Course Website- www.woodlandsphotographyonline.weebly.com
My online photography course has begun to take shape. My goal was to have a working website for my second term in photography starting in late April. Because my course is basically a “testing ground” for my future build, I chose to use non-LMS tools that would allow for change and flexibility as I reflect on what is a good fit. This is a “work in progress” and represents a starting point for creating a blended classroom now and a completed online course in the future.
Weebly is my choice for a dashboard, that first place students go in a course, because it is well known by my students and provides an easy navigable site for all the course material. Students also use Weebly as their ePortfolio website where assessment for, as and of learning will take place. The ePortfolios provide the platform for students to demonstrate and reflect on their own work and the work of others in the course. Blog pages within the ePortfolio enable opportunities for feedback (instructor, peer, mentor and community).
Web 2.0 tools used in the course, besides Weebly, are: Wikispaces (www.wikispaces.com/) for the class resource page, Prezi (http://prezi.com/pricing/?gclid=CLatkvaOyLYCFeN_Qgod50gAqA) and MindMeister (http://www.mindmeister.com/) for presentations, Google Calendar ( http://www.google.com/intl/en/enterprise/apps/business/ ) for course events and deadlines, and Voicethread (http://voicethread.com/ ) for community building , collaborating and instructor presentations.
Web tools that I will be implementing during the term will be Snagit (http://www.techsmith.com/download/snagit/) for instructor videos on Photoshop and Rubistar (http://rubistar.4teachers.org/ ) for assessment rubrics. Plans for future web tools are Twitter (https://twitter.com/) for communicating photography opportunities, Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/up/search ) for group meetings, Google Forms ( http://support.google.com/drive/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=1360904 ) for student surveys, quizzes and evaluations and Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/business ) for document and picture sharing. I am also interested in using an audio along with my website to enhance teacher presence and will probably choose Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/windows ).
My focus for this course build was to be able to implement an online environment for learning photography. I teach a face-to-face course and have experienced the frustration of lecturing, assigning weekly assignments that are never completed, and demonstrating concepts when half the class is absent, sleeping, or even worse, engaged in something else while I teach front and center. Students want to learn differently and they want to learn at their own pace and schedule. Many of my students battle with economic, social and physical problems that prevent them from being successful during their school year. An online course, where content, contributions and learning can be achieved without the student physically being present can only mean success for my diverse student body. My job now as a teacher is to facilitate and participate in the learning along with my students. My hope is to create self-directed learners who will be expert researchers and contributors to learning within our course community. Students now arrive in class with options and choice for how, when and where they want to learn. Class time is now spent on active participation and engagement in a variety of places which include: the darkroom, the computer lab, the class studio and various photo shoots at school and offsite on scheduled fieldtrips. With the Inquiry-based classroom in full swing, students have a focus for why they need to obtain their skills in photography and a showcase to work towards to demonstrate and celebrate those skills and achievements. Through it all, my hope is that they all develop skills and a passion for photography that extends beyond this course and into their everyday lives.
A learning environment that meets all my students’ diverse learning styles can be achieved with a well-designed course using Learning Management Systems. Learning Management Systems, whether LMS or Non-LMS, are tools for teachers to use to address and provide personalized learning. A well-designed course should have: clear instructions, be navigable, provide assessment opportunities for, as and of learning, address teacher presence, encourage community building and contain an engaging presentation with effective learning activities. My combination of non-LMS tools will hopefully provide such an environment for my photography students. As I reflect on this experience, my choice of using non-LMS tools may change. My interest in Canvas (https://canvas.instructure.com/ ) continues to grow as I discuss and collaborate with my OLTD colleagues. For now, this online course begins in late April and its success or challenges will be expressed in future posts!