Functional vs. Dysfunctional PLCs

Here’s a video I made with the help of our World Geography PLC to demonstrate elements of a functional vs. dysfunctional PLC.  I made it with WeVideo, which is a pretty great (free) editor, and I paid a whopping $2 to download this in 1080p.  I was very pleased with the program!  Anyway, here’s the final result, let me know what you think!

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Tips for Flipping the Classroom Part 1: Videos

I was given the opportunity to attend a day of the TCEA conference this year.  Last year I went for multiple days of the conference, but it was just an overwhelming amount of info and I left with lots of disorganized notes and then with the Spring semester and all the craziness that it brings, I didn’t have time to actually make good use of them.  So this year, I went to TCEA with a goal in mind:  I was going to pick up as much good info as I could about trying to flip classes, especially how to troubleshoot 1) lack of devices, 2) how to get kids to do their flipped assignments outside of class, 3) how high schools – and low SES high schools in particular – were able to implement this model (success stories, so to speak).  While a lot of sessions were kind of redundant for me, I did go to one particularly awesome session with @TechNinjaTodd (www.toddnesloney.com) who gave us some great tips for flipping the class and integrating PBL, and another session with @hollyteaches, @patrickreid28, @megmills43, and @ClarkAmyA which gave some great info also.

Instead of writing a novel of a blog post, I’ll break it into sections over the coming week.  This one focuses on the Flipped Videos.

TIPS FOR THE FLIPPED VIDEO

1)  Videos should NEVER be more than 10 minutes, and you should only do videos 1-3 times per week.  

If your video is more than 10 minutes – and really, five or six minutes is ideal – people won’t watch them.  Even adults don’t want to sit through a 10 minute video usually, especially not one of lecture.  And a flipped classroom doesn’t mean creating a video for homework every day of the week.  You should only have a flipped video for when you need new content.  So if you’re covering a new topic, but then you’re going to spend three days in class working on a project over that topic, then you don’t need a new flipped video for three days.  Makes sense, right?

2)  Eliminate Excuses.

“But Miss, I ain’t got internet at home!”
“My computer’s broken.”
“I can’t get to school early or stay after late because [insert long, mostly made up story here].”

Etcetera.  As educators, we hear excuses ALL. THE. TIME.  From students, parents, you name it.  So how do you eliminate excuses?

First, when it comes to flipped videos, you should post them in multiple locations.  Mr. Nesloney puts them in four places:  YouTube, Sophia, iTunesU, and Edmodo.  YouTube is the go-to video portal, but some filters block YouTube, so you can’t stop there.  Sophia is a great option because 1) it’s free, 2) the website automatically redesigns to be compatible with whatever device is accessing it, 3) it has video analytics, 4) you can add stuff like WSQs and quizzes that prevent students from going on to the next lesson until they’ve mastered the current one.  Awesome, right?!  [PS – you can apparently become a Certified Flipped Classroom Teacher pretty easily through their site!]  So YouTube and Sophia are great, why should you post it to iTunesU also?  Well, students without internet access at home (which is commonly the case in low-SES districts) can download the videos while at school and access them without internet connection through iTunesU!  No internet, no problem/excuse!  And lastly, Edmodo is Mr. MNesloney’s central communication hub, so linking to the videos there allows him to communicate the message out to his students and parents. “I didn’t know” becomes obsolete.

But there are other complications.  What if a student doesn’t have the internet but has a computer?  Put the videos on a flashdrive.  No internet and no device, but they have a DVD player/gaming system that plays DVDs?  Burn them on a RWDVD.  For the very few who have no internet, no device, and no DVD player, you can see about checking out devices from the school library.  And the beauty is, these videos are – if you’re following tip #1 – 10 minutes or less.  So students could also come to your class 10 minutes before school or stay 10 minutes after school and watch the video, or even come during the lunch.  They could meet at a friend’s house and watch the video together (social constructivism at its finest!).  NO EXCUSES!

3)  OK, so I’ve got the NO EXCUSES thing covered, but they’re STILL NOT DOING IT.  (I teach 9th graders, ya dig?!)  

This was the biggest problem that we’ve faced as a campus.  We have implemented 1:1 for a few targeted classes, so we know the kids have devices, they have internet access while at school at the very least, and they can download or watch the videos while here, but whadayaknow, they’re still not doing their homework!  So what should we do about that?  Well, I picked up two great ideas.

