Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reflection as a learner

I am the Library Media Specialist at my school. In the past, much of my teaching involved demonstrating tools such as the EasyBib bibliography generator or for research. Lately, because we are in the process of adopting Google Classroom in our system, I collaborate with teachers to integrate technology into their lessons.  The staff defers to me as the resident “expert,” partly because I am the administrator on the school’s account, and partly because I take the time to find out the answers to their questions.

In and out of the classroom, I tend to be creative. My next few projects are already lined up. I enjoy playing around with new technology. When I make the time, is engaging. I get lost in the process, and work until I am satisfied with the results. In addition to having high expectations for myself (some call it being a perfectionist), I am reflective and look for ways to make improvements in all areas of my life. When working in a digital environment, it is important to “change things up” and find ways to keep assignments fresh and interesting. Students learn best when they are fully engaged.  Not every lesson will work the way it was intended, and it is important to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and keep improving within the medium.

I am a compulsive email checker, and that is important when working in a digital environment. Because most distance learning is asynchronous, questions come in at different times. To prevent too many questions, it is important to give an overview, then present lessons in manageable chunks.  I am naturally curious and a quick learner.  Now that I am familiar with basic components of online learning, I feel comfortable expanding my choices of apps and media.

          At the beginning of the Distance Learning course, I was faced with the rumor that I would be teaching classes next year, rather than having an “open schedule.” Since ORMS (Online Research and Media Skills) is my curriculum, I started dreaming about some MOOC-style units on internet safety and research skills. The rumor was false, but the work in this course has inspired me to create some independent units that are flexible enough to work into different subjects in our building.

Josh and I worked on an Internet Safety unit for our learning module. I found many of the resources for our project early on, and we collaborated (asynchronously) on the learning objectives, lesson plan, and overall format. Once the research was done, it all came together quickly. Doing research and teaching research are two major elements of my teaching practice.

          During the Distance Learning course, I started a Technology Coaching MOOC. The best coaches do not come across as experts.  They encourage others to learn alongside them. Coaches provide encouragement and support, and allow the learner to make discoveries. Good distance learning should do the same. The instructor needs to entice the learner with an exciting premise, provide the scaffolding for learners of different dispositions and learning styles, and allow the learners to be challenged and to grow.

In order to be a truly effective online educator, I would need access to a class for more than one period. Our students experience only 90 days of “academics” per school year, which makes it a struggle for me to teach with depth any of the research and documentation skills I feel student need. A Google Classroom collaborative teaching project with library skills embedded into a project may work effectively as a blended learning unit.

          The biggest “support” I would need is a reliable web platform for my tutorials. Currently, we are “between platforms” and the current website does not support enough data for video. I would like to embed general “how-to” videos on the library homepage. Temporarily, I have some tutorials on a Google Site through Google Classroom which is linked to the Abbott Tech website. I have also created some quizzes and tutorials that were embedded in teachers’ Google Classroom lessons.  

          Another challenge is collaboration time. Because I watch students who come to the library all day, and there is no common planning time for departments in my school, there is very little uninterrupted time for collaboration. Google Classroom, the platform we use at our school, is not collaboration-friendly at this time. Either I or the other teacher would be responsible for the “Class.” We would need to share documents and responses.

          When I began my IT&DML coursework two summers ago, I was uncomfortable with instructional technology. I was also reticent about taking online courses because I had heard horror stories about them from friends who had taken them. Much of our coursework has been distance learning, and it has not been like those others’ experiences.  In the ED 722 Distance Learning course, learning about the way successful distance learning courses are intentionally prepared has been meaningful.

          Are MOOCS really the wave of the future or just a fad? Is there really a new pedagogy, or are we just remixing? Is our online data safe? Can we all learn the skill to teach like a pirate? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ED 722 Week 12

 What do you think about iNACOL’s New Learning Models Vision? Are there limitations or disadvantages to such an approach? Is it feasible? Do you find that there are advantages for you as you create your own environments?

