Response to Capstone Feedback

I’m finally in the final stages of my Capstone Project and I’m ready to present the 1st of my 5 Canvas seminars! I followed the Instructional Design process as described by the latest literature and best practices of our time, blending technology where appropriate, and creating opportunities for differentiated learning as much as possible. Adult education is a different can of worms because of the varying dynamics of adult life, including responsibilities and fluctuating priorities and interest. However, many adults love to learn if the right environment and opportunities are created that meet their needs and interests. I took all this to heart and put a lot of systematic work into designing these Canvas seminars to be cohesive and directed towards empowering the Science Teachers at Passaic County Technical Institute to begin to incorporate Canvas, efficiently and effectively, to enhance learning through technology, utilizing the amazing resources the institution has to offer to the fullest potential. However, one cannot simply be emotionally involved in their work because they may be blinded by their passion. For these reasons a second pair of eyes always helps. Thankfully, throughout the process I had amazing peers and colleagues to guide me along the way, offering constructive feedback, and helping me identify weak or ambiguous areas of my instructional design process.

In my final presentation of my Capstone Project, almost everything came together. I just had to dot some I’s and cross some T’s. I presented the evolutionary process of my Capstone Project from the Organizational Profile all the way up to the full creation of my lesson, including the lesson plan, artifacts to be used, and assessments to measure understanding. Additionally, I added supplemental resources for continued learning for my participants and I created a survey to obtain feedback on the 1st Seminar for the purposes of improving it in the future and modifying my future seminars to adjust where necessary to make for a more enjoyable and transformative learning experience.

My peers commended the artifacts I created because it was clear that I was designing for differentiated learning. I also made it clear that I was using a constructivist approach to learning, taking as much information as I could about my participants to create something that allowed for individual and personal growth and development, since ample literature suggests that adult learners learn best when they have opportunities to create and execute practical application versus theoretical discussion. I also provided a rubric for them to self-assess, and to give some direction, rather than a checklist that can often be restricting. Of course this all depends on your audience, their level and interests, so please don’t think I’m against other forms of delivery and guidance. This is simply the approach I took with my learners. In fact, I had learners of differing levels of experience with Canvas so I needed to make sure they were not limited to something basic. However, for the teachers who need a little extra help and guidance, I created an artifact which can be used optionally during or following the seminar. My peers especially like this artifact which was an instructional walk-through video for Canvas users at Passaic County Technical Institute.

Overall, everything came together and the instructional design process has a beautiful, logical, systematic flow, which I would gladly implement in many more projects to come. I learned from the work of my peers in how their artifacts differed, some not even using technology at times, reminding all of us of an important thing: Technology is not always the most appropriate and effective tool for instructional delivery. It is up to the designer to determine where and when it is appropriate. I cannot express the incredible value peer review and collaboration had on my Capstone Project, and consequently, I would always look for a team to collaborate and discuss my ideas and creations, throughout the design process. I don’t know where my future will take me, but I am very happy, and pleasantly surprised with how everything came together and with what I produced. It just goes to show, if you make educated decisions, take your time, believe in yourself, and apply logic in conjunction with following a proven systematic process, accepting the constructive criticisms of peers and experts, you can truly create something wonderful.

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Design Decisions Reflection

The Design Decisions Phase of Instructional Design is essentially the planning phase of your proposed instruction. I was able to take my Needs Analysis and use that to generate my desired goals and objectives, which have their subtle differences, and then consider a variety of instructional methods to reach those. I had to reflect on the latest learning theories and practices and decide the role technology could play in the learning process. Since my audience consisted of adults I needed to take into account adult learning preferences to make sure my seminar would be engaging, memorable, and most importantly, transformative. Ultimately, in this phase you plan out all elements of the learning experience from activities and resources to the best time of day and environment to ensure a successful lesson. You even calculate the cost of any food, breaks, discussion time, and the like. Essentially you plan for a theoretical execution of the lesson trying to think of everything.

