Should Online Classes Be Fun?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

There’s fun as comic relief, then there’s fun as passion.

The first is temporary and a diversion. In the classroom, it’s the seventh-inning stretch in a long lecture. The piano stairs (see the video below) falls into this category, a diversion from the dreary commute from one point to another in a big city. The jokes in an otherwise long and boring speech, too, are diversionary, sugar coating for a bland or bitter pill. The assumption is that the speaker has a captive audience that requires some form of relief.

The fun that makes the most sense for education is passion. Think of our personal interests, joys, hobbies. These aren’t haha funny. They’re aha fun. And the interesting thing is, we don’t need comic relief in these pursuits because they’re inherently engaging, absorbing. We lose ourselves in them. In a word, this type of fun is what Dewey calls “educative.”

When we have passion for something, we have an insatiable hunger for all there is to know about it. My son, growing up, wasn’t the best student, but I never worried because I knew he was bright. Even in grade school, he knew all the NBA teams and players and was an expert on MJ and the Bulls and, later, Kobe and his Lakers.

Driven by passion, he absorbed tons of information like a sponge via TV, newspapers, and magazines. He didn’t need a teacher. And this is the beauty of fun when it’s a passion. We become our own best teachers. We teach ourselves, or more accurately, we learn on our own.

We also become active participants, and my son played organized ball from elementary through high school. The fact that he spent much of his varsity years on the bench didn’t dampen his passion. Today, he still enjoys watching games and playing ball with his friends.

Think of your own passions. Golf? Travel? Cooking? Gardening? Reading?

Independent learning doesn’t mean we don’t seek out experts. We do, but on our own terms. We might read books on it, attend lectures or conferences, subscribe to periodicals. But we don’t need a teacher or a guide to tell us how to enjoy our passion. We already do, and decisions about what or how are part of the joy that we reserve for ourselves.

aha-haha

How to transfer this p-fun into the classroom? That’s the biggy.

Conventional wisdom says to use pull rather than push strategies, and this means using individual or group interest as a starting point. The common term for this is student-centered practices. The idea is to get students to personally buy into the objectives and lessons, to own them. This way, they’re learning primarily for their own sake and only partially for the teacher or the grade. The motivation is mostly intrinsic.

When motivation is located within the student, learning becomes largely self-directed and fun. In a word, passionate.

In composition, the variables we can manipulate are our assignments — readings, discussions, and paper topics. We need to come up with assignments that allow students to personally connect or engage with the class work, so they’re no longer doing a class assignment but a personal project.

In my English 200 (College Composition II) lessons, I’ve tried to set up a personal connection between topic and self to generate passion. For students who buy in, the results are terrific. For example, here’s a paper from earlier in the semester: “Broken Into Beautiful – Ishinomaki.”

These students were engaged in the learning activities that led up to their final paper. I read this as fun of the aha variety. They’ve made a connection with the objectives and class work and produced a paper that is personally passionate. Now, I have to figure out how to work the same kind of magic with students who don’t buy in and just go through the motions and churn out works with little or no passion. One strategy is our course publication that I use to feature exemplary student works such as the two mentioned above. These works are part of the course content that all students are required to read.
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Note: This article was prompted by a forum assignment in an in-service workshop I’m taking at Kapi’olani Community College, which is part of the University of Hawaii System. The completely online course, Teaching Online Prep Program (TOPP): Spring 2017, is being taught by Helen Torigoe and Marisa Yamada, instructional designers in the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching and Technology (CELTT). The “Piano Stairs” YouTube video was embedded in their lesson plan.

OLC Innovate 2017 – April 5-7 New Orleans, Louisiana

jess-pd-header4

In April 2017, the Online Learning Consortium will host its second OLC Innovate conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. This conference was designed with attendees in mind, working to address the diverse professional development needs of the higher education community. As professional development needs vary from individual to individual, a variety of components were designed to take place within and beside the general conference and are intended to enhance and expand the traditional conference learning experience in meaningful, intentional, and networked ways. A few to explore:

  • The HBCU Affordable Learning Summit provides a forum for discussion and collaboration around making higher education more affordable for students. Attendees will work collaboratively to develop plans that they can take back and implement at their home institutions.
  • The Community College Summit is a half-day program facilitating discussion and sharing among faculty and practitioners in the community college space. A shared, iterative document will be created, allowing participants to reflect and create new knowledge.
  • The Solution Design Summit brings together teams from a variety of institutions to work together with conference attendees on creating interdisciplinary solutions to institutional challenges.
  • The Innovation Lab offers a hands-on, open space for pedagogical experimentation, design thinking, and experimentation. Demos, reflection exercises, and the inaugural “Whose Design Is It Anyway” competition all offer a fun break for the engaged and often overwhelmed conference mind.
  • Defining Innovation – An Interactive Installation is an experimental innovation space, aiming to re-think how we share and leverage information in higher educational contexts.