The Matrix of Data

When I read advertisements about perfect learning environments like the ones portrayed in the iNACOL article, I feel the cynicism rising up into my brain, like acid poured on a beautiful painting. I step back and force myself to remember that great ideas start with dreams. iNACOL is doing important work.
Image by geralt on Pixabay

Positives: personalization, opportunity to learn at child's own pace, instant feedback, flexible teaching and learning, 24/7 learning opportunities, supports for educators
Worries: flexible staffing, 24/7 tutoring, funding follows the student, year-round learning, progression based on mastery

It will take a lot of work to steer our education system away from the industrial model and toward relevant, personalized learning. As a high school teacher, I observe students who are unable to function without explicit one-on-one instructions and feedback from a teacher about the minutest detail of every aspect of an assignment. Teachers are frustrated by the unmotivated students that our public school systems has created.  Common core and blended learning can be wonderful tools to unlock students' potential, but teachers need to buy into it. I am looking forward to a time when incoming students who have experienced aligned curriculums come through the doors.

Some of the benifits are also worries. It is convenient for students to have their teachers on call 24/7, but is it reasonable for staff? Will flexible staffing mean less teachers with more qualifications? With a focus on mastery, what happens when students do not progress with their peers? Are we expecting utopia?

If this is to come about, there will be serious growning pains. I believe the results will be worth the effort. I see myself as a resource to staff to try new ways of teaching using technology. If I had not enrolled in the IT&DML program, I would be paralyzed right now.

The New Media Consortium Horizon Project Preview was written in 2013. We are in 2015, and the Consortium was on target. Schools have embraced cloud computing and mobil learning is spreading rapidly. Although this has been brewing steadily, the advent of Google Classroom has really made things "pop." 

Big data in education (LOVE that explanation!), officially known as learning analytics, has also taken root. We have had "data teams" in place for a couple of years and teachers, at least in my school, attach data to their SLOs. Using learning platforms like Google Classroom and Schoology encourage open content, though I think most teachers are unaware of Creative Commons licensing.

The final two big shifts, 3D printing and Virtual and Remote Laboratories, are still cutting edge. Personally, I am not sure we need 3D printers. We have one in our school. I will make a point to introduce myself this spring. Virtual labs have been popular for frog dissection and other small things for quite some time. It will be interesting to see how remote labs come to fruition. I expect that in higher education.

There are huge changes taking place due to the vast, unmanageable amounts of data making its way onto the internet daily. I believe it is important that educators learn how to manage the data themselves, a nd teach their students how to filter and use the information responsibly. One side affect of this flood of information is the mistrust of experts. Not everyone, even someone who has discovered massive amounts of content on a subject, can be an expert in any field. I have a friend who is a doctor and researcher. He finds that his young-adult students, used to being considered experts, pay little attentiong to mentors in their field because they feel they know it all. To me, this reflects our general lack of respect for authority, be it age, experience or knowledge, that our society instills in their offspring.

Here is a link to this week's STORIFY.

iNACOL's New Learning Model Vision, InternationalAssociation for K-12 Online Learning, 2013
NMC New Horizons Project 2013: K-12 Edition, New Media Consortium, 2013

Friday, March 13, 2015


I went to the CECA/CASL conference this fall and a presenter talked about putting PAPER  badges on  teachers' doors. I tried it with "Google Classroom" users and I had teachers coming out of the woodwork looking for recognition. It fizzled out as more people came on board. Teachers who weren't involved in Classroom wanted badges for other technology they were working with.  

My badge looked a lot like this!

On another "recognition" note, our principal has encouraged us to put "drops" in teachers' buckets who have made some kind of positive impact on us or students. I get drops every month for perfect attendance (I'm a bit competitive) and give them often for all kinds of things. Some people I "awarded" were annoyed - it was a "badge of honor" for them to have no drops.

Recognition can work... or it can backfire.

