tech-ucation reformation

Goodbye overheads and chalkboards! Hello virtual "paperless" classrooms!

Too Busy Doing My Job To Do My Job May 5, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 9:41 pm
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By now my Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I should be finished with our courses and ready to conduct peer reviews and make final refinements.  We have been asked to stop and reflect on whether or not we have finished our courses and why, any technology and people challenges we have faced, our thoughts on working within professional deadlines, and our strengths and weaknesses as a designer.

I have to be honest and say that my course is not finished at this point. My biggest impediments have been human conditions – mainly my own – which cannot be helped and time management. I usually am quite adept at time management, but this semester has truly come to be the “when it rains, it pours” semester. Luckily I have not really faced any technical problems, mostly just trying to figure out how to use another video editing program – a transferable and therefore fairly easy task, just extremely time consuming. I do have other video editing programs to use with which I am already experienced, but they do not capture computer screens, only footage I have taken with a camera. Also, the video editing program I am using to capture my computer activity is very expensive, so I intended on attempting to capture all my video within the 30 day free trial period.  Well, about four days into the trial, I had a major allergy attack and subsequent cold symptoms for more than a week.  When I recorded the videos, I sounded horrible.  Sure, I can edit out the sneezes and coughs, but the tone of my voice was bothersome even to me, so I was concerned about how I would sound to others. I could have asked someone else to record them for me, but then I would have to spend time writing a script and coaching them on what to say when. As for time management, I have already mentioned I usually have no problem, but this semester has been one of the most difficult of my life for personal reasons.  I am in the process of moving to another state, and all that that entails.  I am still working my full-time job, taking my two graduate courses, trying to sell a house, trying to find a new house remotely, trying to find a new job online, in addition to obtaining a license to teach in my new state.  Then, just when I thought things were about to clear up allowing me to concentrate on the course, the 1st round of STAAR scores came in, and I was added to the remediation team without being asked.  While I am a team-player, this has added a whole new level of stress to my already packed schedule.  I have come to the point to where I will have to lower my own quality standards for everything I do.  Luckily the house has sold, and we just have to deal with inspections and paperwork.  I have given up on the job hunt until after the school year is over.  The snags I have encountered to become certified in the new state will have to wait a few more weeks, and my regular full-time job duties will also have to wait for another week or two. I just keep telling myself it will all be over soon no matter the outcome.

Wow, I am really getting off topic and sounding like I am having a pity party.  The point is that I love the design work I am doing in school and the new career I am breaking into, I just want to do a super fantastic job.  But that is the problem – the doing!  In the future, I will need to have time dedicated to the instructional design job.  If that is the main job, the one I will be getting paid for, then certainly the time will be there.  Unfortunately right now, it is not.  The hardest part has been realizing that all of this was unforeseeable.  Had I known all these issues were going to happen, I would have only taken one class and saved the last two for summer.  So how does this apply to professional instructional design?  People have lives outside of work, and sometimes life just gets in the way.  The sacrifices we make to improve ourselves and become better both professionally and personally are often greater than we should handle.  Learning how to say no and only taking on the projects you can handle will be important.  If working for a company, they will be able to provide insight into the level of quality expected so you do not get overwhelmed by going overboard or overextending yourself.  But in the end there will be an end, there will be a point of no return. Professional companies likely will not micromanage a designer by asking for regular reports or quarterly deadlines. The designer will have to self-manage and stick to their own deadlines.

As for my strengths, I have an uncanny ability to see the overall big picture and break it down into parts.  In fact, I prefer it that way – I need to see the whole first before I can logically break it down into smaller, manageable pieces. I also am very good at organizing information to make it more comprehensible to other people.  As for my weaknesses, I am often very wordy and need to think about making directions more succinct. I am just somewhat good at anticipating issues before others know they can be an issue and addressing them head on.  So my instructions, especially to young children, must also include what NOT to do.

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Considering What is Left March 30, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:17 am
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My Technology-Based Learning Environments class is at the halfway mark of our course development. My course mates and I are continuing to add information to our courses as well as presenting what we have done with the rest of the class via online presentations. We have been asked to consider what is left to be done, what challenges we have dealt with, and if we will meet our completion timeline.