First, we should tie watching the videos to rewards.  One idea is to tie it to their grades (either giving them bonus points, or having each video and assignment lead up to one cumulative grade for the grading period).  But if you work with students who aren’t necessarily motivated by grades (it’s a different world than I grew up in!), you could tie it to things they do care about.  For example, don’t give out restroom passes – make students earn them.  For every 5 homework assignments that they complete to your satisfaction (<– key point!) they can earn one bathroom pass.  Or they can turn it in for stickers or edible rewards, etc.  Get creative – you know your kids, and you know what you’re willing to keep up with.

Project Based Learning is the other great suggestion, though it requires a lot more effort and front loading than the other.  The idea is this:  Avoid the worksheets.  Do more projects and hands-on, social constructivist learning.  Kids love to socialize, so don’t fight it!  Make your class a place your students can’t wait to get to.  Then here’s the kicker:  if they haven’t done their homework, they have to sit aside and do the less-fun worksheets while everyone else is doing the fun group work project.  But this ONLY WORKS if kids want to be working on those projects in those groups!  Otherwise it’ll backfire!

4)  Make your own videos, and don’t edit out the mistakes.  

These are two small but invaluable tips I learned from the conference.  Even though it seems like a lot of work, making your own videos and using your own voice serves a purpose:  your students are familiar with you.  They understand the way you talk, they relate to your voice, and chances are, the assessments you create use that same voice and vocab.  It helps prepare them even more if you simply keep consistency in the educator’s voice.  And as for the mistakes, leaving them in teaches kids a very valuable lesson:  everyone – even the infallible Mr./Ms. [insert your name here]! – makes mistakes.  And making mistakes is OK – we don’t shut down, we don’t get really upset, we just correct them and learn from them and life goes on.

Dos and Don’ts of Job Interviews

Having experience as both an applicant and an interviewer, here are some tips I am confident will help the average job seeker get that perfect job.

DO

Make sure you know about the place you are interviewing.  If you walk in as an interviewer and do not know basic information about the business/school/etc. that you are applying for, it comes off as, “I just applied for this and any other job with a similar title in hopes of getting a job somewhere.  I don’t really care if it’s here or somewhere else.”  It’s a lot more impressive to the interviewer if you show that you’ve done your homework and are actually interested and hopefully even eager to have the opportunity to work there.

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  I’m a true believer of this statement.  Go in dressed professionally snazzy.  Not only will you look like you know what’s up, looking spiffy can actually boost your confidence prior to and during the interview, and confidence is an attractive feature in a potential employee.

Bring resumes, portfolios, anything you think would help illustrate the skills and experience you could bring to their company.  A job interview is basically like a sales pitch, and it’s best to come over prepared for it.  I’m pretty certain that bringing in a well-prepared, job-tailored portfolio to my last job interview is what helped me get the job over some of the other candidates.  I was able to show actual data, actual lessons, personal notes of appreciation written by advisors (in addition to letters of recommendation), student work, certificates of professional development, etc.  It basically became the proof to complement my resume.

Ask questions.  Job interviews are not just for the interviewers.  This is your opportunity to ask questions which will help you decide if the job is a good fit for you.  It’s a very disappointing feeling to get the job you thought you wanted, only to find out in the first week of work that it was nothing like you were expecting.  To avoid that experience, have some well crafted questions (that you actually care to know the answers to!) ready to go for the interview.

Relax.  Don’t go in too eager, too nervous, too overbearing, too anything!  Hopefully you’ve practiced for the interview, rehearsing with a friend so that you get a sense for what kind of questions you might be asked, and so that you have time to prepare some good answers for those questions you weren’t really expecting.  By Murphy’s Law, there’s a good chance it will come up in your actual interview.  So I guess if you have to be “too” something, it should be too prepared!

DON’T (more for entertainment value, and actual, true stories)

Avoid saying, “I’m really interested in this job because I’ve always wanted to coach football.” when the job is for the Social Studies Teacher position. Maybe – maybe – that would be OK in a one-on-one with the head football coach.  But not with the Social Studies Department Head and Principal.  Basically, you shouldn’t imply in anything you say that this job would just be the stepping stone or hoop to jump through for what you really want to do.

