Evidence of Analytical and Integrative Thinking
Spring Semester, 2004
EDCI 797b - Research and Conceptions of the Content Fields
Social Studies on the secondary level covers a
variety of curricular topics such as World and American History, Political
Science (presented as Civics for middle schoolers and Government for high
school), Psychology, Sociology, and Economics. Within the context of my
participation in the Virtual High school program at George Mason University, the
first phase of online course development will entail the creation of content for
World History II (1500 to the present). Course designers such as myself and my
partners have the task of converting the standards of learning (SOLs) for the
state of Virginia into meaningful and compelling web-based content that will
comprise an entire World History II course. On the surface, the challenge is
this: the multi-dimensional setting of the traditional classroom must find new
expression in the two-dimensional world of the computer screen. The
interactivity of the exchange between one teacher and up to thirty students must
now be transformed into a dialogue between a single student and mentor operating
in isolation from other student-mentor exchanges.
The Issue of Motivation
It seems that we in education are in a balancing act of motivating students to become effective and life-long learners while communicating the key elements of the curriculum.
Motivation involves a variety of tactics and strategies that include making the content relevant to the student. By linking the elements of the curriculum to the contemporary issues faced by the student, interest and chances for learning improve. But the teacher is now bound by standards of learning that act as a lowest common denominator of what has been mandated for learning. These standards must comprise a foundation for learning, and the teacher must to make them come alive through a variety of methodologies in order to keep the students’ attention.
Pedagogy in the age of information will incorporate traditional approaches, multi-media presentations, and telecommunications in order to lead the student to perform thinking skills that manipulate the basic facts required by the standards. The textbook and traditional library resources will combine with programs like PowerPoint and media such as the Internet to give the student a well-rounded understanding of the social studies that was unheard of in earlier decades. But these approaches can only be implemented after sufficient levels of training mix with good old imagination on the part of the teacher.
It is the teacher that must employ imagination and creativity when generating the “authentic activity” that will act as the basis for the challenge facing the student. The teacher will continue to be “sage on the stage” when relaying information and imparting basic skills. Then they metamorphose into “the guide on the side” as students move into research and data mining. Once students become well versed in their areas of expertise, then they will exchange ideas and gain understanding from the “sage on the side,” who is their mentor, the teacher against whom they will bounce historical and methodological ideas.
|Students in the Internet Age are more technologically savvy than their counterparts of yesteryear or even more than the classroom teachers they see every day. This heightened awareness of computers, programs, and online interactivity forces the course designer to draw on all of the creative methods at his or her disposal. In addition, the designer is required to include each course objective called for by the state standards. This class has helped in the alignment of course content with the on-line presentation of the material.||
Using Chat as a Method for Teaching and Learning
As for the process of online chat as a teaching and learning tool, I think it is valuable and has a place in the dialogue between professor and students. It allows for self-expression and can be reviewed and reflected upon at a later time. It is important that students stay on the topic presented in the email prompt. That prompt also needs to be specific regarding which text should be read beforehand, which section of the text is to be discussed, and what ideas the students need to focus on before the chat begins. Also, there are specific rules that participants must follow to keep the exchange flowing and cordial. The value of chat as a teaching and learning tool lies in the quality of the interaction between the participants. It may be the closest online learning may come to the interaction of a classroom assuming there are multiple participants.
Social Studies in the Internet Age
Online modules that deal with segments of world history have a limited number of activities that can be developed for the students to accomplish. Online and library-based research, the development of critical essays, the creation of posters, brochures, and web pages are all possible avenues into which teacher-designers and mentors can send their students. The products created by students are transmitted by email from students to their mentors. Designers can also employ embedded video to provide instruction and to act as a model for what needs to be accomplished. If students have the technical know-how and equipment, they too can develop video as an example of student projects.
In the final analysis, the online classroom reflect the realities of the online world: content is king. But structuring the course curriculum into an acceptable and compelling online presentation will help keep the student's attention and increase the relevance of the material. Then the mentor steps in to guide the student in the use of technologies at the disposal of both. These technologies should not be used just for the sake of technology, but to increase and facilitate pedagogical processes.