Dr. Paul Leslie

Dr. Paul Leslie

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:34

Reflection on Learning and Portfolio

A learner's first responsibility is to manage their own learning. I believe that self-management and independent learning can best be achieved by engaging in portfolio development. My graduate work focused on e-portfolio development and the use of blogs for reflective writing and sharing. When I joined the team at the Nova Scotia Community College, I was pleased to discover that they want to be known as Canada's Portfolio College. This goal is consistent with our mandate to ready students for the workforce. At both the Nova Scotia Community College and the Dubai Women's College, I have tried to make the e-portfolio the students’ first exposure to reflecting on learning.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:34

Reflection on Course

Instructional Design Methodology - 533

A Self-Reflection of Learning: How do I Learn? What did I Learn?

Cape Breton University and Memorial University of Newfoundland

Major Paper Submission for: Dr. David Lloyd - Education 533

Submitted by: Paul Leslie

Due Date: December 11th, 2005.


 

Introduction

This course has been a means to solidify my understanding of the concepts of Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism and integrate these into a new understanding of Instructional Design (ID) and the application of Information Technology. This paper will discuss how I have constructed this new understanding and will demonstrate how I can enhance my educational role through the implementation of ID.

Reflective Thought – Constructing Knowledge

As both a student and teacher, I have discovered the real benefits of the discussion board as a tool for self-reflection and discovery. Garrison (accessed 2005) comments that, “Reflective inquiry is seriously compromised by an excessive emphasis on content…” and goes on to note that, “Surface and reproducing (i.e., memorizing) approaches to learning are associated with heavy workloads …”. I have heard complaints in various courses that the discussion board can become laden with comments which sometimes have little substance. However, with a balanced approach to expectations and demands this can be avoided.

This course is composed of professionals who relate their studies to their work and then share this understanding through the discussion board, providing a range of insights that are rarely found in standard texts. In face to face discussions, this happens, but is often marred by a lack of time to digest new information thus losing opportunities to fully develop and share ideas. In a written repartee, participants have time to consider their answers before placing them, and have the luxury of reading, and then rereading the comments of others.

Writing for the discussion board provides many opportunities to construct new knowledge and thus has provided some of my more significant learning revelations. Reeves and Jonassen (1996, p. 696) notes that, “Some of the best thinking results when students try to represent what they know.” The teacher can significantly impact on learning by assisting students to represent their understanding of topics by guiding them to respond to carefully selected questions.

Unfortunately, discussion boards are relatively underused. In a survey (Teacher Communications Survey – 2005) I conducted at my college, 64% have never used a discussion board in their classes with an additional 17% stating they have only used one occasionally, although 48% have used one for their own professional development. Encouragingly, 80% stated that they would like to attend PD on their use.

Changes in Perspective

As a computer teacher, I continually seek better ways to help students use technology to enhance their learning. The syllabus within which I work presents laptops and software applications as ends in themselves leaving instructors free to approach them as they see fit. Thus, I have endeavored to work with other disciplines to see how our team can offer support through the integration of technology into their classrooms.

Through the team development of an ID model, I have substantially changed my approach to this integration and see that I must take a much more active role. I must shift emphasis from dealing with a finished project provided by other disciplines to being much more involved in the planning stage. The recipients of the better designed projects will not only be the designers and teacher, but more importantly the students.

Significant Understanding

Coming from this change in perspective, my most significant new understanding stems from a concept that I have espoused continually over the last few years, but had not really been able to properly explain to myself. Two conceptual shifts, or perhaps revelations, occurred to facilitate this understanding.

It has been commented (NCREL. 2005) that, “… new workplace requirements for learning are incompatible with instruction that assumes the teacher is the information giver…” Despite my best intentions, I still retain a lot of control over everything that happens in the classroom. While I have acknowledged that my students sometimes need something other than what I can give, it has been hard to actually ‘let go’, especially when the cost of failure is so high at my institution. Thus, one shift is recognition of the degree of independence and type of work I must give to students to allow for more knowledge construction.

After reading Spiro (1993), the comment that, “… conceptual complexity and case-to-case irregularity in knowledge domains (referred to collectively as ill-structuredness) pose serious problems…” clarified one of the central problems of teaching at the college level. My second shift or revelation in understanding is that the oversimplification that Spiro claims “characterizes” current learning failures stems from a linear approach to concepts that are not linear.

From my group ID experience, I now believe that teachers need to follow a more carefully planned model that begins with direct instruction in requisite skills, but then steps back to allow students to construct knowledge through the pursuit of instructional objectives. Implementing new teaching and learning methods of this nature will then require new approaches to assessment and feedback, which I believe will follow from better synthesis of assessment strategies. This is an area on which I will focus more attention in the future.

Clarifications of Understanding

Stemming from, and perhaps contributing to my understanding of new approaches has been a clarification of the three main learning theories of Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism and Instructional Design approaches incorporating all these theories. Clearly, all three theories have much to offer ID, given the diversity of content that might be presented to students.

In our group ID model, we incorporated an interdisciplinary component that reflects the reality of the inter-relatedness and non-linearity of skills and knowledge. In a sample project that demonstrated the model, one of the first parts involved direct instruction, which as Huitt (1995) notes, directly relates activities to instructional outcomes. In the sample model, one such outcome was the ability to use an image editor to manipulate digital photos and create image overlays. For this, the instructional objectives start from a behaviourist approach. In discussing Gagne’s behaviourist points of instruction, Bostack (accessed 2005) notes, ”… each outcome must be broken down into a hierarchy of dependent learning outcomes…”. To create the image overlays, there is a sequence of skills that must be mastered, which are dependent and can be discretely measured.

