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!


Blended/Flipped World History ID Feedback

After first turning in my rough draft ID to my professor and getting a dismal grade + feedback, I dove into a more elaborate, in-depth description of what I envisioned my project to be.  Our main project this mini-semester is to create an entire course, 40-45 hours of instruction, in Moodle.  Whenever we are given exciting and big projects like this, I immediately think of ways that my work for grad school can be applied to my actual job (kind of killing two birds with one stone, so to speak).  I have a teacher who is teaching a class in which every student will be given a laptop for completing their work.  One of his goals has been to flip instruction, or at the very least implement a sort of blended curriculum.  I figured, why don’t I help him out by developing the flipped content for a semester of World History?  I thought it was a great idea, but my professor wanted a more condensed and consecutive approach to the project, so I modified it to be the entire six weeks instruction of their World History class (which is A LOT more work, but it would be really cool if it works out!!!).  I’m really excited that what I develop – or at least parts of it – will be utilized by a teacher this year.  Plus it’s a LOT of work (did I mention that already?), so I really hope it ends up being beneficial for this teacher and his students.

I gave my newly revised, twenty-something page long instructional design document to Jason, a classmate.  He was very helpful in his peer review.  He said he loved the idea (turns out, his project is about teaching teachers how to flip the classroom!), and could think of a number of people who would want access to this course (Hey!  Maybe I can sell it!  Hah).  

Jason’s feedback included questions which helped clarify areas where I need to be more specific.  For example, one of his first questions asked if I was personally flipping a history course or providing resources for another teacher to flip a history course.  It helped me realize where I need to go into more depth in my explanation.  He also pointed out that some of my listed assessments (such as quizzes, forum posts, or wikis) did not clarify where they would be completing these activities.  I guess I was so tired (rewriting an ID after working 10 hours… which for me was about an 8 hour process… left my brain frazzled [so much so that I missed my other class’s online meeting!!! MAJOR face plant!!! :(]) that I didn’t realize how vague or how assumptive I was being in the document.  All the activities will be in Moodle unless otherwise mentioned… but I never bothered to say that in the document.  I will definitely be adding that.

I also was kind of vague on wiki and quiz implementation, in terms of teacher support.  I’m seeing that I will need to add something like a Job Aid (Jason’s suggestion) or some other sort of procedural part in the IDD which helps the instructor to learn these processes and how to implement them.  They definitely need to play with it before stepping in front of a class of 15 year olds and asking them to do it.  Practice, troubleshoot, then implement.  In my IDD, I basically have them step right into implementation without practicing first and troubleshooting problems.  And we all know there seem to always be problems when it comes to new technology!!!

He also gave me a lot of great suggestions.  Jason’s previous project for another class included his use of Moodle, so I feel very lucky that my assigned peer reviewer has experience using the program.  He suggested, for example, that I include the schedule and assignment dates in Moodle’s calendar feature.  What a great idea!  I didn’t even realize that was an option.  I have so much to learn about Moodle.  Overall, a great big THANKS(!!!) to Jason for the peer review!  It’s very helpful for another set of eyes to look over a document I’ve been staring at for hours and hours. 🙂

Isman Instructional Design Model

We were instructed to find an instructional design model which we weren’t familiar with and answer some basic questions about it.  I found a kind of obscure one, referred to as the Isman model of instructional design, which I will discuss here.

The Isman model’s goal is very similar to any instructional design model’s goal: “to point up how to plan, develop, implement, evaluate, and organize full learning activities effectively so that it will ensure competent performance by students.” (Isman 2011)  Here is a basic visualization of how the model works (Isman 2011):


It is based on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism – some of my favorite learning theories! – but with an overarching goal of reinforcing long-term learning.  It has five basic steps in the design process:  Input, Process, Output, Feedback, and Learning.  Within each step are stages.  Most of these stages seem familiar to me from the ADDIE model, though named differently.

Step 1, Input, is similar to both the Analyze and Design phases in the ADDIE model.  One of the main differences between the two in this part of the design model is that the Isman model emphasizes “modern instructional media” (such as multimedia, internet, projection, film, etc.) as well as “classical instructional media” (such as books, journals, pictures, etc.), and it also emphasizes active learning (whereas I don’t remember there being an emphasis on any of these things in the ADDIE model).

Step 2, Process, is similar to the next two phases in the ADDIE model: Development and Implementation.  The ADDIE model seems to go into more detail in this part of the instructional design process.  Between both the Development and Implementation phases, there are seven different steps for the instructional designer to complete.  In the Process stage of the Isman model, he only lists three steps:  Test prototypes (similar to the ADDIE step for validating instruction), Redesigning (also part of the validating instruction step in the ADDIE model), and Teaching Activities (which is the last step – conducting instruction – in the Implementation phase of the ADDIE model).

