We only had a week and two days for winter break this year. In the years past, I have tried to get ahead on some materials before starting back up for the 2nd semester of the year. For instance, I have been known to participate in online PD through Voxer, Twitter, and online training videos between family activities and during long car rides. But the short break prevented us from taking the long drive back to Nashville this year so I lost the productivity I can sometimes find while riding in the car. I also had originally planned to get a jump start on reading for my next semester of graduate school, which would have been really smart since I have seen what I have coming up and it is a lot. But I didn't do that. I also thought, maybe I would get a head on recording, editing, and making show notes for my podcast or write and schedule releases for some blog posts that I have been planning. But none of those things happened either.
Instead, I took a real break. For anyone who knows me, that is not normal at all. But I have to say, that I really enjoyed it, and I am still kind of enjoying it as I start to mentally prepare myself for going back to work tomorrow. Now when I say I really took a break, I mean that I did not read any emails (well I glanced because I often get timely doctor appointment reminders and bill statements that I really could not afford to miss), I didn't read any books related to work or graduate school, I didn't do any writing, research, education related podcast listening, or any other activity that related to what I normally immerse myself in.
Instead, I spent time with my family, cooked, cleaned, watched television, went to the movies, and slept in. It was wonderful, it was restful, and I may have a hard time getting back into my normal routine where sleep and most relaxation activities usually fall to the back burner while I focus on my kids' basketball games, theatre classes, gymnastics and my work, grad school assignments, research, reading, writing, and podcasting. I am excited and anxious to see what 2018 brings, but one thing I have learned over the break is that I need to take real breaks like this a little more often.
I probably should have been tagging my blog posts from the beginning. Honestly, I did not really know where the button was on the Weebly site that I use and I never really bothered because I did not see it's importance. I mean I figured, who is going to take the time to look through my blog through tags? But this year, I started my first semester of the Doctorate in Educational Technology at Central Michigan University. I have been working through two courses this semester. Which is one of the reasons the podcast has taken a brief hiatus. The last 7 posts I have made on my blog are about Motivation in Blended and Online Professional Development. This is from research I did in one of those courses. But it is my Educational Research course that got me to start tagging my blogs.
In this course, one of our first tasks was to create a blog for our program related work. We used it to post annotated bibliographies of research articles we are interested in following up with. One of the requirements for this blog was that we had to tag each post with any tags that would help us to refer back to topics we often found good articles to reconsider at a later date. My professor shared an research article with us, written by Christian Glahn, Marcus Specht, and Rob Koper (2010), describing the metacognitive benefits of tagging for personalized and self-directed learning.
At first I figured it was just a good way to keep my articles for future research more easily accessible, but as I got to the actual tagging I realized that I had to really think about how I could apply this now and in the future to really tag it appropriately. Not only that, I also had to go through prior tags and determine if any of the articles I had archived earlier in the year related to the one I was reading at the time. This format has already helped me as I have been working for this program and with other projects. I can click on a tag and have all the bibliographies of the articles that I have read which relate to the topic ready to go.
I have been an advocate for student blogs. I used them when I taught English, I have given presentations about using blogs with students, and I have been working with teachers to use them in their classrooms. As I start digging deeper into personalized learning for both professional learning and student learning, I am seeing more and more the need for digital blogs that allow for curations and reflections of learning and how tagging can help to promote deeper understandings.
Just like the students they teach, each educator comes to the classroom with a different set of experiences and preconceived notions about what good teaching looks like. Because of this, every teacher and every classroom has their own style, methods, and classroom environment. With these differences in mind, it is hard to imagine how creating a standard professional development course, module, workshop, or presentation for a group of K-12 teachers would provide adequate training that can meet each individual teacher’s needs.
According to Knowles (as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2013) one assumption that is made through the adult learning theory of andragogy, is that adult learners prefer to learn material that is problem centered as opposed to learning material that is not useful until a future date. According to Matherson and Windle (2017), “Teachers want professional development that they can use immediately to help them prepare and deliver what their students need the most, i.e., skills, techniques, and strategies that allow them to address individual needs and help them tailor differentiated learning for their students.”
To create problem centered learning that provides teachers with skills that can be implemented immediately in the classroom, professional learning has to be personalized to the needs of the teachers who are taking the online or blended learning course. One way to accomplish this is to move the professional development instructor’s mindset from that of the teacher to that of a coach or a facilitator. Creating lessons and activities that are focused on specific pedagogies, skills, or strategies while leaving the subject matter details up to the participants can help to make an online or blended professional development work for groups of teachers who may teach various subject areas or even grade levels.
For example, creating an online or blended learning K-12 teacher professional development course can focus on a broad topic like methods for creating data driven instruction. If the teachers taking the professional development course all teach different subjects and maybe even different grade levels, then creating a lesson that explains how spreadsheets can be used as data collection and analysis in a math class is not going to help the English, Art, or Physical Education teacher. Data looks different in every classroom and in every unit of instruction. To meet the needs of all the professional development participants, the instructor needs to first get teachers to identify the different types of data that they may encounter. Once they have identified the data types they deal with, they need to self-evaluate their ability to use that data, which they already have, to inform their instruction.
Once a self-evaluation, and maybe even a self-reflection has taken place, the participants can begin to work through resources that pertain to the type of data they have and provide information on strategies and models that they can use to help them meet their goal of using that data to inform their classroom instruction. These resources can be found through independent research, instructor curation, or a mixture of the two. Participants can take that information and evaluate how they could use it in their own practice and use instructor and peer feedback to help find and implement the best solutions. Because the participants are working on something similar, they are better able to collaborate and provide ideas and feedback.
Another way instructors of online or blended K-12 professional development courses can provide personalized instruction to their participants is by getting to know the participants themselves through learning inventories, interest surveys, and synchronous and asynchronous discussions about their experiences and current teaching situations. Personalizing learning allows the participant to focus on what interests him or her the most or is of most crucial need for his or her classroom. Getting to know student backgrounds, needs, and teaching environments allows the instructor to provide individualized resources and supports that students need to be able to get what they need out of the course.
For example, a teacher is enrolled in a professional learning course about using digital content and instructional methods in the classroom. This teacher is a high school math instructor that is currently struggling with finding a way to effectively collect and analyze data so he or she can differentiate his or her classroom instruction for his or her students. Because the instructor is aware of this, he or she can integrate data collection and disaggregation tools into the course. If adding it to the course material would not work, the instructor could provide it directly to the participant as a supplemental activity that would allow the participant to explore the use of such tools for use in his or her classroom.
Personalization is another way the instructor can offer support to his or her students, but it goes a step further because it requires the instructor to be flexible in his or her teaching and to be willing to spend additional time researching and providing resources to students who need additional materials that may or may not pertain directly to the course itself. By doing this, the instructor can create a course that is driven by students interests and needs.
Closing for this Series
Teachers enter their professional development courses both willingly and unwillingly. Most teachers are anxious to learn new pedagogies, tools, and skills that they can use to implement in their courses to create better learning environments for their students. Of course, because teachers are also compelled to participate in professional development for licensure renewal there are professional development courses that teachers will have to take that they may not be as anxious to take part in.
The difference between a motivated K-12 professional development participant and one who is only participating to complete a school, district, or state mandated requirement can be attributed to the organization of the course, the feedback received throughout the course, the support that is provided as the course progresses, and the personalization that the course offers. While there is no controlling the reason why a student has enrolled in a K-12 online or blended teacher professional development course the instructor of the course can implement motivational strategies to maintain or even create motivation for students to fully participate and grow from the learning experiences offered.
