Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, September 28, 2006

EDUC3325 - Week Four Reflections

Wow, the end of September already - where did the time go?

Well, one month into the fall 2006 semester and I'm very impressed with the "work ethic" of the students in the EDUC3325 course this week. We had a bit of an attendance "glitch" on Monday night as a surprising number of students attended the Mariah Carey concert in Calgary (sounds like everyone had a GREAT time). Anyways, most of the students were able to attend the first part of the class and we were able to critically review the five major types of instructional software (drill & practice, games, simulations, tutorials, problem solving). Almost everyone had completed their Reading Assignment on this topic (although some people finished at the last minute) - so they had enough "raw data" to use to create their group summaries for each of the five categories. Similar to last week, each group sent me their summary via the digital drop box and I "patched" it all together into a summary - which we then posted to our Blackboard site. For the students that were left - we then started the PowerPoint Learning Theories assignment. Still can't beat Greg Kearsley's Theory in Practice (TIP - site as a good starting point for the students to learn about the various major learning theories.

The focus of the PowerPoint Assignment is for the students to select a learning theory and then provide an overview and summary:

  • A brief introduction or overview to the learning theory you have selected

  • Names of researchers involved in developing this theory (this screen should also include an picture of at least one of the researchers)

  • Key principles of this theory

  • Implications for education and/or technology integration

A fair number of students attended the optional tutorial session on Wednesday night in order to complete the lesson plan assignment (I'll be sure to post their completed work next week), work on their PowerPoint assignments and two of the Jenn's completed their online discussion summary on our course wiki ( Wow, now that Google has taken over - I have been VERY impressed with the performance of this wiki tool!!

Outside of this course, our Teaching & Learning Centre at the University of Calgary hosted Dr. Craig Nelson from Indiana University. Craig is a retired biology professor who has a PASSION for teaching. He helped create the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning and his written extensively on fostering critical thinking and mature valuing across the curriculum. A lot of his thinking is based on William Perry's (1970) work with Harvard Undergraduates. Perry suggests that undergraduate students move through various phases of thinking from Dualism (right versus wrong or as Craig states "Sergeant Friday" stage - just give me the facts), to multiplicity (decisions based on opinions - feelings and/or intuition - rather than analysis or Craig's Baskin Robbins - multiple flavors - becuase I feel like it stage), to contextual relativism (understanding decisions within disciplines or Craig's "Teacher Games") to committment (contextual decisions or Craig's "owned games").

Craig stresses that it is our role as educators to help students move through these four stages (studies have found that most undergraduates only reach the multiplicity phase). He suggests that an emphasis on teaching critical thinking and small group work (inside and outside of the classroom) can help facilitate this process. And he states:

"Grade inflation is our task. We should be focused on educating - not sorting students. Increased grades should REALLY mean increased learning!!"

Hopefully, I'll be writing more about how I'm trying to incorporate Craig's ideas into my own teaching practice in the coming weeks?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

EDUC3325 - Week Three Reflections

Phew . . . the weeks just seem to get busier as the semester progresses. I barely found time for the week's Blog entry.

The EDUC3325 class is really starting to gel. This is the smallest number of students that I have ever had in this course (14) but they are open and willing to learn in a blended environment. Monday night we got everyone's Blog set up (link in the left hand column of my Blog) and then had a good discussion about Productivity Tools (word processing, spreadsheets and databases). Prior to class everyone had selected a productivity tool and completed an online quiz about the tool (i.e., definition, types, advantages, challenges and educational uses). I then copied all the quiz data into a MS Word documented - converted it into html format and posted it to our Blackboard site. In class - I then divided students into three groups and had them create summaries for each of the three major types of Productivity Tools. They then sent me these summaries for the Blackboard Digital Drop Box and I pasted the three summaries into a new MS Word document - which was then posted to our course Web site.

We finished the evening with each of the students creating their own grade book in MS Excel. A number of them had worked with Excel before and it was wonderful to watch them support those students who were new to this productivity tool.

Wednesday night was an "optional" tutorial to complete the Lessson Plan and Grade Book assignments. About half the class showed up and they made some GREAT progress on their lesson plans.

