Learning Inquiry Project

In this course I recently completed a learning inquiry project. We were tasked to learn anything we had an interest in, and document the learning process. For this assignment, I chose tanning fish skin into leather. Odd subject? Perhaps, but in my perspective it was something that was/is valuable to me. I found that I was spending time and brain power justifying the decision to research the topic I chose. This justification was a result of experiencing people’s reaction to telling them about the project. This internal struggle brought to light how important it is for students to receive positive encouragement when learning anything new, because skepticism or negative comments about the student’s work, etc. can make a student doubt purpose, topic, relevance, their capabilities and so on. As an instructor, it is so important to a student’s learning process to provide positive feedback and encouragement so that they don’t doubt any motivations or be afraid to express ideas that don’t conform to the mainstream. A very important thing I am taking away from this project is to be mindful of how feedback can influence a learning path.

Secondly, it is very important to consider the scope of assignments, based on the timeframe that students have to complete them. This course is a two-week intensive block, similar to the three-week intensive course blocks I teach. It is important to be mindful of the time outside of class assignments take, and value and understand that students have things outside of school that are important in their lives (family birthdays, visits from close friends, etc.), and should not be made to work every hour they are not in class. During this course, I found myself constantly feeling guilty for doing other things in my life.

As instructors we frequently hear “excuses” about why students haven’t completed things on time. After a while, I think it is possible to become callus to hearing this, and forget that legitimate things really do come up – like rescuing stranded fishermen, and major plumbing issues – in my case. Not finishing the task I set out to accomplish for this assignment has intrinsic drawbacks. I felt disappointed, frustrated and overall defeated. If I were to receive additional “lecture” from an authority figure for not completing the task, I would probably withdraw further. This situation reminds me to be mindful of each individual and situation and take their reasoning and feelings into consideration.

Overall, I think that this assignment helped me to empathize with my students by being reminded what it’s like to be the learner. This has been my favorite assignment in the CAE program!

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Using Webquests in the Classroom

Using webquests in the classroom is something that appeals to me as a student-centred learning approach. The marketing course I teach is heavily based in theory, and I am always looking for creative and dynamic ways to present materials and assignments. Creativity and technological knowledge are extremely important for marketers, and I believe that creative assignments will assist in stimulating creativity among students. I had already created what I called an “online scavenger hunt” on services marketing research to both help develop critical thinking skills, and to learn about services marketing research. The explanation was verbal, and the instructions and questions were in a Word.doc that was e-mailed to students. So, I was very interested to learn that there were online engines that assist in creating professional-looking online webquests; the one I was introduced to last week is Zunal.com.

Many webquests are made public, and people are encouraged to used existing webquests as templates where you would adapt content to best fit your needs. I did a search of existing webquests, and found a really great marketing webquest on promoting an e-commerce website using either SEO or SEM. This is a resource I could use in my class without really doing very many changes. This particular example is quite detailed however, and I may need to create a reduced version in the interest of time.

As I mentioned, I would like to convert my current “online scavenger hunt” about marketing research to a webquest. I did a search, and found an interesting advertising marketing research webquest on Weebly.com, another resource engine for creating online webquests. I would like to use this existing webquest and adapt it, to shift the focus from advertising research to services marketing research. To do this, I would need to first compare my existing scavenger hunt to the existing online webquest. Secondly, I have never created a webquest before and am interested to learn about the back-end use. I would like to compare ease of use (back-end design) between weebly.com and zunal.com. I am concerned for public ease of use, but I am more concerned about the back end because of the amount of time it will take to create a webquest and I do not want to abandon the project because I am frustrated with the technology. As I already have content for the quest, I think that I could enhance the user experience through use of photographs, which would require me to go out and take some pictures.

This is an endeavor I look forward to!

Flipping the Classroom

I feel like in-class lectures are very important. I admit my bias, as this is my personally preferred method of learning, however post-secondary instructors are expected to be subject area experts, and I believe there is value in teacher centred learning. I expect the best information from the best experts and I believe that students, who are “paying customers” expect the same. But can some of this lecture be done at home, shifting from teacher centred learning to student centre learning?

The question I’m addressing today is whether flipping the classroom can be incorporated into any of my courses – well sure it could – but do I want to do this, and how will students learn best? To help inform this post, I read an article, on flipping the classroom by Pamela Kachka. A vaild point, Kachka mentions that flipping the classroom is not a new or even recent idea – essentially, any “homework” like reading, or advance preparations is flipping the classroom. On some level then all courses involving homework, essentially all courses, involve “flipping the classroom” to some degree necessarily; this makes the term arbitrary for me, and the current reference should more accurately be titled, “at-home-lectures”. Personally, I find that students frequently do not do readings in preparation for class. My perspective is that if students won’t read at home, they are even less likely to watch an hour-long video of me talking while on their own time.

In theory, I think it would be great if students would watch a video-lecture at home for say Business Communications – then I could use the in-class time to assist individual students in applying writing skills through the various course assignments. In practice, I don’t believe that students would actually watch the videos. I suppose this means I am a skeptic that in-class lectures can be replaced with watch-at-home lectures.

As a final thought, I think that ‘alternative’ teaching methods may work (ie. watch-at-home-lectures), later on in a post-secondary career. In universities, seminar courses are often introduced in year four (last year of studies), perhaps watch-at-home-lectures could work in a final program year for college students as well.

I am open-minded however, I would love to hear any and all thoughts or examples on successes of at-home-video-lectures. 

Student-Centred Learning Approaches: Portfolios

Last night I read an article by Theresa GIlliard-Cook on the use of portfolios in the classroom as an approach to student-centred learning, Authentic Learning: Developing a Student-Centred Classroom Through Portfolios. 

I am always looking for new ways to present materials to students, and creative ways to evaluate learning. I teach several business communications courses in my department – outcomes of these courses relate to preparing students for employment and includes preparing a resume and preparing for job interviews, but they also learn how to write important business documents. These business documents include things like response letters to guest praise and complaint letters, memos, meeting minutes, proposals and reports, and business presentations. I have observed that many students in my program do not have previous work experience, and have a tendency to say that they “don’t have experience” when preparing for co-op interviews; this is not true as they’ve been studying industry practices in college for at least eight months. Having a portfolio of professional documents can be a major asset for an employer to review when a student lacks *paid* work experience, but may still be capable and excel at any particular job.

What I liked best about the article, was that it was not simply advocating for portfolios but the necessity of the student to evaluate their own work. In the context in which I would like to use portfolios, the students will not only need to evaluate their own work, but they will need to be able to explain the importance of each document type included and what they are doing to continue to develop their skills in that particular area.

The article does an excellent job of putting into perspective for instructors what students need to create and value this  learner-centred approach: purpose, audience, method, content, dispersion, work-plan, & evaluation. This was a “lightbulb” moment for me when reading this. Students really need these things to value what they’re learning. I’m looking forward to employing portfolios in my BCOMM courses.

While the article demonstrates benefits of portfolios, and how to effectively use them, it does not discuss any of the potential challenges of using portfolios. Has anyone come across any challenges when requiring a portfolio for a course requirement?