ECI 834 Summary of Learning

Thus concludes the pursuit of my Educational Technology and Media Masters Certificate. Thank you Katia and classmates and best of luck to you on your future endeavors. Special congrats to those who are done their degree! Cheers!


ECI834 Final Course Prototype Submission

We made it folks! Based on conversations in small groups during class, I don’t think I’m the only one who is a little awestruck that this day has finally come. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t to say that I’m glad this course is (almost) over or that it was painful to endure (well… maybe a little but in the thick of H5P creation and total reconstruction of initial course plans). What I mean is that it was a challenge to create a course from scratch! But because of this, I consider this to be the most valuable course I’ve taken as part of my Ed. Tech. certificate program. It pushed me in ways the other courses didn’t and ultimately taught me valuable skills I will undoubtedly use in my future educational endeavors.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the course I created:

  • It is a blended, asynchronous course for grade 7 mathematics
  • The course topic is fractions, decimals and percent
  • It spans over roughly 2 months
  • It intends to function as a fully online course for students completing it at home and/or as review material for students who are present for face-to-face instruction
  • It is an inquiry based math course involving a less-traditional approach (think more journaling and less drill and practice)

Here are links to relevant documents:

This blog post from March 19th is an accurate representation of the overall creation process of my course. As I mention in my post, the peer reviews were an invaluable opportunity to have fresh sets of eyes view the course and give honest, constructive feedback. I didn’t quite expect to change so much of my course after the peer reviews, but after reading the feedback and suggestions and tweaking this and that, things just kind of snowballed and my course got a pretty significant makeover.

Here is a link to the final walkthrough of my course:

And here are separate links to my LUMI instructional videos as well as an example “Journal About Math” video I created as an exemplar for students:

Thank you to Katia and classmates for making this course what it was. All the best to you all!

AI in Education – Incorporating it into my course creation

Watching the video presentation by Alec Couros helped bring some clarity to the confusion surrounding the use of AI in education. Dr. Couros used the term “AI literacy” at one point in the video, and to me, this is the short answer to a long question. I’ll circle back to this later.

In my own course, as noted in my previous blog post, there are a number of changes I need to make. I will definitely be using AI in a few different ways for this. In the initial construction of my course, I only used AI to create the guidelines for discussion etiquette. But as Alec pointed out, using AI as a tool is all about knowing (and using) the correct prompts to get what you need in a streamlined way.

One of the first areas I could have used (and now will use) AI to enhance my course is having it generate rich thinking tasks that are the crux of my lessons.  This is something I was struggling to find in an internet search. I was using Illustrative Mathematics and nrich to locate inquiry questions, but even these slightly missed the mark of the learning experiences I was trying to create for students. Something that was helpful to know was that, as Alec pointed out, ChatGPT is the AI tool that is integrated into many different platforms. This was relieving because I felt a bit overwhelmed with knowing which AI tool was best for the classroom. But by the sounds of it, it’s less about the tool and more about knowing how to input the right prompt. So that took me back to trusty ChatGPT to see what new inquiry questions it could come up with to launch my lessons. Here was my attempt:

I need an inquiry question for math to launch a lesson. The students are in grade 7. The topic is terminating and repeating decimals.
“In what ways can we identify, compare, and convert terminating and repeating decimals, and how do these concepts relate to real-world applications?”
This is too broad. Could you make it more specific?
Of course! Here’s a more specific inquiry question for your grade 7 math lesson on terminating and repeating decimals:

“How can we determine whether a decimal will terminate or repeat, and how does this knowledge help us solve real-world problems involving measurements and calculations?”

…Okay, not bad. I still felt like this was too advanced based on my experience with grade 7s in math, especially when attempting more open-ended thinking tasks such as this.

This is too advanced for my students. Can you make it simpler?
Certainly! Here’s a simpler inquiry question for grade 7 students on terminating and repeating decimals:

“How can we tell if a decimal will stop or keep repeating, and how does this affect our understanding of fractions and everyday calculations?”