Step 3 and 4, Output and Feedback, go along with the final phase of the ADDIE model – Evaluation.  Basically, this step is the assessment and analysis of results, followed by a redesign of instruction if necessary (based on said results).  Step 5, Learning, basically has the Instructional Designer look over the results and determine whether long term learning is occurring, and if not, reteach is necessary (and redesign for future instruction would also be necessary).  I guess that kind of goes along with the Evaluation phase of the ADDIE model, too.

So, would I use this model to develop instructional design?  It has all the basic steps I would want in an instructional design model… but the thing is, it seems really similar to the more common models out there.  The big difference, I suppose, is the detail given to the end product (assessment/redesign/analysis of data) seems more in-depth in this model than in the ADDIE model, whereas the detail given to the actual initial design and process of teaching seems more in-depth in the ADDIE model.  I think both design and analysis of results are probably equally important, so perhaps it would be best to do some conglomeration of the two.  The way my current project is set up, I think there is more focus on the design, which I suppose falls more under the umbrella of the ADDIE model.

It’s important to note that learning theories (like behaviorism / cognitivism / constructivism) is different from an instructional design model.  I see learning theories as guides to how you should design your instruction.  If you are of the belief, for example, that learners learn most effectively through social constructivist means, then your ID model should emphasize a design structure that supports that learning theory.  So, in effect, one drives the other.  It’s important to do it in that order, too — if you develop an instructional design first, then consider your learning theories later, you will likely have to start from scratch as your instruction might not fit under the learning theory you subscribe to.  And this is especially important if you are developing instructional design for a client.  Make sure to ask their opinion on learning theory before diving into your ID!  Otherwise your time and energy may be wasted.

Isman, A. (2011) Instructional Design in Education: New Model.  The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(1).  Accessed from

Flipping the Classroom

I am beginning my last semester of grad school, and with final classes come final projects.  I’ve decided to help one of my department’s teachers to flip his classroom for next semester.  After reading much about it, there are all sorts of studies that support this method of instruction, especially for “millennial students.”  So you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about flipped classrooms and various flipping techniques and strategies within this blog over the next couple of months.

I read an article by Roehl, Shweta, and Shannon article from 2013 which discusses the advantages of flipping the classroom.  The authors explain how technology is important for the “millennial student,” as is social learning.  Their draw to technology and social learning is causing a paradigm shift in the academic world as institutions move toward more active learning so as to “better engage these students.”  The article reiterates that lecture has been found to not be very effective, and yet still persists as the most common practice in teaching adult learners.  The research-based suggestion, of course, is that we move toward active learning, specifically using four instructional approaches: 1) individual activities, 2) paired activities, 3) informal small groups, and 4) cooperative students projects.  Flipping the classroom – that is, introducing the information at home via online lecture and activities – allows for deeper engagement and more differentiated instruction in the classroom.  They discuss specific case studies of how flipped classrooms showed improvement in student learning and engagement over tradition lecture-based classrooms.  Students also pay more attention to their own learning process when participating in flipped classrooms, and should have plenty of opportunity to reflect in order to take full advantage of this.  Flipping the class also helps teachers gauge their students’ progress prior to summative assessments.  Another benefit for both students and teachers is that it prevents people from falling too far behind should they be absent, because they can catch up with learning the material on their own time at home.

One thing I found kind of interesting is that the  only focuses on using videos for lecture for the at-home portion of a flipped classroom.  While that is certainly the main gist behind flipping a class, I have always personally felt that the at-home portion of the course could also include enrichment activities and opportunities to interact with other students and the teacher in an online, out-of-class environment.  The authors do not really discuss this.  I’m curious if other teachers refrain from these sorts of interactions and just use the online portion for video/lectured instruction?  Also, the authors note that the videos are generally only 4-6 minutes long, which I think is a decent length for me to aim for when developing the online modules and any lecture video.  It is long enough to cover a significant amount of information, but short enough to where a student could replay the video multiple times for understanding without it taking up a huge chunk of their evening.

Also, a classmate reviewed an article by Lim and Michael from 2009 which emphasized the importance of a good teacher in a flipped classroom.  While the online videos might be great, your class will only be effective if you have a teacher who provides engaging and relevant connections and analysis in the classroom.  Her review also reinforced the importance of differentiating within the class and even in the online, at-home portion of a flipped or blended class, because differentiating encourages engagement.

Overall, both the article and my classmate’s review of another article scientifically reinforced my gut feeling that this transition to a flipped classroom will be a successful one, if not a interesting journey!  Have you flipped a class?  What are your experiences with it?  Any pointers?  ‘Cause I’ll take ’em!

