Differentiated Coaching: Chapters 1-2

This year, I am a full-time instructional technology coach at the same high school I was teaching at previously.  My school has gone fully 1:1 this year, so it’s been so fun to take on the role of a coach and to see teachers taking risks, trying new things, and producing amazing things.  I have a growing appreciation for the vast array of strengths and interests that teachers have, and I truly enjoy figuring out what motivates and excites each individual teacher.

differentiated coachingThat is why I recently ordered a copy of “Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change” by Jane A.G. Kise.  Inspired by Crystal Kirsch, a tech coach who is blogging her thoughts and notes as she reads a different book on coaching (The Art of Coaching), I’m going to blog some of my thoughts and notes as I read this book.

Chapter 1: What Do Teachers Believe?

“Asking teachers to change their practices often means asking them to do things that sound absolutely hostile to them…. It shouldn’t surprise us that he [the teacher in the anecdote] stuck with what he knew, given that his classroom was under control and his results were no worse than other teachers’.  The real surprise is that so many teachers are actually willing to try innovations.” (p. 10)

  • I am so impressed with the teachers at my school who are jumping in and trying new things with technology this year.  Some of them were initially hesitant or even hostile to this change, even though I know they are good and caring teachers.  I think it’s often for the reason mentioned in this passage.  Good teachers know how to produce good results with the methods they use, and they feel confident doing them.  Seeking out change when they don’t see a problem with what they’re currently doing is risky at best and foolish at worst.
  • This makes me ask: How do we build a school culture that encourages, expects, and rewards innovation rather than teachers who are in control and show average performance?

“Change is a lot of work.  Why would you do it if your classroom is under control, the majority of your students are succeeding, you’re aware of significant factors contributing to student failure that are outside your control, and the changes either don’t fit with your beliefs about education or require that you operate out of weaknesses?” (p. 14)

  • I have to admit that as a teacher, I was sometimes guilty of giving up on a struggling student when I had tried everything I could do to help but when the student wasn’t responding to what I’d tried.  I would attribute it to other factors outside my control: family problems, disorganization, student apathy, etc.
  • Sometimes I’d vent about those frustrating students to colleagues in the office, and often they’d have a new idea I could try.  That’s kind of how I see my role as a coach:  encouraging teachers to try again, to entertain new ideas, and to not give up despite their failures.

I want teachers to “question their classroom practices without feeling threatened to the core of their being” (p. 21), because teachers often over-identify with our successes and failures in the classroom, thinking that we are ultimately in control there and if we fail, it’s because we are a failure.

Chapter 2: What Do Teachers Need During Change

This chapter is all about identifying teacher beliefs and preferences, and providing coaching that is tailored to those needs and wants.

Teachers have different informational needs that a coach needs to meet before the teacher is going to embrace change: (p. 26-29)

  1. Immediate applications: practical, concrete lesson plans. They need an easy way to try out the strategies before they decide if it’s worth investing more time.
  2. A vision of how each student will be affected: carefully thinking through how each individual type of student will react to the new teaching strategy.
  3. The details, not the big picture: How does this work in my class, with the time I have, with the materials I have?
  4. Deep understanding of theories & models being used: Why are we doing this?  How does this fit with the big picture of district initiatives and our past efforts?
  5. Implementation mechanics:  timelines, deadlines, paperwork.  When will I have time to do this?  Is it worth the investment?
  6. A say in the plan:  having a say in when & how it happens gets them to buy in.
  7. Substantive background materials: Something to read & discuss to help them understand the rationale.
  8. Proof that change is better than the present: Is the risk going to be worth the reward?

(Note that scientific research studies don’t convince most of these types of people, because they’re not holistic enough or they’re too different from the particulars of a teacher’s own classroom setting.)

A coach looks past a teacher’s “presentingchameleon problems” (resistant, cynical, needy, unmotivated) to see their true needs, and modifies their coaching role to fit like a chameleon!  This is a lot like what
teachers do to motivate their students, or what athletic coaches do to motivate their athletes.

Coaching Roles: (p. 34- 37)

  1. Useful Resource:  Providing concrete lesson plans & examples, sharing from a “bag of tricks”, showing how to tailor the new stuff to fit the content that they teach.  Giving hands-on learners a chance to test it out before investing a lot of time.
  2. Encouraging Sage: Providing feedback, helping directly in the classroom, spending time, dialoging about students’ reactions to new lessons.  Pointing out what they’re doing right and giving concrete suggestions to make problems seem less severe.
  3. Collegial Mentor: Giving them resources and time to process on their own before forcing them to try something.  Being patient and listening.  Talking through scenarios and strategies in detail.
  4. Expert: Engaging in debate with them to help them understand the new teaching strategies deeply.  Thinking through the when, how, and where that it’s appropriate to use the strategies.  Evaluating progress toward the goal.  Being knowledgeable and objective about the strategies you’re asking this deep thinker to try.

