Blog: Parental Support #edet694

I have come to realize, that even in the virtual world, parental support helps – a lot! As I finish up week 6, I am happy to report that two of my students have completed their Algebra I requirements with a passing grade. The parents of both of those students were in regular contact with me throughout the summer. I am expecting another two students to pass my class. When teaching in the classroom, I could always tell which parents were going to be supportive of their children and our school. They were the ones that answered phone calls, visited the school and contacted me outside of PT conferences. The virtual classroom is not so different.

We talked a couple of weeks ago about how these students are already at an increased risk of failing these online credit recovery courses. They have already failed the course in their regular school environment and now they are trying to make up the credit in a completely new environment. The technology part of the class they got in the bag – some of them could have probably figured out how to create the courses themselves. However, this course requires them to manage their time and balance their personal responsibilities. It requires them to grow up – and some students just cannot do that on their own. In our last class meeting, we talked a lot about how these students need that extra live support. As much as I email these students and send out announcements reminding them that I am here for them, it is not the same as that someone who is there to give them encouragement to keep on truckin’.

I decided another part to my paper should include parental support and I began researching for articles. It was difficult, but I ended up finding a few good ones.

What Parents Need to Know About Online Learning
Gives parents tips on deciding if an online program or class is right for their child – and if their child is right for online learning.

5 Ways Parents Can Support Their Online Learner
Talks about how the parent can support their student and the importance of being there for their children, even if they think their student is mature enough to take an online course. It also talks about the Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler model of parental involvement that includes four basic actions: encourage, model, reinforce, instruct. (Kind of like an at home teacher!)

Student Self-Evaluation and Parent Support
I shared this one on Twitter. We talked about having AKLN requiring these students to have some sort of support system at home – either a tutor, teacher, or parent that takes the responsibility of making sure the student stays on track. I think AKLN should also have the students complete a self-evaluation – like this one – where the student can determine if they are capable of completing these courses before they begin putting in the effort. The self-evaluation should be an eye opener so the student – and parent – is aware of what they are getting into.

I could tell from the initial meeting with the students that there was a sort of shell shock as to what they were getting into. Some of them buckled down – some of them didn’t. Some parents were at that initial meeting, and have been supporting their children throughout the summer. As an educator, I wish all parents were this dedicated to their children’s future. As a parent, I’m shocked that some aren’t.


Belated Week 4 Post #edet694

Week 4 is turned out to be my best week yet. I feel like the 1-on-1 meetings and badges are working. I met with 5 out of 8 of my students. The meetings were mostly to touch base. We talked about how to access their grades, how to post to the discussion board, and the meanings for the different badges. I believe the badges were a really good suggestion and I am glad that I followed through with it.

I have decided on a concept of my final paper and I would like everyone’s thoughts. I have come to decision that there are three major components to an online course – the student, the instructor, and the course. I guess that is pretty much a given. However, my action research project is to determine how important each component is to student success. My first instinct is to say that the student’s success is mostly based upon the efforts of the student. But as I work through the course, I understand that all three are very important – and if any part is lacking then the student has a greater chance at failure. I guess what I really want to determine is if there is something more I could be doing so that all of my students will succeed.

I have been doing some research to help support my theories on the subject. Here is a summary of some of the articles I have found.

Five Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation by Rob Kelly
Empowerment, usefulness, success, interest, and caring are mentioned in this article. The two that stick out the most are interest and caring. The student must have some interest in the subject area. Even though my students understand the importance of the Algebra course they are taking, some have expressed their disinterest in the subject. I believe those feelings are always going to play a part in how much effort they put into the course. However, I also believe that if the students feel that the instructor cares about their success, then they will put in some extra effort into succeeding. I do feel that many students want their instructors to be proud of them and their efforts. I really am trying to show that through my emails and feedback.

10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education
I believe that the link I found is just a summary of an actual report, but it has some good information. It basically focuses on what the instructor can do to increase student success in online learning. I especially like numbers 1, 4 & 7. The first principle I find is the most important – Show Up and Teach! Even though my course is almost completely asynchronous, it does not teach itself. The students need to know that there is an instructor is available. Number 4 says Plan for the Unplanned. I have already come across some complications with my Internet and am a big fan of this principle. And finally, #7 suggests that the instructor Help Maintain Forward Progress. Students rely on the immediate feedback to ensure that they are on the right track. If it takes you too long to get back to them, then they are going to get farther and farther behind. They also may need the extra time to fix important mistakes.