Following from this, our model then incorporated a cognitive approach, which required some understanding of a knowledge structure, in this case of latitude and longitude. Mergel (1998) comments that a cognitive approach to such a task would be to, “…analyze [it], break it down into smaller steps or chunks and use that information to develop instruction that moves from simple to complex building on prior schema…” In our sample model, we have given a clear indication of how the behaviourist outcomes of plotting latitude and longitude are directly related to the cognitive skills of understanding the general principles. Integrating these with IT, students would need to overlay a latitude and longitude grid over satellite photos to represent course coordinates.

Tying these elements together is a constructivist anchor, or problem that focuses the students on an overall task. This may be seen as the ‘secret’ of our ID model. “Anchored Instruction” (1996) notes that an anchor provides “complex content, solved through interconnectedness of sub-problems…” Wilson (1993) supports this comment and states, “… the limitations of linear ID become apparent when working in ill-defined content domains…”

Thus, an anchor provides a forum within which the ill-structured complex concepts can be broken down into manageable parts from which the learner can then begin to construct their own understanding. In our model, the students see that there is a range of skills required and that some may be needed concurrently for example, rather than consecutively, or linearly.

Teaching and Learning Style

I think that our ID model encapsulates my beliefs and approach to designing teaching units at any level. In my career, I have found that the most substantial learning and professional growth comes from facing a problem and then solving it.

Concurrently with designing our group ID model, I began to deal with a problem highlighted in faculty and student feedback complaining that there were too many web sites providing different information. In the survey I conducted (Teacher Communications Survey – 2005), one teacher commented, “I feel if there are too many communications systems operating at any one given time it becomes confusing, overly burdensome and there's an increased danger of missing essential communications.” So, I decided to use Microsoft SharePoint, which, “provides a single point of access to people, team, knowledge, and application resources…” (Microsoft Corporation, 2005). Once we analyzed the problem and the solution – a one-stop, personalized class web page or portal, we assessed the needs of that page.

I then determined what I needed to teach my team and myself to be able to create these pages. One was the ability to create a web component, or ‘part’ that could be embedded on every page so that if data in the original part was updated, it would automatically update on 17 different pages, or URLs. Once we achieved this design, then the rest of the project could proceed. Here we set ourselves a series of direct, or behavioural outcomes which my team needed to master to create the pages.

I also needed to ensure my team had a cognitive appreciation of web site hierarchies, which meant several training sessions explaining my vision. Finally, as we started to actually create the new site, there was the constructivist learning from my team as they began to work with and then see my design in action and understand exactly what I was trying to achieve. This was essential as once the site was complete, then there would be the implementation phase which included a strong emphasis on faculty support from my team and feedback to ensure satisfaction with the new design.

From this course and the ID model design project, I was able to formalize and reconstruct my knowledge and understanding of my approach to my own learning and more effectively pass that learning on to others. I have already been able to apply that design model in a variety of situations and on a varying degree of scale. In my example of the web site design, the anchor was a real problem affecting over 30 faculty and almost 400 students.

It is abundantly clear to me that for truly effective learning as I have experienced here, an anchor is an essential element. In projects or in real life, the specification of the problem provides a ‘why’ to learning, and thus a focus to the associated activities.

Learning With and About Technology

A central theme of this course has been the discussion of computers as mind tools. I have always believed that computers are tools intended, as are all tools, to make our lives easier. Through the course I have come to a greater understanding of the basic principles of using computers as mindtools. Two ideas that have struck me as essential are the idea of reducing the need for inauthentic labour (learning… 1996), and the concept of distributing cognitive processing (Jonassen, 1998).

As a computer teacher, my students include teachers, many of whom may be characterized as being resistors to technology (O’Haire, 2003). These teachers are often very hesitant to invest the initial time required to learn how to use a ‘piece’ of technology. A good example is the use of WebCT for giving formative assessments. My colleagues and I have developed a wide range of assessments in WebCT for this purpose. However, teachers do require some knowledge of Excel and WebCT to be able to download the grades and format them in a spreadsheet. Many teachers insist that this takes longer than using paper and marking the assessments by hand. We are slowly convincing teachers to let us train them to use these tools properly and as they do, they discover that they actually save a considerable amount of time by being freed from the inauthentic tasks of having to mark, calculate, and enter grades by hand.

However, there is still the argument that since they view every assessment, they have a better understanding of student ability level. This falls very flat however, when we show them the results statistics in WebCT and how to sort and interpret the data that they now have at their fingertips. Thus, they are left with much more time for authentic tasks such as planning how to overcome student weaknesses and how to refocus their lessons to attend to individuals. A significant side result of this is that students see teachers benefiting from technology and modeling its proper use.

The concept of distributing cognitive processing leads naturally from the preceding item. The time spent marking and looking at each quiz manually is significant. By letting a software application sort the data by question and other means of division, the task can be performed much more effectively. As teachers in my department come to the realization that these tasks are in fact inauthentic and that in this example the real task is the interpretation of results, not their compilation, the demand for greater incorporation of technology grows.

