Posted in 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Pros and Cons of Blended Learning

Blended learning has been a hot topic in corporate training where terms like “learning management systems,” “blended learning,” and “content management systems” have been kicking around for some time now. The lingo hasn’t quite caught on in the k-12. The reason? Without access to computers, it seems silly to talk about blended learning. But with programs like Bring Your Own Device, which our district launched last year, that paradigm is changing and it’s changing quickly. So for me, the question is not will blending learning come to k-12 education, but rather when.

Computers can do some really amazing things, and I know teachers who fear classrooms will one day be filled with students being taught by computers. But we’re a long way off from that and we’ll get into the reasons why in a minute. For now, let’s put that debate about computer-based learning aside and focus on what the computer and teacher do well that makes their partnership such a great guide for learners.

Here’s how computers come in handy for learning:

  • Accessibility to a mass amount of content in many different forms: music, video, photo, text, interactive simulations, graphics, publishing etc.
  • Organization by creating structure for tracking assignments, grades, feedback, etc.
  • Searchability through data bases by categorizing/tagging/grouping/sorting
  • Aggregating massive amounts of data

So with just a computer we can access content, organize it, add to it, and gather data that may give us some insights to better instruction. But the computer is only the half of it. Here’s where teachers come in.

  • Building relationships: It’s the cornerstone of being human, something most of us don’t do well without.
  • Identifying nuances and misconceptions: Right now a computer can tell you if your answer to a division problem is right or wrong. But a teacher can pin-point exactly where the mistake is being made for example is it a multiplication error, understanding of place value, or misunderstanding of order of operations.
  • Tweaking: Computers use algorithms to “learn,” but it’s teachers who tweak and experiment to find new effective ways to motivate and break through barriers.
  • Scaffolding and leading learning: Again this gets back to recognizing nuances and making inferences. A teacher can fill in gaps students may have from lack of personal experience.

The disadvantages of blending learning tend to be in rooted in design, class management, and social issues. Blended learning is not simply pre-recording lectures and power points and putting them online for students to access. Teachers need consider what is the best method to teach the concept and then use this information to design the course. Some teachers have reported that planning for both live classes and online environments is taxing. Others say having an LMS makes their class management much easier. Depending on the structure of the class, some students have reported feeling isolated. These issues however, can for the most part be address through training and design. The key thing for us to remember is that there is no foolproof design, but there are tools at our disposable and we do the best service to learners when we think about how we can use those tools to their highest and best utility.

Posted in 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Reflections of Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Last year one of the small successes I celebrated was getting a group of math teachers together from across the district to help each other out. Five teachers took time out of their day, drove across town and spent an hour talking about challenges with a new curriculum, strategies for teaching certain concepts, as well as clarifying each other’s misconceptions. It was the kind of discussion that releases tension, nurtures, comforts, and invigorates all at the same time, and frankly I’m dying to see more of it.

I’m excited I got to explore how to host web conferences and will be using this format to try to encourage more of these healthy conversations across our district this year. Last year I had the experience of finishing a 7 part how-to series only to have the entire format of the website revamped the following day. During the making of the screencast, my prior experience taunted me, but as of this date, the process for setting up a paperless classroom in Google haven’t changed. Ironically enough, in week five, I found the how-to video clip for one of the apps I featured had been removed. I’m guessing they made changes and had to pull it. The world is just changing that fast now.

By far, playing on Moodle was the most interesting work. I really enjoyed experimenting with different types of activities and was glad to learn that there is more to Moodle than I’ve been exposed to. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m somewhat obsessed with learning management systems and how they can help teachers and students manage their learning. This was a great insight to see what’s possible and confirm thoughts that we still have big strides to make in this industry. Best of all, I’m looking forward to seeing it all unfold from a front row seat.

Posted in 1.3 Instructional Strategies, 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies, 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners

Web Conferencing

Reflection Post Web Conferencing

I enjoy taking the opportunity to use new 2.0 tools to reflect on and expand my learning environment and experiences. I find the challenge of synthesizing new information using a new tool brings my learning experience to a whole new level. It makes me think about not only new information, but also question the best tool to help me digest and share what I’ve learned.

