In the first part of my unit reflection I discussed the course design and my views of my instructor and feedback. In this entry I will discuss the assignments and discussions in the next entry.
Quality and Application of Assignments
As I noted in my previous entry, the progression of assignments allowed me to slowly develop new skills while continuing to practice existing ones. What I thought was the most effective was the authentic need to create web pages rather than design and create them for skill development’s sake. The assignments were both relevant and authentic, and allowed me to develop not only my coding skills, but also my understanding of technology in the classroom, lesson design, and assessment. Through these assignments we were able to learn about creating web pages for different devices (Responsive Layouts), new features in HTML5, and more. Some of these skills were valuable not necessarily in order to complete assignments, but also to develop better conceptual understanding.
The content of the web pages I was to design were very applicable to my classroom, and I used them on several occasions with my students. In order to design a simple bulleted web page with a call box (our first assignment, “Netiquette“) we learned about, and created a page about the etiquette of the cyber world. This was the first lesson I used with my students in the computer lab, to explain and discuss with them exactly these issues. Much related, our Plagiarism and Copyright Scavenger Hunt assignment, came at a perfect time when I was to explain to my students about the importance of giving credit to owners of materials, and the dangers of not doing so. Our annual 4-day field trip to a nearby NGO was somewhat lacking in terms of technology integration, but after creating a lesson designed for mobile devices, my students’ involvement in the activities, and what they got out of the experience were incredibly higher than previous years. My favorite (and most challenging) assignment was the last one, a WebQuest series of pages I designed and called “Facebook- A Blessing or a Curse?” This project forced me to draw upon everything I learned in the course, and even try new things which I had initially no idea existed. I borrowed a template from a source online and adapted it by removing several elements and replacing them with my own ideas, content and layouts. Although I wanted to add several other elements, such as an online form for viewers, it was much beyond my ability and so I had to give up the idea. That said, the appetite it left and the desire to create similar and more complex websites stayed with me months after the course ended.
Group discussions and projects are a necessary component of online courses. However, it is often the case that they seem more of a “requirement” than a feature which allows for professional growth. For me, this was not the case in this course. The reasons might be that I came with very little background knowledge, or that I was excited about coding from the beginning. One reason or another, I found the required discussions to be extremely beneficial. First, the questions posed allowed us to re-think our ideas about education while at the same time challenged us to be creative in the way we approached implementation (in terms of web design). But the thing that I enjoyed most was the differences between each student in the course. By examining peers’ web sites and assignments, I came up with new ideas for my own design, discovered new features, improved my critiquing skills, and learned what I could potentially create if I put in the time and make the effort. When I attempted to design something but it did not work, or the page did not pass validation, it did not take long for the experts to provide fantastically detailed and creative feedback. ALL the questions I had, aside from one, were resolved by peers. And the one which was not resolved by my peers, was resolved by Dr. Lowenthal, after sharing several videos of the process of him attempting to resolve my problem. As a conclusion, the power of the discussion component in this course has proved to be the most effective I participated in to date.