The organization of the online or blended K-12 professional development course, instructional strategies, and feedback methods will be less successful in motivating students as they work through the course if they do not have support. Support can come in a few different ways, but essentially support is provided by people. It can come from the participant’s family, friends, coworkers, classmates, or instructor. This support is important as the lack of it can demotivate students.
Meeting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, learners require that their physiological, safety, and belonging needs are met before they can be open to learning. Instructors of professional learning courses cannot provide for the physiological needs as they are usually not in the same location as their participants. The only instance that a physiological need could be met by an instructor would be during a physical meeting of a blended learning course the instructor could provide snacks, drinks, and regular bathroom breaks. Safety is also a need that instructors can only control in a face to face meeting of a blended learning class.
The need for belonging can be provided for by both the instructor and the participant’s classmates. This can be done by implementing strategies of online and blended learning that promote interaction between the student and the instructor and among the students themselves. Setting synchronous and asynchronous chats through web and phone applications can help create a learning community that is able to provide some of the necessary support needed to be motivated to learn the pedagogies, tools, and skills that are addressed in the online and blended K-12 professional development course.
Providing Support Through Coaching and Mentoring
Since the focus of online and blended K-12 professional development courses is to create positive change in the K-12 classroom learning environment, coaching and mentoring can help provide support to individuals who are participating in the professional development course. Coaching and mentoring practices provide one-on-one guidance and support to teachers (Onchwari & Keengwe, 2008). If the course is being presented through a blended learning model that is taking place at the same site the participant currently teaches, a coaching or mentoring model can be someone from their own school.
For instance, a school could implement a blended learning model that is instructed by one of the instructional coaches in the building. This instructional coach could provide both instructor support and coaching support to the participants of the program. The benefit to a framework such as this is that the coach knows the course materials, teachings, and strategies that the participant is being exposed to. This allows the coach to create a one-on-one coaching experience that can help guide participants through struggle points they may face when they implement their learning into their classroom.
The coach can be there to support through planning, co teaching, and reflections that can help the participant to grow into independence in using their learning in the classroom. This model allows the coach to provide support to participants who may be nervous about implementing new pedagogies, tools or strategies in the classroom environment on their own. An additional positive to this model for blended learning is that when it comes to the online course materials and assignments, the coach, as the instructor, can better tailor the resources and activities to what the participants need to learn allowing for personalization of the course to become a natural part of the program.
Since online courses and many blended courses do not offer an option for a school based coach to serve as the instructor of the online or blended K-12 professional development course, other options should be explored to try to provide coaching or mentoring. One option is to use the online instructor as a virtual coach. This option requires more of a time commitment from the online or blended course instructor and an ability to record and participate in virtual synchronous meetings.
If virtual coaching is not an option, participants can seek out coaches that are either fellow participants in the course or are an administrator, master teacher, or other expert that can guide and support the participant through the implementation of the pedagogies, tools, or skills learned through the online or blended professional development course. The coaching or mentoring should be individualized through one-on-one sessions. This provides the participant with the opportunity to work through problem points, skill development needs, and support needs the teacher may have. The coaching or mentoring should be intensive and sustained where participants interact with their coach on a regular basis and teachers can receive coaching over an extended period of time. The coaching or mentoring should be context-specific and focused so coaching can relate to the context of the classroom environment in which the participant works and allows for engagement in the practice of a specific skill.
While coaching and mentoring are not necessarily elements that are usually found in an online or blended learning course it is an important element that can and should be readily available for teachers who participate in an online or blended K-12 professional development course. Whether the coach or mentor is the instructor himself or herself or the participant can recruit someone from his or her own school, the element of support that can be provided by this individual allows the participant of the course to feel like they the support they need to take risks in the classroom. For teachers who are too nervous to implement some of the pedagogies, tools, or skills to a classroom full of students the first time, the coach or mentor can provide co teaching support to allow for confidence that the participant is not alone if the implementation goes awry.
Providers of Feedback
The first possible provider of feedback for participants of K-12 online or blended professional development is automated responses. This is usually available through online programs that can immediately let the learner know whether or not they answered a question correctly. This type of feedback is usually only helpful for ensuring that the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Adams, 2015) have been met. While this method may not allow for a great deal of depth or demonstration of the student’s ability to apply, synthesize, or create knowledge, it does provide a way for students to receive feedback that is instant which can help them to learn the basic and background knowledge they need in order to move up to those higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and it provides instant feedback which has been proven to promote positive learning gains in students (El Saadawi, Azevedo, Castine, Payne, Medvedeva, Tseytlin, & Crowley, 2010).
In K-12 online and blended learning environments, this method can allow participants the ability to move through material at their own pace while getting feedback that can help keep them on the right track and motivated. For instance, a teacher who is learning about a new process or procedure that their school or district may be using might need to understand the new terminology that goes along with that process so they are better able to communicate with their colleagues about where they are or what they may need help on within that process or procedure. Using an automatically graded quiz or activity provides the participant the ability to review materials they got wrong or to move on to the next activity or level.
Students are capable of providing themselves with feedback. While this is a skill that must be learned, it is one that can have a positive effect on their learning and can promote metacognition (Siegesmund, 2017). There are three types of self-assessment that students can use to grow (Boud & Brew, 1995). The first is self-testing. This method allows students to check their knowledge against test items that have right or wrong answers. While this may sound like this is really automated feedback, the difference is that students seek these opportunities out for themselves.
Traditionally when instructors consider using this method, they imagine the student testing himself or herself through a multiple choice, short answer, matching assessment, but this can also be done through a trial and error approach. In a K-12 professional development model, this might be used by a teacher who is learning a new tool. He or she might test his or her knowledge of the tool usage through trial and error. The participant should know what the outcome they are looking to meet when they begin to self-test. For example, if a teacher is learning to use a program that will allow them to screencast a lesson for a blended lesson they are preparing to teach, they may test their ability to use their chosen screencasting tool to ensure they are able to meet the desired outcome before they are asked by their professional development provider to turn in an assessment that depicts their ability to do this.
Reflective questions are another way students can assess themselves (Boud & Brew, 1995). This method allows learners to reflect on and be critical of their learning. In a K-12 teacher professional development setting, participants may be resistant to this type of self-assessment because they do not see the value of it in comparison to the amount of time they have to engage in the activity. Self-reflection of learning provides teachers with the chance to evaluate what they are learning and to think through how their learning can be used to promote better student learning strategies. Because the goal of K-12 professional development is to create meaningful changes in the classroom environments of the teachers participating in the course, creating time and or circumstances for participants to engage in reflection is an important component for designers of these online and blended learning experiences to consider.
The final self-assessment strategy that can be implemented in these learning environments is self-rating (Boud & Brew, 1995). Through this strategy, students rate their own work in comparison to an exemplar piece or a rubric which explains the goals the learner should be striving to meet. To promote better student ownership and a better understanding of what is expected, instructors of online and blended learning courses can have students participate in the creation of the rubric or goals they must meet to be considered masters of the skill or objective.
K-12 professional development can use this strategy as a way for participants to prepare for self-reflection. For example, a professional development participant learns about a new strategy he or she can implement in his or her lesson plans. The participant implements this strategy into his or her lesson, then uses a self-rating tool to rate the success of the implementation. From there the participant can begin to reflect on his or her perceptions of how the implementation went and what he or she could do differently the next time they try to use the strategy in his or her classroom.
The use of self-assessment should be a regular part of K-12 online and blended teacher professional development courses (Siegesmund, 2017). Because these courses are built to promote better instruction in the classroom, teachers need the time, tools, and structures in place to participate in self-assessment that will allow them to learn and reflect on that learning in a meaningful way. Educators who can use this skill in a professional development course can continue to use this skill to improve their instructional methods as they seek professional development opportunities that are not laid out in a course format.