I definitely cycle through these roles as I work with teachers at my school.  Some come more easily than others.  I look forward to learning more about how to identify when to take on each role.

I peeked ahead at the coming chapters and saw a beautiful chart that includes Myers-Briggs personality types and how to coach based on those types.  My inner personality-test-geek got quite excited about that.  I’m looking forward to continuing to read & reflect on this book!


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.


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!



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/

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!



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:

 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!
(CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. )

Redesigning Spaces

At the beginning of this school year, I took on a new part-time position as an instructional technology coach at my high school.  This is a new position for my school, so the other instructional technology coach and I have had the pleasure and challenge of shaping our roles and shaping the area of the building that we call “home”.  That area has been carved out of the back of a computer lab, just off of the library.  There was no budget set aside for our physical space, but by working with the custodians and administrators over the past couple of months, we have managed to make a few steps toward making the space more inviting and functional.

Here is a picture of our space from the beginning of the year. We are lucky to have such a large office, but it felt so empty!

tech office - at first

And our space currently looks like this:

2014-11-21 11.57.46

Here’s a link to an album with more views of the current space.

When I had the opportunity to research what makes a learning space effective as part of my CEP 811 class this week, I was inspired to continue dreaming about what we could do continue to tweak this space.  As you can see in the photo album, there is a computer lab attached to our office, and as our school (hopefully) goes 1:1 in the next few years, I hope that we can utilize this space in a new way.

My Design:

I used a tool called SketchUp to create a model of what this space could look like:

tech office

On the far left of the first picture, the office has been turned into a conference room / recording studio.  Coaches can use this space to meet 1-on-1 with teachers in a quiet, private space, and everyone (teachers, coaches, and students) can use this space to record screencasts and/or videos.  There is also a small sink and Keurig coffee maker because, let’s be honest, providing caffeine is a key way to help many adults feel comfortable and excited about learning.

The main portion of the room has been divided by a clear glass wall.  The space to the left of the wall is primarily for tech coaching and small-group collaboration among teachers, and the space on the right is a “Creativity Center”, where teachers can bring their classes or where larger groups of teachers can meet.

The tech coaching portion of the space contains a desk for teach tech coach, facing each other to facilitate conversation and collaboration between the coaches.  in the back of the room, there is a Media:Scape station, where small groups of teachers can plug in and project their computer screens as they collaborate on lesson planning or reflection.  A couch with a large natural-lighting lamp is available as a comfortable spot to have conversations or plan together.

tech office view 2In the Creativity Center, a variety of seating options are available to learners: comfortable chairs, high-top toables, round tables, and Media:Scape tables.  Because this room will be used for a variety of purposes, this variety will be necessary and helpful.  All of the seating is designed to facilitate collaboration and small-group discussion.  Ideally, all of the chairs would be on wheels so that learners can move freely and the room could be rearranged quickly, if a teacher wants to address the whole to focus their attention in one direction.  A SmartBoard in the middle of the room could be used for presentations, or by small groups not working at the Media:Scape tables.  The lower half of each wall is covered with Dry Erase paint, so that teams can make notes on the walls as they work.  A green screen covers part of the wall, so that learners can record videos and add their own backgrounds.

Because learners will each bring their own device, no computers are present, but the room will be equipped with adequate electrical outlets.  Although the room is inside the building, windows have been added in two different places, so that natural light from the windows in the hallway and from the commons area can enter.

Design & Learning Theories:

As an instructional technology coach, I work with adult learners to help them feel more comfortable with new technology and to help them transform their teaching by using the available technology.  I was convicted by David Kelley’s TED talk, “How To Build Your Creative Confidence“, that teachers often are so busy that they lose sight of their inner creativity.  All teachers, but especially teachers who are intimidated by new technology, need a place where they feel inspired, free to explore, and in-touch with their inner creativity.  This redesigned space is built with them in mind, from the Keurig coffee maker to the warm sun-like lighting above the comfortable couch, to the Media:Scape table that allows for easy collaboration.  The colors and lighting are consistent with the school colors and designed to make them feel at ease and empowered.

