Digital Media Reflection

While working on my digital media project this semester, I ran into some challenges.  Forming the initial idea in your head is the easy part.  Creating the actual project is far from easy.  For instance, creating a website which is useful and meaningful for people comes with its challenges.

  • How do you ensure the content is engaging and useful for people?
  • Are the items you are using on your website copyright protected and if so, are you following proper protocol to protect these items?
  • Is the site user-friendly?
  • Are people going to be able to navigate the site efficiently?
  • Have you included a space for people to interact with one another such as a FAQ section, group discussion forum or comment section?

Missing any one of the above points when creating a website can, and most likely will, kill the site.  Once people know you are missing one of the above components, they will not return and will not recommend the site to others.

I would suggest people research exactly what the needs are of the people the are trying to reach with their digital media project before they begin designing it.  This is crucial and will help to develop the individual components and content.  Also, I would suggest creators ensure a variety of ways for people to interact with the owner of the media project as well as with each other.  This way, people have the opportunity to suggest improvements the creator may not have considered.  This also allows for collaboration among the users and provides users with a chance to engage with each other.

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The Impact of Well-Designed PLEs

I was very interested in the readings in week #8 as they are providing me with much needed information for my LT#3.  For LT#3, I am creating a personal learning environment (PLE) with the help of my colleagues.  The PLE will be created with the intention of helping teachers integrate a new technology tool, the iPad2, into their teaching.

Atwell opens with a good question when discussing PLEs.  How do we learn?  This is crucial for me to understand where my learners, the teachers, are coming from and how to best approach the support and learning environment I want to create.  Most people will learn 80% of what they know and understand in an informal learning environment (Atwell, 2007).  This tells me the website I want to create must have an informal component to it.  This is very well modeled in one of the greatest informal learning environment ever created, Facebook.  I intend to model this environment by allowing teachers to interact with one another in an informal way to share ideas and ask questions of whomever they choose.  Why should the only person they have access to for support be me or the technology mentor teacher (TMT)?  Personally, I know that in an online learning environment, such as the one for this course, I learn best when I am able to interact with my classmates and I see their comments and reflect on what they have to say.

Communication is the key to any PLE.  This may entail blogging, instant messaging, file sharing or simple email.  In this way, we learn from each other in an informal way and this is how most of us prefer to learn.  This is not based on an outcome or a goal derived by someone else but is rather something we may need an answer to in order to move forward with the formal goal or outcome.  It is also important to share our successes with one another.  In one way it shows attainment of a formal outcome but in a much more meaningful way, it shows our fellow learners a successful approach they may want to use in their own way.  In LT#3, we are going to ask teachers to post a video of a lesson or an assignment they feel was successful when using the iPad for this very reason.

In the Youtube video, Personal Learning Networks, Will Richardson explains everyone learns in their own way online.  Many turn to social media to learn informally and we should not ignore the potential seen here.  This reinforces the idea the PLE I intend to create must have these components.  Instant messaging, posts, blogs, media imports, etc. must be included for my PLE to be successful.

Attwell, G. (2007). Personal learning environments – the future of eLearning? eLearning Papers, 2(1). Retrieved from http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:ptS3B7qa2z4J:scholar.google.com/+personal+learning+networks&hl=en&as_sdt 0,5&as_vis=1

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Build it and they will come?

The online learning or “cloud” experience is a powerful and increasingly popular tool for educators Denton, D. (2012).  We are always looking for ways to engage our students in an immersive environment with rich opportunities for collaboration and engagement as we approach pedagogy in the classroom.  Web-based learning platforms and the design and necessary structure of these online learning platforms are mentioned in the readings.  I followed these particular readings with interest because of the learning environment we are trying to create at the school as a professional learning community.

