Sway With Me!

I took the opportunity to play around with a new digital tool (for me at least!) for this digital resources reflection.  I hadn’t heard of Sway before this week, but thanks to a fellow classmate and teacher, I got to playing around with it and really loved it!

I used Sway to address crucial questions when reflecting on how digital technology has impacted my life both personally and professionally.  Additionally, I talk about ways in which educators can stay current on changes, updates and trends in education, and how we can continue to further our own learning opportunities.

Please take a moment and Sway with me!

A Personal Reflection & Analyzing Online Learning

What a journey the past 13 months have been.  I’ve spent a great amount of time in the last year focusing on the implementation of my innovation plan in our middle school grade levels, however, for the last 5 weeks, I’ve been able to focus some of that attention into creating a blended, online learning course called, “A Collaborative Digital Storytelling Project”, for my 8th grade photography students.

Storytelling
http://www.thescribo.com/storytelling/

In the process of designing any online course, I’ve come to the conclusion that the constructivist learning theory is one that allows the learner to gain knowledge and form opinions through the engagement between peers, rather than the traditional learning method of memorization.  I’ve given very careful thought to the materials that I have chosen to include in my course, and with the addition of the weekly discussion boards within the course, learners are able to gain knowledge and meaning through personal reflection and the exchange of dialogue between each other.

Fink’s 3 column table method allowed me to essentially plan this course using an backward design approach.  Rather than create this course from beginning to end, using my 3 column table allowed me begin with the end in mind.  In other words, learning goals were established long before the actual course was designed, and in turn, this gave me the opportunity to come up with various learning activities in which the learners could meet those learning goals.

I also found that the Schoology LMS was a great platform for creating this online course.  I love the way I was able to break down my course any way I chose while still keeping the interface fairly simple for my middle school students to use.  One thing that I’ve realized is that, while many learners are more receptive to learning through the use of technology, it is important not to come to the conclusion that students know everything about technology just because we live in a time where it surrounds us in everything we do.  It is still important to guide them, especially when using a system that they are not familiar with.  For this reason, I decided to create a screen cast video for my students to walk them through the basics of logging into Schoology, joining the online course and maneuvering the website/course.  I thought this would be a fairly short 3 minute video or so, however, by the time I hit finish, my video was 11 minutes long!  I contemplated whether it was too long for my students, but after watching it a few times, I think everything that I covered were things they need to know.. and things they might question as they go along.  I figured it was better for me to cover all bases than potentially loose valuable class time over tech issues.  I decided to insert this video in the homepage of my online course.  That way the students can’t miss it, and can go back to it anytime during the course, if they feel the need to.

While I don’t think online learning is replacing face to face instruction in our Pre K-8 school anytime soon, I do realize the importance of giving our students the online learning experience.  We want our students to go on to high school and college, and ultimately into the workforce, feeling confident and experienced with using technology.  By providing our students with these types of experiences, we are giving them valuable life lessons, as well as enhancing the learning experience for them.  I’ve said many times that the inclusion of technology in our teachings must be meaningful, purposeful and must enhance the learning experience for our students.  We simply cannot switch to digital “just because we can”.

While chatting with some of my peers, I’ve also come to know of various different online offerings that are available for both students and educators.  Some of the ones that I’ve been looking at include some FREE online courses through  iTunes U.  I’ve actually known of iTunes U, Apple’s learning and education “university”,  for quite some time, but admit that I haven’t been on and searched it for quite some time.  I was reminded of the incredible amount of free resources that are on there.  I’ve also looked at Canvas, an LMS that I wasn’t aware of at all.  Canvas is another learning management system, similar to Schoology.  I haven’t created an course on Canvas, but am glad to know of other LMS platforms.  Blackboard is another LMS, that I have come to know very well, as this is the LMS that Lamar University uses for all of it’s online courses.  Udemy, Edx and Moodle are other resources I’ve come to know through the discussion with peers.

The main thing that I have taken from this course is that we, the teachers and course developers, are never finished.  As I mentioned to some of my graduate peers this week, one thing that’s been replaying in my mind is that funny, but crazy annoying song we all know from when we were kids, “This is the song that doesn’t end… Yes it goes on and on, my friend..”  This process never ends for us.  There is constant feedback being received and tweaking and enhancements we continue to make for the sake of our students.  Creating an online course is something I have never done prior to this course, and now, I see the potential it has for our school and students.  I’m now thinking of different lessons and professional learning opportunities it has for even our staff!  This graduate course came along at the perfect time, and I’m both excited and thankful for it allowing me to open my eyes to another realm of possibilities!