That’s better! I will tinker with it a bit more and definitely consult ChatGPT for my future questions.

Man giving thumbs up
The Good Place Thumbs Up GIF by NBC on Giphy

It seems that the major concern in student access to AI is around using it to enhance writing and create text. But it can obviously be helpful in any subject area. My course is for grade 7 math. Students completing the course fully online could, in theory, input that lesson’s inquiry question into a generative AI tool and come up with a phenomenal answer. And, as Alec pointed out, the many “AI checkers” out there are hardly reliable. So where does this leave me, the teacher, when I’m trying to decide if my student completing this course fully asynchronously and remotely does in fact understand the concept?

I think this is yet another situation where being open, honest and upfront with students is crucial. Starting the course by explaining that yes, AI could allow you to sail through this class and probably get a great mark, and no, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you “cheated” might be the key to mitigating it. Having a conversation with students and reframing the use of AI as support instead of cheating could remind students that the end goal is ultimately learning, not getting the best grade. I understand that this argument has a lot more clout with middle school students versus those in high school, where marks have a greater impact. But seeing as it’s the middle schoolers I’m working with, I think it’s reasonable to approach the issue from this angle.

In terms of safeguarding my course from the misuse of AI, I think that the JAM (Journal About Math) element is helpful in ensuring that students are speaking “from the heart” about their experience. From what I can tell, it is difficult to use AI to generate answers to prompts that are authentic to the person trying to generate them when the questions are of a very individual and personal nature, like one’s feelings, for example. Also, the beauty of JAM is that there isn’t really a wrong answer, or way to feel, about math. Thus, the temptation to use AI to complete this task should be nullified.

Still, I understand that for students completing the course fully online who choose to heavily rely on AI, I might need stricter boundaries and a more specific assessment plan. As noted in my ADDIE model outline, the summative assessment in my course is project-based. Though it is not fleshed out yet, I hope to address how students can use AI appropriately in the construction of this final project. I imagine that guidelines around AI will be a common inclusion in many assignment and assessment guidelines moving forward.

Reflecting on Peer Reviews

The combination of reviewing peers’ courses and receiving feedback on my own course has been extremely helpful in pointing out the obvious next steps in my course creation. I’ve never created an online/blended course before, and although Katia’s guidelines for the profile and prototype were very clear, receiving honest feedback at this point in the semester is much appreciated. Before looking at some of the other courses or having mine reviewed, I wasn’t sure how to make my particular course better. Now, I have some ideas! A few initial thoughts on moving forward as a result of being a reviewer and reviewee:

  • My course has unanswered questions. How will students know how to navigate the platform Canvas, which is likely new to them? If students are completing the course fully online, how will they know how much to do each day or where we are in the lesson sequence? What rationale do I have for students completing the JAM (Journal About Math) at the end of the topic rather than at another point, such as the beginning? How exactly will the course look when it is implemented, both in person and online, as it is technically blended? For a course that might have students completing it completely online and away from the classroom, these questions all need answers.
  • My course could be more concise. The “Lesson Guide” page for my first module is rather lengthy and wordy. I need to think about how to simplify this, perhaps by replacing some words with visuals/other media instead.
  • My course could be more engaging. Even though I’ve attempted to create an inquiry-based course, I’m not sure it’s hitting the mark. It still follows a very direct instruction-practice-quiz format, which might be hard to avoid, but I need to think about adding gamification or shuffling things around to increase the engagement factor.

So, back to the drawing board I go. If you have any brilliant ideas, I’m all ears!

Free Board Chalk photo and picture
Photo by athree23 on Pixabay

This week in class, we explored equity and accessibility in online courses. I hadn’t thought too much about these issues before, but Katia’s lecture and the subsequent small-group discussions helped me think about the accessibility of my own course, both for my particular learner personas and other potential students. Is my course accessible and equitable? Are there ways I can improve accessibility and equity?

