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How To Be VOCAL Online

Change display time — Currently: Central Daylight Time (CDT) (Event time)
Location: La Nouvelle Ballroom, Table 9
Experience live: All-Access Package

Participate and share : Poster

Kevin Bower  
Learn about John Savory's VOCAL framework to engage students in a thriving online learning environment. Being visible, organized, compassionate, analytical and a leader-by-example is essential to promoting learning online. Participants will discover tools and strategies for each component of Savory's VOCAL framework in a culturally sensitive learning environment.

Audience: Coaches, Library media specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Distance, online & blended learning
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
Designer
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
Facilitator
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
Learner
  • Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will learn tools and strategies to be visible online with their students. Students need to interact with their instructors, especially in online learning environments. While having a "teaching presence" in a digitally mediated space can be challenging, it's not impossible. Instructors can start by participating in online discussions and providing opportunities for students to engage in synchronous chats. By being more visible, instructors communicate that the students' work and participation are valued.


Tools and strategies for organizing online learning environments are another specific skill addressed in the session. Learning management systems offer opportunities for managing content and communication efficiently. While instructors don't necessarily have to use all of the organization structures available, they must communicate the organization clearly to students. Making the organizational structure transparent for students will help them find materials and promote more class participation.


In Savery's work, being compassionate means providing opportunities for student-instructor and student-student interaction. Compassionate instructors recognize that all classes, even online ones, have a social component to foster. Participants will learn culturally responsive techniques to build a supportive and open online learning environment.


Analytical instructors must provide clear expectations and guidelines for assessments and offer timely feedback on student work. Participants will learn strategies and resources to manage assignments for students. Collecting and interpreting student data is part of being analytical. Successful online learners are active participants in the learning experiences.


Lead-by-example is the final component of the framework. Online instructors model good behavior and participate fully in the online class. In comparison, some overlap with being visible; being a leader-by-example extends the instructor's role a little further. For instance, if you provide discussion board expectations, don't violate those expectations yourself. When instructors ask for thoughtful, critical reflections, they must communicate more than "Agreed" or "I concur" to lead-by-example. Participants will learn strategies to set the tone for student performance through student-teacher interactions.


Each VOCAL component contributes to a positive teaching experience for the instructor and a successful learning experience for the student. The ability of the teacher to effectively infuse these characteristics into their instructional practice- to be VOCAL- will promote a supportive, challenging, constructive, rigorous, and practical instructional environment.

Outline

30 Minute Snapshot Outline


Introduction (3 minutes)
- Welcome
- VOCAL introduction




Visible Tools and Strategies (5 minutes)
- Why it matters: Students need to interact with their instructors, especially in online learning environments.
- Suggested strategies: Instructor visibility is demonstrated through public and
private communication channels. Public visibility would include:
1) A website with personal and professional information about the instructor. This ‘personal’ website should reflect the personality of an instructor and allow the students to get to know them better. Information to place on the website might be a recent photo of the instructor, pictures of their pets, a list of favorite places to visit, books recently read, and so on. The key idea is to enable students to initiate conversations on topics of shared interest. There will always be time to discuss course content but this will become easier when the ‘strangeness’ has been reduced.
2) Instructor comments made in a timely fashion to the shared discussion forums to let students know that you are reading their messages.
3) Broadcast messages in the form of an email to all participants.
4) Banner notices on the Welcome page are updated regularly. This technique may be used to recognize a contribution or event in the life of a particular student or to provide a general announcement about a recent resource or article of interest.
5) Updating the shared calendar with assignment due dates, or ‘Tuesday’s Trivia Question.’ The specific vehicle used will depend on the capabilities of the online learning environment.
6) In the near future, as bandwidth constraints are removed instructors and students will be able to interact through brief video clips and audio messages. Properly done this technology can provide for strong visibility and social presence.


