For this activity, I selected the Coursera course, Virtual Teacher Specialization. This course contains five modules regarding best practices for online instruction, student engagement, and virtual community building.
I shared the following story with my colleague Jessica and here is how that story went.
So I hear you’re interested in learning more about virtual teaching and how you can better support future teachers that might be asked to facilitate these types of learning environments. There is an interesting course online at Coursera, that contains five modules on that topic. But before you decide if this is the right course for your program, let’s look at the learning environment. I have replicated that learning environment in a model to help better visualize the course.
This model represents module 2, week 1 of the course and the topic is The Role of Technology in the Virtual Education.
As you can see from the model, the environment is information driven (the blue block) and has a “check for understanding” quiz at the end of the week. If you are looking for a model that would better support engagement and interaction, this wouldn’t be the type of model we would want to see in our design. It would be important to see other types of building blocks like dialog and feedback during the learning process. These types of engagements allow for a deeper level of ownership and learning in the course.
Ultimately, my colleague agreed that the content of the course, though interesting, wasn’t designed in a way that would be best for her teachers. The visual representation of what the course would look like was very helpful in the process of understanding.
Discover Datasheet – Post Feedback
Discover Datasheet – Original
The above documents are artifacts from my discovery phase of the Principal Certification Test (sub-project) workshop. This project is part of a bigger project, the Major Hub, for the Educational Leadership department. The first document was from my observations during the Saturday workshop and provided to my team for feedback. The second document is the updated version with their feedback and ideas. The goal of this program is to redesign the workshop to meet the academic needs of the group, but also to add essential resources to the Hub that can be used in conjunction with the workshop (flipped classroom model).
I learned that we need to look at the data outcomes of the PCT exams over the last few years to see what content needs updating in the workshop. I also learned that the average age of our students is much younger than previously anticipated and we need to research further how that demographic group (millennials) engages in online content. I also learned that it is important to bring visuals to any meeting whether informal or formal, it helps the client envision what you are trying to communicate. The discovery datasheet was crucial for me.
I used the discover datasheet on our sub-project, Principal Certification Test (PCT) workshop. As our team looks at ways to engage students with the Hub, I believe that building activities and workshops around the environment will help draw students to the site. The PCT workshop (sub-project) is an excellent way to do just that.
The datasheet allowed me to collect my observations of the environment and later reflect on how this could be connected to the Hub. My team worked with members of CeCE to discover the average age of students in our program, which is twenty-seven years of age. We took that information and results of PCT historical data to see how our students were performing and what elements of the workshop could help address those weak areas. I use the datasheet information and informally reviewed this information, on three different occasions with different team members, to seek their feedback and input on how this workshop could be modified to connect to the Hub. The challenge with any project is helping people see a vision for what you have in mind and the possible outcomes of the project, without overwhelming them in the process.
My biggest takeaway from this process is the value of spending time in the Discovery step of the project. I believe it helps me be better prepared and provides me with a solid understand of environment before beginning the design process.
CC Image courtesy of Richard Fahey on Flickr
I observed the first Principal Certification Test Workshop of the school year. I was able to use the Datasheet to document my experience. I later spoke with several of my team members about the workshop and was provided feedback on a general direction of this sub-project. Since this is a sub-project of our major Hub project, there are many other factors to consider and meetings that include conversations about the bigger perspective. We will be discussing this part more at a later time, but I would say we are off to a great start.
Here is the data sheet from my observation and notes from my multiple meetings.
What did you learn from completing the Discover Datasheet?
- The Datasheet allowed me to focus my attention on the elements of the workshop and the experience of the students. It serves as an excellent way to talk to the client about what was observed and removed emotion from the conversation.
What surprised you?
- I don’t think there was an element of surprise in this process for me, but I do think the conversations with the client(s) went very smoothly, and I look forward to more discussions about design.
What surprised your client?
- I also don’t believe that the client had any “ah ha’s” but anytime we have brought a visual tool to our team meeting to help “visualize” the conversation or process has been very well received.
We are making the invisible, visible. #invisible2visible #showme #seeingisbelieving
Sherry and I are working on a project currently named “The Major Hub.” Our goal of this project it to provide an online environment for our educational leadership students to “connect,” with us, each other, and program resources. We hope this Hub will help build a sense of community among all the different cohorts.