Lim, D. H., & Michael, L. M. (2009). Learner and instructional factors influencing learning outcomes within a blended learning environment. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 282-n/a. Retrieved from

Roehl, A., Shweta, L. & Shannon, G. (2013) The Flipped Classroom:  An opportunity to engage millenial students through active learning.  Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 105(2), 44-49.  Retrieved from

Harper Collins and the Case of the Disappearing eBook

In 2011, Harper Collins Publishing declared a new policy concerning eBook lending through libraries.  In their open letter to librarians,  they argue that they, “have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”  In other words, their fear is that by giving libraries never-ending licenses, because digital copies don’t wear down over time the way physical books do, eventually they would be putting the market for books in the gutter because they are satiating a market with a product that is never needed to be replaced.  After all, the surest way to a never-ending market is planned obsolescence, right?

So their solution to this “concern” is to limit the number of library eBook license lends to twenty six lends per license.  In their letter, they say they have discussed this thoroughly with agents, distributors, librarians, etc. but nowhere do they offer any sort of research that says the average length of a hardback book is 26 reads.  I’m very curious where they come up with that number, because it seems quite arbitrary.  It seems that, instead of equating the digital copy to a physical copy, they were thinking, “about how often would we like libraries to have to renew their license?  Once a year-ish?  And they lend about two weeks at a time, so like 26 lends in a year?  Sounds good.”  Some librarians have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate how ridiculous and arbitrary this number is – my favorite being this youtube clip:

Apparently, the publisher is also trying to get OverDrive, a company that offers Digital Rights Management (DRM) services mostly for libraries, to make sure that libraries are only issuing library cards to people in their geographic jurisdiction.  It sounds like they want to include a geographic limit to each eBook license.  I can kind of understand this argument.  Many large library systems allow anyone to check out their eBooks, and it kind of makes sense, at least from a lender’s perspective, to limit who can access their books – including their eBooks – to people in their general vicinity.  I don’t, however, understand how a publisher should care about this, unless maybe they are trying to get their statistics to show a wider range of libraries checking out more books rather than NYC public libraries having all their licenses?  I really don’t know.

I think Harper Collins needs to adjust with the changing technology.  For one, they need to not freak out about new technology.  According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP report (PDF), comprised of extensive interviews and surveys, in 2010, eBooks accounted for only 7% of the US market.  That means, even as recently as three years ago, 93% of the US market was still buying physical books.  A New York Times article published in May 2013 said that in 2012, eBooks accounted for 20% of publishers’ revenues.  While their percentage of the market has grown, it is still far in the minority.  The PwC report also surveyed people and found that the vast majority of people prefer physical books to eBooks, and that the main users of eReaders tend to be prolific readers who do not like lugging lots of books around with them at all times.  In their words:

The Gutenberg era is not about to come to an end. Printed books will still exist. After television, we still have cinema and radio. There is no need to fear that bound books will only be found in museums, connoisseurs’ collections, and in antique markets, or considered curiosities the same way we now view eight-track tapes.  The book industry that we know and understand today will continue to thrive, but it will be transformed by eBooks and eReaders.

Just like the music, newspaper, and television industries (and many others I’m sure) have had to adjust to changes in technology, so will the print industry.  Can you imagine what their customers would say if they tried to pull this on them as well as librarians?  It makes no sense to tell a customer, “well, if this were an actual book, it would only last for x amount of time, and so to keep us in business, we’re going to operate and charge you as if it were a physical book.”  It makes no sense, except to the businesses wanting to make money, I guess.  Customers would take their business elsewhere.  In a market economy, you cannot make decisions like this and expect to remain in business.  Instead, maybe they should transition to having some sort of a digital subscription service, the way many music, movie lending, and newspaper industries have moved to.  Learn to promote in new and innovative ways.  Be more creative on the business/marketing end instead of requiring our public libraries, who serve the public on limited and ever-decreasing budgets, to make up for this changing market.


Final Blog for ID!

Think about instructional design in general. What have you learned this semester about instructional design and development? What about process? What else?

Instructional design and development is a much more in depth process than I originally thought.  As a teacher, it would be awesome if we had the time to actually fully go through the ID process when developing our instruction.  We’re trained in ID, it’s expected that we are that thorough with every lesson, but the truth is, most teachers do not have the time to do that much in depth instructional design, at least not until they have been teaching for a long time and have time to start refining their lessons and fine tuning their analysis, assessment, and evaluations.

Also, what did you learn from the Evaluation of the product? What would you do differently next time? How much did you learn from the process and evaluation that will make you a better future instructional designer?

The World Geography STAAR Review went really well.  The goal was to review all of our testing standards (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills of World Geography), focusing specifically on areas that students showed they were lacking based on benchmark tests, while keeping students interactive and engaged, and overall the results were qualitatively and quantitatively great.

