So...what have I learned? Wow. Where to begin?! With the standards, I guess, as that is what Lee has asked us to do:
2.e. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using differentiation, including adjusting content, process, product and learning environment based on student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals.
First of all, both the Harasim text and the Moore and Kearsley text assigned for this course were fabulous. Throughout the semester, I gained a strong understanding of how powerful online learning can be to create and provide students with truly personalized learning experiences as a result of assigned reading. In addition, the task of supplementing my learning with additional resources I located (and those I encountered when reading my peers' blog posts) provided me with the opportunity to learn a great deal beyond the assigned reading, and it modeled instructional design that does exactly what this standard emphasizes: Differentiation based on student readiness levels, ... interests, and personal goals. Because I had the opportunity each and every week to further delve into a particular area of study that was of greatest interest to me (related to the week's overarching topic or theme), I was able to learn so much about EXACTLY what I needed and wanted to learn about and know. The first few weeks of the course were a bit unsettling: I would read the assigned text, do my own research and locate additional resources, write my blog post...and then start to read my colleagues' posts and be immediately convinced I had misunderstood or was doing something wrong! When my posts didn't match theirs in emphasis, elaboration on a topic, or direction, I was worried: Had I misunderstood the assignment? Did I not "get" what the week was really supposed to be about? It took me a bit to realize and accept the fact that the course had been designed to provide us all with the same basic foundation and then to allow us the freedom to explore and learn more about what we wanted/needed. For example, Week Three was about MOOCs ... and it opened up a completely new world for me. Prior to the week's reading, I had a very limited understanding of what MOOCs were. By the end of my own study that week, I was so jazzed about the potential for MOOCs to change secondary education, higher ed, and learning, in general, that I was probably starting to frighten people. I just couldn't stop thinking (and talking) about how revolutionary the concept is...what it could mean for equalizing educational opportunities...and how completely AWESOME it is that anyone with an Internet connection, a computer, and the desire to do so can take a class from Stanford or Harvard or Oxford...at little or no cost...with people from around the globe. Simply amazing.
3.c. Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning.
The variety of courses I took this semester, combined with directing and supporting blended and online learning that is still in its toddler stage in my school district, provided me with hands-on experience with various types of learning experiences...and helped me to carefully consider which models, styles, and approaches work best for me as a learner, as well as how they do (or don't) work for other learning styles. In addition to EDET 674, I took EDET 628, which also used an outside website for basic content information and weekly assignments (which I prefer SO MUCH to having the weekly narrative information housed in Blackboard), but 628 required a more controlled and prescribed set of assignments, weekly posts, and opportunities to collaborate and communicate. It was interesting to take 628 and 674 simultaneously, because I could definitely see how 628 had been intentionally designed with more scaffolds to support learners new to an online environment. The use of Google Hangouts was tremendously important to my learning -- not that they necessarily taught me specific content in and of themselves, but rather because they provided opportunities to bring faces and personalities to the names of my classmates I only saw on their blog posts. For me, connecting via Hangouts helped create a stronger sense of community than is possible without at least occasional synchronous connections. I went on and on about this in my Week 8 blog post (People Matter). The collaborative nature of 674 taught me a lot -- not just about how to design a course, but also about how differently we all are as learners. My colleagues' responses to and comments on my blog posts didn't just offer pats on the back. Sometimes they asked hard questions and made me consider things I hadn't previously. Thomas' comment on my Week 8 post reminded me that not everyone wants or needs the type of connection I experiences through the Hangouts. His reminder, and others made by colleagues in their posts and in responses to mine, absolutely supported and extended my learning by making me think about things that wouldn't have crossed my mind if I had merely posted my thoughts and moved on.
3.d. Select, evaluate and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.
Working with a team to create an online course -- and, more specifically, a online high school course for credit recovery absolutely helped me think about adaptive and assistive technologies, the roles they play in course design, and how MANY options there are to create courses that support all kinds of learners in an online environment -- so, so many more than are available with traditional instructional materials. The ability to link audio to text on a page, the ease with which one can create a screencast, the number of options available via technology tools to demonstrate learning: My mind races as I consider the myriad possibilities and how powerful technology has been in leveling the playing field for all kinds of learners. One my favorite video discoveries this semester was the documentary on "Future Learning," perhaps because it focused on technology as a tool for helping students to understand content -- whether it be through the engaging illustration of a math concept in a Khan Academy lesson, online discussion forums that require and allow all students to "speak" and demonstrate understanding, gamification of content that engages students and makes learning fun, the reliable and consistent drill and practice available through an app, or the ability to rewind and rewatch an Edgenuity video lecture that just didn't make sense the first time through. Some adults in my school district have expressed concern about the amount of "screen time" students experience in classrooms today. The reality of our world, however, as described in the "Future Learning" video, argues that today's classrooms (the "traditional" ones) teach students to be submissive "photocopies of each other." Probably not what any parent would say they want for their children. Sal Khan asks, "How do you sit patiently and be disengaged for an hour and take it?" Anyone who has observed in a typical high school classroom knows exactly what Khan means...and yet, despite the fact that technology can individually engage a learner and provide a personalized learning experience has been criticized (in my district, anyway) because it means "screen time" for a student. I want every one of the nay-sayers I have encountered this school year to watch this video and pay careful attention to this section of "Future Learning"...listening specifically to the Dr. Sugata Mitra's advice about the things curriculum designed to prepare students for a world we cannot even imagine must teach: Number One on his list is reading comprehension, critical for a "generation that is going to read off screens for their rest of their lives."