The creativity center portion of this room is designed to allow learners (both teachers and students) to explore, collaborate, and create in ways that are consistent with learning theories of constructivism and experiential learning, as well as research into design and learning. According to Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, Kobbacy (2012), learners benefit from having flexible spaces where they can re-arrange the furniture to suit their collaborative tasks, and they need interesting seating that provides them some empowered choice over how they complete their learning activities.  This redesigned space will allow them to do that, along with providing a space where they can “hang out, geek out, and mess around”, which Malin (2012) identifies as 3 key aspects of the type of social learning that is quickly becoming the norm.

Items to be Obtained:

  • Glass Wall & Windows.  I am not sure what it costs to build a wall or install windows, but I have been told that the school is planning to build this wall over the summer, and I know they have recently added windows to a couple of internal rooms.
  • Additional electrical outlets.  Custodians or school-contracted electricians can install these quite economically.
  • Smartboard.  Already located in district and not being used.  Just needs to be mounted on the wall.
  • 3 Media:Scapes.  Two are already owned by the school in an area where they are being less effectively used, and so could be moved into this area.  1 more would need to be purchased.  These are quite expensive, but a makeshift Media:Scape could be made by using a large TV monitor (~$400)
  • Couch. Ikea, $550, or Turnstone, $1500
  • 2 area rugs.  Target, $150 each.
  • 4 arm chairs.  Ikea, $280 each, or Turnstone, $750 each.
  • 2 coffee tables.  Turnstone, $350 each
  • 2 High Top tables. Ikea, $625 each, or
  • 3 Round tables & chairs. Ikea, $515 each.
  • Green Screen, $120.
  • Dry Erase paint. $20 per 7’x7′ area
  • Sink. Cost will depend on the ease of installing plumbing in this area.
  • Keurig.  $100
  • 1 Campfire Big Lamp by Turnstone.  $999.  This is a dream item, and would probably be omitted in reality (unless I win a generous grant!)

These items could be purchased in stages, and they are roughly arranged in the order in which they should be purchased.  I imagine that our computer lab will need to exist in its current form for a couple more years, as we will probably phase in 1:1 with our students, but funds will hopefully be available to improve the instructional tech coaching office for next year.  I would love to apply for one of our local school district foundation’s grants this year, and look for other national grants that could help us transform the space we have into one that could open up doors for students to learn, collaborate, create, and share in meaningful ways.  I am excited to see how learning is transformed through the changes I am able to make in this space!


Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Kelley, D. (2012, March 1). How to build your creative confidence. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence?language=en

Malin, S. (2012, September 1). What If? Exploring How Libraries Can Embody Trends of the Twenty-First Century. Young Adult Library Services.

Flipped Learning: Conquering the Challenges

I will be participating in a virtual EdCamp as part of my CEP 811 class, and I will be sharing about some of the biggest challenges teachers face when starting to use the teaching strategy of Flipped Learning, and providing some advice on how to overcome those challenges.  I compiled this Prezi as a visual aid for the EdCamp.  Even if you are not participating in the EdCamp, I encourage you to check out the Prezi and let me know if you have faced these or other challenges yourself!

“Organized Life” MOOC

Do you know what a MOOC is? (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with the cow in the Old McDonald video I posted a few weeks ago.)  MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, which are becoming popular as a way for people to connect, learn and share for free using the power of the Internet.  This week for my CEP 811 class, I was challenged to design my own MOOC using best practices in learning theory.
After browsing the MOOCs available at P2PU and after receiving a new issue of “Real Simple” magazine in the mail this week, I was inspired to create a MOOC called “Organized Life”.  In this course, participants will simplify their lives by reducing clutter and creating new organization habits while being motivated by connecting virtually with a community of people working toward the same goals.
This course will appeal to people who find themselves overwhelmed with the complexity and busyness of life, and the clutter that we all accumulate in our homes, on our computers, and in our brains.  Readers of magazines like Real Simple and blogs like The Art of Simple, who are already interested in reading about how to become more organized and live more simply, will be benefit from the encouragement and accountability to take action provided by the community of peers taking the course.  I think just about everyone has an area or two of life that they’d like to simplify, so this course would appeal to a wide variety of people – from teachers, to stay-at-home moms, to high-powered career people!  Anyone who wants to reduce clutter and stress by creating new, sustainable systems will want to sign up for this MOOC.
Objectives & Outcomes of the “Organized Life” MOOC

Used under creative commons license from https://www.flickr.com/photos/lovemaegan/6001170262/


