Reflections on the Maker Movement & CEP 811

The last 8 weeks have really flown by, and believe it or not, I’m now at the end of my CEP 811 course.  As I look back at my blog posts from this course, I’m amazed at the variety of topics I’ve been able to explore: MOOCs, EdCamps, the Maker Movement, learning theories, UDL, and the design of learning spaces.  We covered a lot of ground in this course, and I gained experience with some new tech tools (like SketchUp andPopcornMaker) through this course.

As the course ends, I think it’s valuable to reflect on my biggest take-aways, because without that reflection piece, I tend to compartmentalize everything I’ve learned and quickly forget about it.  (Just like my students!) But I’ve learned so many things in this course that I’d like to transfer to my teaching practice.

Maker Movement

One big piece of this course was getting involved in the “Maker Movement”.  I was initially pretty ambivalent about this.  I know that might be bad for a STEM educator to say, but I feared that it was just a trendy fad that I was going to have to try to squeeze into an already packed science curriculum.  But after studying it and engaging in it (in a very beginning way!), I realize how naturally it can fit into what I already do and what I want to do more of with my students.

The Maker Movement emphasizes hands-on creation, application, and sharing, shifting education away from content acquisition.  It fits well with learning theories like constructivism and experiential learning that posit that learning occurs most effectively when students construct their own understanding through exploration and then combine their new learning with their prior understandings to produce something new.  If students can’t produce or create something with their new knowledge, I doubt that it will really “stick” with them past the final exam.  They won’t internalize it and transfer it to new domains.

My MakeyMakey creation

My MakeyMakey creation

As I’ve learned more about learning theories and had my own new experiences as a learner in a Maker Movement class, I’ve begun to feel more comfortable with letting my students play and explore in their learning. For this class, I had to struggle to figure out how to use the MakeyMakey.  And I now believe that the MakeyMakey is a relatively cheap and easy way to get my students to dip their toes in the waters of the Maker Movement.  I am excited to try out my MakeyMakey lesson plan on conductivity with my students in the next unit, when we study bonding.  I don’t see myself using this specific tool extensively, but it is just an example of one tool that could allow me to help my students become producers rather than just consumers of content.

This week, I read a blog post by Grant Wiggins, “On Assessing Creativity“, and was challenged to think about how to assess my students’ creations for the lesson plan I designed in this course, as well as in other creative projects we do in class.  I have always struggled with how much to weight creativity, since it seems subjective and not an essential part of a traditional science curriculum.  But creative thinking is actually VITAL to being a good scientist, and to being successful in other domains.  I was glad to hear Wiggins acknowledge that both teachers and students can recognize when something is boring versus engaging, but was saddened to read the student quote, “Oh, you mean you don’t want it to be dull and boring?… Oh, we didn’t think that mattered in school writing.”  We are doing our students a disservice if we don’t give them meaningful learning opportunities and valid feedback about the effectiveness of their creation and communication.  I certainly have room to grow in what opportunities I give my students to create and share with authentic audiences, and in how I assess that work.  But through this class, I have created at least one more way for that to occur in my class, and I have the tools to continue to do it.

Self-Reflection

Speaking of areas for growth, I have learned a lot about myself through this course.  Specifically, I’ve learned that it is very difficult for me to balance being a student and a teacher at the same time.  It felt hectic to divide my time and attention between my work and personal responsibilities and my coursework.  It gave me more empathy for my students who are involved in many commitments outside of their schoolwork.

However, there was a lot of value in being able to immediately apply what I was learning each week in this class.  And as a new part-time technology coach, I found a lot of connections between what I was learning through this class and the new teachers and content areas I am now interacting with.  The biggest example of that was in the week we studied UDL theories and tools, which I was immediately able to share with some special education teachers. More broadly, I also benefited from thinking about how adults learn (andragogy) in different ways than high school students, and how professional development can come in different forms like EdCamps and MOOCs, rather than traditional lecture or workshop PD sessions.  This was different than my mindset when taking CEP 810, when I was focused only on how my students learn.  I realize I have so much yet to learn about how to best help adults learn.

Because I’ve learned so much of great value in both CEP 810 and CEP 811, I’m already looking forward to taking CEP 812 and tackling some of the “wicked problems” in education.  I will probably wait until summer to take it, though, because these courses are not easy and I want to be able to give the course my full attention so I can get maximal benefit from it!

