The End of My Digital Leading and Learning Journey!

The reason that I chose the Digital Learning and Leading program was because I felt like I would be able to learn a lot from it. Other program descriptions didn’t draw me in like this one did. I have been teaching for a long time, in a variety of schools, with many types of students, focusing on all subject areas. I have had a lot of experience with curriculum and instruction, and I know that I would NEVER want my Master’s in administration. NO thank you! I love the students and the teachers, but have had my share of parents who make me steer clear of anything involving them directly. So what was left? I have always been fairly tech savvy, but have had trouble keeping up in recent years. A program where I was exposed to innovative strategies was just what I needed.

My favorite part of the program has been learning about Significant Learning Environments and the COVA approach and reading A New Culture of Learning. I feel like the ideas presented not only align with my beliefs, but also validate and affirm the things that I’ve been trying to do as an instructional coach. There’s a part of me that wants to go back into the classroom just to work on this one aspect of my learning in this program. I feel like it would be easier to achieve in my own classroom, rather than helping other teachers to create it in theirs. Maybe one day….

Creating an online/blended class in Schoology was another powerful part of the program. It gave me a place and a structure for my ideas of helping teachers learn about blended learning, and linked directly to my innovation plan.

Along with Schoology, I was exposed to a variety of technology throughout the program. I learned about Piktochart, emaze, Kizoa, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Spark among others. This experience and introduction to online resources has taken away any fear I may once have had about trying new things. Technology is so amazing, and it never hurts to jump in and give something a shot!

One thing that many graduate school students dread is literature reviews. I now know why. It takes a long time and a lot of work to dive into the literature about what others have done! However, I felt like I learned a lot from so much reading about blended learning, and I know that what I wrote in those literature reviews will be useful to me in the future.

This program was the perfect one for me, and I couldn’t be more excited to be finishing up!

Reflecting on My Innovation Project

Wow! As I look back on all that I’ve done with my innovation plan, I realize that I’ve come a long way since last August! Back then, I remember my plan being a vague idea in the back of my mind that I hoped would work. I was just learning about the concept of blended learning, and I knew that my school had a lot of technology to use.  I hadn’t learned about the COVA approach (choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning) or Creating Significant Learning Environments. I also hadn’t studied types of planning, such as starting with a WIG (wildly important goal) or 4DX or Fink’s 3 column table or Understanding by Design!

When I studied the literature about blended learning, I saw that it was possible and that teachers have been implementing it for awhile now. I had an idea of how to handle some of the obstacles that others faced, and details to put my plan into action! I also created a video about my thoughts on innovative teaching and learning.

The next step was to create an online course for teachers to use to learn about how to use blended learning in their classrooms. I planned for this to be  presented in a blended format so that teacher could have an example modeled for them. My course plan for teachers came together, and I learned so much about creating courses for others to follow! I read about a variety of ideas involving planning, and then create a course in Schoology. Final refinements came, including a call to action.

I wouldn’t say that my innovation plan is done. In fact, it’s far from being done. But I have learned so much and am slowly working to incorporate it in small pieces across my school. I am currently working with the second grade teachers to implement pieces of my innovation plan, and hope to see success soon!

Reflecting on COVA and CSLE

The Past

You know how sometimes, something presents itself to you, and you think, “Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for!” or “This matches up exactly with what I think!”

This program has done that for me. The COVA approach puts into words the ideas I’ve always had about how people learn. My thoughts were never clear or coherent, but after reading about and participating in a program that truly matches my learning philosophy, I feel that my ideas have come together, been affirmed, and with practice, will be something that I know how to advocate for.

I also believe in the CSLE ideas. They go hand-in-hand with COVA. Together they fit with the constructivist approach to learning. An environment where students are guided and encouraged to own their learning allows them to construct meaning and deep understanding.

It’s hard to say when I realized that I had choice and voice in this program. I guess it was around the third class, when I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough information to do my assignments. Professors told us to keep going, to keep working, to do what we felt was best. I didn’t like that at first. I wanted specific, clear expectations. As I completed one assignment and then another, I began to realize that it was possible. I had what it took to choose the direction of my learning.

