Stage 1, Stage 2…

Both stage and film are viable art forms, but they are suited to different situations and types of stories” Bowen, 2012

 Bowen is suggesting that both online and ‘naked’ teaching have their place (audience) in the learning process. The classroom is ever evolving; with the introduction and progression of the Internet, the traditional classroom is seldom found. An article in the Oxford Royale Academy asks (via its title) “Studying Online: A Threat to Traditional Learning?” This is a very valid question with the quantity of online learning options increasing at an alarming rate in recent years; and one, which is echoed through faculty on a daily basis. Recently a 3240 classmate wrote in a class forum that some colleagues were worried for their jobs following the implementation of a Learning Management System (LMS). Clearly there are both positive and negative aspects to online vs. face-to-face learning, this reflective journal will discuss some of these, and give my opinion on whether online learning really is a threat to the traditional classroom.

Initially my response to my classmate was “do you think your colleagues using the LMS to its full potential” and “what do you think is the basis for their fear”. People fear change, change will always involves an element of relearning, a period of time spent temporarily outside your comfort zone which will inevitably cause resistance at some level. Conversely, “some faculty view exploring online teaching and learning as an inviting and even invigorating challenge” (Sibley and Whitaker, 2015). We are taught as educators to embrace change, to constantly try new teaching, or assessment techniques. If we do not, how can we expect our students to push their own boundaries? Consequently, will the learner be receiving the best learning experience that we can provide? The Bowen quote gave me the realization that perhaps my classmates colleagues could also benefit. The key here is ‘application’. As Emily Moore says in her Faculty Focus article 7 Assessment Challenges of Moving Your Course Online, “Not all online courses are created from scratch” many will be an adaptation of what was likely originally developed for the traditional classroom. Some subjects are versatile enough to be deliverable in a number of ways, and will be suited to the online environment. As an example, a previous employer of mine uses a LMS to deliver various Health and Safety topics, with good success. In other subjects

             Human interaction and body language are an important part of the teaching process that some may struggle without; and despite efforts to provide this in a web context, chat rooms, forums and webinars will never be the same as being physically in the presence of peers and teachers and able to communicate ideas face-to-face

For instance, I used to teach a mechanical apprenticeship in which, hand skills were a large portion of every semester. While it’s true that digital video is helpful in demonstrating practical application, finesse, integrity, patience and specific process are arguably harder to teach in a virtual world. Application is key. Those resistant to LMS, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) or even general applications of the virtual world, likely have not yet realized its full value. This article gives some insight into “engaging faculty in online education”.

The transition of courses to the online environment offers both the student and teacher huge flexibility; many are self-paced or with loose agenda, and while this relies on the personal motivation to learn, it opens the course up to a much larger audience (such as full time employed etc.) the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) is a great example. I typically study from 05:00 – 07:00 and then whenever else I can fit it in; as I type I am half way over the Atlantic en route to England. Online courses are without question cheaper than attending college or university, and with student debt being in crisis (time.com) being frugal is a positive. “Some argue that the relative lack of human interaction in online learning is one of its biggest pitfalls. To combat this issue, many online courses offer forums or chatrooms” much as we have experienced within the PIDP. Personally, I have had a mixed experience with this, while the course forums have been a great area to meet classmates, and gather resource, there always the chance of isolation, if circumstance doesn’t allow full participation. A reoccurring theme regarding online courses is that “assessment is uniquely challenging in an online environment, as it’s susceptible to cheating” (Oxford Royale Academy). In my opinion however, this is largely dependent on the assessment method used. If, for example, a multiple choice question paper is used, then the chances of cheating are far increased over a peer assessed essay. I have only glanced over some of the pros and cons of online learning; the capability of this subject gathers momentum every day. For certain, it will not be disappearing anytime soon.

“Online learning hasn’t quite reached its full potential yet; it’s a concept that requires some development before it can present a viable challenge to traditional learning, but its future in an increasingly internet-reliant world is surely bright” (Oxford Royale Academy). Educators shouldn’t fear it; we absolutely need to embrace it. The robot isn’t here to replace, its here to help. LMS, online learning, MOOC’s or whatever other method you encounter to aid the learning process, it does not and likely will not replace face to face learning, all “are viable… but they are suited to different situations and types of stories”. Slowly, technology enters my classroom as I have mentioned in previous journal entries and blog posts. Podcasts, Digital Lessons, Learning Portals; they all add to the ever growing teaching toolkit. I am not at a stage where I fear for my job due to an LMS or MOOC, I don’t think I ever will. Online learning is a resource, another delivery method. If we keep an open mind and realize its potential, the only limitation is the teacher.

