tech-ucation reformation

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

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.


Professional Instructional Design December 10, 2014

We are wrapping up the semester and finalizing our 2nd projects in my Instructional Design class.  We have been asked to explain what it means to design instruction and identify what skills are required to do it professionally.  Designing instruction involves creating some form of media for the purpose of providing information someone is expected to learn.  How this is done may appear different depending upon the job, but the basic process will be similar.  One possible design process referred to as ADDIE involves analysis, development, design, implementation, and evaluation.  While this may work for most initial projects, designs are often revised and updated as the need arises.  So a shortened version of ADDIE may occur repeatedly.  Consider the implementation period.  Much of today’s digital designs are continuously implemented but still need revising on a regular basis.  Therefore, most educational software developers update their programs according to the school year and upload those edits during the summer.

Thinking of designing professionally, three key skills are necessary.  Being knowledgeable of design software and techniques is essential to creating successful design.  Designers must keep themselves updated with latest technology, trends, and software updates.  Consider how software also gets updated on a regular basis.  Sometimes the updates are simple changes, but sometimes the entire software product is revamped.  Even the experienced user and designer must spend time learning where the tools have been moved to.  Expanding one’s skill set will certainly increase how valuable one can be to future clients.  I ponder how clients often do not know what software would be best for their need or situation; perhaps they are not aware of all the possibilities.  It will be the instructional designer’s job to hear what the client needs and help their client choose the best vehicle to articulate their ideas.

Having a background in teaching, knowledge of national and state standards, and experience with a variety of educational materials is also a key skill to being an effective instructional designer.  Even with efforts to nationalize curriculum, state standards vary across the country.  I have myself experienced issues with materials created for national standards having to be modified to Texas state standards.  No matter how the company attempted to “fit” their materials into the standards, they did not fully address the expectations or all the specificities.  Also, the TEKS are revised and updated regularly, and although designers are not involved with this process, they will experience the brunt of revising and updating websites, textbooks, consumable workbooks, etc. once the updated TEKS are adopted.  Having actual classroom experience assures the designer will consider the logistics behind implementing their products.  Teachers rarely use materials at face value, so designers must consider how teachers will modify their products, pairing them down or expanding upon them.  Designers must consider the ages of the intended audience.  If the designer has no experience with the busy brains of a first grader, they may have difficulty creating materials the child can handle.

Perhaps the most important skill to an instructional designer is a combination of time management, communication, and organization skills.  Keeping up with benchmark and final deadlines keeps clients happy, but there is more to time management than deadlines.  Understanding the time involved with creating materials in various applications is essential.  The client may simply need paper-based materials to be converted to a digital form; this may not take very long unless the client has grand ideas about the interactivity of the digital form.  However, creating materials from scratch or into a form which requires a great deal of planning or involvement of many people takes more time.  Taking a project and breaking it down into smaller mini-tasks is something every designer must understand.  Speaking of involving many people, strong communication skills will keep all parties “on the same page” while addressing everybody’s ideas and needs.  Sometimes clients have difficulty articulating exactly what they want; they may not be able to put their needs into words.  Instructional designers well versed in different forms of communication can assist the client “flush out” their ideas.  Rarely would a professional handle one project at a time, so managing multiple projects at once requires the designer to keep all aspects of every project organized.  Using calendars, reminder applications, project management programs, folders, and other organizational tools will facilitate the designer’s effectiveness.


Course Final Reflections August 8, 2014

I cannot believe my Multimedia in Technology Applications class is ending today.  This summer has flown by because of the intensity of the course.  As for what I have learned about designing instruction from a multimedia perspective, two major themes keep emerging.  First, as with design of any kind, less is more.  We are still talking about information being presented to send a message.  Designers strive for the most efficient and effective way to create the message so it will be understood.  However, users often have different needs so everything from learning preferences and disabilities to age and language abilities must be considered.  Designers’ final products must convey the message as simply as possible so as not to create confusion yet account for every possible population all while optimizing learning conditions and eliminating redundancy.

Second, the various forms of media all have their advantages and disadvantages, so the implications of using them separately or in any combination must be taken into consideration.  But more likely than not, the needs of the situation or context of the lesson will determine which forms to use and which will only create more confusion.  Thus far in my journey through graduate school, I have been a science teacher.  Hands-on experience is the best way to learn the science.  Sure, textual information explains the concepts, and visual aids support the text, but audio aids are rarely necessary.  I will be moving back into an ESL position next year which does not rely on laboratory investigations.  Focusing on language will become my primary form of instruction, so text will become more important, and audio aids will take on a larger role.  Visual aids will be just as important although they will be more difficult to relate to language concepts and vocabulary.  More abstract vocabulary like freedom and liberty will require carefully selected or created visuals.  As for designing instruction from a constructivist perspective, I felt as though my subject matter would have translated well to a lesson in which the student simply explores the materials and discovers how to make a circuit.  However, creating a multimedia lesson from this perspective could be tricky, so the digital material would need to be more open-ended and experimental, similar to what is happening with sandbox-style games.


