Importance of Teaching Science Correctly!

I am writing this post on my blog after a long time…………………the thing is this: I write when I feel passionate about a certain topic or news; mostly they are about (a) teaching and learning (of especially science) and (b) women’s’ issues (especially at workplaces).

So here’s is my latest on teaching of science CORRECTLY, because of a news item on the recent total solar eclipse in the US on 21st Aug 2017.

…………. I came across a CNN news discussion about this.  And this image about Trump eclipsing Obama:

T and O - eclipse

Here’s how WRONG this is!!

  • The Sun remains after an eclipse, but the moon moves away!
  • The moon eclipses the Sun from right -to-left: that is from west-to-east and not the other way round!!
  • And lastly, the moon is the one that is dark, and the Sun is the one that is shining brightly!

This indeed such an incorrect and inane stuff………………I hope my readers will understand, and share! Thnx.

Also, please do read this nice article, from where I took the image: http://time.com/4914037/donald-trump-barack-obama-eclipse-meme.  It says how this meme makes no sense 🙂

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My New Horizon……..!!

Today, as I read and hear about the probe New Horizons and its fly-by around Pluto, my mind is flooded with memories of my first school named New Horizon, near Beltala, Kolkata. I must have spent some 2 years there, at the age of 4-5 years (it was such a small school that they probably do not have a website either, so I have no picture of my first school, unfortunately!).

I write this blog to say how New Horizon taught me a few things important for life!

The school was close to my place. I would generally walk to my school with my maid. On the way, there was a foot path with milk chocolate coloured squares, and since I loved Cadbury’s (that was a generic name for all chocolates in those days, as it was the only chocolate available in India) I would love to walk on that. My sisters and parents even nick named that footpath as Cadbury footpath!

I still remember that I would like to go to school early, and choose my table and chair – red in colour. There was only one set of each colour, so red was something we kids ran to get hold of. One day there was this guy whole ‘stole’ my red table and chair, and I was so annoyed that I picked a fight with him. The class teacher was very nice, she explained to me to take another set of table and chair, as it was not that important, it did not matter in the class.

That was a life’s lesson learnt – learning matters and not something superfluous.

We even had a rest period, where we kids would go to a reasonably big hall and lie down on ‘chatai’ or a thin straw carpet. There was this obnoxious girl who would lie next to me and do some horrible gestures (she was 4, and so was I, imagine!!), till the teacher noticed and asked her to stay from me!

Another of life’s lesson learnt – choose your friends carefully.

I don’t remember doing anything remarkable in the school, but I knew that the principal, with silvery gray hair, short and cropped, always in a crisp pastel coloured cotton sarees, used to like me.  Soon I shifted to a bigger school, and the New Horizon school also shifted to a larger premises, and all was forgotten, until a few days ago…………………………

Later in life, I chose to do Physics, and I love my subject. I eat, and breathe science (mostly Physics) all the time; I am absolutely passionate about disseminating it through my writings and workshops. Sometimes I feel that it is unfortunate that I do not hold a permanent job (many unforeseen reasons for that) , but so be it……….it does not in any way diminish my passion and enthusiasm for science at all.

And as I watch the images of Nasa’s New Horizons fly by of Pluto, I feel how hard the team must have worked for years and years; I can feel their excitement and pride. It is indeed a definite milestone for human explorations and endeavours, and an absolute technological and scientific feat.

Another of life’s very important lesson on display now – for anything big to succeed – hard work, dedication, vision, leadership, years of planning are definitely needed.  And collaborations between large teams – the order of the day!

I hope the New Horizons team get more funding and continue to explore Kuiper Belt objects long after the Pluto mission is over. Good luck to them; now I wait to watch the TV program Eating Breakfast with Pluto presented by my favourite science presenter Neil deGrasse Tyson!

pluto-timeline-e1430337464236

 

Aside: Two things are very close to my heart – science/technology progress and women’s issues. I just heard today on CNN that in the New Horizons project 25% of the team are women. Hurray! Great going girls!

How to have your own MOOC using Google Course Builder

I am putting up another article on my blog after almost six months……….was caught up in many other works.

But in the meantime, I did many courses on edX, studied about MOOCs (massive open online courses) and was able to use the Google Course Builder to create my own MOOC (in the cloud)!!

That was an achievement, I was thrilled to do it………… and thought I’d share it with everyone.