I feel as though I am quickly catching up to where I want to be with my online course development. Although it appears as if I have not done nearly what I need to complete, so much of what I have left will go quickly because I have a consistent method for how I am developing the course. As for what is left to complete, the punch list is long. Under each module exists a page for each day of the week; I still need to update about half of those. Luckily, I spent a great deal of time updating my design document, so part of process is already completed – the list of activities. I just need to elaborate on what specifically will need to be completed each day. I also need to complete most of my instructional pages. I have been saving those for last because I want them to be more visually stimulating. I know what I want to go in them, I am just still exploring how to make them more than just reading material. Speaking of more than reading material, my plan is to incorporate multiple short videos throughout the course to explain how to complete various projects, conduct peer reviews, and use the programs. I anticipate this to be my biggest challenge and plan to complete most of them in the next few weeks. I do feel I have taken on quite a large undertaking and worry I may not be able to meet my timelines perfectly, but the course will be finished before the due date even if adjustments to the course must be made to meet the final deadline. The creation of original materials is what will challenge me to meet the deadlines. Teachers usually just use the materials they have been given and rarely make their own. I consider myself to have a knack for pulling together the best of the materials which already exist; I mean, why reinvent the wheel? But because Canvas has made it so easy to create and edit material, especially if the material will be reused again and again, the recreation of the materials I am pulling together should go smoothly.

I am unclear about my ability to implement this course because it is not being built specifically for a client or even me to implement immediately. I plan to keep it in tact until I need to implement it. My plan was to create the course in such a way that certain aspects of it can be modified for other needs. Perhaps a client wants to implement it over a semester. Other than changing due dates and the name of the daily pages, it should be fairly easy to modify for a variety of needs. I have been working more and more with the rubrics to evaluate the projects. Canvas makes it so easy to create, copy, modify, and save rubrics. So yes, I have a long way to go, but my plan is well-established. I am, however, really excited to switch up peer reviewers for the rest of the course to obtain some different feedback on the development so far.

 

Canvas Development Peer Reviews March 17, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 11:01 pm
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My Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I have taken the opportunity to peer-review the first quarter of our Canvas course development.  We have been asked to reflect on the feedback from our peers as well as compare expected timelines in the professional world to what we are doing as students.

First, let me say that my peer-reviewer is AMAZING!  She has provided me with such positive feedback on what I have done well that I know I am on the right track with the next developmental phases.  I have reciprocated the feedback because she too is doing a fantastic job.  I have to admit that I am utilizing some of her ideas in my development.  I know this is not direct feedback from her, but in a way, it is still feedback.  For example, we have both developed a front page in which we welcome our students, but she added a nice graphic and links to some of the videos Canvas offers to help new users learn how to use the various aspects of Canvas such as setting up a profile and communicating with other course participants.  I also decided to add a graphic appropriate to my course and plan to add a Canvas orientation page later in my development.  In my course, I provided links to information specific to the course which is important but not necessary to completing the course – a background information page, a goals and objectives page, and a direct link to the modules.  As a result, my peer added these to her course as well.  Although not meant to be feedback, the replication is just as positive and constructive, letting me know I am making good design decisions.  My peer also reminded me to make sure I consistently address the same audience; I had neglected to revise a couple of sections which I had copied and pasted from the design document to the course.  My design document was directed toward stakeholders and supervisors while the same information in Canvas is directed to the student.  This valuable feedback reminds me to continue to review how I am wording directions in future development.  If we as the instructor are speaking to our students, then we need to write the information in a similar fashion.  But perhaps the best feedback is the professional behavior of my peer-reviewer.  Even her criticism is constructive and positive which makes me want to continue to impress her.

Now allow me to present my thoughts on the difference in timelines between developing instruction in the professional world and as a student.  Because the course is spread over 16 weeks over which we will develop one course, this is not nearly as authentic as the typical 3-week timeline we would experience as professionals.  However, there are other major differences involved here.  For example, my peers and I are developing the course for a 3-hour graduate class.  It is assumed that we all have full-time jobs and are taking graduate courses on the side, or that we are going to school full-time and taking multiple graduate courses.  It is difficult to understand how many projects a professional instructional designer is handling at once, but if we are performing the job full-time, certainly we would be spending much more time in course-development than we would in a class.  Another major difference is the number of people involved in professional course-development.  At this point, my course only has three people involved:  my professor, my peer-reviewer, and myself.  In the professional world, the instructional designer would have clients, supervisors, subject-area experts, technical experts, and possibly even other instructional designers working on the same course.  I believe the involvement of more people could both help and hinder timelines.  Consider that each time the client or supervisor suggests or requires a change, the designer will need time to revise work which has already been developed.  Having experts and other designers working on the same project would, in contrast, speed up the process.

