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Welcome to My Reflection Log

Welcome to Positive Disruptions! The purpose of this website is to identify and document things that disrupt education in a positive way. Click on one of the icons above to explore an area that’s interesting to you.

Keep in mind that this is a work in progress. Eventually each section will be filled with resources and reflections, but some sections might not be updated for some time. If you find a resource you think I’d like, send me a message and let me know why you think it’s valuable, and I’ll include your thoughts!

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EDTECH 513 Final Reflection

Sometimes the biggest challenge you can face in a course is believing that you’re already proficient at a topic. I started slow in my multimedia course because I felt that I had a pretty good foundational knowledge of the topic, but when I started reading the textbook, it was plain that I still had a lot to learn.

I may have spent more time in the course analyzing the textbook than building some of my artifacts. I’m fortunate that I already had the technical skills for using multimedia, but I wasn’t using the psychological tools that improve multimedia instruction. I needed to apply an entirely new skill set to my designs.

My favorite artifact from the course was the digital story, in which I told of my experiences as a student with undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, and how it applied to my current work. This was fun, because I got to explore a story-telling mode, whereas my past videos have all been about technical knowledge. I also had a chance to experiment with animation and visuals in Camtasia.

For the last year, I’ve been asking my team members to provide more concise, clear, and simplified training resources for teachers. Sometimes we create materials that are extremely detailed, to the point that it’s difficult to get through them within a reasonable timeframe. My main complaint is that teachers have a very limited amount of time to absorb new knowledge, but now I’ve learned a whole new range of psychological theory that suggests we’re actually doing our teachers a disservice when we give them overly complicated materials. I hope to develop ways to pace the learning and development of our learners so that I can help them move forward in an optimal learning timetable.

Worked Example Screencast

Creating training materials for teachers is a big part of my job, so I’m already adept at screencasting. However, the readings in chapters 10 and 11 of “E-Learning and the Science of Instruction” provided more formalized standards for how I should arrange my video. After I’d written my initial script, I realized that I was combining a few topics that should be separated if I wanted to avoid cognitive overload. I rewrote my script and recorded the screencast, but when I watched it again I felt that the sections weren’t segmented enough. I decided to add “parts” to my video to make it clear that each section had a definite separation from the others.

The audience for this screencast is blended learning teachers using the Buzz learning management system. When I got word that an update would significantly change the content editing tools, I knew I should make a tutorial to help the teachers get comfortable with the redesign. The video is geared towards teachers who have already received some training on the Buzz system.

One recurring complaint I hear from teachers is the lack of time to learn new concepts. To be respectful of their time, I made it my goal to keep my video under three minutes, and it took several edits to my script before I got it down far enough. My mission to provide short, concise learning materials has been reinforced this semester by our study of cognitive overload.

I was finally pleased with the way the video was delivered, but I decided that I needed to make more psychological and behavioral connections with the learners. After a few minutes of consideration, I added “action items”. These are basically assignments, but since I teach educators, I often avoid using words like “assignments” so that they don’t feel as if I’m treating them like students.

The video was recorded and edited in Camtasia, using a Blue Yeti microphone. You can view it below (closed captions are available).

Digital Stories

Though I don’t clarify the identity of the young boy in my digital story, this is actually a true story that happened to me. It’s a fun story to tell among teachers, and it generates a lot of discussion when we talk about the deeper meanings. For instance, twenty years ago (when this story begins) a teacher had very little opportunity to provide instruction outside of classtime. Therefore, if a struggling student really needed help, the teacher could only suggest that the student come in at lunchtime, or in the limited moments a teacher was available before and after school. Digital tools, however, have infinitely expanded the timeframe in which a teacher can instruct students. Through easy-to-share videos, collaborative documents, and other web tools, teachers can record their own teaching, and make it available to students whenever they need it.

Had these tools been available to me when I was a student, this may have been a very different story.

I may have a bias in favor of storytelling, since I’m an avid reader and an English teacher, but I regularly suggest that teachers have their students become storytellers in the classroom. The stories don’t always need to be fiction, but they need to be told in a captivating way. If a student can retell the story of Oliver Twist in five minutes, they’ll need to prove an in-depth understanding of the major themes of the story, the plotline, and the historical references. Imagine the skills that would be developed as they try to pick the story down to its bare bones. Using technology to create a digital story allows a significant increase in a student’s ability to express their creativity.

The story below was recorded using Camtasia studio, with music and images which are free for public and nonprofit use. Closed captions/subtitles are available by clicking the CC button on the bottom of the video.

The Coherence Principle

The basic idea behind the Coherence Principle is that instruction should avoid elements that don’t apply to essential learning. A fundamental application of the Coherence Principle would the the elimination of extra auditory or visual elements. Studies have found that these extra elements actually hinder the learning process. Some teachers defend the practice of adding extraneous elements, by claiming these “seductive details” improve student motivation and interest.  

Coherence Principle Examples

This first example is a good example of the coherence principle at work. This slide is used as a tutorial for training students to navigate a website. Notice that it is simple, clean, and includes only essential information.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 7.34.31 PM

The second example is from a slideshow. It can’t be seen perfectly in this image, but there are multiple animations and additions that are unnecessary. The slideshow also violates the redundancy principle.Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 7.31.53 PM

Related Design Principles

Many other design principles are connected to the Coherence Principle.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: There are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information, and these channels have limited capacity. Using the Coherence Principle in conjunction with this theory helps us to remove extraneous information which will overload the learner.

Modality Principle: This principle states that teachers should present words as “speech rather than online text.” This is part of simplifying the learning to prevent overloading of any channels, which is directly related to the Coherence Principle.

Redundancy Principle: Probably the best connection of all the principles, as it removes additional text and information that could lead to cognitive overload.

