tech-ucation reformation

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Defining Scholarly Writing July 15, 2015

Filed under: 5580 — S. Michele Holmes @ 7:28 pm
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This week my Readings Seminar in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems course mates and I are reviewing and revising our scholarly writing samples. These samples are primarily reviews of literature and research proposals with some opinion pieces and will all appear in our program portfolios. All of the samples are scholarly, so let us consider what that means. We have been asked to research, blog about, and discuss the differences between scholarly writing and other types of writing.

Scholarly writing is just one of many forms of academic writing. The world of academia consists of a multitude of fields with endless topics for study and research. Each field requires a different style of writing, each with their own methodologies and rules. Because our field deals with research, education, and technology, the writing must be highly information-based. This style of academic writing relies on the structure of the text to help readers interact with the information.  The use of headings and subheading to divide the work into smaller chunks and the inclusion of graphics such as tables and charts will help. Consider when experimental research is completed how it must be reported in a consistent order and manner although the content including the review of the literature, research methodologies, and findings will all be different. Levasseur (2009) points out that scholarly writing should be balanced, objective, accurate, and tentative (BOAT) meaning that scholars should present all sides of any argument, write without any bias understanding they may be wrong, report all research findings accurately, and understand that proof and results depend largely upon circumstances.

Scholars must also consider more than the content of their writings.  Levasseur (2009) also discusses four areas which need attention when writing scholarly papers:  content, organization, grammar, and style. When considering the organization of a work, he suggests providing clear transitions for the reader by assuming that the reader is unfamiliar with the field. He also warns scholars to use correct grammar which could result in further revisions and delays if not kept in check. Some last tips regarding style is to follow the appropriate writing guidelines for one’s field, write in the third person, and cite other works correctly. Trott (2013) supports these ideas stating that scholarly writing should be in the active voice using declarative sentences and paying close attention to language and grammar.

References:

Levasseur, R. E.  (2009).  Scholarly Writing.  Mindfire Press Article.  Retrieved from http://www.mindfirepress.com/uploads/MFP_Article–Scholarly_Writing.pdf

Trott, B. (2013). Thoughts on scholarly writing. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(1), 2-4. Retrieved from https://journals.ala.org/rusq/article/view/2858/2892

 

When I Grow Up, I Want . . . July 11, 2015

Well, it is that time again – another graduate course has begun – but this time it is different because it is the last course for this master’s degree.  The purpose for my latest course, Readings Seminar in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems, is to reflect upon my entire graduate program and develop a portfolio of representative works which have been polished and peer-reviewed.  For the first blog post and discussion, my course mates and I have been asked to revisit our application essays for the program and specifically reflect upon our career goals.  Have our plans changed during the course of the program and why or why not?  Have the plans been further defined and/or refined?

As for how I originally planned to use the degree, I envisioned several career possibilities.  The first was as an instructional technologist for a school district.  This plan really has not changed but has expanded to include university-level position and possibly even the private sector.  Because this is my main career focus, I have applied for multiple positions in this field, although some may be called by another name.  For example, I have applied for a position with a university to be a media specialist and am about to apply for another as a BYOD program transition specialist.  I had also considered conducting educational research involving technology and the effectiveness of its use in the classroom.  This is still a serious consideration, although it will likely involve continuing my education into another degree.  Working for a company that designs educational hardware and software including product development, training, and support also sounded hugely appealing at the time of my application.  While this is still an area I would consider pursuing, it is the one I will look into more once the other options have been flushed out.

Something I did not expect as a career choice was website development, but earning this degree has opened up a whole new level of opportunity.  I remember thinking at the beginning of the program how one aspect I enjoy about teaching is taking educational materials and reworking them to present them to my students in an effort to make the learning process more efficient and effective.  Website development is simply a new and exciting means to do just that.  I appreciate the flexibility and versatility that website development offers to this process.  Striving to take already created content and reorganize it was so easy using Dreamweaver and Muse.  So while I am considering other types of positions, website development has now been added to the list as well as my skill set.  Even if it does not become my main function, it does not mean that I will not know how to.

 

Sssshhhhhh – On The Air! May 6, 2015

My Technology-Based Learning Environments course mates and I are in the final weeks of class which means we are now finalizing our courses including the job aids, final peer reviews, and last reflections.  This is the last blog required for the course, but we will have to complete some reflections which will not be blogged.  I am certain I will post some of those thoughts to my personal blog, and I definitely plan to go back and read my previous blogs for this course to develop my final reflections.

As for what needs to be done with my course, I am still creating the videos for the course due to the delay in production – thank you spring allergies!  This year seems to be especially crazy; I have seen more wildflowers than ever.  The allergies are now under control with the help of several medications, but now kids, pets, and a spouse keep hindering getting the videos done in a timely manner.  I need to have a space dedicated to creating them without interruption, but I do not see that happening until I have a professional designer job, so I just need to chalk it up to a lesson learned.  This does give me something to think about if I intend to do any remote or freelance work.  Having my family around with constant interruptions is usually not a problem because I am adept at helping them with their needs quickly and getting back to the task at hand, but video-recording is a whole different game.  Now I understand why radio stations have those “on air” lights and special recording rooms!  I am not quite finished with the text pieces of the course either, but that will easily be done because I already have it all worked out in my head.  Plus I am waiting for peer reviews to come in; perhaps I can head off some work by taking their ideas into account before the final additions. Then again, I am prioritizing other projects right now which also demands my already limited time.

As for the possibility of implementation, I am sad that my course will not get to be, at least at this point.  Perhaps one day in the future, I will have the opportunity.  I am even considering selling parts of it.  But at this point I have no prospects to, and this, of course, will make evaluation impossible, but it will be alright.  I am really pleased with the topic and nature of the course.  Somebody in the future will like it too and want to use it, so then I can get valid client feedback.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 
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