The Path ends here for now

This is a monumental point in my life and as I approach I am startled by the realization that I am worn out. I hope that I successfully complete this course and pass. With this final grade, I will have completed my Masters. So In this post, I am going to talk about what I have learned from this course and the Pathway to my Masters.

I have met some wonderful, fantastic teachers-mentors. I felt supported and encouraged and in some cases even earned a reference from a couple of my teachers. I think Albany has a marvelous program. I like the variety of courses I have taken. I can honestly say there was only one course I truly did not enjoy and one course I got very little out of. I know I have grown as a teacher and as a student.

In this course, I learned that I really need to practice more on my presentation prior to loading to a web shell. I think if I had taken a proven course from something I taught, I would have been so much better off. But I don’t teach a college or even high school courses. As Alex said in the beginning, I teach CBT. True enough. And because CDS owns the right to those courses, I could not use them. I used one that is out of circulation that a friend wrote.

I can see the application of taken those Breeze PowerPoint’s and adding better assessment and application and discussions. I can see putting, for instance, Incident and Abuse reporting into a module, having various videos that show abuse and ones that don’t and have the class discuss what constitutes abuse and what is not. And then have them break into groups and go through an investigation and compile a report or what we call a POCA…Plan of Corrective Action.

I can see giving scenarios on behaviors and it would escalate if the Direct Care Staff chooses the wrong choice for directing a maladaptive behavior. That would be fun.

I can see lots of ideas, but alas, there is no infrastructure or support for this currently so I keep on doing my simple boring Breeze PPTs.  I have become very good at them. I just finished one that the advocacy group actually wrote, we put it into PowerPoints and then into Breeze. I recorded their voices, but since none of them can read, we had coworker, Kelly say the word and the individual would repeat it. I then went into the audio track, cut out Kelly, spaced their wording, added space and breaths so it sounded natural. I layered pictures that float and appear along with animating the words to appear and match exactly what they were saying. It took me months to do. What was amazing was watching the faces of people with CP who you can barely understand (if you don’t know them) speak like someone who does not have a speech problem.  A couple of them cried, we cried with them in joy… was amazing. This is what I love to do.  That and encourage new staff to hang in there.  I do love to teach. It was very cool to have several of my students from other places come to work for CDS and say such nice things about me. I do like f2f, but I like on-line. It is funny to have NEO students say the voice-overs I do have such enthusiasm and it helps them to read and comprehend. So I guess I do something right.

I want to thank Alex for all her support. This was a great group of people to work with, very smart people. It is hard to imagine that many of you will be going back to school so soon.

What’s next for me? Two things. I will be taking on-line courses through my work (NISH/NYSID) and f2f classes on leadership and management. Hopefully my boss will retire sooner than later as she originally promised, as I have been selected as her successor. That’s if I can last that long J

The other thing is to work on my health. I sit too much. I have working on this Masters every night for three years. I sit at a computer for hours at work and then for hours at night. I am joining a swim group at work and going back to the treadmill. I hope it will also help with my stress.

So blessings on you all and thanks for so much support and good feedback.

Jane (4)

The end is in sight

This is a monumental point in my life and as I approach I am startled by the realization that I am worn out. I hope that I successfully complete this course and pass.

In this specific course, I have learned that for all the courses I have taken on-line, I never realized how much work goes into them. I glad I took this last because I had some concept of course delivery, not that I demonstrated it in my own course.

My first attempt at building my course was horrendous and when I walked away from it for a day, I saw with brand new eyes all the faults. I wish we had more time as I would liked to have felt that I had room to fix and redo. It was such a strange and startling awakening when I saw how messed up I had the course and how MUCH was lacking.

In answer to what did I learn:  I learned that putting in teaching presence and social presence is not easy. I did better with the social I think. I learned that I need to have much more details in my directions, my rubrics and my navigation. I need to explain course activities much more thoroughly. I need to see from the student.