Tools:
- Flipgrid
- SWAY
- Adobe Spark




Organization Tools and Strategies (5 minutes)
- Why it matters: Making the organizational structure transparent for students will help them find materials and promote more class participation.
1) Prepare your syllabus carefully and thoroughly (Fullmer-Umari, 2000) and post it on the LMS so it is easily accessible by your students. A well-conceived syllabus is pre-emptive in that it answers learner questions before they are asked.
2) Provide the course assignments and due dates early in the course so students know what to expect and when. Use the capabilities of the web-based environment to hyperlink resource documents to assignments.
3) Prepare a document that explains the “Do’s and Don’ts” of your online class. Describe rules for netiquette, for comments in the discussion forums, and for communicating concerns to the instructor. Some instructors have students send an email message acknowledging that they have read the Class Rules and agree to abide by them.
4) Anticipate the need for a ‘non-instructional’ venue for online discussions by
creating a discussion topic such as ‘The Coffee Shop’ for non-course related discussions. This Coffee Shop is usually created within the discussion forum area of the LMS with a clear mandate to be used for social talk.
5) Consider creating a discussion forum topic that allows for the posting of current affairs information. Assign one or more students the task of adding a weekly news item that links to central themes in the course.


Tools:
- Wakelet
- Screencast-o-Matic
- SWAY




Compassion Tools and Strategies (5 minutes)
- Why it matters: Culturally responsive techniques to build a supportive and open online learning environment.
1) Give students permission to communicate directly with you (as the instructor). The pressures of daily life are often unplanned that can wreak havoc on the best intentions of completing an assignment by the due date.
2) In the threaded discussion topics for the class introduce an All About Me category. This will introduce the members of the online community to their covoyagers in the online class. It will help the members of the community grow together. Names on the class list become ‘real people and everyone in the class begins to learn more about each other.


Tools:
- Flipgrid
- Slack
- Padlet




Analytical Tools and Strategies (5 minutes)
- Why it matters: Analytical instructors must provide clear expectations and guidelines for assessments and offer timely feedback on student work.
1) Provide smaller and more frequent assessments and spread assessment activities across the course.
2) When using online assignments specify the format for completed work that will
be submitted electronically by the students.
3) Provide opportunities for students to evaluate the online course at the mid-point as well as at the end of the course. Reflection can foster an appreciation for accomplishments and afford an opportunity to clarify perceptions.
4) Provide clear expectations and guidelines for assessing participation.


Tools:
- Screencastify
- Edpuzzle
- Go Formative




Lead-by-Example Tools and Strategies (5 minutes)
- Why it matters: Lead-by-Example sets the tone for student performance through student-teacher interactions.
1) Introductions – share information about yourself with your students both formally with a website that you have created or informally as part of the threaded discussions.
2) Follow-through with promises.
3) Model the correct way to communicate in an online environment.
4) Utilize the public and private channels of communication to ensure that you are
visible to your students – without dominating the conversations.
5) Plan for and implement an end of course activity to bring closure to the class,
reinforce what was learned, revisit some high points in the course, and
acknowledge the contributions by members to the success of the learning
community.


Tools:
- Discussion Forums
- Flipgrid
- GoSoapBox




Conclusion (2 Minutes)
- The ability of the teacher to effectively infuse these characteristics into their instructional practice- to be VOCAL- will promote a supportive, challenging, constructive, rigorous, and practical instructional environment.
- Q & A

Supporting research

Boettcher, J.V. (2011). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online: Quick Guide for New Online Faculty. http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html. Designing for Learning 2006-2011




The Hanover Research Council. (2009). Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies. http://www.hanoverresearch.com/library/assets/libPdfs/Best%20Practices%20in%20Online%20Teaching%20Strategies%20-%20Membership.pdf




Savery, John R. (2005). “Be VOCAL: Characteristics of Successful Online Instructors.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning. 4:2., Fall 2005. Pg. 141. See http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/4.2.6.pdf

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Presenters

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Kevin Bower, Hempfield SD & Millersville University

Kevin Bower has 19 years of elementary teaching experience, is a certified reading specialist, and teaches instructional technology to pre-service and practicing teachers. He was the 2010 Elementary Educator of the Year and the keynote speaker at the IU13 Elementary Technology Conference (2012). He has presented nationally, had his teaching practices cited in various publications, and published a collaborative article on infusing technology into the balanced literacy classroom. Kevin’s research interests focus on using technology to best meet the needs of students with diverse abilities.

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