One important feature one should be sure to include in their Design Decisions was making sure the seminar connects back to the overarching goals for the Unit. Typically a unit is multiple lessons and has many goals and objectives. While the seminar or lesson typically concludes in a day, you have to make sure that the knowledge can be applied and that there are opportunities for self-directed learning at the conclusion of the session. Finally, one cannot neglect formal and informal assessment and evaluation, as well as a feedback survey to reflect on to create or enhance the same, or similar, seminars in the future.

I had the opportunity to read the Design Decisions of several of my peers and we were able to discuss and explore the obstacles I had in creating my Design Decisions. This segment of Instructional Design requires enormous amounts of creativity and ideas, and your friends and colleagues are amazing resources that you can harness beyond existing literature and the information from your Needs Analysis. It really is true that more heads are better than one, when it comes to ideas! I was so impressed and inspired by my colleagues and when I hit an obstacle trying to think of alternative means of assessment and artifacts of instruction, they gave me several ideas to decide from. I ended up deciding to implement Screencast-o-Matic and Kahoot! to diversify my instructional methods, incorporating technology in a fun, engaging, and at the same time, highly beneficial manner. While I’m still new to these platforms of instruction, this works towards my overarching unit goal which is to make the teachers more confident with Canvas and the effective implementation of technology in the classroom. I went back, revised my Design Decisions and am more confident than ever that this going to be a great seminar! Plus, I’m getting to learn new technology as a result! And, it goes without saying that I’ll never doubt the value of collaboration when trying to overcome creative obstacles. It’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes it is other people that pull out the best in you.

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Improving Learning by Screencast Technology – 2nd Article Review

Screencast is an amazing feature that is offered by a variety of programs that allows you to show everyone what’s happening on your computer screen. How is it different from using a projector? You get to record it what’s happening on the screen as a video and add audio and captions as well, so that your lesson can be replayed over and over again by the user. Additionally, the user can pause and practice. That’s my favorite part. These are just some of the amazing applications of this amazing feature, which has essentially revolutionized learning.

I was hoping to incorporate a video tutorial as part of my capstone project to help my learners with the difficult task of creating and designing their Canvas course page. Canvas is a Learning Management System that is being utilized by the school which I will be conducting the Professional Development, and the central focus of my seminar. Since they will need to use Canvas on their personal computers for a portion of the seminar, I was thinking of different ways to help those who were a little less tech savvy and needed further guidance. Some of the attendees do not need formalized guidance and therefore they may get restless waiting to begin the activity. On the other hand, some will need more direction, and it may be a significant bunch. During the portion of the seminar where they will be working independently, I was thinking to give them access to a Video Tutorial to help them get started while the other learners could act on their prior knowledge and use the tutorial as a resource, if they run into obstacles. Additionally, it could be a continuous resource that they can maintain access to in order to use when they need to recall a major aspect of the seminar in hopes of applying what they learned. However, I still wanted to read up more on the impact of tutorial videos on learning so I began my investigation. After reading several articles, I stumbled upon this amazing article which examines the impact of Screencast Technology on Learning for computer based learning.

This article was a research study that was conducted to determine the proper implementation and potential impacts of Screencast Technology for Computer Courses in Higher Education. More specifically the focus was on the quality of the audio and video produced and how much that mattered in the learning experience. The sample size consisted of 30 learners taking computer courses with the same instructor and materials. The participants were surveyed and the results are discussed. The study found that video and audio quality matter! Students were very pleased with the videos, citing their reasons for success in the course was based on being able to learn at their own pace outside the classroom. Also, because the content is traditionally taught through text books and theory, this allowed for a visual representation and practical aspect of how to actualize the lessons being taught. The main features that made the videos so great were High Definition recording, quality sound, and zooming in order to emphasize important areas on the screen. The article concludes advising that the videos be short in length and created meticulously and adds, ‘effective video clips should be of high-quality, both technically and pedagogically’. The final recommendation was that Screen Cast Technology be utilized for any and all computer courses in college to supplement and enhance learning for all students.

