Any tech tools, resources, recommendations, including the vast world of online learning.

Creating a culture of online learning and mentoring

Keith Heggart High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Recently, the school I work at advertised for an online learning and mentoring coordinator. I think this is a really proactive step - but it raises an interesting problem.

This school is a middle sized high school (about 750 students) located in Western Sydney. Computer access on site is quite high - (about 1 machine for 2 students) and access at home is equally high (more than 90% of students have computers with internet access at home).

It is a day school, so the online learning component would obviously be in addition to normal face to to face teaching - perhaps supplemental or maybe after school hours.

My questions are these:

1. How would this coordinator go about creating an online learning culture? What tools or strategies would you recommend for using this? How would the coordinator establish a 'critical mass' of participating students?

2. What would online mentoring look like, as opposed to online learning? What advice would you give to set this up?

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Educational Consultant-former teacher in high school

Student to Technology

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Student-to Technology is not as easy as it seems!
A common statement in the online world by adults is that students understand how to use technology better than adults; after all, they have been brought up with it. After 10 years of working with online students I have noticed that many of them know how to play games, to blog, and to download music but generally do not know how to use technology as a learning tool.

When working with students on using technology the teacher’s responsibility is to teach the students the difference between gaming, blogging, and doing high level academic work. One of an instructors first question to answer is, “How do you determine the right learning tool to use?” In general, the type of program(s) that you want to use is(are) one(s) that will help make the student be more interactive with the academic material? The lessons and programs that the student is asked to use should create a work group experience that allows him or her to post key ideas for others to see and for them to have to defend their ideas. Another important consideration is to select tools that allow students to do real world activities by: using productive multimedia tools, work closely with worldwide experts, and effectively use original research materials. This allows individual and groups to work closely together on high-level academic projects. It also creates lessons that properly use online programs and it will increase the student’s understanding of the material. One important side effect to this is that it also escalates their commitment to learning.

In order to do the high level of technological work it is important to have short tutorials available for the student to use for just in time learning. At first it is important to supply the student with a model of this type of work. Then the student should be given the academic resources or information (such as pictures or audio) and allowed to learn the proper use of the software. And finally, they pupil should be given a significant assignment that uses the technological programs to explain or present their academic and intellectual viewpoints or findings to others. It is best to do short 2 – 3 minute presentations for students to do as a first project and then to expand the process as the year goes along.

There are a multitude of programs that are available for student’s to use and it is essential to determine which series of technological programs that fit the academic requirements of a project. Multimedia programs such as Audacity, Camtasia, and PhotoStory can produce simple but effective lessons. The proper use of interactive activities such as wiki’s, blogs, social media, Teachertube, Teen Second Life, and podcasting are all current internet technologies that might be used to teach the student how to use 21st Century learning tools.

Evaluation of the student’s work should be based on how each pupil accomplishes their specifically assigned technological, academic, social, presentation, and group tasks during a project. A portion of their final grade is how well they use the technology to present their materials. All students should be given a grading rubric for each of their assigned task and each area such as the technological portion is one part of their grade. A student’s final grade is based on their own individual responsibilities and their group efforts. It requires a lot of work on the part of the teacher to stay up with this type of program.

By incorporating technology as a part of the online learning environment a student will develop the critical thinking skills necessary to be successful academically. These types of assignments or activities also help prepare the student for the workplace of the 21st Century.

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