make sense of it.

Novice and Expert Can Be Interchangeable

I would first like to reflect on myself as a learner. As a student in Indigenous Education I always reflect on this concept. What is Indigenous Education? And what does it mean to me in the context of this assignment? I was 8 years old when I received my ancestor name. This name came with specific responsibilities. In order to be honored with an ancestor name, one has to learn where the name comes from and the history of that name. So when my sisters and I were 6, 7, and 8 years old, we started to learn our genealogy. My mother would sit us in a circle in our living room and teach us about our history and people we never knew in our lifetime. This is where education started for me.

As I was reading Benander it reminded me of some experiences at Western Washington University where I received my bachelors degree. She discusses the experience of the novice learner and how the expert may overlook basic knowledge that comes with experience. While I was attending WWU I was not a traditional student. I was older and half way through my studies I became a mother. Traditional students who live on or near campus usually attend orientation and know where computer labs are located. I had to figure these things out on my own which led  to different problem-solving strategies. Today, these strategies allow me to problem-solve at UAF. I am not on campus, in fact, I have been a student at UAF for a year now and haven’t set foot on campus. This experience also contributes to my reflections about novice learning.

As a learner I’ve always focused my studies on the Lummi people. I am sure other students at Western Washington University in the Anthropology department were getting tired of hearing another presentation about Lummi people. But I wanted to ensure that everything I was learning in school reflected  back to the reason I was there, for the betterment of my community. I honestly don’t think that I am an expert about the history and culture of my people. It can take a lifetime of learning to truly understand. But after 10 years of study and years of learning starting when I was 8 years old, I know more than some people. When I stand in front of a new class of students at Northwest Indian College, I always gauge where they are in their learning. I always have a mix of students and we all have to get to the same end.

Benander discusses the importance of reminding one’s self what it means to be a novice learner and that can provide insights to the structure that some need. When I first started teaching, my class structures were lacking. I didn’t always follow the schedule, I forgot to send reminders to students about due dates, and didn’t send out a grading rubric outlining my expectations for student writing. I quickly realized that my lack of structure was the reason students didn’t know when their first drafts were due and the papers they turned in were all over the place. I didn’t set a standard and make my expectations clear to them. So I improved the following quarter and constantly reflected on my experiences as a student. In a way, the novice learners were teaching me, the supposed expert.