Article Review #3

Making Video Brain-Friendly

After reading the U.S. Department of Education, Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online Learning: A Meta-analysis and review of online learning studies in Module 3, I wanted to know more about how the brain processes video. I have had this presentation recording open in one of my browser tabs for several weeks before we started Module 3 and was waiting for an opportunity to review the presentation and go through the notes.

This presentation by Has de Graaf, is from The eLearning Guild conference: FocusOn 2016 Conference & Expo – June 10, 2016. The presentation is only available for members of The eLearning Guild so unfortunately, I can’t share the recording with you. It is interesting to note that in the presentation, de Graaf actually mentioned this U.S. DOE study and talked about how results favored blended learning, most likely because students were spending more time in a combination of F2F and online learning environments. He also pointed out that the study said online learning was just as effective as F2F learning.

The objectives for the one-hour session, Making Video Brain-Friendly, seemed to be just what I was looking for. I wanted to know more about how the brain processes video which might lead to a better understanding of how to make videos that would result in a better learning experience for students.

  • How your brain processes images and videos
  • Which parts of your brain are active when watching video
  • How to optimize your videos to communicate more effectively to the brains of your viewers
  • Techniques to make your “talking head” instruction videos more “human” and trustworthy
  • About the different effects in the brain when using a cartoon or animation, compared to a human presenter

de Graaf says that 50% of our brain is dedicated to visual input which can either be images or words. When we see something we’re looking for what and where triggers: what is it and where is it going. If we see gaps, our brain is pretty good about filling in those gaps. The brain also has filters what help us determine what is important and what can be neglected. We also look at the environment, watching for anything dangerous as a survival mechanism to keep ourselves safe. When we’re given a focus or a goal, we pay more attention to the details of that focus and are able to identify things that we may have missed without having that focus.

When we add audio into the mix, if for some reason that audio is out of synch, video prevails in our understanding and we trust it more so than the audio. As an example, he referenced the McGurk Effect which demonstrates that your brain can play tricks on what you perceive to be hearing when what you see appears different. I played this video several times and it wasn’t until I closed my eyes that I was able to detect what was going on. On the other hand, later in the recording, de Graaf did say that audio makes up at least 50% of the quality of your video. I know from experience if the audio is bad, viewership will drop quickly.

When we learn something, our primary learning devices that feed our brain are our eyes and ears. Our ears hear words and sounds and our eyes see words and images. Learning happens when our brain encodes that incoming information, stores it for a time when it is needed for retrieval. Because we are all coming at information with our own prior experiences, especially adult learners, de Graff suggests it might benefit our learners if we actually consider making 2-3 versions of a video which might address those with less or more experience instead of one video for a broader audience. This sounds like a good idea, but the reality of doing this probably won’t happen the first time you create a video for your course. I believe that De Graaf also comes from the training perspective and not the academic angle. Prior knowledge in industry and on-the-job training is perhaps a bit more predictive than at the academic level.  

When you begin to incorporate media into your course and, really, your goal for introducing any kind of new learning is to make the learning stick. De Graaf had a little exercise for the audience where he had a brain shape with several pieces of velcro on it. He gave several participants darts with a small piece of velcro on the end and asked them to try to hit the targets. One out of five darts met their target. Making it stick is also part of the retrieval process. A concept is living somewhere in your brain but you may not be able to retrieve it at the exact moment when you need it. I think we’ve all had the experience when something happens that makes us think about a person from your past but can’t for the life of you remember that person’s name. Until a few hours later the event when it comes to you. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that over time we forget at a very fast rate. I suspect that the actual curve is less dramatic if the content you are learning grabs your attention in the beginning as something relevant to your own prior knowledge or something in which you have passion.  

256px-forgettingcurve

The original uploader was Icez at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So how do you increase the probability that learning can be remembered and retrieved in a timely manner? Repetition and interactive seem to be the best answers. Reinforce learning by repeating and repeating exposure, one day, two days, one week, two weeks, whatever it takes. The more repetition the easier and quicker the retrieval. de Graaf also mentioned an interesting thought about learning styles. He showed an example of two pieces of text similar to the following:

 If you can read this you will remember it. 

 

If you can read this you will remember it.

The second sentence is easier to read, isn’t it. I think we’ve all learned that contrast between text color and the backboard is one of the most important elements for readability. de Graaf said that the research suggests that because the first option is harder to read, we might have to work harder and put more effort into it to understand it and that that action might result in better learning. It’s a challenge. “No pain, no gain, applies to learning too!” This confirms my own thoughts about learning better when content isn’t delivered it my preferred learning style.

In addition to reinforcing learning through repetition, asking questions and adding interactivity into learning can help you remember. Much like Mazur mentioned in his video, you need to give students time to think about new concepts in order to make connects and mentally transfer that knowledge to their own experience. Asking questions, having students take short breaks, having students do something like answering a question, clicking, trying an activity, choosing a pathway or direction for more information, even just pausing for a moment to think about what you just experienced, can help to reinforce new ideas.

When you think about it, watching video is a very passive activity. Most often, we are watching video for entertainment. de Graaf suggestions that all videos should contain a warning similar to those found on cigarette packages or alcohol labels.

 

video-warning

 

You may have experienced getting so engrossed in a video that you don’t realize how much time has gone by. One way to minimize the zombie effect would be to incorporate those pause mechanism to increase the interactivity between what you are watching and hearing and what you are thinking.

The one-hour presentation was a good starting point and de Graaf provided a few interesting resources to research further. My big takeaway is that there are strategies for making good video choices in education as long as you make them purposeful and engaging.