Reading through Section 9.2 of Teaching in a Digital Age by Tony Bates, along with class discussions, helped me create a list of changes I could make:

  • Ensuring links are on the title of the document/page something is linked to, not just the word “here”, as this is unhelpful and confusing for screen readers
  • Including required prior knowledge for this concept, plus clearly stated instructions for my learner personas working exclusively at home, working at a grade 4 level, and who are just now learning English and will need language support
  • Clarifying steps for students who experience accessibility issues around wifi/connectivity

Looking at the Technological Equity and Accessibility For Virtual and Hybrid Learning reading that Katia suggested, I was reminded to consider that the students who would be completing this course fully asynchronously may need supports beyond those already provided by the online function. As stated in my ADDIE model, two of my learners are attending this course from home due to mental health challenges. These students may have barriers and challenges beyond being in class that might prevent them from completing coursework on time or in full. As I certainly would not want to exacerbate the stress levels of these students, I want to include something in my course that clearly states that accommodations can be made on an individual basis and that I (the instructor) am happy to meet with students virtually, by phone, or communicate by chat and make a plan to help alleviate unnecessary stress and ultimately help them be successful.

Spending a little time on my Canvas-hosted course, I realized that there is an accessibility checker right in the LMS! Cool! So I was already able to make some changes suggested by Canvas.

I was recently listening to The Office Ladies podcast and the hosts (Jenna and Angela) were talking about how really good things aren’t created the first time. I’m paraphrasing, but they discussed how you have to make a lot of crap before you make something great. I immediately thought of this course I’m creating. As I tinker with it, change it around, add and remove things, and continue to ultimately just mold it into what I hope it to be, I’m confident that in the very least, it will be better than it is right now. And if and when I create an online or blended course in the future, it will be better than this one.

Free woman ladder nature illustration
Photo by RosZie on Pixabay

Course Shell and Lumi

Let me just begin my saying, holy workload Batman! I certainly underestimated how long it would take to create a course shell and single module for my blended math course. This is something that I can see many of us are experiencing! Understandably, the initial creation of an online or blended course would be quite tedious and time consuming, but once completed, would be able to be used again and again with future groups of students. Still, there is a lot to think about – a lot more than I thought.

Meme Think GIF on GIPHY

A few weeks ago, I decided that Canvas would be the LMS I would use to host my fractions, decimals and percent course. Canvas was (is) entirely new to me, but after exploring it, I decided it looked promising enough to give it a go. I created an account, looked around a little bit, and left it at that. I veered over to Lumi to create my H5P content for my course. You can check this out here. Let me explain a little bit of my rationale for this creation:

  1. First of all, and this might come as quite a shock to some of you, but teaching about terminating and repeating decimals is actually not very exciting! In my course I am trying to employ an inquiry foundation in earnest and try to foster curiosity and enjoyment in the learning process. The video I found and added interaction to is one that I found was a good “bridge” between my module’s initial inquiry task and the more traditional approach to converting fractions to terminating and repeating decimals (long division).
  2. The video I chose (from Infinity Learn NEET on YouTube) shows an alternative way of identifying if a given fraction is going to convert into a terminating or repeating decimal without doing long division. I thought this was pretty neat, and I even wondered if this “method” might be something that students would discover during the initial inquiry task (uh, perfect!). Except… the terminology in this video was different than the terminology I was using. What I mean is, for the decimal number that repeats, I was using the term “repeating”; in the video, this number is referred to as “non-terminating recurring”. I was annoyed, quite frankly, because this seems to happen in so many situations where, as a teacher, I am scouring the internet for a video that will work to reinforce or introduce concepts to students and can’t find one that is juuuust right. But then, I thought about how it might be more valuable for students to hear a different term and learn that these different terms can mean the same thing. I decided that, instead of creating my own video teaching the same thing, I would just add interactive content to help assist students in learning that these terms are referring to the same thing. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but remembering myself as a younger math learner, there were many times where I was confused about something because it did not follow the prescribed step-by-step method that was shown or explained to me. It is far too easy when teaching (and learning) math to fall into the habit of imitating the instruction and applying that to drill and practice questions without actually developing a deeper understanding, and this is something I want to move away from in my course.
  3. After finishing up with that video, and as I continued developing the shell of my course, I realized that I was going to need another video to review long division of numbers resulting in a decimal. I included this video by Khan Academy as an option for student who need it. As I’m sure many of you who also teach math can attest to, teaching new topics often results in having to go back and review or reteach prerequisite concepts. The “learner personas” for my course (you can see my ADDIE template here) include two students who are working at a grade 4 level in math and could certainly benefit from this additional support, but all students have the opportunity to access it.

