Yes … I’m sure you’ve seen this image before…. in every science text ever published…
The common ground of middle years brought Lindy Olafson and I together to design our course prototype project. As a grade 7/8 teacher, I teach almost all subject areas so I was fairly open to any option for a course related to middle years. Lindy works as an instructional coach and has worked in many capacities with a great deal of experience in grade 6/7. After some discussion, we decided to pursue a course around the grade 7 science unit – Interactions in Ecosystems. It’s been a while since I’ve taught this unit and it is coming up again in the late spring, so I’m hopeful that we will create something that can be used beyond the scope of EC&I 834.
Ironically, after Lindy and I decided on this topic, I remembered that in my undergrad ECMP class, with none other than Mr. Alec Couros, I designed a website around ecosystems. I tried to do a quick search for this website, but alas, it has disappeared into cyberspace. This is for the best. I still have flashbacks to the home page – a cranberry- coloured, overly patterned page with ugly font. Oh, if only I could find a photo for you… In hindsight, it was terrible – but I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d created. It’s funny how a changing world and changing perspective shift my understanding. I am hopeful that this project may have more longevity than that initial website.
As I consider the design of an online/blended course, I feel fairly overwhelmed with the “how-to” of the process. At this point, as Amy mentioned in her blog, finding a learning management system (LMS) to use seems the most daunting. For me, until I try to utilize a system, it’s hard to know its benefits/drawbacks, but I know I won’t have enough time to explore them all, so I am really hoping for some suggestions within class and from classmates. Google classroom is the only platform that I’ve had any experience with at this point.
Additionally, as an educator, I am used to looking at curriculum and deciding how to plan and implement it; however, I am not sure how to do this well in an online format. Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) discuss how learning is an active process and that students learn through interaction with each other. I wholeheartedly agree with them, but I am not really sure about how to make this happen in an online environment. How can I be sure that the learning is engaging and meaningful and not just data in, data out? Also, the idea of studying ecosystems online seems counter intuitive. Can this be done well? How do I reinvent the info in that ecosystem diagram published in every science text in a meaningful way?
As I think of my student population, for whom I would be creating this course, I am inspired by the following image. I want this to be true for my students whether or not they are working face to face or learning within an online environment.
So, as I head into these unknown waters of online course creation, I welcome your feedback about LMS as well as how to fully engage kids and facilitate meaningful learning and interaction. Share away …