The thought of creating my own on-line course occurred to me when my fellow course mate for the GEMs Art of Teaching course suggested so. I have never met Karina (a teacher in Mexico) but one of her very encouraging comments in the course forums got me thinking………………hmmmmmm surely I can try this!!

First, I wrote to edX, I did not know where to write so I said I am a business developer, and would like to create courses on edX. Someone from there politely wrote me back that (a) either I have to be their partner (I am not sure what criteria they have to choose them) or (b) I should visit mooc.org and wait to hear more developments from that website’s forum and updates.

I have never heard from them, as yet. But while there I read through many links how Google and edX were going to merge, etc. From there I reached the Google Course Builder website (https://code.google.com/p/course-builder/).

Google Course Builder logo

And although I am not a developer, I read through many tech documents, watched YouTube videos many times to understand what was happening, as there are many versions of Google Course Builder, some say this and some say that………………..attended some Google live events, and was able to build my course……….as an app. It is also a MOOC. Used the Google App Launcher to put up my course!

Currently it seems to be free; you can upload your course on Google App Launcher using Google Course Builder 1.8.0. But a word of caution……………nothing with Google can be free! If the traffic to your MOOC is high (not sure of the number) or the course is too large (or even popular and successful) I am sure Google will try and monetize your efforts………….someday may be!

Anyone interested? Perhaps I can help you out!

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moocs

Aside: On a live event I put up a question to Google if Google Course Builder and edX are merging together, to that the answer was NO. Which is good for me, as any merger may mean headaches for course owners and their students, isn’t it?

Also at a later date, I found a new course of edX – edX101 – Overview of Creating an edX course. I am not sure whom this course is for, may be after edX agrees to be your partner then the course may help you to go step-by-step to create content and upload to their platform.

For a person like me, who has created on-line courses for years on LMSes, I have my own templates and methods for session plans……… and now with the help of Google Course Builder, I’d say I am in business of creating MOOCs.

Learning Models – Active, Passive and Blended

We can all learn, but we don’t all learn in the same way. Where learning is concerned, there is no one approach that fits all people. Learning models help us to make sense of the teaching-learning processes. Learning models provide teachers with an organized system for creating an appropriate learning environment, and planning instructional activities.

In this blog I would like to discuss just three learning models that has meaning in the new ed-tech environment of the 21st century:

  • Passive learning
  • Active learning
  • Blended learning

 

Passive Learning

Passive learning occurs when students use their senses to take in information from a lecture, reading assignment, or audiovisual. This is the mode of learning most commonly present in classrooms. It is used to acquire ideas and information that is available for recall.

Advantages:

  1. Can present a great deal of information in a short period of time.
  2. Lecture notes, handouts, and audiovisual media can be selected and prepared in advance.
  3. Controlled environment (faculty more comfortable).
  4. Good for new faculty member or one who is teaching new content.
  5. Students most often prefer this approach (they are used to this method of teaching).
  6. Important concepts and content identified a concrete, organized, and meaningful manner.
  7. Students have lower anxiety levels and feel more secure with this method.

Disadvantages:

  1. Little opportunity to assess how well students are learning the content.
  2. Little time for questions, clarification, or discussion.
  3. Students may not feel comfortable letting faculty know that they do not understand key concepts, they are reluctant to ask questions in class, or they may not ask enough questions to clarify their misunderstandings.
  4. Does not require consistent use of higher-level cognitive skills (no opportunity for application).
  5. May become tedious and boring.

Active learning

Active learning involves the student through participation and investment of energy in all three phases of the learning process (input, operations, and feedback). This type of learning is more apt to stimulate higher cognitive processes and critical thinking.

Advantages:

  1. May increase critical thinking skills in students.
  2. Enables students to show initiative.
  3. Involves students by stimulating them to talk more.
  4. Incorporates more student input and ideas.
  5. Easier to assess student learning.
  6. Better meets the needs of students with varying learning styles.

Disadvantages:

  1. Faculty need to be expert in the content area.
  2. May be difficult to organize active learning experiences.
  3. Requires more time and energy and may be stressful for faculty.
  4. Faculty may receive less favourable evaluations from students.
  5. Students may be stressed because of the necessity to adapt to new ways of learning.

Blended Learning

The convergence of traditional, classroom based teaching and modern, technology based learning, may be termed as blended learning model; this can been further modified and adopted to meet the varied needs of its diverse audience, to make it more learner centric and adaptive. It is a a good mixture of active and passive learning.