 

Additional Hints (in no particular order)

Color – in most cases and unless you’re pointing out something in particular, your brain doesn’t need color to learn or understand.

Information overload – one topic, one video. Watching five 2-minute videos that cover one topic each is more brain-friendly than one 10-minute video that covers all five topics at the same time.

Personalization – you should use a conversational style as if you were talking directly to your audience. (You, I, we) deGraaf suggests dressing up the camera in some clothes, perhaps with a tie to keep things formal (what a joker) so that when you are addressing your audience you feel more like you’re addressing real people. I know some people actually try to have a live audience when they make their videos so they have someone to make eye contact with and to see to get a visual cue that the content is making sense. The thing to remember is that if your viewers ask questions or make comments, you need to make sure to repeat the question or comment so it is picked up in the audio. If you are making 3-5 minute videos (which is preferred), you probably don’t need to have that kind of audience participation.

Background – remove extraneous distractions both static and those in motion. If you’re sitting at your desk, clean up the background. Make sure the image that is on the wall behind you doesn’t look like you’re wearing a fruit bowl on your head. If you’re taking your video in the park and there are a couple of dogs playing behind you — no one will be paying attention to what you’re talking about or doing, we’ll be watching the dogs!

Attention Graber – just like in marketing and promotional writing, you have just a few seconds to grab your viewer’s attention. Skip the “Welcome to Class 101, I’m your instructor, blah blah blah” and start with a question, a statistic or a story.


Note: I’m going to DevLearning/Adobe Summit for Education in November and I see that Mr. de Graaf is giving a pre-conference session. I won’t be able to make that session but maybe I’ll see him at some of the conference sessions.

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Reflection learning theory in the 21st Century-Module 4

Consider the intersect between the theories we explored in the previous unit and the methods explored in this unit. Can you map a particular learning theory to Khan Academy or to Eric Mazur’s peer instruction methods? What theoretical principles support the use of game mechanics in learning? Consider the list you created of ways in which the world has changed, then reflect on the goals of Partnership for 21st Century Skills. In your writing this week, discuss the ways in which learning must change in the 21st Century and the ways in which it must continue to build upon solid theory and models. Elaborate on ways in which Khan Academy or Peer Instruction are either accomplishing those goals or falling short.


Can you map a particular learning theory to Khan Academy or to Eric Mazur’s peer instruction methods?

Mazur’s peer instruction is a pretty clear example of both cognitive and constructivist learning theory. By inserting what I call thought questions, or what Mazur’s calls “ConcepTests (Links to an external site.),” into a lecture, he is giving students the opportunity to synthesize and reflect on that concept before moving on. Concepts such as applying what you’ve read about and what you’ve heard in a group context, reflecting, listening and articulating your understanding out loud incorporates meaning in a situated and contextual manner.

In a classroom, this combination of activities seems like a solid teaching method, however it really puts the pressure on the student and whom they are talking to. If you don’t have a partner who is as prepared as you are or one who has not been paying attention, your discussion may fall flat. You remember that for the next class meeting, you’ll want to make sure you don’t sit by that person and find yourself a more engaging group. I still think that you can learn if that situation does occur, I’m a strong believer in any kind of activity where you have to make a decision and state your case, whether in writing or in conversation. For me, it is one of the only ways that I can learn, otherwise, I revert back to being that passive, lazy learner.

The concept of flipping the classroom is brilliant, in my opinion. Too often students aren’t prepared for class by reading/viewing material but rather doing the readings afterwards. It seems so obvious now, doesn’t it? Doing the readings ahead of time allows you to prepare questions you might have, allows you to start putting things together earlier and prepares you for discussion, all after having time for the new information to settle in, which is so different from receiving information immediately at the moment. As Mazur says in his video, a clear cognitive overload.

What theoretical principles support the use of game mechanics in learning?

Certainly on an individual level, many of the game mechanics in learning fall into the Behaviorist Theory. Things like achievements, timed challenges, penalties for behaviors or actions. When you begin looking at group games or games you play with other people, Cognitivist and Constructivist theories seem more blurred to me as both seem to play into leveling up and multi-faceted challenges. Role playing seems to be more on the Constructivist or Experiential arena. This is an interesting question and might have to be a topic for one of my article reviews!

Consider the list you created of ways in which the world has changed, then reflect on the goals of Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

As I look over the P21 framework, I begin to really see why some K-12 teachers often complain about having to fit too much into their classroom day. When you look through the student outcomes (Links to an external site.) how can you accomplish all of the requirements in a clear way that isn’t artificial or superficial. My first thoughts are that you can certainly use one outcome to support another outcome, especially when you’re looking at using some of the category skills for some of the subjects, I think it would be important though, to be sure to point that out so it is obvious to students.

I think one of the biggest differences between the P21 framework and what I might have experienced in high school is the interdisciplinary themes within the curriculum. It seems like all of my subjects were separate and it wasn’t clear when things connected together. Probably the only exceptions to this was when the teacher was an an expert in multiple disciplines. For example, my history teacher was also the economics teacher so you often got a history perspective on economic trends and vice versa. My track coach was also my math teacher so when it came time to think about running hurdles or strategies for increasing distance in the triple jump, we talked about the math.

You’d also think that technology skills would be a big difference from the P21 framework compared to curriculum in 1979 when I graduated from high school. But except for the specific technology, I felt I was exposed to what was current, it was just different from what is available today. We watched media and were asked to watch media at home. We were exposed to office machinery or shop machinery which was available in the business and instrustrial world. We had driver’s ed simulators that mapped your speed, braking, how close you cut corners, your signalling patterns while you “drove” along with a movie. I also think we were encouraged to trying out and experience learning and innovation skills using the tools we had available.