Conclusion

This course has served two very important aims, one expected and one rather unexpected. The expected aim was to increase my understanding of the application of IT to ID models and to further the development of projects and lessons based on these models. One unexpected, but very welcome aim was the re-examination of many ideas and concepts about learning that I had encountered before, but had not really given sharp attention. It was a much needed refresher to many of these concepts, especially in the broader terms of Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism. In looking at these approaches again, I have been able to redefine and refine my own approach to teaching, and to the development of learning objects.

Whether pursuing a Master’s degree, or simply partaking in professional development, this type of refresher should be encouraged across all teachers in all subjects. The future will be technological place and one of our main roles as educators will be to give students the power and ability to use technological tools to their best advantage, whether they study English, Math, Geography or Carpentry.

References

Bostock, Steven. Instructional Design - Robert Gagné, The Conditions of Learning. http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/aa/landt/lt/docs/atid.htm . Last Accessed: 21 November, 2005.

Garrison., D.R. Inquiry and Critical Thinking - Reflective Inquiry. http://commons.ucalgary.ca/documents/ReflectiveInquiry.pdf (Last Accessed: 18-11-2005)

Huitt, W. (2003). Models of teaching/instruction. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved on Nov. 3, 2005 from

http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/instruct/instmdls.html.

Jonassen, D. H., Carr, C. & Yueh, H. (1998). Computers as mindtools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43 (2), 24-32.

Kruse, Kevin. Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction: An Introduction http://www.e-learningguru.com/articles/art3_3.htm. Last Accessed: 21 November, 2005.

Mergel, Brenda (1998). Instructional Design & Learning Theory. http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#Cognitivism . Last Accessed: 21 November, 2005.

Microsoft Corporation. (2005). SharePoint Products and Technologies. http://www.gotdotnet.com/team/sharepoint/ . Last Accessed: 21 November, 2005.

North Central Regional Educational Library (NCREL) . New Times Demand New Ways of Learning. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/edtalk/newtimes.htm. Last Accessed: 20 November, 2005.

O’Haire, Noreen. (2003) Teachers’ Perspectives. Horizons: Fall 2003.

Open Learning Technology Corporation Limited. (1996). Learning with Software: Pedagogies and Practice. http://www.educationau.edu.au/archives/cp/07.htm Last accessed 28 November, 2005.

Reeves, T. C. & Jonassen, D. H. (1996). Learning with technology: Using computers as cognitive tools. In Jonassen, D. H. (Ed.), Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 693-719). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Spiro, R. J. (1993). Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access Instruction for Advanced Knowledge Acquisition in Ill-Structured Domains. Institute for Learning Technologies. http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/papers/Spiro.html  

Wilson, B. G., Jonassen, D. H., & Cole, P. (1993). Cognitive approaches to instructional design. In G. M. Piskurich (Ed.), The ASTD handbook of instructional technology (pp. 21.1 - 21.22). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:31

Communication Issues in a Blended Environment

Communication and Information Sharing Issues in a

Blended Learning Laptop Environment

Submitted by: Paul Leslie
Submitted to: Allister Dyke
April 1st, 2005

Introduction

At the Dubai Women’s College (DWC), faculty and students are provided with a variety of collaborative technologies with which to communicate and share information, enhanced by the provision of personal laptops for all faculty and students. Among these technologies are:

· SharePoint[1], for individual class, departmental, and group pages and document sharing,

· Shared calendars for appointments and room bookings,

· Class, Departmental and College web pages and portals (separate from SharePoint),

· Email and group lists,

· MSN Messenger (Instant Messaging),

· WebCT for discussion boards and course management.

Within this array of collaborative technology, some uses are obvious, while some are not. Given the quantity of information that needs to be communicated daily, we need to examine how these processes could be streamlined. Paul (2005) comments that with these various opportunities,

“the result is information richness, but knowledge poverty.”

Faculty have commented that multiple sources of information can be confusing.

“I feel if there are too many communications systems operating at any one given time it becomes confusing, overly burdensome and there's an increased danger of missing essential communications.”[2]

Some issues that arise include determining which version of a document is the most recent. Other issues arise when an accepted avenue of communication fails to pass on information in a timely fashion. This can be seen in the failure of a recipient to sort email effectively and thus ‘lose’ information. Problematic also is the time spent looking for information in a variety of sites or a full inbox.

Additionally, we often miss opportunities to improve the teaching and learning at DWC due to a lack of analysis on the quantity of information we collect each day in the form of WebCT quiz statistics, attendance records and various other sources.

DWC seems to be abreast of trends in technology by providing its members with the latest communications technologies, but how efficiently are we applying these technologies? How are we supporting faculty and students to make better use of our resources and collected data? Can we be more efficient?

Review of Communication Strategies:

To properly implement these applications, teachers require professional training and support, which in turn can then be filtered to the students. To distinguish between training and support, training can be defined as the introduction and explanation of how to use an application. A wide range of training courses and sessions are available. In contrast, support is the continuing assistance provided as faculty and students apply technology to their teaching and learning. This is far less readily available, but is the far more important area.

Reid (2002) comments that many innovations in business fail because of improper implementation. This comment readily applies to schools. At DWC, applications such as WebCT have had a very poor reception and user rate in the past, not necessarily due to insufficient training, but certainly due to lack of support. Reid (2002) also cites sources stating that 30 – 40% of implementation efforts need to be focused on training and support. If we consider that 84% of teachers, termed adopters and skeptics by O’Haire (2003), will use technology but need help to do so, the need for adequate support is clear.

