CNIE 2011 - Examining a Program to Prepare Teachers to Support K-12 Online Learning


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Barbour, M. K., & Siko, J. (2011, May). Examining a program to prepare teachers to support K-12 online learning. A paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education, Hamilton, ON.

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  • Within the Canadian context while there are a variety of different models that are used in each of the provinces and territories, there is some level of K-12 distance education activity in each of the province and territories.
  • In the first national survey of K-12 distance education in 2000, the Canadian Teachers Federation estimated there were approximately 25,000 K-12 students engaged in distance education. A decade later, Barbour in his third annual “State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada” report indicated that there were between 150,000 and 175,000 K-12 students engaged in distance education.Barbour also indicated that all 13 provinces and territories had some form of distance education occurring, with British Columbia being the most extensive user and having the most extensive regulatory regime.
  • In the United States, where this study occurred, K-12 distance education – particularly online learning – is more prevalent in the United States than in Canada (although the percentage of K-12 students engaged in distance education is roughly the same).
  • In addition to the percentage of students engaged in K-12 distance education being roughly same, the growth trend in the United States has been similar to that found in the United States. The coverage of K-12 online learning activity is almost as expansive as what is found in Canada.
  • Within Michigan, where Wayne State University is located, there were a series of events that created the opportunity for this study. The first was the introduction of a online learning requirement for high school graduation. The second was the addition of three new standards, related to the online learning requirement, that were added to the Educational Technology teacher certification endorsement. The addition of these new standards forces changes to all of the university-based endorsement plans throughout the State of Michigan.
  • At Wayne State University, the decision was made to take the content from a single course – IT6230: Internet in the Classroom – and spread it out to other courses so that the content for the three new standards could be covered in this single course. IT6230 is a Master’s, Educational Specialist, and Doctoral level course within the K-12 technology integration stream in the Instructional Technology program at Wayne State. In addition to these degree options, the course can also be used to satisfy one of the requirements for the Educational Technology teacher certification endorsement and one of the electives for the Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching.Within the online learning or virtual school environment, there are three separate teacher roles (that are often all performed by a single individual in a traditional classroom environment, but within the virtual school environment are generally performed by different individuals). The first is the teacher that designs the online course (which generally means the asynchronous course content). The second is the teacher who actually teaches the online course. The third is the local or school-based teacher that facilitates the students while they are engaged in their online learning.Given the nature of the online learning requirement, of the three new roles that exist in the virtual school environment, the one that Michigan teachers were most likely to fulfill was the virtual school facilitator.
  • In the creation of the new IT6230 course, the first step was identifying existing resources that could be incorporated into the course. Unfortunately, there was very little existing resources available. The only systematic efforts were those created by Iowa State University: the Good Practice to Inform Iowa Online Learning teaching case studies and the Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schools scenarios – both of which are licensed under Creative Commons for use by others.
  • The on-going study planned for this course has two main purposes. The first was to make continual improvements to the course and course content. The second was to examine any changes of opinion in students enrolled in the course.
  • The new IT6230 has been offered 5 times – the first two offerings were classroom-based and the last three have been online. The same tenure-track faculty member has taught the course the first four times, and an adjunct faculty member during this most recent semester (as the regular faculty member was on sabbatical).Note that there was a significant decrease in the participation rate in the study when the course was move from the classroom to online, and that the one time the regular faculty member did not teach the course there were no volunteers for the study.Using a design-based research methodology, the data used included the student discussions from their blog entries and associated comments, the individual and group projects focused on virtual schooling, and the student evaluations conducted by the university for the course.
  • Looking first at the process of continual improvements to the course. The course was initially designed with three units: the first unit was a two week unit that looked at generational differences and the myths associated with today’s youth; the second unit was a nine week unit that looked at a variety of Web 2.0 tools; and the third week unit was the virtual schooling unit – which during the Winter 2008 semester was four weeks in length.The first offering of this new course utilized existing resources from the Iowa State University content, or specifically the Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schooling initiative (which included five multimedia-based scenarios – each of which had a task that was associated with the scenario content, an individual and a group project), along with having a focus on more practitioner-oriented materials. The multimedia scenarios explored various issues that students might face while engaged in their online learning and provides virtual school facilitators with advice on how to assist their students to overcome those hurdles. The individual project required students to create a detailed set of notes related to each of the scenarios, while the group project asked students to deliver a presentation and short report to a fictional body of their choosing related to some aspects of virtual schooling.