6-a Deepening content and pedagogical knowledge in the foundations of distance learning literature
This standard is undoubtedly the one where I, personally, have experienced the greatest amount of learning and growth. The pedagogy of distance learning, blended learning, online learning, digital learning, whatever-you-want-to-call-it-learning that involves technology is really what drew me to the courses I took this semester...and it is the standard upon which I focused the most in terms of my reading, research, and reflection. Spurred by conversations and dissension that nearly tore my school district apart last fall, I focused on spring semester courses on distance education, at first, because I was interested in an online teaching endorsement that would allow me to remove myself from the frustration of arguing with people about technology in our schools and would allow me to teach in what seemedto be the quiet comfort of an online environment. What I discovered in the course of the semester, however, is that online learning environments require even more communication, perhaps, than traditional classroom settings, and that helping learners of ALL ages (including the parents of today's students, who are learning about new ways of learning!) to better understand how and why changes in education are positive improvements to an archaic system will take very hard work, sustained positive messaging, and perseverance in working toward something in which I believe...even if it takes a long while. I have seen what can happen as a result of technology in our schools: I have watched as students battled through the barrage of arguing adults last fall to learn more content, more quickly than ever before. I have observed as students who have struggled in school for years made 2 1/2 years of academic gains in math in a few short months as a result of personalized learning via a technology platform, coupled with a caring and compassionate teacher. I have thrilled at the stories teachers have shared about their ability to finally deliver a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is aligned both vertically and horizontally to all of the students in their classrooms, regardless of the students' ability levels and regardless of the schools in which they teach and/or the colleagues with whom they work. I have found myself on the brink of tears to hear parents who initially spoke publicly about how much they hated online learning ask if there was any way their students could take a particular online learning platform with them when they moved to another school district because it had been such a game-changer for their child's education. Because of the classes I was taking this semester -- in particular, EDET 674 -- I was able to consider all of these experiences through the lens of not only an educator, but also through the lens of a student learning about educational technology, online learning, and a brave new world in education -- one that is categorically different from the world I experienced as a K-12 learner and university student in the 70s and 80s. It is interesting now, at the end of the semester, to revisit my blog posts from Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3, when I was first encountering assigned readings about theory, research, and discourse that would pave the way for the rest of the semester. I am compelled to post responses to my own blog posts: The educator I am today, after a semester's worth of learning and experience, responding to the novice learner I was on this topic back in January and February. I chose to compose these comments and responses in my head, as opposed to posting them on my own blog...which would probably seem pretty weird. :)
6-c Reflecting on professional practice and dispositions to improve your ability to model and facilitate distance learning experiences
For my 8th birthday, I received a diary. That gift at a very young age helped to define me. I have been a writer for nearly my entire life. I process through writing; I make sense of what I'm thinking and feeling through writing. I use writing to help me capture precious moments that I never want to forget, and to rid my mind of grief and heartache. As a teacher of English Language Arts for years and years, I taught students the value or writing as a tool for learning and for expression. I have published a number of columns, articles, and chapters over the years that tell stories of my experiences in education, what I believe, and how teaching and learning can impact lives. However, "reflection" has been reserved for private spaces in my world as a writer. I have a private blog that will die with me one day, as no one knows it exists and it is the one password I do not have written down on a sticky note and attached to the side of my computer. "Reflection" is personal. For this class, being required to post a weekly "reflection" on a public blog...and to tweet that reflection...was one of the hardest things I have had to do as a writer. I wanted my reflections to be authentic. I didn't want them to be surface-level summaries of what I had learned. I needed to be able to reflect on my learning, and I didn't have time to write two entries: one for public view and another for the purposes of my own, true reflection. So...I reflected. I posted them on my blog. I tweeted them...knowing that they were going to FAR more people that I would have wanted as a result of my recent infatuation with Twitter and the many new followers I acquired this semester. And I cringed, knowing that at least a couple other people in the world were reading my thoughts and, perhaps, passing judgment. And then...I let it go. Sort of. Mostly. For some of my reflections, at least. Now that the semester is over, I realize that what I have learned and the firm stand I have taken on some issues and in some blog posts (Week 9, for example, and in an unofficial, quite daring blog post in response to a curriculum committee meeting) are not just examples of me spouting off. They are public examples of me fulfilling my professional obligations as an educator. They detail things about which I feel very strongly...topics on which I have learned a great deal as the result of graduate-level study this semester...subjects related to my profession and professional role within an Alaskan school district and the American education system...and I have a responsibility to speak up, to say what I think, to support my thinking with research, resources, links to others' thinking on the topic, educated recommendations, and ideas for ways to create positive change. Reflections like these are nothing to be embarrassed about, and I have learned that this writing truly has improved my ability to model what "reflection" means in a distance learning experience...or in any learning experience, for that matter.
In the course of the last four months, I have completed the following courses and professional workshops:
- EDET 628: Technology in Instructional Design
- EDET 674: Virtual Teaching and Learning
- ASDN course: Intel Teach Elements: Designing Blended Learning
- Edmodo Certified Trainer Course
- ED 193: Coaching Online Students
Thanks to Dr. Lee Graham for her excellent instruction in EDET 674, and for modeling what truly effective virtual teaching and learning looks like, sounds like, feels like, and what it results in for the learner: significant personal and professional learning and growth. The ways in which I will apply what I have learned will, with some luck, impact learners both young and old in the years to come.
Thanks, too, to my superintendent...who may be the only person other than the course instructor who actually read my blog posts each week. :)
GOOD. (2012). Future learning short documentary. YouTube video. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/qC_T9ePzANg
Harasim, L. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies. New York: Routledge.
Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. [E-Book edition]
Van Wyhe, T. (2014). Teach2Learn AK. Professional blog maintained for EDET 674. Retrieved from http://tch2lrnak.weebly.com/