 

Converting Courses to an LMS Platform

I’ve worked endlessly the last 4 weeks on creating an online course for a fun collaboration project between my 8th Grade photography students and my Betas.  I’ve been SO pleased with the outcome, and I’m ecstatic that my idea for this has been accepted by my department heads.  I’ll be starting this course THIS week in my fine art elective class!

The process of creating this online course has gotten my wheels turning.  I’m beginning to see the potential and the convenience an online course can bring for our students and even teachers and faculty in my school.  I’ve mentioned before that this year, Presbyterian School is focusing on looking at our assessments.  Is the way we are currently assessing our students in the classroom effective?  Are there alternative forms of assessment we should be looking at?  Throughout this year, PLC groups have been meeting monthly to brainstorm, research and present different ways we can be assessing in the classroom.  There’s a mathematical mindset, EC assessment, creative writing and ePortfolio group, just to name a few.  At the end of the school year, once school has let out, there will be a large group, professional learning meeting in which each group will have the opportunity to present their findings to all of the faculty.  I’ve started to think- What if we somehow created an all online PL course in which each of these “assessment groups” have a designated unit in the course so that teachers and faculty can access and complete the course on their own time?  I obviously haven’t worked out all the details yet, but I think it would be great to enter in all of this great information into Schoology, or another LMS and have teachers join the course on their own time, instead of losing valuable time in the classroom.  I think it’s something worth looking into!

Another idea I’ve had recently is to create an online course for middle school students as they prepare to begin creating their own ePortfolios.  I’ve had the opportunity to pilot ePortfolios in my 8th grade fine art elective, however the goal is to have all middle school students in grades 6-8 to have an ePortfolio.  One that they can use to house important artifacts and projects for their school work.  In discussing this with my supervisors, we realize that we do not necessarily want them to use a school template, or to create the ePortfolio through their school email, because we want our students to continue to use the ePortfolios in high school and college.  Trying to teach students how to create and maintain an ePortfolio during normal class time is challenging, because there is so much information to relay, and while I want to cover that information, I cannot afford to loose too much of my class time for ePortfolios and not be able to cover the class information I need to be teaching.  I’ve already said, teaching students about ePortfolios and helping them in creating one is another class entirely, and well, why not create an online course on ePortfolios?  I can break down the course in different units, and post all materials and assignments in Schoology.  I think something like this would be so beneficial for our students, and will not take away valuable class time from teachers.

There are just a couple ideas I’ve had since starting the process of designing an online class.  The possibility are endless!

Designing an Online Course | A Progress Post

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks carefully designing an exciting 5 week online course for my 8th grade photography students.  Last week, I mentioned that I was in the process of carefully selecting which resources I wanted to add into the course for my middle schoolers.  Things like videos, article readings and case studies.  Since then, I’ve uploaded just about everything into Schoology, the LMS platform I decided to go with.  I have all resources, discussion topics and weekly assignments and activities already in the course.  What I’ve focused on this week, is creating a screencast video for my students that will help them login to Schoology, access the course, and maneuver that course.  Schoology is a system that our school has not worked with before, and so I felt the need to help guide my students with a video on how to login in and access all course information.

In addition to the screencast video, I’ve also completed a very detailed outline of what will be covered and what will be expected of students each week.  You may access the full outline here.

It’s been a great experience designing this course so far, and while nearly all of the content has been uploaded, I’m still making some tweaks and minor adjustments here and there.  I know this will such a great collaborative project, one that our school hasn’t quite done before, so I’m excited the see that work and relationships that come out of my students.

An Action Research Plan

In my most recent graduate course, I’ve been able to refine and tweak things in my innovation plan.  I’ve revisited the literature, and with the help of a few of my classmates, have worked on a collaborative literature review in which we take an in depth look at what a student ePortfolio is, how they can be of benefit to the student, and how maintaining an ePortfolio can boost student engagement in class.  This has been a year long project for me, and every time I think I am happy with it, I realize that this isn’t something that is every going to be complete.  My plan is constantly evolving, just as technology is constantly evolving around us.  

With help of my classmates, colleagues and professors, I’ve developed this Action Research Plan, in which I address my topic of research, the focus of the research (my research question), and my collaborative literature review, among other things.  This has been a long, but worthwhile journey. Thanks for joining me on this ride.

