Monday, October 15, 2012

BlendKit - Content & Assignments

We are now in Week 4 (of 5!) of BlendKit2012 and the subject of the week is content and assessments. The questions to ponder for this week are as follows:

  • In what experiences (direct or vicarious) will you have students participate during your blended learning course?  In what ways do you see these experiences as part of the assessment process? Which experiences will result in student work that you score? 
  • How will you present content to students in the blended learning course you are designing? Will students encounter content only in one modality (e.g., face-to-face only), or will you devise an approach in which content is introduced in one modality and elaborated upon in the other? What will this look like? 
  • Will there be a consistent pattern to the presentation of content, introduction of learning activities, student submission of assignments, and instructor feedback (formal and informal) in your blended learning course? How can you ensure that students experience your course as one consistent whole rather than as two loosely connected learning environments? 
  • How can specific technologies help you present content, provide meaningful experiences, and pitch integration to students in your blended course? With your planned technology use, are you stretching yourself, biting off more than you can chew, or just maintaining the status quo?

One of the nice things about this chapter is the table of types learning activities with idea, tools and techniques on to implement them. I think that these are valuable ideas not just for the blended classroom but also for the online and on-campus classrooms as well. 

While administrators may see blended learning as an opportunity to get double the space utilization as a traditional on-campus course, I see blended learning as a way to infuse authentic content and learning experiences in the classroom. When students are in a face to face course, they may not have the affordance to go out in the field to undertake some authentic task. For example, think of an archeology course.  If you have students in a blended archeology course (and you are lucky enough to be close to a dig!) in your online weeks students can be expected to spend x-many hours in the dirt, in the field, getting to do one of the things that archeologists do, and applying what they have learned thus far in their class and in their curriculum (if they aren't new to the major).  In an art context, learners can spend time going to a specific museum each session that they have an online component, so instead of spending it in class, they can go to Museum X, with a specific task, and then use the affordances of online learning in their blended course to fill in their peers and their instructor.

With the proliferation of smartphones (and devices like the iPad and iPod Touch) learners can snap photos, take video, or record audio interviews and post them to flickr, youtube, vimeo and soundcloud (just to name a few) and infuse this authenticity back into the classroom.  I think that assignments and assessments (with some good design) can also benefit from these mobile affordances to go beyond a term paper. Term papers may not be completely gone, as they are not only vehicles to demonstrate subject understanding, but also mastery of writing, but they can be augmented by other media (such as video and photos) which students might need to show competency in.
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