For this assignment, there was no question conducting a web conference would be the way to share what I learned. This is something I’m hoping to introduce as a professional development option for teachers this coming year. Though I’ve used Google Hangouts before, I was hoping to get familiar with some other tools. Unfortunately this week is my first week as a distance-learning student with extremely limited Internet connection. In my summer travels, I’ve been reduced to one hour of Internet per week. This experience has been humbling for someone who spends 95% of computer time online. Some of the challenges I’ve run into are waiting for classmates presentations to load, finding photos to use in my presentation, accessing additional research, exploring web-based web conferencing tools, copying and pasting assignment instructions, and limited awareness of peers progress.

As we get ready to introduce Chromebooks in our district next year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I would have completed these assignments if I had taken the ever so light Chromebook on my European vacation. Anyway I think it’s been a good experience to remember what it was like to operate offline and should I have some precautions I’ll be putting in place to make next week go a little smoother.

Web Conferencing


Posted in 1.4 Learner Characteristics, 522 Online Teaching for Adult Learners, DESIGN

Andragogy: The Structure & Process of Engaging Adult Learners

AndragogyYesterday, the principal’s at a school I serve addressed his leadership team about the critical importance of raising the graduation rate. “Everything we do,” he said, “must lead back to helping our students get to graduation.” This year, just 46% of their seniors crossed the finish line. There was a time in my life when I was dangerously close to joining the statistics of those who failed to finish. It wasn’t because I  wasn’t bright or curious. But by age 13, I thought of schools as baby sitting centers and was totally unengaged.

As these stories often unfold, the point of pain becomes a driving force in ones life. So now, I spend my days working to improve the student experience in our public schools by coaching teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. The use of technology in education is not just to utilize this digital social currency, but also to create learning opportunities that might otherwise be impossible to manage. I envision high schools as a place were we prepare students to be life long learners: setting personal goals, problem-solving, and finding real world relevance in the act of studying.

Malcolm Knowles, a man credited for making the distinctions between Adult and child education popular today, lays out six assumptions about adult learners. These assumptions say that learners adult learners are 1. self-directed, 2. enriched and informed by their personal life experience, 3. that readiness to learn is influenced by the relevancy of the topic to the individual’s circumstances, 4  that their motivation level seeds from a need to apply the learned skills immediately, 5 that their motivation is anchored in increasing self-esteems and accomplishing goals, and 6 that adults learn best when they understand why the information is pertinent.  (Forrest III & Peterson, 2006; Kidd, 1973; Knowles, 1984a, 1984b; Knowles et al., 1998; Lindeman, 1926; Ozuah, 2005; Thompson & Deis, 2004)

In looking at Knowles’s characteristics of adult learners, I wonder if our failure to recognize these as more general characteristics of learners accounts for the over 3 million students who dropped out of school last year. According to Taylor and Kroth (2009), Andragogy faces several criticisms. Among them are a lack of ability to be measured, inability to define clear procedures of andragogical practices, that andragogy means a lack of testing and grades and is therefore impossible to measure, and that these characteristics are not always found in adults and are sometimes found in children.

I believe that technology used to capture and study learner analytics can play a critical role in developing ways to measure learner characteristics above and beyond grades and tests. I also think that all educational experiences have more value when students of any age understand why the learning task is relevant and related to personal growth. Based on my own experience, I agree with the criticism that these “adult characteristics” are not just limited to adults. My own critic of my education experience of at a young age demonstrate that I exhibited these “adult learner characteristics” even with limited life experience. As with all learning theories, from behaviorism to constructivism, each carry some truth about learners, not in isolation but woven together to understand the complexity of the human brain. By understanding the characteristics of such theories, they enable us to reach more learners by designing more relevant and engaging learning experiences.


Taylor, B & Kroth, M. (2009) Andragogy’s transition into the future: meta-analysis of andragogy and its search for a measurable instrument. Journal of Adult Education, 38 (1).