Does Open equal authentic?

So, how do I feel about Open Education?  Quite frankly, I love it!  

There’s always some flexibility in what I learn, how I learn it, and who I learn it with…but wait, let me clarify a little.

I am an adult learner, meaning I chose to be here and I want to learn.  The sometimes ‘unstructure’ of Open Education, to me, is exciting, challenging, and a way for me to discover what I am passionate about (in a somewhat directed way).  In addition to that, I get to learn from others’ perspectives while I am considering my own (which I would argue, helps me to better understand what I am learning about in ways that I might not otherwise).  Additionally, it is the ‘unstructure’ in the forums and postings that really broadens my understanding of the topic.  When classmates aren’t all answering the same questions in the same ways on their postings, and instead are considering it from a perspective that is meaningful to them, the breadth and depth of learning increases greatly.

As an adult learner, I have also experienced classes done through a Learning Management System  in my experience, these classes have been done with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality (everyone do the exact same readings, answer the exact same questions- in this many characters or less, and respond to 3 of your classmates thoughts).  For me, as an adult learner, I DON’T need someone to control how a discussion flows.  I don’t need to be limited as I am trying to acquire (and make meaning of) new information.  I want as much information as I can find, I want to understand how others understand the information, and I want to engage in meaningful interactions as I am piecing my understanding together.

That being said, am I against LMS in a K-12 setting?  Absolutely not.  There is something to be said for scaffolding and teachers having the ability to organize and manage courses (and students) as they learn to maneuver the online space (and their digital footprint).  

Does that mean that forums in K-12 settings must all be contrived and controlled?  Does that mean that students should all read the same material and respond to the same questions and a set number of people?

Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of seems like it’s on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Additionally, I’ve been there as a student, and I don’t think it is as authentic or engaging.

via Flickr

Can conversations in ‘closed online spaces’ be authentic for K-12 learning?

I think there is absolutely potential for this to happen, but it depends on the systems you choose to use, how you set the space up, and as a teacher, the amount of control you are willing to give up.

For instance, can we implement SeeSaw and open the space to families? Can we connect two or more grade 6 classrooms (in the same school or not) to collaborate on Google+ community?  These can be ‘closed’ forums that still allow for an audience and interactions (even beyond the walls of our classrooms).

Also, as the instructor/facilitator are we giving one black and white question to consider for the post?  Are we giving multiple options of things to consider?  Do the questions we pose have a ‘right’ answer?  Are we limiting how much our students have to say about a topic (ie. 250 words)? Are we dictating how many interactions they need to complete in a week, or are we allowing them to respond to the things they connect with?  
There’s always more than one way to solve a problem (or explain your thinking), and as teachers I think it’s our responsibility to let students find their voice.   

It’s all about the interactions!



Interactions, in an Educator’s line of work, are pretty important.  Interactions are, after all, the basis (in my opinion) for what teaching thrives on… relationships.

What is the best way to build and form relationship and interactions with our students in an online realm?  How do we make the interactions meaningful and appropriate- and how does that transfer into appropriate learning tasks?

Nicole and I are working toward a blended learning course for grade 2 students.  Our focus is Science, but we initially struggled over what blended learning looks like in a grade 2 classroom.

We decided on a pseudo-LMS with Weebly as our platform (don’t get me wrong, Weebly is an LMS, but the way in which we are using it is the reason I call it ‘pseudo’).  Our LMS is really more of an information hub than it is an ‘interaction’ hub.  I think we have created a visually appealing space which is easily accessible and not overwhelming, but this is ultimately a space that students will take from, not contribute to (very similar to the ECI 834 weekly schedule platform).

For the interaction part, we have decided to utilize SeeSaw, there are a few reasons that this platform was at the forefront for us.  We both work for Regina Public, and currently all our Pre-K and Kindergarten students use this platform in their classroom to share, this seems like a logical, scaffolded step to have students manage and post in a more independent manner.  Secondly, in Regina Public, our Early Elementary students (will) have technology access with iPads in schools.  Additionally, the platform seems like an ideal one for our younger students because they can begin to write and interact with (and for) a larger audience (families) in the online space. This will allow us, as teachers, the ability to manage the audience while our students are developing their digital footprint and digital citizenship awareness.