My biggest complaint for this course was my time commitment. I spent hours and hours on this class and I still didn’t have time for everything. I think for someone who had a f2f class all set on paper with rubrics and tests and other materials, this course is great. To walk in without anything and start from scratch like I did is too much. I was writing the course as I was designing the course and it did not work well with the time I had. Towards the end as the class unfolded, I realized that things were not going to work and logistics were skewed. It worked so well in my head. J

What helped my learning was to see anew the mistakes. I think the reviews will help. I think Alex is an amazing teacher who is supportive and nurturing. She is a Master teacher in Social and teaching presence. Her encouragement when I was ready to throw in the towel was a blessing. I learned so much from Alex that it is hard to be specific. I learned from Alex just how important as an instructor to have established an on-line community and how to be there for a student(s). I will take this away with me from this course and pass it forward to someone else who struggles and loses their confidence.

I would have enjoyed peer review earlier on. I also would have liked Alex’s review earlier before I was so mired down.  Maybe next class, there can be a peer mentor situation where someone is paired from the beginning and you work on your own course, but peer-review someone else at the same time.

How I feel right now is that I never want to see my course again. I am so sick of it. But then I know it needs so much detail work and shoring up. How I feel right now is that I am having a terrible time at my job and it is making everything suffer. How I am feeling right now is that on Saturday, my hard working hubby and I are off for a much needed break in the 1000 Islands for a week… if my boss doesn’t cancel it on me. (she did my spring break) I know I will miss this class in the long run, because there is always something going on and something to learn.

Jane (3)

My frustrations mount.

I have to admit; at this point I am very frustrated. My review by Alex was sharp. I am not saying the critiques was  unwarranted, but would have been much more beneficial given at an earlier point in my creation instead of the day before it was due. I am struggling to make the corrections as suggested.  I do not know if I will have the time to complete them before Monday but I am doing the best I can. I like my fellow classmates have worked diligently in this class everynight and I spent all day on Sunday and I do mean all day working on them. Here I was thinking I was doing Ok and wallop, I am no longer the” Michelangelo” of on-line design.  It was a hard fall from the scaffold.

Again I am going to repeat that I do not disagree with the comments and critiques in any way. I found them helpful and once I saw what she was talking about, I totally agreed. I have changed around many of the things I initially had in place. I am spelling out a lot more of my directions. That I find hard to do. The line between condescending and helpful is transparent when you do not know your students.  I have to remember to drive the navigation better.

I did run into a couple of snags that I still have to resolved. I am finding the grading to be very difficult. I have changed that around several times and I am having a problem with the technology of setting up the grade

book. I have had issues with the editing because the format changes when you are in teacher mode compared to the student mode.  I had to change some of my assignments to forums so that I can share the answers with the class. I personally like the threaded discussion of Blackboard better.  I do not understand the mechanics of the assignments, how to make the visible to all. I know I need to do better on rubrics, even though this course completion is pass/fail.

Personally, the checklist for me was not a great tool. What was great were the Jing videos because they showed me exactly what was wrong and really helped to hone in on the repairs and upgrades. This is a great tool and I am using it at work as well. I am looking forward to the actual review process because I firmly believe in the team approach to something. I wish we would have more time to make changes and then come back to the table at least one more time with the improvements.

Alex stated: “I also don’t really see much attention to social presence in the course.”  I am not sure what she means. Personally, I think I have spent a great deal on social presence because this course has to be set in a comfortable and trusting setting to work. I have an asynchronous forum discussion in each module, I have a synchronous chat that will be graded along with an opportunity to chat anytime. I have a paired group assignment. And I have a shared assignment where the students counsel each other with ideas for achievement. I have two ice breakers that I think are unusual and fun. Not sure what more I can do to have a social presence.

Again, as many of my classmates have written in their blogs, this is a lot of work. Work that one should be spent totally being devoted and dedicated to doing. Unfortunately, not the case for many of us this summer.

Peace, we are nearing the end.

Jane ( 4)

“If you build it, they will come.”

I have been in the business of production one way or another for a very long time. I taught the business of various forms of media production so you would think I would know better. But again, I have demonstrated to myself that everything is not as you planned. I started building this course with a different direction in mind and I actually kept somewhat close to what I originally thought. But I see things differently as I see it coming to shape in the Moodle form. I have a few more things to do to finish, and I can see this will never really be finished.