I found that with Lumi and H5P, I could only do so much; my lesson also includes an inquiry task (activity), discussions and an assignment directly in the LMS for formative assessment (see below for links to these). For students who are completing the course entirely online, though, H5P content comes as close as it can get to being there in-person for instruction and interaction.

Inquiry Task

Khan Academy assignment

Canvas Assignment (“quiz”) – formative assessment

Journal About Math (JAM) – formative assessment

My first module and the shell of my course is complete, and you can view it all starting here. There are a few other odds and ends I’ve included if you care to take a look, such as a discussion etiquette rubric and sample video/written journal entry which I’m sure I’ll elaborate on in the coming weeks.

Planning and creating this course has been a labour of love. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and wish I had a couple more hours in the day to dedicate to it (rather than trying to utilize every single minute during nap times and whatever other spare time small children allow…but such is life). I am looking forward to watching it all (hopefully) come together.

Building community without borders

What forms of student/student-instructor interactions do you plan to implement in your course prototype (e.g. LMS forums, Flipgrid, blog comments/pingbacks, hashtags, video chats, etc.)? What justification can you provide for choosing these forms of student interaction? What guidelines or assessment practices will you adopt to ensure that interactions are meaningful, supportive, engaging, and relevant?

This week’s asynchronous class included practical videos and readings to help prepare us for the creation of our class prototypes. The videos by Michael Wesch provide useful tips and tricks to make high quality (and low budget) instructional videos. Above this, his raw honesty about his struggle to be in front of the camera is refreshing-not all of us shine in that kind of spotlight. I can relate to this a lot as I can get pretty nervous speaking in front of people, camera or not. I mentioned this to my husband and he said “…but you’re a teacher…” Yes, I’m aware. But talking to a group of adults is more difficult than talking to 13 year olds if you do it long enough. And even then, just because I’ve become used to it doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with it.

In terms of student/student-instructor interactions, my major focus is designing my course so that the students with exceptionalities do not feel like they are in some sort of separate “group” as much as possible. I’ve based my learner personas on the most recent class I taught, which was during the 2022-2023 school year. While I consider this to be the best class I taught in my career, it did not come without its challenges, which I don’t imagine is surprising to a group of educators. Even with the large majority of my students working at grade level quite independently, the handful of students who needed unique types of additional support was difficult to plan for and manage. I think that having an LMS like Canvas, designed specifically for education, is going to be a major asset and support in bridging some of the gaps I witnessed and experienced last year.

Canvas is a brand new LMS to me, but as I peruse the platform, I have come across a couple of potential tools for interaction, both of which I plan to use in my course. They include a discussion section where the facilitator can post a discussion topic and students can comment, like, etc. The benefit of this is that even with students who are working at a lower grade level, and perhaps not completing the same assignments/tasks as the rest of the group, I can tailor the questions so they relate to a broader context and everyone can participate in the discussion.

Another section in the Canvas courses is something called collaborations, which appears to be the equivalent of a Google Doc or working document of some kind. The nice thing about this feature is that it exists right in the LMS platform. While this isn’t a unique feature just to Canvas, it is handy that students don’t have to navigate far if they are working in groups, some of which are completing the coursework from outside the classroom.

