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.

Compiling Resources for an Online Course

Last week, I gave some insight on what I’d be up to for the 5 weeks as a part of my grad school course.  As I mentioned before, I am in the process of designing an all online course for my 8th grade photography class on Schoology, in which they will be collaborating with our youngest students, the Betas (3-4 year olds) on a storytelling project.

I’ve spent quite some time designing the framework for this course,week by week, including carefully choosing a variety of resources, including videos, TedTalks, articles, case studies, discussion posts, and assignments.  All of the selected resources and materials have been added in their designated spots within the Schoology LMS.  As this is a collaborative storytelling project using photography, I’ve added one of the videos that will be apart of my course below.  Is Photography Storytelling?

In addition to gathering resources, I’ve carefully planned out a detailed outline that covers about 50% of the course.  I will expand on this outline in the coming weeks and will update it here, but for now, this is what is being planned for this 5 week course.

Designing an Online Course

I’ve just completed the first week of my TENTH course in my graduate school journey.  I’m 12 months into this program and I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

In this class, we are spending 5 weeks designing an online course.  Within the first two days of this new class, I was a bit nervous of the challenge of designing an online course, as I have never worked with any LMS platform, and didn’t quite know where to start.  After a few suggestions, I decided to design my course through Schoology.  I’ve had a great time navigating the capabilities within Schoology and am quite happy with the progress of my online course so far.

For my course, I’ve decided to build off of my 3-column table that I designed back in June with my Beta students (3-4 yr. olds).  As I mentioned in the above linked blog post, our school is already pretty involved in the Rice Literacy and Culture Project, specifically, the Classroom Storytelling Project, and I wanted to design a course where my 8th grade photography students could lend their photographic skills to bring the dictated stories of my Beta students to life.  I loved the thought of having the middle schoolers collaborate with our youngest students on a project that is so important to our school.  We really recognize and value the importance of storytelling in our younger grade levels, and wanted to create something that would bring the two grade levels together, despite the age differences.  For some great information on how storytelling in the classroom can help build literacy, please see the video below.

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/pre-k-lesson-literacy-skills/embed.js?width=480

Briefly, in this 5 week course, the middle school photography students will have opportunities to talk and interact with Betas.  Each of them will be assigned to 3-4 Beta students.  They will sit one on one with them and let them tell them a story.  Any story.  The photography students will write down their story as the Beta is telling it to them, and they will also be recording them as they share their story.  They will learn that, at times, they might need to assist the Betas in continuing their stories and encourage descriptive language by using open-ended questions to help prompt them to the next part of their story.

This is were it gets fun.

The middle school photography students will then create photographic images to go with the stories.  They will need to be creative in how they create visuals.  Once they have completed the images, they will then use the app Shadow Puppet on their iPads to bring it all together.  They will use the original recording and edit it to create a voice over to accompany the photographs in the stories.  We will then install the written stories, printed photographs and a QR code that will take viewers to the Shadow Puppet video with voiceover.

Talk about collaboration!  This is a fun project for both the middle schoolers and Betas that will encourage more storytelling among our younger students and also push our photographers to think outside the box while they put to use what they have learned about photography.

The audience for this online course will be the 8th grade photography students, and as mentioned before, will be divided into 5 weeks:

  • Week 1 (02/6-02/10): What is Storytelling?
  • Week 2 (02/13-02/17): Collaboration
  • Week 3 (02/20-02/24): Think Outside The Box!
  • Week 4 (02/27-03/03): Think-Make-Talk
  • Week 5 (03/06-03/10): Installation

During the course, learners will have 2 critiques.  The first where they will share images that they have created by the conclusion of the third week, and the second when all work has been completed and installed at the conclusion of the fifth week.

I’m really excited to be designing this course around two big passions of mine. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

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!

 

 

Leads, Lags, WIGs and a Whirlwind- The 4DX Model

I’m one week away from completing my 5th graduate course in Digital Learning and Leading, and over the course of the last 7 months, I’ve learned SO much about what it means to be a Digital Leader in the classroom, in an organization, and even in a district.  At the completion of my current course, I will have spent the entire 5 weeks reviewing different change implementation strategies to apply to my innovation plan.  It’s quite interesting to look back at my implementation outline and see how it has evolved and changed.

The information I’ve been soaking in the past couple of weeks stems from a book written by Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Chris McChesney entitled, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals.  In a nutshell, what the authors have laid out for us are a precise set of rules that can put any plan into action.  I think what I love most about this is that the authors understand that people have great ideas- whether they be personal or work related goals, people really do want to change for the better, and when they can’t reach those goals, it isn’t because their dumb or lazy.  It’s because their busy.  When I first read this, I felt like the skies opened up and the heavens were singing praise.  In my mind, I was like, “Yessss!  Someone finally understands that I didn’t just quit, or forget about it!”.  What the authors are referring to when they say this, is that people get caught up in their day to day operations- whether it be lesson planning, meetings, parent conversations, or dealing with child behavioral issues- and often times, this urgency hinders their ability to really put a plan into action.  This is called a whirlwind.  We all have one, and sometimes, we just need a little help executing our goals in the midst of our whirlwind.