Instructor feedback is often perceived to be more valuable than any other type of feedback (Ertmer, Richardson, Belland, Camin, Connolly, Coulthard, & Mong, 2007). Because of this, instructor presence and response is vitally important to student motivation. Sadler (2010) explains that students need appraisal expertise to help understand feedback from an instructor. There are three areas that appraisal expertise relies on. The first is task compliance. This describes whether or not the student fulfilled the task requirements (Sadler, 2010).
In online and blended K-12 professional development courses, assignments often require participants to complete tasks with specific goals or objectives in mind. For instance, a participant may be asked to write a lesson plan that uses a strategy the professional development has just covered. When the plan is reviewed by the instructor, he or she may not see the implementation of the strategy within the plan that was turned in. The instructor’s feedback needs to be specific as to how the assignment does not meet the criteria set forth by the assignment. In many cases, this happens because students think they did fulfill the requirements, but they need more guidance to complete the task. Instructors can provide feedback that refers back to the expectations they set in the assignment's guidelines and the materials used to teach the skills needed to help point the participant in the right direction to complete the assigned task.
Instructors of K-12 online and blended teacher professional development also requires that the instructor be able to judge the quality of the work presented (Sadler, 2010). Providers of the professional development need to be able to articulate what makes the participant’s work low or high quality. Since grades are not usually used to measure work put out in professional development, instructors need to be able to work with participants to improve the quality of their work by providing suggestions for further review of the material, strategy, or skill that is supposed to be demonstrated by the assignment. Instructors can also provide concrete reasons and examples as to how the changes they will need to make to create a higher quality product will help create better student learning opportunities in his or her classroom.
Finally, criteria for the assignment need to be understood by the participant in order to understand the feedback that is provided by the instructor (Sadler, 2010). Instructors of the professional development can remind students or show students the criteria for the assignment in their feedback. By highlighting the criteria either by referring back to the rubric or assignment description or by providing an example of an exemplar piece, the provider of the professional development can ensure the participant understands the rationale behind the feedback. These strategies can also help the participant to make appropriate modifications to their work.
When peer feedback is used in an online or blended learning environment, it encourages motivation by helping learners feel less isolated, builds trust, fosters and develops critical thinking, and helps reduce the workload of the instructor (van Ginkel, Gulikers, Biemans & Mulder, 2017; Espitia & Cruz Corzo, 2013). In K-12 online and blended teacher professional development courses, this form of feedback can be extremely beneficial and it allows participants to collaborate and help each other solve real classroom or lesson planning problems. According to Matherson and Windle (2017) teachers want to have their professional learning to be teacher-driven. One way to accommodate this is through the use of peer feedback activities during the professional development course.
Peer feedback is going to look different when using it in an online course as opposed to a blended course. In a K-12 online professional development course, this peer feedback is going to take place entirely online. This requires the instructor to have participants use written or recorded feedback activities. While participants may not feel confident in their ability to provide feedback to their classmates, following a specific procedure and making it a regular part of the course can alleviate this over time (Ertmer, Richardson, Belland, Camin, Connolly, Coulthard, & Mong, 2007). The use of digital tools can also help participants to create a greater sense of community. For instance, participants can use voice recording, video recording, and online meetings with each other, to help promote that sense of community. Other digital tools allow students to provide feedback anonymously as it randomly assigns peer feedback tasks to the students and sends that feedback back to the owner of the assignment. While anonymity may alleviate feelings of peer pressure in most online learning environments (Ertmer, et al, 2007), the fact that K-12 teacher professional development is not dependent on grades and is intended to promote community, anonymity should not be necessary (Matherson and Windle, 2017).
In a blended K-12 teacher professional development course, participants can provide peer feedback in the same ways discussed for online courses. But in blended courses participants may have the opportunity to provide peer feedback in a face to face setting. This strategy can especially be beneficial to help promote community in a school as many teachers, especially those teaching in large schools, do not often get to elicit feedback from many of their coworkers. Since teachers who are able to participate in a school based blended professional development teach the same students and have the same goals, their feedback can help to create better student learning opportunities school wide.
Helping students to understand where they did well and where they need to do some more work is all part of teaching. When working in an online or blended environment the body language and facial cues that can often help provide quick feedback to students in a face to face classroom are not available. Instead, feedback must be strategically planned and continually implemented. The semantic dimension, or quality, of the feedback is as important as the timing of the feedback.
Providing Information About Errors
The feedback quality can be categorized into four domains. The first of these four provides the student with a description of the errors he or she has made (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). Giving students this information helps them to see specific problems in their work allowing them to correct mistakes and review material which can help prevent them from continuing to repeat these types of errors. Since teacher professional development usually hinges less on correct answers and more on problems solving and implementation of skills, this strategy may not be used as much in an online or blended professional development course.
The place for this type of feedback could be in the initial learning of a strategy or skill as teachers learn new vocabulary, processes, or factual materials they may need to teach to their students. For example, a teacher who is receiving professional development about a new online learning management system may be required to complete an assessment that shows their ability to navigate the new environment. If the professional development participant were to incorrectly complete a task within this system, the instructor of the course can provide the participant a description of the errors he or she has made to help him or her to review and redo the activity to improve his or her ability to use the tool.
The second semantic feedback domain gives students the solution or part of the answer (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). This strategy can provide students the information they need to solve the problem on their own. This approach can often be more valuable as it requires the student to think through the process again with the solution as a guide for understanding where he or she may have made the initial mistake.
In teacher professional development this strategy can be used to direct a participant to reformulate plans to meet a specific learning goal. For example, a participant may be learning about creating a differentiated unit or lesson using data. While there is no right answer to how to do this, providing a suggestion of a strategy to implement can have the same effect. By providing a strategy suggestion, the participant is able to go back and look at how that strategy can be utilized for this instance. The participant has to work through not only what the strategy is, but also what they need to do to implement the strategy effectively in the unique environment that is their classroom. This can provide a great opportunity for participants to collaborate with the instructor or other participants to gather ideas and feedback which will help them reach that implementation goal.
The third way to provide quality feedback is to provide the student with guidelines and strategies to improve their work (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). This can help to refocus students on the material or guide them back to the right answer without either pointing it out or giving them the solution. This method gives student the opportunity to identify and reevaluate their work on their own.
This method is effective in online and blended teacher professional development programs as it allows the participant to search for the resources or tools that would best fit their classroom’s needs. If an online or blended K-12 professional development participant is struggling with how to integrate a new strategy into their classroom, the instructor can provide guidelines for how they could rethink the problems they are facing. This can be done by providing additional resources such as videos that model the strategy in action, blog posts that describe the effective use of the strategy in a similar classroom, or observational feedback that can provide clarity of the problem for the participant.
The final dimension to give students quality feedback is by providing the learner with additional resources for future learning (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). This provides students the opportunity to dig deeper into a topic when they need or want to learn more about the method, subject, or ideas being learned in the course. Students may find this information useful to revisit for future courses, problem solving, or just to satisfy their own interest driven learning.
For teachers who are participating in online or blended professional development, this type of feedback can be beneficial as they rethink or restructure learning opportunities for their students later on in the year or even in subsequent years. Because each year of teaching is different and has different students with different needs, it is important for educators to keep a toolbox of strategies, skills, and resources ready. Professional development providers can give teachers who are not ready to implement or use a skill, strategy, or tool right now resources for future reading, watching, or listening that will allow the participant to continue to fill their teaching toolbox. Providers can share books, research, blogs, podcasts, videos, and other medias that can be utilized by participants at a later time.
