Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interactive Tours

Scenario 2:
A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

           Students of all ages enjoy and learn from field trips.  The purpose of field trips is to provide experiences with other environments.   The teacher from our scenario wants enhances the learning experience with real-life connections.  With this purpose on mind I would recommend the integration and use of virtual field trips.  The principal art museums in New York, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) provides virtual field trips as part of their website.  These virtual field trips vary depending on the museum.  Virtual field trips include: digital images of artwork, videos and videoconferencing.  The Museum of Modern Art offers an integrated site named “Red Studio” designed for High School students facilitating opportunities of learning from the curators and sharing their ideas.  “Since online environments should be media rich and strive for authenticity, it is critical that many technologies be used” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 116).  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) are part of Google Art project.  The Google Art Project integrates street view technology to allow the user to virtually visit and walk inside of the museums.  The student can explore different artwork and learn from the artist.  The student navigates different floors and rooms.  The user can create his artwork collection and add comments each piece added.  These collections can be shared with others by email, Facebook or Twitter.  The teacher could benefit from this feature to select and share the two pieces of artwork the students will critique.  One interesting feature of Google Art Project is the capability of zooming the artwork to observe minimal details such as cracks or brushstrokes.  Each piece of artwork provides detailed information about the artist and other work from the artist.

“The versatility of social software and other collaboration tools available today support constructivist environments that seek to motivate, cultivate, and meet the needs of the 21st-century learner (Beldarrain, 2006).  I recommend the use of a blog to provide space for the group critique.  The teacher could create a blog with multiple pages to provide space for different groups.  The link can provide samples of artworks and links to Google Art Project.  The use of a blog provides the teacher opportunities to see the entire student work in one site and evaluate individual and group interaction.

Some high school teachers are using Weebly. This tool offers website creation integrated with blog.  Some examples includes Chagrin Falls High School, they keep a website to showcase work and critique and Shayne Train who is a high school teacher that is looking for alternatives to facilitate students art critique.  She is allowing her students to use Voice Thread to record their thoughts and add the audio file to their blog posts. “Instructional design frameworks must be adapted to purposely integrate student interaction using technology tools” (Beldarrain, 2006).  The diary “USA Today” shares how school in many different states and countries are benefiting from the use of virtual field trips to enhance instruction. "Because we're taking them everywhere, (students) are becoming little global citizens," says Jody Kennedy, a teacher in White Plains. "They're becoming leaders. These are all happy surprises we've never expected."

There are many challenges that could be added to the integration and use of new technologies.  “Visionary educators seeking to improve current practices face the conflict between the new freedoms afforded by emerging technologies and the administrative control enforced for legal reasons” (Beldarrain, 2006).  Many schools might ban the use of public blogs or websites due to privacy issues and security.  The use of blogs can be set to private controlling the information being posted.  Our students are 21st century learners and integrating online activities to instruction provides experiences to become digital citizens.


Fuson, K. (2007). No permission slip needed. USA Today.  Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education. 27(2). 139-153.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Distance Learning

      Distance education is defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning groups are separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, 2003).  This definition has changed through the years.  My initial definition of distance learning was to learn away from the walls of a classroom.  Self-learning was part of that concept of distance learning.  After exploring the resources recommended this week my perception or vision of distance learning has changed.  The benefits of distance learning are many and they will continue to grow as more technological tools are developed and more educators experience this educational opportunity.   

     My first experience with distance learning was at the age of 10.  My mother felt attracted to a correspondence course to study the Bible.  I remember receiving the books, completing them at my pace and sending them back.  I used to check the mail every day expecting to hear back from my teacher.  She would check my answers and send me a friendly note and stickers.  At the end of each course I would receive a certificate of completion.  At that time, I considered that teacher my special friend.  Most likely everyone was receiving the same letter; for me it was special. Wedemeyer (1981), notes for elements that are present in a teaching/learning experience.  These are: “a teacher, a learner, a communication system and something to be learned”.  In my experience I can identify all four elements.  This experience could be classified as Independent Study.

            Many individuals list as a challenge for distance learning; social interaction.  Interaction is important in the learning process. Sharing ideas, learning from others experiences and receiving feedback from your instructor or peers helps the learner continue in the right path.  Holmberg (1985) presents his theory of guided direct conversation.  In his theory he identifies communication as the basis for distance learning.  From his assumptions we learn that “distance learning will support student motivation, promote learning pleasure, and make the study relevant to the learner and his needs creating a feeling of rapport between the learners and the institution”.   In my experience, social interaction is valuable and strong in an online setting.  There is no space for gestures and everything needs to be expressed.  There is constant interaction between learners and space for research. 

            Distance learning is not a trend of the past, the present or the future.  It is a learning opportunity that satisfies the student’s needs.  Many schools are providing online learning opportunities for students that are “at risk”.  These students weren’t able to pass the class in a regular traditional setting.  These online classes "have a primary focus of helping students stay in school and graduate in time" (Watson & Gemin, 2008).  Others are benefiting from a blended approach that combines classroom setting and distance learning.  The learning process is the same; the tools have changed.  Old textbooks are being substituted for e-books, journals for blogs and oral presentation for videos.  I visualize the future of distance learning as students using their tablets everywhere they go to access their virtual classroom. Some technological instructional tools will enhance the teaching learning process: the use of video-conferencing as an interactive communication tool, the use of wikis to develop collaborative projects, podcast as oral reports, learning social networks such as ning (, blogs to express their ideas and the use of digital portfolios to evaluate and assess their learning process.

            We are living in a flat world.  Distance is not longer a barrier to find a better job.  To apply for a job, in most cases is required to fill an online application, submit a portfolio or a link to a website as a reference.  Our students will compete with students from the entire world to find a job.  Many companies are dividing their offices around the world to benefit from time difference and have 24/7 production time.  The opportunities are larger than ever before.  The competition is bigger also.  As educators we need to provide learning opportunities to equip our students for the demands of our “flat world”.  Many students will study in online universities and others might be hired as staff of distance learning.  Are we providing our students with experiences to effectively perform in a flat world?

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Watson, J. & Gemin, B. (2008). Using online learning for at-risk students and credit recovery. Retrieved from