tech-ucation reformation

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

Analysis & Design Working Together September 22, 2014

My Instructional Systems Design course mates and I have been conducting our analyses for our first projects these past two weeks.  We will use the information we gathered in the near future to create activities tied to the learning objectives we’ve created, but first we must reflect upon our findings.  Although not specifically tied to the project, what I learned most from my analysis is how industry and education differ in how they approach the learning process.  Education is ever evolving into more structured and standardized practices.  It must function in repeating cycles of school years, semesters, and reporting periods.  The state of Texas provides teachers with the expectations to be covered in each grade and subject, so a teacher’s yearly scope and sequence is divided accordingly from an ending point, such as a state assessment, back to the beginning of the year.  She wants to make sure every topic is covered, yet allows for some flexibility in pacing should her students struggle or excel at a particular topic.  So for a teacher, the whole creating objectives process simply does not happen because the objectives are already written.  Also, the idea of a creating a lesson in response to a problem or issue is missing because the objectives are expected of all students without consideration of what they already know.  In contrast, industry trains people according to the job to be performed or as a reaction to issues or problems.  A new employee may already be familiar with some aspects of a job and not need as much training as someone with less experience.  Or a new system or product will be introduced requiring training, yet it will likely only be taught once to current employees.  The learning objectives are developed according to the learner’s needs and could be different for each employee.  In either case, the verb stated in the objective limits possible activities.  For example, if the verb is “explain,” then there are just a few ways to do so – verbal form, written form, or perhaps even some alternative form of expression such as a skit, video, or song.  Regardless, the learner’s final product involves writing and/or speaking to explain.

As for my project, I considered both education and training paradigms in my analysis.  I will be developing a training module to help students prepare for an academic competition.  The competition will take place on a specified date, and the final expectation is the same for all student participants.  These parameters are similar to current education practices because the learning must be completed before the deadline, and what the student does during the competition (expected outcome) is already determined.  However, by thinking more like an industry trainer and analyzing past performance, I found a true problem for which a module can be developed in reaction to the need to increase performance.  After all, this is a competition, and the student who answers the most questions correctly will be the winner, and my trainer client wants more students to place in the event.  Therefore, the activities should include not only presentation of the material to be learned, but also repeated practice to increase performance.  Essentially, my student clients will study 40 paintings including the name of the work and the artist.  At the competition, 15 pieces will be chosen at random, and the students will be expected to both identify and correctly write down the title of the painting and the last name of the artist.  Most of the training module will focus on ways to increase time spent studying the paintings and faster identification of the paintings.  The trainer client plans to meet face-to-face with students to work on the actual writing down of the information, including spelling and punctuation.  In an effort to increase study time, students will be encouraged to communicate with each other about what they are learning in a social-media platform.

When asked about how analysis and design are related, I must admit I am struggling with the idea because most of education is not “problem-centered.”  ADDIE focuses on identifying a problem and creating a way to solve the problem.  In education, the curriculum is already in place, so the design takes place without an analysis.  Teachers have very little flexibility when it comes to designing lessons other than putting their own spin on what someone else told them they have to teach.  As lesson designers they have very few “problems” to work with until the students have been exposed to the material and either don’t get it or already knew it.  Then the real issue is usually the students are not prepared cognitively for what they were about to learn, they have a gap in prior learning, or they have become bored with the lesson.  For example, how can a student truly understand adding or subtracting fractions when they don’t understand fractions?  At this point, the teacher does not design a whole new lesson for the entire class; she pulls the student at another time and reteaches the lesson at a slower pace searching for the gap or clearing up the confusion.  As for the student who already knows the material, the teacher must find a way to keep him interested by extending above and beyond her plan.  This perpetual analysis and her response (redesign, if you will) to it happens so naturally, rarely are they seen as separate steps.

One thought comes to mind concerning the Information R/Evolution video and how analysis and design affect each other.  First, understanding how information can be categorized and filed helps us see how the Internet can take the classification of information to a whole new level.  Consider a comparison to the human brain.  Humans store information in different areas of the brain, and the various parts perform different functions.  So just as a human may store a memory but have trouble retrieving it because the neural pathways are not strong enough, filing information in drawers or on bookshelves only to be forgotten about because we didn’t create multiple ways to access it results in failure to quickly find it again.  Using hypertext, tags, searches, hotlinks, and all the various ways to manipulate text on the Internet links information together creating stronger paths just as my repeated access of information in my brain creates stronger and more efficient neural pathways.

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Multimedia Reflections June 4, 2014

Wow! Already time for summer semester to begin, and we are off to a running start! I am so glad to be back blogging for classes again – it has been far too long. This semester I am taking Multimedia in Technology Applications, and our first blog is to reflect upon what we think we already know about using media for learning and teaching, share some examples as a teacher or a learner, and explain the effectiveness of the experience.