The Google Docs Suite is central to the collaboration we need as teachers with very busy professional lives.  In the reading it is clear the docs need to follow a constructivist or cooperative learning approach in order for the learners to have an immersive experience.  Denton mentions several approaches to use with Google Docs including group projects, simultaneous discussion and collaborative rubric creation as examples of how learners can interact with each other in a mutually beneficial way (Denton, 2012).  At our school, we are using Google Docs as a collaborative tool in teacher’s professional growth plans, as admin meeting agendas, and as a place to list concerns or requests.  As I look at how we are using the Google Docs, I see now the only one in the above list that falls into a “learning” category is the TPGP example.  The science department is using Google Docs as a place for teachers to share, analyze and come to common consensus on what assessment comments will be used in D2L.  These comments will be directly linked to the program of studies and have a “parent-friendly” vocabulary.  I believe this instance of using Google Docs falls into Denton’s definition of a cooperative learning framework.   The other examples I mention above are using Google Docs on a surface level; a place to to list things.  This also serves a purpose though.  It allows teachers a very easy way to get familiar with Google Docs and therefore makes it easy to use as a learning tool with each other or the students in the future.

The next tech push in our building will be to create a website designed to help teachers with the use of iPads coming to us for use with our ELL student population.  Lynch and Horton make it very clear the old adage “Build it and they will come” is not true when it comes to websites (Lynch & Horton, 2011).  Websites have to tread very carefully through the design process and if it is intended to be a learning tool, it has to follow some form of learning model such as ADDIE (Lee et al., 2002 ).  I will be working closely with my technology mentor teacher (TMT) at my school to cover the web design process steps such as, knowing our audience, communicating the top 3 goals of the project, and researching current sites which already exist regarding these same goals.  After doing some of these critical first steps, we will then be prepared to move into the actual design of the site itself.  The creation of a functional, useful site is going to take more time than I had first thought but the process of knowing what it is you want to create (your end goals) is a crucial part of the process.  The A in ADDIE stands for analysis and it is important we analyze exactly what we want our learners to know after they have visited the website BEFORE we begin to create the site.    

References

Denton, D. (2012). Enhancing Instruction through Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, and Cloud Computing. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 56(4), 34-41.

Lee, W. W., Owens, D. L., & Benson, A. D. (2002). Design Considerations for Web-Based Learning Systems. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4, 405-423.

Lynch, P. J., & Horton, S. (2011). Information architecture. Web Style Guide, 3rd Ed. Retrieved from http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/2-organizing-information.html.

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EDER 697.25 – Week #1 Blog Post

The readings and the video this week provided me with a great sense of what this course is really all about.  Digital media has become a powerful collaborative tool which cannot be ignored, especially as educators.  It is a preferred, efficient and engaging way to communicate.  It allows us to be creative with our ideas and share them with people instantly.  It allows us to reflect on what others have to say and change our perceptions.  It allows us to understand our new globalized and much smaller world.

Digital media is requiring us to re-think communication in a fundamentally different way.  This fundamental shift is explored in the video “The Machine Is Us/ing Us”.

The video portrays text on a piece of paper as a linear and rigid way of communicating.  If we really think about it, this rigid and linear way of communicating has been around for many thousands of years while digital media has been around for less than 50 years.  It is fascinating to think about how the potential for human data consumption (knowing and understanding information) is growing at an exponential rate.  Is text on paper now becoming a primitive way to communicate?  After considering the following, I am leaning towards “yes”.

The flexibility and power of digital text can now take an idea and bring it to life.  This is done through hyperlinks connecting a word or idea with other words and ideas creating a sophisticated web of information we can then use to create our own viewpoints, knowledge and emotions.  As more we create the information and connections to this information, the more we evolve the “machine”.  The “machine” takes the information and categorizes and organizes this information into a useful, efficient and powerful way for “us” to communicate with each other.  “We” are the “machine” creating something that transcends the individual.

References

Wesch, M. (2007). [Video] The machine is us/ing us. Retrieved from  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g

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RUN AWAY! It’s the high school vice-principal!

As I contemplate my new position as a new high school vice-principal, I am struck by the stigma of the role.   Walk into any high school and ask the students to name any of the vice-principals and the answer will be something like “Um, I think it is Mr. ________.” followed by some general statement about how strict he is about the rules.