The big difference is that technology, creativity and innovation were all at the individual school level, or even at the classroom level. We didn’t have that much opportunity to see what our peers were doing at the rival high school, let alone what was happening outside the city, state or nation. With this interaction with a larger population comes a different kind of instruction.

In your writing this week, discuss the ways in which learning must change in the 21st Century and the ways in which it must continue to build upon solid theory and models.

As a nation we’re moving away from an industrial workforce, what Seely Brown calls “supply-push” towards a workforce that needs to solve problems, what Seely Brown calls “demand-push”, think innovatively and have a more holistic view of the world around them (pg 25). The world is changing fast, increasingly faster than in the past. Students still need to be exposed to a variety of understandings delivered by a variety of learning models. The socratic method still works and is effective. Pairing that method with the ability to be creative and skills to express yourself through technology will help bring students to meet 21st century needs. Because of the global nature of the internet and because the internet is all about a communicative give and take, the resources that once were only available to some may be available to many. The real challenge is being able to evaluate those available resources.

John Seely Brown said, “When technical jobs change, we can no longer expect to send a person back to school to be re-trained or to learn a new profession. By the time that happens, the domain of inquiry is likely to have morphed yet again“ but I don’t think this statement goes far enough, I think this pertains to many kinds of jobs. You have to have some confidence that clicking and exploring around a computer or mobile device screen will give you results (pg 25).

Elaborate on ways in which Khan Academy or Peer Instruction are either accomplishing those goals or falling short.
I see strictly using Peer Instruction as described by Mazur, falling short of fully preparing students on its own. But if you couple that in class interaction with assessments that allow students to create presentation material based on what they take away from the in class interaction, then combined you have a stronger and deeper opportunity for more holistic learning.

Dear Diary-Module 4

Brainstorm a list of ways in which the world has changed since you graduated from High School. What knowledge/skill/experience do graduates need today that didn’t exist then? You may immediately think of technology: cloud computing, e-mail, texting, or smart phone apps. List those items, but also think beyond the tools. How is customer service different today than it was then? In what ways have communication (both personal and business communication) changed? How have news and reporting changed? What are your trusted sources for information? How have the methods for presenting information changed? Have the areas of specialization or generalization in your field changed?


Dear Diary,

Got up early to rewrite my homework for today. I spilled my Tab on my notebook and the ink ran. At least it wasn’t a chocolate shake – that happened to Tom and before he could clean it up and save his homework, his dog licked it up and actually ate it.  I wanted to turn my stereo on to listen to music but that would have woken up the entire house. Maybe I’ll ask for some headphones for Christmas, they might be pretty expensive though.

Last night was so much fun. I picked up Katherine in my Mom’s car. We were going to meet up with Sandee at Mary’s house, but at the last minute Mary called the house and said she was going out with Kathy and we should meet them at the movies. Mary called Sandee and said she left a message on the  answering machine. (Lucky – she has an answering machine.) Since it seemed that Sandee had already left her house, Mary was going to leave her a note on the door but Mary’s little sister, Lucy is such a brat that she probably took the note down and told Sandee that she didn’t know where we were and had probably just wanted to ditch her. Mary said her older sister, Alice, was so stoned she was pretty much worthless. Living in the basement with the side door gives her a lot of freedom –  No wonder I saw something written about her on the bathroom wall by the art room. People can be so mean. I would die if something like that happened to me. I hope Sandee isn’t too mad at us.

When Mary called, my Dad answered the phone. My Dad never answers the phone. I don’t even know why he answered the phone. He was editing a movie from Thanksgiving. There were bits of film all over the floor from where he was actually cutting the film and splicing it together, using some kind of special tape. He was getting it all over and my Mom was mad. I think Dad was trying to be helpful. Mary said she thought she had the wrong number so she hung up and dialed again. By that time, Dad was kind of mad from having to get up and down from the kitchen table so many times.

Any way, Dad gave me money and I stopped for gas –$0.80 a gallon – I guess that is due to the US oil embargo. No long wait in line though like you see happening in places in the lower 48 on the TV news. I wish we had cable TV like all the rest of my friends. You can only get it in certain areas of town. There is an entire channel based on unique topics like music videos (MTV — launched in 1981). Mary says that If you know you’re going to miss a show, you can record it on your home VCR, if you had one. Cable TV also brings in additional news and public affair options, something called CNN that is news pretty much all the time. We only get one local newscast – KTVF (CBS) with Ted Lehne.

Back to last night. We ended up at the movies with a bunch of others. Before it started, Mark had a camera and took a whole roll of pictures. He says he can develop his own film so instead of waiting 3-4 days for the film to be developed we might see them tomorrow, or today. And since he has the negative, he can make as many copies as he wants. I hope all the pictures turn out. We could make a scrapebook and pass it around so all of our friends can see it! This actually never turns out too well, though. Someone always forgets about it and doesn’t pass it on or leaves it in their car and it gets all banged up. Waa waa waa. Back to the movie–too bad we didn’t think about bringing our own popcorn. We could have popped some in a pot on the stove or used the electric popcorn popper.