I remembered back to the time when I was trying to decide what master’s program I wanted to begin. As I read all of the choices, the DLL program really stood out to me because of its differences from others I had seen. I wanted something that would challenge me, that I could learn from, and was not just ‘doing school’ for the sake of doing school. This program definitely did that! Instead of reading textbooks, taking tests, and writing papers to appease a professor, I read relevant books and articles, discussed ideas with my peers, wrote some papers as part of the research for my innovation project, and created an eportfolio. I enjoyed reading what others were working on and how they were able to apply the same ideas and concepts to their own jobs and innovation plans.

The Future

My goal is to ‘spread’ the COVA approach to the teachers that I work with. As an elementary instructional coach, I feel that I might have more opportunities for this than some others in the course. Guiding teachers to implement new ideas is basically what I do for a living! However, it is such a far stretch from what most teachers at my school are currently doing, that it won’t be that easy. Teachers have so much going on in their classrooms, and I have to be careful to approach this gently and slowly to encourage them to take small steps toward implementation. I have one team of teachers that is really interested in starting something along these lines, so I will begin working with them. Hopefully we will find some small changes that will have strong enough effects that other teachers won’t be able to say no!

Digital Citizenship – Week 5

Digital citizenship is a very broad topic with many specific details to learn. Five weeks is just too short to really learn everything well! Both texts were lengthy, but also very appropriate for the course. I learned a lot from both, but I felt that Ribble’s text was more appropriate for my current job as an instructional coach.

I feel that my biggest accomplishment, and also my best work, in this course was creating a PowToon. I’ve used PowToon before, but not in as much detail as this. I added music, got the words and pictures adjusted correctly, and made sure that everything was well timed. The final product included information about a recent technological advance and the digital citizenship elements that it involved. Through creating the presentation, I learned more about helpful technological features, such as common symbols and tools that many websites and programs use. Unless I get a chance to ‘play’ with a program, I usually don’t know much about the features available. With PowToon, I didn’t realize that you can include photos and music, or adjust the timing so easily.

My biggest challenge, as in any course, was time. With a full-time job and two kids, it is difficult to find time to dedicate to reading, researching, and working on school. I was hoping that this would all be easier in the summer, but it was actually harder. I just wanted to play with my kids!

In my role as an instructional coach, I don’t often have to deal with the student side of digital citizenship. I do, however, feel that I need to set a good example in my digital habits so that the teachers at my school can learn from me. Knowing more about copyright laws is very useful to me as I use resources to prepare lessons and presentations.

This course taught me a lot of things that I probably should have already known, such as copyright laws and fair use information. I hope that I can continue to learn more and practice, and teach others about what I’ve learned. My favorite part of the course was learning about Ribble’s Elements of Digital Citizenship. Although they make a lot of sense, I had never thought about them individually or specifically like that.

In terms of the course specifically, I feel that, in order to get the most out of it, you need to put in a lot of time and effort. Just skimming the surface of the texts and the information provided doesn’t do it justice. I think that the final project has been the most difficult activity in the course. I feel that, on one hand, 5 pages is much too short to talk about all the information on such a dense topic. On the other hand, it feels almost too lengthy and formal compared to our other assignments in this course. I guess I don’t know of an appropriate alternate assignment though. To friends, I might say that this course taught me a lot about some very specific topics, and seemed almost too short to cover everything well.

Digital Citizenship – Week 3

The topic for this week, Copyright, was of interest to me. I feel like I am a very ethical person, but besides my values, I don’t know much about what I can and can’t do in terms of copying or using materials in my classroom. Just the description and example that Billie Ann gave in our web conference was very eye-opening to me. I hadn’t ever thought about teaching my students how to correctly use a resource when writing a report. I don’t know that I ever learned the right way myself! Her idea of having students read an article entirely and then close their computer and write a bulleted list of everything that they remembered was very eye-opening. It’s so easy for students to take notes by copying words, phrases, and sentences from a resource.

Stim’s (2017) information about determining fair use was also full of new information for me. Again, I was going off of my values and ethics, which were actually along the same lines that Stim suggests. His four factors to consider – purpose, nature, amount, and effect – clarified for me, and gave me something solid that I can use when working with students and teachers.