As engagement chair of the OLC Innovate conference, I invite you to reach out to me and share what your favorite conference experience has been. Are you planning to attend OLC Innovate, and are you looking to get involved, volunteer? Or do you need assistance and recommendations? Email me at jlknott@gmail.com

For more information about OLC Innovate 2017, visit https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/innovate/.

TCC Online Conference: Proposal Call Deadline 5 Jan. 2017

bert-kimura-2016-80By Bert Kimura
Co-coordinator: Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference

Happy Holidays!

We have extended the deadline for TCC 2017 (April 18-20) proposal submissions to January 5, 2017.

Registration details to be announced in February. Stay tuned!

Full details available at: http://tcchawaii.org/call-for-proposals-2017/

For updates about TCC 2017: http://tcchawaii.org/

Best wishes for the New Year from the TCC conference team!

Aloha,
– Bert Kimura for the TCC conference team

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading

80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

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1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

Unpack CBE: TCC 2016 Free Pre-conference Webinar March 16 at 2pm HST

Bert Kimura

Bert Kimura

Aloha,

TCC 2016 cordially invites you to join a FREE special pre-conference webinar on competency-based education (CBE).

Unpack CBE

Diane Singer and Susan Manning.

Diane Singer and Susan Manning.

During this session, Diane Singer, from Brandman University, and Susan Manning, from the University of Wisconsin at Stout, will discuss the meaning and processes behind CBE with an eye to how the assessment and recognition of competencies benefit various stakeholders, including business and industry.

Date & time:
March 16, 2:00 PM Hawaii; 6:00 PM Mountain; 8:00 PM Eastern
March 17, 9:00 AM Tokyo & Seoul; 11:00 AM Sydney

Other timezones: http://bit.ly/tcc16precon2-unpackCBE

Full information: http://2016.tcconlineconference.org/unpacking-cbe/

RSVP for this FREE session: If you wish to participate, please RSVP. A reminder will be sent a few days prior along with instructions to sign-in: http://bit.ly/tcc2016precon2-rsvp

REGISTER for the main event!
TCC 2016 Online Conference, 21st edition
April 19-21, 2016
http://2016.tcconlineconference.org/

– Bert Kimura, Curtis Ho & Sharon Fowler
TCC 2016 Online Conference coordinators

Creating Community: Part 2 – Hard Conversations in an Online Classroom – ‘Othello’

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

The four of us are all teachers in face-to-face classrooms, and we have all needed to have difficult conversations about race with our students in those classes. Some teachers would maintain that it is “better” to have these conversations in person in order to monitor how the students are doing and ease them over the rough spots.

All of us have also been part of an online classroom in which we needed to have those conversations about race and ethnicity as we discussed Shakespeare’s Othello and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Is one format — online or in-person — better than the other? While our response won’t be definitive, we can say that our online discussion did succeed in creating an “immediate and vital community of learning” as we insisted in Part 1 of this series. And for each of us, the learning in this class carried over to the face-to-face classes we teach.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay McDaniel

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, Tim Fraser-Bumatay, and Judith McDaniel.

Thinking about Othello

In addition to reading Shakespeare’s play, I assigned several critical articles that discussed race in the play. Kim Hall’s “Beauty and the Beast of Whiteness” and James Aubrey’s “Race and the Spectacle of the Monstrous in ‘Othello’” seemed to be the most provocative.

The issue of beauty, virtue, and monstrosity

The discussion prompt for the question about Othello asked whether Hall’s portrait of “beauty and the beast of whiteness” gave the reader a path into considering Othello as an Elizabethan might have seen him. Tim’s immediate response was “[Yes,] an in-depth look at style would tread upon the contextual setting of the play’s conception, for if one were to question why Shakespeare chooses words such as ‘beast,’ ‘horse,’ and ‘ram’ to describe Othello, it would inevitably lead to 17th century cultural opinions of Africans.”

Alongside that view of course is the parallel portrait of Othello as the most noble and honorable man in the Duke’s court. When Shakespeare introduces the “Moor” himself, he presents “an intriguing character who breaks from the stigma; he is calm, courteous, and even noble.”  Continue reading