 

The topic of the action research

As is the norm in middle and high school elective courses, students may elect 2-3 courses offered that might be of interest to them. This doesn’t always mean that student schedules reflect what they picked. Often times, students are put into electives that are of no interest to them, which then presents its challenges in seeing meaningful, conceptual work from the student. How might the use of the student ePortfolios enhance student engagement?

The purpose of the study

If one were to think about what it means to enhance student engagement in an art course, what is really sought after is an increase in student ownership. The idea is to have students involved in the discussion of art and passionate about the art that they create, readily available to support their art in writings and discussion. For many students, there is a lack of generated interest in the electives they choose, which in turn affects the effort they put forth in creating art.

The fundamental research question

What impact will the regular posting of photographs, artifacts and student reflections through an ePortfolio have on student engagement in the 8th grade photography elective?

The research design and research methods

The mixed-method approach will be used to gather the necessary data in this action research study.

The type of data to be collected

The data collected from the mixed-method approach will provide a supportive balance between qualitative and quantitative data. While the voices and opinions of students recorded through interviews and reflections are of great value, so is the data collected from pre/post student surveys. Ongoing observations and documentation of student engagement and work ethic will also be taking place.

The measurement instruments that will be used

Data will be collected in a variety of ways.  I will continue to use my personal observations of my students throughout the elective course, along with individual interviews during and after the course has been completed.  Students will be able to compete surveys anonymously to protect their identities and keep their information private.

Literature review

The literature review provides an in depth at ICT in schools while also providing an understanding of what an ePortfolio is, how they can be beneficial for students, and challenges that might arise in implementation of ePortfolios in schools.

The literature review also focuses on the effects ePortfolios have on student engagement, specifically in fine art electives in the middle school level.

Timeline of Important Dates

August 2016-May 2017

Begin implementation of the innovation plan in the 8th Grade Photography elective class. The pilot will last one full school year.  Distribute anonymous surveys to students at the conclusion of the photography elective each quarter.

January 3, 2017

PLC discoveries and surprises about assessments.  A halfway “checkpoint” in which each PLC group will present to all faculty and staff the findings and surprises they have come across up until this point. Begin collecting and analyzing data.

May 31, 2017

Collect and analyze the data that has been collected during this pilot year. Share and communicate the results with a group presentation to all faculty and staff during work week.

May 2017- May 2018

Reflect on the pilot process with the Director of Fine Arts, Headmaster, Head of Middle School and middle school advisories and discuss whether the plan will be extended to other subjects and grade levels.

Extending the plan to all middle school students to have and maintain an ePortfolio will be something we gradually expand over a 2-3 year period

 

 

A Call to Action!

As learners we are continuously learning from our own mistakes.

Yes, we are educators, but we aren’t perfect, and we don’t always get it right the first time.

With any sort of change initiative, especially on the grand scale of school or district wide change, our efforts don’t always go as planned… which is why I’m pushing for a call to action!

Many of you have been on this journey with me of implementing ePortfolios in my 8th grade photography class.  Currently I’m piloting my plan… and I’m learning.  It hasn’t been “a walk in the park” implementation, and I knew it wouldn’t be.  Luckily, I have the support of my Director of Fine Arts and I’ve been able to have some great discussions of what we could do to make this work.  I’ve created the attached outline in which I address the reasons behind this action research study, what I plan to measure and how I plan to measure them.  Click on the link (or the photo below) to take a look at the plan and give me feedback.  We’re all in this together, right?

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-5-59-58-pm

Rolling Out ePortfolios-An Update

For about 6 months now, I’ve been working endlessly on creating a plan that I believe will truly transform the way our middle schoolers learn while also embodying our “THINK-MAKE-TALK” philosophy introduced last year.

15NovFullFAC

Details of my innovation plan to implement ePortfolios in middle school can b e accessed in this blog post, written last May.  In it, one can find links to my original proposal, a review of global trends and a digital presentation that embodies the reason why I decided to focus on student ePortfolios.  Here, one can also find the WHY, HOW & WHAT of this whole plan.  The reason I feel this is so important.

So, what’s happened since then?  

Well, this post will serve as a benchmark- an update, if you will, to the original plan.

In May of last year, once school let out, I sat down with my Director of Fine Arts and presented her with my proposal, a literature review of global trends and showed her my Story Behind the Story presentation.  It was all received very well, and I was given the go ahead to pilot ePortfolios in my Fine Art elective course, 8th Grade Digital Photography.  Fast forward to October of the new school year, and the piloting process went great on my end in the first quarter, however, the issue that I run into is that I am an Early Childhood teacher that happens to teach one middle school elective class.  Usually, I teach my class year round, however, this year, I’m flip flopping with another teacher who teaches another fine art elective.  So, I am only teaching my class in quarters 1 & 3 of this year.. not year round.  That limits me quite a bit as far as how much time I can work with my kids.