Of the most commonly used applications; email, web sites, SharePoint and discussion boards, the latter is the least employed at DWC. This college is a learning environment where students conduct all academic pursuits in a second language, which entails incredible social pressure. Thus, the discussion board offers students a means to both compose their thoughts and lay them out for others in a relatively safe environment. Lapadat (2004) comments that discussion boards,

“may provoke further attempts at understanding as the writer or some other reader interrogates the text…”.

Generally, the only other reader tends to be the teacher, so to ensure that comments can be widely shared and learned from, strategies are needed to ensure that their use is embedded in the curriculum.

Lapadat (2004) also notes that oral discussions are impermanent and rather “fleeting”, whereas discussion boards preserve comments for reflection and further elaboration at the learner’s own time. Additionally, Hemming et.al. (2002) indicates that the nature of the discussion board is asynchronous and so contributions may be made,

“… at a time when the adult learner is available and able to participate.”

In contrast to discussion boards, which offer a multiple-way form of communication for learning, web sites provide a one-way sharing of information. From an administrative point, the departmental web site is advantageous because it provides a forum within which final versions of documents, common deadlines and other such information can be kept. From a pedagogic view, web sites not only provide a stable source of information for students, but they can provide a common background for a course. Reid (2002) notes that the use of technology in this fashion “does not let teachers skip or omit any of the concepts” being delivered. This same concept may be stretched to ensure that teachers and students do not miss any information.

SharePoint shows its strength in this area. With its administrative tools, a variety of users can be accommodated with various levels of access to the materials and pages. A further strength is that since it does not require skills in HTML, it is more accessible to teachers and students, who can use it for class pages. Since it is so easily updated and edited, it is best used for smaller and more informal situations. SharePoint’s ease of use could be viewed as a negative when used for a wider audience[3].

Another strength for SharePoint is seen in a comment from Becker (2004), who quotes a research CEO;

“Providing a single, unified environment is one of the most important factors in determining the success of a collaboration system.”

SharePoint, then, is a strong step in this direction, although it is likely that many educational institutions are far from a unified system given the disparate needs administration and course management.

A final comment on SharePoint from Becker (2004) notes that,

“… if everything I do is available for everyone to else to see, then everything I do has to meet some standard of excellence…”.

Such informal creation of standards can only be good for an institution.

Email is perhaps the most widely used forum for sharing information and documents. Reid (2002) comments that,

“many matters that used to be discussed at staff meetings are now discussed via email.”

He goes on to cite a teacher who states,

“the expectation is if I send a message I know everyone here has gotten it.”

This is true with the efficiency of the latest email applications, however, Paul (2005) states that instead of enhanced communication, we now have,

“information anarchy; email overload is severely constraining business communication.”

It should be noted that the survey of teachers indicated that 32% of teachers at DWC have more than 50 emails in their Inbox, while 59% had 10 – 50 emails.

One of the newest applications at DWC is MSN Messenger. This has the potential to reduce email and speed communications. From a pedagogic view, it allows students in an e-learning environment to contact teachers immediately with a question, receive a response and then continue. Without Messenger, a student may spend more time solving the problem than necessary, or they may simply wander from their studies. A negative consideration is the lack of a record of communications.

Outlined here are several avenues of communication now available to faculty. Use of these applications demands varying levels of skill and produces varying types of communications from two way discussions, to one way conveyance of information, to shared pools of documents. The question is not only one of which is best for what type of communication, but which one suits personal preference and style.

Survey of Students and Faculty

Both students and faculty were surveyed on a variety of issues concerning their communications preferences and habits.[4]

Students

One expected result was the reliance on email. 35% of students leave their email program open, checking automatically every 5 minutes, with 93% checking their email more than once daily. 43% claim that who it is from determines when they read it, and 46% claim the subject determines when. It may be concluded that certain topics and certain people vie for attention in most cases. It is noteworthy that 12% (272) of the approximately 2200 students invited to take the survey were unable to receive the invitation due to a full mailbox. This is an area that perhaps should be addressed.

The college web site is viewed more frequently than departmental sites with 63% checking the former daily, whereas only 41% check their departmental site more than once daily. This may reflect the time available to departmental web masters to update their sites. 52% have a class web site but only 6% check it daily and 31% check it once a week or less. 48% do not have a class site. This is a further reflection of the time required to update sites and the effectiveness of sites with smaller audiences.

63% use Messenger everyday with 15% using it 10 or more times per day. This is at least once every 40 minutes. The length of an average interaction was not recorded. 44% said they often swap educational files and 39% said they regularly have educational chats with other students, while 20% regularly have educational chats with teachers. 28% said they regularly have non-educational chats with students. 77% have never used a web cam and 66% have never used remote assistance. Only 6% have never used Messenger, mainly because one of our departments does not use Messenger.

Students clearly prefer to get important information such as grades and schedules from the system portal or the college site. This is partly due to that fact that this is where the information is already. However, the percentages for the portal are significantly higher except for departmental events. Even in this category, an even number said they would prefer to get this information from the college site, even though it is never located there. Again this may indicate a preference for a reliable source, rather than the current source.

Several comments indicated that they would prefer to get much of this information through email, although this was not a choice in the survey. One student comments that,

“it's better if they send our schedule changes and grades to our email addresses”,

while another states,

“I would prefer sending our grades and schedules to our email because it is the only thing we check daily.”