Creative Commons is a new concept for me to consider. I’ve noticed the Creative Commons license symbols before, but never knew what they meant. Dylan, Meier, and Cohen (2008) do a great job of explaining Creative Commons in their video. I can understand why there are different licenses for different purposes. Some people may not care about others using their property, while some don’t mind use if properly attributed. When using pictures for assignments while working on graduate school courses, I have typically used a Google search and narrowed the results to those allowed for non-commercial use. I am now beginning to understand when the other types of licenses might be appropriate.

I also learned a lot when reading about the newly appointed Librarian in the Library of Congress. In the report from the Hudson Institute, it is recommended that the Library of Congress be separated from the U.S. Copyright Office. They say that the Library of Congress is ‘badly outdated’ and that the Copyright Office will not be able to focus on the needed updates because they have ‘other priorities.’ While I don’t think that the actual location of the Library of Congress is important, I think that there needs to be some effort put into the necessary updates to bring them into the 21st century. If this can be done while they are part of the Copyright Office, that’s fine. If not, then the Library of Congress needs to be a different entity entirely. The most important thing is to modernize our copyright laws, especially to make specific rules pertaining to material on the internet.

 

Dylan, J. (Director), & Meier, M., & Cohen, P. (Producers). (2008, July 30). A Shared Culture [Video file]. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko

Hudson Institute. (2015). A 21st Century Copyright Office: The Conservative Case for Reform. Washington, DC: Tepp, Steven and Oman, Ralph.

Stim, R. (2017, April 10). Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/

Digital Learning and Leading is Living up to its Title!

As I’m coming to the end of my graduate work at Lamar, I can’t help but think how appropriate the name of this degree is. I am learning so much about best practices in a digital, 21st century classroom!

When I first started my innovation plan, it felt very shallow. I wasn’t sure what campus I would be working on or who I would be working with. I felt like I couldn’t make my innovation plan REAL yet. At my new campus this year, I love that the teachers almost all have 1:1 devices in their classrooms. They know of amazing ways to use the iPads and Chromebooks, and I’ve learned a lot from them!!

Just recently, our kinder, first, and second grade teachers were given the opportunity to try out an online math program. My principal let me take the lead on rolling the program out to teachers. I knew this was my opportunity to see if anyone had any interest in blended learning. I sent out a video introduction of the program, and at the end of my recording I mentioned the possibility of teachers incorporating the online math resource into a blended learning classroom. Throughout the last few weeks, I have been stopping by classrooms and watching students interact with the math program. The students love it and the teachers are able to get great data about the math skills and concepts that their students are grasping or struggling with.

One teacher asked me to tell her more about blended learning. After our conversation, she has decided that learning more about blended learning and incorporating it into her classroom next year is her goal. She wants to read and learn over the summer, and start the year off using her iPads more effectively in her classroom. This conversation has made my innovation plan have a purpose. I now have a teacher and a classroom full of second graders to plan and work for. It’s no longer just a vision, but a true plan. And I have some work to do!

In reading about blended learning I have discovered that I am on the right track. The research and literature that I have read and discussed in my literature review was helpful in pointing out some things that work well in a blended learning classroom, and some things that have not worked well. I feel lucky to be able to learn from what others around the globe have discovered!

What I’ve learned:

  • It’s not just about the technology
  • One type of device doesn’t work for all learners
  • It’s important to be ready technologically for lots of use
  • We need to continue to monitor our students’ learning and behavior
  • Students are motivated by blended learning
  • Mobile devices can be used for blended learning
  • Teachers need training on implementing blended learning effectively
  • Professional development can be done in a blended format
  • Professional development has the most impact when it is ongoing

I can now begin the work of updating my innovation plan, with a specific teacher in mind. This is where the leading part of the degree title begins!

Effective Professional Development – A Call to Action

 The Story Behind the Story

Duarte says that presentations can be more effective when we tell a story. My story is about teachers, and therefore about students. As an instructional coach, teachers are my focus. I help with specific classroom and instructional issues, spend time planning lessons, and provide professional development to the teachers at my school and in my district.
The professional development that I provide includes one-time meetings of various lengths and multiple-session courses, and can be book studies, workshops, or a lecture format. I believe there need to be some changes made to the PD in our district.

