Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Six Types of Assessments (And How They're Changing!)

Want a three-to-five minute crash course in assessment models? This infographic is just for you! I'm a big fan of formative assessment. I know there are lots of controversies surrounding the legitimacy and execution of other types of assessment such as the criterion-based and norm-referenced models. I suspect the ideal lies somewhere in the dynamic hybrid that meets the needs of various learning communities but I also suspect that formative assessment plays a prominent role in any learner-centered process. The key word to remember about formative assessment is "feedback"—and lots of it. Continuous feedback has a double-edged benefit in that it helps assess both the learner's learning and the teacher's teaching, if that teacher is so tuned to read and hear feedback to their feedback. The ideal is a continuous feedback loop. With a steady, continuous communication with learners, we learn to adapt to and overcome individual obstacles to learning as well as modeling to learners how to overcome those obstacles by and for themselves.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Desktop Documentaries: Value in Learning and Assessment?

I'm pretty impressed with this Desktop Documentaries site! I have always had a keen interest in producing documentaries and I have a summer at Duke University's documentary filmmaking school on my to-do list. The topics that I'd like to explore and relate via documentary are all topics in which I hold great passion and interest, of course. The topics themselves drive my interest in documentary production, and the technical process of producing a film is of secondary interest. Development of the technical skills and resources required to communicate information and ideas on a chosen topic in a multimedia documentary would be a great bonus outcome for a learner enrolled in any field of curriculum!

What if we used learner-driven desktop documentary production in the classroom (online or brick-and-mortar) for both learning and assessment? While it would be admittedly difficult to manage a high-quality production of any significant depth or length in the scope of a one-semester course, full documentary production provides a great opportunity for a culminating experience, which typically spans multiple semesters (in secondary and higher educational environments) and can be approached as a team effort. I'm especially fond of any type of learning or assessment that stresses collaborative teamwork skills as opposed to merely competitive learning models. Learning communities form around a shared goal or project, and documentary making can be done completely virtually from a variety of source points around the world by using widely available free technologies and tools.

And for those courses which begin and end in a single semester, mini-documentaries of 3-5 minute duration and a more ad hoc production quality (smartphones, tablets, laptops) are ideal for the learning experience measured in weeks rather than years. Public service announcements, mini-documentaries, sound bites or video blogs/memes produced with educational intent provide real-world context to the learning experience and leave the learner with a tangible outcome perfect for an e-portfolio!

I am adding a documentary section to this blog. I will be adding resources as I find them, so please feel free to share yours with us!

What might your learners gain from creating video documentaries? And what might we gain from them?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What If We Flipped ONLINE Learning?

Most of us have heard about flipping the traditional classroom: learners review lecture and do their reading before they come to class! Then homework and projects are completed in the presence of the instructor and peers in the classroom setting, making collaboration and team learning much easier and providing over-the-shoulder instructor support at arguably the most critical phase in the learning process (application of knowledge to assignments, problem-solving and projects, for instance).

But flipping an ONLINE class? How might that work? HERE is a very brief narrative and a fascinating infographic to explain it! 

C. Chase: How Love & Self-Direction Leads to Mastery

I believe this is true for all levels of learning, at all ages!
How does a child become highly skilled at painting, singing, dancing or drawing, without significant input from teachers? One thing my son Andy and I learned early on was the importance of imitating the skillful work of others and falling in love with the creative process. 
This is a drawing that Andy did when he was about 8 years old. He loves to draw, and has been doing it on his own, since he was three. Like Andy I drew for enjoyment several hours a day, since about the same age. No teachers, no art courses, just pencils, paper, free time and encouragement from parents to draw whatever we liked.

For both of us the mastery process was completely self-directed. Andy would spend hours with his favorite dinosaur books, copying the pictures, then making little action scenes or story books. At his age, I would trace and imitate my favorite cartoons, then return to drawing in my own style, creating similar kinds of pictures.

What I remember noticing fairly early on was that every time I traced or imitated a drawing beyond my present level of ability my skills improved. I observed the same thing with my son's drawing ability. I never told him how or what to draw, just encouraged him to copy the pictures he liked.