My Mom was complaining because she had to take the car to the shop and had to walk back to the house. Wouldn’t it be great if there was like a courtesy shuttle car to take you to work or back home. Seems like that would be a great service. I’m sure she’ll be mad again when she receives the thank you card in the mail from the business. Speaking of mail, we get a lot of mail these days advertising for things we would never use or even be interested in. If only these marketing companies knew you better, they could be more efficient by only advertising things you might like or use.

When I got in the car, I wished I brought some cassettes so we didn’t have to listen to the radio. My mom always has the radio tuned to KFAR – I think she secretly has a crush on Bill Whaley, ick, but Katherine brought a couple of 8-tracks and some cassette tapes because she couldn’t remember what the car had. What a dope.

We stopped to get some food before the show. Nowadays, you never know who might be waiting on you. Depending on what kind of business you go to, customer service is either really good because you grew up with the person who owns it, or really bad, because the staff is made up of disgruntled Okies or Texans who can’t get a job on the slope and end up in Fairbanks Alaska living with a bunch of other people in a small apartment who all dream of mega bucks and instead end up at Woolworth making Green River sodas. (OK, exaggeration — it was worse when I was in 7-8th grade. When you didn’t dare go downtown).

Today I have typing with Mrs. Thomas. It is fun to type on the electric typewriters. My Dad has an very old manual typewriter and half of the keys stick. It would be great if they would have some open time in the typing room so you could use the typewriters for homework — even better if they had them in the library since that is where you need to do your research. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just have that entire reference section at your house. If I weren’t going to college next year, and I knew I wasn’t going to be a secretary, there wouldn’t be any reason to know how to type.

I’ll also help Mr. Boko with making some posters for the band concert. I think he said something about running off some dittos on the mimeograph, for some kind of form he wants to use too. The solution you use to make the copies is nasty – you can get high on it if you don’t crack open the window. Since this is our Christmas concert we’ve got some green poster board and will probably use red ink on the letterpress. Maybe we can try two-colors this time. For the last concert we used a graphic that was hand drawn but this time we’re going to be cutting out images from old christmas cards and using rubber cement to put them together.

I’m dreading the presentation I have to give on Thursday. I’ve got my index cards all written out but I hate talking in front of the class. I just wish I could hide behind a bunch of pictures and talk from behind them.

I better get back to that homework. I hate cursive writing…

Article Review #2

In Ally’s (2008) article, Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning,” the author talked about Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory and how it evaluates how individuals perceive and process learning. This inventory is different from a personality test or a test of social interaction, (being an introvert/extrovert), and different from the test to determine if you prefer visual, auditory, or kinesthetic delivery of new content. I’m not convinced that, at a higher education level or professional training level, these kinds of learning styles should have a big influence on how you design a course, but the idea behind Kolb’s model stuck with me as something that needed further investigation.

I thought the authors of “The Relationship of Kolb Learning Styles, Online Learning Behaviors and Learning Outcomes,” (Lu, Jia, Gong, & Clark, 2007) put together a combination of good questions, a nice collection of research review and a study that may have resulted in some interesting findings. It also gave a good background to explain more about the Learning Styles Inventory and why you might want to consider incorporating the methods into your own course design. The conclusion, as listed in the abstract, seemed curious. “First, instructors using online courses should seriously consider the diversity of learning styles when designing and developing online learning modules for different students. Second, they should provide a large number of electronic documents for students and give enough time to let them absorb knowledge by online reading. These could be effective methods to improve the quality of online courses“ and I was interested in finding out exactly how the study provided these suggestions (p. 187).

Kolb’s theory is based on a four-stage learning cycle that in an ideal world, and to obtain the most depth of understanding, students would cycle through all four stages throughout the learning process. The interesting thing about this theory is that students may enter into the cycle at different stages and at different times, but will (or should) eventually move around the cycle. Kolb also added a perception continuum (how you think and feel) and a processing continuum (if you watch or do) that goes on an axiom between the styles.

kolb_learning_styles

kolb-combined-learning-styles

 

As with any kind of cyclical model, the process of moving from one stage to the next stage have names. Divergers (feel and watch), Assimilators (think and watch), Convergers (think and do) and Accommodators (feel and do), which these categories are actually a combination of your two preferred learning styles. (McLeod, 2010, updated 2013)

The study set up

The study looked at a subset of 104 students who all took the Kolb Learning Styles Inventory to identify preferences for learning style based on Kolb’s four categories of Converging, Diverging, Assimilating, and Accommodating. Each of the four groups of students was equal in the number of males and females, and according to the researchers had similar knowledge in computers, “the application of Internet, the use of communicating software, drawing software and word processing software. They also acquired basic knowledge of Flash when they were freshmen” (p. 190). The researchers then set up a task for the subjects to complete within a specific time period broken up into three different time segments. The first 20 minutes the subjects worked independently with a detailed digital design guide. After a 10 minute break, the subjects continued working on the task and were given additional resources. Along with some assistance from “experts” through chat software, the subjects could also observe their cohorts’ design process through a shared computer network. Subjects were observed and time spent on individual tasks was documented. Total times for discussion (chat), observation (activities of others), reading (digital documents) and design (actual programming) were documented and use for the study’s evaluation purposes.

The questions

The three study questions and conclusions that were the basis for this research were:

(1) What was the relationship between learning styles and the enduring time of online learning behaviors?

The different learning styles of the subjects didn’t seem to have any effect on the time the subjects spent on observation or designing. “In fact, all subjects spent more than 45 minutes on designing. Only five subjects spent one or two minutes on observing the onscreen activities of others and the rest spent no time on the observation“ (p. 190).

