Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Curriculum Design in Virtual Schools

Yesterday, most of the questions I was generating were in regard to how to actually create the content for the classes offered. Today's session will deal mainly with curriculum design and instructional strategies. What I am looking for is what type of experience students are having in this environment. When a student decides to take an online course, what will they be doing with other students? Will they collaborate, and if so, how? When I think about 21st Century skills, and creating students capable of recognizing patterns and being empathetic, I wonder about the sometimes isolating nature of the online world.

Course Development

* every course has a motif
o engagement is begun here.
o the example being given here is Comprehensive Math for 6th grade where the class is built around a zoo motif. The student is assuming the role of the zookeeper, and will use the math skills he or she learns to successfully maintain a zoo.
* When students remain the center of the class, success is inevitable
o students benefit, teachers benefit, school benefits.
* Courses are developed using a multiple intelligence modality. Learning styles are targeted through varied course content and varied choices for student output.
o allows students to feel success regardless of their talents.
* Students can show mastery in a variety of ways

Quote from the main course screen: "instructors have access to all areas of the student account. Your email account is for school use only."
Science might be a problem--how do you do labs?
Look and Feel

* material in the course, the actual pages, are chunked for the students, so that there is limited scrolling.
* courses mirror the diverse population.
* Readability levels
o chunks of contents
o web links
o other resources
o average
o courses do not use materials that dip too far below grade level, or too far above grade level
* Writing
o personal reflection
o Upper level Bloom's
o Comparable to lesson
* These two components appeal to both ends of the spectrum.

Some notes from how the course looks as you enter it:

* The first thing I noticed is that the interface is really basic, with not a lot of busy-ness on the screen.
* Also, the students must decide at what pace they will proceed. When they decide this, they must write the instructor with a rationale for their pace choice. Accelerated is 18 weeks, Traditional is 34 weeks, or Extended, where the pace is decided on by the student and teacher together.
* The autograde function is interesting in that you can design assessments to include questions that are graded by the LMS, but also have on that same assessment an essay or short-answer portion that is sent to the teacher for grading.
* What these course will always need is rich web content and collaboration. If the students could also create course content that other students use, that adds another huge element to this.
* Could we design a course around an MMORG? I am thinking of Civilizations here, where the students are required to use the game as an integral part of learning ancient civilizations, in addition to other content from a more traditional sense.

Standards and alignment

* must align to state, national and now world standards
* specific to each state
* if designed well, courses and lessons will blend the standards together seamlessly and fluidly
o standards--objective--lesson--assessment

Interactivity, Multi-Media, Technology

The nature of an online school lends itself to using multi-media as a means to create content, whether teacher-created or student-created. The rise of things like Second Life where several members of the class could meet in a quasi-physical way adds another level of meaning to this.

* How to allow them to use Web 2.0 technologies
* Can we incorporate these into our classes online?
o necessary and obvious


* autograde- students submit a quiz online that is graded immediately
* written
* oral assessment
* project
* self-assessment

What are some of the collaborative activities that are included in the assessments?

* classmates- interaction through discussion boards
o students are given an option sometimes through the assessment piece--individual or collaborative
o this is in beta right now.
o students have the ability to reach outside of the classroom and connect
* family
* community- students can work with their communities for school projects

21st Century Skills

* Life skills- how to collaborate and how to interact
* core subjects
* learning and thinking skills
* internet and medial literacy- how to detect credibility online and how to assess what constitutes a good source.
* 21st Century Content


* web links
* guided web activities
* subscriptions
* software

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