It is clear that Screencast Technology can enhance learning by soliciting engagement and providing opportunities for differentiation. The lecturer is not the center of attention but rather what is on the screen. What is on the screen draws complete attention and the audio explains and guides through the visuals. The closed captioning option facilitates learning for a variety of learners as well. Furthermore, ‘screencasts may increase student engagement and achievement and also provide more time in which students can work collaboratively in groups’ allowing people to pause, discuss, ask for clarification, and move at their own pace while working to complete an activity. For all these reasons it is extremely compatible and in accordance with Universal Design Learning (UDL) principles and would be a great feature and artifact to include in my Capstone Project and future seminars. There are a variety of Screen Casting programs out there and, now that you know how awesome they can be, I encourage you to explore them yourself!

Ghilay, Y., & Ghilay, R. (2015). Computer Courses in Higher-Education: Improving Learning by Screencast Technology. Journal of Educational Technology, 11(4), 15-26. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1098601.pdf

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Needs Analysis Reflection

Following the completion of my Needs Analysis, I was able to have some of my peers review my process and design, and provide constructive feedback. Designing a Needs Analysis is a very important task however it can be tricky. Deciding on how to extract the needs of the participants and organization that you are designing instruction for is one of the most important processes and you have little to go on initially. A thorough understanding of the organization and their goals and objectives is important. It is also important to give a platform for free response when surveying to not confine the responses of your target group. This step of Instructional Design process is fundamental in designing appropriate Instruction and all subsequent decisions take this into account.

My Needs Analysis was conducted on Google Forms and incorporated a short response, multiple choice and multiple answer question types. Additionally, follow up one to ones was utilized to explore further areas of interest. I noted that this was something that all of my peers observed and commended. As my friend Tara said, “This offers great variety and gives you objective data needed for your baseline results”. She also added that taking my audiences opinions and feelings into account was a very important aspect at designing instruction they can resonate with. Her primary recommendation was to further develop a proposal at the conclusion of my Needs Analysis whereby I explicitly express the prevalent needs I have determined. That is to say that even if I had ideas and deductions, I realized how important it is for one to clearly identify the problem as it is the first step at finding an appropriate response.

Another friend, Paulina mentioned something very interesting that I overlooked! I was so focused on the opinions and feelings of my audience to make the lesson attractive and beneficial I forgot to assess some basic information like gender, age and years of experience teaching. These trivial facts about your learners are very important, especially if you notice your audience share certain characteristics, because you can modify your lessons to resonate more with the specific group and their learning preferences. Furthermore, I could use this information when creating groups for collaboration during my seminar.

Receiving feedback from my peers was an invaluable experience whereby I learned what went right and what I may have missed and could include in future Needs Assessments. Your product is a direct result of your Needs Analysis and if that is not designed comprehensively then you may be designing instruction that is not completely relevant. All my peers stated that creating a variety of questions styles and extracting the opinions and feelings of my audience was the most notable feature of my Needs Analysis. They also mentioned that my decision to explore the implementation and use of Canvas at Passaic County Technical Institute was a very good area to explore as the appropriate use of technology in schools is something that all 21st Century Schools are working towards and teachers are often in need of effective professional development to compliment the newly purchased technological resources. Google Forms was a great medium for extracting a great amount of information from multiple participants via their emails which I would definitely recommend and utilize again in the future. Overall, my Needs Analysis provided enough information to help me proceed in the right direction towards designing quality professional development and I am excited to continue my journey of Instructional Design.

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Teachers Resist Professional Development – 1st Article Review

When do teachers resist learning!? Why would a teacher resist learning!? Isn’t that what they ask and solicit students to do every day. Is it simple hypocrisy or is there more to it? Is it a teacher thing or just an adult thing? As I read a research article in the Journal of Teacher Education that explores the underlying causes of resistance to learning found in Professional Development, I focused on answering these questions as I am planning to conduct my own professional development workshop for teachers in the coming weeks. I would like my learners to actually enjoy the experience and benefit tremendously from it.

In the article, Studying Teachers’ Sensemaking to Investigate Teachers’ Responses to Professional Development Focused on New Standards, it begins by saying,”Teachers’ prior knowledge shapes what and how they learn from professional development (PD)”. Consequently, this necessitates a constructivist philosophical orientation of teaching in which each person has their own prior knowledge and they are constructing a particular world view that encompasses and integrates what they knew and what they learned as a result. In short, prior knowledge impacts the interest in learning new knowledge, the ability to learn that new knowledge, and how that knowledge is received or interpreted. When an instructor recognizes this, he can create the lesson or learning experience in such a way so that he can understand the dynamics of the learner, including aspects of their prior knowledge, in order to create a truly transformative learning experience and solicit and captivate the interest of the learner.