SeeSaw also provides a multitude of options for posting content, students can draw, video, add notes, pictures and even audio recordings to share what they have seen or experienced.  Additionally, the Facebook feed like format allows for comments/likes etc., which has benefits for the ‘outside world’ interactions.  As we are attempting to implement a ‘flipped classroom’ sort of feel, the modules will each dictate what is required of the students.

My specific module will require students to complete an experiment at home, record their observations (on SeeSaw) in the format they choose.  Then, we will have time in class to see what others observed in their at home experiment and discuss the different findings in class.  The lesson I chose is about determining why liquids take the shape of the container they are in.  This lesson will be formatively assessed based on what the students are posting and what conclusions are drawn in our full class discussion.

What are your thoughts?  Are we on the right track?  Will the platforms we have chosen be supportive of developing authentic meaningful interactions-is there another platform that might be better?  Is there anything that we should be thinking differently about?

‘Defining’ blended Learning

Very shortly after determining what our group project was about this semester, Nicole and I determined that ours would be a blended course.

I mean, I know what blended learning is, I took a blended course in University so I know what it looks like- or do I?

I came across an article Alec had tweeted, and as I read through, I realized that perhaps my experience as an adult in a blended learning setting, might not be the only way to ‘do’ blended learning.  Perhaps there is more than one way to approach blended learning – and maybe it has more to do with the learners then it does a rigid format…

Unfortunately, my request for assistance from the Twitter-verse yielded no responses, so I had to try other avenues to gain some understanding!

When I am trying to gain an understanding of something, I always first turn to the definition.  Wikipedia defines blended learning as:

Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.[1][2][3][4] While students still attend “brick-and-mortar” schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery.[5][6] Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings.[7]

A lack of consensus on a definition of blended learning has led to difficulties in research on its effectiveness in the classroom.[8] Blended learning is also highly context-dependent and therefore a universal conception of it is hard to come by.[9]

That last part… the “lack of consensus on a definition…” part, has got me feeling pretty good, because, to me, that means that my inkling about blended learning not being rigid and prescribed (done in a set format) means that it can look different in a grade 2 setting!

Next, I revisited some of what Bates discussed in Chapter 9.  It seems, while there is a lack of theory surrounding why blended learning is beneficial, it is important to circle back to student needs, and teaching preference.

Additionally, Bates mentions that there are a variety of designs for blended learning to take place which range from technology as a classroom aid (which I would argue fits in the ‘S’ category of the SAMR model), incorporating a LMS (which I think could fall under the ‘A’ or ‘M’ category, depending on how it is implemented), and lastly a combination of hands on learning followed by virtual learning/discussion in an online format (which you guessed it – seems to fit in nicely with the ‘M’ or ‘R’ category).

So, now that I have a clearer idea of what I have gotten myself into with saying I am going to develop a blended learning course, the question remains:  What is the best approach and application for incorporating blended learning in a grade 2 setting?

I have to ask that question, because when I first started this course and we settled on blended learning, I had visions of creating a completely online module that students would independently interact with at home, and would respond to online either at home or in class (because that was my experience as a student with blended learning).

I know blended learning in Grade 2 is possible, people like Kathy Cassidy, Erin Benjamin, Nicole Reeve (to name a few), do it all of the time!  However, all of my reading and defining has got me wondering, in grade 2, is it fair to expect all learners to jump in at the ‘Redefinition‘ phase, or does it make more sense to start with ‘Augmentation‘, and build from there?  To me, it seems as though Bates would argue the latter:

The research also suggests that these skills of independent learning need to be developed while students are on campus. In other words, online learning, in the form of blended learning, should be deliberately introduced and gradually increased as students work through a program, so by the time they graduate, they have the skills to continue to learn independently – a critical skill for the digital age – Tony Bates

I also found this great video outlining the benefits of blended learning, which nicely details the opportunities of moving further along the SAMR continuum:

How do I learn? Let me count the ways…


Here is the Bate’s article that I am referring to in this week’s vlog.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more from some of my classmate’s thoughts on this (as mentioned in my video), check out their blogs below:

E. Therrien – You mean you like to read?

Sarah Wandy – The Media Diaries

Mrs. Melinda Pelletier – Learning Preferences change




Learning process and quality standards
Maria Cruz, Jaime Anstee and Katy Love [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Do I have the ‘Audacity?