While the quality of the feedback provided to students is important for maintaining motivation, the timeliness of that feedback is equally important. Timely and informative feedback can help learners recognize and correct misconceptions, increase confidence and motivation, and motivate them to acquire knowledge (Epstein, 2010). There are various individuals who can provide feedback to participants of online and blended professional development and each of these providers of feedback can play a significant role in maintaining motivation for these participants.
While it is important to us class norms and procedures to keep all the participants of an online or blended learning course knowing what is required and how well they are doing in the course, using various instructional strategies can promote maintained student motivation through the end of the course (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). It has been found that interactive instructional strategies are more favored by students of online and blended learning environments than those that are less interactive (Abrami, Bernard, Bures, Borokhovski, & Tamim, 2011). With this in mind, instructors should strive to promote interaction in the online and blended learning environments.
Student-student interaction is one of the three learning interactions that were discussed by Moore (1989). This describes the interaction that happens among students who are enrolled in a course together (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). Strategies that can promote interaction among students is the use of synchronous and asynchronous chats. Synchronous and asynchronous chats can happen through text, voice, or video interaction. With the availability of high speed internet and a plethora of digital tools that allow people to have conversations using one or all of these mediums, participants of a K-12 online or blended professional development course can interact, share ideas, and provide feedback to one another.
This second interaction, as described by Moore (1989), discusses the interactivity that happens between the student and the course instructor (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). While synchronous and asynchronous chats can be utilized between the instructor and student in the same way it can be utilized among students the instructor can also create lecture materials that can be used to teach or to enhance the further understanding of a topic by students.
One strategy that can be used to promote learning in online and blended K-12 professional development courses is the use of recorded media in the form of podcasts. Podcasts are recordings that can be accessed on demand and are focused on a specific topic. There are two methods for implementing these types of recordings. The first uses this medium as a way to deliver content that is required for the course itself and the second is to provide these recordings as supplemental materials for further study into topics students are interested in knowing more about (Key, 2012). Since teacher professional development is focused on making learning environments that will help teachers create better learning opportunities for their students, the use of podcasts is a great way to get additional content out to professional development participants. The mobility of this medium allows the participant to engage in course content or additional content that is of interest to them when they are on the go.
Moore (1989) discusses student-content interaction describes the interaction students have with the course content (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). This interaction used to be limited to reading of the textbook, but with the internet, mobile devices, and web based tools, students can interact with media in numerous ways. One way is the use of hypermedia. Hartshorne (2008) showed that students who interacted with hypermedia had a more positive attitude toward the subject they were learning.
The use of hypermedia, provides students the freedom to choose what paths to take when learning about a topic. The media that is linked from the hypermedia platform, which can be in the form of a document, website, or other digital platform, can be various formats allowing students to not only choose their learning path, but also their learning medium. Instructors of online or blended K-12 professional development courses can use this instructional strategy to curate and promote exploration of the topics being learned through the course, which allows participants to learn the topic in a way that will help them in their classrooms the best.
Social media can be used as an different way for students to interact with content for a K-12 professional development course. Connected educators are teachers who connect with other educators and education related content through the use of social media applications. Twitter is the most popular of these tools. Teachers currently use this application to find and categorize their professional development and classroom experiences. Social media is a way for instructors of online and blended professional development courses to model how participants can both interact with the current course content and how they can continue to utilize these social media tools for self-directed professional development opportunities (Visser, Evering, & Barrett, 2014).
The different kinds of interactions participants have when they are in an online or blended K-12 professional development course can greatly impact not only the learning outcomes for the participant, but also the participant’s students. These interactions are enhanced by quality, effective feedback processes that help the participants create better understandings of the learning they are getting through these various types of interactions.
Organizing Blended and Online Professional Development Courses
According to Knowles (1984) and his adult learning theory of andragogy, it is important that adult learners have a clear understanding of why they need to know something (as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2013). When creating an online or blended learning course for K-12 teacher professional development, this rule applies. Because teachers are not always volunteers whey they take professional development courses, this rule is even more important. As the professional development provider creates and begins the course with its participants, he or she must know and be able to demonstrate why the pedagogies, tools, or skills the teacher are learning about in this course are important and how is it applicable to their daily teaching?
Once the question as to why participants should engage in this professional development course is answered, the clear understanding of learning goals (Siegesmund, 2017) needs to be identified and shared with participants. In K-12 professional development, the goals should be to find more practical ways to deliver content (Matherson and Windle, 2017) and, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future report (1996) should be able to be embedded in the participant’s daily work (as cited by Onchwari & Keengwe, 2008). To accomplish this, the course should be built with practical classroom applications of pedagogies, tools, and skills that will help the teacher to create a better learning experience for his or her students.
Learning Management Systems
As the reasons for why the course is important and the goals of the course are established, the course instructor needs to determine which method of communication he or she will be using to consistently stay in contact with the participants (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). The best method for this is to utilize the appropriate learning management system that will meet the needs of the course.
A learning management system is a web based platform that allows the instructor of the course to send out course materials, assignments, reminders, and feedback. The use of a single learning management system can help to establish course norms that participants and the instructor will follow to ensure there is no confusion on how to access the materials needed, the assignment descriptions and due dates, obtain reminders about upcoming activities, and access the feedback for assignments and activities.
When districts or schools are designing their own online and blended K-12 professional development courses, the learning management system should be something teachers are able to utilize in their own classrooms. If teachers already use the tool as an instructor, they can gain valuable knowledge about how the student interface for the tool works. If the teacher does not currently use the tool, then he or she may find value in it when he or she sees how it can be used to help create an organized and connected classroom environment for his or her own students.
While the choice of learning management system is not the most important component when creating an online or blended K-12 professional development course, it is important that the instructor choose something that is easily accessible on multiple devices, easy to use, and provides all the functionality that will be required to effectively manage the class. The use of the learning management system should be a daily ritual for the instructor. He or she should keep a close watch on the activities of the students so immediate feedback and necessary interactions with students are happening. Students are more motivated when they have a consistent flow of information (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). Keeping a schedule for announcements and reminders can help students keep focused on their goals, provide them with reminders, and assure them of what they are supposed to be working on.
Motivating K-12 teachers to learn new pedagogies, tech tools, or teaching skills is not always an easy task. While there are a number of ways teachers can seek out their own professional learning through social media sites, blogs, books, and research, some skills and materials are still best learned through an ongoing course format. Professional development courses are also easier for K-12 schools, districts, and state departments to track to ensure professional learning, and hopefully professional growth, continue to take place. Usually, this is done through the use of seat time in such courses, but the introduction of badges and micro credentialing has created a method of tracking learned skills as opposed to time spent learning.
The way recording institutions track the learning of teachers is not the only thing that has evolved. The way teachers access their professional development courses has also evolved. This change comes about because technology is readily available to allow for on the go learning. The shift to digital learning environments has created an opportunity to provide students of all ages with alternative ways to learn the material and the skills they need. These environments require that designers and teachers of these courses think differently about how they will get students to remain motivated from the beginning of the course through to the end.
The success of a K-12 teacher professional development course is best measured by how it helps the teacher to create better learning opportunities for his or her students. While most teachers are motivated to engage in these types of learning environments strictly for the potential of creating better student learning outcomes, the design and implementation of these courses should follow the best practices available to keep teachers motivated. The act of using online and blended learning environments for professional learning can, in itself, provide teachers with a model of a different form of teaching that they may not have seen before. This exposure could lead these teachers to begin to utilize the practices they were able to learn from in the course in their own classrooms.