 

Canvas Course Updates

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 1:46 am
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My Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I have been busy loading our course information into the Canvas learning management system this for the past week or so.  In my last blog I reported that I am about a week behind due to taking a road trip halfway across the country to see my father who is fighting cancer.  As it turns out, I also ran into a bit of a side trip with my course.  Because we have been asked to reflect on what we needed to revise about our courses based upon the structure of the LMS, this is a perfect time to bring it up.

For the first-quarter course submission, we had to input information which had already been thoroughly developed and peer-reviewed.  The easy part was simply copying and pasting text from the design document into the LMS.  Sure, some editing was necessary, but the content was the essentially same.  This allowed my course mates and I to focus on the structure of the LMS thinking about the most appropriate placement of the information.  For the second-quarter course submission, we are now working on adding our instruction, activities, and assessments.  Because this content was not developed prior to input, we must also develop as we input.  Once I started working with the various aspects of Canvas, specifically the Modules and Assignments, I saw that I needed to give more thought to the structure of my own course, specifically the sequence of activities and how that might be interpreted in Canvas.  I actually returned to the design document for a major overhaul.  After all, the information will be put into multiple places in Canvas, so I wanted it to be correct before input saving editing time in the future.  Now that the paper overhaul is in a good place, I have begun to input it into Canvas.  I cannot stress how easy it has been to get the info into Canvas after the overhaul.  It is not only going so smoothly, it is actually guiding me on the development of instruction.  The ideas were there, but writing them out has become such a cinch!  I have a much better idea about both how long the rest of this stage of the development will take me bringing me back on track with my course mates and what my next stage will require time-wise and content-wise.

As for how the design model is working for me, I feel as though I have overcome a major hurdle and can now move forward with greater speed and efficiency.  To those of you who develop online courses but are not using Canvas, it may be time to rethink that plan. I have used Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo, and Schoology; Canvas is now my new favorite.  I was concerned about how my population of younger students may receive Canvas as compared to Edmodo or Schoology, but Canvas actually allows you to develop your content more like a Word document or a website, so you can make content appear exactly the way you want.  Schoology is geared more towards younger students, but it experienced a major hacker attack several months ago, and I have been cautious about using it ever since. Canvas is a great alternative.

 

Beginning Work in Canvas March 9, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:32 pm
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This week, my Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I are starting to input our own course information into the online learning management system (or LMS) we will be using this semester called Canvas. If you are not familiar with Canvas, I highly recommend reviewing the informational website here. This is my first exposure to the LMS, and thus far, I am highly impressed with the functionality and flexibility.

At this point, we have been asked to input information we have already developed in our instructional design document such as the learning theory we will utilize, course goals and objectives, and information about the purpose of the course including the problem the course intends to solve. However, once I began to enter the information, I realized how versatile Canvas can be making it possible to place the information just about anywhere. This has both advantages and disadvantages. Fantastic that I have such choices about where to put information including adding graphics and changing colors, but the possibilities are becoming a bit overwhelming. It is probably a good thing we are not developing new information right now and simply playing with the Canvas features. My biggest challenge has been to figure out how to create a front page for the learner to view once the first log in to the course. As it turns out, we must publish that page then set it to be our front page. Luckily Canvas provides an extensive help and support site which allowed me to figure out my problem. What has gone really well is my experiments with the modules and course progression. I love the prerequisite feature which requires the learner to complete one module before moving on to the next. Because my target audience is much younger, exposing them to the entire course might be overwhelming. So limiting them to only what I want them to see at a time is a plus.

Due to some personal and family issues which asked me to travel across the country, I am about a week behind in my Canvas course development which I hope to catch up during the next two weeks. So because my course mates and I were not supposed to have our peer reviews done until this week, by the time this blog was due, I should not have been able to give or receive feedback. However, the feedback I have received from my peer has been extremely valuable. Most of her comments have been about the placement of information as opposed to the content, and I quite agree. Canvas allows the teacher to create highly-visual pages and organize information into limitless pages and modules. I have provided my peer with similar feedback. So far, most of the development has involved the where to place it as opposed to what to place. As for what I have learned so far, Canvas is a very powerful LMS. I have only broached the basics of what it can do, and I am eager to explore more options.