In reality, learning content and skills development will often be integrated in any learning process. Nevertheless, when deciding on technology use, it is useful to make a distinction between content and skills. –Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates

Image via Public Domain

As I pondered this weeks readings along side my impending group project as well as my final reflection, there are many questions swirling around in my head about what the most appropriate tool for the jobs are.  Additionally, it is important to consider the things I am trying to convey, and what I will need to learn to effectively utilize the tool(s) I choose and to develop the content I require.

Some other things I had to consider when I was choosing the tool this week, was what would I do if I was creating an online course in a low bandwidth situation?  I did some reading, and I found this article, which seemed to indicate that an audio file requires less bandwidth than video.  This was something I hadn’t previously thought about but does seem like a good option if there are issues (I’m thinking for rural areas) with the bandwidth availability.

I found Audacity and assumed it was for creating pod-casts.  Pod-casts have never appealed to me before, I understand the concept, but I guess for me as a listener, radio has always been sufficient.  As a creator, I’ve always thought “Why make a recording, when I could make a video?”  Now I see that there are logical applications for pod-casts.  That being said, Audacity can be used for so much more… it is a audio editing platform that has applications in education, music, as well as pod casts (and probably many more things I haven’t considered).



For this reason, deeper understanding of a concept or an idea is often the result of the integration of content derived from a variety of media sources (Mayer, 2009). Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates

Although I used to turn my back on Audio creation formats, I can now see that for course creation, there is definitely a place to include such things.  As well, if we are considering this from a student-developed thing, it would be user friendly, and give them another outlet to create and learn within.

As I mentioned in my recording, there are countless how to videos available online to teach all of the specific ranges of this tool (and I would argue their production quality is much better than mine!)  Have a watch, and see how easy this tool is to use:


To LMS or not to LMS…

Ok, I confess, I am *slightly* side-stepping the blog prompt, but in fairness, the readings this week worked to have me question the direction we were running with this project!

Is LMS just an updated term for “the man”? via Pixabay

The Learning Management System. The LMS. Or in the UK, the VLE. The Virtual Learning Environment.
Even though the latter sounds much less foreboding and controlling than the former, I confess: it makes no difference. I am not a fan. –Audrey Waters

I was somewhat relieved to discover that classmates Logan and Stephanie were also questioning the role of LMS because of the Waters post, as well as their own experiences with classes that utilized LMSes.

As someone who has taken MOOCs, online classes through LMS, and online classes without an LMS, I reflected about this passage from Audrey.  I came to realize…as a student, I do not enjoy courses run through LMS.  For me, courses run on LMS at times felt contrived, limiting, and inauthentic.  Word limitations, forced amount of responses, it can came across as dutiful and a work load to be ‘checked off’.

How education worked offline translated into how courses would work online. What a course looked like. How a course, and the knowledge that was generated and shared therein, began and ended in conjunction with the academic calendar. How each course is a separate entity — one instructor and a roster — hermetically sealed in a walled off online space, much like a walled off classroom. –Audrey Waters

After reading this portion of what Audrey had to say, it had me considering…is this why I dislike learning through LMSes?  Do young learners feel this way when faced with an LMS space?  Lastly, if we use an LMS does that mean we our limiting ourselves to ‘Substitution’ level tasks?

So, where does that leave my group on this prototype project?  Well, our ‘starting point’ is considering our learners (Grade 2 students).  As much as I dislike LMS as a motivated, adult learner, and even though I prefer learning in an Open Ed format, I tend to think it is more successful with motivated learners who can maneuver the internet (and alternative facts) independently.