Students view the vice-principal as the person you have to see when you get in trouble at school.  Parents view the vice-principal as the person who calls them to report the poor behaviour of their child or as the complaint department.  Teachers view the vice-principal as someone you never want to see in your classroom because it means you are under evaluation or something has gone wrong.

Why is this the stigma?

There are 2 main reasons I can come up with…

  • Vice-principals ARE responsible for all the above mentioned duties and much of our time is spent on those things.
  • The general workload is very heavy and so a lot of time is spent in the office, out of sight.

These things unfortunately define the role and ingrains the stigma.  So, here is my plan to change the dreaded high school vice-principal perception.

  1. I will be out of my office and interacting with students in the classroom more often than not even if this means I will be working late to catch up on paperwork.  My obligation is to the students first and foremost and being a direct part of their learning is crucial to my role as an educator.
  2. I will ensure teachers know I am a partner in education, not an evaluator or judge.  I can not ask teachers to allow me into their classrooms without this understanding.  It is paramount to ensuring trust and respect.
  3. I will call at least one parent a day with a positive message about their child.   Why must I always be the bearer of bad news?!  I am going to show parents they can trust I have their child’s best interests at heart.

Too simple?  Impossible?  Maybe…but it is 3 steps in the right direction.  As I enter this role in September, I will be updating this blog with how this plan is working.  Stay tuned…

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The Administrator Lifespan

In today’s class we discussed the need for adaptable systems to have high redundancy, high diversity. low specialization and healthy tension.  This will create a climate of change, emergence and novelty.  This systems model is one that should be sought after as a leader and it is something I am going to work toward creating as a junior administrator and eventually as a principal.

The one thing I struggled with in class is the typical “lifespan” of an administrator at a school is usually in the 3-5 year range.  Is this enough time to create this type of system of leadership within a school?  One of my classmates pointed out the fact that the staff could carry the vision forward after the current administrator is gone.  I believe this to be true and in theory the transition of the collaborative agreed upon vision from one administrator to the next SHOULD be able to be brought forward and carried on by staff.  However, as most teachers already know, the majority administrators will bring with them their own ideas of how the school should be run and may have a top-down approach to leadership rather than a shared vision of how a school should be run.

In the end I can only control my own practice and it will mirror many of the concepts discussed today.  Whether I have 1 or 5 years at a school I will ensure diversity, redundancy, low specialization and healthy tension to continually evolve my own practice as well as that of the staff.

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The Parental Divide

There is a growing divide between education and one of the major stakeholders…parents.  I put the blame on the shoulders of administrators and here is why…

Parents do not know their role in their own child’s education.  We are always stating “parents are the primary educators of their child” yet we, as professional educators, are not showing them how.  Parents need guidance in this just as much as a child needs guidance with how to critically think about a math problem.  My solution is a simple one that I hope to employ as an administrator.

Get parents in the school!!

Start with a mandatory (yes…mandatory) meeting a the beginning of the year in which they are walked through the ins and outs of supporting the learning that is going on in the classroom while their child is at home.  It goes beyond asking the child “How was your day?” to which the child gives a one word answer “Good.”  It goes beyond homework.  It will also cultivate a team spirit amongst educators at school and parents at home for the sole purpose of success of every child.

Parents need to volunteer in their child’s class at least once (and hopefully more) during the school year.  And not just to do some photocopying!  Parents should be actively involved in the learning of their child, and others, in the classroom so they can see the practices the teacher has in place and hopefully carry them forward to the home.

School council needs to be an attractive option for parents.  Far too often do I walk into a school council meeting (even with a highly active parent population) to see fewer than 10 parents at a school with over 700 students.  This needs to change!  Critical decisions are made at these meetings that effect the education of the students.  Administrators need to survey their parent population in regards to increased attendance at these meetings.

For those people who are at the end of this blog with the thought “parents don’t have time for this!!”, I say really?!  How can you not have time for your child’s academic success?  How can you prioritize ANYTHING else above this?  Even work should come second to raising your child and ensuring their success.  My answer to you is MAKE TIME.  If you can’t and your child is not succeeding…look in the mirror for the answers not at the teachers.

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