I need to give my course good closure. I want my students to come away with a feeling of success and that they have really accomplished something, which if they finish the course, they have. I want this course to be more than just academic, but to really give young adult students a sense of themselves that is honest so they can go forth into the world, whether they go to work or go on to more school, with a clear vision of where they are going and who they are. I think I have opened the door with this course for some good opportunities for self evaluation.

I have learned that I really, really enjoy this work. I could do on-line development like this if given the opportunity. I know that I am going to seek this work. Sort of surprised me to see how much I did like this Moodle format. I do and I don’t. I do not like how slow it is to move and create the finer detail things like alignment and spacing. I am usually not one for detail work, but I enjoyed making this class look good. I have a lot more to do on that. I do like all the things you can do with it and I would like to spend more time playing.

I am struggling with the grading for my course. I have much more in figuring that out. I know it is necessary, but it is not my main goal with this course.

I am also running into a stumbling block as I will not and cannot put the state mandated courses that we offer on this course. I thought originally that I would direct this course just for our company. But I think I have changed my mind and made it a course that can be offered through a post secondary school. Originally I thought his would be good for high school students, and it still is, but I found out that a local college is now offering the same idea of Direct Support course work as face to face classroom course. Again, my company could have been cutting edge, but…

The most surprising thing is that it actually is coming together and turning out pretty good, I think. I also feel that I have a good sense of community built in and I think there is strong social presence. I think I have enough self directed work that is engaging. I think that it would be neat to try this out to see if it works as designed.


Building in teaching presence

The last two weeks have been so busy. I have learned a lot about time commitment and also some of the neat tools to use for my course. I am very focused on this being a really great course and something that may be would lead to being actually used somewhere. I do not think my company will.

Anne gave me a wonderful compliment on being a natural in creating a community feeling. One thing I have learned in all the courses that I have taken, that without a community and without a good teacher presence by not only by the students but by the teacher, your course will be flat and not engaging. The reason I said that the way I did is because when I first read about teaching presence, I thought it only reflected only on the teacher. But then in reading and thinking about it, the students actually create more presence than the teacher if you do it right. I learned so much from my students when I taught in a classroom. They not only taught me about the weakness in my course and my inability to convey the material to a level they could comprehend, they taught me how to look outside my all knowing presence. I think that this is something that is so valuable to a teacher: to come to the reality and understanding that they are not the only ones who know the subject. It is partially ego and partially thinking that teachers have to know everything about their material. But how can one person be the sole omnipotent soul when it comes to a subject? Material, for lack of a better name, curriculum for a pedagogical name, should be a living and breathing entity that grows and flourishes under the tutelage of the whole class, be it on line of f2f. This to me was freeing as it takes the burden of being perfect and put the teacher in a place of being human.

So now as I progress through the building of my class, I am comfortable in setting up learner-center activities that will never be the same way twice. It is because the students won’t be either. But if designed to invoke and allow for creativity in the desired result, it will keep the class fresh for me and the students.

The other thing I have discovered is that I love Moodle. I wish I had more experience and I hope I will have an opportunity to do just that, but I think it is easy and creative. There are things I wish I knew how to use but I am not sure of all the things I can do. I will experiment. I love using Jing and have one already in the course and it is going to be how I do my orientation in the very beginning. I am very grateful that Alex is giving us two weeks to work on our courses and no discussions. It will give the time I need and want to spend on the course. I am excited about what I am creating and I cannot wait to spend time looking at everyone else’s projects.

Jane (3)

Challenges in the creation of my course

This is a picture of my backporch where I work on this class.

What is challenging me the most in the creation of my own course is writing discussions or forums that get the students to think and respond to each other. Since I am looking for many reflective types of answers in some of my questions, it is difficult to come up with questions that allow for responses from other students. However, in my first module, all I am really trying to do is get the students to meet and read about each other. They are still getting use to the format of the class, and I am concerned with them being comfortable with the navigation as well as getting some bibliographical information from them.

I have always had a problem with creating that open ended question. I think when you know the material and you know the answer, it can be more challenging not to slant a question to the answer you are looking for.