Thoughts on Multimedia vs. Single Media July 27, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 10:35 pm
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We are working on our final products this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications course, a web-based multimedia version of our instructional sets.  So far in the course we have been asked to create instructional sets using only one form of media – text, graphics, audio, and video – or combining two of them.  But this project asks us to not simply combine the various forms in a side-by-side manner but rather challenges us to select which aspect of our message should utilize which media form.  After all, not one of the single media instruction sets was thorough enough; for example, the text-only instructions provided no visual assistance and the graphics-only version was confusing with no text-based instructions whatsoever.  When I combined these two media forms, I did not consider how text and graphics can enhance each other, so my final product for that module actually appeared more like two separate sets of instructions complementing each other and not really supporting each other.  Theoretically, the viewer could have chosen to follow either the text or the graphics without the other, and then what would be the point of using both media.  The audio instructions were just as limiting as the text-only.  I myself am a visual learner, so audio-only instructions would frustrate me as I am sure it would my young students.  I felt the video-only instructions provided the most meaning because the viewer can hear the verbal instructions and see a demonstration, yet it still felt as though something was missing.

When asked to reflect upon my journey so far, I cannot help but come back to how time consuming the design process can be, even for just the simplest ideas.  Again, I ask myself how can teachers make the time to create quality lessons using technology?  I believe this might be the point of the multimedia lesson; the teacher DOES NOT have to combine ALL this redundant information.  Besides, shouldn’t the students being doing more of the doing and the teacher more of the observing?  If students are given every aspect of the lesson in every form, their only job is to be the bystander or receiver.  How much will they really learn?  So, a little text here, a great graphic there, sprinkle with some video . . . and voila!  The teacher can now provide her students with a meaningful, engaging lesson.  It actually confirms how I create my lessons already, even though I rarely create original content.  I use presentation software called MimioStudio Notebook which allows me to collect diagrams, photographs, videos, links to websites, and text.  Sure, I can still create original content and often do, but why take the time to reinvent something that already works great.  This course, however,  has forced me to consider how to make the content I collect more interactive.  It seems that I get to do most of the fun stuff in class – I control the computer, I get to click the buttons, I get to make the videos play, etc.  Working with InDesign and Premiere Pro have shown me how to create original interactive content and make it more accessible on websites.  What I would like to learn more about is how to streamline the design process, perhaps by creating templates, but I am sure this comes with time and practice.  I would not have to learn a new design application each time I create a new lesson.


Video Pros and Cons July 20, 2014

This week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class, we are exploring designing instruction with video.  Because video is not something I typically work with, I have been reflecting on the experience from two perspectives:  as a teacher and as an instructional technologist. Each point of view offers differing pros and cons considering how each would interact with the form of media.

Teacher:  Creating a video is time-consuming; it could take a full-day to create a five-minute lesson.  Few teachers can afford to spend that much preparation time for just five minutes of class time.  Sure, anything a teacher makes could be used repeatedly, but standards change every few years, so some videos may no longer be applicable requiring the teacher to create something new.  Do not assume that I avoid video in my lessons.  In actuality, I rely on them heavily.  The Internet is a vast goldmine of information in video form, and between my school resources such as United Streaming, free resources such as YouTube, and teacher-created content such as what is found on Teachers Pay Teachers, I really have had no reason to create my own video content.  However, now that I feel more comfortable with the form of media, I am entertaining other ways video could be used in the classroom other than direct teacher instruction.  That means, how would my students use it?  I’ve been a science teacher for the past three years, and much of what my students do is observation of before and after or collections of examples.  In laboratory investigations, we draw before and after pictures, then write down an explanation for what happened.  Why not achieve the same thing with video?  The students could take a five-second before shot, then an after shot of the same length, then a 30 second explanation.  They have actually saved themselves valuable class time while achieving the same objective.  Because I am moving into an ESL position next year, I have been considering uses for video with this high-need population.  Rarely do students notice their own progress over time, so what about filming short question-and-answer sessions or oral-reading exercises at specified time intervals, such as once a six weeks.  With each filming, show them what they have done before so they can view their own progress.  My point, teachers have other options other than just showing one or making one to show.  But beware when having students create their own videos; not all video editing software is the same.  I would not ask a 5th grader to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro, while an experienced high school or college student may need more functionality than what Window’s Movie Maker offers.