Personal Feelings and Limitations

The only caveat to the Coherence Principle would relate to the engagement of the teacher, not the student. Regardless of how well instruction is designed, students will have a better experience with a teacher who is passionate about the topic. Often the Coherence Principle will be violated in a classroom where the teacher is excited about what is being studied, which is an attitude to be embraced, but also guided appropriately. If the Coherence Principle is approached in the wrong way, it could validate teachers who pride themselves on being “no-frills”, which is often code for “lack of teacher effort.”

Project #2: Blend-i-fied

Project #2: Blend-i-fied

In the Blend-i-fied podcast, I’ll help teachers improve their technology and blended learning skills, one step at a time. The podcast is aimed at teachers with little experience with blended learning, and each session will take them up one more step, until they’re a fully capable blended teacher.

Podcast #1 will focus on the “Why?” of blended learning. Since this podcast is supposed to be practical, the first episode will explain the major selling point of blended learning: it will, eventually, make a teacher’s job easier. We’ll talk about how blended learning can generate more time for teachers to use on the things that matter, and automate those things that are less important.

The tools and tips in these videos will start simple, and slowly become more advanced, so that teachers can progress in a reasonable timeframe. Implementing a new learning model takes time, and training usually takes place during a one-day training, This means that teachers have no opportunity to gain experience in one area before they move onto the next, and it’s a poor way to prepare for a paradigm shift. The Blend-i-fied podcast will allow teachers to progress in a slower timeframe to allow teachers to practice one skill before moving on.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lzdqv7a2na609m3/Podcast.mp3?dl=0

Alternate Link (Google Drive)

Accessibility

 

Project #1: Static Multimedia Instruction

Project #1: Static Multimedia Instruction

Overview

There are a lot of ways to use video effectively in the classroom, but content filters at home and school often block video websites such as Youtube. In addition, many teachers don’t have the technical skills to record, upload, and embed a video. My organization, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, decided to address this problem by using Kaltura, a video tool which can be accessed directly from Blackboard (their preferred learning management system). Using this tool, teachers can easily create screencasts, webcam videos, and narrated slideshows. As soon as they finish recording, the media can be immediately embedded in an announcement, lesson, or even gradebook feedback.

Goals

The only obstacle is, as always, teacher training. Even following formal, face-to-face trainings or webinars, teachers tend to forget how to use parts of the software. The goal of the attached guide is to provide a follow-up guide that teachers can access as they need reminders about how to use the software. Following the tutorial, teachers will be able to:

  1. Record webcam videos
  2. Record screencasts
  3. Create narrated slideshows
  4. Embed video in a lesson, announcement, or gradebook feedback
  5. Embed the video in a separate learning management system

Design

My first design focus was to identify which key words I would highlight. I chose essential terms to mark as bold to aid teachers as they skimmed. Lines were placed to separate each skill, with headings to allow teachers to quickly find a particular tutorial. Images were marked with easy-to-follow callouts, to give teachers a quick visual overview. After my first draft, I realized I was giving instructions “for the sake of instruction.” Initially I put callouts on every image, but I decided to remove some of these to prevent cognitive overload.
There were a few surprises for me when I was creating the tutorial. First, I was forced to abandon a few principles of design. For instance, I initially tried to put the all the instructional text within the images, since studies show that this generates more connection and understanding. However, when I submitted the document to my organization, I found that they had a set template that I was required to follow. Now the bulk of the instructions are above or below the images. The same restrictions prevented me from getting the instructions on the same page as each corresponding image.

Click on the Kaltura logo below to access the tutorial document in Google Docs, or click the link farther down to see a PDF copy.

Kaltura_logo1

KalturaTutorial

Learning is the Drug

“With games, learning is the drug”

-Raph Koster

If you lose in a video game, there’s usually not much frustration. After all, the game is trying to beat you, and you haven’t been through that level before. Failure is just a park of the process.

When that same student is in the classroom, they surrender at the first setback.

“My pencil broke. I can’t do my work.” In a game yesterday that boy spent an hour making his character climb to the top of the Sisctine Chapel, and then dive off into a cart of hay, but a broken pencil is just too much for him.

If we could harness the “Failing is party of the process” mindset for both our teachers and our students, we could make great headway towards changing the structure of our classrooms. Unfortunately, the students aren’t quite ready for that paradigm shift. But if we think strategically, we could start making some inroads.

Scaffolding

In a video game, players are given small challenges that are meant to be an echo of those that are coming. We do the same thing in class. The only difference is, when I say “You need to learn to write paragraphs, because soon we’ll write a full essay,” the students don’t get excited about the next challenge. They sink deeper into glumness.

One good way I could start helping students improve their mindset would be for me to improve mine first. Writing an essay doesn’t sound like fun. What about writing a treaty?

An enemy army is coming, too powerful to fight. Your nation might be spared if your write a perfect argumentative letter. If your letter isn’t good enough, I’m sorry . . . the barbarians will come . . . and they’ll steal your desk for the next day. So start writing!

While this wasn’t a true game, it was a small start at reframing the way students see the world

Immediate Feedback

After completing tasks in a game, students will start to see immediate benefits. They’ll be able to interact with a larger part of the world, or receive a magical sword, or be given the ability to fly. Some teachers scoff at games, but in reality games are just handing out prizes at a faster pace than we are. If a student works hard in high school, she might get scholarship. This is like a bonus point, or a special item in a video game. If she’s taught by a wise old master (pick any ten college professors and one will at least look the part), she’ll be able to distinguish herself and get extra support, which will lead to good job placement after graduation. Those rewards are similar–if less flashy–than the prizes sought in games. If we can start reimagining our classroom, and making our students partners as explore which learning strategies can work in this way, we’ll be able to change education in a way that will be easier on the teachers and more engaging for the students.