Another interactive method I plan to use in my course is assigning video blogs in which students can respond and hopefully carry on a discussion about. My justification for doing this is that traditionally, and even still today in middle/upper elementary especially, math is typically a subject where students work independently. You don’t see a ton of group math projects or reflections on math questions. Until more recently with methods like Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms, deploying these types of lessons would have probably gotten some strange looks from people passing by wondering why you aren’t doing math the “normal” way. While I’m still a bit of a traditionalist at heart in this area and have fond memories of how I learned (and loved) math, I think it’s tough to argue that collaborating and connecting with classmates even in this typically isolating subject area is not beneficial for learners. In this course, students will have the opportunity to JAM (Journal About Math), video blog, and communicate with one another about their thoughts, ideas, struggles, and suggestions, hopefully creating a sense of comradery as they learn that many students have similar thoughts and feelings to them, or perhaps something a classmate explains helps to foster an understanding or way of thinking they didn’t have before.

So how will I implement guidelines so these things actually happen? I think my best bet will be setting the stage right away with the insistence that this course will be different than what they’re probably used to in math. Following some tips from this blog from The Innovative Instructor, I will have students create and post introductory videos of themselves, even if they are taking the class fully in person. This will serve as their “practice post” in the walkthrough lesson of Canvas so they have a chance to use the discussion feature before the actual math course begins. During this introductory lesson, I’ll also emphasize the importance of collaboration, explaining to students that commenting and posting vlogs is not just “extra” to the actual math assignments – it’s a central part to this method of inquiry, collective, constructivist learning. We are learning with each other, from each other, for each other.

Working the criteria of engaging with the course into assignment rubrics will also be helpful. Canvas has a a built-in rubric feature, and co-creating them with students will help collectively decide on expectations for interactions.

There is a lot to think about when designing a blended course, a lot of moving parts. As I embark on the module design process in this new (to me) LMS, I imagine I’ll think of/stumble upon other ideas for student interaction. I wish I was teaching right now to be able to implement it in my classroom and be able to evaluate it, but I suppose that will just have to wait.

ADDIE Model Template & Course Overview

After much deliberation, I finally settled on creating a blended course for grade 7 math, focusing on fractions, decimals and percent. As someone who loved the traditional direct instruction, drill and practice math growing up, it is difficult for me to venture to the more abstract, problem-based methods of math learning, but I figure this is as good an opportunity as any to broaden my horizons. Oh, and I’m gonna give Canvas a whirl while I’m at it, too.

ADDIE Model Template

Course Overview

High Hopes for HyFlex Learning

This week in class we learned all about blended learning. We looked at the (many) definitions of it and discussed the different ways institutions classify and implement it. Needless to say there isn’t a consensus on what makes an environment truly blended.

Once again I was quite interested in Katia’s lecture which was mixed in with some small-group discussion on the topic. I was reflecting on my own teaching practice and the ways that I’ve utilized this style of teaching and learning in my own classrooms over the years. While I could spend quite a bit of time outlining several ways I’ve incorporated technology over the years (quick shout out to the pandemic), I’m more interested in exploring HyFlex learning and the ways this particularly complex and complicated type of blended learning is carried out in different institutions. In my research I hope to find some information about the real-life successes and challenges of offering a course that is authentically HyFlex.

The Prompt:

Research and discuss HyFlex learning (see Beatty’s work). What are the advantages and disadvantages of this model? Is this a feasible model for learning or just a trend of the moment?

According to his book, Brian Beatty describes HyFlex (or hybrid flexible) learning as “…multi-modal courses which combine online and onground (classroom-based) students…”. Brian Beatty is an associate professor at San Francisco State University and is credited with developing the HyFlex approach. Simply put, HyFlex learning offers flexibility to students while maintaining the same level of instruction (this description from Barnard College continues to describe this method clearly. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Parts of it certainly are, like the ability to provide learning opportunities to meet the physical, social, and environmental needs of all students. There are, however, some drawbacks. I’ll do my best to outline the benefits and challenges of the HyFlex approach below.

