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Friday, June 24, 2011

Enhancing Science Courses: New Series! OpenPlans for Enhancing E-Learning

E-Learning Queen is excited to launch a new series of course plans, E-Learning Queen OpenPlans, that can be used / adapted / adopted for your use in creating e-learning and m-learning courses. A core goal is to facilitate continual process / quality improvement of elearning courses, programs, and content. For that reason, E-Learning Queen OpenPlans are most likely to be of interest to course developers, curriculum directors, subject matter experts, instructional designers, as well as instructors.

E-Learning Queen OpenPlans are not designed to be an entire course, but are plans for enhancing existing courses, and developing new ones that incorporate an open architecture mindset, with continuous improvement / quality enhancement, that adaptively respond to new technologies, curriculum needs, learner intent, and more.

Key emphasis is on materials that are accessible via handhelds and tablets, which encourage social networking and collaboration, and which allow for cloud-based deployment in an LMS or CMS.

E-Learning Queen OpenPlan: Enhancing Science E-Learning

The goal of the course is to help support sciences and math, namely earth sciences, in the school by giving educators powerful new tools and techniques. This course provides educators with an overview of effective strategies for creating engaging, experiential, standards-based learning experiences for (elementary, mid-level, secondary) students which the educators can implement in the classroom, in guided field trips, in the student's home or community.

The course offers a review of tools that help align standards with the components used in planning lessons, which include instructional materials, in-class or field activities, laboratory activities, repositories of media resources, lesson plan libraries, and assessment instruments. It also makes connections between current events and the underlying science that helps provide explanations and analyses.

In addition, the course will examine where and how the reach can extend beyond the classroom to have a positive impact on families and communities as they deepen their knowledge of the earth and earth processes. The course emphasizes making connections between theory and practice, and encourages applying knowledge to current events and natural phenomena.

This course is offered as an online course for 100% online delivery or as a hybrid course.

OpenPlan Learning Objectives
Upon successful completion of the course, the learner will be able to

1. Identify resources that align standards with the main concepts found in an earth science course;
2. List standards that must be incorporated in a course;
3. Identify activities that align with standards
4. Identify instructional material that aligns with standards
5. Create lesson plans that successfully deliver engaging content or activities while aligning with standards
6. Identify high-quality earth science media resources that can be used in the classroom or for at-home study
7. Evaluate cost-effective earth-science related laboratory or hands-on in-class activities
8. Develop alternative assessments that determine if students have achieved learning goals

OpenPlan Architecture

Part I: Earth Science Now
What makes earth science exciting?
How do high-impact earth science lessons help achieve standards-based testing goals?

Part II: Exciting and Effective Hands-On Activities
What makes an activity effective?
Matching activity to standards
Evaluating activities
Examples of activities
Designing / planning your own activity (workshop activity)

Part III: Effective & Dynamic Content -- Maps and Printed / Online Materials
What makes instructional materials effective?
Matching materials to standards
Evaluating and selecting materials
Examples of using materials in lessons
Designing a lesson with materials you've found (workshop activity)

Part IV: The Earth Comes Alive through After-School “Earthwork”? Team and Community Learning
Encouraging curiosity outside the classroom
Going home with eyes open
Home work / at-home assignments
Earth Clubs

Part V: Assessment Strategies / Demonstrating Knowledge

Part VI: TeacherShare Network: Lesson Plan Repositories
Ways to Network
Earth Clubs

Resources and Repositories

(Lists / Websites)

Tie-In with OpenCourseWare?

OpenPlans encourage integration with OpenCourseWare initiatives, OpenSource software, and easily shared repositories of learning objects.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0: A Review

Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 addresses an urgent need. Teaching science as well as health courses can be a challenge in the average online course, due to specialized vocabulary, symbols and annotations, applied math, flow charts, graphics, and charts. For example, courses on organic chemistry, environmental science, earth sciences, zoology, anatomy, teen health, and more can be very dynamic in Moodle. Moodle's basic structure, which is built around interactions and discussion forums, may be a challenge for instructional designers and instructors due to the fact that the organization may not align with the sequence that may be best for learning science. For that reason, it's often useful to take advantage of Moodle's flexibility with plug-ins and outside programs. Further, Moodle's structure encourages collaboration and interaction, which means that online labs with lab partners and peers.

To get the most of Moodle and to develop an effective science course, one can turn to guidebooks, one of which has been published by Packt Publishing. Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 provides guidance for those who are new to Moodle, as well as ideas for experienced Moodle users. A sample chapter is available online (Monitoring Your Students' Progress) and can help develop strategies for improving student success rates.

Scientific terms and definitions: Moodle's capacity to incorporate wikis and glossaries is a good starting point for science courses that require the mastery of terms and concepts. Chapter 6 covers this point.

Math equations, with the incorporation of symbols and specific characters, are often sticking points in all learning management systems. This text provides a step-by-step guide for incorporating science-specific tools, embedding graphics and molecular models. Chapter 7 is a good "go-to" chapter for tips and tricks.

Virtual Labs Partners: The text is very thorough when it comes to inspiring learner engagement and also incorporating many applications and tools (many of which are open-source, some of which are probably destined to be fairly ephemeral). However, it does not address the issue of what makes science classes unique, and how and why they require a unique approach to learning. The core idea of testing hypotheses in order to model reality, and to create logical structures that explain how phenomena work in our world is absolutely mission-critical. Science is all about empirical evidence or mathematical formulae to provide support for a model; as such, science is a discourse of explanation that is constantly in transition as technology and methods of investigation advance.

The Scientific Method: Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 really should provide underpinnings, and the fact that it does not represents an opportunity for those who like to develop courses and incorporate original content. As they do so, teachers and instructional designers who are willing to include scientific mindsets and epistemologies have the opportunity to help motivate online teachers to think of themselves as in the vanguard, rather than lagging behind the traditional classroom.

Podcast! Listen to an interview with Susan Smith Nash on

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