“Professional development can no longer just be about exposing teachers to a concept or providing basic knowledge about a teaching methodology. Instead, professional development in an era of accountability requires a change in a teacher’s practice that leads to increases in student learning.” (Gulamhussein, 2013)

The type of PD that I am suggesting is quite different, and I hope will be well received by teachers and administrators. The course will be about using blended learning in the classroom. It will be ongoing, possibly throughout a semester or even a whole school year. I will provide support for teachers as they work to implement blended learning in their classrooms. We will jump right in and use a blended learning format for the course, so teachers have a model to guide them. This will be a training geared toward any teacher in my K-5 school, and can be focused on specific grades and content as needed.
I feel excited to be an instructional coach in a time when PD is changing. I look forward to supporting teachers as they learn new things and work implement them in their classrooms to improve their instruction.
My video is geared toward the administration at my school. I want them to see that we can provide effective PD at my campus, and that there are coaches there to help!

The Making of the Story

To make my video I tried a program called Kizoa. I had never used this program before, but the format was easy to understand and user friendly. It uses a drag and drop format, and includes transitions, music, effects, and a variety of colors and backgrounds.
It was difficult to design the pieces of the video exactly how I wanted them, so I decided to create slides in Google Slides and use the snipping tool to save them and upload them to Kizoa. I found pictures in Google Images, making sure that they were labeled for reuse, and found a font that was bold and thick, so that it would stand out. In Kizoa I was easily able to add music and transitions to my video. I am happy with the final product!

References

Duarte, N. (2013). Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. John Wiley & Sons. An online media version of Resonate can be accessed for free at http://resonate.duarte.com/#!page0

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pdf

Reflection of Online Learning

My students are the teachers at my school. My job is to create learning opportunities for them throughout the year, including face to face professional development, model lessons, and discussions about lesson plans and student learning. With my innovation plan, I hope to add the dimension of online learning into my school and my district. Online learning gives students opportunities to learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own home. I want teachers to incorporate blended learning into their classrooms, and the only way they’ll feel confident enough to try is if they understand and appreciate it. I need to build buy-in, and telling teachers how wonderful blended learning is and how it fits in well with our district’s philosophy of learning will not achieve buy-in. My course involves videos and articles to read that will help teachers construct their own ideas about blended learning and how it can fit into their current schedule. Through my three-column table I aligned the pieces of my course, and now have a format in which my students can learn about creating a significant learning environment in their classroom and implementing blended learning.

I appreciate that I now have experience creating an online course, and I hope to apply my learning to more courses that I teach throughout the year. The most important thing for me to keep in mind is to allow students to create their own understanding. This is the only way for them to own their learning and accomplish the goals set forth in the course.

Online Course Completion

As I create my Blended Learning class on Schoology, I’m excited to begin developing more online learning opportunities for teachers in my district. There are many professional development courses that I teach throughout the year and during the summer. The first couple that I would like to turn into blended learning courses are Effort Effect: Mindsets in the Math Classroom and a books study of Count Me In!.

In Effort Effect: Mindsets in the Math Classroom, I enjoy showing teachers videos of famous people throughout history who learned by making mistakes and continuing to practice. There are some card sorts that we do in the training that I think would be fun to turn into online sorts through Padlet or another app. We also try activities that are intentionally difficult for teachers, to remind them what it’s like to struggle in school. These activities might be best to do in a face-to-face setting, so a blended learning format would be better for this class than a completely online setting.

This school year I facilitated a book study of Count Me In! about the importance of including all students in math activities and discussions in the classroom. The teachers who participated, mostly special education teachers, enjoyed reading the book and discussing the applications to their own classrooms. I think a lot of the discussion could be online or in a Google Hangout just as easily as in person. We also watched some videos that emphasized the importance of math that is accessible to all students, which could easily be watched independently. It would be very important to have a discussion forum that is easy to navigate for this course, as the teachers would most likely want to use it a lot!

There are other courses that I’ve dreamed of creating and teaching that would lend themselves to an online or blended format. I’m glad to have the experience with Schoology to help me create courses in the future.

Online Course update

My online course is now well underway! I’ve really enjoyed using Schoology. It’s a very simple, straightforward platform, but so far has been able to do anything I’ve wanted it to. In addition to my course sessions, I’ve added the course outline, a general discussion board, and an album for students to upload photos of blended learning in action. I also learned how to embed my videos into the course instead of just linking them. Things are coming along, and I’m feeling very proud of my course!