In the meantime, I am excited to have more time to increase my presence on Twitter, to attend EdCamps (live and in person!) and to do some Google Hangouts with other teachers.  I’ve learned that it is so valuable to connect with educators outside of your local context, because it is energizing to find educators with similar interests, struggles, and goals.   I am so glad I have this chance to expand my PLN with my classmates from this course!

 

Reference:

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retreived from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

Advertisements

EdCamp Experience

A couple of weeks ago, I got to participate in my first virtual EdCamp! I have always wanted to attend a live EdCamp, and was even signed up to go to one in early November (but didn’t manage my time and responsibilities well enough, so I had to skip it). So I was thrilled that I had an opportunity to do one on Google Hangouts with some of my CEP 811 classmates.

If you are unfamiliar with what an EdCamp is, watch this short explanatory video:

I was nervous about the technology working, as I had never done a multi-person Google Hangout before. And, of course, I ran into a couple hiccups with that. I was unable to connect to the Hangout with my personal laptop, and had to switch to my school-issued laptop at the last minute. I think in part due to that switch to a less powerful computer, when it was my turn to present, Prezi crashed as I tried to share my screen. I got a little flustered, but my amazing instructors were able to rescue me and share the Prezi I created through their devices. From all of that, I was reminded that I should always have a thorough backup plan, including printed notes for myself to look at, especially when doing something new with technology!

Other than those little bumps in technology, I really enjoyed my EdCamp experience. I think my favorite part was how easy it was to connect with my classmates living in such different parts of the world. There’s something different about seeing one anothers’ faces as you communicate, rather than just responding to blog posts and tweets. I liked that each person was able to bring their unique experiences from their school context to bear on the topic at hand. And it’s amazing how many things I learned from our conversations — a great summary of the 4 pillars you need to have in place to go 1:1, how to use green screens and Google Earth in my classroom, and TigerTeams as a way to create PLCs for technology integration. I’ve referenced each of those ideas in conversations with colleagues at my school in the last week.

I think in a real-life EdCamp, you’d be able to get more back-and-forth conversation flowing than we had, because you wouldn’t “mute your microphone”. Now that I’ve experienced an EdCamp once, I think I’d start my segment with a question to elicit the other attendees’ experiences and opinions, and let the conversation flow from there.

As teachers, we have so many great ideas and experiences that don’t get shared outside of our classrooms, because we are so busy with the day-to-day tasks that we don’t get to reflect and share. In contrast to the traditional “sit and get” PD, where you’re told where to go and what you’re learning, an EdCamp provides a place for thoughtful dialog and a means by which teachers can select the professional development topics that are interesting and meaningful to them. Just like our pedagogy is shifting from instructivism to constructivism and experiential learning, and our curriculum is shifting to emphasize skills, understandings, and transferring knowledge to other situations, our professional development needs to shift as well. I’m excited for the day I’ll get to experience that kind of dialog with my peers at an EdCamp.

That day might actually be closer than I anticipated. The other instructional technology coach and I have been asked to help organize our January Teacher Institute Day at the high school, and we have been allowed and encouraged to consider an EdCamp model for that day! Because most of the teachers in my district haven’t experienced this model before, I think we will have a semi-structured format, as we did for our EdCamp in this class, where teachers (and maybe even students!) can volunteer to lead sessions ahead of time. We will hold a short training session for those teachers if they haven’t been to an EdCamp before, so they are familiar with the feel and style we want the sessions to have, and know to come prepared with discussion questions. (Otherwise, I fear we might end up with just a cheaper version of the traditional PD sessions!) On the day of, we will gather the faculty together to explain what an EdCamp model is and probably show a video clip like the one embedded above. I think it will be important to explain that teachers are free to go to whichever sessions interest them, and that their role is not just to listen to the presenter but to engage in thoughtful dialog and attempt to connect the topic to their current classrooms.

Logistically, it will be difficult to anticipate how many people will attend each session, so we might send out a pre-survey to find out what topics teachers are interested in, while still perhaps leaving room for last-minute topic additions on the day of the EdCamp. Also, in order to give teachers professional learning hours, we need to know where they are during each session, so we may not be able to let them move from session to session as you usually can at an EdCamp. Additionally, it will be important to get feedback from the teachers who participate about the sessions and the day as a whole, to inform future PD decisions.

I will share what we end up doing here on the blog, so that you, my readers, can hear how our EdCamp ends up going and learn from our success and mistakes!

