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.

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