Instructional Technologist:  Because I see myself in an instructional technologist position in the near future, I wanted to consider why a tech-savvy teacher such as myself never creates video and how I could encourage such a teacher to embrace the media form.  Teachers often complain that the videos they find are close to what they need but either have too much unnecessary information or the video is produced for an audience unlike the teacher’s classroom composition.  Of course, teachers could create their own videos, but as already discussed, time is an issue.  But what if teachers had an easy way to collect relevant short clips together.  The vast availability of video editing software could allow the teacher to create a “mashup” of only the clips they need, add important information to support special needs or adjust for the audience, and otherwise customize unoriginal content for state standards.  I would also advise any teachers to understand copyright implications.  Creating a “mashup” of clips to show students is one thing, but uploading that video to Teachers Pay Teachers and selling it creates the need for permission and citation.  Even creating an original video portraying purchased paper-based resources will require credit to the publisher.  I would also encourage teachers to get the cameras into the hands of the students.  In addition to the ideas above, teachers could take student-created clips and edit them together into one video, or have the students edit just their section to be added to a larger work.  Or how about each student taking their own collection and creating a video portfolio at the end of the year.


Combining Text and Graphics is Essential to Learning June 22, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 1:17 pm
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The focus this week in my Multimedia in Technology Applications class has been on combining both images and text for our instruction sets.  I am feeling so much more comfortable with the combination than without.  Having so much experience with younger students and the ESL population, I embrace the use of pictures and diagrams to support ideas and develop vocabulary, so I did not feel as though I was stepping too outside the crayon box.  I am also feeling as if I spent less time on creating a lesson which I may not use even use next year because I just accepted a change of assignment and more like I was focusing on how to use the program, which is one of the main objectives of the course.  What I did notice was how much more efficient the combination can be.  I could have deleted a great deal of the text from my original text-based instructions when paired with the graphics because the graphics represent the concept well, but I did not for the sake of the lesson design.  The vocabulary and explanatory nature of the text is an important part of the learning the concept.  Sure, I will assess the students on their ability to actually construct the circuits, but their state assessments will not do that.  The state assessments will provide them with a text-based prompt and perhaps a diagram.  I repeatedly tell my students that the science test is also a reading test; they must actually read the questions because just relying on any graphics or diagrams will not be enough.  The questions could lead to an unexpected answer, such as with my favorite style of questioning, “which of the following is NOT an example of . . .” which will only be understood by reading the text.  However, if the text is too long, some students will not even read it, or worse, not understand a thing the text said after they have read it.  I suppose the same could happen with graphic-only instructions.  Pictures can be confusing without any explanation whatsoever.  So in summary, learners benefit from seeing both text and graphics.


Designing Instruction From a Multimedia Perspective June 20, 2014

Filed under: 5110 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:06 am
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Now that we have completed the text-only version and the graphics-only version of our instruction sets for my Multimedia in Technology Applications class, it is time to combine the two forms of media.  This combination is perhaps the modality I use the most with my students.  The opportunity to view text and pictures is always available from the posters on my classroom walls to my lesson slides.  I feel I have somewhat of an advantage with this module because of both the age of the students and the content area I teach.  Fifth grade students still need concrete examples for optimal learning, and science lives and breathes through diagrams and models.  So this is really how I intend to tackle the project – basically create my instruction set as I would my lesson slides. I must admit I struggled with how to execute the text-only and graphics-only instructions, so I am glad to be incorporating text with the graphics this time.  They complement each other so well that people are fairly oblivious to the fact that they usually appear together.  Consider advertising in magazines and on billboards.  While much of the advertising keeps the graphics and text to a minimum, rarely are they without each other.  And even when text is meant to appear without visuals, such as in novels, people still benefit from any visual support including the book jacket, a movie based on the book, maps appearing inside the cover, etc.  I seriously cannot read any Harry Potter novel without seeing the actors playing those characters in the movie versions.  Sometimes we fill in our own mental images when none exist.  I prefer non-fiction over fiction which just lends itself to being organized by headings and subheadings; I can visualize the graphic organizers forming as I preview the text.  On the other hand, my husband is an avid fiction reader, and he has explained to me that when he reads, he actually visualizes the events in his mind in movie form as they unfold.  My students are not there yet; they still need support, especially my English language learners.  But there is no denying the importance of enhancing text with graphics and graphics with text.  My biggest concern with this project is how visual my instruction set really is – even though I struggled with creating the graphics-only version, it really doesn’t need much text.  Had I chosen another topic, the roles could be reversed.  This would be the question for any set of instructions.  How does a designer find the balance between text and graphics?



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