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 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. 🙂

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 :)).