Final Reflections of Project Based Learning

Our project is winding down and the link is attached here. This has been an amazing experience for me. Initially, when the class began, I was a little put off by the thought we would be responsible for our own learning. I felt considering the fees and what I was paying (or had paid through military service), I should be getting very focused instruction. I expected that I would not gain a great deal, or if I did, it would be in spite of the lack of visible instruction.

Shortly after beginning the course, we were given the opportunity to join into small groups or do the project on our own. Still not fully vested and unsure of what the composition of my group would be, I moved ahead. Boy, did I ever hit jackpot. I joined a great group of minds.

We all seemed to get excited about the project. As a result, we experience a PBL while creating a PBL. Certainly, this creation was not easy. We spent a great deal of time with each other every Monday night. Through the week, we communicated by text and email. However, the time flew by. It just did not seem laborious. However, I am not living on the east coast, as one of my cohorts, so the few really late nights we had might have taken a steeper toll on him. Considering how we all were energized each time we added a layer, I am not certain I would have had that energy off which to feed if I built a PBL on my own. In hindsight, having a group to work with was the greatest windfall for me in this course.

I would have liked to witness more PBL experiences incorporating Differentiated Learning. In my experience with students with learning differences, talking about it, reading about it and actually incorporating students in the mix are three very different things. I do understand the literature; I would just like to see it in practice.

I will take away a greater respect for use of Project Based Learning and Habit of Mind to create a culture shift. I look forward to the opportunity to help mentor teachers weave PBL into their coursework to make teaching and learning a collaborative experience for all.

Self evaluation of our PBL follows:.

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Debrief, Reflect, Review and Revise

Once the event is over, all paperwork is done, and the guests are gone, I have found that most students experience a let down in the same way someone misses the show once the school play is over. The big fun project/labor of love is done and usually it is missed. I would want to create a highlight video of the presentations and reception/project defenses and share that video with the students. That way, they could all see what the audience saw. It is always hard to gauge your own performances. I would want to praise them, as the video should capture the students engaging with the community professionals and executives.

I would also want to share the results of their survey using the data sans names. Once the data is finished I would encourage them to talk about the data and process what could be done differently to make the experience better. Engaging the cohort class and gaining their feedback using the End of Project Survey on our PBL website would be valuable, as well as feedback from the cohort educators.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German philosopher and playwright used to ask three questions before reviewing a play:

1) What was the artist trying to do?

2) How well did he/she do it?

3) Was it worth doing? Does it have value?

I think with minor refinement, these questions would serve this project well, although there are many quality feedback forms on the BIE website. I would want to get feedback from some of our guests from the culminating activity. This would help assess the end products and if they could be market-ready and if they weren’t what the projects lacked to make a professional connection. I also think that feedback might be valuable for the students to see and process as well.

A discussion with my collaborators and quite possibly either the Dean of Faculty, Assistant Head of School or Head of School would prove time well spent. We should examine the student, cohort and guest surveys and assess the final products. At our meeting, posting the results would frame further conversations. Exploring the data, we could share our praises and our changes we would like to implement should we do the project again.

I think assessment should happen each and every time this PBL is used. Change is inevitable and that will happen with students, teachers, school, and community populations. As things change, the dynamics change. Self-assessment and analysis of any PBL should occur with each use. In addition, teachers should continually appraise the needs of each group of students to insure they are meeting the needs of the students while addressing the mandates of the school system.

Technology Use Planning Overview

Technology Graphic

Rice, K. (2010). Technology Adoption. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/veribatim/4377329715/

