We examined prior knowledge in learning this week. Educators know it’s important to connect to what learners know.
Active engagement and social interactions
- Hopefully, by now, our routines are becoming familiar. The first couple of meetings were likely disorienting. We ask you to advance your own pages on Canvas as we progress. There are collaborative documents to find and then add text to and process quickly. You’re pushed into and pulled out of breakout rooms to talk, explore, and record conversations. You’re asked to manage multiple browser windows AND the Zoom interface so you can see everyone. No doubt, there is a lot going on during every meeting.
- By Meeting 3, we noticed that you’re also anticipating our movements and ready before we are. The cognitive load from our online meetings are hopefully lessening. While you still need to toggle between windows and use collaborative documents to spark conversation, you know what to expect and are coming up with your own way to make it work. It does get easier as the pattern becomes familiar. And that’s the point with online teaching. You don’t need to be an expert at a long list of platforms and tricks. Just a few will do. You’ll get more skilled at doing them, and your learners will become more familiar with participating in them.
- Two key ideas drive our design and teaching decisions: our understanding of human learning and the purpose of this Learning Series to convene for problem solving together.
- Ice Cubes is the third “hands-on” science activity we explored in this Learning Series. This time we had a digital version of the materials that participants could “manipulate” to do the investigation in small groups. Because the salt water solution needed to be a particular concentration, it wasn’t doable to have participants gather their own materials (unlike for Cup & Card). The set up was easy enough for us to replicate that we made the video ourselves so that participants could be in control of the materials (unlike for Moon phases).
- Similar to previous experiences, participants are pushed to call out what they see is going on and use those articulations to consider how to explain what they see. Our emphasis on teasing apart observing and reasoning is based on Catherine Eberbach and Kevin Crowley’s work.
- Collaborative document to monitor the groups. Most of the explorations happening in this activity occur in breakout rooms. When we teach in-person, it’s relatively easy for the facilitator to move from one group to the next without disrupting the group’s exploration. The power dynamics are interrupted when the facilitator shows up. So, we stand nearby, don’t make eye contact, and we eavesdrop on how groups of are doing. We might or might not enter the conversation, depending on how the group is doing. But when we’re teaching online, it’s a little more difficult to eavesdrop. We do two things:
- Use the collaborative document to monitor across the groups. Participants moving their cursors to their respective parts in the document lets us know that they are finding what they’re supposed to be doing. We read the text entries to get a sense of what groups are talking about and how they might be struggling on concepts. We might not be able to enter all of the break out rooms, but we can see which groups would benefit from our presence.
- Turn off our video and microphones before we enter breakout rooms if we’re just listening in.
Prior knowledge, adding on
- For this Research Discussion, we invited participants to watch people two people talk about a text, and then add on to that conversation. The video presented the details in the text, but rather than a lecture of the ideas. This format set the tone for a conversation, with the speakers synthesizing the ideas and relating it to their own experiences. Participants were then invited to add on to the video conversation, offering their syntheses of what’s said and personal connections.
- This is our variation of the fishbowl discussion technique used in in-person classrooms. There are lots of different variations, and you might do yours differently as well. We call it “add-on” because, in our format, everyone has a chance to add-on to the conversation, one small group at a time. Only the speakers have their video camera and microphones on (so we can focus on the speakers). Everyone else is present, but not visible or speaking.