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.

Scaffolding – Week 5 Reflection -542

This particular lesson this week was Planning and Preparing with an emphasis on scaffolding our learners. As we clarified where we wanted to end, we analyzed what it would take to get our students there. We wanted to provide the students a vision into our collective passions. Coming from our separate backgrounds, we listened to one another and added pieces to the whole.

One of our strengths is our difference. Viewing from our various experiences, we explored reaching all learners. One of my cohorts is a former teacher and now in IT and a Google Docs trainer. The other, also in IT, is our Spanish, sound and technical specialist. My background is both in teaching Theater and students with learning differences.

So on we went, detailing the specifics we would need in our Teaching and Learning Guide and we discovered areas that contained gaps in reaching our students. Rather than filling with wasted space documents and time, we challenged each other to talk out how to support our students. We looked to reduce assumptions we made about teaching high school students.

Jamie McKenzie addresses that “scaffolding clarifies purpose” (1999) as one of her eight characteristics. Our entry event is designed to evoke emotions since it centers around two unlikely friends during the Holocaust. Through underscoring innocence of the children of the world, even in the midst of great cruelty and prejudice, we start them caring about the future of their world and HOW they should make a difference.

At each level of this project we provide them structure and guidance to keep them focused on their mission. Starting at the end, we have worked backward leaving them materials they will need to build a road to where we want them to arrive. Our assessments are clear as they can be prior to implementation, so our charges know clearly our expectations. We have provided them a class glossary, adding some words we find essential to the information gathering, to use with their class and with their cohorts. We collected the best websites to get them started and information to analyze web information of their own choosing. We have provided them a tutorial on using VoiceThread and two opportunities to use it in the course of nine weeks. The use of Google Docs will encourage Peer editing and contributions so all feel included and heard. Adding a cohort element integrates curriculum and offers written and spoken immersion while providing direct contact with students halfway around the globe as they explore global issues.

I would love to test this PBL. I feel we have built a strong superstructure around their site of exploration and creation. I feel like we addressed all eight of the characteristics McKenzie addressed. All that remains will be the editing and revision that can only take place after a test with high school students.

Reference:

McKenzie, J. (1999). Scaffolding for success. From Now On, The Educational Technology Journal, 9(4). Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html

Week 4 Reflection – 542

Arthur Costa stated in the book Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, “Educational outcomes in traditional settings focus on how many answers a student knows. When we teach for the Habits of Mind, we are interested also in how students behave when they don’t know an answer”(2008). I feel strongly our project assessments meet the criteria established in Key Principles of Effective Assessment. What I am more intrigued about this week is how to change culture. Assessment can play a part.

In order to make the shift in culture the tasks must be rich and challenging. The Holocaust PBL fits as it connects past to the present and future. This project will be something of interest and intrigue. That said, as I explored 16 listed Habits of Mind as learning outcomes, I realized I found something that could help. The sixteen listed Habits of the Mind are “patterns of intellectual behaviors that lead to productive actions” Costa, (2008). The list is not suggested to be complete. It does represent something teachable and able to be assessed. So the assessments and the actions of the teacher must model the behaviors I want from my students. Consequently, my assessment and my behavior should reflect the six dimensions that are integral to Habits of the Mind:

  • Value: If I want my students to value intellectual behavior over other things, I must be that model. I must value their presence and their time. My assessments must be real and an honest yardstick of their learning.
  • Inclination: I can promote student input on the type and nature of the assessment, teaching them to self-evaluate on their internal scale
  • Sensitivity: I can help model this dimension by channeling their inputs to find the appropriate time and method to chart their journey
  • Capability: I must learn all I can about assessments so I have many more tools in my toolbox. I do not have to know every answer about assessments; but I should know where to find them.
  • Commitment: I must be willing to explore my own work, analyze and modify for successful learning and communication. That includes assessments and structure I set in place. At the end of the day, I am responsible, whether or not I share the journey with students.
  • Policy: If when the going gets tough, I shift to other, less productive habits or assessments, the whole bubble bursts. Teaching teenagers is tough. They expect and demand that you walk the talk.

Costa, A. (2008). Describing the habits of mind. In A. Costa & B. Kallick (Eds.), Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. (2008). Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Describing-the-Habits-of-Mind.aspx

Instructional Design Job Posting

Part I – SYNTHESIS

Up 2RIs N Poo Inc., a distributor of children’s books by A. A. Milne, seeks dynamic, self-directed, creative, and innovative Instructional Designer. The newly created position reports to both the Director of Sales and the Director of Production & Distribution. The Instructional Designer will work collaboratively with leadership, operations, human resources, and IT. The ID will help the team assess the organization needs, create and develop a variety of performance improving solutions that support technical, non-technical and leadership positions. The ID will design learning approaches that are efficient, effective and engaging to learners.  The ID will utilize multiple formats to include traditional instructor led as well as eLearning, mLearning, games and web pages capable of mobile device access. The ID will conduct evaluations of the effectiveness of the training, collaborate with the team and update training and materials based upon feedback.

Required skills and qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in instructional design, educational technology or related field;
  • Experience as a teacher, trainer and/or professional development instructor for adult learners;
  • Proven ability in designing learning and development programs in a variety of delivery approaches, including instructor lead, web based, and blended learning methods;
  • Experience in designing instruction for online learning environments;
  • Knowledge of emerging technology as related to instruction and experience with web technologies, multimedia applications and e-learning technologies;
  • Experience in using Web 2.0 applications;
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively on time-sensitive tasks;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.