I really enjoyed this week’s readings regarding Technology Use Planning. A technology use plan is a document written by all stakeholders in a given community that once on paper, guides this community as they put their plan for technology integration into action. Virtually any community can use it; however, our lesson focused on educational purposes. The needs and values of the stakeholders are researched, as are the desired outcomes the stakeholders want the group exhibit. The created document is a noun and the process and implementation of that plan becomes a verb. The plan and implementation becomes a somewhat fluid document in that it is constantly revisited and adapted to meet the current needs and outcomes of the group. It starts as a vision and then refined into goals to get there, modified again into a plan of action, which is then executed, evaluated and brought back to the vision to see how things measure. It is outcome-based planning at its best. Where are we? Where do we want to go? How are we going to get there? Given our cash-strapped educational budgets, I cannot imagine a more valuable way to plan for our near future. Yes, I said near future. As much as I wanted to disagree with Dr. John See and his article Developing Effective Educational Plans (See, 1992), I do understand how fast things change in the world of technology. He advocates for a plan that is modified every two years for optimum benefit so your school is not tied to dated technology. I understand the need to be fluid. I accept the need to revisit and continually tweak and modify a document. I certainly appreciated his points to insure you were getting the right technology for the intended application, with the application being the primary focus. His most salient point states existing monies are already on the table. Eliminating paper textbooks is an idea long overdue. The problem, I fear, is too many stakeholders would feel cut out. Would a textbook company retool and reconfigure their operation to save schools money? Would teacher unions release their grips on members to reinvent and validate new appraisal instruments? Would they be willing to explore new ways to reward innovation rather than stick to dated complacency? See wrote his innovative ideas in 1992. I marveled as I read the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 at how far we have not come in twenty years. Educators still want to approach technology as a separate entity instead of looking at the larger picture and asking, “What’s out there that can help me work smarter? What tools are out there that can help my students work smarter and faster too?”

So, why don’t we use this technology to its full potential? Well, maybe it’s because we still believe we have to get to the end of the text and there isn’t enough time for this fun learning activity. (See 1992)

I disagree with See on this topic. Statewide testing and national testing tied to teacher evaluations was in its infancy in 1992. See has not revised his document since. Teachers are held accountable to finish the material to be tested. No matter how many times you state you are not teaching the test, if your livelihood is tied to that outcome, it becomes a priority. The answer seems simple enough. In the You Tube video, Karen Cator Answers Questions About The National Educational Technology Plan, Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology, US Department of Education, says, “Teachers must develop more compelling lesson plans.” But that will rarely happen until we change the way we rate their performance. See mentions we don’t “have classes called ‘pencil’.” We should reexamine how we teach our teachers to integrate technology. The lessons to teachers must be compelling as well. The other issue I have with the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 is the expectation that all students will have a device at accessible both in school and out. I am not sure every community wants what the NETP is selling. The citizens of Idaho just spoke recently that they do not. Getting them to buy in will require a great deal of community and educator education so they will recognize the need, value the option and be willing to bear the cost. Brother John Michael taught Marketing at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis back in the early 70s. I learned three critical elements needing to be addressed in order to make a sale: Need, Value, and Cost. Examining See’s article and Guidebook for Developing an Effective Education Technology Plan I was reminded of that lesson. The better one addresses the first two, the less a person will object to the latter. All stakeholders must buy in to the process or the plan will stall. My own issues with Technology Use in the Classroom occurred when I was Theatre Arts Director at a large public high school in East Tennessee. Realizing the amount of wasted wood created by our scene shop inspired me to research better methods. At the same time, I had seniors wanting to present their scenic design portfolios to colleges. There was no consistency within the high schools addressing that particular aspect. A relative suggested I adapt a CAD program to help reduce waste. I started researching and found that colleges were less interested in finished pictures but far more interested in the process of creating a set from a napkin drawing. We ended up adapting Auto CAD Lite to our theatre program. It was a great solution to both issues and as to design, all parties could work and see the process. All except my principal. Even though I paid for the laptop and the software, he had no interest and saw no value. The parents of students who received scholarships fought for that to continue, it left when I did. Again, ALL stakeholders must be involved from the outset or the tools will just collect dust. Moving forward The National Educational Technology Plan points us to reexamine how we educate and the changes that need to take place across the board to change that thinking. Educators must be willing to look at all aspects of what they do and how certain technologies will help them and their students achieve greater heights to be competitive. A technology use plan is a logical place to start. This assignment AECT Standard 3.4 Policies and Regulations as it challenges us to explore a national plan and interpret how those policies and regulations would affect education in our specific area.

References:

Al-Weshail, A. S., Baxter, A., Cherry, W., Hill, E. W., Jones II, C. R., Love, L. T., . . . Montgomery, F. H. (1996). Guidebook for developing an effective instructional technology plan, Version 2.0. Mississippi State University. Retrieved November 18, 2012 from http://nctp.com/downloads/guidebook.pdf

Karen Cator answers questions about the National Education Technology Plan. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATlvkklmvqU&feature=youtube_gdata_player Rice, K. (2010).

