Hello from downunder

This is the first week of the How to Teach online MOOC and this is my introduction to my fellow learners….

I have been teaching online for a few years (in the Vocational education sector and now in the higher education sector) and I am here to glean new and share ideas with fellow educators.

7 principles for good practoce online by Giulia Forsythe CC-BY-NC=SA

Online teaching and learning issues that I think are important are:  setting the climate, supporting discourse, encouraging interaction and sharing of ideas, creating authentic contexts and tasks where students can produce real-world artifacts that are useful in the world outside the learning environment.

At this early stage I’m not sure how the course will unfold, but some of the ways I think I can contribute are:  responding on forums or in my blog, connecting with others by commenting on their blogs and creating spaces for everyone to share resources. E.G.  I am happy to start a Diigo library where everyone can post links to educational resources if people are interested.

I hope the community is friendly and supportive. I have participated in MOOCS previously and on some occasions some people just seemed to be there to argue and abuse others. I hope this is not the case in this course 🙂 I have also made many online friends in previous cases, some I have not met in person yet, but hope to one day. I hope this may be the case this time as well.

I am an advocate of open learning and encourage my students to publish their work on the open web, so I don’t fear of open online learning. You can find links to my e-courses and research information on my website at: www.elearnopen.biz. Discovering new technologies is my passion. I don’t fear set-backs or frustrations, these are all part of the learning process and I welcome the challenges. As part of my research I have developed a wiki called the Technology Toolbox for Educators. This is a site where I curate information about technologies and provide examples about how technology can used in the classroom to support student learning. Primarily as cognitive tools used by students to learn and demonstrate their understanding.  One of the main challenges when working with new technology is making the time to explore and experiment with them. Courses like these help me “make the time” to explore and play.

I am looking forward to connecting and sharing ideas with people 🙂

How to teach online MOOC

I have registered to participate in a 5 week MOOC about how to teach online which starts 2 September. Yes, I know I have been teaching online for years but we never stop learning and I am hoping to pick up some new ideas, hints & tips.  Just setting up my blog to record my progress, thoughts and share them with the world. Oh well, the other participants at least 🙂

Freed Flatworld Knowledge Textbooks

A couple of weeks ago Scott Leslie (edtechpost blog) wrote a post titled: All I want for Christmas… and what he wanted was for people to buy a single Flatworld Knowledge textbook, before December 31. And then share it with the rest of the world. Why? because as of 31 December 2012 Flatworld Knowledge has decided to remove FREE access from their open textbooks.


So I decided to join in the liberation and purchase a textbook and FREE it. Easy decision not so easy to liberate! I purchased Understanding Media & Culture: An introduction to mass communication.

Firstly,  my purchase was left pending on my Flatworld Knowledge account for over a week  (However, I must say, once I contacted their help desk they fixed it within 24 hours). Secondly, their was no complete pdf of the entire book to download, there were individual pdf files for each chapter and the book I decided to purchase was 16 chapters.  Thirdly, I then tried to find a FREE PDF editor that would let me merge the individual chapters into one file. I spent a couple of hours downloading free versions and free trials for PC without success. Some had “trial version” embedded across every page, others would only let me merge 3 pages and the most useful one I found would only let me merge up to 80mb. Unfortunately the entire book was about twice that size. I did not want to spend $50 – $100 to buy a pro version and was about to give up and come back another day to try and solve this dilemma. Then I read a comment by Stephen Downes explaining how he did it.

I had used the same process he did, except I didn’t have Adobe Acrobat (and it costs about $350 so I wasn’t about to buy it) . But his post sent me off searching in a new direction.  Thanks Stephen! I use a PC most of the time because that’s what I’m more comfortable with. But I also have a Mac laptop so I thought I’d check it out to see if I had the “merge into a single pdf” feature he mentioned in his comment. No luck. But a quick Google search led me to the Macintosh Howto website that explained merging pdf files in Mac was easy and provided step by step instructions. All the latest Macintosh OSX versions have the ability to merge 2 or more pdf files and once I found how to open the thumbnail view in the side bar (the shift + CMD + D did not work on my OSX version, but I found it in the view sidebar menu) I had all the files zipped together in no time.