This is exactly what the 4 Disciplines of Execution were created to do.  There are rules to follow to get us to where we want to go, but the hard part is that these rules must be followed in order for us to succeed.  If you think back to the Influencer strategy I discussed, you could ask yourself, “Wasn’t that a plan for successful execution as well”?  Yes, but the difference between the Influencer strategy and 4DX is that the Influencer model focuses more on the psychological aspect of implementing change, and 4DX is all about the logistics.  I have taken a liking to both strategies, and understand now, how they can complement each other.  For me, it is not one or the other.  Personal, social, and structural influence is just as important as the following necessary steps.

The Stages of Change

Stage 1- Getting Clear:  I’ve gone over my innovation plan countless times to make sure I am as thorough as possible.  I’ve crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s, and I’ve developed a clear and concise WIG (Wildly Important Goal) that you will see below.  I acknowledge that I need to be as transparent as possible with my team and I will need to make myself readily available for assistance.

Stage 2- Lauch:  I am preparing for the lauch stage, as I type this blog post.  I am 10 days away from the first day of school, and as that date approaches I am meeting with my Director of Fine Arts and my fellow technology leaders to ensure that I am set to pilot this new program at our school.  I feel as if this stage is super important for me, because as I begin this year long pilot in my class, I will need to make sure I keep my administrators and middle school colleagues in the loop of the progress I will be making throughout the year.

Stage 3- Adoption:  I am anticipating some resistance to my plan, not from my administrators, but from some colleagues.  I expect that resistance to begin to fade away during this pilot year, once they can clearly see and understand how the following disciplines will lead to the successful execution of the WIG.  This, coupled with the student excitement of creating something that is personalized to their liking and that has the benefits of getting them into the schools they want to go to, is sure to get all teachers on board with the plan.

Stage 4- Optimization:  In this stage, I will expect teachers to be more purposeful in their own classrooms and to be active leaders.  As they begin to produce successful results in their classrooms, they will begin to look for ways in which we can improve our plan.  How can we continue to make it better?

Stage 5- Habits:  Until we have reached this stage, when the the 4 Disciplines of Execution have become second nature to us, can we call ourselves winners.  I believe once we meet our goal, others will be more open to the idea of risk taking.

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal

I talked earlier of the whirlwind and how it can cause us to loose sight of our goals.  Another important point I’ve taken away from 4DX, is that we should only have 1-2 set goals that we want to achieve.  I found this statistic, taken from the embedded video at the bottom of this post, to be very interesting.

goalsvisualThe more big goals you have on your plate, the harder it is to achieve any of those, so it it important to focus on 1-2 goals so that the chances of success are higher.  My Wildly Important Goal (WIG) is to have all middle school Presbyterian teachers designing and planning appropriate lessons that will enable student work to be uploaded onto an ePortfolio platform by May 2018.

This needs to continue to be the top priority, and results will be measured in a variety of ways.  It is also important to share successes and exemplars in all-faculty and/or division meetings to serve as recognition and inspiration on the usages of the ePortfolio in the classroom.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Lag and Lead Measures are two terms that the authors introduce to us in the 4DX book.  The terms are new to me, but the concept make total sense.  Simply put, the lag measure measures the goal and the lead measures are the important steps that need to be taken that can get us to the goal.  My lag measure is to have all middle school students graduate from the 8th grade with a solid ePortfolio.  The success of the lag measure rides on the execution of the following lead measures:

  1. Teacher Modeling- Teachers must model continuous use of the ePortfolio in each of their subjects by utilizing their own sites in classroom instruction and lessons.
  2. Collaboration and Accountability- Teachers must regularly partner with technology teachers and leaders for effective ePortfolio project designs.
  3. Evaluation and Grading- Incorporate technology integration grading criteria by evaluating student work in ePortfolios each quarter.

Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

The importance of creating a compelling scoreboard is vital.  We want to our teachers to feel like they have a chance to win, and an effective way to do that is to create a visual for them.  It’s important to keep in mind that the scoreboard needs to be simple, and not overwhelming with a bunch of statistics, and we want to make sure we have it placed in a location that is visible and/or can be accessed by everyone.  I’ve created the following example of a scoreboard that I would like to use for our ePortfolio implementation, and you’ll notice that I’ve included what the scoreboard might look like once all middle school teachers are involved.   There will be 4 different scoreboards for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and each grade level’s scoreboard will have the number of assignments submitted and the teachers for each subject.  I plan on creating a tangible scoreboard that will be placed in the middle school hallway in between the two displays of framed student work.  I will be placing it in this specific location so that it is in view where everyone, even students could see it. That way, even though the students aren’t the ones being measured, they, too, will begin rooting for their teachers.

scoreboard

 Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

We will need to make sure we are intentional about scheduling regular meetings with all parties involved that will be helping make this initiative happen.  During this pilot year, I will need to meet briefly with my Director of Fine Arts, Academic Dean, and leaders of the Covenant team on a weekly basis to touch base and talk about ways we can improve the “standings” on the scoreboard.  We will specifically reflect on last week’s measures, review the scoreboard to see if our lead and lag measures are making progress, and finally, we will need to make commitments for the upcoming week.  These will take place during PLC Mondays, to ensure that it meets everyone’s schedules, and will only be about 15-20 minutes long.

 

As I conclude this post, I hope it is evident how the 4DX strategy can help us all execute our goals in the midst of our everyday whirlwind.  I’m including the video below to help with your understanding of  how the 4DX strategy works.

Click here to access a full interactive view of my TACKK board.

References

Covey, F. (2012). Executive Overview of the 4 Disciplines of Execution [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZR2Ixm0QQE&feature=youtu.be

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your 
Wildly Important Goals. London: Simon & Schuster.