Week 1: Web 2.0 tools: my first MOOC, first impressions and first learnings


I’ve known about Massive Open Online Education Courses (MOOCs) for some time but never considered enrolling in one until recently. In truth, my reasons were pragmatic – a course assignment option for a graduate course in additional to my own desire for a dose of concrete-sequential learning, clearly defined modules, and structure to frame the rather messy inquiry-based learning I’ve been undergoing in my journey through graduate studies.

I selected “Powerful tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools, K-12” from the University of Houston through Coursera, (Spring 2015), as it directly relates to my M.Ed project focused on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). Web 2.0 tools comprise a critical element in PLEs, and although I possess solid foundation knowledge of many tools through my teaching practice as a teacher-librarian, graduate coursework, and theoretical knowledge through academic and scholarly journal readings, I enrolled hoping that this MOOC can strengthen this foundation both theoretically and practically.

The course is founded upon Chickering and Gammon’s “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987) and upon “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever” (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996).  Week 1 focuses upon web 2.0 tools that reinforce the first principle, that “good practice encourages contact between students and faculty.”

The course is laid out clearly and logically with a “Start Here” page, including an introductory video, explanation of Web 2.0, and an extended metaphor of a handyman’s toolbox.   Each week’s module includes video resources, classroom scenarios, reading materials and learning activities inclusive of online quizzes, self-directed feedback and forum discussion posts. To my surprise, each module must be completed by 9:59 p.m. PST Saturday. The downside of structure I suppose!

The target audience is broad. Discussion groups are organized by teaching level: Pre-K-grade 4, grades 5-8, grades 9-12, higher education, as well as other teaching/training designers (corporate, vocational, community development).

Prior knowledge and experience: clearly none as the videos include basic information, including an explanation of what is meant by Web 2.0. Given my own prior knowledge and experience, I found this video and the scenario-based ones very basic, although I did gain some important takeaways.

Takeaway #1: A list of Web 2.0 Communication tools unfamiliar to me and worthy of exploration based on present and anticipated future needs

Video Conference tools

  • Eyejot: create and send video messages using any web browser or mobile device
  • Paltalk: send video, voice and text chat for free with people around the world
  • Oovoo: a video conference tool that can support up to twelve people
  • Vialogue: a free web-based educational tool to create video conversations

Parent-teacher-student communication tools:

  • Kikutext: communicates with parents and students using text messaging
  • Classpager: allows teachers to       communicate with students via text messaging through a cell phone while keeping cell numbers private
  • Remind: same principles as class pager, and allows messaging of a full group simultaneously
  • Kahoot: a web-based feedback tool in the form of game-based classroom response

 Takeaway #2: Assessing the choice of communication tool based upon the intended direction(s)

  • One way communication tools:        e.g. Google Sites, Podomatic (audio), and Feedly,
  • Two-Way communication tools:       e.g. Poll Everywhere, Penzu, Blogger (and other
  •                                                                                  Blogging platforms)
  • Multi-way communication tools:      e.g.Blue Jeans, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Voicethread, Padlet (formerly Wallwisher)

Takeaway #3: Thinking of “communication” in terms of audio tools

  • Soundcloud, Audioboo, and ipadio afford students presentation options   beyond text and video and are tools that might extend student voice and choice beyond Voicethread

Takeway #4: Considering these guiding questions when investigating and selecting a communication tool

  • “What communication issue in my teaching environment that could be resolved by using new technologies?”
  • “Of the available tools, which is the best for my purpose and audience?”

As as result of my MOOC learning this week, I’ve acquired some useful takeaways that have begun to shape my classroom practice.    A current communication  challenge I have is how to stimulate class discussion among a class of thirty-five Comparative Civilizations, Geography 12, and Sustainability 11 students (yes, three courses in a single classroom), and  among a small group of students who have expressed discomfort in participating in class discussions and sharing projects orally.  With these challenges in mind, I have begun to explore, implement and evaluate Padlet, a tool I discussed in my Feb. 13 blog post.

I’ve also gained  confidence that I will be able to successfully complete my first MOOC, having earned full marks the first week.  Although motivated more by the learning itself, I am indeed looking forward to earning a certificate of completion!

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