We are actually using reflective types of question in this class as well, and I think that everyone is able to answer a question and reflect and probe deeper as required. But often, after I read a response, I agree with it completely, but have nothing significant to add. Many times there really is nothing more to say. I not sure that is a bad thing.

I do not want students in my course to feel pressured more to come with a witty and clever answer, especially if the response is reflective and should be spontaneous and honest. Since my course is about self improvement, I feel that the reflection and probing is being done, even if the response is not deep nor does it teach something every time.

However, I agree that there needs to be learner-centered work in my course, and I am struggling to create that type of work. I wonder if anyone else is having this difficulty as we all have such different types of course.

Jane (4)

Why I do what I do.

I have been thinking about all this collaborative, constructive learning principals, and I think about what it would be like to be in a one room school house as a teacher. What would have been the norm for education in those days, is now a principal, a theory or a methodology. Yet in the day, it was how you dealt with a room of full of different level students. They had to feed off of each other. They had things they had to memorize, and not question, just as the kids of today do with multiplication, and spelling and grammar. (Although the later is a lost art with computers.) But for the most part, much of the learning was directed by the student interests and needs. There was not a lot of text books and other forms of media, so the students had to learn science by going out and walking around and questioning what they saw. They learned math so they could compute agricultural issues like acreage vs. seed. Education was developed by the resources and needs of the times.

In Socrates time, learning was by questions. Galileo asked questions and thought outside the box. (Both of them were prosecuted for their original thinking.)Education in poor countries and in other countries is done by passing on of stories with moral implications and apprenticeships. Native Americans learned from the elders and from experience. We had brilliant people like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie who had very little education but knew how to ask questions and who to ask.

But in many countries, education is limited by the governmental and religious sanctions. Only certain people can get educated, and others are left to fend by what they can gleam by themselves or through experience.

This thinking is making me wonder, how much is the potential of a child to exceed and do well in their educational pursuits based on the physical components of school such as the teacher, school system, and community and how much is based solely on the child’s desire to know? How much is truly just the ability for the child to ask the right questions?

I know I am not the first to seek this answer. Both Kohlberg and Piaget both were looking for understanding the development of children and how they think and learn. I am not going into a huge thing here in my blogs, as this is my reflection. I am wondering though if the information taking from those studies can apply to today’s child. I think of all the theories that still holds true is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If a child’s biological needs are not met, nothing else will matter. I think to some extent this hold true for all learners. I see it in my field that when the individual’s (MRDD) feel safe and trust you, they really open up to learning. This is sad because if anything, this population has the most transient group of people supporting them.

I think today’s children require instant gratification. They are used to finding information in a second through the various electronic resources. They want to find out if it snows in Africa, they can check out a web site and there it is. My question is…do they ask? Do they know how to ask? Do they care enough to ask?

My husband and I were discussing this at dinner tonight. We were talking about teaching to the test and how that robs not only the teacher, but the student. He is a Social Studies teacher and gets pumped up about how history repeats itself and it’s so important to look back and reflect on what has happened. My statement to that is, most people want to know something now like a history fact, they hit a search tool. Does it matter to me in my life about how many people who died in Antietam? Sorry, but not really. What does apply is understanding why the Civil War took place and the concept of war and revolution by the citizens of this country.

So maybe we need to really rearrange the priorities and relevance of our education system by allowing the children of today to learn to question. But let them know it is safe to ask, and let them know what is relevant to them, what they may need to know to survive and prosper. Do not let a test dictate education. Relevance is something I want to bring out in my course.

The Journey takes a turn

I loved seeing the SLN curses as they brought back fond memories of my undergrad work at Oswego. I think they were easy to use and although very redundant in some cases, and I guess limiting, the discussion format was the easiest to follow I have seen. I actually used the link to Onondaga Community College to link up with their Director of On-line Curriculum; Pam Young-Maher, who was the one who got me interested in all this on-line stuff way back in 2004.

The one thing I have learned in every curriculum development course is that there is a process and it is time consuming. I have learned from previous co-students who think they could slap together something from a course they use in a classroom, that it often does not work. That is why I start from scratch each time. All three courses (which includes this one) have elements from each other, but are structurally different. That is because I have used the SLN format, WIKI and now Moodle. The first course I took was in 2004. A lot of research has gone on since and there are two major changes that have been proven and that is teacher presence and the tone of the classes. This is what I am reflecting on in this blog.