Here is the FREED version of the textbook: Understanding Media and Culture: An introduction to Mass communication

Authentic Year 7 History Project

Over the past few weeks I have been visiting a local primary school to observe how ICT is being integrated in the classroom. In a previous post I described how students were creating maths quizzes, animated PowerPoint presentations and stop motion animated videos.  Today I would like to explain the planning process the teachers used to design and implement an authentic history task about Ancient Rome. I hope this information will be useful for pre-service and qualified teachers who would like to implement authentic project-based learning approaches in their classrooms.

The first thing I noticed was the classroom setup. Tables are not arranged in rows like other classrooms, they are arranged in squares so students can work in groups of four. Ms Patton explained that students are allocated into different groups for each project so they have the opportunity to work with different people. She also mentions that teachers new to this interactive learning approach usually find it very messy, noisy and disorganised when first exposed to it. However, they soon realise that the lessons are well planned, the teachers have put a lot of thought and effort into creating a task that meets the Year 7 curriculum requirements and that the students are actively engaged in the learning.

CC Flickr: Moyan Brenn, 2010 - Ancient Rome
CC Flickr: Moyan Brenn, 2010 – Ancient Rome

Background information
The Year 7 curriculum provides a study of history from the time of the earliest human communities to the end of the ancient period, approximately 60 000 BC (BCE) – c.650 AD (CE). It was a period defined by the development of cultural practices and organised societies. The study of the ancient world includes the discoveries (the remains of the past and what we know) and the mysteries (what we do not know) about this period of history, in a range of societies including Australia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India. Prior to commencing this in depth study students should have completed the overview content outlined in the curriculum. The overview content identifies important features of the period as part of an expansive chronology to help students understand broad patterns of historical change. The overview content provides the broader context for the teaching of this in depth study and is used to give students an introduction to the historical period (Australian Curriculum, Year7).

ACARA logo

Curriculum: Depth Study 2: The Mediterranean world – Rome
ACDSEH039 The significant beliefs, values, practices of the ancient Romans, with a particular emphasis on one of the following areas: Everyday life, death and funerary customs.

Project Overview
This project requires students to assume the role of a history teacher. They step back in time to discover what life was like in ancient Rome and explore the links between our modern world and the ancient Roman world to teach their peers about a specific area of ancient Roman life. Many aspects of our life today can be directly linked to ancient Roman times. For example: many of the names of the months in the year and the planets in the solar system. This project will enable students to put their learning about Ancient Roman life into practical action. In groups they will research information to construct a PowerPoint presentation with quiz questions to teach their peers about a specific aspect of Ancient Roman life. Example aspects may include: sport & entertainment (The Colosseum), engineering (aqueducts), architecture (Roman buildings), culture & art (statues), gods & goddesses. At the end of the project each group will deliver their PowerPoint presentation on the Smartboard to the whole class and their students (fellow classmates) will complete the quiz to check their understanding of the topic they presented.

Project Plan
Ancient Rome - planning diagram

Lesson schedule
2 history lessons per week over 3 weeks = 6 lessons

  • Lesson 1 – Task explained, group allocation, determine research focus questions, brainstorm plan questions
  • Lesson 2 & 3 – Research information from focus questions (Books & Internet)
  • Lesson 4 & 5 – PowerPoint presentation and quiz questions
  • Lesson 6 – Presentations (in class to fellow students) on Smartboard

Lesson management
As with any well planned lesson the teacher needs to document the learning process, ensure all required equipment is available and booked and the necessary resources are located or created before each of the lessons. They also need to factor in contingency plans for program schedule changes or technology glitches and include extension activities for early finishers.

I observed very few teacher-centered activities over the three weeks I visited during this project and the main role of the teacher was that of a facilitator. As the students worked on their tasks, the teacher moved around the room checking they were on track, asking questions to encourage students to think more deeply about the content and the product they are creating and guiding them forward when they stalled or got side-tracked. It was wonderful to see how engaged the students were throughout the whole project and how the technology was used by students to support their learning.

I am looking forward to visiting this class again this term as they are commencing a new project about  Remembrance day. Students will research and read about Remembrance Day and document their knowledge, understanding and thoughts about it. They will  write a poem to express what they think  the meaning of courage is today and present all of their work on their own wiki page on the class wiki. The wiki will be a tribute for our fallen soldiers that will be shared with the the whole school on the 11th of November.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Patton and her school for allowing me to visit and to write about the great learning experiences happening in their classrooms.