My personal learning experiences have transformed as media and technology have evolved. I remember well the days of nothing but textbook, paper, and pencil . . . and I turned out JUST FINE! Videos were rare and usually just for entertainment, the only pictures/diagrams were in the textbook or drawn on chalkboards and overheads. Smartphones and social media – are you kidding? When computers did enter the picture, we were not taught how to use them for educational purposes, only for our own enjoyment. That is, until high school when I took BASIC programming! You mean I can actually tell the computer what I want it to do? Even when I was in college during the Internet boom, I still did not use computers as a learning tool other than as a glorified word processor. Unless specifically required for classes such as programming with Turbo Pascal or accounting software such as Lotus 123, computers were not expected to contribute to learning. My husband and I still joke about having to take a “Computers in Education” class for our bachelors and helping the other participants more because we already knew how to do everything the course required. Reflecting back on those days reminds me of the importance of learners taking the reins of their own learning which multimedia allows so easily.

Now that I am a teacher under the demands of a scope and sequence and the pressures of standardized testing and not leaving any children behind, the game has changed. I pride myself in seeking out the coolest YouTube videos demonstrating a lab using equipment I could never afford or playing songs about concepts that I am not creative enough to write, having students compare and contrast the never-ending graphic examples of concepts we cover (how many diagrams of the water cycle do we really need anyway), or just the pleasure of showing my students hundreds of examples of any animal they have never heard of that we come across in our activities (my favorite is the pangolin . . . seriously, it’s real, Google it). My computer with Internet and a projector is my “Magic School Bus.” I can take my students anywhere we want to go with videos and graphics. This reminds me how important it is to keep my students not only engaged with the learning process but also accessing as many of the learning preference modalities as possible.

 

America Competing with Finland March 19, 2013

Filed under: Personal — S. Michele Holmes @ 2:21 am
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What a fantastic article I just read, so I have to share it.   Although it’s more than a year old, the topic is still current.  I especially like how the article discussed Finland’s understanding that it needed to move away from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.  It also has a link to a sister article, and I’ve also included the link to it.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

From Finland, An Intriguing School-Reform Model

 

CECS 5300 Paper Proposal February 15, 2013

Filed under: 5300 — S. Michele Holmes @ 9:10 pm
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Working Title:  Developing Effective Problem-Solving Strategies and Enhancing Creativity Through Video-Gaming

Main Topic:  The goal of this paper is to review the existing research on how using Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) and other collaborative video-gaming platforms could be utilized as a means to develop problem-solving strategies and enhance creativity in the elementary classroom setting.  Another goal is to provide examples of currently available software and applications that promote creativity and problem solving.

Arguments:

As the amount information available to humans increases exponentially, students will not only be required to learn more at younger ages but also understand how to access and manipulate information rather than just memorize facts.  Because of this, students will need to develop creative solutions to complete the task at hand while they absorb the required content.

An education system which requires children to meet the minimum qualifications on an objective-based assessment is producing children who cannot develop solutions on their own because the answers are given to them and their job is to pick the correct one out of the available options.  What if the best solution is not any of the answers provided?  Children are being evaluated and judged based upon the results of these assessments when this is not at all what they will experience in the real world after they have finished school.

Elementary education must transform to reflect what people will experience as adults:  creation of products and collaboration with peers.  Some growing trends in education are product-based learning and small-group learning, and these can both be enhanced with technology, especially through video-gaming.

Taking ownership of learning processes which requires critical thinking and the creation of final products can result in a deeper understanding of the content.  Combining these ideas with a high-level of collaboration and motivation can result in the learning process seeming more like playing and having fun rather than just learning.

Accessibility to a multitude of non-technology-based creative outlets is not always possible fiscally, so technology can allow the impossible due to lack of resources to transform into a world of creative experimentation on a global scale.

Audience:  My intended audience is educators and instructional designers interested in developing product-based-learning software and applications requiring a combination of problem-solving skills and creative processes while learning content.

Point of View:  Teachers have an unwillingness to move away from the tried and true teaching methods they have been using for years, but technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it will inundate our lives so much in the future we must be willing to allow technology to teach critical thinking and creativity more and more.  We must become facilitators rather than instructors.  I often say that I am preparing my students for jobs that don’t even exist yet but I do know they will involve technology.  Why not use technology now to create graduates who will know how to develop creative solutions because that is exactly what they have been doing in school.  My goal is to find research to support that teaching problem-solving and creativity through video-gaming is not only possible but necessary.  I also want to show educators and instructional designers practical examples of video games as well as both empirical and anecdotal evidence to support them.