This student comments,

“For the sports events and activities, I would not like to receive a dozens of emails per week in my inbox, just put them on the college website so interested people will look at it.”

Discussion boards, which research has shown to be a highly effective means of sharing and reflection, are very much underused. 43% have never used one and a further 34% have only used one once or twice. Only 13% use one on a regular basis. This may be a pedagogic issue reflective of a lack of teacher training in their use and benefits.

Teachers

As with students, email is clearly the most regularly used application. Fully 100% check their email everyday with 80% checking automatically or 5 or more times per day. One teacher comments,

“Email is both useful and a burden in this job. It is totally relentless and needs to be kept up with around other full time aspects of the job. I was unable to do this for two days last week (out of office on external matters) and came back to 195 emails in two days. It's not easy to work out how to resolve it.”

Clearly however, it is over used. Another teacher comments,

“[There are] too many e-mails sent to 'all', which are duplicated in private responses to the e-mail. In general there are too many "unnecessary" e-mails which eat into class preparation time…”

However, there is a clear recognition that email is a valuable tool. 52% would not be willing to give it up for one day a week, and a further 20% would only give it up for one day a month.

It is also clear that email is the preferred means of receiving information and documents. 52% of teachers do not check the college website everyday and 72% do not check the departmental site for events and information. In contrast, 88% prefer to receive college information via email, 94% prefer to receive departmental information via email and 56% prefer to receive and retrieve documents via email whereas 27% prefer to use SharePoint. This last number may be low due to the relative newness of SharePoint on campus.

Messenger is becoming an accepted tool. 58% use it everyday with 14% claiming to use it more than 10 times per day. However, 82 % claim that they often use it for non-educational chatting whereas only 26% use it often for educational chatting and 59% use it often to share non-educational files as opposed to 26% who use it often for educational file sharing. Perhaps, given that the college only began to use it this year, this non-educational reflects an initial flirtation with the tool as a novelty. That 66% would attend professional development training indicates an interest to use the tool more effectively, which is significant when the very low level of complexity to use Messenger is considered.

As with students, 77% do not use SharePoint for class sites. The most common use of SharePoint is for the shared document space with 20% using this feature.

Discussion boards seem to be underused. 64% do not use them and only 15% claim to use one regularly. Only 21% claim they do or would use one for professional development. These are most likely teachers enrolled in advanced degrees which employ discussion boards. Interestingly, 59% would be interested in training and a further 21% might be interested in training.

Recommendations

Clearly, teachers greatly prefer to use email for most of their communications. Given that Outlook incorporates a calendar, increased use of this set of features for dates and deadlines should be considered. Outlook users can “push” their deadlines and dates onto others’ calendars to help to ensure that deadlines are recorded properly. One attractive, under-used feature is email voting, which could be used, for example, to find the best time for a meeting. Regular by modeling from team leaders and administrative assistants, who tend to have more interactions with appointments and document sharing, combined with unobtrusive training and support would be useful.

Additionally, one teacher comments that the,

“… preferred method of receiving [information is] … a brief notice to my inbox, with all pertinent details on a site so I can look them up.”

A page containing this information could be maintained. This suggestion is actually a fine hybrid of the two means of communication and highly practical.

Although SharePoint usage is relatively low, the document sharing function is the most used of the functions (20%). If this aspect were to be further exploited, the pressure on webmasters to maintain document repositories on departmental sites would be reduced as less time would be required to set up and maintain the same in SharePoint[5]. It does need to be remembered here that the ease of page editing in SharePoint makes it ideal for small groups, but this very same feature may make security an issue on a site with a wider audience, passwords and access notwithstanding.

Discussion boards are not widely used, although most current literature suggests that they are a great source of development for both students and faculty, and thus their use must be encouraged for both. Currently the college has a freeware discussion board, and boards within the system portal, WebCT and SharePoint. The logical choice for students would be to use either SharePoint in conjunction with regular classroom discussions, and to use WebCT for course specific discussions. This will help to keep the discussion boards focused and easy to sort. For faculty, SharePoint is the logical choice as accessibility is an issue. Rather than set up a WebCT course and register teachers, boards can be set-up within specified SharePoint sites not requiring a password.

In all of these areas, the ratio of professional training to support should be considered. As has been mentioned, insufficient training and implementation are a main cause when an innovation or implementation fails. Sagor (1992) strongly suggests that,

“If we continue to expect teachers to solve increasingly complex educational problems by themselves, we can forget about widespread excellence in the classrooms.”

At DWC while there is a wide range of professional development in the form of courses and training sessions, with the continuing implementation of new applications and technology there is a corresponding need for even more training. This in turn leads to an increased need for support, which is offered but to a even more limited degree. Perhaps the ratio of training to support needs to be re-examined.

A final consideration is further exploitation of quiz scores compiled in WebCT. Many teachers use these results to focus their teaching but further training for teachers on how to access and analyze these results would also be useful.

Conclusion

“The problem for me in implementing blended learning is the myriad tools we use here; Outlook, WebCT, SharePoint, [and] other tools available through our browsers.”

This teacher provides a summary of the problem that initiated this investigation. Perhaps, a more effective use of such tools as the Calendar function and SharePoint for documents may help to reduce this confusion and frustration.

The problem is not that there are too many systems, but rather there is a duplication of uses and no clear policy on which system should be used for which type of communication. The above recommendations aim to clarify the best use of the tools, which are intended to make teaching and learning easier.


