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Theoretical Considerations in Online Unit Design
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Theoretical Considerations in Online Unit Design

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  • When we teach face-to-face, we use the theories of our disciplines and education drive what we do in the classroom to help our students learn. For many of us, the use of these theories has become almost second nature to the point we don’t think about them on a daily basis. When we start teaching a new class face-to-face, we can use the theories that have worked for us in the past with new content. When we start teaching online, we are often taking content we know very well into a new environment. Teaching online is akin to being asked to recreate what we already do well with a completely different set of tools in a new environment. Our methods for using the tools for teaching and for manipulating the learning environment need to be reconsidered. How do we deal with these new tools and this new environment in a way that will allow us to achieve the quality that we are used to achieving in the traditional classroom?In a way, we need to go back to the drawing board and consider what it is at a fundamental level that allows learning to happen.
  • Students come with prior knowledge and skills. We want students to use what they are currently know and are able to do and attain to a more advanced level of knowledge and ability, but how do we get them there?
  • One place to start is Lev Vygotsky’s idea of the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky called this space between what they already can do and what they cannot yet accomplish the Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. In the ZPD, learning takes place by students interacting with a more knowledgeable other. If we instructors, as the more knowledgeable other, interact with them well in the ZPD, they should move through progress and eventually be able to independently do what they were formerly unable to do without assistance.
  • We have hada lot of practice being the knowledgeable other in the traditional classroom. We know what it takes to get a student to the goal—we know what the process looks like and we know what tools to use in this process. But what does this process and this interaction look like online? How do we maneuver the ZPD? Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to envision ways students and a more experienced other (the instructor) work through the ZPD toward student independence
  • Bloom’s Taxonomyis a way categorizing the cognitive domain of thinking and learning. The difficulty and complexity of the thinking skills increases as one moves up the pyramid. Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating are considered higher order thinking skills, which we hope to get our students to do in our classes. If students can operate at the top of the pyramid, they have mastered a concept and are able to act independently. The higher order categories are impossible to move into, however, without mastering lower order thinking skills, but the type of mastery we are hoping our students will achieve is impossible to attain if they do not progress out of the lower order thinking skills.
  • It is easier to see how Bloom’s taxonomy applies to our classes if we look at the types of tasks we assign and expect our students to do at each stage of the pyramid. In the remembering stage, students should haveObservation and recall of informationKnowledge of dates, events, placesKnowledge of major ideasMastery of subject matterIn our assignments, we use words like define, describe, duplicate, identify, label, list, locate, match, memorize, name, recall, recognize, record, relate, repeat, reproduce, underline
  • In the understanding stage, students should be Understanding informationGrasping meaningsTranslating knowledge into new contextInterpreting facts, comparing and contrastingOrdering, grouping, inferring causesPredicting consequencesIn our assignments, we use words like classify, convert, describe, explain, express, give example(s), identify, indicate, interpret, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, rewrite, summarize, tell, translate
  • In the applying stage, students should be Using informationUsing methods, concepts, theories in new situationsSolving problems using required skills or knowledgeIn our assignments, we use words like apply, construct, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, sketch, schedule, shop, solve, use, write
  • In the analyzing stage, students should be Seeing patternsOrganizing partsRecognizing hidden meaningsIdentifying componentIn our assignments, we use words like analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare/contrast, criticize, debate, diagram, differentiate, examine, experiment, infer, inventory, question, relate, solve, test
  • In the evaluating stage, students should be Using old ideas to create new onesGeneralizing from given factsRelating knowledge from several areasPredicting, drawing conclusionsIn our assignments, we use words like arrange, assemble, collect, combine, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, organize, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, set up, synthesize, write
  • In the creating stage, students should be Comparing and discriminating between ideasAssessing value of theories, presentationsMaking choices based on reasoned argumentVerifying value of evidenceRecognizing subjectivityIn our assignments, we use words like appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, criticize, debate, defend, estimate, evaluate, judge, measure, predict, rate, revise, score, select, support, value
  • Now that we know what happens at each stage of the pyramid, we have to think about how we get our students to move along the stages. Our goal is to get our students comfortable doing higher order thinking about our content. It is more likely that they will retain the knowledge and be able to use it independently if they are able to meaningfully think about it in one of the higher order categories.
  • In the remembering phase, a students memorizes that Gutenberg invented the printing press c. 1440 in the Holy Roman Empire.Next, in the understanding phase, the student would understand that this invention is important because it changes how easily information could be spread and controlled. The student would then apply the knowledge, using it to solve a problem. The student knows literacy increases in the 16th and 17th centuries is able to connect this increase to the invention and distribution of the printing press.In the analyzing phase, the student starts to question and investigate how the printing press’ impact is related to other development in media.The student could then take the understanding that new media has heavily impacted civilization and begin making hypotheses about how currently emerging technologies may impact our future.In the creation phase, the student would take his hypotheses and complex understanding of new media and its impact on culture and create a product communicating these ideas. The student would create a New York Times bestseller, or at least a speech or essay, where he presents a theory and demonstrates its validity regarding how new media progression can be predicted by looking at the history of older technology such as the printing press.
  • Though movement through Bloom’s Taxonomy isn’t necessarily linear, nor does it require each step to be separate, it is unlikely that a student will automatically be able to do some of the higher order thinking without progressing through some of the lower order phases. In our example of Guttenberg’s printing press, it is highly unlikely a student could make the jump from remembering information about the printing press to making a presentation on how newly emerging technology will affect the future of our culture. We have to help student construct the scaffolding that would allow them to reach the point of creation.