Free vector ethical dilemma illustration

The Upside

As touched on above, HyFlex learning is just how it sounds – flexible! This is a significant benefit to students with a wide variety of needs and preferences. Further, it serves to challenge a more traditional style of instruction where teachers hold the majority of control for how learning takes place, whether that be face-to-face, online, synchronous, asynchronous, or some prescribed combination of these or other modes of instruction. In the “Student Experience” section of his book, Beatty states that “The HyFlex course design proscribes nothing about the way multiple perspectives are represented or supported in the specific content and/or activities used in a course, but does encourage a variety of ways that students can access content and complete course activities”. Described in this way, HyFlex learning reaches a significant number of students in ways that other more rigid types of instruction are incapable of. In this chapter, Beatty goes on to explain how the hybrid-flexible model shifts ownership of learning from teacher to student, making the learner significantly more responsible.

On the surface, and from the perspective of the learner, the HyFlex option is a great one. If implemented true to its form, HyFlex allows the learner to choose when and how they learn during each class time. And even then, asynchronous options may be available for those unable to attend during a class’s allotted timeframe. This flexibility gives learners from all stages or circumstances of life the opportunity to pursue higher education. Students who are working while going to school have the freedom to continue earning an income while scheduling around their job. Students who have family responsibilities of their own can dictate their educational pursuits around the high demands (and unpredictability) of parenting. Students who struggle with mental health challenges can adjust their school schedule to suit their needs on a day-to-day basis, which is a major advantage for those who experience anxiety or depression. Physical disabilities can also be a barrier for students, one that HyFlex learning allows students to freely participate in from an environment that is more conducive for them. Ultimately, HyFlex learning is kind of a dream for students who are motivated to learn but want or need the freedom and flexibility to complete it on their own terms, in their own way.

The Downside

As Beatty goes on in his book, he addresses the costs and benefits of a HyFlex environment. He points out that “[i]n a HyFlex class, the instructor is challenged to design effective learning experiences for students in both online and in-class modes”. As Katia touched on in class this week, this is quite difficult for teachers to plan for. This really got me thinking about myself planning for a truly HyFlex class. Let’s say I had 20 students in a post-secondary class. The class runs Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and a half each day. On Tuesday, 5 students attend in person, 10 attend synchronously, and 5 asynchronously complete the coursework on their own time, following along using the recorded instruction. Then on Thursday, 13 attend in person, none attend online, and the remainder of the class chooses the asynchronous route. Yikes! The time, effort, and meticulous attention to detail that would have to go into planning for all of these variables would be exhausting, especially if it is the first time creating the course material. What a challenge to attempt to plan for unpredictability. The “plan” would have to be flexible but also comprehensive and include reasonable options for all scenarios. In addition, it’s hard to believe that the quality of instruction wouldn’t be impacted having to juggle so many possible learning situations. Ultimately, a HyFlex learning environment would be tremendously difficult to plan for, especially upfront. It would also need to be carefully implemented to be done well and adequately measure up to its claims.

student sitting on chairs in front of chalkboard

I was curious about how institutions are currently implementing HyFlex learning. A quick Google search helped me with that:

York – some classrooms are equipped with technology that allows remote participation in real time; there is no mention of an option for asynchronous learning

Carleton – the description outlines the options of in-person, online, or asynchronous learning where the student is able to choose their mode of attendance on a day-to-day basis

Columbia – the description mirrors Carleton’s, and includes some helpful graphics for instructors creating their courses. Also included are sample lessons. I took a peek at one and wanted to share a section of one:

This is just a small section – 5 minutes – out of a 50 minute lesson, and if I imagine myself carrying it out, it would feel like teaching three classes at once. Over time, I know this would get easier and become increasingly seamless for the instructor, but initially, it would be a major undertaking.

A Final Word

Anytime learning is made to be more accessible to more students is a positive thing. Therefore I think that it is a feasible model for learning. HyFlex is an attractive option to students looking for a non-traditional environment to better suit their needs, whatever they may be. This method of instruction can help students learn successfully in a variety of ways, assuming that the student is motivated enough to do so. Teaching a HyFlex course does, however, appear to be a daunting task, involving a significant amount of preparation. If well-planned and carried out, a HyFlex course could be the perfect option for self-disciplined students needing a higher degree of flexibility.

black flat screen tv turned on near green plant