Based on the description of what students were able to observe, this limited time doesn’t really surprise me. I think if different media were used for observation, such as an expert performing a task, any student would be more apt to “watch” the expert do programming as opposed to another student doing the programming. Being limited to your cohort of students might not provide the “expert” incentive as would a video from say, Lynda.com.

The researchers did find a significant difference between the learning styles in the amount of time spent in discussion. Divergers (feel and do) and Accommodators (feel and watch) spent almost twice the amount of time in a discussion (chat with the expert) then did Convergers (think and do) and Assimilators (think and watch). This actually seems logical to me as those who may learn better through feeling might be more apt to participate in a discussion.

Those who spent the most time reading were the Convergers (think and do) and Assimilators (think and watch) which again makes sense as they are prone to planning, concluding and reflecting. The time differences were not quite as significant as that for discussion, but it showed a clear difference along the same lines as reading.

(2) What was the relationship between learning styles and learning outcomes?

It was assumed that all student entering the study were at the same level of knowledge and understanding. What the study showed was that none of the students were able to complete the task. Only seven of the subjects were able to complete one tenth of the task so the researchers determined that learning style had no effect on the final learning outcomes (p. 192).

What seems interesting to me is that the study actually included all four of the learning preferences which to me assumes that you’d expect students to follow the cycle through all four styles. What might have been more telling would have been to allow select categories of subjects access only specific types of learning strategies. Kolb’s premise was that the best learning comes when students go through the entire cycle.

(3) What was the relationship between learning outcomes and the enduring time of different online learning behaviors? (p. 189).

At this point in the study, the statistics got in the way and I had to rely on the narrative. “Such results suggested that spending too much time designing animations in an online learning environment would put a damper on the learning outcome. On the other hand, reading and discussing would be conducive to learning outcome” (p. 192). I think this means that on the basis of time, students might have been more successful had they spent more time reading and discussing rather than spending time in the design phase. It seems like the tendency for a programmer-type’s learning style would be to dig in and “do” rather than read and discuss. It seems logical that one who is interested in programming needs to apply her understanding, no matter how small, to actually doing. But perhaps this study shows that some allocated time needs to be spent in reading and talking through before punching the keys.

The conclusion of the researcher said, “Therefore, students who spent more time on online reading could get better learning outcomes than students who spent more time in online discussions. It explained the reason why the mean of learning outcomes of Convergers and Assimilators was higher than those of Divergers and Accommodators in this experiment“ (p. 194). I think the key might be in how students engaged in discussion. Chatting with an expert seems to be more like asking questions and getting a response. You do have to frame your question in a way that shows some understanding, but it also doesn’t require you to state your understanding in a more holistic way.

In the end, the authors state, “instructors or moderators of online courses should provide a variety of learning modules for students and help them learn how to switch between learning styles in order to take advantage of these choices” which is a pretty safe conclusion (p. 195).

Resources

Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. T. Anderson (ed.,) (2nd ed.) Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Lu, H., Jia, L., Gong, S.H., & Clark, B. (2007). The Relationship of Kolb Learning Styles, Online Learning Behaviors and Learning Outcomes. Educational Technology & Society, 10 (4), 187-196.

McLeod, S. (2010, updated, 2013). Kolb-Learning Styles. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html

Reflection on Online Learning Meta-Analysis

Consider these questions as you formulate a post for this week. (These questions are intended to stimulate your thinking as you reflect on the US Department of Education Meta-analysis and summarize what was most important/useful to you. It’s not necessary—or even desirable—to answer each question directly in your post.)

  • How effectively was the meta-analysis conducted? Was it thorough? Objective? Was the study large enough to be significant? What can you learn from the methods employed here?
  • In what ways were your instincts confirmed (i.e., “Well, of course that’s an important factor; I knew that!”)?
  • What surprised you about the findings?
  • What can you take away from this report as a list of best practices?
  • Can you tie best practices gleaned here back to the underlying theories we discussed last week?

 

My big take-away from reading this report is that I’m optimistic about the future of education. Isn’t it great that the researchers had such a difficult time in finding studies that had anything similar about them! That means that educators are trying different things, they aren’t all just stuck on one kind of teaching, they are experimenting with various types of technology, interactions, passive and active learning, short duration, typical semester duration, synchronous, asynchronous, technology, blended, hybrid, heinz 57…. All the while, many of the studies conflicted with each other all because there are so many variables that a cut and dried answer seems impossible.

The researchers did a fantastic job of trying to identify all of the variables. So many variables. I got quite lost in the statistical and quantitative explanation that seemed to go on and on, but also seemed quite necessary in order to come up with some kind of result. I also appreciated all of the warnings that were included – like the research pool for K-12 studies was extremely limited (p. ix). There’s a big difference in K-12 learners and adult learners in their motivation, attention span, the level of interactivity, initiative, not to mention very different life circumstances. Another element that seemed important is that part of the pool that the researchers looked at were classes that were delivered in different durations, “19 involved instructional time frames of less than a month,” which seems like enough of a difference from a regular semester of 12-15 weeks which might have a pretty significant effect on learning behaviors if compared to each other (pg. xiii). Towards the end of the report, there comes another warning that most of the studies were done by the researcher who was also the teacher in their own courses, which can certainly have room for bias, misguidance or misdirection (pg 49).