I liked the term, "disruptive" - sometihng that appears where there has been no market. Badges have been awarded in Scouting and other venues (like war) for specific skills for a very long time. The disruptive thing about badges is that they are being awarded for education skills, mostly for free, in an area that is traditionally expensive. Instead of degrees and certification, people can get recognition for skills through the metadata attached to their badges. It will be interesting to see if this catches on with employers. 

Right now, badges are novel, and people are willing to award badges for free (or as part of a paid course.) For badges to be meaningful, live people need to assess the skills for the awards. This works well in a school/classroom situation because assignments are graded as a matter of course. For job-based skills, the badge system can't stay "free" because those who award badges will not want to do it for long without some compensation.

I can see badges for:
- Teacher PD
- Teacher education
- Individual skills as part of a class
I don't really see it catching on outsife of school. Who knows? I may be wrong.

Here is the link to this week's  STORIFY.

Fertig, R. and Pytash, K. There's a Badge for That. Tech and Learning. 2/26/14.
Randall, D. et al. Designing Open Badges for a Technology Integration Course. Tech Trends.      
     November/December 2013. Vol.57, No. 6.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why do we educate our children?

"Ultimately, the current educational system was designed to meet different needs and goals than we currently face in the information age." William Watson

Sir Ken Robinson, Wikipedia photo

I started the readings on Monday night by viewing the video of Sir Ken R0bertson. He was entertaining and believable while I was in his spell. I was so excited about the information. When I went in to school on Tuesday, reality set in. I interacted with teachers who are trying to cram 180 days' of instruction into 90 days, are missing too much instructional time because of snow events, and have upcoming district-wide and high-stakes tests to prepare students for... which also detract from class time. 

How do we slow down and let students be creative? 

I came upon a discussion with one the security guards and a coach in the lobby about the high cost of college education, which caused me to recall the Sir Ken's  comments about how a college education used to mean a guaranteed job, but you now need a Masters' or Doctorate to for that guarantee. (I was intrigued, so I watched one of his TED talks.) I left school thinking, "Why do we educate our children?"

On Tuesday, I chose to read the selection about Interactive Learning Environments. The quote at the top of this page jumped out at me. "Ultimately, the current educational system was designed to meet different needs and goals than we currently face in the information age." Until we set a purpose for education, we are spinning our wheels. Is our purpose job-training? Are we looking for an across-the-board base-knowledge for students to build on? Are we preparing students to build a resume for college acceptance? Are we preparing students to thrive in the 21st Century? Seriously, why do we "do" school?

CMS's - Course Managements Systems
PLE's - Personal Learning Environments
PIES - Personalized, Inegrated Education Systems

Students must "buy into" education. At my school, we have "all the bells and whistles": a high school diploma, trade education, college scholarship possibilities, work-based learning... and many students are not motivated. They see no value in education... until after graduation. Many students come back and lament about how they wished they had taken school seriously.

There are so many easy-seeming options available to today's youth. There is no need to interact with others. The computer is right there. Spell? The computer can do that. Calculate? There's an app for that.

Our job, as teachers is to make learning personal, valid, meaningful, practical, REAL. There is no need to calculate a correct answer unless the answer is personal. There is  no need to spell something correctly unless the reason is personal. We have amazing tools at our disposal. (Databases vs. Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature - or Easybib vs. hand-crafting a bibliography) Whether we structure activities on paper or in the cloud, using a 3 ring binder or in our Google Classroom, we need to make the material relevant. 

Here is a link to my STORIFY for the week.

William R. Watson , Sunnie Lee Watson & Charles M. Reigeluth (2013): Education 3.0:      
        breaking the mold with technology, Interactive Learning Environments,DOI:10.1080/
Robinson, Sir Ken. Educating the Heart and Mind.
Robinson, Sir Ken. Do Schools Kill Creativity?

As an aside: We have so much in the USA.  Education is "free" for everyone. Our politicians fight about it. We struggle to engage the kids. We sink more and more money and time into gadgets and software and teacher training.
In poor countries, where education is either expensive or rare, it is valued - even in an overcrowded one-room schoolhouse with no supplies or desks. Why?