Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Choosing learning enviornments to meet students’ needs August 9, 2007

About ten years ago I came to terms with the fact that I needed to lose some weight, my college years had finally caught up with me, and wanted to join a program to help me do so. After looking around at the different programs I discovered that there are real differences in the way programs approach weight management. I needed to choose the one that matched my needs at the time if I was going to be successful. Notever having needed to lose weight before, I knew I would need a lot of hand holding and therefore chose to join Jenny Craig. This program was a little more expensive, but it had a lot of structure to it – I had to buy their premade meals, but that took any decision making out of the equation. I needed this level of rigidity to learn about portion sizes and such. I was very successful on this program.

However, a few years after I got married and enjoyed cooking for two a bit too much, my husband and I decided to join Weight Watchers together – not because Jenny Craig wasn’t still a great program, but because our needs had changed – we now needed to be able to eat any foods, but the right amounts. Again we had success.

There are an increasing number of online learning environments available for our students today and they vary in how much support is provided to a student and how a student is able to pace their learning. Just as no one diet plan is right for every person, no single online learning environment is right for every student. When deciding whether to put a student online to learn there are several factors to consider:

  • Acceleration vs Credit Recovery: we have students who want to take courses online in order to get ahead. These students are typically good candidates for an online Virtual School. NC now has NCVPS and so far I have seen our students taking courses for acceleration see success. Virtual schools are great for students taking a course for the first time. There is a real teacher on the other end who can answer a student’s questions and provide additional support as needed. Online Learning Applications that are precoded with the lessons and tests often require the school to provide another teacher to be present to provide that kind of support. This person may not be a subject area expert in the course the student is taking. However, for a student needing credit recovery and having already been exposed to the material once, these online learning applications can be ideal.
  • Pacing: What kind of pacing does the student need? While virtual schools do not have a set time of day when they meet, there are deadlines for assignments and participation. They have a beginning and ending date to the course. This works well if you have identified the students at the beginning of the year or semester, but not for students who need help after the year has already begun. For those students, one of the pre-packaged online applications works well. Students can begin the course at any time and can actually pace themselves. Those who need to go at a faster pace can do so and those who need more time and practice have it. These packages also work well for students who do not need the entire course, but perhaps a unit or two for additional support.
  • Interface: We had been using an online learning application that was well know but very heavily text based. The students and the teachers were really unsatisfied with it. Tonight we are hoping our school board will approve our conversion to a different online learning application that is multimedia based, providing students with audio and video support to the content. We have piloted this product with great success. Contact me and I will give you the name of the product. I was asked by our leaders why we need to purchase this product when our students have access to NCVPS for free. My answer was that one was not enough to meet the needs of all of our students. See all of the above for why 🙂

It’s a small world… August 7, 2007

So I was reading LeaderTalk today and saw a post with a great video called Wikis in Plain English. I start watching it and think – wow, this will be great for my teachers! Then at the very end, the narrator announces he is Lee Lefever with Commoncraft Productions. Turns out, I went to high school with Lee. He is now in Seattle. Too funny.  See the video below.