This statement, “that the addition of synchronous communication with peers is not a significant moderator of online learning effectiveness” surprised me (pg 28). In my experience, adding some kind of synchronous computer-aided communication seems like it offers the opportunity to ask questions that get immediate results, a chance to create and built upon classroom community, and to actually feel like there really is a real teacher and other real students sharing the experience with you. I do believe that it might be a student preference or might make a student like a course better. However, I am not positive that this has any effect on the actual student learning outcomes, unless it provides students the motivation to keep up with the rest of the class and actually finish.So this leads me to wonder if retention of students was considered as a variable. I’ve often heard that the number of students who complete classes is 20-25% lower for asynchronous online courses in comparison to fully F2F courses. That would seem to be a significant variable to influence success.

I was also surprised by the statement that media didn’t seem to play a significant difference. “In summary, many researchers have hypothesized that the addition of images, graphics, audio, video or some combination would enhance student learning and positively affect achievement. However, the majority of studies to date have found that these media features do not affect learning outcomes significantly” (pg 40-41). There are so many disciplines that I think truly benefit from the additional multimedia. The sciences, math, many social science disciplines where you might be evaluating or simulating behavior, languages, art, and computer technology just to name a few. Screencasting how to perform an academic search — way more effective than reading step-by-step text, right? A different set of studies did support that interactive media seemed to be more beneficial than just straight media, media that the student didn’t have any choice in the control  (pg 48). I’m wondering if this observation is related to the timing of the survey and if including media using current technology doesn’t play a greater role than it did in 2008.

I think this will make a terrific reference for finding articles to support my work as an Instructional Designer. The narrative section will be a really good resource in a nice concise manner

Online Education Theroy

This past summer I enrolled in Chris Lott’s ED 654 Digital Citizenship course of which several of my current classmates have also taken and will be familiar with the methods that Lott incorporated in this online course. This course used a mixed of pedagogy strategies, with the higher tendency for two of the four theories outlined in Ally’s chapter, “Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning” from the  assigned readings. The course was very engaging for me from the very first time I logged into the course site. As I move towards being a novice learner to becoming a more experienced learner, the methods used in this class matched my interest, my energy and my motivation, and challenged my critical thinking and analytical ability. Had I not felt prepared and confident or hesitant about making mistakes, I could see where this experience might have been overwhelming and daunting.

Using Ally’s (2008) summary of three educational theories, “Behaviorists’ strategies can be used to teach the what (facts); cognitive strategies can be used to teach the how (processes and principles); and constructivist strategies can be used to teach the why (higher-level thinking that promotes personal meaning, and situated and contextual learning.)” along with a definition of Connectivism from Learning Theories (Links to an external site.), “Connectivism is a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the World Wide Web and among themselves,” Lott created an environment of learning activities that took advantage of the best of these four theories.

Behaviorist

Explicit outcomes Sequenced learning materials Feedback
The expectations for student participation in the course were very clear. You were expected to make learning decisions for yourself within given parameters along with encouragement for thinking outside the box (however you personally define that) as long as you were doing so in the public where the cohort could see and perhaps share in your experience. Each main part of the course had a collection of assignments that you could choose from to demonstrate your understanding of the main themes in the course. The first collection was pretty specific and subsequent collections allowed for more creativity Each of the themes was introduced and basic information about that theme was given to use as a starting point and so that the cohort all had the same base knowledge. Supporting feedback from the instructor was given on a regular basis along with occasional feedback from the cohort.

Cognitivist

Pre-Instructional questions Chunked materials Reflection and relationships
Each of the main parts began with some kind of thought provoking statement, media piece or tweet. There were five main parts to the course based around 4 main themes in the course. Within each part, there were collections of assignments. Collection options included opportunities for reflection on the theme as well as metacognition on the individual’s learning while working through the material.

Students were asked to create several mindmaps throughout the course to expose relationships between concepts.

Constructivist

Application to practical situations Collaboration and cooperative learning Meaningful activities to apply and personalize information
Assignments within Collections were open enough that students could individually choose their audience, format, complexity and often a targeted research area to fit the student’s real-life situation. Collaboration within the cohort was at times required when it came to giving feedback and encouraged when it came to working on an assignment together. The main focus was that you were doing and sharing in the open. A requirement of the course was to create your own domain and subscribe to a hosting service. We each created our own learning space and had a lot of leeway when choosing how to demonstrate our understanding.

Students were encouraged to find their own resources based on their interest or on the grade level that the student was currently teaching.

 

Connectivism

I’m using the definition from the contributors at Learning Theories (Links to an external site.), because it resonates the most with me as a more useful definition then as it was first introduced and as the Connectivism theory has evolved.

Exploration/Research Identification of important vs. unimportant information Connecting with cohort and a wider world wide audience
Basic information was given as a starting place, but we were encouraged to find our own experts in each of the themes that was of personal interest or related most to our disciplines. We were encouraged to ask for approval for variations on topics as long as we could justify and support our own decisions. Because we were given responsibility for finding our own research to supplement the given materials, we needed to be able to determine the validity of the research and experts we chose in order to validate our own submissions. This tenet is also one of the very important elements of being a good digital citizen so having these skills  were doubly important. Because we were publishing several posts a week and we were sharing them publicly on Twitter, on  several occasions, the cohort had reciprocal conversations with those outside the sphere of the course. There’s nothing better than to have the author you are writing about chime in on your blog to give clarity to a question you raise or to have that author “favorite” your tweet about them or their work.

Resources

Ally, M., (2008). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. 15-44.

Connectivism (Siemens, Downes). Learning Theories. Retrieved 9/9/2016  from https://www.learning-theories.com/connectivism-siemens-downes.html (Links to an external site.).

Article Review #1

Article: Paying attention to adult learners online: The pedagogy and politics of community.

