tech-ucation reformation

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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.

 

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.

 

 
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