In this weeks class Alec covered how blended learning can be delivered using the SAMR Model (substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition). I was first introduced to this model in 2017 in my EADM 820 class with Stephen Wihak. I also went to high school with Bart Cote who was able to shed some light on this model and how the Catholic high schools have implemented it into their curriculum. Alec also reviewed the TPCK Model (Technological Pedagogical Content). Regardless of what model you follow there are different depths of technology use that educators can infuse into their curriculum. This is dependent on the technology available to the educator, the LMS used by the organization, the educators experience and comfort using the technology, type of learner you have, and course material being delivered to just name a few. The ultimate goal is to transform learning experiences into higher levels of achievement for our learners. Technology should not be used for the sake of technology but rather the focus must remain on the learner and the outcome desired.
Alec also showed us the different LMS available and compared some of the pros and cons of each. The first one we were showed was the Blackboard system which has been around for a long time and owned a majority of the market share.We were shown Canvas, Moodle, Google Classroom and WordPress as other options. Many of the educators in this class had experience with one or more of these platforms. Canvas seemed to be the best one in my opinion as far as being easier to use, cost and set up. At Saskatchewan Polytechnic, we use Brightspace for all of the courses we deliver. It was introduced in 2015 for online programming replacing WebCT and Blackboard that was used in the past. In 2018, all faculty were encouraged to use Brightspace to augment the courses that they were teaching even though if it is delivered in a face to face format. I have been using Brightspace for 2 years now and I have had experience with Blackboard and WebCT. My preference is Brightspace because of its ease of use and versatility for both me and my students.
The weekly readings this week brought some critical perspectives to LMS integration. The article, “Beyond the LMS” by Audrey Watters (2014), referred to education and technology as being imperialistic and having a Western influence. Watters states, “we often find ourselves adopting new tools that simply perform old tasks a wee bit better, a wee bit faster”. I agree with this statement and it emphasizes the importance of implementing technology for the right reasons. The author continues by arguing, “the learning management system has shaped a generation’s view of education technology” and “it does not reflect the needs of the teachers and learners”. It is easy to get caught up in technology and implement it without fully evaluating if it truly was a more effective way of delivering content. I agree with Watters (2014) question, “Who exactly the LMS was meant to serve?” The learner must remain the focus of the approach taken ensuring that they will be successful in the learning process. I really like the reference to the University of Mary Washington’s approach on building one’s own “rich professional portfolio” and “we must become the holders of our own data”. One of the issues with LMS is the restraints it can impose by controlling what is being entered and what can be taken out. Students should have more control of their learning and be able to regain control of the content and knowledge they create. This will contribute to life-long learning that we as educators are trying to encourage!
The second article that Alec shared with us from Twitter dealt with thoughts on Class Dojo. I have not used Class Dojo but after reading the article I can see both points of view on why is can be beneficial but also the potential harm that it can create. My initial thoughts are, “Are we getting too soft and is it not our job as educators to encourage proper behavior?” There is ample research to show the benefits of using rewards with kids and I have used it as a parent and dental professional. Many kids do not like going to the dentist or looking after their teeth and rewards can be very powerful to change their behavior. Are we not trying to enlighten our students to challenge their current beliefs, attitudes,values or knowledge? I do see the argument of creating a “conformist society” but our laws, policies and rules in life and work ensure we are acting in an appropriate manner. Without these guidelines and people to enforce them, our society will be in a state of anarchy.
I have had opportunities to teach fully online courses, solely face to face courses and blended courses. I have had both positive and negative experiences. I embrace the advantages of online learning for its flexibility in when it is delivered or accessed, use of discussion forums, videos, animations, evaluation, cost and time savings and hyperlinks to name a few. Saskatchewan Polytechnic has identified the “new learner” in its Strategic Plan and recognized that the traditional method of academic delivery (face to face) is no longer practical. Students are demanding more and educational institutions, driven by competition, have had to evolve to this changing trend. Saskatchewan Polytechnic have strongly encouraged all programs to use Brightspace to offer our students flexibility and more support in their learning journey. I have been using Brightspace for over 2 years now and have seen how beneficial it can be. I have all of my lectures available for students to access, have reading articles posted, use discussion forums, have them post their assignments, and have hyperlinks, videos and animations to supplement their learning. I have used webinars and video conferencing which has alleviated the stress and cost of scheduling guest speakers or experts in a face to face format. Although Brightspace was a lot of work to initially set up, I am able to same course components each year and import them in for following years and make edits. I also appreciate that I can track a student’s access to each section available online and this is where there is a lot of variation.