There is something to be said for Gradual release of responsibility in this instance, and I don’t know that I can immediately and confidently unleash grade 2s into the vast world wide web.  Nicole and I have perhaps found a ‘loop-hole’ and would like to try and work with what we are calling a pseudo-LMS system, Weebly (if you are interested, you can find out more on Nicole’s thoughts about the program here).

After consultation with our PLN last week, we spent time playing with a few platforms and discovered Weebly is user-friendly (read: easy to set up and organize), has an option to add student accounts (which would allow for a blog/page option) AND does not require student users (in the teachers accounts) to be 13 or over in their terms and conditions.  This service also gives us the ability to have students accounts public or private, it will allow us to embed items from 3rd party sites, additionally, if you are comfortable with the themes available, this can be done for free!

Have you used Weebly before?  What grade(s) have you tried it with?  Any tips/tricks you can share?


What’s in a Learning Management System?

To me, learning about how to develop an online/blended course is an essential skill for educators these days.  However, as an Elementary specialist, how does this fit?    How do we merge the need to present authentic technology learning tasks to our students, while overcoming and bypassing the road blocks that exist?

When signing up for this course, I knew it was out of my comfort zone.  I mean not MY comfort zone – 70% of my Master’s classes have been done in an online or blended format. Then I read the following:

This suggests that fully online courses are more suitable for more experienced students with a strong motivation to take such courses because of the impact they have on their quality of life. In general, online students need more self-discipline in studying and a greater motivation to study to succeed. Tony Bates chapter (Teaching in a Digital Age)

This had me thinking: As an adult, the online format is easier for me to balance my life,  and it also works for me because I’m a motivated learner – does the same hold true for our ‘youngest’ learners?

Additionally, I have to say, taking an online course and creating an online course are NOT the same thing.  So this task, in my K-8 realm is goes beyond of my current skill set and my personal comfort zone (it’s all new to me)!

Via Glulla Forsythe on Flickr (CC by-NC-SA 2.0)

Thankfully, this is where the wonderful and capable Nicole Reeve comes in!  She has got ideas, and is keeping me focused (I’ve been known to ‘see a squirrel or two’ when it comes to planning – in my defense I work with upwards of 400 kids and staff members in a day… I digress).

Nicole and I have decided to work together on this project and we are going to try focusing our module ‘where we are’.  That led us to Grade 2 Science: Liquids and Solids .  We are currently considering this a blended learning experience.  I am happier about this project now that we have an idea guiding us.

Liquids and solids was an ideal place to start in my mind because we are able to execute experiments within this unit.  In my opinion, this can allow for a balance of online/technology experiences as well as hands on experiences that our students can share using some (potentially) new technology skills.  Working to essentially ‘get our feet wet’ through blended learning in Grade 2.

Additionally, Nicole and I have begun researching Learning Management Systems.  There are many things to consider when teaching online such as: does it offer public and private settings?  What are the costs associated with the LMS and is it feasible to purchase one?  How will the assessment occur within the LMS?  Additionally in choosing an LMS we need to consider if it is a platform a grade 2 student can access independently.  After searching some LMS programs that geared toward K-12 learning, we have a few names, but haven’t chosen a ‘winner’.  What are some user friendly Learning Management systems you have tried?

That’s it for my tangible progress this week, now Nicole and I have got platforms to explore, and a lot of things to consider before we are able to move forward!

One more piece from the readings this week that  had me thinking this week, and I just wanted to finish up on this note as something that I’ve been considering alongside blended learning:

Personal learning is like shopping at a grocery store. You need to assemble the ingredients yourself and create your own meals. It’s harder, but it’s a lot cheaper, and you can have an endless variety of meals. Sure, you might not get the best meals possible, but you control the experience, and you control the outcome.

Ultimately, if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own. They need to be able to find the resources they need, assemble their own curriculum, and forge their own learning path. They will not be able to rely on education providers, because their needs are too many and too varied. Stephen Downes post