The blended learning model has many components, and is utilised to emphasise the philosophy of ‘any time, any place, and any path, any pace’ for the benefit of its students.

Here are some of the components of a blended learning model:

  1. eLearning/Video
  2. Workbook/Self Study
  3. Virtual classroom
  4. Face to face teaching
  5. Blogs, Wikies and discussions
  6. On-line quizzes, exams
  7. Projects and hand-on work

Blended Learning

Blended learning model can be used for a flipped classroom also. The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop-style interaction where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and do hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or facilitators, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

Since blended learning model is a mix of active and passive learning, it has all the advantages and disadvantages as mentioned above. But in the ed-tech environment of the 21st century,  it looks that blended learning is the way forward.

Should We Measure ROI or ROE in Education?

The Ed-Tech environment is definitely improving the quality of education, especially in the higher education sector where lack of good teachers in the ‘chalk and talk’ class is dwindling (they are probably moving to ‘click and tick’ class on-line!)

But any change in a system is expensive; introducing educational technology in traditional learning methodologies is definitely cost and effort intensive. But this has to be done now, because learners these days are different, their preferences have changed, and they have the option to shop around for what suits them in the plethora of course options.

Many have argued that the structure of an educational institution, be it school, college or university, must undergo a paradigm shift from the instruction delivery to learning opportunities. In the new scheme, each faculty becomes designer of learning content and maintaining a learner-centered environment. Curriculum design is based on an analysis of what a student needs to know to function in a complex world which can be re-designed and offered on needs basis.

Now comes the cost. Up until now education in India was considered to be a social sector, financed by the government or charitable trusts. These days education has become quite expensive, especially higher education. Stakeholders have to finance salaries, infrastructure costs, costs for course curriculums and course upgrades, and costs of certification and official recognition amongst other expenditures. Learners have to dish out fees to access these in a physical form. Since any learning (that is what goes inside a learner’s head, and causes change in his/her attitude and behaviour) is very individualistic, most education is ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, and learners have to find their own way to develop their skills and competencies.

Since it is difficult to measure the usefulness of acquiring some education, we judge the ‘goodness’ of the monies spent by getting high marks, passing some exams, and getting into renowned colleges or obtaining a great job. The gratification on the monies spent happens many many years later……………it is unlike buying a soap or a pizza! Therefore, the ROI is hard to measure in short term. Getting any formal education is a long, lonely and almost a personal journey………….and if the journey does not end with a meaningful and fulfilling job and life, it is a meaningless journey!

These days as a result of the recent economic downturn, and growing student loans, the importance of ROI for various academic degrees, are being discussed. ROI is often touted to be crucial for students to know so they can determine what degrees will allow them to obtain higher-paying jobs to maximize their ROI as soon as possible after completing a degree or certificate. By contrast, ROI is often discredited by critics as a short-sighted measure of degree worth (or value) that ignores the importance of a broader educational experience, and that critical-thinking skills and a broad college experience are more important than simply being able to find a high-paying job after college.

In a recent CNN documentary on ‘Ivory Towers’ it is shown that meaning of obtaining education has undergone a much needed correction. I suggest that instead of measuring ROI, we should propose to measure ROE – a return on expectations, since expectations from a course curriculum can be promised, and measured using various assessment techniques (please see my earlier article on Analytical Framework, and Quality Assurance). ROI for investors and learners will be different, but ROE can be the same for all concerned, and that would be a good metric to start with, is it not?

Pic

Pedagogy, Instructional Strategy and Backward Design for a Flipped Classroom

Any course first starts with a curriculum – what needs to be taught in the course and with how much time and score weightages need to be structured into the curriculum. The curriculum is then becomes a guideline for teachers. (What I write in this blog is specifically using my experience in teaching-learning of science using 21st century tools and technology.)

Curriculum is all about what we are going to teach. Pedagogy is about how we teach it.

Curriculum and Pedagogy

When implementing some curriculum content, it is important to use a range of pedagogical strategies depending on the learners’ abilities, the type of content to be taught, and the time allotted.

Instructional strategies are a subset of pedagogical strategies. Instructional strategies include all approaches that a teacher may take to actively engage students in learning. These strategies drive a teacher’s instruction as they work to meet specific learning objectives and goals. Effective instructional strategies meet all the development needs of the learners in the class – it is closely associated with the leaning experience, and can be measured by assessments of students.