 

Other Instructional Design Models February 15, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:31 am
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This week my Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I are now in the process of finishing our instructional design documents based upon the feedback we received from our professor and our peer reviewer. We have been asked to study an instructional design model we are not familiar with and report on what we find. I researched a model known as the Morrison, Ross, and Kemp Design Model (or MRK). What originally attracted me to this model was mention of how useful it is to classroom teachers because it involves them in the process (Gustafson and Branch, 2001). In our courses, my course mates and I typically utilize the ADDIE model: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. While movement occurs both backwards and forwards through the ADDIE steps, the process occurs in order and eventually ends. The MRK model expands the ADDIE model into nine interrelated steps and forms them into a more circular process which does not have to be completed in a specific order (Akbulut, 2007).

As a teacher, I constantly reassess what I teach including how and with what materials. I also must adjust to the needs of my students each year and with each class or section. The MRK model is different from other instructional design models yet supports what I do because “it considers instruction from the perspective of the learners” and “puts a greater emphasis on how to manage an instructional design process” (Akbulut, 2007, p. 64). Speaking of the learners, the ADDIE model analyzes the learners’ needs as it identifies a necessity for a new instructional design. The MRK model subscribes to the idea that the instructional design will be used again and again but may need adjustments with each implementation based upon the learners’ characteristics. Another marked difference is that the ADDIE process often requires new resources to be created specific to the instructional need while the MRK process allows for the review and selection of materials which have already been created by other sources. As a teacher, rarely would I have created my own worksheets, reading passages, videos, or other instructional resources. Instead, I would have reviewed the resources and chosen which best conveyed the information. Because of these reasons, I feel I may have to keep this model close at hand for future reference.

It is important to understand that theoretical learning theories such as cognitivism and constructivism are different from instructional design models. Learning theories attempt to explain how the learner interacts with and acquires the content while instructional design models attempt to create a formalized process with which to create the content. Instructional design will identify and employ an appropriate learning theory as part of the process because ID models do not explain how learners learn. Also, learning theories are broad enough that may different instructional design models could be used. When considering what a client needs, this distinction is necessary because the design will often depend upon what and how the learners will learn.

References:

Akbulut, Y. (2007). Implications of two well-known models for instructional designer in distance education: Dick-Carey versus Morrison-Ross-Kemp. The Turkish online journal of distance education, 8, 62-68.

Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2001). Survey of instructional development models ( 4th ed.). Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

 

Peer Reviews of Instructional Designs February 9, 2015

Filed under: 5510 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:39 am
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My course mates and I are well into creating and reviewing our instructional design documents in my Technology-Based Learning Environments class.  I have decided to go with the cross-curricular, project-based course for gifted and talented students.  I actually created most of the ideas several years ago as a gifted/talented teacher, but I did not write out objectives, lesson plans, or rubrics.  Also, the projects were not required to be completed using computer technologies, so turning the ideas into projects which can be created with online technologies is what I have been concentrating on the most.  What I have struggled with the most is expanding the entire course up to between 40 and 45 hours.  My GT students and I would not have had this much time together, so I know the amount of activities I am developing will not be possible with a GT program which meets only the minimum time required by law.  However, now that I think about it, a course such as this really could have helped my students spend more time on projects outside of regular meetings times because of the online nature of the course.  For this blog, we have been asked to reflect upon the feedback from our peers as well as discuss what we used and did not use and why.

After receiving feedback from my professor on the first draft, I focused on developing the course goals and objectives in addition to the timeline of course activities to a greater extent.  My peer reviewer provided me with even more guidance on the goals and objectives, especially the addition of how to conduct research.  I am so thankful because of the struggles I am having with writing them out.  Because searching for information on the Internet will be a skill used throughout the course to complete assignments, goals and objectives are necessary.  Funny how it sometimes takes the perspective of a professional in another field to stress the importance of some skills – in this case, my peer reviewer is a librarian, so developing searches is within her field of expertise.  As for disagreeing with any feedback and not changing the design according to the peer review, I am afraid to say this will not be happening.  All feedback was valuable resulting in at least minor changes, if only to clarify confusing writing or further explain ideas which are unclear.

I ponder how a peer review will be conducted in the world of professional instructional design.  The need for multiple perspectives or just another set of eyes to find typos is critical to a quality final product.  Perhaps the client or a project manager will serve in this role.

 

 
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