Monday, February 21, 2011

Begining to Look Back

Though I had previously worked on an on-line learning project while I was in Taiwan, the end result was less than satisfying because of powers-that-be refusing to actually launch the program. So, this masters program is the first time I will be having a genuine on-line learning experience.

In my teaching experience, I spend a portion of the first class of people who don't know each other doing introduction activities. This is very helpful and helps begin bonding and developing social relationships. This was done in part by the Introduction forum but that didn't seem to go far enough. I felt that during the first class we could have gone into a couple of different groups in breakout rooms and spent just a couple of minutes talking with a couple of classmates. This could have even been done before the class began while we were waiting for the class to begin.

I know that sometimes the physical process of dividing the class into breakout rooms can be tedious. While I was working on the on-line project in Taiwan, I came up with the wish-list of a graphical classroom that would make breakout rooms easier to manipulate. The on-line project I was working on was for English as a Second Language and in face to face classrooms we constantly break students into pairs and small groups fro practice. My ideal virtual classroom management tool would look something like this.

Students would either have live video or a photo image and text name. The breakout rooms are the yellow boxes. Students could be dragged into breakout rooms and the instructor could visit any one of them to listen or join in.

What am I hoping to learn in this program? I know that many of the tools we will be learning about I am already familiar with. Though I may be familiar with them, many I have not used extensively in practice so I hope to get first hand experience utilizing these tools. I also hope to learn about other technology tools I am unaware of. This I have already done by reading our instructor, Louis Loeffler's blog, Tech-Lou-Ology and by checking out some of the links.

I also want to learn and practice the art of setting up social dynamics with distance learning students as well as utilizing social tools on the Internet for use with traditional classrooms.

Currently, it is difficult for me to use a lot of what I am/will be learning in this program in my school. Though I am supposed to teach computers and technology, I am constantly kept busy with administrative duties and don't even have the time to help other teachers use the computers more effectively. I am searching for and hoping for a new job in the near future where I can utilize my talents and passions instead of only my skills. Hopefully, being enrolled in this program will increase my chances of finding a new position.

I have in the past introduced students to cloud computing, mostly having them use ZOHO. ZOHO is similar to Google in that it provides email and document creation and editing on the Internet. I chose ZOHO at the time because they have a better Notebook app and have a database app which I taught students. At the time, ZOHO was also able to import/export OpenDocument formats which Google didn't at the time.

One question I have for my cohorts is in regard to the Learning Management System (LMS) we are using, Angel. I am interested in opinions about using Angel and especially from anyone who has experience using Moodle, a free, open source LMS. I have set up and administered a Moodle site with very minimal usage and would like opinions of different LMSes.


  1. Zac, I was in a similar situation at one of my former schools. Being a technology teacher obviously comes with some administrative responsibilities but being the sole "go-to-guy" in a school can be extremely stressful. When you are putting out small fires all day in between your teaching it can really make it difficult to find the time to research new and exciting things to add to your teaching repertoire. Without knowing what your school currently has in place I'd like to make a few suggestions:
    1. Start up or get involved in a school or district technology committee. I currently work at a Catholic grade school and this has become essential for our school to survive. If you work at a public school then perhaps it is a different animal, but it is worth a try to get involved and really find out why your school cannot provide you with some tech support.

    I would also recommend finding some talented parents who would be willing to volunteer to perform some of the more tedious tasks for you so that you can free up some time. At my school, we have a group of dedicated parents who can perform simple jobs and even some pretty intense "techie" jobs. This has really freed me from some pretty huge burdens that have been solely mine in the past.

    On another note, I will be taking a long hard look at LMSes in the very near future so I'd love to share any thoughts or results with you as we move along. I'll check back every once in a while and see how things are going.

  2. I Meant CURTIS!! Not sure why I wrote Zac...I was reading his blog earlier...sorry about that, ha

  3. Curtis,

    According to my tech. department Moodle is something that we have to pay for. We pay CESA for each Moodle account that is open. That is why they have been pushing us to use My Big Campus instead. This is a program that we already get through Microsoft Outlook. So far my teachers seem to like it. It does a lot of neat things and doesn't seem to be as time intensive to start as Moodle.