  • Based on the analysis of the data, the Iowa State scenarios were localized to a Wayne State server and the scenarios were revised slightly. The individual project was also revised, with the scenario tasks being added to the project (whereas they had been used as discussion prompts during the previous offering) – as the students had found the individual projects to be a form of busy work. The discussion prompts were based on the weekly readings, which became more research focused (as opposed to the practitioner focus from the previous semester). One of the shortcomings of the Winter 2008 offering had been the sole focus on the role of virtual school facilitator – with almost no focus on the roles of virtual school designer or virtual school teacher. The Winter 2009 offering added the Iowa State online teaching case studies to bring some attention to the virtual school teacher role. Finally, the course coverage was increase by one week (with the Web 2.0 unit being decreased by one week).
  • The third offering of IT6230 was its first summer offering. Summer courses run over a seven and a half week time frame, as opposed to the traditional 15 week semester. The virtual schooling unit during the Summer 2009 offering was again increased to the equivalent of six weeks of traditional semester coverage (with the decrease again coming at the expense of the Web 2.0 tools unit).The main change to the course content again focused on the individual student projects. In addition to the detailed notes and the scenario tasks, the students now had to complete specific activities related to the Iowa State online teaching case studies and related to a special issue of Converge magazine that had focused on virtual schooling.Finally, as focusing the discussion prompts on the readings were well received by the students, this continued with some additions to have students incorporate new resources into their discussions.
  • During the Winter 2010 offering the coverage for the virtual schooling unit was increased again by one week. At this stage the generational differences unit was still a two week unit and the Web 2.0 tools unit was down to only six weeks.While the students found the online learning scenarios and the online teaching case studies useful, and while there are many similarities between the development of virtual schooling in Iowa and Michigan, the students still felt like there was a need for Michigan-specific resources. As such, the regular tenure-track faculty member was able to secure a small development grant through the College of Education for the creation of four Michigan-focused online teaching case studies, which were used for the first time in the Winter 2010 offering as an addition to the individual project.Also, the instructor re-sequenced the topics to ensure that there was a specific flow between all three virtual school teacher roles – and that the tools learned during the Web 2.0 unit were carried over and included in how the students should complete their virtual school unit assignments.
  • The most recent offering of IT6230 saw the addition of Michigan-focused online learning scenarios (that were created through an university-wide development grant the regular faculty received). There were also some readings and activities added to the course that brought some focus to the virtual school designer role (as that was the one of the three that was still neglected). The coverage remained at 7 weeks.While the course ended about three weeks ago, as there were no students who volunteered to participate in the study during this cycle decisions about any changes to the course content will have to be made based solely on the feedback from the adjunct instructor.
  • In terms of design lessons or design principles, which should be one of the outputs of design-based research, there were several that we have learned over the past three and a half years. The first is that students enter the course with specific beliefs about online learning and the ability of K-12 students to engage in that medium. In many instances these beliefs are simply wrong and one of the first things that the instructor has to do in the virtual schooling unit is create a sense of cognitive dissonance in the student.One of the lessons that have hit home for us, even before we had the resources to be able to address is, was that the students needed examples that were closer to their own context. Essentially, it had to relate to their own schema.Finally, it appears that the discussions were the most engaging and productive when they were specifically tied to the readings – and pushing the students to use resources beyond those provided in the asynchronous course content has worked particularly well. This has been especially true with the greater focus on the research-based readings, as the resources often provide a practical example to the more theoretical reading.
  • There are some things that we continue to struggle with related to IT6230. Based on the student evaluations, the individual project continues to be their least favourite activity and the activity they find the least useful. From an instructional side, it provides the instructor with a guarantee that the students will complete both the Iowa-based and Michigan-specific scenarios and case studies – as the assignment requires students to use that content. This tension between student dislike and teacher useful continues to be an issue.While the transition from practitioner-focused to research-based readings has been a positive feature in the quality of the online discussions that students are having, the pendulum ma have swung too far towards the research-based material. It may be time to re-consider a better mixture of both types of readings.Finally, the weak portion of the course – at least in terms of the coverage given to the three virtual school teacher roles – is the amount of content focused on the virtual school designer role. However, much like the Michigan-specific online teaching case studies and online learning scenarios, to address this gap may require securing another internal development grant.
  • Moving on to the second purpose, the student opinions towards virtual schooling… During the first two semesters, there were four themes that developed: the student populations that could be served by virtual schooling; some of the benefits of virtual schooling; some of the drawbacks or challenges to virtual schooling; and components or attributes necessary for students to have success.There were some aspects that were common to student data from both semesters, while some things that were specific to the students in either the Winter 2008 and Winter 2009. It is interesting to note that the number of benefits identified by the students increased from the Winter 2008 to the Winter 2009 semester, similarly the number of drawbacks decreased.
