Virtual School Meanderings

September 3, 2013 e-Newsletter – 9/3/13

From the inbox earlier today…

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Applying Neurological Learning Research to an Online Undergraduate Science Laboratory Course

Neurological research has demonstrated that pre-test verbal preparation improves performance. The well-tested Tower of London puzzle can assess cognitive skills of a wide age range of participants. Preschoolers who talked to themselves about future puzzle moves had greatly improved Tower of London performance over those without such preparation. For adults, similar results are found with more neural activation in higher brain areas. We previously demonstrated the benefit of verbal preparation on daily quiz scores in an introductory astronomy lecture course. Two separate classes were taught, one including students discussing a pre-test verbal multiple choice question and the other not. In the lecture course, the interactive group performed 23% better on their final exam than the conventional group, likely due in part to the neurological language learning process that occurred during discussions. In the present study, for an online astronomy laboratory course, we present the effect on final exams of discursively answering pre-test learning objective questions. The discursive group scored significantly better (12% higher) than the class without such preparation. These findings are consistent with neuroscientific research on the usefulness of language in improving performance even on non-linguistic tasks.

Journal of Interactive Online Learning

Factorial Validity and Reliability of the Sense of Community in Online Courses Scale

The alarmingly high rate of attrition in online courses results in many negative consequences for students, faculty, online institutions, and for society as a whole. One reason theorized for this attrition is a lack of a sense of community in online courses; however, there is much theoretical and empirical debate on what factors contribute to that sense of community. Therefore, in this article, we present a revised version of the Sense of Community in Online Courses Scale, which has 4 components and 16 items, and we provide evidence that the scale is reliable and has factorial validity. We also use structural equation modeling to examine the relationships among the components. It is our hope that this scale will be beneficial to researchers of online learning and to instructors of online courses interested in improving the sense of community, and reducing attrition, in their courses.

Journal of Interactive Online Learning

When to Talk, When to Chat: Student Interactions in Live Virtual Classrooms

This study explores students’ choices of verbal and text interaction in a synchronous Live Virtual Classroom (LVC) environment that mixed onsite and online learners. Data were collected from analysis of recorded LVC sessions and post-course interviews with students in two different offerings of a graduate instructional design course that used Adobe Connect as a live virtual classroom. Students could choose whether to participate onsite in a computer classroom or “live” online using Connect. Over the course of both semesters students increasingly chose to participate online and, overall, students chose to participate online (57%) more than onsite (43%). However, some students—especially international students—preferred to participate onsite even though it was less convenient and also meant that they were more likely to be “called on” for verbal responses. Analysis of LVC recordings and post-course interviews showed that text interaction in which students asked questions or made comments in the LVC chat box during the instructor’s lectures was a preferred mode of interaction for students when they were participating both online and onsite. The emergent pedagogical strategy of integrated text interaction during lecture suggests a benefit of synchronous online learning.

Journal of Interactive Online Learning

Connectivism: 21st Century’s New Learning Theory

Transformed into a large collaborative learning environment, the Internet is comprised of information reservoirs namely, (a) online classrooms, (b) social networks, and (c) virtual reality or simulated communities, to expeditiously create, reproduce, share, and deliver information into the hands of educators and students. Most importantly, the Internet has become a focal point for a potentially dynamic modern learning theory called connectivism. Like any learning theory, connectivism has its share of supporters and critics. Unlike any other learning theory, connectivism attributes learning through cyber nodes specifically rooted in social networks. The purpose of this article is to introduce or reacquaint readers with three of the largest reservoirs of information attributed to the principles of connectivism. In addition, it aims to examine these information reservoirs through modern empirical studies in order to determine if their findings carry sparks of likeness or alignment with the principles of connectivism.

European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

The Tutors’ Views on the Utilization of E-learning System in Architectural Education

The design studio is the core of Architectural education where – face to face – social interaction, negotiations and communications happen between tutors and students. These communications are essential for development of the design concept and initiation of student’s innovation. At the University of Dammam, an ambitious e-learning system plan was initiated in 2011 and the system was gradually installed during the year 2012. The faculty have been encouraged to use it and integrate it with their traditional teaching system. However, the use of e-learning system was assessed by the e-learning deanship and it found that the system is of little use by the faculty of college of Architecture. So, a pilot study followed by a questionnaire survey was launched in early 2013 and it targeted the faculty of college of architecture and planning. The aim is to find out why the faculty are reluctant to utilize the system and the utilization’s obstacles. The survey’s results showed that the faculty appreciated the qualities of the e-learning system. However, they felt that the e-learning system has not been tailored to respond to the requirements of architectural education. They said that it can be used, to a certain extent, for theoretical courses but it would not be beneficial for design studio courses. This paper argues that potential shortages of the system should be dealt with; otherwise, the present e-learning system, as it is, will not respond to the architectural education’s needs and would have negative impact on architectural education.

European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

Video of Children as Anchors in an Online Forum for Elementary School Teachers: A Tool for Positioning Oneself as Knowledgeable About Physics

The authors investigated how prospective teachers enrolled in an undergraduate physical science course participated in an online forum in which they posted reactions to video episodes of children talking about science. Using Positioning Theory (Harré & Van Langenhove, 1991) as a lens, the authors analyzed 108 online posts from 26 prospective teachers as they completed six prompts from a Unit Task about force. Prospective teachers compared their own current ideas about physics topics to their prior understandings as well as to ideas articulated by the children in the video clips. Additionally, within these posts the prospective teachers positioned themselves as knowledgeable about how physics ideas develop, an important aspect of teaching science. As the prospective teachers wrote about the videos in their online posts, the videos may have served as a point of comparison with which they could document their understanding of physics concepts as well as the process of learning physics.

Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education

Using Online Error Analysis Items to Support Preservice Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Mathematics

This article describes how a free, web-based intelligent tutoring system, (ASSISTment), was used to create online error analysis items for preservice elementary and secondary mathematics teachers. The online error analysis items challenged preservice teachers to analyze, diagnose, and provide targeted instructional remediation intended to help mock students overcome common error patterns and misconceptions. A short description of how the ASSISTment system was used to support follow-up in-class discussions among preservice teachers is provided, as well as suggestions for producing similar online error analysis items in other content areas. Directions for accessing all of the mathematics error analysis problem sets currently available in the ASSISTment system, sample error analysis items and responses, and a rubric for implementing these assignments in mathematics methods classes to support preservice teachers are included at the conclusion of the article.

Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education

Teacher Candidates’ Perceptions of Technology Supported Literacy Practices

This study explores teacher education candidates’ perceptions of technologies used to support K-12 student literacy development. Candidates scored each technology based on their impressions of its ability to support student literacy development. They also evaluated their own level of expertise with each piece of technology using a pre-post survey. Technologies included broad-based applications (blogs, wikis, podcasts, and digital storytelling) as well as more specific applications (Prezi, Glogster, and Voicethread). Results indicated an increased knowledge of technologies available to support K-12 student literacy development. In addition, certain technologies were rated as more effective in promoting student literacy development. Data were disaggregated for secondary versus elementary candidate populations.

Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education


Obama Plan to Tie Student Aid to College Ratings Draws Mixed Reviews

President Obama continues his three-campus “college cost” bus tour on Friday, promoting his plans to make college more affordable through a mix of carrots and sticks.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

2 Drone-Journalism Programs Seek Federal Approval to Resume Flying

Two fledgling programs created to teach journalism students how to use drones in their reporting are applying for permits so they can resume operating unmanned aircraft outdoors, their directors said this week. Both programs received cease-and-desist letters from the Federal Aviation Administration last month.

Wired Campus

Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor

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