  • Scaffolding is a framework that allows students to do what they cannot do on their own. It is what the more experienced other from Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development provides for the student. You could throw everything in Bloom’s Taxonomy at a student at once, but it probably wouldn’t create the desired result. We as instructors are responsible for moving students through increasingly complex ways of thinking by giving them scaffolding in easily digestible chunks. The idea of chunking will be discussed later this week, but it is important to consider when thinking of Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Scaffolding in an online course is even more complex than in a face-to-face classroom. Normally, we focus only on how we can scaffold content and activities to meet our students needs. This is still very important in our online classes, but online, we also have to pay additional consideration to the online tools we use to facilitate content delivery and activities. Certain online tools, because of their design, lead us to only present content at a lower order level of thinking. Likewise, some tools we require students to use in activities only lead them to thinking at a lower level.
  • It may be easier to see how we also have to scaffold with technology by seeing the wording and tools associated with a level.In the remembering phase, students may be asked to define, describe, and duplicate. Online they my be asked to highlight, search, or bookmark. They would use basic technology that allowed them to find and store information to aid in its retention.
  • In the understanding phase, students may be asked to classify, convert, and describe. Online they my be asked to do advance searches, blog, or annotate. They would use begin using technology that was at least visible to others and maybe allowed for interaction.
  • In the applying phase, students may be asked to apply, interpret, or solve. Online they my be asked to run, load, operate, or share. They would use increasingly complex technology that allowed them to share material and ideas with others.
  • In the analyzing phase, students may be asked to analyze, differentiate, or question. Online they my be asked to do mashing, linking, or media clipping. They would use increasingly complex technology that allowed them manipulate and gather information and knowledge.
  • In the evaluating phase, students may be asked to assemble, formulate, plan, or synthesize. Online they my be asked to do blog commenting, reviewing, or moderating. They would use increasingly complex technology that required interaction with ideas and other people.
  • In the evaluating phase, students may be asked to argue, criticize, predict, or defend. Online they my be asked to do programming, mixing, publishing, directing. They would use very complex technology for presenting information to be used by others.
  • By scaffolding content, activities, and tools, we can create well calculated courses that allow our students to achieve our course objectives in rich and meaningful ways. We won’t be led by the new online tools and gadgets. Instead, we will be the leaders.
  • This has been a brief overview of some educational theory you could use to help you design both the content and the tools for your online class. If you would like to get more information on any of the subjects covered in this presentation, here are some places to start.
  • Transcript

    • 1. college of western idaho
      theory and the online classroom
    • 2. Theory in the classroom
    • 3. Where we need theory
      The course objectives/what we want students to be able to do independently by the end of our class or lesson
      ?
      What students can currently do without assistance
    • 4. Zone of Proximal Development
      The course objectives/what we want students to be able to do independently by the end of our class or lesson
      Zone of Proximal Development
      where learning happens
      What students can currently do without assistance
    • 5. Adding Bloom’s Taxonomy
      The course objectives/what we want students to be able to do independently by the end of our class or lesson
      What students can currently do without assistance
      Bloom’s Taxonomy
    • 6. Bloom’s Taxonomy
      Higher order thinking skills
      Lower order thinking skills
      Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised from http://www.bio.unc.edu/courses/2011Spring/Biol202/
    • 7. Remembering
    • 8. Understanding
    • 9. Applying
    • 10. Analyzing
    • 11. Evaluating
    • 12. Creating
    • 13. Climbing the Pyramid
      Rembering--
    • 14. An example of the climb: The Guttenberg Printing Press
      Creating
      Student takes hypothesis and complex understanding of new media and its impact on culture and creates product communicating these ideas.
      Evaluating
      Student takes understanding that new media has heavily impacted civilization and begin making hypotheses about how currently emerging technologies may impact our future.
      Analyzing
      Student starts to question and investigate how the printing press’ impact is related to other development in media.
      Applying
      Student knows literacy increases in the 16th and 17th centuries is able to connect this increase to the invention and distribution of the printing press.
      Understanding
      Student understands that this invention is important because it changes how easily information could be spread and controlled.
      Remembering
      Student memorizes that Gutenberg invented the printing press c. 1440 in the Holy Roman Empire.
    • 15. Scaffolding
      1
      2
      3
      4
      Creating
      Student takes understanding that new media has heavily impacted civilization and begin making hypotheses about how currently emerging technologies may impact our future.
      Remembering
      Student memorizes that Guttenberg invented the printing press
      c. 1440 in the Holy Roman Empire.
    • 16. Scaffolding
      1
      2
      3
      4
      The course objectives/what we want students to be able to do independently by the end of our class or lesson
      What students can currently do without assistance
      Where scaffolding
      is needed
    • 17. Scaffolding in an online course
      Content
      Online Tools
    • 18. Remembering Online
    • 19. Understanding Online
    • 20. Applying Online
    • 21. Analyzing Online
    • 22. Evaluating Online
    • 23. Creating Online
    • 24. A well calculated approach
    • 25. Further Resources
      Zone of Proximal Development:
      http://sites.wiki.ubc.ca/etec510/Vygotsky%27s_Zone_of_Proximal_Development
      http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/5075
      Bloom’s Taxonomy:
      http://www.myatp.org/Synergy_1/Syn_9.pdf
      http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/multiplechoicequestions/blooms.html
      Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy:
      http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy
      http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+and+ICT+tools
      Scaffolding:
      http://condor.admin.ccny.cuny.edu/~group4/
      http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/webdesign/Scaffolding/