The outstanding candidate will possess:

  • Master’s Degree in instructional design, educational technology or related field;
  • Experience and interest in Leadership, Management and Professional skills development;
  • Synchronous and asynchronous online course development;
  • Demonstrated experience working with people of varied technological skills;
  • Experience managing multi-demand, multi-priority projects simultaneously;
  • An acute understanding of complex office environment as it pertains to sales, production, and distribution;
  • A proactive approach to collaboration;
  • Set the example for positive and ethical use of technology.

Part II – REFLECTION

If you asked me at the outset of this assignment the difference between an instruction designer and a teacher I would have been hard put to find a difference. We are products of our experiences and I am fortunate to have had military service between college graduation and my teaching career. Instructional design was founded in the military. Most of my outlook on how I teach, evaluate and modify what I do emanates from that experience as opposed to my formal teacher education. I was given opportunity to lead the group of teachers tasked to rewrite the Drama Curriculum and sequence of study for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. It was not until this lesson that I fully grasped what my principal and superintendent knew about me way back when. I thought like an instructional designer. I always asked three questions, “Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?” Obviously, my questions are military-based and instructional designers ask, “Where do we want to go? How will we get there? How will we know we are there?” Most importantly, I learned that our little group wrote the plan. Since we were also teachers, we implemented that plan as well. Most of the teachers in the county only implemented the plan. Of course, there was flexibility to modify and manipulate the plan to fit each school, the needs of the classroom and the strength of the teacher. Bottom line, teachers implement.

Until I started on this path of Educational Technology at Boise State, I did what many teachers did. I sought any means necessary to discover existing programs, mlearning modules, You Tube videos or technology written by others to carry the learning to my students. I did not create the technology. I used technology created by instructional designers. They created the interesting, engaging technology I sought to use in my classrooms. Most teachers do not have the time or the ability to create intricate technology-based materials. So, instructional designers design interesting, engaging lessons that incorporate a variety of technologies.

Teachers are critical to the process of educating our youth. Instructional designers can create the most interesting, engaging, technologically rich material; but the educator is responsible for bringing that into the classroom. There is not a place on the state test for helping students deal with the loss of a fellow student; but it is a part of life. In many schools, I was rewarded for having a calm demeanor under pressure by being designated the Crisis Coordinator. That meant if a student died at a party by an accidental discharge of a weapon, my classes got put on hold and they were witness to me helping others process that tragedy. If the parents left the students at school, we found that if they processed their emotions, they would engage into their school day rhythms sooner. And if they did not, we all cried together and discovered our own humanity. I was also unique that I was well versed in more than one subject area. I also was a student in how students learn(ed). However, most teachers are focused on their own subject area and tend to teach the way they were taught. Instructional designers are experts on how people learn and the varying technologies one can use. They monitor outcomes, adapt and change the curriculum to increase productivity. We may evaluate what the students have learned; we rarely evaluate the educator in a real, and meaningful way. I am fortunate that I had a principal teach me a valuable lesson when I was a young teacher. He told me I was an advertising executive. He was the owner of a widget company and my students were the consumers of the widgets. When my students failed a test on a unit I worked and slaved to prepare, he asked, “If my consumers are not buying what you are selling, should I continue having you work to sell my products? Shouldn’t you try another advertising campaign?” I learned early to reflect, repackage, and revise to increase outcomes. I see that over and over again in the ads for instructional designers. In the classroom, the students provide feedback to the teacher. The teacher gathers feedback daily and at testing time. Unfortunately, only state test results are passed on to the instructional designer. The student feedback rarely gets passed on to the designer in the K-12 world.

Part III – Job Posting URLs

1 – University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN – http://tinyurl.com/a5bcynd

2 – Textron, Inc, Providence, RI  – http://tinyurl.com/besgxx6

3 – Management Concepts, Tysons Corner, VA – http://tinyurl.com/aeqbpab

School Evaluation Summary

This assignment was actually quite challenging for me. Early on, I wrote Heads of School for two boarding schools seeking assistance and permission on this project. I also sought permission from the local high school. None of the senior administrators replied. I was shocked; but, moved ahead. I sought help from next-level administrators and received a reply from only one. That occurred only after soliciting help from the administrative secretaries. Still none offered help until after the first of the new year.

Eventually, rather than use ancient data, I solicited help from a few faculty members, the head of IT and a secretary at one of the boarding schools originally on my radar. Not being currently employed made this task more challenging that it was likely intended to be and added a layer of frustration as the semester winds down.

From an administrative standpoint, this was an enlightening assignment, forcing the evaluator to get to the marrow of each skeletal element of an organization’s use and incorporation of technology. I can see having to make just such an analysis once employed as a Technology Integration Specialist. It would help many stakeholders see vantage points they do not often take. Certainly, this study offers a view of every aspect of the organization and how to best focus on a plan moving forward. Simply saying, “We need X.” is not enough in today’s economy. Seeing such an analysis opens the door to dialogue to a unified plan of action for the betterment of the future.

This assignment meets the following AECT Standards: Standard 4.2 Resource Management, 5.1 Problem Analysis, 5.2 Criterion-Referenced Measurement, 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation and 5.4 Long-Range Planning. Using unbiased measurement, identifying problems, analyzing resources and making evaluations and recommendations are crucial to any long-range plan. All stakeholders need to see the issues and agree before working together within the document to reach for solutions and setting goals for the future.

Link to Maturity Benchmark Survey – http://tinyurl.com/MBenchmarkSurvey

Link to full-size evaluation document – http://tinyurl.com/SchoolEvaluationDMB