Some students are very active and others are not. In order to encourage their participation, I have assigned a grade with some limited success. Those who are not engaged, only participate minimally and the quality of their work is subpar. When you do make something optional, many students see this as an opportunity to not participate as it is not important enough to be a mandatory requirement. The students workload is heavy within our program and adding online content, assignments or discussion forums have been challenged because of the extra work it entails. I too feel that since I added online content to all of my face to face courses that I am working more than ever before. Because of online availability, students are emailing or posting after hours where I feel obliged to respond because I am the one encouraging their participation. Training and support is offered for instructors who want to use this online format but must be accessed on their own time. This too adds to an instructor’s workload as it can take a lot of time maintaining the content on these pages.
The success of blended and fully online learning is dependent on how engaged and self-directed the students are. Students who never log in or complete the tasks I have set out have struggled in these courses. They too are offered orientation to Brightspace as well as supports if they choose to use them. Some also have struggles if they are not technologically capable of using the new format. For the most part, I have seen more positives than negatives with using blended delivery methods and more and more courses are converting to this format. With change comes resistance and opportunities to learn. With time, this delivery method will be the norm if it isn’t already!
I do like how Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) argue that “learning is an active process” (p.14) and technology can be used to leverage this. I also like that they ask the question if using technology is an either or process. We must implement technology if it makes sense and our focus must continue to be with the learner and the desired outcome. Is technology going to lead to an improvement? I have seen the resistance in implementing technology in the dental office as well with the digital revolution. one of my first tasks when I was hired by Saskatchewan Polytechnic was to introduce digital radiography to our program and clinic. Many of my colleagues had no experience with it and were resistant to its implementation. I even had to hide the film so they did not resort back to the old ways of doing radiography! There were some growing pains but we have been using it now for over eight years and most importantly, we are preparing our students on what they will be using when they graduate. That is one thing that Saskatchewan Polytechnic does well is that they consult with industry annually to ensure they are maintaining standards and staying current. Technology is continually changing and it is a challenge remaining current not only because f the cost but the time required to be knowledgeable on the current trends. Professionally I am required to complete 50 hours of continuing education every 3 years (I usually am close to 100) and as an educator there is added pressure as we are the one’s people turn to for information or advice.
Expand my knowledge of the various online learning tools that I can use in my blended learning classes
Learn how to motivate my students to become more self-directed in their learning and introduce gaming within the classroom to get them engaged in their learning
Learn how to balance my workload so that I am not over-connected with the online options I have created. The more I add the harder I am working and it is taking me away from my family life a little more each year.
I do look forward to learning not only from Alec but my classmates who are already doing some great things!
My name is Dean Lefebvre. I am an instructor in the Dental Hygiene Program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. I have been teaching full time since 2010 but I did teach a night class, continuing education courses and on a part-time basis since 1996. I still work occasionally during the summer months in private practice and I remain very involved in my profession volunteering on a number of committees, speaking at conferences and participating in a variety of events. I am passionate about community dentistry and helping those who experience many barriers in accessing care. Since 2011, I have organized a free Dental Day in Regina where dental professionals volunteer their time, skill and knowledge to make a difference within their community. To date we have provided care to over 500 patients and completed over $250,000 worth of dentistry for free. In September of 2018, I organized a group of dental professionals to go up to La Loche to provide care (Northern Dental Day). It was the most rewarding project I have ever been involved in and we are planning on returning in 2019. La Loche has the highest dental decay rates in not only Saskatchewan but in all of Canada! We saw 92 patients and made many new friends.
I am committed to lifelong learning as I have obtained my Bachelor of Science from the University of Saskatchewan, Diploma in Dental Hygiene from SIAST, Certificate in Adult Education and Training from the University of Regina, and soon my Masters of Adult Education from the University of Regina. I continue to further my skills and knowledge in Dental Hygiene by attending conferences and seminars. I volunteer on a number of committees both professionally and personally. I am an accreditation surveyor for the Commission of Dental Accreditation of Canada and reviewer for Dental Radiography: Principles and Techniques. I own my own business, Regina Preventative Dental Services, where I make custom-made sports mouth guards, night guards and tooth whitening.
I am married to an amazing woman since 1998 who is incredibly supportive and patient with my busy lifestyle and we have two awesome children (14 and 17 years old) who continue to make me proud in what they do and accomplish. I coach my son in hockey which I thoroughly enjoy. When we do have free time, we enjoy travelling, going to the cottage during the summer months and spending time with family and friends.
Although I am not overly active in social media, you can follow me on Twitter at @pdlefebvre