Appendix A: Bibliography

Literature:

On-line – Web Based

Austin, Bruce A., Pugliese, Rudy R. (2004). Student Evaluations of Departmental Email: Electronic Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology. Interpersonal Computing and Technology Journal Rochester: 2004. https://www.aect.org/Intranet/Publications/ipct-j/2004/Austin.

Becker, David. (2004) Sharing the love--and data--through SharePoint.

http://news.com.com/Sharing+the+love--and+data--through+SharePoint/2100-1012_3-5185453.html?tag=nl. Published: April 6, 2004, 4:00 AM PDT.

Clyde, Laurel A. (2004) Some Current Infotech Trends. Teacher Librarian. Seattle: Jun 2004. Vol. 31, Iss. 5, p. 45-46 (2 pp.).

Hemming, Heather, Symons, Sonya, Langille, Lisa. Bridging the gap: workforce literacy for an electronic age.

English Quarterly, Toronto: 2002. Vol. 34, Iss. 3/4, p. n/a.

Lapadat, Judith C. Online teaching: creating text-based environments for collaborative thinking.

Alberta Journal of Educational Research Edmonton: Fall 2004. Vol. 50, Iss. 3, p. 236-251.

O,Hare, Noreen.(2003). Teachers perspectives on Technology. Horizons, Fall 2003.

Paul, Les. Information overload. IT Week, http://www.itweek.co.uk/analysis/1151057. Published, Mon 07 Mar 2005.

Reid, Scott. (2002) The integration of information and communication technology into classroom teaching.

Alberta Journal of Educational Research, Edmonton: Spring 2002. Vol. 48, Iss. 1, p. 30-46

Administrator's Guide for Windows Sharepoint Services.

http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/wss/2/all/adminguide/en-us/stsf02.mspx Accessed 19-2-05.

Texts

Sagor, Richard. How to Conduct Collaborative Action Research. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Alexandria, Virginia: 1992.


Appendix B: Faculty use of Messenger


Appendix C – Teacher Survey on Communications

Conducted at Dubai Women’s College, February 26 – 28, 2005.

1. How often do you check your college email?

       
 

Check automatically every five minutes

17

26%

   
 

5 or more times per day

35

54%

   
 

1 – 5 times per day

13

20%

   
 

Do not check every day

0

0%

   
   

Total: 65

     
           

2. How often do you check the college web site?

       
 

5 or more times per day

8

13%

   
 

1 – 5 times per day

23

36%

   
 

Do not check every day

33

52%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

3. How often do you check the departmental web site?

       
 

5 or more times per day

1

2%

   
 

1 – 5 times per day

17

27%

   
 

Do not check every day

46

72%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

4. In general, what determines if you will read an email immediately?

   
 

Who it is from

42

66%

   
 

The subject

20

31%

   
 

'Importance' rating

2

3%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

5. On average, how many emails do you have in your inbox?

       
 

less than 10

5

8%

   
 

10 - 50

38

59%

   
 

51-80

10

16%

   
 

more than 80

10

16%

   
 

I never notice

1

2%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

6. What is your preferred means of receiving information on college-wide events?

   
 

Email

56

56 (88%)

   
 

HCT portal

0

0 (0%)

   
 

Departmental website.

0

0 (0%)

   
 

College web site

8

8 (13%)

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

7. What is your preferred means of receiving departmental / scheduling information?

   
 

Email

60

94%

   
 

HCT portal

1

2%

   
 

Departmental website.

3

5%

   
 

College web site

0

0%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

8. Do you prefer to receive and retrieve departmental and/or administrative documents from:

 
 

Email

36

56%

   
 

Departmental website

3

5%

   
 

Sharepoint Website?

17

27%

   
 

No preference

8

13%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

9. SharePoint:

         

Do you have a class / cluster page? How often do your students use it?

   
 

No class / cluster page

49

77%

   
 

Yes, but they almost never use it

4

6%

   
 

Yes, they use it once a week

1

2%

   
 

Yes, they use it 2-3 times per week

5

8%

   
 

Yes, they use it every day

1

2%

   
 

Non-teaching Faculty

4

6%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

10. Check the features you have used:

     
           
 

Manage users

2 (3%)

     
 

Create new page

3 (5%)

     
 

Share an image

0 (0%)

     
 

Add a web part

1 (2%)

     
 

Discussion board

5 (8%)

     
 

Alerts

3 (5%)

     
 

Shared Document space

13 (20%)

     
 

Personal Site

6 (9%)

     
           

11. Discussion boards:

         

Please select the best response.

     
   

Yes

No

Sometimes / maybe

N/A

Do / (have) you use(d) discussion boards for language / content development

       
   

15

43

17

21

Do / would you use discussion boards for professional development?

       
   

21

35

28

12

Would you like to attend PD sessions on their various uses?

       
   

59

14

21

4

           

12. An 'email free' day would see internal email suspended requiring you to use alternative communication. Would you support this?

   
           
 

Yes, one day per week

11

17%

   
 

Yes, one day per month

13

20%

   
 

No

33

52%

   
   

Total: 64

     
           

Comments

         

It might be interesting on the basis it would encourage staff to speak face to face more!

Yes, if it were done to encourage people to talk to each other!

This is a laptop college, this would be a regressive step.

Oncea year only!!!

       

unrealistic idea - I cannot suspend or contol external incoming messages - they could be an order from my boss or an emergency

One day a week if the alternate was as quick, simple and 'realiable' and the dats retrieveable!!

