Article 1: Video and hybrid learning for undergraduate students

Title: Video Lectures through Voice-Over PowerPoint in a Majors-Level Biology Course. 

Author: Nathan H. Lents and Oscar E. Cifuentes

Journal: Journal Of College Science Teaching

Publication date: November-December 2009

The paper I chose to read this week talks about two overlapping learning mediums: video and hybrid learning.

I am currently learning about designing and teaching online courses. I have had doubts about my ability to engage my students in the content from a distance. The web environment places more personal responsibility on the student than on the teacher, as Lents and Cifuentes observe. In addition, my discipline requires laboratory experiences to increase comprehension and connection to the student’s life and future career. Simply replacing these experiences with computer simulations may not be enough. The authors lobby for a “middle ground”: the introduction of web-delivered video lectures to replace a portion of traditional classroom lecturers.

Lents and Cifuentes identify some problems with this approach: there is no record of attendance, students won’t get instant feedback to clear up misunderstandings, the delivery is inherently less engaging, and there is less social interaction (2009). Still, they ran their experiment. They prepared an experimental and a control group of students to take their basic majors Biology course. They would measure student success by their exam results. The software they used for the video lectures was Camtasia.

Student accessing computer for learning

Student accessing computer for learning. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

The students who received the video lectures did poorly in their first exam. The instructor then had a discussion about the process of learning by video lecture. The students who were against the video lectures replied that they had trouble staying focused. However, many students were enjoying the video lectures and found several advantages to them: they could pause frequently to take notes and check their textbooks and they could re-watch the lecture several times. After their discussion session, the grades of the experimental group improved greatly.

Students taking notes at their own pace

Students taking notes at their own pace. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Before the third exam, the students answered a survey to choose the delivery method for the last portion of the course. They decided that a normal lecture would be delivered AND recorded for web posting, so students could choose the method that worked for them: this was reflected in their high grades. Lents and Cifuentes conclude that the introduction of web-based video instruction can be used successfully.

This project was a digital-age learning experience (NETS-T 2) because the instructor developed a technology-enriched learning environment, and personalized the delivery method to reach different types of learners; plus the researchers used the data from their experiment to improve teaching and learning.  The instructor delivered the lecture by using a digital age medium, demonstrating fluency in the technology (NETS-T 3, Model Digital-Age Work and Learning).  The most important part of the project for me, was that the instructor identified a problem with the delivery method and then discussed it with the students and involved them in the decision to change it.  I think this was in line with NETS-T 4, Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsiblity, specifically “address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources”.

Reference:

Lents, N. H., & Cifuentes, O. E. (2009). Web-Based Learning Enhancements: Video Lectures through Voice-Over PowerPoint in a Majors-Level Biology Course. Journal Of College Science Teaching39(2), 38-46.

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Week 7: Social media learning resources

The Science Forum

http://www.thescienceforum.com/

This is a general forum that is open to anyone’s input. User are very active and come from all walks of life. Although my students wouldn’t be able to create their own boards, they could create their own thread and get an input of information from all over the world. According to NETS-T 3 (b), it would be a great tool for students to collaborate with one another, as well as provide an opportunity for instructors to assist. This also provides a good chance to exercise NETS-T 4 (c): by participating in the forum discussions, you can promote responsible social interaction in the online environment.

Open WetWare

http://openwetware.org/wiki/Main_Page

I love OpenWetWare, it was a great find when I was an undergraduate Biology student. This is a wiki platform for lab protocols; it is updated with the best and newest lab practices. It boasts an impressive list of links to online tools that are specific to the Biological field (such as calculators and analysis tools). Academic labs and groups are welcome to join in. This website covers many NETS standards. It is a good one for NETS-T 2(a-c) as it encourages the creation and sharing of your own lab work. It is also a good example of NETS-T 5 (a), because Open Wetware acts as a global learning community for exploring different applications of learning.

Open Leaf

http://openleaf.me/

This is a student-only networking resource for educational purposes. It only launched earlier this year. The neat thing about this site  is the way that networks are setup: you can talk to people on your own campus (I am the only student from WOU so far!), people with the same major and minor, or people sharing the same courses. This allows students to fulfill the entirety of NETS-S 2 by giving them a chance to interact and collaborate with students from multiple campuses and disciplines. It also covers NETS-T 1 (c), as this promotes collaborative learning.

Biology Beta

http://biology.stackexchange.com/

Another question and answer site specifically for Biology that is open to everyone. The cool thing about this site is that you can vote on questions and comments depending on their level of contribution to each discussion thread, so the good content ends up at the very top. Plus, discussion posts are easy to find with tags. This resource covers NETS-T 3 (c), since an instructor can answer questions and communicate with various students. That also carries over to NETS-T 5 (a), as it is a global digital resource for both students and teachers.

Reddit – r/science, r/askscience, r/biology, r/microbiology, or make your own subreddit!

http://www.reddit.com/r/science

These are subsections of the popular social site reddit. Similar to the previous resource, users vote on the best content, so that the important comments rise to the top.  The community in the science subreddits is amazing; you can ask any question and an expert is almost guaranteed to give you a thoughtful reply. Plus, students can make their own subreddits! I would love to have this in my classroom. This is a good site for NETS-T 1 (c), since it is another place for students to collaborate ideas. It also covers NETS-T 2 (d), because teachers can used the information amassed there to find better explanations for lesson concepts (I know I have!)

Blogging platforms – WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.

http://wordpress.comhttp://www.blogger.comhttp://www.tumblr.com

There are several online websites that allow you to sign up for a free blog; these are just a few of them. Having your students start a blog advocates creativeness and inventiveness, thus covering NETS-T 1 (a) and NETS-S 1 (b). This also works for NETS-T 1 (c), as it promotes self reflection and student collaboration through post replies.