The first thing I read that I think is important and I think has changed for the better is the amount of time and involvement from the teacher. Personally, the more contact and interaction the teacher had with me and the rest of the class the better the class was in general. From taking the tours of the various courses in this module, you could tell that the teacher had a personal touch and would probably be very involved in their courses. I can remember courses that teacher did not participate in the discussion and I can remember being told by teachers not to expect it. As Scorza humorously describes the amounts of discussion reading a teacher may have to read and respond to can be over whelming and put a teacher off. That is what a student pays for and should expect, in my thinking.

And the second thing that I am pleased to see is that research is proving that the personal touch is also a good thing to have in an on-line class. The development of community is also enhanced when the teacher’s tone, language and examples all have a personal touch to them. As Scroza explains that it is a component that is difficult to inject and he quotes, Daniel Pink as saying, “Since empathy depends on emotion and since emotion is conveyed nonverbally, to enter into another’s heart, you must begin the journey by looking into his face” (Pink, 2005) I think that you can set a tone of nurturing and kindness, and build a rapport with your students and that is what I am strving for in my course. I can remember being chastised for using first person and now I see this is the preferred method of communication. As Alex discusses in the “A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them”, starting off with a “chatty voice” will encourage the student to reciprocate. Students will model what the teacher demonstrates including spelling, tone and time commitment.

One of the things I am already changing in my original plans is to simplify. I was planning on doing more modules and now I am going to do more in less modules. Setting up a class without a clear picture of the target audience is tricky. But as Scorza commented, “My thinking, as I recall, was that I needed to tell my students everything they needed to know about their assignments by answering every conceivable question in advance.” I thought that too, but now I see that fallacy in that is just like in a classroom. Although you cannot answer the questions as immediate as you can in f2f, you can and should plan on being available to answer questions somewhere and somehow and in different levels of privacy in the on-line class. Alex explains that you should plan out and prepare for questions as it is “easier and smoother” for the student if you do give clear and concise explanations. This I think evolves as the class is given and developed from usage.

The other thing that Scorza brings up is the idea of using rubrics. I hated creating them until I started teaching in a college where many of the students made whining an art form. They would go to the Dean and complain that so and so teacher was unfair, prejudice, didn’t like them, and so on. With a rubric, there is no discussion after the grade is assigned and even the pudding head Dean couldn’t fault me. I will incorporate one or two in this class.

My initial reaction to this course was to drop it, which is something I never have done. This module was so much better as it was not overwhelming…although there was a lot to do. I am amazed by the great tools Alex is showing us and using. I loved the Jing videos for setting up the first part of the class and I hope she uses them a lot. I do not see the use for me to use Twitter, but I have already used Jing at my job. The one thing that holds me up and has me worried is using these tools myself. I would like to use Breeze but I am not sure how to do that in this moodle course. So that is one of the tools I am going to experiment with.

Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. New

York: Penguin, 2005.

Reflections on course work loads

As this class progressing, my honest response to the suggested questions posted by Alex is that I am drowning here. I have learned some things, which I will discuss further on or in my second blog entry, but I think the thing that I would like to reflect on in this discussion is the workload and how to figure out an appropriate amount for a course. I imagine that there is some criteria that has to be look at such as standards. I think a lot is dependent on the age group and academic setting. This should be determined in some cases when you are computing who is the target audience for your course. But can it be that simple? I think not.

In my course that I am designing, I am using high school students as my target group. Since I have taught high school and I have participated in delivering some of the ideas in my on-line class previously, I have an idea of what I should expect as a doable workload. But if I work this course out of a high school setting, I am not confident that I would easily assess what is a fair and doable work load.

Also since often in distant learning, you have such a variety of students, how can you know you are challenging some and not burning out others?

For some, our class might not be a hardship, but I am finding that I am not able to keep up. I am trying, but I want to go back and correct or make the improvements suggested, not only to make things better, but because I also want to improve my grade. But I find I am barely able to keep up with the discussions and to get the level of quality to earn a four also seems to daunting to me.