I also created a short survey that I sent out to my 8 students. The survey was more statements of their feelings on learning math. Thus far, I have gotten 3 responses. Although many of my students understand the importance of math, they still are not interested in learning it. This pains me ☹

Here are the survey statements. Each statement had three choice responses – always true, sometimes true or never true.

I like learning math!
Math is boring.
Math is important throughout life.
I like to come up with new ways to solve math problems.
Learning new things in math is fun for me.

Week 2 Update #EDET694

A very eventful Week 2 is done. Late registration enabled two more students, which gives me a total of 8 students. Five students are registered for a ½ credit of Algebra I, and the remaining 3 students are registered for a full credit. With a little more than half the course left, I feel like my students are moving at a snails pace.

I blame a large portion of this on the problems students were having with the links in the course. In week 2, I was informed by a parent – and a couple of students – that there were error messages when the students trying to complete practice problems. It took most of the week, including numerous phone calls and emails with UAS and Helen, to figure out what the problem was and getting it fixed. Then, I found out that students taking the pretest were not getting feedback on what they missed and what the correct answers were.   I can just about imagine how frustrating this could be. It was frustrating for myself also because I had no idea on how to fix it. Now, that the issue is fixed, I am hoping students will start working more frequently and completing some assignments.

I found a great blog from Online Learning Insights titled Strategies for Online Instructors: Understanding the Needs of the Online Learner. This particular blog was a four-part series and included a lot of valuable information. While reading the blog, I soon realized that my students are actually at a high risk of failure. To start off with, online learners are at a higher risk for dropping out, performing poorly, or not completing the course. Second, my students are not your typical online learner. They are high school students who normally attend the public high school in their town. They are registered for this course because they have already failed Algebra I in their own school. On top of that failure, we are asking them to complete a course that is hugely independent. Online learners are expected to have self-directed learning style, high technical skills, and increased time management skills. We are asking teenagers to manage their summer time with friends to include schoolwork. I am already worried about how this is going to turn out,

The blog gave some good tips on how to make the transition to online learning easier for the students. There should be an online orientation program – check, immediate feedback – check, weekly announcements – check, and comments to student discussion board posts- check. There are a couple of other things that the blog mentioned that I have added to my list of “to-dos.” The blog mentions creating a personal connection with the students, providing continuous encouragement and acknowledgement of their time. I have decided to create badges to award students for various task completions. I am really excited about my badges. I have also set up a Google spreadsheet where students are asked to schedule a time to meet with me individually. During this meeting, I am hoping to touch base with each student and the progress they have made within the course. I also want to ensure that students are no longer having problems with any links within the course. The agenda for the meeting also includes an introduction to the “My Grades” link and an example of how to complete the discussion board forums. I want to talk to the students about the badges they can earn and another mode of communication – twitter. I have created a Twitter group (#AKMATH) as another mode of communication for students who are having difficulties and need to get in touch with me.

I really enjoyed reading the blog. I believe I am learning a lot through this process and am happy I made the step into online teaching. I love being in the classroom, but I also see a bright future here! Maybe, there could be room for both.

Communication is Key #edet694

We are off and running.  Well, my students seem to be trotting really.  I started with 2 students and now I am up to 6!!!  I have five girls who seem to be taking their time getting acclimated with the class.  Whereas, my newest student, a boy, is ready to get started.  He texted me 5 times yesterday wondering if he was enrolled in the course yet and how to get started.

On the Sunday before classes started, I sent out a welcome email that contained a welcome letter and an introduction-to-the-course video, which contained basically the same information.  I had planned to use my e-mail for most communication.  Then, Lee mentioned a Q & A Forum.  I thought this was a great idea. We did not have a Forum set up, but we do have a Discussion Board.  Within the discussion board, there is a forum titled “Questions.”   In the intro video, I showed the students how to get to the discussion board and where to post questions.  In the letter, I listed the ways of communication in the order with which I want them to be used. 

