The sixth session that I am blogging from the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference is:
Engaging the High School Student with an Online Constructivist Approach
Margaret Dupuis, LEARN Quebec, Canada, LEARN Quebec, Canada
In Quebec the implementation of a new constructivist educational reform has been a challenge for all educators. LEARN Quebec has developed a collaborative PD model that exemplifies best practices in order to assist our online high school teachers to better understand and implement this approach. The designing of innovative classroom material in relation to learning needs, employing engaging questioning strategies, flipping classes, implementing the use of web 2.0 tools, providing reflection time and collaborative activities for learners have been implemented making our online learning environment an exciting place to teach and learn. Due to these best practices two of our Math teachers were awarded the INACOL Innovative Online Learning Practice Award for 2012. The second phase has been the launching of a research project on Conversational Analysis to better understand learning in this environment and gather data to support these best practices. Our goal is to present these findings.
Margaret began with a brief description of the LEARN program – an online program that began in the late 1990s, which works primarily with English language school boards (a minority in Quebec), that uses mainly a synchronous instructional model. The program is supplemental in nature, so students are all enrolled in brick-and-mortar schools and take their online courses through Learn.
The learning model that they developed was grounded in the social constructivist learning theory (i.e., Vygotsky). One of the main challenges to implementing this kind of program was finding teachers willing to move from their more behaviourist model of teaching, and take a risk to try this new instructional model. The model that was eventually employed included 70% synchronous instruction (i.e., ZenLive – a program that they began developing after it has been initially created by a university in Quebec) and 30% asynchronous instruction (i.e., Sakai). In addition to the instruction, students were also expected to create a digital portfolio. Web 2.0 tools have also become a big part of creating the social constructivist environment. Some of the tools that they have been employing include VoiceThreads, blogs, Twitter (for students to ask questions directly of their teacher in an asynchronous fashion), and Google Docs (to provide pacing charts).
In addition to the instructional model, Learn also needed to develop an online professional learning model for the teachers. One of the big aspects of their professional learning model was professional growth plans that the teachers created on their own, taking ownership and directing their learning. There was also a lot of mentoring that occurred, creating online learning communities that were consistent with the social constructivist learning theory that had been developed for their instructional model.