At the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  1. purposefully purge clutter from an area in their home or office,
  2. create organizational systems in an area of their home or office,
  3. create a simpler organizational system for information using an electronic tool,
  4. create a new routine to minimize stress and clutter, and
  5. motivate themselves and others to continue using these strategies.
The emphasis of this course is not on a one-time application of the information, but on creating and sustaining new systems.  This is important because without the sustainability, the clutter will quickly return and the time spent on the course is fruitless.
Through this course, learners will create:
  1. a manifesto, as a guiding life principle for organization
  2. a blog post or series of Tweets (with the hashtag #organizedlife) a picture of their chosen home or office area before they begin, a description or picture of the clutter they eliminated, and what the area looked like after cutting out the clutter.
  3. a Pinterest board that collects new ideas for organizing their chosen area.
  4. an annotated picture or video (Google Hangout On Air) showing their area after they applied their new organizational system, and a reflection on why the new system is better.
  5. a screencast (or blog post) explaining how to use an electronic tool to organize information
  6. a video illustrating (or blog post detailing) the new routine they created and implemented
  7. a reflection (blog post) on the difficulties of maintaining their new organization system, and what they’ve done to tweak it to make it more sustainable.
Learning Theories
Any good learning experience will take into account solid learning theories, and this MOOC is no exception.
Because a MOOC is geared toward adult learners who are not part of a credential-earning program, the course needs to be designed with andragogy in mind.  Adult learners will come to the course with a variety of prior experiences, abilities, and needs.  This course is designed to give learners maximal choice in how and what they complete, so that their individual needs are met.  The participants are asked to set their own goals at the beginning of the course and reflect on how well they reached them at the end, and learners will be able to see each others’ work, thus allowing them to benefit from the wisdom of others as they strive to meet their own goals.  They will work toward tangible results of organizing their physical space, and what they learn will have immediate practical impact on their day-to-day life.
Additionally, each week’s instruction is oriented around the spiraling aspect of experiential learning theory, in which students will learn new information from a video, text, or visual source, do or create something with what they’ve learned, and reflect critically on what they’ve learned and created.  Each week builds off the prior week, so that students are revisiting their work and others’ work from previous weeks.  The learning is largely self-initiated, with the MOOC serving as a facilitator that provides some expert resources, structure, and an opportunity to connect with other learners.
TPCK is another theory that informs this MOOC’s design, as technology is used as a vehicle to deliver and support the content of how to organize your life in a way that uses good pedagogy for adult learners (andragogy and experiential learning).  The course is not designed to push any particular technology to be used in a specific way, but rather technology is introduced as a powerful tool to find and share information.  Technology is also presented as a tool to further organize your life, with attention also being paid to how technology can complicate day-to-day tasks and contribute to a feeling of disorganization.
All of these theories and TPCK are used to inform a solid instructional design of the MOOC.  The course starts with a presenting need of many adults: an overwhelming feeling of disorganization.  The course is designed around the real-world experience of organizing an area of the students’ life that feels out of control.  Students will have the opportunity to master instructional objectives by performing skills, identifying goals, and applying what they’ve learned in new ways.  The course is designed around a set of essential skills needed to create and sustain organization.  Students will get to share their work with a real-world audience through blogs and Twitter, and evaluate their own work and others’ work in those same contexts, as they complete the assigned lessons that provide structure to their learning.
Peer Support
Peer support is a vital part of the success of learners in this MOOC.  Many people try to get organized, only to get discouraged because no one else sees the result of their hard work, or they are not surrounded by like-minded people who can encourage them to try again when they fail to sustain the changes they make.  Throughout this course, learners will have opportunities to interact by posting comments (or responding to tweets) to encourage and provide ideas for other course participants as they begin and continue the journey to get and stay organized. Additionally, learners will have the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout to show and explain to other course participants what they organized and how it is an improvement on their old systems. By using Twitter or existing blogs, participants will also be able to engage their real-life networks, to add additional support and to potentially attract others to participate in the course in the future.
NOTE: This MOOC is currently only in the outline phase, but if it is ever fully created and published, I will update this post with a link to the MOOC site.  

