Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekend in San Francisco - December 2009

I was very fortunate on the way back from the Academic Impressions Conference on Instructional Strategies for Blended Learning to be able to spend the weekend with Beth, John, Christopher, and Jackson in San Francisco. Despite some rain, we had a wonderful weekend exploring downtown San Fran, attending a performance of the musical Wicked, eating an amazing dinner at the Betelnut Restaurant, and watching the boys play a couple of indoor soccer games.

I put a set of photos together from the weekend activities.

Academic Impressions - Instructional Strategies for Blended Learning Conference - Scottsdale, Arizona - December 2009

Phew, I've just finished my final workshop / conference for the 2009. This certainly has been a busy year for travel and conferences - most of them related to blended learning. I had the opportunity to once again be part of Academic Impression's Instructional Strategies for Blended Learning Conference. This time the conference took place at the Hotel Valley Ho, located in the old downtown area of Scottsdale, Arizona. It was wonderful to be working again with Margaret Riel, Tom Reeves, and Chuck Dziuban. From my perspective, we are an AMAZING team as we have such a wide range of experiences and approaches to blended learning.

Once again, I "kicked off" the workshop with a pre-conference session on Designing Courses for the Needs of Diverse Learners. This time I made a greater effort to focus on the range of diverse learners in higher education and to "draw out" the audience's own experiences about this topic. I'll be VERY curious to see the participants' comments about this session :)

I also closed the first day of the conference with a session on the Roles of Successful Blended/Online Instructors. I could tell that a large portion of the audience was tired and overwhelmed with information - before I began my session - so rather than including the usual think/pair/share and small group activities - I attempted to conduct a "guided" discussion about the key instructor roles and issues encountered in blended/online courses. I used the three components of teaching presence found in the community of inquiry framework (e.g., design & organization, facilitation, direct instruction) and I think that I was able to engage at least some of the audience.

I was also the "closer" for the second day of the conference with my session on Student Engagement and Web 2.0: What's the Connection? Unfortunately, we had been having problems with the hotel's wireless internet connectivity throughout the day - so there was some "pent up" audience frustration about some of the collaborative learning technologies that we were trying to get them to use (e.g. and Google Sites). I figured that I would resort to the same tactics I had used for my closing session on day one but this time I worked extremely hard at trying to get the participants to share their own experiences and strategies for effectively and efficiently using collaborative learning technologies in higher education. I'm not exactly sure how well this session was received by the audience as we had maybe over focused on digital technologies.

Definitely, the main reason I enjoy participating in Academic Impression Conference's is the opportunity to learn from the audience and the other facilitators. The olde saying that "you learn twice when you teach others" certainly wrong true for me again at this conference :) I've put together some "sketchy" conference notes but some of my key take aways from the other facilitators included the following:

From Margaret

A greater apprection for design and implementation of learning circles - model of distributed leadership where a small number of participants collaborate on a set of projects around a theme for a specified period of time to gain deeper knowledge and shared understanding, has a beginning and an end with the outcomes focusing on knowledge building dialogue and circle products (e.g. print publications, websites, reports, graphics or media products)

From Tom
  • We "assess" people and we "evaluate" things
  • We learn "with" technology not "from" technology - knowledge needs to be co-constructed, represented, and shared
  • Teaching is about asking the "right" questions
  • Learner tasks – move from academic (textbook problems) to authentic (ill-structured problems)
  • Visible Learning – A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement – John Hattie
Things that make a difference – 10 Effects
  1. Feedback to students .72
  2. Formative evaluation to instructors (feedback from students) .70
  3. Time on task .60
  4. Mastery learning plan .58
  5. Small group learning .49
Dimensions of Effective Assessments
  1. Task-oriented
  2. Challenging
  3. Collaborative
  4. Constructivist
  5. Conversational
  6. Responsive
  7. Reflective Formative
Starting Points for an Evaluation Study
  1. Establish a strong rationale
  2. Identify decisions upfront
  3. Use multiple criteria
From Chuck

  • Engaging students by understanding - boundary objects, prototype theories, and cognitive models
  • Generational narratives – a man is more like his times than his father
  • Convenience is the main reason for students to take an online course or program
Predictors of student success - the three key questions on a student rating of instruction survey
  1. Facilitation of learning
  2. Communication of ideas
  3. Respect and concern for students

Canadian Association of Teacher Education (CATE) Working Conference on Student Field Experiences - Winnipeg, Manitoba - November 2009

Hmnn . . . looks like I forgot to add a blog posting about the Canadian Association of Teacher Education's (CATE) Working Conference on field experiences for pre-service teacher education programs. This conference was hosted by the University of Manitoba and was held at a hotel in Winnipeg in November, 2009. Dr. Irene Naested, Dr. Jodi Nickel, and myself represented Mount Royal University at the conference. I must admit that I was initially skeptical about the personal value of this working conference as we still have not received the necessary funding ($$$) to proceed with our B.Ed. program at MRU. But . . . the conversations with Education faculty members from across Canada who are deeply engaged in developing, delivering and evaluating field experiences for pre-service teacher education students provided me with some VERY valuable insights that I hope that I'll be able to one day utilize for our own program.

I was the recorder for my workshop roundtable group - so I've actually got a pretty good set of notes from the conference. Some of the key conference "take-aways" that my group identified included:
  • An increased awareness of diversity of field experiences and teacher education programs across Canada
  • The importance of sharing what we learned with our colleagues in our home Faculties of Education
  • Highlighting the importance of “teacher education” research – specifically field supervision as research – increase status
  • An awareness of language and tensions around field experiences
  • A recommendation that field experience supervision should be listed under research – rather than service
Next steps for the group include:
  • Focus of final paper should be on field experiences
  • 4000 word length for the papers
  • Consider and discuss the assumptions you make in the design of your field experience in your program
  • Suggest program changes or conceptualization of program – consider or discuss what would count as “evidence” for change in your program (research agenda)
  • Single-blind peer review (authors don't know who reviewed the papers) – authors of papers review two other papers – focus on improving the quality of the paper – want to create a document that will be useful to our colleagues in teacher education programs
  • Deadline for publication for CSSE in May 2010 – submit final version of paper by Dec 31st