I talked it over with Helen, whom is one of the wonderful people who designed the course that I am teaching and has been a huge help in helping me prepare it for students this summer, and she suggested that I also think about using the UAS e-mail through blackboard.  This made complete sense to me.  All forms of communication would be saved – somewheres – on blackboard.

The problem is getting the students to start using those forms of communication now that class has started.   A few parents were given my work e-mail to ask me questions about the course, and now that seems to be their most favorite mode of communication.  Luckily, only our new male student has gotten into the habit of texting me.  Now that he is in the class, I am going to send out an email to students, and parents, from blackboard asking them to take note of the new email for all future communication purposes.  I would have to say I am a little at fault here, too.  It is just so easy for me to send an email from my phone or ipad using my work email.  Does anyone know if you can set up blackboard emails through smartphones or ipads?

Otherwise, things seem to be moving smoothly.  My next big task is to complete the rubric for the discussion board posts.  There are 8 discussion board posts for this course that have the students posting about their thought processes in solving a math story problem.  I want to put together a rubric so that they can see how they will be graded.  Especially since they all did the very minimal in their introduction post.  I have never been good at creating rubrics, and I am lost as to how to get the rubric to add up to 20 points when there are not that many parts to it.  Maybe I can post it a little later on and y’all can tell me what you think.

Maybe I will look up articles about creating rubrics!


The Final Stages #etlead

This week, our team worked on finalizing our game presentation. With the outline completed, it was easy to design the presentation. Gary is our go-to-guy for our presentation, which puts me at ease. I have had many classes with Gary and completely trust him with such a task. Of course, for Gary to get his job done, he is relying on us to get him pictures that he can use for the presentation. He is creating a sort of slide show of pictures through VoiceThread. He is adding music and commentary. The script he wrote was great. It came from our game introduction with a brief description of the game mechanics. As I posted last week, a couple of people in my group mentioned the anime style animation. I have found some youtube videos of hunger game animation trailers that some very creative people have put together.

This is my idea of what our presentation might look like. Gary is going to send us the presentation once he has it complete, but before he turns it in. I am thinking it will be great and I am excited to see how it turned out.

I also hosted the twitter session this week. Scott was supposed to be my partner, but because of a death in his family, I flew solo. Scott left me with a list of questions to ask and I was grateful. I decided on opening the session with a couple of game trailers. I asked the participants to watch them and give their thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. Most people liked the music and felt that it really helped the entertainment value of the trailers. One of the trailers had a lot of commentary, and most folks felt that although it was informative, it was rather long and got boring towards the end. A couple of questions that created some good discussions were about the games themselves, and were part of Scott’s group. He asked whether we liked the games that we created and if we would use them in our classrooms. I thought this was a great question to ask. It brought up a good point about having some educational standards tied to the games. As part of our teacher rubric, a serious game should be tied to educational standards if teachers are going to use them in their classrooms.

I have to say that I am very happy with the game that my team has created. I worked really hard on creating standards for our game and showing how many of them were linked to the game throughout the game’s outline on our wiki. I would feel confident that the teachers in my school would use this game as a learning tool in their classrooms. Because our game is designed to reach multiple grade levels, I feel that it would be a great game for elementary students of all ages and learning abilities. For that reason alone, I really hope our game is strongly considered for the next stage.

Finalizing the Game #etlead

I have to admit. At first, I was a little skeptical. There was no way we were going to pull this off in a two-week period. But, lo’ and behold, we did it!

We played around with things over the weekend, and by Sunday a few of us started to get a little worried. We were hitting the e-mail send button every 5-10 minutes with questions and updates to the wiki. It was crazy. I assisted the group by writing down the NETS and Math standards I figured our game would meet. Lee was right, with the standards written down, it was easier to come up with some tasks for the different quests.

We still had a rough sketch of our game concept and schematics. However, by Monday, I had pretty much forgotten what our overall objective for the game was. What real-life dilemma were we trying to portray with our game? What were students going to take from playing our game, other than some fun and a few learning objectives? For it to be a serious game, we want it to mean something to the gamers playing it. Sara H. mentioned that we should tie it to an Alaska event, such as the Pebble Mines. I thought this would be a good idea.

On Wednesday, we had our second team meeting. The start time was rather confusing, but four of us were in attendance and it did us good. Heather reminded us of our concept, we remembered some details that we had not ironed out, and we assigned some finishing tasks to each member. Overall, we feel that our game is on the right track. We are happy with the objective, the concept, and the flow.

