Final exams started on Friday. Tomorrow, I present my final, final project, so I finally have time to reflect on the semester. I took courses on Advanced Instructional Design, Instructional Video Production, and Distance Education. I taught courses on Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology in Teaching. The classes I took were good, but I learned far more from the classes I taught than from the classes I took. So what did I learn? Well . . . .
- From Advanced Instructional Design, I learned that being a part of a ten-person team with no designated leader can be challenging and rewarding. My class used ClockingIT to help us manage our project and I found ClockingIT extremely useful for organization, especially since it has a widget that integrates with iGoogle. However, not all of my classmates shared my enthusiasm for this technological taskmaster.
- My Instructional Video Production class taught me that I don’t have the patience for a career in film. I also learned how to write scripts, operate video cameras, and edit video using Final Cut. Plus I found out about free alternatives to Final Draft: Celtx and Script Buddy.
- My Distance Education class provided me with first hand experience with the technical difficulties associated with synchronous distance education, but also gave me some perspective on the history of distance education and the direction of current trends. I also learned that while Moodle offers more flexibility than Blackboard, it may be even less user-friendly.
- From my Educational Psychology course, I learned things I should have been taught in my graduate course on the Principles of Learning Theory. Additionally, I gained experience with implementing Just in Time Teaching. The literature that I had read on JiTT suggested that students like JiTT methods and that JiTT has a positive effect on student learning. Based on my one semester of experience with JiTT, I can state that my students reacted positively to the JiTT quizzes. Also, I feel that the quizzes helped them engage with the material at a deeper level because they were more prepared for class. However, I think that I need to work harder to develop the “interactive lecture” portion of the JiTT method.
- In my Instructional Technology in Teaching course, I learned that providing students choices (using learning contracts) improves motivation. I also learned that I need to do a better job teaching my students about personal learning networks. When I held PLN conferences with students, I saw a wide range of student understanding. Some students had really begun to develop PLN that were meaningful to them. Others were lost and needed that time for me to show them how to set things up. Several were competent with the technology, but were obviously just going through the motions for a grade. I’ve got to do better.
As is usually the case, I’m already thinking about “next time”. The next time that I teach I will change how I do learning contracts. This time, I had my students write learning contracts that listed the projects that they planned to do for course credit before most of them knew enough about the available technology to make an informed decision. This made the contracts less useful than they otherwise would have been. My plan for next time is to require my students to submit their contracts through Google Docs and have students add to it at specific times throughout the semester. The first part of the contract would be due the 2nd class meeting and would include the student’s learning goals as well as the student’s plan for achieving those goals (how much time per week will they dedicate to homework, etc.). Later, as each project comes up, I would have students amend their contracts by submitting project proposals. I think this would make the learning contract a more meaningful exercise and be a good way to teach them about Google Docs. I might try using learning contracts with Educational Psychology as well as Instructional Technology in Teaching.
One problem with the way that I did learning contracts this semester is that I didn’t have consistent standards to judge the wide variety of student projects that resulted. I think I need to come up with a standard rubric for projects involving teaching with technology. I may even need to come up with slightly specialized rubrics for some of the more common types of projects: podcasts, voicethreads, webquests, wikis, blogs, etc.
With the PLN, I think my students need more structure. I need to conduct some sort of baseline poll to find out which of my students already blog and/or use RSS feeds. It isn’t as many as you would think there should be in a class full of “digital natives”, but there are some. For them, I need to help them build upon their current set of tools. For the rest, I’m going to have them start with the same common set of tools, give them a few blogs to start with and a set of bookmarks and require them to expand their network to include a set number of blogs and bookmarks. Additionally, I’m going to require everyone to keep a blog to reflect on what they’ve learned from the resources they’ve gathered. If I help them use the blogs/bookmarks to meet the goals that they’ve chosen, then the PLN should become meaningful to them. I think I will also assign students to do in class “Technology Tool/Tip of the Week” presentations based on what they’ve learned. I’m brainstorming now, so I’m not 100% sure what all this will look like yet.