 

Resources:

Lee, S. H.  (2014, Jan 11).  EdCamp 101.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7DwCI7j0Bg

Applying Universal Design for Learning

This week, I get to lead a training session for the Special Education teachers at my school on Google Chrome Apps & Extensions that can support learners with special needs.  To my delight, as I began to prepare resources for that session, I discovered that the topic of CEP 811 this week – Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – fits perfectly with the kinds of issues both special education teachers and general education teachers face as they teach the diverse learners in their classrooms. UDL, as described in the CAST guidelines (2011), is a framework to consider how curriculum and pedagogy can be implemented to best help individual students learn the content and learn how to become expert learners.  Its focus is on adding flexibility in ways that benefit all learners, including those with identified special needs and the individual variation in all learners.

When using UDL principles, teachers should examine three main areas:

  1. Representation:  WHAT are learners interacting with as they learn?  Is the content represented in a variety of ways, including auditory, visual, and tactile?
  2. Action & Expression: HOW will learners learn and demonstrate their mastery?  Are they given the choice to write, speak, draw, and use a variety of tools? How are students supported in the learning process?
  3. Engagement: WHY will learners care to learn?  How are their individual interests and strengths motivated and engaged throughout the learning opportunities?
As I reflect on my 7 years of teaching experience, I think I have increasingly allowed these principles to shape my teaching practice, even though I didn’t know they were part of the UDL framework.  Allowing flexibility and choice is easier as I’ve gained access to technology tools (like this amazing Wiki of tools!) that allow the learning to be personalized to each student.
A few weeks ago, I created a lesson plan for my high school chemistry students to explore conductivity and bonding.  After learning about the UDL guidelines and reflecting on that lesson plan, I realized that there were many aspects of that lesson that were already aligned to UDL principles, but that there were a few gaps as well.  So I revised the lesson to better address the needs of all learners. (Changes are in pink font.)

I created an infographic using easel.ly to summarize the UDL supports and design built into my revised lesson:
websitewer
easel.ly

 As you can see in the blue bubbles of the infographic, I added a significant number of new representation supports in this lesson:
  1. Students process information in different ways and at different rates, so I added an instruction sheet (rather than just oral teacher directions) for the MakeyMakey portion of the lesson.  This is a Google Doc that will be shared with students, so they can change the font size, translate it into their native language, have it read to them by a screen reader, and access it on any internet-connected device.
  2. I also incorporated a screencast that summarizes the key ideas from the day 2-3 bonding activity and a graphic organizer to help students connect the MakeyMakey activity to their in-class activity.  The great thing about screencasts is that students can rewind them, pause them, watch them repeatedly, and even watch them with subtitles.  It is yet another way to represent the same information to learners.
  3. Students will fill out a graphic organizer at the end of this lesson, to further support their comprehension, connection, and transfer of the concepts in this lesson.
The green bubbles in the second row of the infographic represent the supports for action and expression.  Many of these supports were already in place in my initial lesson.  The open-endedness of the inquiry lesson lends itself well to meeting diverse learners’ needs.  The MakeyMakey allows students to “input” with a wide variety of items, so even students with physical limitations can find a conductive item that they can manipulate.  Students are able to choose how much they push themselves with the song they select and whether they modify the Scratch program.  And the teacher can select groups strategically, and question or help groups strategically, based on the group members’ levels of understanding.  The goals and expectations are very clearly laid out in the newly-added handouts & essay checklist, so students are well-supported as they grow in their executive functioning skills through this lesson.
Finally, the red bubbles in the last row represent the supports for student engagement in this lesson.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, this lesson provides students with multiple points of entry to engage their interest.  They have a large degree of choice in the lesson, but the teacher can easily limit that degree of freedom for students who might be intimidated by the lack of structure.  To help students persist through the challenges of an open-ended learning opportunity like this one, I added “roles” for students.  This will help students stay on task, find a role in the group that suits their interest and comfort level, and engage in collaborative, productive group work.  Throughout the lesson, the teacher will be helping students regulate their participation and understanding through questioning techniques.  At the end of the multi-day lesson, students will be able to synthesize their understanding in a short reflective essay, hopefully clearly describing their understanding of the concept and addressing any challenges they faced in the activity.
I am very pleased with this modified lesson, as I think it will  meet the needs of my diverse learners better than my original lesson did.  As I modified the lesson this week, I was thinking about some specific students who are currently in my class and how they will benefit from these modifications.  I hope to apply these principles more broadly in other lessons that I teach in the future.  Do you have any additional suggestions for modifications? If so, please let me know!
Resources:
(CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. )