“I’m all like, I know Kung Fu”

I love this comment. It’s a comment from one of Salman Khans first YouTube uploads which developed into the Khan Academy we know (or maybe you don’t?) today.

If you don’t know what this is, I urge you to sign in and have an explore. As well as watch this playlist that I was introduced to by a classmate. I love Sal’s delivery and modesty.

I just signed up as a teacher and coach… and for the experience tried out a Trig lesson (because I am terrible at it)…Its great, he’s upbeat, confident, the presentations and tips are aesthetically pleasing. Take a look…learn something for yourself! The program is slick, I even got some funky points for getting a question right! Enjoy.

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November 11.

Before you read on, this blog post is about the personal reflection that was created, from an others actions. I urge you to not consider too much the catalyst of my thoughts, but rather the outcome.

Yesterday was Armistice Day; November 11. It marks “the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I”

The “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

After a career in the Royal Air Force (which ultimately led me to teaching), this is a special day for me. I pay my respects to the generations that gave their lives in sacrifice for today; but I also give thanks to all those that have served, and continue to serve today in operations that are as brutal, and which are arguably more complicated than they ever have been. I remember my own service, the comrades I have served with, and the servicemen and women who have sacrificed everything in recent times.

This November 11 saw me in a new town; a new parade. As always, I ironed my suit and polished my shoes, just as I would have for parade every year. Sometimes I pin on my medals and dust off the beret, but not this year. I subtly donned my poppy, veterans badge and tie pin, and with family in toe, wandered to the town’s service of remembrance.

The local gymnasium was standing room only, great to see…not so great with a three year old, but he stood proudly next to his mother and I, holding my hand, still and reflective just like Daddy. The main speaker took the stand a few minutes in, after the obligatory reading of In Flanders Fields. Within minutes, my thoughts had been swayed from the service. I doubt many in the audience would have felt the same way, but I couldn’t help it. The speaker had moved (probably unintentionally) the onus of the service from the sacrifice of war, to the sacrifice of Christ, with him making the statement “more importantly, Jesus Christ gave his life for us”. Now, I was raised attending a Methodist Church; I’m accepting of others beliefs, but as an adult I have chosen to not follow the path that my grandparents had so devoutly did – largely due to my service. Never the less, my view on what was “more important” was very different from the speakers. Here I am, November 11, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Remembrance Day…what ever you wish to call it. A service to remember the fallen; being told that “more importantly, jesus christ gave his life for us”. In addition to this, the decision was made to not read the names of the fallen. I zoned out, my eyes turned to the audience, scanning and wondering about their own stories and reasons for remembrance. I looked for the guys and girls who stood like me, as proud as the day the joined their chosen service, holding back emotions which are hard to contain. After the last post, and God Save The Queen, the parade stood down and the audience began stacking chairs and departing to go about their Fridays.

As my family and I said our hellos and thank you to familiar faces, my mind wandered. Remembrance parades typically have an element of prayer or a lesson from the bible, just as I’m sure other faiths will thank their own gods…but I “more importantly”…these were the words I was struggling with. The speaker had decided for the masses what was important based on their belief and faith. This is where I made the link to my teaching practice. The lessons we deliver can be so easily biased by our own assumptions and beliefs. If I think about the lessons I designed and delivered a few years ago, they were largely based around lessons which I had been subjected to some 20 years previous; I expect many of us have fallen to how we were taught as a default at times – after all, it worked for us, right? For me, the reason for this ‘default’ was a lack of formal training before hitting the classroom at a sprint, rather than a walk. It has been the PIDP program which has developed my practice, encouraged me to experiment (and fail regularly), to listen, to reflect. I do my best to not not make ‘leap of faith’ statements, without considering the consequence or effect on the learner.