Blended Vs. Online Learning Environments
Teachers in most K-12 educational institutions are provided a computer, internet access, and software to use as they instruct their students. These tools are also being used as a way to deliver professional development in blended and online learning environments. These environments have a number of benefits and have the potential to allow for teachers to learn pedagogies, tools, and skills that can be used to solve classroom problems or create better learning environments.
In a fully online professional development, the participants and the instructor would have no face to face interactions. This method provides a way for learning to take place without individuals having to physically meet in the same location. K-12 professional development that uses this mode provides teachers an opportunity to learn from others around the world. It also provides an opportunity for schools and districts to create professional development that teachers can complete when it is most convenient for them.
A blended learning model is being used when a “... student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” (Harn & Staker, 2014). There are a number of ways to implement a blended learning environment, but the main benefit this form has over strictly online learning is that the participants are able to meet face to face. For K-12 educators who work at brick and mortar schools, the face to face component can allow teachers who do not normally get the chance to plan or work together to interact and work through common issues together providing new perspectives across multiple disciplines and grade levels within the school or district.
According to Lim, Morris, and Kupritz (2006), the blended and online learning courses are not significantly different in how much learners perceive they have learned from the course. What has been found is that individuals who participate in a blended learning course perceive that the learning community is stronger than that of an online learning course. In addition, online courses are seen by participants as being harder than those delivered in a blended learning format. The difference may be the addition of the face to face interaction that the blended learning environment allows learners to participate in. The only downside to the blended learning environment is the need to physically attend the face to face meetings, although it could be argued that courses who have found a way to introduce regular synchronous conversations via a video call may allow for a blended type environment that is no longer limited by location of its participants.
Regardless of which of these two professional development formats is being implemented, the considerations needing to be made and the problems the instructor and/or designer of these programs may face are similar. The organization and set up, feedback practices, support strategies, and personalization methods used in these professional developments will play a major role in how motivated K-12 teachers are to participate in and complete the course.
I enjoy podcasting. This is an activity that I took up almost a year ago as a way to share with my teachers. As an Instructional Technology Facilitator at a high school of over 100 teachers, I did not get the chance to talk to each teacher every day to tell them about different approaches, tools, or programs that could be implemented in their classrooms. I often found myself searching for opportunities to share with my teachers without overwhelming them, but the time always felt so limited. As I prepared for my first NCTIES presentation, I wanted to find a way that my teachers could get the information without being able to attend the conference. I often do PD sessions with my teachers during or after school, but I wanted them to access it when and where they might need it. So my first three episodes were created by pulling my NCTIES presentation apart by topic.
I was excited to have the podcast up, and I shared it with individuals who attended my session or sat down next to me anytime during NCTIES. Later in the month, I traveled to California to present at ASCD Empower 17 where I continued to share my podcast with others. The only people I did not share with were the teachers I work with every day. I'm not really sure why. It may be that I was afraid they may think I was trying to push something on them that they were not ready for, or maybe I was just scared. It was actually not until a few months later that one of my teachers came to a session I was presenting during our district's summer professional development institute that I really shared my podcast with any of my teachers.
This is something I am still working on. While I am more forth coming about sharing my show with my teachers, it is still usually when I am talking to them about a topic that I have a current episode for them to reference that I share it. My goal this year is to get it out to all of them and keep working to make it meaningful for them to listen. Because I still don't get to spend as much time with each teacher as I like, and I don't get to share all the cool things I find and learn with them on a daily basis my hope is that the podcast can lead to more discussions about different ways to integrate technology or discussions of educational topics that can expand our school's culture of learning and sharing.
But at the end of the day, who do I do this for? Honestly, it is for me. Podcasting gives me the opportunity and the excuse to explore and talk about a variety of topics with a variety of educators from all over the world. I have a reason to get on Google Hangouts or Skype with people I admire and ask them questions about what they do on a daily basis and why. So as long as I am enjoying the process and the conversation, I plan to continue in this endeavor even if no one ever listened.
So I am usually pretty good about keeping up with everything, but I have been juggling a lot lately (yes, I am sticking to this metaphor). I started graduate courses. I have been working on a grant proposal for a new program I am implementing with my teachers. I have been working with teachers throughout my school on different projects. And my three kids are on two different baseball teams (well tee ball and coach pitch, but the league level doesn't make a difference).
Now I knew this was all coming. I mean, I enrolled in the courses, I knew what my work load looked like, and I was aware the kids would be around. so before the start of the school year, I started to stock pile a few podcast episodes, put together some newsletter ideas for my teachers and the blog, outlined a few possible presentation ideas for conferences, took notes on a few blog post ideas, cleaned the house, reorganized the office, and I even spent a few days sleeping in. All of these things were done so I could juggle the many items that I knew I would have thrown at me as soon as the school year officially started.
Well, I dropped a ball... or maybe it was two... now come to think of it, maybe it was three.
The first one was this blog. I haven't posted in a month and that is not the goal I had for myself. I have not been to upset by that, because I have still ben writing on my assignment blog for my graduate courses. It seems like once those are posted, I am tired of writing for the night and I opt to watch a show with my husband or go straight to bed. I have been intending to write here, but I just haven't.
The second one was my newsletter. for a few months, I was doing a pretty good job of putting together a newsletter of my blog posts, podcast episodes, and other EdTech news and topics. This was going out once a month, but I have not done this in a couple of months. I enjoyed putting these together and I hope to go back to them soon. Especially since a friend (and upcoming podcast guest), Leslie Kinard, recently told me of how she has been using them with her staff on a regular basis this year. I now want to go back to that as a way to communicate with my staff.
But the third ball that I dropped was the one that actually upset me. I MISSED A PODCAST RELEASE! I'm usually really good at scheduling, but when my friend and editor extraordinaire, Sara Adcock asked me last week which episode we were going to release that day I told her that we still had another week. She seemed doubtful, but I was sure we had just released an episode. I was wrong. It was time to release and I dropped the ball.
So what what am I going to do?
Nothing. I am honestly not too worried about it. I do my blog posts, my newsletters, and my podcast because I enjoy them. I will not ruin that by stressing out about getting things done on a strict schedule. Besides, I am more concerned with making sure my school work is done, my teachers are 110% supported, and most importantly that my husband and children know I am there for them.
I do intend to get back on my regular podcast schedule starting October 9th with the release of an episode where I talk to my friend Brad Shreffler, from the Planning Period Podcast, about his student tech team. Then episodes will continue coming every other week. Unless I drop the ball again, then I will just have to pick it back up and keep going from there.
Getting back, or starting a new schedule is hard. On Monday of this week, students came back to school and I started my own graduate courses. It has been a bit of an adjustment trying to get back into the full swing of things. Timing my mornings to get out the door so I don't hit too much traffic, figuring out how much coffee is needed to get me though the day and how much is too much, and deciding what tasks need to be done at work and which ones can wait until my kids go to bed are just a few of the things I have been struggling to figure out this week.
These adjustments have to be made every year. Teachers are working to get their own schedules figured out, students are trying to get back to getting up early, and everyone is trying to build relationships to better understand what type of supports each student and teacher need to have in place to ensure a successful school year.
This week I was thinking about when I was a classroom teacher, how exciting and nerve wracking the first week was for me. I always wanted to make a good impression on my students and start the year off in a way that would help create a class culture of support and safety. Now, as a technology coach, I find myself being nervous for my teachers. I want them to have a smooth first week so it can set the tone for the school year. I want them to know that they have support when they need it.