Technology Adoption. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/veribatim/4377329715/

See, J. (1992). Developing Effective Technology Plans. National Center for Technology Planning. Retrieved November 18, 2012, from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm United States Office of Educational Technology. (2010).

Transforming american education: learning powered by technology. National education technology plan. Retrieved November 18, 2012, from http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NETP-2010-final-report.pdf

Digital Inequality Assignment

Our group used many tools and technologies as we collaborated on this project. I enjoyed using Google Chat both video and text and Google docs to allow active communication with cohorts around the globe. We used Screenshare to show each other tools and how to accomplish tasks on the Google Presentation document and other tasks. One of my partners made a survey through Google Docs which allowed us to vote independent of each other and yet explore our results and our candid feedback on each option. I became quite comfortable with Zotero as I used it from the very beginning of this assignment. I wanted to keep tabs on the varying sites and be able to offer them quickly when we arrived at the assembly point. I became better through failure, though, as more than once I cleared my screen and had trouble locating documents I had previously retrieved. We also used mobile devices for texting and talking. WordPress, YouTube and Scribd were also used.

Working with peers is always challenging. Adding large time differentials, plus life events that all are experiencing make small obstacles larger. Time is a precious commodity and setting earlier time lines would always enhance a project. The Chinese government put additional strains on our group limiting Lydia’s access and searches throughout our research experience.

I think it pertinent to think how I might use what I have learned if given the opportunity to explore this at my next school. Regardless of the questions or research, you can utilize research teams to present findings to larger groups to help with problem solving on campus and in the classroom. Moving from that, you can also use small groups to work together on research projects within the curriculum or cross curriculum. Focusing specifically on the question of Digital Inequality, one can research the specifics that exist or obstruct Digital Inclusion on-campus with faculty, students and parents

My previous teaching experiences taught me that what is ethical and appropriate in one home is not in another. Just because I see great future in technology and the role it can play in a business, classroom or household does not mean everyone I contact will share those values. In the book Social, Ethical and Policy Implications of Information Technology (Brennan & Johnson, 2004) Disbenefits (sic) of Access are discussed at length. Are we reducing face-to-face interaction while touting sitting behind a screen for longer periods of time? Are people who work in skilled labor jobs really worse off for not accessing various sites online? When trying to research a community, sensitivity must be used by the researchers not to assume that with technology every life of every member of the community is going to be magically better. Flights can still be purchased off-line and business and personal transactions can still occur without the Information Superhighway running through one’s living room. The researcher must not judge those in the community and make assumptions. More importantly, the information gained in research must be respected and handled with care. Again, this is to protect those in the survey from feeling judged for their level of use of ICTs.

We used many integrated technologies in our project from animated slides in our presentation to embedding You Tube video to share concepts of inclusion. While building the project we utilized many different devices to coordinate and gather our research so I certainly see the alignment with 2.4 Integrated Technologies. Regarding 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations, once we made our decisions as to the order of alternatives, all our research and action went to addressing those items so the stakeholders would indeed accept, approve and act on our recommendations. All of our research focused on the 3.4 Policies and Regulations of the state of Idaho. We certainly wanted our project to have that validity. We attempted 4.2 Resource Management, though in the end, I am not sure how successful that went for us. That would require every hand on every oar. Those on deck rowed well.

We would have benefited from Backwards Planning (an old Army technique) where one looks at where you want to be and when you want to be there. You work backwards from there to determine needs, and available time to plan, rehearse, correct, rehearse again, and then,  execute violently. But this is not the military and I have been in the civilian sector far longer than I was ever in service. Peer-group projects work well when all are focused on the common goal and common values are shared. I learned a great deal through this assignment, both about human dynamics and the specifics of Digital Inequality. Wanting to put this project into action at some point, the lessons learned will help keep me grounded as I move forward.

Please see the link below for our sources:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1jzQHeNGPRm86mAOymZhzTLNAaNIUADlVuyWaJ9UqL0o