How does a teacher know what is a fair level of work and what is a fair expectation? Do some good students fall by the wayside in frustration? When you design a course, who tells the teacher too hard or too easy, especially if the course is new? In an f2f class, you can gage the pacing from the reaction of the students and change mid course to accommodate with either upping the work or lessening the load. In an on-line course, you are done pretty much when you post and open the course. You set the expectations in the beginning of the course.

Is the outcome of a heavily laden work load also learner-centered course? Since this is a blog, and I am reflecting, I do not think so. I like to research new web sites when I am writing to validate my discussion offerings. Then I am off and running, and yes I am learning, but I often go on to spend time reading the research only to find my limited time taken up with a discovery which may only be reflected by a word in a sentence. I wonder if others in this class find this to be an issue. I spend hours some nights to only come up with a few paragraphs.

My reflection concerns is in formulating a doable work load and assessment that reflects not only the quantitative component, but also the qualitative. A student who has a strong background and experience is also going to bring that into the play in the level of their work. But a student who works as hard or harder because everything is new to them should not be deterred with an unreachable expectation or course work load. Where do you set that bar when you do not know the level of students? I tell my NEO students that even though there are assessments in each of the courses they take, it is not about passing or failing, it is about mastery learning, which “holds achievement constant and lets the time students spend in pursuit of the objectives vary.” (Eric digest, 1995) Can this principal be applied in on-line learning? (4)

Knowing the Audience

I am worried for this country. In the movie Do You Know, (DiBlasi, 2005) we see statistics that are frightening as we see a shift in the growth of population in correlation to students in the top percentiles. But reflecting on the movie, it talks about how many honor students “they” have, which according to the movie is more than we have children. That’s a bold statement. The movie also says they have 25% of their children in the top percentile, but if you think for a minute, it means also, there are 75% who are not. And if they have more children who are honor students, it also means they have three times as many who are not. Statistics can reflect what you want. This movie also demonstrates that so many jobs are being outsourced to other countries because they are willing to work for less. They also have a lower cost of living. In these countries there is a surplus of workers, so getting a job means taking what you can. In our country, we have unions…..that take everything they can. And now, there are no jobs for Americans. We became greedy and now because we have controlled our population growth, we have less workers, so we are losing employment to outsourcing because overpopulated countries have cheap labor. . My husband lost his job at Kodak after 22 years due to outsourcing. The movie talks about how young Americans will switch jobs and may have up to 14 by the time they are 38 (DiBlasi,2005) Since there is no future with job security and because many companies are dumping their employees for outsourcing, why would employees have loyalty? Our children watched their parents lose their jobs, lose their nest-eggs, and saw older workers being removed to have positions filled by younger workers.

I found the information in the movie about how we need to train for jobs that do not even exist. I think that is fascinating and true. Statistically, “53 Americans use the Internet”, (DiBlasi, 2005) which I think is great. However, we are slowly falling behind other countries with the comfort of using technology. Many kids are so comfortable with technology you wonder f they have a different gene than us older users. These natives are amazing to us immigrants who still are not totally used to the digital world. Prensky refers to the difference in the type of student who is a native, one who needs information really fast and access and processes different than his ancestors. It is with theses thought in mind, that I realize and agree that we truly need to approach our education of the next generations completely different.

For my course, I have two things I am trying to obtain. I believe very strongly in vocational education and have great hopes that the current educational system that shuns the vocational educator and student, will realize that this type of education is critical for America to compete in the global market. It is also important to address the various types of learner and vocational education reaches more types of learners than straight academics. The job market may change, and funding will change, but there will always be a population of developmentally disabled people. (Unless we practice genocide) There are many opportunities for employment in this growing field as we find that this population is able to do more, be more independent, are not institutionalized, and are getting older. My crusade is to find the best workers for this field. Part of the problem is many years ago, this population was warehoused and were taken care of by less than the best in the field of health care. When the state decided to create separate housing, the care became better but there was limited talent to draw from. There is still a huge ignorance about the MRDD population. Hopefully by introducing young workers to the field in a encouraging and successful manner, we can make gains in the abilities of the staff and create a more stable environment for the individuals we serve.