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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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!

Moodle Development and Flipping the Classroom

I’ve started compiling my Moodle course over World History Revolutions.  Moodle is a very user-friendly LMS, I think.  I’m kind of a trial by error type gal when it comes to using new technology, and it really doesn’t take too long to figure out how to maneuver through the editing process.  I was surprised at the number of options available, and was pleasantly surprised at some of the small touches (like actually embedding the YouTube clip if you link to it, as one small example) that make both the user and developer’s experiences better.

I started with a blank outline with seven or eight weeks of course material.  From there I edited the intro to include a snazzy picture of an old skool world map, followed by a short introduction, then PDF files of the purpose, problem, and learning theory behind this course, plus another PDF file of learning goals and objectives.  The skeleton of the course came with a news forum in the introduction section, which I thought was probably a good idea for posting announcements and such, so I kept it. I then edited the title of each week to reflect what the learning focus was.  

Once the bare-bone template was complete, I started working on some of the specific aspects of each week’s instruction.  I started by uploading a file that lays out the week’s goals and objectives, plus accompanying TEKS, for each week.  Then I played with the Glossary feature.  After creating a Glossary for the first week – the Scientific Revolution – I figured out that you can duplicate and move the assignment.  So I went ahead and duplicated, then edited, then moved the glossary for each week, since I knew we would be doing glossaries in each week of instruction.  That was a cool feature which I think will probably help me be more efficient in my development.  I’m glad I found it!

Then I decided I would really focus on the first week, and maybe get through half of the second week.  I figured out how the Assignment feature worked, as well as how to edit and include pages, forums, upload files, and even how to develop a quiz.  For whatever reason, developing the quiz didn’t come as naturally to me as the other features did.  It felt a little convoluted, and not as intuitive as other features were (from a developer’s point of view, anyway).  But I finally figured it out after many attempts, and completed the first quiz (though I still feel like going back and editing it some).  The other thing I still need to sit down and figure out is how the heck all the grading works.  I’m certain I have it set up all wrong, so I need to spend some time fine tuning that.  

I haven’t yet given or received feedback on these Moodle courses, though I have looked at my partner’s (from this semester and last) for ideas and to experiment with different aspects.  Overall, though, I’m really excited about how this is turning out!  I still have a ways to go, but I am really excited about the possibilities that this course might offer in terms of incorporating technology into the classroom.  Visions of paperless classrooms, automatic grading and recording, absent students not falling behind or having to ask for work… all this and more are dancing in my head!  Can’t wait to actually implement this instruction and see how it goes!