Our school is blessed that we have 4 educators who can support the teachers in so many different ways. We have a media specialist, math coach, literacy coach, and me. I wish I had that when I was in the classroom and I wish every teacher had that in their buildings. I know that as a classroom teacher, I often felt alone. In fact, I tell the story of my hunt for blogging resources as a middle school English teacher. The time I spent researching and figuring out how to use multiple tools, only to find out that many of them did not do what I needed, took from the time I should have spent grading, planning, and enjoying my family.
I should have been able to ask someone for help. That person, regardless of what type of coach they were, could have helped me with the research and exploring the different options. Of course, at this time, I was not a connected educator either. I did not have a Twitter account or any other social media tool that I used for talking to others. Those steps could have been done through social media tools, but the implementation would have still been on me in my room alone.
The best part about having a coach, is that you can call on that person to be there so if something doesn't go right you are not alone. There were a few classes this week where teachers were setting up their digital tools with students and I just stayed in their rooms in case a student didn't understand, missed a step, or needed something reset. It doesn't seem like a big deal unless you have been in a room with 30 or more kids trying to set up a new tech resource while still focusing on the content. Sometimes it goes smoothly with 0 problems, but many times there are questions flying at you about things you did not think would be problems.
For teachers who don't have a teacher's assistant, co-teacher, coach, or other support who can come into the room during the lesson with them, students can also serve as helpers in these scenarios. In fact, even when I am in a room co-teaching, I have asked students to look to each other for help with some of these questions.
The first week of school is all about starting to build that community and that trust. Students will learn quickly which rooms they are going to be empowered, valued, and supported in and which classes they will not. Teachers are also seeking support and they will quickly learn who will provide it and who will not.
This week has been hectic, crazy, and a little stressful, but so far I feel like it is going to be a great school year because we are working to build a community of trust and kindness. If you know you can trust the people you are working with and they will treat you with kindness, everything else is easy to get through.
I just finished a live podcast episode for The Planning Period Podcast on VoiceEd Radio with my friend Brad Shreffler and I am just not able to sleep. This feeling is not just because I am excited that my APlusEdTech Podcast officially joined the VoiceEd Network this evening, but also because I continue to second guess myself with what I said on his show. As I sit here, I am thinking about what I said on the episode and rewriting it in my head.
The fact that the show was live means that no editing happened between creation and release. This is not usually a step I skip. In fact, I often edit while I record my shows (at least the ones where I don't have a guest on). Anything that could be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or controversial is often cut. I am cognizant when I speak or write to keep from passing judgement or being disrespectful of the other opinions that may conflict with mine. So I speak, erase, and re-speak my episodes until I feel they are demonstrating my points without overstepping any predetermined bounds I might have.
But tonight, in a live experience, I was more open and I'm wondering if that is as much of a problem as I previously thought.
Last week I took four days off of my day job to travel around the east side of North Carolina and present material relating to the new NC Digital Learning Competencies. This conference traveled to four different counties in four days to work with teachers on ways to implement these new competencies into their classrooms and personal professional development practices. For any one who is familiar with ISTE or NCTIES, it was a very small version of that.
One of my presentations was focused on the benefits and resources for implementing student blogs or websites. I have presented on this topic before. In fact, my first three podcast episodes are made up of splitting this presentation into three parts. While the methods for delivery and details have evolved some, the core of the presentation has been basically the same.
The first time I used this presentation was at NCTIES this past March. While I sat in the session before mine, because I wanted to get set up as fast as possible, I was able to play with SeeSaw. Since I work on a secondary level, I had never really investigated the tool as a platform. By the end of that session, I had added it to my list of tools that could be used for student blogs.
As I worked through my presentation this time, I reflected on working with websites and blogs with one of my history teachers this year. One problem we came across, and this is one that I have come across before, is that students who are building a site on a platform that allows them to work with site design often get so worried about the site appearance that they neglect to make solid content to house in that space.
So I changed up part of my discussion with teachers who attended my sessions. Not only did we work through the steps of getting ready to use student created sites, we also talked about digital content creation and being mindful of creating a progression for students to be able to create content and then build the frame that could best showcase that content.
Looking at our work together made me wish that all teachers in elementary would use sites like SeeSaw or Kidblog which allow students to create and share content, but not organize it. As students mature and have a better understanding of what digital content is and how to create it, they can move on to simple site creation using Weebly for Education or the New Google Sites which both allow for drag and drop creation. Once students have a grasp of basic design and organization techniques they can move to a Wordpress format like Edublogs or even code their own site.
The point is that if students grew up with the mindset to be content creators and not just consumers, and we taught them how to focus on that content before creating the organizational structure around it then they would be ready to utilize those skills to show off to prospective colleges and employers.
This evening I was able to participate in and experiment with Brad Shreffler for his Planning Period Podcast. Brad is an educator from Florida whom I met during an EdTech Coach’s meeting at ISTE. We shared the common interest of podcasting and determined that we would like to have each other on our shows. So we scheduled a time to record. Then Brad messaged me that he would like to use the recording as an opportunity to livestream his show on Voice Ed Canada. Of course, I jumped at the chance to be his guinea pig.
But as the time drew nearer, I started to get nervous about the show. I mean I record podcast episodes all the time, but I am constantly stopping, rewinding, rerecording, and editing before I even consider releasing the episode. In fact, I have a couple episodes that I have gotten ready but didn’t release because I ended up redoing them. So I worried that I would pause too much, say um a lot, or just not know what to say at all.
The episode ended up going really well, and I actually forgot that we were live most of the time we were talking. The best part of the entire episode, for me at least, was when we we thought the sound had cut out. While Brad scrambled to get it fixed I tried my best to fill the air with something to keep the episode going. Then my dad sent me a text message letting me know that he could still hear us. It meant a lot to know that 1. the episode was still going and 2. my parents were able to stay up and listen to it.
Of course I can think back to a couple of spots where, if I had the ability, I might go back and rerecord a few different answers and I would probably be a little more succinct. Otherwise, I believe it went well. Actually, I feel pretty good about the live stream and I might now be more apt to try more of it with my own work.
So thank you Brad for giving me the chance to be your guinea pig. I appreciate the opportunity and I can’t wait to record again with you!
If you missed the live stream of the Planning Period Podcast, the episode will be released sometime this fall. Don't worry, I will share out on Twitter!
e I just finished a live stream through Periscope for #PassTheScopeEdu. This is a Twitter hashtag that is used by a growing group of educators who love to share what they are learning through Periscope and Twitter. They take one day each month to give educators a chance to share their thoughts on a specific educational topic and they did a great job of live streaming ISTE 17! Today #PassTheScopeEdu is focusing on educational #HotTopics. If you miss today's streams, you can always look under those hashtags and view the videos when you have a chance.
The topic I chose to discuss was Personalized Learning and Data. I will say that I was nervous, I talked faster than I intended, and I did not go as deeply as I had intended to go. While I am used to recording myself (mostly through my podcast) and sharing with others, live streaming is a whole different ball game. Usually I record and do some editing before release. I mean I had some notes and I had thought a long time about what I was going to say and how I wanted to say it, but it's still not the same as being able to record and make changes prior to release.
So here is the short blog version of what I scoped about this morning:
Personalized learning is one of those new education buzz words that I continue to hear about at conferences, Twitter chats, and pretty much anywhere that teachers get together to discuss student learning. While it is a great word that describes what we strive to do, I feel that like other educational buzz words that we use we often forget what we are really trying to do. We are really trying to just do what is best for our students. Teachers work tirelessly to do everything that they can to ensure their students are learning and making connections to their learning. Call it differentiation, call it personalization, or any other term, but it is just good teaching.