The authors, Allen and Penuel, describe ‘Sensemaking’ as an investigative process by which you analyze the connection between theory and application. The link between the two can be ambiguous and while a professional development seminar can be appear to be successful at the surface level, the application of what was taught may not come into fruition in the classroom. ‘Sensemaking’ hopes to analyze the source of ambiguity and establish coherence. “Sources of ambiguity can include the presence of conflicting goals,
contradictions or paradoxes, limited resources available to perform actions demanded of external change agents, lack of clarity with respect to roles and responsibilities, or the absence of measures for judging the success of action (Weick, 1995)’.

The research focuses on the internalization and application of Next Generation Science Standards in two schools. They argue that, depending on the school, there are a lot of hidden factors that can influence a teachers willingness to learn and implement what they have learned. One factor may be if the administration believe in the standards and the practicality. Another factor may be if the teachers believe it is feasible to do in the classroom with the resources of their particular school. They basically identify what internal conflicts exist within the learners framework so that they can address those at the root. The idea is, if you treat those issues then the PD will become actualized. The teachers in this study were followed for 16 months and their PD responses were compared with physical artifacts of their teaching. The data expressed that ‘the most prevalent sources of ambiguity and uncertainty for the teachers in this study were conflicting goals, an absence
of measures, and limited resources’.

One of the best ways to resolve such conflict, which was cited in the article, was ‘Collaboration’. Collaboration within a school and between learners allows them to hash out their internal conflicts and questions and to sometimes find that others are just as stumped as they are. Implementing NGSS is no walk in the park and requires time, experimentation, and monitoring, with some feedback and follow up. Now, no one wants to be policed or monitored so attentively because it can be nerve wrecking, however, with collaboration and good leadership, informal means of observation and follow up can be very helpful.

Simply put, 1 professional development workshop is not enough to change your life forever unless you put what you learned into practice. While many people seem to have understood and benefited from the PD, it may not be actualized in any way shape or form and this is largely due to Sensemaking. Knowing this, one must adjust their PD in such a way that addresses these issues of ambiguity and create a means of follow up and support for the learners, be it by means of formal access to the instructor, or informal methods, like a professional group for people who have taken the seminar to collaborate. There are many other ideas as well to maintain follow up engagement and resolve ambiguities. As I go on to develop seminars and professional development workshops, I’ll definitely keep this in mind, and so should you!

Allen, C. D., & Penuel, W. R. (2015). Studying Teachers’ Sensemaking to Investigate Teachers’ Responses to Professional Development Focused on New Standards. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(2), 136-149. doi:10.1177/0022487114560646

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1st blog post – Introduction

Join my exploration of the field of Instructional Design and Educational Development as I strive to improve my craft and share my work. This Blog is meant to stimulate reflection, not disseminate facts. Read, think and reflect. Even challenge the research if you wish, for that is how we grow.

We will never reach perfection or absolute knowledge, but don’t be depressed, that’s just because life is dynamic, rather than static, and you as a living organism are proof of that. That just means we can always improve and get better. The goal is moving forward in the right direction, not necessarily reaching a destination. We interact with a multitude of stimuli and deal with a variety of situations every day because the world is ever-changing. It demands us to adapt and learn in order to navigate, survive, thrive, contribute and create. We may derive different conclusions and offer different solutions at different times and under different circumstances. Therefore, one must conclude that our learning process should never end.

Some of us have developed strong negative feelings towards education as a result of formalized schooling and therefore are “done with learning”. Don’t let that be you! Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, and never stop reading, for that is giving up one of the your most distinguished abilities. It may seem like an average ability depending on where you live, but it really is not! You possess a superpower and it should be treated as such, if people only knew. Of those who possess this special ability, many do not appreciate and utilize the gift in a constructive and productive manner.

Remember, learning can be fun and relaxing, and it doesn’t have to make you apprehensive.Welcome to my blog, a place to refine your craft and have fun doing it.

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