Some of the instructional strategies can be as follows:

  1. Presentation – direct talks and lectures
  2. Exhibits and demonstration
  3. Drill and Practice, tutorials (problem based)
  4. Games and simulations
  5. Role-playing
  6. Discussions and debates (Socratic method)
  7. Hands-on (inquiry based)
  8. Field Trips
  9. Case Studies
  10. Internships

Each of these instructional methods or teaching solutions falls into 4 types: direct, indirect, interactive and experimental. It is important to note that instructional methods or teaching solutions will also depend on the types of content to be delivered (facts, concepts, principles, etc.)

In terms of the ed-tech environment of the 21st century, these 4 methods of instructions can be said to be

  • Receptive instructionis characterized by a lecture or an Internet site where the student is merely provided with information. (indirect method)
  • Directive instructionis characterized by a computer-based tutorial where information is presented, the student responds, feedback is provided and this tutorial learning cycle is repeated. (direct method)
  • Guided Discoveryis characterized by a computer simulation that allows the student to manipulate some device or environment. (interactive method)
  • Exploratory instructionis characterized by an open learning environment in which the student is provided a rich, networked database of information, examples, demonstrations, and exercises from which the student can select whatever is appropriate to their current needs and mental models.  (experimental method)

Effective implementation of any of these teaching methods will depend on assessment strategies as well. When planning, it is advisable to use a ‘backward design’ since method curriculum, pedagogy (teaching and instruction) and assessment are all interlinked.

There are four steps that need to be followed:

  1. Begin with the curriculum in order to determine the desired outcomes from the learning objectives.
  2. Create formative assessments that can indicate to you if learners are learning or otherwise!
  3. Then create summative assessments to map the learning objectives.
  4. Lastly create a pedagogical instruction that is required in order for the learners to meet the desired outcomes. If not change your instructional approach.

The backward design is very useful for a flipped classroom!

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop-style interaction where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and do hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or facilitators, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

Although the idea of a flipped classroom is straightforward, an effective flip requires careful recording of lectures, , and out-of-class and in-class elements must be carefully integrated for students to understand the teaching/pedagogical model and be self-motivated to carry on to learn.

Flipped Classroom

Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes – what’s the difference?

Most people wonder what the difference between learning objectives and outcomes are.

Well, there is a huge difference, and my this blog is about that!

In education, learning objectives are brief statements that describe what students will be expected to learn by the end of school year, course, unit, lesson, project, or class period. Thus learning objective on a larger frame can be called the program level objectives (PLOs). Each program will have several subjects, and each subject will have its own objectives or SLOs. Whittling down further, each subject will have chapters and topics, which again will have their own objectives (CLOs).

PLO SLO CLO

If worked out systematically, then all threads should join at PLO and the course curriculum will become well focused, robust and of a high quality.

On the other hand, learning outcomes are goals that describe how a student will be different because of the learning experience. Learning outcomes have to be MEASURED by assessments. This is difficult thing to do, because any measurement of an intangible verb of learning has qualitative and quantitative aspects – quantitative assessments are easier, and qualitative assessments are much more difficult to judge.

Most importantly, if we are ever going to measure the return on investment (ROI) in education, writing learning outcomes meticulously along with rubrics and assessment matrix becomes of utmost importance. More importantly, the learning outcomes will point to knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of the mind that a learner will take from the learning experience.

Here is a comparison of the two ‘confusing’ phrases – learning objectives and learning outcomes.

Feature Learning Objectives Learning Outcomes
Where will you find it in a course/module? At the beginning At the end of a topic, module or an entire subject/course
What identifies it? The verb. The scores.
Does it test the instruction? Yes.

It is a reflection on the teacher’s instruction.

No, not directly.

It is a reflection on the student’s assimilation (and indirectly on the instruction)

Clarity of goals? Yes, qualitatively. The assessment matrix/rubrics and the scores will measure the goals mostly quantitatively. (But sometimes qualitatively as well – for example project work.)
Should they be weighted? Yes, via time spent on the instruction. Yes, via assessment matrix/rubrics
Do they have levels? Yes No, not specifically but the assessment matrix/rubrics should take care of the levels.
Mapping with Program Learning Objectives (PLO) Yes Yes
Need for templates No Yes
Which is more difficult for teacher/instructor or even for curriculum designers? Less difficult More difficult.

Verbs used for instructions have to be weighted, and questions asked accordingly!!

Builds or measures skills/competencies? Builds Measures
Bloom or Gagne Bloom Gagne

(Plus Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels for scoring, evaluation of training programs and ROI)

Diagram 3