The Hub will contain three main areas: Degree, Profession, and Career. In the Profession section of this Hub, we hope to offer blended learning workshop for the Principal Certification Prep Workshop. We selected this sub-project (the workshop) as a way to draw interest to the Hub, by providing useful information that would help students pass their exams.
Our client for this project is the educational leadership program team, and they are the original creators of the workshop (learning environment). The LEMx has allowed us to perform empathy research regarding the designer’s intention, the instructor’s presentation, and the student’s learning experience. We have a much better understanding of this project, and I think we will be much more prepared to help do a redesign.
I asked my friend to let me observe her in her workspace and do a datasheet to document my visit. While visiting her space, I did wonder if the layout of the office was something she had designed of was it created by someone else. She said most of her office was created by the person before her and she is limited to the design based on space and computer connectivity. What’s interesting about her space is she hasn’t decorated the walls. She states that it’s because she just hasn’t had the time to prioritize making it her own. I wonder if it is a sense of ownership. I couldn’t help but think maybe she hasn’t decorated the walls because the layout doesn’t fit her style or personality.
I observed Educational Assessments this week to complete my Discover Datasheet assignment. In this learning environment, the students interacted with each other at tables in the classroom. The teacher regrouped them for the activity, pairing them with a student working on an assignment that addressed the same content area.
Their assignment for the day was to peer review the lesson plan of their paired partner. This lesson plan is one of their portfolio artifacts for the semester and they have been working on the assignment since the beginning of the semester.
The instructor started out with clear guidelines and protocols as to how they should function in their group. She reminded them to reference the rubric for the assignment when providing constructive feedback. During the class period, she circled the room and interjected her feedback too.
What did I learn from this experience? I learned that there is much more to consider when designing and activity as simple as peer review and feedback. The instruction for the activity is extremely important to provide clarity for the task.
How do you think experiences like this help build empathy and enhance the learning environments we design? I think this activity was very helpful because I found myself thinking about the learner. As an outside observer and not the instructor, I was able to think more creatively about what students might need to be more successful in a learning activity. I think this help put me in the chair of the student, relating more to the experience than the activity.
I am currently the customer and designer of my course, Tech 4 Admin, but I wanted the experience of interviewing, designing, and sharing a focus board. I ask the Coordinator of School Partnerships and Clinical Experiences at UCO if she would be interested in being my client for this activity, and she said yes.
My client is currently revising a three-hour seminar on the Oklahoma teacher certification pathway. She has a desire to move away from the “sit and get” workshop, to a model that is more experiential. The following is the focus board we generated during the meeting.
Her feedback regarding the process was wonderful. She was thrilled to get the opportunity to discuss, think, and align her goals for redesigning this project. She said it helped her articulate what she would like to see in the future seminar and how she might go about getting to that goal.
The focus board was a very helpful tool. It focused my thoughts on what skills and knowledge my students would need to complete the evidence for the course successfully.
Moving forward with the design of Technology for School Administrators, I think this tool will help me be more intentional about the learning environment activities and how they support the outcome.
In my classroom, I use the following empathy techniques to gauge the learning, interactions, and interest of my students.
Post-It Note Reflections: At the end of each class, I ask the students to reflect on what they liked most about the class that evening and what they would change if we had
to do the class over. I call it their Groundhog Day moment of the night. The reflections are done anonymously, on a post-it note, and left on the window of the door as they leave. I get real, honest, feedback about how they feel, what they liked, loved, and even loathed. Based on their feedback, I work to change my instructional approach for the next class.
Active Listening and Observing: Not only do I listen to my students regarding their feedback about the class, but I like listening to their sidebar conversations and observing their interactions. During collaborative class activities, I often join a group so I can get a better understanding of their learning and opinions.
Relationship Building: I try to get to class at least 30-45 minutes early each night, so I can sit casually with those that come early and talk about their work day, their families, and their lives. I learn so much about who they are and what things they value.
These are just a few examples of the different techniques I have used to help me build empathy for my students.
“Listen” image by hindersights, is licensed under CC BY 2.0