Yes if we didn't have twice as many emails the next day

           
           

13. Please add any further comments you may have.

   
           

Email is both useful and a burden in this job. It is totally relentless and needs to be kept up with around other full time aspects of the job. I was unable to do this for two days last week (out of office on external matters) and came back to 195 emails in two days. It's not easy to work out how to resolve it.

           

I find email or messenger the best way to contact staff and use the cluster website and webCT for student contact.Students regularly contact me through messenger.

           

The problem for me in implementing blended learning is the myriad of tools we use here. Outlook, WebCT, Sharepoint. Other tools available through our browsers.

           

To go without e-mail would mean, untold phone calls, notes laying around with the chance of becoming lost, walking around with your diary etc.

           

e-mail is a necessary evil. It's more reliable than SharePoint, and I can deal with it as it comes in. Websites and SharePoint take more time to post docs than just circulating them as e-mail attachments.

           

Do you mean we might actually have to talk to each other??

           

We do not have a departmental website, but there was no option I could click.

I have never used any feature on SharePoint - again this was not an option on the survey

           

Too many e-mails sent to 'all', which are duplicated in private responses to the e-mail. In general there are too many "unnecessary" e-mails which eat into class preparation time etc. Why not find out how much time staff are spending attending to e-mail in your survey?

           

for preferred method of receiving info- I prefer a brief notice to my inbox, with all pertinent details on a site so I can look them up - college site or dept site, doesn't matter. The problem now is there is NO PLACE to get the detail, often because no one writes it in time. On the HCT site or portal --Ha! impossible to find!!

           

I feel if there are too many communications systems operating at any one given time it becomes confusing, overly burdensome and there's an increased danger of missing essential coms.

           

I do not want an email free day

       
           

Why didn't you ask me about the use of Chat with my staff?

Total: 11

       
           
             

Appendix D – Student Survey

Conducted at Dubai Women’s College, February 26 – 28, 2005.

1. For what have you used Messenger? How many times have you done these things?

   
           
 

%

Less than 5 times

5 - 10 times

More than ten times

Never

For educational chatting with students

21

27

38

11

For non-educational chatting with students

18

26

28

22

For educational chatting with teachers

19

18

20

38

For non-educational chatting with teachers

16

8

6

64

 

Sharing educational files

15

20

44

17

 

Sharing non-educational files

19

24

23

27

 

Contact supervisor

13

6

6

67

         

Total: 210

           
           

2. How many times a day do you use Messenger?

   
 

Never

13 (6%)

     
 

A few times a week

65 (31%)

     
 

1 - 5 times per day

82 (39%)

     
 

6 – 10 times per day

18 (9%)

     
 

More than ten times per day

32 (15%)

     
   

Total: 210

     
           

3. How often have you used these features?

     
   

1-5 times

6 - 10 times

More than 10 times

Never

 

WebCam

7

4

4

74

 

Voice

21

8

9

55

 

Text Chat

21

7

50

19

 

Remote Assistance

15

4

7

64

           
         

Total: 210

           

4. Do you feel you need training on how to use Messenger?

   
 

Yes

47 (22%)

     
 

No

163 (78%)

     
   

Total: 210

     
           

5. How often do you check your college email?

   
 

Automatically every five minutes

74 (35%)

     
 

5 or more times per day

58 (28%)

     
 

1 – 5 times per day

63 (30%)

     
 

A few times a week

15 (7%)

     
   

Total: 210

     
           

6. In general, what determines if you will read an email immediately?

   
 

Who it is from

91 (43%)

     
 

The subject

97 (46%)

     
 

'Importance' level

22 (10%)

     
   

Total: 210

     
           

7. How often do you check the college web site?

   
 

5 or more times per day

40 (19%)

     
 

1 – 5 times per day

92 (44%)

     
 

A few times a week

78 (37%)

     
 

Total: 210

       
           

8. How often do you check your departmental web site?

   
 

5 or more times per day

20 (10%)

     
 

1 – 5 times per day

65 (31%)

     
 

A few times a week

125 (60%)

     
   

Total: 210

     
           

9. How do you like to receive the following information at DWC?

   
   

HCT portal

College web site

Department site

Does not matter

 

Grades

50

25

15

8

 

College / campus events

17

50

15

15

 

Departmental events / deadlines

23

34

29

10

 

Scheduling changes

37

31

22

7

 

Total: 210

       
           

10. Do you have a class / cluster SharePoint page? How often do you use it?

   
 

No class / cluster page

100 (48%)

     
 

Yes, but we almost never use it

37 (18%)

     
 

Yes, we use it once a week

27 (13%)

     
 

Yes, we use it 2-3 times per week

34 (16%)

     
 

Yes, we use it every day

12 (6%)

     
 

Total: 210

       
           

11. Do you use a discussion board in your classes?

   
 

Never

94 (45%)

     
 

Once or twice only

70 (33%)

     
 

2 - 3 times per month

21 (10%)

     
 

More than once per week.

25 (12%)

     
 

Total: 210

       
           

12. Please add any further comments you may have.

   
           
 

no thanks

       
 

No comments.

       
 

No thing

       
 

plz don't close the MSN because it helps us to comunicate with teachers and it let us practice our typing skills.

 

mmm i would prefer sending our grades and scaduals on our email because it is the only things we check daily

 

Before you do survays on using the MSN or the share point or even the daily checking our out look, fix the network connection in the college first!