I wanted to draw a line connecting personalization and the idea behind it to using data to drive instruction when I saw a tweet that said data driven classrooms were not personalization. I disagree. The word "data" has a negative connotation because we think of testing with bias multiple choice standardized tests. While this is a form of data, it is not all that data is. Data is any information that you gather, in this case, about your students. Data can be an observation of a student, a conversation, a rubric score, a journal that a student wrote, a video a student made, etc.
If we rethink what data is, we can see that a data driven classroom can be a personalized classroom. Because I consider all of the data that I gather in any number of ways, I can take all of those data points into account as I facilitate learning opportunities that are personalized to my students' needs and interests. The two concepts can and should work together.
After a lot of conversation with my husband and a great deal of thinking about my personal and professional goals, I decided to go back to school one more time. So at the end of August I will start my work toward a doctoral degree in educational technology. I am excited about the program I have chosen and the learning opportunities I will have as I work with a cohort of other educators who share the same goal as me. I am nervous about all of the other pieces that come with this.
I am nervous about the fact that I will have so much homework and research to complete on top of the other responsibilities that I have as a mother, technology coach, and all the other little things I have gotten myself into (like podcasting). I am nervous about the dissertation that I will eventually be required to write. And nervous about trying this again after a failed attempt only a few years ago.
When my husband was in the military he had to deploy for a year. I had finished my master's degree and figured that if he wasn't going to be around for a year I would have the perfect chance to start a doctoral degree. I would have the time to work and get a routine down by the time he came home when I would need his support the most as I started into dissertation work.
That plan did not work. I did not think that I would be so stressed from not having him there. That on top of the stress of the degree program and a full time job did not work well. I was on track for the first class, but a small bump in the second course and the lack of communication from my professors in addition to being alone in a state I had just moved to was just not working. So when my husband's two week leave to be home came around I had a decision to make. I could work through that time, or I could drop the class that I was struggling in and spend two weeks with him before he had to leave for the remainder of his deployment. I chose the latter.
Reflecting on that time I know now that I was 1. at the wrong school, 2. in the wrong program of study, and 3. not in a place where I was appropriately supported to handle the hurdles that came my way. So what has changed? Why do I think I can do this now when I failed to do it the first time around. Well first, I am in a cohort at a school that I feel fits me better. I have already met some of the professors and they seem genuinely interested in how well I do and are approachable. Second, I am in a program that I am really interested in and have a clear vision of where I want this degree to take me. Finally, I have the support I need.
So now I am prepping. I am working to back log podcast episodes and have everything as ready as I can for school to start. This time I feel ready and I feel like I know what I need to have to be ready. Of course those stumbling blocks will still be there, but I have the support I need and the will to push through this time. But for anyone who listens to my podcast, please forgive me if I ever have to slow down how often I drop an episode.
I honestly struggle with blogging. I want to write more and I want to share more, but it takes effort and time which I do not always have. Most of the time I have some really good ideas in my head for blogging, but by the time I get out of the car and to a computer the idea is gone. Then I stare at the blank computer screen trying really hard to recall what words were running through my head while I was sitting on the interstate.
I know that sitting down and blogging is an important reflective practice and I know that sharing is something educators should do as often as they can, but man, sitting down and writing out my thoughts and experiences can be hard.
Problem 1: I want to keep things in real time but time is not on my side. I have, as most educators do, a busy schedule. Three kids, a full time job, and a number of other side activities keep me working from the time I get up until it is time to sleep. I usually eat one or even two meals either standing up or in front of a computer.
Problem 2: I worry about what I post. I am constantly thinking things like:
So I am finally sitting down to blog after a week and a half of vacation with family and beaches, I figured I would just do what I used to tell my students to do, "If you don't know what to write about, write about the fact that you don't know what to write about."
Now, back to that to do list!
I had lofty ambitions for ISTE. I wanted to learn as much as I could while capturing it all in blogs and podcast episodes. The hope was to use these items to share with those who could not attend and provide a record of my learning so I could further reflect on it and work to create learning opportunities and better coaching experiences for the teachers I work with. I had a plan. I came armed with the new state Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies to help provide some focus for the sessions I chose, a notebook to scribble down ideas and sketch out flow charts, and multiple devices to help me type, record, and organize my thoughts.
I will say that the planning and preparation did help to provide focus.I felt that I was able to choose some effective sessions and that I was doing a pretty good job of capturing my learning through private notes, blog posts, or audio recordings. Even though every goal was not completely met, I felt that I was gaining a great deal of insight into topics I was not as familiar with and I was gathering some fantastic resources for myself and my teachers. My focus was all consuming and I was laser focused on my goals.
But on the morning of day three, I hit a wall and I hit it hard. To be 100% honest, I was a bit upset with my self come the beginning of the third day of the conference. I had pushed myself the first two days so much that I was exhausted and overwhelmed. That morning seemed to be so much less productive than any of the time I had spent in the two days prior and I started to focus on a number of things that I did not complete which I had intended to complete, like blogging about each session I attended as a way to provide record and a beginning to a reflection.
After a discussion with one of my virtual PLN members I felt a great deal better. I am not sure if it was the fact that I had actually sat down and talked in a relaxed atmosphere as opposed to spending that time taking notes, thinking, and working, but the discussion seemed to fill me back up with the enthusiasm and energy I needed to continue on to my next session which, probably because of my drastic attitude change, went so much better than the sessions I had attended in the morning.
While I did not reach those lofty goals that I had set for myself when I left for the conference, I did get a few blogs about specific sessions and experiences, and a few interviews and reflections recorded to share out on my podcast. I did not meet the standard I had set for myself, but I am okay with that because I still have all of the learning I gained. But even more importantly, I have the connections that I have made and solidified with other educators from all over the country, and one really nice teacher from Australia who I met while standing in a line for coffee. Those connections will continue to benefit me and my learning goals for years to come. Besides, I have time to continue reflecting, writing, and recording because learning doesn’t just stop when the conference does.
I have been a gamified education hold out. I am skeptical of using games that portray themselves as learning tools because I have seen a lot of them that are really just worksheets which reward you for getting the answer right. Now, these may be good for review, but not for really teaching concepts. There was also this fear that as a high school teacher I would delegitimize what I was teaching by using games.
Because I try to keep an open mind, I decided to sign up for a gamified session at ISTE.
The presenter, Jon Spike, was an engaging presenter with a great deal of nerdy humor. He made the case for using games during lessons and throughout units. However, the most effective thing he did with his presentation was not the fun contests or simulations which he demonstrated, it was the ability to align the games he discussed with standards, blooms taxonomy, and digital learning competencies
I learned a great deal during the session and while I still believe that there are a number of games out there that masquerade themselves as educational, I have found value in gamified lessons.
I had the chance to go to an ignite session at ISTE 2017. I originally went to support my friend Kyle Hamstra in his presentation, but I got so much out of these short presentations. The most impactful share was a student. He is a young student who spoke about how he is a connected learning in an unconnected school. He highlighted all the great things he does and the hashtag he uses to promote digital literacy and digital citizenship, #bethatkindofkid. He promotes the idea that students should be able to share their voice, solve problems, and empower eachother.
The part that got me in his presentation was the fact that he did all of this outside of school. He stressed the fact that he was not able to do these things in school because his school did not support this type of learning.
Another student, an 8th grader, talked about how he felt like a failure when he was in the traditional learning environment. It took going to another school with a flexible environment and a maker mindset to start to realize that he wasn’t a failure. He even shared that when tested he had a reading level that surpasses the 8th grade.