Problems:  I fear my vision of “playing to learn” will be too difficult or costly to program, which could be why so few programs are available, so I may have difficulty finding examples much less research to support my thesis.  Aside from preschool and kindergarten, adults appear to be unwilling to allow children to “play,” which is exactly what is necessary to develop problem-solving abilities and creativity.  I also fear the research I do find may be too critical and unsupportive to substantiate my thesis.

Addressing the Problems:  While I’m sure I can find research on developing problem solving skills and separate research on using gaming in the educational setting, I may not be able to find research that combines these ideas, so I may have to make some major leaps in the available research.  I will also need to spend some time seeking examples of technology already in use that teaches problem-solving and allows for creativity.  I must also take any criticism of using video-gaming in the classroom in stride as well as address those criticisms.

Questions:  Can any of my classmates offer examples of games or research on this topic? Do any of my classmates have children in elementary school?

 

Teaching to the Test – Right or Wrong June 4, 2012

Filed under: Personal — S. Michele Holmes @ 9:22 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Wes Nessman, a DJ for my favorite radio station posted the following article on his blog, and his arguments were so compelling I felt it necessary to comment on it.  My response follows the link to his article.

First, let me say that I am a huge fan of the station because you play EXACTLY what I want to hear.  While I completely agree with your point that problems with the standardized testing system exist and your call to parents to be more involved with their children’s education, some of your arguments and logic are flawed.  The purpose of a test is to assess whether or not the student has learned the material they were taught.  In order for the test to be a valid and reliable measure of whether or not the student has learned the material, the student must have actually been taught the material.  In order the educate the masses – and what I mean by this is if the entire State of Texas population of public school students will be tested with the same assessment for each subject and grade level, then the population of students should be taught the same material – our lawmakers have dictated what should be taught to our students at each grade level and for each subject for exactly this purpose – to educate the masses in a standardized way to make sure students have been taught the information that will appear on the test.  While we have been told what to teach and how it will be assessed, we have not been instructed in exactly how to teach what we are supposed to – this is left up to the individual teacher, campus, district, etc.  For example, all 6th grade students in the entire state of Texas will be taught the order of operations to a level that will include the use of parentheses and exponents.  This concept will be applied by solving expressions, completing measurement problems such as area and volume, developing equations that would require an understanding of order of operations rules to develop them, etc.  These concepts would have been taught to students in grades below 6th to a lesser extent and students above 6th grade to a greater extent so the concept of order of operations would not be new, only developed at higher and more rigorous levels.  How teachers teach this concept can be very different, which is why some of the “problems with the system” exist – I’ll get to this more in a second.  Therefore, there is absolutely no way to “memorize” answers to questions that would assess these concepts because the wealth and variety of question possibilities is so great – we actually do teach the example you used in exactly the way you suggested we teach it – the algorithm and not the fact.  This also works the same for reading and writing – students simply cannot memorize the answer to a question about a story they have never read before or have a pre-written essay about a topic they will not be given until time to write the essay.  Science is a little different – students are taught concepts, so there appears to be a certain level of memorization, but students must be shown multiple examples of concepts to acquire the knowledge to be able to apply it.  Social studies will involve even more fact “memorization” because that’s what social studies does – it covers factual information – but social studies does possess a level of skill application such as map-reading and researching.  So for what standardized testing is meant to do, the system works perfectly.  The problems are created when other factors are not taken into consideration, such as the students’ motivation and readiness for learning and the teachers’ motivation and readiness for teaching.  Consider how we place students in grades by age because this appears to be “standardized.”  Children simply do not grow and develop in a standardized way, so why are we relying on age to determine grade placement?  A classroom of 6th grade math students all relatively the same age could contain students ready for high school math and students who are still operating at a 3rd grade level along with those who will be successful at exactly what they will be taught.  What are teachers told to do about this?  Differentiate – so we are told to teach the exact same material to all students in the grade and subject at the same time and we will assess them in the same way, but we must teach it to students functioning at 10 different grade levels, 6 different learning styles, and multiple levels of motivation.  People are in fact very different, so we learn differently.  This works the same in reverse – not all teachers are motivated at the same level nor prepared to teach in exactly the same way; we are human as well and cannot be automated, so I may expect more from my students than a teacher teaching the same grade and subject as teachers do in another part of the state – but how can this possibly be standardized?  By all teachers being given a script of exactly what will be taught and how, no more, no less?  By replacing a human teacher with an automated robot?  Now that will surely create a society of non-thinkers.  Possible solutions for students?  Place students in classes according to readiness and motivation.  Why are home-schooled students successful?  They can work at their readiness and motivation level instead of what the state has told them they must be taught at a specific grade and age.  Yes, there are problems with The System, just not the way you think they exist.   I have my own solutions for these problems, but the ideas are so radical they would never be accepted, at least until The System completely crumbles!

 

 
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