What we both learned is that a more advanced artist doesn't need to physically be there in the same room to be your teacher. Careful observation, patience, practice and imitation of their work is all that is needed. As skills improve, and you've learned from many different artists, one begins to develop their own unique style.
In reading about how other artists developed their skills it appears that many discovered the same process. Bob Dylan listen to folk music endlessly, and imitated his favorite musicians. Van Gogh began by copying paintings by others, most great writers were usually first voracious readers. 
Countless hours of practice and engagement seems to be the key to mastering what one loves. In my case, I would draw for about 2 hours every day from age three. Andy did that as well. That's 60 hours a month, over 700 hours a year. By the time he and I were 5 or 6 years old many saw us as "born artists." But few realized how much practice time we were putting into it. 
Think about whatever it is you do extremely well. Were you born with those skills or did you practice and enjoy doing what you love for countless hours? Think about great violin players, singers, dancers, athletes, scientists. No one was born with such skills, they all required an incredible amount of time and practice. Without endless hours of engagement, mastery never happens. 
The point that I feel is important here is that no one knows what a child can or cannot do, if they don't enjoy an activity and haven't put all those hours into it.

Love and enjoyment are an essential part of the learning equation, they are absolutely crucial for high levels of skill and mastery. This may be what Mozart was trying to tell us when he said, “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
Christopher Chase

Monday, July 8, 2013

A MOOC Adrift?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today in "A University's Offer of Credit for a MOOC Gets No Takers" that the Colorado State University's Global Campus offered a singular MOOC-for-credit in the subject area of computer science last fall at a dramatically discounted rate ($89 proctor fee, as opposed to $1,050 for a three-credit hour course tuition rate) and they are mystified as to why no one registered for the course!

Some might be tempted to sound the alarms and declare MOOCs dead even before they've had a chance to integrate themselves into mainstream education. But not so fast!

As the article fairly states,
The offer applied to only a single MOOC, in computer science, and the credits might be useful only to students who intended to finish their degrees at Global Campus.
Why would learners sign up for a singular MOOC if they are already midstream with a degree and a course credit system that they can count on? If the credit for the MOOC can't/won't transfer to another institution and students are already set in a degree-seeking academic structure (even in an online context), what's the appeal to that specific set of learners? Is this the right audience of learners for us to view as a litmus for an entire movement? MOOCs-for-credit have the potential to dissolve the walls that limit access to higher education to an entirely new demographic of learners, and yet we're testing their viability in the context of online degree programs without offering an entire degree in the MOOC-for-credit format.

There are other clues about the slow take-off of MOOCs-for-credit as cited by the director of LearningCounts, who shares her disappointment with the lack of interest shown by learners in their program. "The council has not yet advertised its services directly to MOOC students," noted Chari Leader Kelley. With no marketing to the most likely learners, why are expectations set so high?

Is it possible that we're still holding the reins a little too tightly? The market for MOOC learning is there, but its needs must be more comprehensively assessed and addressed if we expect the movement to take off as quickly as many hope. It's possible that our water-testing is TOO tentative if we are watching a singular MOOC-for-credit from one university for guidance on how to direct an entire movement with many complex layers of logistical and operational considerations for both learners and institutions. The context of the MOOC experience doesn't seem to be taken into consideration if we are expecting more traditional learners already enrolled in degree programs to take the lead with MOOCs-for-credit with a singular course in their existing environment. What if those MOOCs were marketed to institutions, departments or faculty, rather than the learners? What if transfer credit agreements were made between MOOC providers and traditional universities for the provision of online content to the universities' learners able to customize their educational experiences with a global course catalog from which to choose? What if faculty at traditional universities integrated MOOCs into course curricula both online and in the classroom? The traditional university can provide the learner the facilitated, SME-driven curatorial educational experience by providing personal faculty support to learners as needed and faculty are freed up to teach online as well as in the classroom with academic technology tools otherwise likely not affordable or otherwise within their reach.
However, when it comes to granting credit to students who take a free-floating MOOC instead of a tuition-based course at a traditional university, institutions remain largely in control of what courses they will abide and how many credits they will allow students to transfer in from such sources.
The American Council on Education, which advises college presidents on policy, has evaluated eight MOOCs—four from Coursera and four from Udacity—and recommended to its members that students who pass those courses should be awarded transfer credits. It remains to be seen how many of those colleges will take the council's advice.