This speakers comment made me think about a certain student I had a few years ago, who had a very solid background in the subject I was teaching. I wonder how many times they thought ‘yeah, I don’t believe this’ or ‘thats not how I understand it’…This particular student was the epitomy of introversion, at which point my teaching could not empathize fully with. This student probably wasn’t given the freedom or confidence to challenge what I was trying to teach; for that I apologize. There are so many mays this blog post could go, but honestly, my take away point is this – just be careful. Motivation, the positive learning environment, our validity are all very fragile. Education is fragile. What you think is more important, might very well not be a priority for many others.

There’s hope for us all!

Whether you like it or not, acting is a huge part of teaching. I used to have a quote on my board in the office, which I seem to remember read something like

“those who say teaching has nothing to do with acting, knows nothing about either”

(it might have been comedy actually, but it works nicely for this blog post with acting, so i’ll stick with that). Whether it be the infectiously enthusiastic motivational approach, or the “oh shoot, I can’t remember the point of this thread” approach, we all act. We also act differently (even if it is subtle) to our usual selves while we are in front of a class; we utilize our teaching persona. This is true whether you are in a traditional, or hybrid classroom . Even online, we (well, I do anyway) create a visual image on a person based on what they write…I’m sure you’re doing it now!

I heard about the “Dr. Fox Effect” for the first time today…if you have 5 minutes (and I hope you have if you’ve crossed my path) take a look at this video:

Case in point. Psychology today discusses the experiment, but essentially the speaker is a fraud; he is an actor, not a professor, and with not a jot of knowledge on the subject. Yet, he “seduced the people hearing the lecture into believing that they had actually learned something substantial” Naftulin et. al (1973).

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean for you to head into the classroom and promptly fill the classroom with “meaningless content” but there is no denying that if you present your subject “in a lively and humourous speaking style” and “interact warmly”…your classroom will absolutely be a more positive place.

Infotastic? Ease up on the Infographic.

Apparently I’m a sucker for a good infographic. Throughout the PID program, for one reason or another, I have passed on the option of creating one…seems I’ve been missing out! Assignment 3 (Save Hearts below) really lit fire for me. On a course forum, a classmate posted a link to some good points about creating them, best practices if you will:

The best topics for infographics are narrow, focused subjects that answer a question, give advice, or otherwise offer data that helps your audience

Determine if your topic is evergreen or timely. Evergreen topics aren’t time-sensitive, but timely topics are…evergreen infographics are usually easier to promote. There’s so much time, research, and work that goes into an infographic that a timely topic might not be relevant anymore by the time you’re finished!

You need a strong name or headline to go along with your idea. The name of your infographic is what readers will see first

Try to avoid over complicating the graphic, the whole point is to be pleasing on the eye, and punchy. The reader should be able to see the points relatively quickly, and then zone in on a section which catches their attention. The WebpageFX article goes on to say that if the graphic is too confusing “The average user will take one glance at this and hit the back button before reading a single word”.

Also, avoid “pointlessness”

Infographics do look nice, and it’s always good to include different styles of media on your web pages. But, make sure a purpose is fulfilled, a point made, or a question answered.

And lastly,”ensure your graphical representations are accurate and proportional to the data”…”No one likes misrepresentation”.

Here is an infographic from a clever classmate of mine Carolyn Hornell, which represents an ‘evergreen’ and poignant topic (also posted below this paragraph). I think she has epitomized what an Infographic should be. It’s bold, it’s WOW! Its relevant and balanced. I love the contrast between black, white (which appeals to a certain generation I’m sure) and then..BOOM…the primary colours of the pie chart (which, I should add, validates the whole infographic – nicely done) jump out and a punch you in the face. The title starts with ‘a quick guide’ which means, most people will hang around long enough to at least grasp the high points whilst supping a mid morning cuppa (again, touché). The main body of the infographic is high level, but provokes enough thought for you to be critical about your own body language habits. We’ve all heard the resident expert say “ooo you’re all defensive with your arms crossed” or “did you know that raising your left eyebrow whilst looking down and wiggling your toes means…” oh just stop it, please! But, my point being is that Carolyn’s subject is actually huge, but she has done a great job of keeping it focused; it sticks to its purpose within the confines of the infographic. However, you could just as easily put this up on the board and really drill into any quadrant you liked. This is the beauty and versatility of an infographic.

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Like I said, I’m a sucker for an infographic. If you’ve never tried to create one, I urge you to. Look around…browse a few, you’ll be amazed how easy they are and how much thought  they will provoke in both you, and your intended audience.