Collaborize classroom

http://www.collaborizeclassroom.com/

This website can help instructors build an online class or supplement a traditional class. The website provides tools for adding and sharing teaching resources, setting up conversations, and gathering data on the class, which satisfies NETS-T 2 (d). It also covers NETS-T 2 (a) as you can design an entire course here, and NETS-T 5 (b) as it spearheads the usage of an online environment for learning.

Edmodo

http://www.edmodo.com/

This social networking site is the facebook of education. Students get a secure place to collaborate, share content and form a community. Teachers get almost all the functionality of Moodle (posting grades, assignments, quizzes, polls, discussions, creating subgroups, etc.). This is a good site for NETS-T, as educators can collaborate in building knowledge with their students and colleagues. They can also moderate the discussions in Edmodo, which can cover NETS-T 4 (a) and (c) by promoting ethical use of data and proper etiquette in discussions.

Twitter

https://twitter.com/

Twitter is a networking site for sharing content in 140 characters or less. Experimenting with in-class use of twitter has encouraged students that usually would not have joined in to participate, which covers NETS-T 1 (c).  The use of a modern social tool via computer or phone to share and gather student information covers the NETS-T 3(d).

Google +

https://plus.google.com/up/search

Everyone uses google. Our WOU email is based on gmail. In Google +, you can share information and images like in twitter, but you can also join in group voice and video chat, or Google Hangouts for synchronous online sessions! This is a great example of NETS-T 3(c) and 1 (c), as you can set up video hangouts to exchange information. Google+ can be used to coordinate group projects quite effectively, makes it an excellent tool that covers NETS-S 2 (d).

Article 2: Social networking for undergraduate students

Title: Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets

Author: Eva Kassens-Noor

Journal: Active Learning in Higher Education

Publication date: February 28, 2012

A study by sociologists at the University of Alabama examined multitasking with social activities while doing schoolwork, and discovered that using facebook and texting negatively affected student GPAs.  Educators have confiscated cell phones for years and warned students about the dangers of oversharing information in social media sites. Now, as the net generation becomes the teachers and the principals, we are beginning to see a shift in these attitudes.  Proponents of the shift offer a very simple solution: give students something to do that’s class-related on those same platforms, which then become a powerful teaching tool instead of a distraction.

President Obama tweeting

Even the president tweets!

In her study, Kassens-Noor proposes exactly that. She offered groups of students the choice of a) using twitter in an assignment as their only communication mechanism, b) doing one in-class discussion and keeping diaries, or c) writing a 5000 word essay (thankfully, no one chose the last option). The twitter group had strict criteria to meet  to get credit for the assignment (e.g., tweet daily, each answer to a tweet must add on to or refute previous data, must turn in a printout of all tweets, etc.) She found that twitter fostered communication and prolonged engagement in the learning process. The students found and shared more data than the traditional group, but they had slightly less knowledge retension. Another limitation she found was the character limit- which might have constrained critical thinking and self-reflection. Kassens-Noor ‘s study showcases several NETS standards. She inspired student learning and creativity by engaging with her students in a virtual environment, following NETS-T 1 (d).  She also adapted the learning experience to a digital tool, as described in NETS-T 2 (a). Her students demonstrated a good understanding of the technology (NETS-S 6), and used it appropriately for collaboration (NETS-S 2).

I do not have twitter at the moment, but I’m up to trying it out in my classroom. I would use it as an instant feedback tool for student-teacher communication. I think it would foster a feeling of community and openness much faster than class interaction alone. The disadvantages of using twitter really seem to depend on the content. If critical, in-depth thinking is required from the students, twitter is probably an unsuitable tool.

Reference:

Junco, R., Cotten, S. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59(2),  pp. 505-514.

Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), pp. 9-21 doi: 10.1177/1469787411429190

Article 1: Social networking for undergraduate students

Title: Social media and microbiology education

Author: Vincent R. Racaniello

Journal: PLoS Pathogens

Publication date: October 2010

Social media is unavoidable on college campuses. Students are constantly looking for the latest news from their peers and the world through the use of facebook, twitter, blogs and internet portals. A quick look at Alexa’s top 25 sites on the web gives us Facebook as the most popular site in the world (no. 2 in the US), followed by YouTube, Yahoo!, Twitter and LinkedIn a little further down, as well as Blogspot and WordPress. The analytics reveal that many users access these websites at school.

Alexa's entry for Facebook

The most popular site in the world is primarily accessed at schools.

In his paper, Vincent Racaniello proposes to use these digital tools to facilitate learning. He talks about his experiences with blogging and podcasting- which are very similar to the model we’re following in this class. Racaniello wished to reach a large number of students of Microbiology, and so he began writing a blog covering news stories about viruses, as well as the results of his research. The social aspect of the blog was in the comments- visitors often developed a dialogue inspired by Racaniello’s posts. Later, he added weekly podcasts with expert hosts to the mix to further support student learning. His approach was consistent with many NETS standard. He inspired learning and creativity by engaging with students (high school, college, graduate and medical, colleagues and the general public in a virtual environment (NETS-T 1 (d). He also adapted the learning experience to a digital tool to promote student learning, reaching NETS-T 2 (a). He demonstrated fluency in digital technologies and communicated effectively using two different digital formats, which covers NETS-T 3 (a) and (c). Finally, he was a leader in building his digital learning community, which covers NETS-T 5 (b).

Although Racaniello used blogging and podcasting primarily for the benefit of the general public, instructors could certainly follow his example when designing their own course.

Reference:

Racaniello, V. (2010). Social media and microbiology education. PloS Pathogens, 6(10): e1001095. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001095

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