The pre-quiz, which is a 42 question matching quiz covering the different physical and human characteristics of different regions of the world, really freaked out a lot of the students.  Many of them were overwhelmed at the number of questions, and if they did not know the answer to the first two or three, they would shut down.  After letting them work on it individually for awhile, we allowed them to work on it with a partner to discuss and change answers as they seemed fit.  They were not allowed to use other resources.  When they turned it in, we graded it to get an average of 41.4% correct – or 17.4 questions correct – for all World Geography students.  The regions that as a group they got mostly correct were the United States & Canada; Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean; Europe; Australia & Islands; and Antarctica.  All regions of Asia and Africa were pretty dismal, and South America was less understood than we had anticipated.

We continued with the instruction, first reviewing the physical features, human features, and events & issues of each continent.  This was the introduction to our Book of Knowledge (BOK, which becomes their study guide), the game concept of our teamwork, and the first of many days of matching cards.  It was wildly successful.  Students were engaged, they were speaking in academic language as they discussed which cards should go where, even arguing poetically about World Geography.  It was very exciting to witness.  Even students who were very vocal and determined not to work with the group to which they were assigned found themselves swept up in the competition of getting their matching done first, and, whether they noticed or not, became very good, collaborative teammates.

We added a few rules as the matching games went on.  For one, it turned out to be a headache for teachers to try and check every group at every moment they requested it – it took much too long.  So our first change in rules was that teams could only ask for assistance or checks from the teacher three times before the teacher started to deduct points from their team.  This helped immensely.  Students began working through the smaller problems themselves as a team and were more conservative with their assistance requests.  Another rule that was added was the “No Cell Phones or you are disqualified!” rule.  We are a Bring Your Own Device campus, and many teachers do not mind students listening to music, however many students began using the device to look up answers – so to make it easy, we just said no cell phones during the matching portion, because some students were accusing others of winning the day’s “quest” only because they were cheating by using their devices inappropriately.  The last (but certainly not least!) rule was that they were not allowed to speak to other teams unless given explicit permission by the teacher.  This helped to control the environment and reinforce students staying with and only interacting with their assigned group, plus it helped minimize cheating or unfair advantages.

We also had a kind of unexpected assembly during 8th period one Friday.  Most of the teachers did not see their 8th period that day, so we had to adjust the instruction so that 8th period classes received the information without getting too far behind.  We ended up giving them copies of the key for that day so they could transfer the information to their BOK.

Toward the end of the review week, we gave the post-quiz (which was the same 42 question quiz) to students, this time enforcing that they do it individually and without resources (such as their notes or the book).  We graded the quiz and had a significant rise in percentage correct, settling at 58.2%, a 16.8% increase.  Based on the results, students still seem to struggle with the concept of “Sub-Saharan” Africa, and they confuse the different regions of Asia.  They especially seem to forget that Southwest Asia is also referred to as part of the Middle East, so, although we have mentioned it countless times in our instruction, we probably need to address it some other way so that it sticks.  As a PLC, we acknowledged that our calendar required us to rush through certain regions, Asia especially, and we will address that in next year’s calendar.  This year’s calendar did not account for reviewing before the STAAR, and even had new instruction scheduled for beyond the STAAR test, which is not acceptable since the World Geography STAAR test can ask questions about any of the state TEKS.  Next year we will adjust the calendar to allow for more time to be spent learning about each region, covering all material by two to three weeks prior to the STAAR test so that there is time to review.

Overall, the teachers felt like the review went really well, and was, “better than the worksheet reviews we have done in the past.”  They felt the students enjoyed it, and the students agreed, though they did say that eight days of matching cards “got a little old,” so we might need to break it up a little bit when we organize this review in the future.

The biggest thing I learned about ID through this project is that when dealing with longer term instructional design, it is really important to follow the design document and timeline, but to remember to be flexible.  If something that you planned for is not working the way it should, you should absolutely change it when you recognize something is not working right.  We did not immediately change our instruction when things weren’t quite working the way we intended, but once we changed the instruction, things went much smoother and we felt it was more effective.  This applied to certain rules that were applied, and even the method of instruction itself in some cases.  So I guess, always maintain flexibility when it is in the best interest of the learner (not just because it might make your job easier :)).

Instructional Design

Designing instruction means having a learning objective in mind, and developing with purpose a method of teaching it.  It means analyzing, editing, assessing and evaluating.  Reflection and further fine tuning are essential to its continued success.

To design instruction professionally, you need to have both logical and creative sides to you.  You must be able to come up with an achievable, measurable goal, then analyze the needs of all parties involved from all different perspectives.  Your reporting must be detailed, with Design Documents and Job Aides that easily understood yet thorough.  That being said, in designing the instruction itself, and the materials used, those often take creative skills. 

I’d also that being a professional instructional designer also takes patience and poise (especially among difficult clients). 🙂