As I reflect on what has worked thus far, I cannot deny that the kids didn’t love creating the ePortfolios.  I gave them a few points to keep in mind, and they flew with the idea.  They were not limited to Wordpress, Google Sites or Wix.  They had the choice to choose what platform they wanted to use, the only direction I gave them was that they needed to create an About Me page, a blogging area for posting, and a tab for collected projects.  Most of them ended up going with Wordpress and it worked wonderfully.  I really wanted their personalities to shine through, after all, their ePortfolios should be a reflection of their personalities and interests.

One aspect that I have found challenging is that although I have been given the complete go ahead from my Director of Fine Arts to pilot the ePortfolios in my class, it is just that.  A pilot of ePortfolios in photography class.  So, as you can imagine, the websites the students have created look more like photography websites than they do ePortfolios.  I’d love for them to get more substantial content on there, however, we were only able to post some photo projects.  I also struggled with getting my students to WRITE.  Many times, they’d post their photos, and only “caption” them with a sentence or two.  I can’t tell you how many times I explained that we are not simply posting snapshots for social media purposes.  So, how could I get my 8th graders to really write in Photography class?  I want deep, content rich, thought processing going on, and I just wasn’t getting that.  After talking to one of my classmates in my masters program, I realized that my students have probably never seen a real ePortfolio before.  Although digital natives, the only “profiles” these students know are Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat profiles.  So, what I plan on doing is to show them examples of effective ePortfolios that will be of interest to them and not be considered “too boring”.  I also need to be creative in the assignments we do.  Having them create a photo project on something of importance to them will hopefully do the trick on getting them to elaborate more.  Also, maybe collaborating on a project with other teachers might be a good idea.  Coming up with a project that can be worked on in English, History and Photography could be a great way to encourage further critical thinking and writing skills.

Providing Ongoing Teacher Support through PLC Mondays!

In reviewing the literature and various case studies, one of the recurring issues that came up with plans that didn’t pan out, was the lack of ongoing teacher support.  Insufficient teacher support can serves as a major roadblock in ICT in education.  So many schools are NOT providing their teachers with the proper training needed to use ICT devices in the classroom.  

Our school does a really great job of offering great opportunities for professional development in a variety of ways.  I’m in my fourth year at the school, and I’ve never felt like the time spent was a waste.  A couple years ago, we started reserving select Monday afternoons as “PLC Mondays”.  Teachers had the opportunity to see what PLCs were going to be offered, and could sign up via Google Sheets for a PLC that interested or applied to them.  We found these to be great, but as with anything, they could be better.  We know that collaboration is great, and that it’s how we learn best, but we can’t collaborate just for sake of collaboration.  It must be purposeful and ongoing.  It was great that I could sign up for something that interested me.. Maybe a new tool I wanted to learn and use in my classroom, but as we know, I’m not going to get it all down in one hour of PD.  Many times, I left those PLCs inspired… GREAT!  Now what?

So this year, PLCs work a little different.  This year, our school is taking a good look at assessments.  Is how we are currently assessing our kids working? Should we start looking into alternative forms of assessment? There are about eight different PLCs on Mondays- Mathematical mindsets, early childhood assessments, creative writing assessments, and ePortfolios.  I was asked by my Head of Early Childhood and Lower School to lead a PLC on ePortfolios. What’s different this year, is that teachers are not going online to sign up for a PLC that sparks an interest for them. We have all been assigned to different PLC groups and when you attend this PLC it doesn’t stop there. Teachers are to stay in theses same PLC groups for the entire year.  The school has acknowledged that our learnings, must be ongoing.  We need to have continuous support if we are going to effectively change our teaching practices.  Again.. It’s a focused, ongoing learning environment.

While I am only half way into the year with piloting ePortfolios in my middle school class, I don’t feel the need to “change” my plan in any way yet.  Since my time with them is limited (as I am primarily an Early Childhood teacher), I’d like to see this year through, and continue to reflect on what has worked, what could be done better, and how to apply lessons learned.  The monthly PLC meetings are a great way to see how we are doing and to take notes on what we might need to tweak as we bring in more subjects into the implementation next year.  It’s been a great learning experience so far, and I can’t wait to see how my next group of students take to the ePortfolios in quarter 3!