Try not to be memorable for anything negative or too strange/quirky.  You don’t want to be referred to in debriefing as the guy who was sweating profusely or the gal who talked a lot about her many cats

You shouldn’t wear overly revealing clothing.  Unless, I guess, it’s a job that requires that.  It goes back to “Dress for the job you want.”

It’s a bad idea to tell the interviewers that, “you’re not sure you really want this job,” and that, “you probably already have this other one that you interviewed for earlier.”  Remember, the goal is to sound eager, not “I’m too cool for you, this is really a waste of my time.”  There’s a word for those type of people, and it’s not for pleasant company.  Suffice to say, it won’t help you get the job.

Last week of grad school!

In one week from Sunday, I will officially have completed all my coursework for my Master of Science in Learning Technologies!  I cannot tell you how excited this makes me.  I look forward to taking up old hobbies and reading for fun again!  I also look forward to the other job opportunities this might afford me, and at the very least, the pay raise it will get me (though the raise would still take about 13 years for me to break even for grad school, not because grad school was so expensive, but because public education doesn’t necessarily value higher degrees enough to pay much for you getting one).

In both courses, I am nearly finished with all that is required of me, save a few presentations.  For Technology Based Learning, I have completed my Moodle Course.  I may have a couple small things to fix, but overall it is done and done!  And it’s exciting, because the kiddos who will actually be completing the course just got their Chromebooks on Wednesday, so we’re starting to teach them the ways of Academic Internet Use (including technology skills we take for granted that they’ll know, like getting pictures off Google images, or attaching documents to emails… stuff like that).  I can’t wait to implement this in January.  Both the students and the instructor will have plenty of time to ease into enough technological fluency (and fix any hiccups that I’m sure will manifest as we progress) to transition to the Moodle course.  However, we might be using another LMS; we have a new LMS called ATLAS which is apparently a couple years in the making and will give Blackboard a run for its money…  I’m still trying to find out if it’s SCORM compliant or if I’ll just have to transfer the content over to Canvas or something.  We’ll figure something out I’m sure!

Overall, it feels great to be so close to done, and so close to reacquiring my sleep and social schedule.  I’ve completed this program in about 14 months, which was difficult but doable as a full time employee.  Prior to that, I completed a year of grad school toward my Master of Applied Geography at Texas State University… so it has been awhile since I’ve had a totally free schedule.  I’m looking forward to it! 🙂  I plan to reacquaint myself with my instruments, learn German, maybe write a book (why not?).  And my husband is probably even more excited than I am, hah!

Happy, happy Friday!

Moodle is done! Mostly anyway!

 

My Moodle course is finished!  Huzzah!!!

It felt like it took forever.  It kind of did take forever.  Designing then developing a seven week blended and flipped course is no paltry feat.  But I came, I saw, I conquered!  …That’s so corny, I apologize.  But I did it, and I’m really excited because I am two weeks away from completing my Master’s of Science in Learning Technology… which means I’m two weeks away from having my evenings and weekends back!  I don’t know what I’ll do with all this extra time!  Now that this project is about complete, I feel like it’s all downhill from here, and that is an exciting feeling.

So how did I do it?  How does someone who works 45-50 hours a week, enrolled in two accelerated grad school courses, manage to stay on top of her work (and still not completely neglect her social life)?  I guess I can attribute my success to staying focused and determined, and to not sleeping as much as I should/would like.  A typical weekday: wake up early, go to work for 9 hours, come home, work on grad school for 6-8 hours, sleep.  That’s at least 3 weekdays a week, usually trying to workout the other evenings and maybe hang out with friends/family.  I then spend another 6-8 hours on Saturday and/or Sunday finishing the week’s requirements.  It’s been a very busy year, but the end is near!  I’m a poet and don’t know it!