 

the chat very important .

 

I want to know every thing about the messenger

 

using more technology in the education to help us to learn new skills that help us in the future.

 

No comments

       
 

work with groub

       
 

give au more information

       
 

the msn is very important for conect.

 

i would like that if they allowed us to email any one from out side the college .. because .. I like to email my uncle every day or 3 days a week .. he lives in Saudi Arabia ..

 

when the last time I email him they sent me a woring letter .. and i don't want that to happen..!!

 

we would like to recieve our attendence form regularly through email or it should be posted in the HCT portal . this is because it is important for us to check it every now and then.It is not convenient to go to our advisor to ask her/him about it.

 

The IT website is not updated

 
 

I have never used College MSN for any reason

 

well, i think that we or atleast i never used msn to communicate with a teacher,, if i need something i directly go to him/her or sometimes send an email if am waiting for a file or reply....

 

The college system sucks. We're in 2005! Not 1828

 

please dont dlete the msnger coz we want to contact our friends and teachers pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

i liked the last question the most :)

 

i prefer to have all the grades on ythe webct

 

it's better if they send us our schedule changes and grades to our email addresses!

 

I want to receive my grades at mail , it will be better

 

or if you have add the grades of the web please send us reminder to our mail

 

No Comments, but i hope we can access our college messenger from home

 

please we want 2 take more information about the msn ,, thanx

 

well am in Comm Tech and we don't have MSN Messenger ...

 

For the sports events and activities, i would not like to recieve a dozen of emails per week in my inbox, just put them on the college website so interested people will look at it.

 

we need msn for comuniction with our friends and teachers so please so dont delete the program

                   

Paul

This is very interesting analysis of the work place and its use of technology. This is a very current topic and a very real situation. You have provided a good blend of original and literature based research. I like the approach to analyzing the problems associated with email…most schools have not reached the point where the hardware is as available as in your site so we have not experienced these problems yet but they will appear as we add more hardware and software.

Thanks

Allister

Participation Grade 24/25

 


[1] SharePoint is a Microsoft application, which is, “a collection of tools for creating document work spaces and other basic collaboration tasks”. (Becker, 2004).

[2] See Appendix C.

[3] SharePoint has a rather complex hierarchy of permissions which could be inadvertently contravened allowing improper addition or deletion off materials and information.

[4] See Appendices B, C, and D.

[5] This opinion is based on personal experience of doing both.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:30

Reflective Statement on Teaching - 2010

At the HCT, faculty are asked to write a reflective statement about their teaching and learning philosphy. While this does not change substantially every year, there are items of note.


A learner's first responsibility is to manage their own learning. I believe that self-management and independent learning can best be achieved by engaging in a portfolio approach to learning. A social-constructivist approach to learning through a portfolio provides students a forum and structure within which to review and reflect on their activities. A portfolio also facilitates explicit noticing of relationships between different activities, both current and past.

It is the responsibility of the educational institute and teacher to ensure that course content is relevant to the students’ lives and future direction. A portfolio-based approach supported by a course management tool allows a framework within which teachers can better ensure this relevance by tying learning can be more explicitly tied to graduate outcomes. Each student has different needs, which change over time. The ability to review student e-portfolios can help teachers focus on their students’ current needs and update their syllabus to reflect these needs.

I continually strive to encourage students to pursue their own interests. This includes helping students to discover those interests. It also includes helping students to learn how they can best learn. It is the teacher's responsibility to help each student recognize their strengths and try to develop them.

My own work and studies are constructivist oriented. I always try to build on previous knowledge and incorporate old ideas into new. My portfolio and blog (www.lesduke.com) are two means by which I try to build my knowledge, thus not only preserving my ideas for reflection but to share those ideas and model the ideal for my students.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:27

Blog on Teaching and Learning

Part of my portfolio process includes reflecting on the activities in which I am engaged. The regularity of the entries is dependent on the nature of my activities.

Click here to visit the Education Blog

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:16

World of Work

During my career, I have been privileged to work in a variety of places around the world. Some of these positions were in the Education field, while others include stints on the vendage in France and as a potato inspector for a potato chip factory.

Click here to see my World of Work

 

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:14

English, Arabic... or French?

Recently, the local paper and the CBC have been running articles about language issues in Education: what language should we use? My classes have been discussing online and in person various issues surrounding language as they pertain to both the UAE and Canada. The similarities and differences provide ample discussion.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:10

Communities of Inquiry

As my students prepare to go out on teaching practice, I have been discussing with them the Communities of Inquiry model upon which I relied quite heavily for my thesis. I'll expand on this in the blog.

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:08

Goals - 2005 - 6

Paul Leslie

Goals – Academic Year 2005 – 2006

(October 2005)

Goal Statement

To improve my capabilities as a Web designer (Personal / Professional)

Thursday, 06 January 2011 14:06

LSU Team Goals 2005-6

Foundations LSU – Goals and Overview:2005 – 2006
For details, refer to LSU Technology plan
On-going LSU responsibilities include:
  • Operate as a drop-in centre to support the technology and learning needs of Foundations.
  • Deliver Comp 100 with 3-4 classes/week per section.
  • Attend departmental, English, Comp 100, Math, cluster, Ed-Tech meetings.
  • Provide extra help for faculty from FND and other departments.
  • Support activities of special groups (fast-track, RFS, F-18, Extra-help, yearbook) through regular training.
Page 70 of 71