These stories demonstrate the need to move away from traditional learning models. Those that require students to sit in rows of desks and complete worksheets or just Google information. Why do they need to memorize dates or facts that can be found on their phones? They need to explore, create, and push the boundaries of what we already know and do.
I don’t understand why we hold students back in these ways. Humans are social beings who learn more through collaboration than they ever do just by passively listening to an expert. We have to be able to create schools that are flexible for students and allow them to explore their interests. Where they can build and learn the skills that will actually get them hired to their dream jobs because most jobs want innovators not repeaters.
Our students want more from us, why can't we give it to them?
If you want to see these student presentations for yourself, they were live streamed to the #passthescopeedu by @braveneutrino (Stacy Lovdahl).
This is my first trip to an ISTE conference and I am excited at the opportunity that I have to attend. I did not think I would be able to make the trip and had planned to follow #NotAtISTE17, but my district was able to send a group of us for which I am more than grateful. In the process of planning for this trip I have started to really think about why I am going and what I hope to accomplish. The overall goal for me, is to bring back as many great things as I can to my teachers and my district as a whole. I also feel that it is important that I align that learning and sharing with the new Digital Learning Competencies that have recently been introduced in North Carolina.
One problem I often have when I attend a conference is the overload of information. There are a great number of ideas and strategies being shared and I often walk away from each day determined to implement or share many of them. Yet, when I get home I have only been able to really come up with plans for a few items. Now I know that taking away a few key things is great and the suggestion at these types of conferences is always to pace yourself and take away those few items and implement them well. Of course, as an instructional technology coach, I want to get something for everyone I work with (No, I don’t mean swag). I want to be able to share with all of my teachers regardless of what grade or subject they teach.
So I am going to do a great deal of recording at ISTE. I have signed up for #passthescopeedu, which is a hashtag used to classify videos created on periscope that are education based. They usually share monthly, but the pass the scope crew has worked to make sure all the days of ISTE are covered thoroughly. I will jump in with my Periscope as I can. I am also going to be interviewing as many people as I can for my Podcast. This is especially true for the poster sessions where individuals will share their experiences and expertise in short bursts in a large hall filled with tables.
Finally, I want to take time to reflect and talk out what I have learned each day not just on my own, but with others. I feel I process best through talking (which is one of the reasons I started a podcast). So I will reflect privately through recordings and I am opening up my room (Thank goodness I have a fantastic roommate!) to others who have traveled from our district to reflect on each day in a round table fashion. My hope is that these recordings will provide all of us a way to take back as much as we can from this experience so we can share with those who were not able to travel to Texas.
As far as my podcast is concerned, I will do my best to edit and push out some of the best stuff as fast as I can. Again, I am so very thankful for this opportunity and the fact that my roommate is excited to participate in all of this because I’m not sure how much sleep we will get with all the great stuff going on!
North Carolina has just begun to implement their Digital Learning Competencies for Teachers. These new competencies are intended to get teachers to focus on best practices for teaching students the skills they need to work in a world that is continually changing. There are four domains of focus for these standards:
1. Leadership in Digital Learning- Teachers are looked upon to take a leadership role in the classroom, school, district, and on. Their ability to be lifelong learners should be a visible part of their practice that serves as a motivator for students and other educators to do the same.
2. Digital Citizenship- Teachers are expected to demonstrate an ability to use digital tools and media responsibly. We can’t expect students to do it if we can’t.
3. Digital Content and Instruction- Teachers are asked to create learning experiences that allow students to create their own goals, evaluate their own learning, solve authentic problems, and demonstrate a number of additional skills through the use of appropriate digital tools.
4. Data and Assessment- Teachers are asked to gather, assess, and utilize data to create a personalized learning experience that reaches students where they are and allows them to grow at a pace that is effective for them.
These are just summaries of the competencies. The link above directs you to the document released by the state of North Carolina. While at first glance they can seem relatively simple to understand and meet it will take some time to really dig in and unpack all the skills that are really being addressed in these two pages.
I will say that I appreciate the flexibility these standards provide. They allow educators to find multiple ways to grow in these areas. They also allow for growth of technology, which is always important as technology is continually changing.
This past weekend, I was able to spend some time working with a number of other educators from all over the state of North Carolina on a conference that will be traveling throughout the state late this summer. This time was extraordinarily productive as we were able to generate, work through, and begin to solidify some great ideas that will become some stellar presentations for this conference. The individuals who are participating in the creation and delivery of these sessions are all enthusiastic about their daily work and the work they are doing with this conference.
Not only did we push each other in the creation of the presentations for this event, we also pushed each other to consider different ways of looking at current problems we see in our schools and in education as a whole. The time spent together gave us a chance to not only dig into this new state initiative, but also provided a chance for reflection on how we can help our fellow educators navigate through these competencies.
I wrote in my last post that I like the way the competencies are open and allow for flexibility in how they are met, but there is also a danger in putting these out without any guidance. Teachers, especially those who are not used to using the elements that are described in these competencies, might feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to understand what they are being asked to demonstrate. This is why having strong coaches who can lead the teachers through these standards is important.
We cannot continue to throw things like these competencies at teachers without providing the support they need to be successful. Teachers are already expected to plan engaging lessons, grade and return assignments in a timely manner, serve on committees, perform additional duties (lunch, bus, testing, etc.), build relationships with their students, and a multitude of other issues for anywhere from 30 kids in elementary school to 120 kids in secondary.
Setting requirements for teachers to become more digitally competent and implement those competencies into their teaching is great, but if they do not have support through a strong coach or leader then these competencies becomes just another box for teachers to check. We have to do a better job of providing effective coaches, training, and time to allow teachers to get the most out of these skills.
One place that teachers can start is by attending the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies Conference that is being created by educators from across the state. Here you will be able to attend sessions that are aligned to the competencies and you will be able to start to digest pieces of these competencies with other educators. Because the best way to learn is through collaboration, this one day of free professional development is a great way to get teachers together to think about these competencies and how they can be used in their classes.
Click Here to Register for the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies PD Opprotunity
I just finished watching the movie Captain Underpants with my kids. In the movie, the principal and teachers are depicted as hating fun and humor. This is especially true for the villain, a science teacher named Professor Poopypants, who wants tmake everyone stop laughing because he is tired of people laughing at his name. My kids loved the movie! In fact, they are outside right now playing Captain Underpants.
While I watched the movie, I started to think about all the movies and TV shows that I have watched over the years that depicted teachers. Then I wondered about the teachers those characters were based off of which led me to the question, How would my former students depict me in a movie? Would they picture me as the teacher from Freedom Writers or the Edna Krabappel from the Simpsons? I am hoping it is the former.
Now, I understand that these figures are hyperbolized and often boiled down to one character trait that can either come out as being heroic or horrible depending on the trait that is focused on, but to be honest I have probably been a Professor Poopypants, Edna Krabappel, or other unflattering teacher before. We all have bad days and we all make mistakes, but as educators we have to take time to reflect on our actions and interactions with our students. We have to be willing to apologize when a student's humor rubbed us the wrong way or we handed out worksheets and disconnected because we didn't feel well.
We have to recognize these mistakes and character flaws that sometimes show through, forgive ourselves for the action or reaction that we had, be transparent with students about the fact that we are human and make mistakes, and work harder to show students that we have an enthusiasm for learning and working with them each and every day.
So how would your students depict you in a movie they write? This question can force you to stop and reflect on the things you say and do with your students in class because you never know which class clown will be the next screen writer. Give your students someone inspiring to write about.
Parent, Educator, Technology Lover