I can be easily mislead by a title. “Paying attention to adult learners online: The pedagogy and politics of community” by Kristine Blair and Cheryl Hoy (2006) appealed to me in that I mostly work with adult learners and pedagogy and community sounded like two topics that would complement the required reading for this module. The article questions, as outlined by the authors, “if the virtual learning environment presents different challenges and prospects for the adult learner versus the traditional student learner, along with an extension and complication of the more social metaphors of “virtual community.”” The abstract alluded that based on their observations, a change in the relationship between the student and the instructor is required and that there needs to be more recognition for teaching adult learner online classes in faculty workloads.

This article brings up several good points to consider:

Administrators who assign workloads for faculty who teach online should be more aware of the time involved in developing and in the teaching on an online course. Besides being financially compensated, acknowledgment of the value of online teaching needs to be considered through “merit, tenure, and proportion” opportunities (p. 45). Many administrators do not have the personal experience to understand that teaching in an online environment often requires a more 1:1 instructor:student role in maintaining motivation and reading out to “virtually absent students” (p. 36).

Supervising administrators or Senior faculty who are mentoring and evaluating junior teachers or graduate students may be not be seeing where the actual teaching is taking place. It became apparent to the supervisor who was observing the graduate student in the specific course referred to in this article, that a lot of the interaction between the student and the teacher was taking place in private emails, rather than in the more open discussion board or through the design of the course (p. 33).

Adult learners in online courses have different needs than traditional students. Adult learners often have full-time jobs, need consideration for absences due to family obligations and job requirements (p. 36). It was also expressed that success could be accomplished by both those students who participated in the group community or by those who chose to work alone, work ahead and communicate only with the instructor (p. 34 and p. 42).

This seems more like an opinion or observational piece rather than a research article and it almost seems like there may have been a research piece (or one in the works) but the data analysis didn’t take place in the article as written. One thing that stands out to me is the type of course that was used in the observation. The particular class that was reviewed for this article was actually a unique class that pertained specifically to adult learners who were preparing information in order to receive credit for prior learning. Designated as a composition course of which most student would have to complete, the objective for the course was to prepare documents necessary to submit to the academic program to ask for credit for previous work and life experience. Documents such as a resume, biography and life experiences, professional goals statement, progress report, course credit proposal and documentation to support asking for the credit were all assignments required in the course (p. 34-35). Based on this highly personalized content, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that an adult learner would seek personal and individualized feedback from the instructor to make sure the work was being finalized in such a way as to be successful in obtaining the credit the student wished to receive. Later in the article the author’s stated that it looked like the course was heading towards being offered as an independent study style course rather than a typical 16-week format (p. 46).

The most prominent and recurring point of this article is the need for the administration to have a greater appreciation and understanding for those teaching online classes. I have to admit that I as I continued to read through the article, I became more confused and unclear as to where it was leading. Many of the statements made seem contradictory, for example when talking about classroom community, “increased demand of motivated students to receive assistance from the instructor as opposed to peers…” seems to be an issue of ineffective classroom management and a flaw in the design of the course to advise students of expectations for peer review rather than in the course design itself or as a consideration for adult learners (p. 36). The conclusion that was reached in the abstract didn’t really come clear to me through the evidence presented in the article.

Resource

Blair, K., & Hoy, C. (2006). Paying attention to adult learners online: The pedagogy and politics of community. Computers & Composition, 23(1), 32-48.

How I learn, how I teach

You have now read about, reflected on, and discussed your Personal Learning Environment. You have also read about and reflected on differences between expert and novice learners. For our final discussion this week, I’d like you to describe how you learn, how you teach, and I’d like you to articulate why you teach in the way you do? Are there connections? What are they? Lastly, I’d like to challenge you to limit your answers to no more than 3 paragraphs. This doesn’t have to be formal. What I’m looking for here is introspection and reflection.


I think I have a very accommodating personality. I don’t have one passion that drives who I am or what I do. I have a variety of interests and I’m always up for something new, although I may not be the one to instigate the idea. I think this characteristic follows me into my learning. I have a general understanding of a lot of things. I don’t feel I have an expertise, I have a superficial understanding of some things I should probably be working harder to understand and I feel I have a limited vocabulary. Sometimes, I can be a very lazy learner. If I’m not challenged, depending on what else is going on in my life, I will try to skirt by with the minimum effort. If I’m challenged, as long as I’m given some guidelines so that I don’t get too distracted, I will put in 110%. I’m also an active learner. Learning by doing helps me to create patterns and develop a purpose that helps me remember. Thinking back on some of my first classes in college where the model of assessment was 1) showing up for class, 2) a mid-term and a final multiple choice exam, I received very poor grades on some fundamental courses that could (and should) have had a greater impact on the outcome of my baccalaureate experience. I was never required or encouraged to speak out in class and I was never given the opportunity (or forced) to express my understanding of individual themes or topics that were presented. It was straight memorization, and I was never good at that. However, going back to that lazy learner idea, I could also have taken charge of my own understanding and pushed myself to make sense of things on my own. If only I knew then what I know (or think I know) now.