Outside of this course - I hosted two wonderful visitors from the UK at the University of Calgary. They were Peter Bullen - Director of the Blended Learning Unit at Hertfordshire ( and Peter Chatterton an eLearning Consultant to the Higher Education Academy on a major eLearning Benchmarking project ( They spent a day chatting with us about our ITBL Program at the U of C ( And, then a second day facilitating presentations for the University of Calgary community. I found both of their sessions very informative. Peter Bullen is involved in some very creative evaluation processes for his institution's blended learning inititiatives (i.e., student video diaries - 10 students received digital video cameras for a week - they recorded their expectations for their classes each morning and then reflected on what actually happened in the classes each evening). Peter Chatterton emphasized the importance of benchmarking initiatives in order to move beyond innovative "pockets of goodwill" within an institution. I can relate to this - as we have to move the ITBL program beyond a series of course redesign projects to one which supports sustainable program development within Faculties at the U of C.

Here are the links to the sessions that Peter Bullen and Peter Chatterton facilitated today on blended and eLearning in the UK (to increase the size of the PowerPoint slide screen - just drag it to the left).

Peter Bullen's Elluminate Session on Blended Learning in the U.K. (password - Thursday)

Peter Chatterton's Elluminate Sesssion on Benchmarking eLearning Initiatives in the U.K.(password - Thursday)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

EDUC3325 - Week Two Reflections


We've made it over week two - the "hump" week. I think we finally have "who's who" in our class figured out - after a series of last minute additions and withdrawls. It looks like we'll have 14 GREAT students as members of the fall 2006 EDUC3325 class.

This week was definitely one of getting all the course "technical issues" - out of the way. Everyone is now active on the course discussion forum, has signed up to moderate one of the weekly discussions and knows where our summary wiki is located. Almost everyone has a brief bio and picture posted to their Blackboard Student Home Page. And, we're all connected by email - yahoo!!

One more item to go - our student weblogs. The "gang" is currently having a "peak" at Dr. Debra Hoven's student blogs (

With all the "techy" stuff behind us - we began focusing on how we can construct Internet-based lessson plans. On Monday night - we reviewed the Alberta Information Communication Technology Outcomes document ( Still not sure I can get my "head around" the F's (foundational knowledge), C's (communication) and P's (processes for productivity) within this document. What ever happened to the "good olde" - K (knowledge), S (skills) and A's (attitude) objectives?

All the students have now selected a topic, grade level and subject area for their lessson plans. Margy MacMillan - the "searching goddess" faciliated a session on Wednesday night for us on how to find "creative" and useful lesson plan resources on the Web. This assignment is due on Sept 27th and I'll be sure to "publish" the completed work on this Blog.

In the mean-time the students have a bunch of Web-based readings to do on Productivity Tools (word processing, spreadsheets and databases) for our next class discussion.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

EDUC3325 - Week One Reflections

Hmnnn . . . you just never quite know how the first day of class goes from a teacher perspective.

We only had 10 of the 17 enrolled students show up. This may be partially due to the fact that we usually have a number of U of C students in the course and classes don't begin at the University until next Monday.

On a positive note - everyone seemed to be engaged in our opening activity about reflecting about a "powerful" learning experience. The students appeared to enjoy having small group dialogues about their experiences and then examining the characterisitics and/or features that made this learning experience "powerful" to them. I had each group report back, using flip chart paper, and then we compared our list of characteristics to Chickering & Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate education - the importance of a relationship with the teacher and respect for diversity of learning approaches was noted in the students' comments.

I then got the students into new groups (numbered them off) to review the course outline and come up with a list of questions about the course. I was impressed - no question about "How do I get an A in this course?". Instead the students were interested in getting further clarification about the assignments - specifically the Web-based portfolio, WebQuest and Group Teaching Workshop. I mentioned to them that we would also be using Wikis and Weblogs to support our learning - but these were "new" tools for the entire group. I did add that we would be "hopefully" collaborating with Dr. Debra Hoven's education class in Australia with these tools - and that brought the "light"back into everyone's eyes.

I finished the evening with a review of the major features and tools in our course Blackboard site. Everyone was able to logon and navigate the site with no problems - a "first" for this course. They first checked that their correct email address had been entered into the system, then they "created" their Home Page (future teaching aspirtations and interests - digital image to come next week), "played" with the online discussion forum and then complete a "beginning of the semester" survey (that I adopted from a version at the University of Waterloo). I'll be sure to "link" the survey results to this Blog - when all the students have completed the survey by next Monday night.

Next steps . . . get the students ready to create their own Blogs next week and work with Margy MacMillan (Instructional Librarian at MRC) to provide an orientation to the Internet based lesson plan assignment.

That's a "wrap" for this week :)