Sara decided to nail down the introduction and conclusion to our game. Someone mentioned an intro like the back cover of the book, and I believe we had one pretty much ironed out from week 10. We thought the conclusion would not really be the end to our story, but a continuance into maybe a sequel game.

Gary is going to work on the presentation. We had originally thought maybe a powerpoint that would flow like the game – click game start and go to the outline of the levels, click avatar and go through the process of that. But we are now leaning towards something more brief and maybe even a little more entertaining. Gary has looked into VoiceThread and he is confident that it is the way to go. We are definitely going to spend some days thinking this through. We love the concept of our game and we really want to get that across to these students. I think it would make a great serious game for the classroom!

Over the last couple of days, I finished up the standards. I added Language Arts, Social Studies (geography and citizenship), and science. Actually, I could not find any science standards that really fit, so I added some National STEM standards that I found online. Do not know how official they are, but they sounded great! I also outlined the game. I did this in preparation for a powerpoint so that I would know how everything should flow. I also went through the outline and added the standards that they matched from our list of standards. I am thinking I might finish up the standards for the outline, but overall, I think our outline is pretty much done.

We still have a couple of things to finish up. We had decided on having three district (region) choices for gamers to choose when deciding on an avatar. We figured we would choose three U.S. regions and then come up with advantages and disadvantages for a tribute from each region. This would give gamers some variety to choose from. I think Leslie was assigned this task through email because she was not at the meeting.

Most importantly, we need to come up with a name. In all the excitement – and stress – of conceptualizing the game, we forgot to name it. I wonder how many authors of books and games leave the title for last. I honestly think this is going to be the hardest task of all!

Game Conceptualization – Beginning Phases #etlead

With a week off for spring break, I feel as if I am starting all over again. So much so, that I completely forgot to post my blog for week 10. Hence, this “initial” blog for week 10 is actually posted halfway into week 11. Buggers!

On our first week back from spring break and we were hit with a huge task. At first I felt like this was just going to be a simple task, outlining our ideas of a game. I soon realized that we were being asked to completely conceptualize every aspect of the game, from start to finish. Holy cow! I guess this just seems difficult because, although I am pretty good with computers, I am definitely not a gamer. Pretty sure I pointed that out before. (Although, after evaluating some serious games, I find that they are rather entertaining and I can sometimes get carried away. Of course, that’s when you realize it is a good game). So, here we are in week 10, trying to collaborate on our wiki, and not really getting any ideas out there. So, we scheduled our first meet and greet as a team, and I really think we did a great job of outlining our game. At least, it started off that way.

We decided on an overall objective of the game and laid out some specifics to the opening of the game. Then, Lee popped in for a visit. It’s always great to get a clue about whether you are on the right track. I think Lee was more helpful than she realizes. Her most important question was if we felt like we were creating a serious game. This got me thinking about the serious games that we researched and used as examples to create our teacher rubric. Most serious games touch on an important life value that is trying to be taught, and I am not sure ours was doing the trick. We ended our first meeting with an agreement to work through the wiki, building on our ideas and outlining the different levels of our game.

I liked the beginning outline of the game. I soon realized that this was going to be more time consuming than I originally thought, and was starting to get nervous because I also had the rough draft of my portfolio coming up. I believe it was Sunday that communication really started to pick up. Through e-mails we talked about the path that our game was taking. Sara H. probably sent out one of the most important emails reminding me that our overall goal was probably not clearly defined and did not necessarily match those of a serious game. She mentioned the pebble mines, and I thought that was a great idea. I feel that it doesn’t really change the feel of the game, but does kind of get us on a path to a certain objective that most students in the state of Alaska could relate with.

Lee also mentioned that we should come up with the standards that we want our game to meet. Using the UbD model, this makes it easier to actually design the game around the standards. On our wiki, I started a new page for standards alignment. Here I listed the NETS for students and some math standards that I felt our game could meet.

I am really glad that Lee has given us another week to iron out our game mechanics. I have finally finished that rough draft of my portfolio and feel like I can spend more time on this project. We have our next meet and greet Wednesday. I really like where our game is headed, but I hope we can get there a little quicker, as I feel like we might be a little bit behind.