Throughout the development of my Moodle course, I hit a few technological snags.  My internet is pretty reliable, but occasionally it would decide it didn’t want to work anymore… sometimes before I saved what I was working on (on Moodle or on BlackBoard).  That is always SO frustrating.  I’ve gotten better at preparing for these mishaps by making sure what I’m typing or what I’m working on is saved somewhere else offline also (or working on it in a program like Google Docs which saves as you go).  I can’t say that I’ve had many “people” challenges.  My partner, Jason, was great, my professors were super helpful, my husband took care of dinner most nights, life was/is good.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed working on this project, and I’m excited that we’ll actually be able to implement it come January.  In fact, the students who will be completing this blended course will be receiving their Chromebooks next week, so I’m excited to work with their teacher in helping them get acclimated to the Chromebooks and activities on them.  It was stressful, and a whole lot of work at times, but I think I work best under pressure and I love the creativity and problem solving it requires.  After years as a high school teacher, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve mastered multitasking, working under pressure and stress (uh, adolescents aren’t always friendly), being flexible, and coming up with creative solutions to problems or meeting objectives.  I’m confident that I would thrive in a career that applies these same skills to the Instructional Design (or even Online/Computer-Based Instructional Design) field.

Moodle Course, 75% Complete!

My Moodle course is now nearing completion, which is exciting, but now it’s time to refine what I have (and I often find those small details are the most tedious, easy to overlook yet very important to catch).  Now that the bulk of the course is complete, I want to focus on the small details that we discussed as a class in our online meeting — changing it to where it doesn’t follow an actual calendar schedule (no time frame, a course that can be started whenever a class wants to start it), figuring out the grading details and making sure everything is set up appropriately, double checking that people can collaborate on the wiki at the same time efficiently, etc.

I’m quite a bit over 75% complete with the course, I think, which is about how much we should have done at this point.  That being said, I think I’m right on target to finish within my timeline for completion.  Again, now it’s all the fine details, plus creating a job aid and adding a few more finishing touches, and then it will be complete and ready for implementation!  Actual implementation with the class this is being created for won’t happen until January, when students return from winter break.  At that point, World History will be beginning the revolutions unit, and our one class of sophomores who have 1 to 1 technology will use this course.  Some of the same activities will be done in the other classes, outside of a blended environment, to help distinguish if the course’s success (or failure) should be attributed to the blended environment rather than the curriculum.

Evaluation will be complete around mid-February.  At that point, all World History students will have finished covering the revolutions, and they will take a district assessment covering this unit.  We will disaggregate the data and evaluate the success of the Moodle course.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!  I’ll be sure to update here what we find out!

Moodle Course Half Complete!

So, here I am halfway through with creating this online course which will be used to blend and flip a high school classroom.  Moodle still surprises me with its relative ease of use – editing is a cinch, they have this duplication feature which lets you easily duplicate a piece that will look relatively similar in another area of the course…  it’s very user friendly.  I really haven’t had to change any part of my design due to limitations of the LMS.  But I’m pretty sure I’ve already talked about that.

Now that I have half of the course developed, and one peer review down, there are a number of slight revisions I’ve made and there are still a few things I need to learn and adjust.  My peer review came from my classmate Jason, who gave me a number of good things to look at.  The main one I’ve implemented so far is changing each week’s headings to be more prominent so that each section is more distinct on the main page of the course.  It looks so much better.  He reminded me to make sure that any PDFs I want turned in should have form regions that allow students to complete them without scanning them in (which I believe I’ve done).  Jason also pointed out that I need to clarify expectations of the wikis, as well as the overall format of the course, which I intend to do within the next two weeks.  He also wondered if there’s a way to make one glossary and just link each section to it without having independent glossaries.  I’m going to have to look into that, though my gut feeling is that I will keep them as independent glossaries if only for the reason that it will make it easier for the teacher to grade each week’s additions.  Maybe there’s a way to then combine them all at the end?  I don’t know.  I’ll look into it.

I still haven’t taken the time to figure out the grade system yet.  I think when I get toward the end of the development, I will then look over all the grading ins and outs and then edit everything I’ve done to make sure it is all cohesive.  I also looked at some of my peers’ courses and found a few elements I liked – like limiting quiz retakes, only allowing access to the next assignments once the previous one is complete, etc. – which I would like to go back and implement.  I will also look into downloading this into a system that works with whatever our school has access to so that my teacher who wants to utilize this course will have access to it.

I’m told that in the professional world, there is an average of a three week turn around on projects like this… to which I say, sign me up!  It is certainly time consuming to do, but the fact that I’m working full time and able to do this plus another course… and still manage to do a few social things and hobbies too… means I think I’m cut out for a job in instructional design should I choose to go into a field like this.  It requires creativity and an eye for detail, and I really enjoy that kind of stuff.  It’s exciting to learn of new career opportunities that will be available to me after I finish this degree.  So close!  Can’t wait!