  • The initial analysis of the Summer 2009 semester indicated that there were several general themes that were similar to the two previous semesters. One theme that was not present in the student data from the Summer 2009 semester was a concern with or belief that students needed appropriate access to technology in order to be successful.The Winter 2010 data is still being analyzed (and further analysis of the Summer 200 data is also planned).
  • It is okay to get some of my cards from Michele and at the conference if you don’t know the answer to simply say you’re not sure and then give them my card to follow-up directly with me.
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  • CNIE 2011 - Examining a Program to Prepare Teachers to Support K-12 Online Learning

    1. 1. Michael Barbour & Jason Siko Wayne State University
    2. 2. Single provincialprogrammeCombination ofprovincial anddistrict-basedprogrammesPrimarilydistrict-basedprogrammesUsesprogrammesfrom otherprovinces
    3. 3. Students Enrolled in Online Courses 2000 = 25,000 (Canadian Teachers Federation) 2010 = 150,00 – 175,000 (Barbour) all 10 provinces and 3 territories report some K-12 distance education and/or online learning
    4. 4. Students Enrolled in Online Courses 2001 = 40,000 – 50,000 (Clark) 2010 = >2,000,000 (Watson et al.) 48 States, plus the District of Columbia, reporting significant K-12 online learning activity
    5. 5.  2006 – Michigan adds online learning graduation requirement Added 3 new standards for teachers in Educational Technology 1. Online Technology Experience and Skills 2. Online Course Design 3. Online Course Delivery Necessitated changes to all endorsement programs in the state
    6. 6.  At Wayne State University changed reflected in IT6230 – Internet in the Classroom  preparing teachers for three new roles (Davis, 2007) 1. Virtual School Designer 2. Virtual School Teacher 3. Virtual School Facilitator  most middle and high school teachers in Michigan were more likely to play the role of the facilitator the majority of course activities focused on this position
    7. 7.  Limited Existing Resources through various universities Iowa State University 1. Good Practice to Inform Iowa Online Learning 2. Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schools
    8. 8. 1. Examine the effectiveness of the chosen K-12 online learning curriculum, with the goal of making continual improvements to the course.2. Examine the impact of the IT6230 curriculum on the opinions of graduate students about the role of the virtual school facilitator.
    9. 9.  Semesters  Winter 2008 - 9 of 15 students  Winter 2009 - 5 of 7 students  Summer 2009 – 5 of 14 students*  Winter 2010 – 4 of 10 students*  Winter 2011 - 0 of 13 students* * course moved to online delivery Data  Blog entries & comments based on instructor prompts  Individual & group projects  Student evaluations of teaching
    10. 10.  Adopted Teacher Education Goes into Virtual Schooling (TEGIVS) curriculum wholesale  Multimedia scenarios  Individual project  Group project Discussion prompts from TEGIVS scenario tasks Practitioner-focused readings 4 week unit
    11. 11.  Localized and revised TEGIVS scenarios Modified individual project  Added tasks from TEGIVS scenarios Discussion prompts more closely tied to readings More research-based readings Added ILO case studies to focus on VS teacher role 5 week unit
    12. 12.  Modified individual project  added specific tasks related to ILO case studies  added tasks related to Converge special issue Discussion prompts forced students to explore new resources  with a continued emphasis on the readings 6 week unit
    13. 13.  Created Michigan- specific online teaching case studies  used as part of Individual Project Better sequencing of topics Better coverage of topics related to all three roles Better illustration of Web 2.0 tools for online teaching 7 week unit
    14. 14.  Created Michigan- specific online learning scenarios  used as part of Individual Project Add focus on “Virtual School Designer” role Recently concluded  no volunteers for the study 7 week unit
    15. 15.  First you have to confront students’ preconceptions and dispel any myths Michigan-specific examples Discussions more meaningful when tied to the readings, but push students to use resources beyond (particularly with research-based readings)
    16. 16.  Continued revision of the Individual Project Better mix of practitioner-focused and research- based readings Increase in materials related to “virtual school designer” role
    17. 17. Summer 2009 Consistent with Winter 2008 and Winter 2009  Benefits at-risk students  More teacher preparation  Supportive of online learning  Communication/interaction No longer apparent  Appropriate access to technologyWinter 2010 data still being analyzed
    18. 18. Questions and/orcomments?
    19. 19. Michael K. Barbour Jason Siko http://www.michaelbarbour.com