Course Outline

Week 1: A Manifesto for Organized Living

In week 1, students will be inspired to launch into this journey of organizing and simplifying their lives.  They will develop clear goals they hope to achieve through this course, begin to make some small changes in one area, and connect with other learners in the course.  Finding this inspiration and connection right away is important in a MOOC, because without it, students will not begin the course or sustain involvement in it.
Students will read & watch the following items to gain motivation and context for organizing their lives:
Reflect: My Manifesto
Students will read the Simple Living Manifesto and draft their own manifesto, based on their personal goals for this 6 week course.  They will share their manifestos on their blog.
Do: DeClutter
Students will pick 1 area of their home or office (closet, bedroom, fridge, desk, pantry, kids’ toy room, laundry room, etc.) to focus on for the first half of the course.  They will take a picture of that area before they begin organizing, spend some time eliminating unnecessary items from that area, and then take a picture of the area after.  They will be encouraged to donate items, sell items, or throw them away.  When they finish, they will take a picture of the area.  This picture is not to be a “finished product”, and may not even be an improvement on the original photo, but it will be an image that the learner and the the MOOC community can look at to generate ideas for further improvements.

Week 2: Dream Big

In week 2, students will reflect on what is not working in their chosen area.  They will then collect ideas from the wealth of resources on the internet to improve their chosen area.  The idea is to dream big and then eventually narrow them down to do-able changes.
Learn & DoPinterest Dreamin’
Students will collect ideas for how others have organized a similar area of their home or office.  They will pin these items on a Pinterest board and share the board with their classmates. The captions for the pinned images should reflect on what specifically is inspiring or how it could be adapted for their own use.  When they finish, they will write a blog post sharing what is not working in their chosen area, describing their favorite Pinned finds from their research, and making a plan for what they need to buy, repurpose, or remove in order to substantially improve the selected area.
Some potential starting points for this project include:
Reflect: Peer Feedback #1
Learners will comment on the posts of at least 1 other participant, encouraging them and/or giving an idea what they could implement to improve their organizational flow.

Week 3: Just Do It!

Students will execute the changes they planned in week 2.  There is no official “learning” planned for this week, in order to allow students to devote time to shopping and re-organizing and sharing with classmates via Google Hangouts.
Do: Just Do It!
Students will organize their chosen area, following the plans they designed in the previous week.  When they finish, they will take pictures and annotate the changes they made with a tool like SnagIt and share them on their blog.
Reflect: Peer Feedback #2
Learners will arrange a Google Hangout with 1-2 other classmates, showing them the newly organized area.  They will encourage each other and provide accountability for finishing this big task!

Week 4: Cleaning Up Digital Dirt

The course now shifts away from organization of physical space to organization of digital and mental space.  These changes are needed to sustain changes in physical space.  (For example, if you have a plan for organizing important files digitially, you won’t need to keep physical copies sitting on your desk and can reduce clutter.  If you have a cluttered mind, you might mindlessly set items down in places they don’t belong and in places you cannot remember, increasing physical clutter.)
  • Students will watch “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, a TED talk by David Allen, to help them understand the need to create productivity habits and systems.
  • They will then explore 2-3 tech productivity tools like Evernote, Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, Dropbox, and/or Emeals.
Do: How To Organize Digitally
Students will pick a tool they’re familiar with and an audience for whom the tool could be especially useful.  They will make a screencast (using a tool like Screencastify) to capture their screen as they narrate a 5-7 minute video explaining how the tool can be used by the selected audience for the selected purpose.
They can read my blog post about Evernote as an example.
Students will write a blog post explaining how this tool is useful to them and how it could be useful to others in their chosen audience.  They will explain how the tool can aid in reducing both physical and mental clutter and enabling users to stay organized.  They will embed their screencast in this blog post.

Week 5: Routines & Systems

Routine sometimes has a negative connotation.  It sounds boring, outdated, and stuck.  But developing a new routine can make new habits (like staying organized!) stick.  In this week, students will reflect on an area of their life that contributes unnecessary clutter and disorganization and then create & implement an “addictive” plan to change that.
Students will read/watch:
Students will reflect on the principles of addictive behavior and an area of their life that could use a “kick” of change (cleaning schedule, morning routines, putting clothes away, paying bills, etc.).  They will write a short blog post reflecting on their current routine and draft a way to change it to create a more positive and addicting routine.
Students will execute their new system for at least 3 days!

 Week 6: Reflection

In the final week of the course, students will reflect on the changes they made in this course and share their take-aways from the course.
Students will write a blog post summarizing the organizational changes they made in (a) their physical space, (b) their electronic space, and (c) their routines.  They will share how having a manifesto, making these changes, and connecting with others has positively impacted areas like their attitude, quality of life, and efficiency over the past 6 weeks.  They will be asked to elaborate on any areas that are still challenging for them, and then to brainstorm ways to change those routines and systems to make them more sustainable.

Works Cited