Gap Analysis

Gap Analysis
Original Objectives Where I Am Now
How to use social media in the classroom beyond the obvious applications I have been exposed to an array of tools, many of which are not in my normal experiences (i.e. Second Life, Wikibooks). I still do not feel that I have learned to do anything other than the obvious with these tools other than edit a Wikipedia page – this would make a good assignment on how information is created, maligned, changed, etc. I do feel more comfortable using the tools after seeing the social media matrix this week – this would make a good diagnostic tool for determine what tools I could use in my portfolio.
How to use social media for assessing learning I have not learned much on how to use social media tools for the purpose of assessing students’ learning. Again, the matrix of social media tools this week was helpful for exploring this topic – Candice Freeman did a good job of outlining tools she used in her classroom. I think that there is a lot to learn – assessment is crucial in this age of teaching and I’d like to get beyond quizzes and tests.
How to communicate my ‘presence’ (as an educator and a human being) in the online environment While this can be hard to quantify/teach, I do believe that this course has given me the opportunity to announce my presence and recognize the presence of others in an online environment.   The Facebook page has been instrumental in sharing our thoughts, anxieties, and miscellanea about our lives. I do feel that I have connected with people, though, I’ve never met them. I now feel free to share jokes and memes with near strangers! I see the presence of others as well and I can gather insights about their offline personality through their comments and questions on the FB page. I have learned to take the first step and be vulnerable in sharing my presence online.   I think this encourages others to share more about themselves. This course has made me think about the ways I could share my presence: a video about myself (very helpful), or using video, audio, and photo sharing sites to share my intellectual property and tidbits about my life. There are endless ways to share one’s presence online – I look forward to exploring more in this class.
How to control my ‘voice’ or the perception I give students in using social media Again, this is hard to teach/quantify. I do believe that this course has given me the experience to portray myself as a friendly, competent individual who is willing to help others (or this is the image I hope to portray). I have already taught online courses and I have garnered a few things about controlling my online ‘voice’. This course has reminded me to 1) not assume others’ knowledge (i.e. you can’t read facial expressions that could cue you to a person’s mental state), 2) use humor judiciously (i.e. dry humor does not translate well to the online environment), 3) be even more affirming and praising than you would in a face-to-face environment.
How to develop a tailored strategy for approaching students’ need in a particular course This is huge gap in my learning.   I would like to explore how to engage students who are anxious in online environments, don’t want to participate in the community of learners, or have an ‘ought of sight, out of mind’ mentality (those students accustomed to passive learning or are not self-directed enough to thrive in online learning environments). Another concern is how to accommodate special needs in the online classroom. How might I ensure the hearing or visually impaired students can take advantage of all learning resources? What about students with social anxieties? Or those along the autism spectrum?
How to apply a social constructivist approach to online learning and teaching The course is clearly taught from a social constructivist perspective as best I understand it. So far, our instructors has not articulated a set of learning objectives for the course. Instead, the learning objectives have been largely selected by the students. The assignments have not been ‘curated’ by the instructor so it has depended on us to make sense of them and think about how we can apply them to teaching and learning. If this course has been intentional in one thing, it has been to create a learning community. Every week, we are expected to give feedback on other students’ assignments.   We often ‘crowdsource’ a big assignment, like creating a matrix of social media tools. I have learned that more collaboration is better to achieve a social constructivist learning perspective. I would still like to learn more about how to create assignments in a given discipline to foster independent inquiry and class collaboration.
How to dismantle myself as the expert and encourage students to become active learners When it comes to topics like Web 2.0, I do not believe that anyone is an expert. The range of tools is too fluid, dynamic to ever truly grasp them.   Studying Web 2.0 and social networking is an inter-disciplinary experience. Even ‘expert’ commentators, like anthropologist Michael Wensch, can provide one facet of understanding while scholars in other disciplines and those of us on the front line of Web 2.0/social networking (i.e. those of us who teach/instruct students online) can bring an entirely different (and yet equally valid) perspective on these tools.

This is not true for other disciplines. I teach sociology and I don’t expect my students to be experts on the field or to think that their anecdotal evidence of how society works can replace an instructor who has read empirical research in sociology. While I’m not an ‘expert’, I do have enough knowledge to guide students to think sociologically. I try to convey that I’m not an expert, but it’s very easy to fall into social scripts of ‘sage on the stage’ teacher and passive student. In this model, I ‘broadcast’ my knowledge, but there’s little dialogue between instructor and student. It’s a script that I’ve learned and students know all too well. I’d like to learn how to balance my insights in my discipline with a desire to see students take ownership over their learning.   I want to validate their observations about society and politely correct misunderstandings they have without making them feel as they have nothing to add to the discourse. Good social constructivist learning environments value the knowledge/experiences of learners and I’d like to make sure I do that when teaching.   Perhaps some later assignments in this course will explicitly or implicitly teach me how to make this possible.

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