I don’t think I could ever teach face-to-face in the classroom because I do not think fast on my feet. I feel awkward speaking in front of people and I feel I need a lot of preparation when presenting to a group. I feel I’m getting better at it, but I am much more comfortable teaching in an online environment. I try to teach with an active teaching style by providing some parameters to guide learning, but to provide activities and assessments that allow students to be creative and determine how much to push themselves. I try to balance giving all the answers with giving students the opportunity to explore on their own to find the answers. Since it is a design class, there is a lot of room for personal preference in presenting projects, so sometimes that can be difficult to assess and to grade. I’ve had to create rubrics for myself but I’ve chosen not to share them with students because I don’t want students to create something based on parameters. I usually list out the specific details I’m looking for, like dimension, specific tools students should use (like type on a path or creating a drawing with the pen tool) or the types of color mode (spot vs. process), but I also want to give students freedom to show their creative side. The book I’ve chosen for the course takes students through a series of steps to produce a final product. There are also videos that go along with the text for demonstrations. I supplement that text with my insights other examples about how a feature of the software has been used in different final products.

I think there is a direct connection between the way I teach and the way that I learn. It is a combination of doing and being forced to articulate the choices that I’ve made to show greater understanding. As a skills-based course, it is easy to push buttons and create elements with a variety of effects, but that doesn’t mean that as a designer you use everything you’re capable of doing in one product. You need to know how to edit yourself and that each element must have a purpose. Yes, you probably have access to 100s of typefaces installed in your font library, but you don’t use all of them at the same time. Another aspect of learning and understanding about design is to be able to give someone else constructive feedback in making their work better. Evaluating and giving feedback can be difficult to do at first but in the end, it can help your own work as you look more critically at it. I also have scaffolded the learning so that one unit leads into the other. Student assessments are not limited to one or two large projects, but rather the improvement students made over time.  I think if I were taking a skills-based class like my own, I would enjoy the challenge of learning the software along with the reasons for making the choices that I make.

Novice and Expert Learners

Benander (Links to an external site.) (2009) contends that “experts negotiate the learning space differently from novices.” Reflect on your own experiences with that. Compose a brief (no more than three paragraphs) post to describe the differences you’ve observed between novices and experts in your field. Share your essay with the class by making a new post in this discussion.


I teach a combination design and technology-based course. Most of my student come into the class with one of the other, but not very often to they have experience in both and some students have little experience in either one.

Those who have the aptitude for technology or have more experience with software usually perform better in the beginning of the course because the objectives are mostly related to selecting menu items and pushing buttons. I’ve taken the design decisions off their plate. Each week new features of the software are introduced as well as additional design practices pertaining to the specific feature. Those who have the technology skills seem to be better able implementing their design understanding sooner than those who struggle with the software. Some of this frustration comes out in their reflections and when they are discussion the ideas that they had and then what they were able to implement. I can usually tell when students have become comfortable with the software as soon as their projects begin to take on better design practices. The feedback advice that Benander gives in her article, “…to use feedback methods that allow for detailed suggestions to help novice students acquire the tools they need to make corrections for themselves.” is advice that I try to implement in my own feedback to students, although I do let them struggle with coming up with a solution for a short time so that the do keep trying and not give up too easily. (p. 38)

In about week eleven of the semester I have a re-do week where students may choose to re-do any of their assignments for a higher grade. I continually get comments from students who say they can’t believe the silly errors they made in the beginning and the realization that they have really learned a lot in a relatively short time. I can tell when a student is making that shift from novice to expert through the feedback that they are asked to give on their cohort’s projects by using their new vocabulary and citing design principles that we’ve learned in the class.

PLN Revisited

IMG_4756

I’d like you to discuss your revelations from the previous exercise. How did it go? What do you think of the concept of a PLE? Did you discover unforeseen strengths in your PLE? Are there obvious gaps? Are you stuck in predictable ruts (do you find yourself relying solely on previous solutions—rather than exploring new and creative ones)? Did you make new resolutions? Will you change your strategies?

Try to share an artifact from your brainstorming process. Share your list, a mind map, a sketch. Share an example from whatever your process looks like.

More importantly, share your insights, thoughts and revelations. Return often to comment and provide feedback on the work of your peers.

For this exercise I first referred back to the original PLN statement I made back in September 2012 when I was taking ED F431. I actually thought it was a pretty good statement and that surprised me. Except for a few tools that have come and gone, my PLN is pretty much the same as it was four years ago. And that thought scared me. Have I become complacent in my learning and professional development? Have I become more efficient? Did I found something that worked for me back then and haven’t needed or found anything better? So I returned to the drawing board and came up with this:

OLSON PLN

 

Many of my activities merge between the areas Collecting, Sharing and Connecting. I’ve become more comfortable about reflecting through discussions or conversations with others. I think I’ve adjusted to the idea that I can make a statement in some communities without fear that you can’t change your mind or refine your thoughts. So for me, that’s progress.

This last summer I was more active within a community on twitter. It was fun and I appreciated that it was an active community. There was one classmate who seemed to use the class hashtag for everything she created a tweet for, even if it was unrelated to the class. That annoyed me. At first I tried to play along but after finding that I was spending too much time on things that weren’t pertinent at the moment, I had to be ok with skimming and moving one. It was summer, I didn’t want to spend a moment extra inside tied to the internet. I wanted to be outside. By the end of the summer,  I found that I was following too many people on twitter who were posting things that I wasn’t interested in. So I dropped them. Most of those I follow on twitter aren’t really active. Some that are very active I appreciate and continue to follow. Others who are active who are just sharing links to resources without any kind of annotation will most likely be dropped.

I should be sharing more, but only if it really serves a purpose. All of those tabs I have open on my Browser, I could add to Diigo or tweet out and be done with them, but I really feel that it is important to reflect and provide an additional response to why I’m sharing.

I’d appreciate any thoughts on deficiencies that I might be missing from this diagram. Sometimes one can be too close to see for themselves.