Evaluation is a vital part of healthy programs and projects. Without it, how does one measure success or failure. We would continue pulling the cart with square wheels, even though a better solution is right there. This course made me realize the essential role evaluation plays in the area of educational technology (as well as other programs and projects). As I’ve mentioned before, prior to this course, I understood and witnessed many school districts misusing technology or wasting money on new technology they believed was the answer to their problems. Now I understand what was missing. EVALUATION!
As I move forward in my career and in my role as a technology teacher and leader, I plan to communicate the importance of evaluation before, during, and after implementation. I want to use evaluation to make a difference in my district.
Throughout this semester the element that has stuck out the most is authenticity. Project Based Learning is about providing students with authentic, relevant, inquiry based learning experiences. Without the authenticity you just have another meaningless or meaning-lite activity. The authentic projects provide applicable and often lifelong lessons.
I guess what I understand least, would be how to properly assess students. There are soo many methods and assessment can be very time consuming in both the development and actual assessment process. I would like to understand more about efficiently and effectively assessing all aspects of the project.
In this course I expected more content about PBL. I expected to do more reading about what it was, the various elements, the research, etc. Instead, we learned about the elements and how to apply them through the creation of an actual unit.
First of all, I hope to use my project at some point and I would like to develop others in the future, although I think I would rather work with a team of teachers. I also plan to use the resources gathered from the course to find already develop projects I can adapt to my needs.
Here is the link to my final project: Business Savvy
After a quick and overwhelming semester my evaluation has come to an end. I was surprised at how easily this flowed as I started writing out the report. I’m pretty satisfied with my final project, and I feel that I have concise and complete report providing clear results of the project. I feel that the length of the report made it easier for me, because I didn’t have to find ways to add material to increase the length. I was actually forced to shorten some sections to reduce the page count.
I too struggled with the budget because I didn’t really put a full day into the report. It was pieces of days throughout the summer, so my estimate is very rough. I also found it challenging to evaluate a project in which I have very little subject knowledge (networking). This lack of knowledge created a new challenge when meeting with the technology specialist to gather data. Maybe this is why so many of the job ads we discussed in week 6 required experience in the field.
I was overwhelmed at the start of the semester, but value the knowledge gained about the importance and practical application of program evaluation. I hope to apply this in the coming years in my career as an educator or in helping schools with technology integration.
Attached is a copy of my final Evaluation Report Project.
One of the best pieces of advice given to me by my former senior pastor was to immediately reflect and take notes about projects or events. If you don’t do it immediately he said you would put it off and forget to do it and when it came time to holding a similar event or project you would often fail to learn from the successes and failures of the past. Well, it took me awhile to catch on, I had to learn myself I guess, but I’ve finally begun to apply this advice to my teaching and plan to do so more diligently this school year.
Reflection by the teacher is perhaps one of the most valuable tools of instruction, but probably seldom used. I find the best resource to use in my post-project reflection is the students. I often conclude a project by asking students what worked and what didn’t. I usually include these questions during a project as well, especially during those frustrating moments when they all seem to be having problems or questions. It can sometimes be difficult to elicit valuable responses from students, most likely because they aren’t used to being asked or answering this type of question from a teacher. Honest, reflective responses from students are vital in helping me adjust my instruction.
As a specials teacher I see 5 different grades each day, all with very different projects. To help myself keep track of which class is where, at the end of each day, and sometimes at the end of each class, I take a few minutes to make notes about progress, successes, failures, etc. This becomes an invaluable tool of reflection from day to day, week to week, and even year to year as it allows me to improve upon instruction as I learn from what does or doesn’t work. It’s an ongoing process, and there is always something new to learn or some minor tweaks to make to improve the project or instruction.
For many teachers, stepping into the role of a facilitator rather than lecturer is a great struggle. It is difficult to relinquish that control and give students some freedom to ask questions, attempt to solve problems, fail, and take some liberties in the direction of their learning. I feel that I have always found a good balance between the two in my personal teaching. As an elementary teacher, I still find traditional teaching necessary, but in short bursts with authentic practice and application.
As an effective educator in the 21st century I believe our role must change. Education is no longer about finding the right answers. Technology does that for us. We must move into the role of teaching students to ask the right questions, how to research, how to discern the validity of sources.
Effective teachers of the 21st century are patient. They are eager to see students succeed with as little intervention as necessary. They allow time for students to explore, discover, and fail. Yes, fail. Failure is ok and students must understand that. A facilitator is able to take a step back when they see a student may fail, but they are there to guide the student through that failure and ask the questions to guide them through a new approach.
One of my largest struggles with facilitating a PBL unit, is pushing through the failures of my own design. PBL is not easy. There are always kinks and snags, some of which turn into holes and tares. Part of this I think is due in part to the freedom I give students. As mentioned in this video, students get frustrated and shut down when they get behind. I need to do a better job of helping each student or group manage their tasks, as well as checking in to make sure groups are on task and on schedule.
When thinking of scaffolding, “we tend to think of structures thrown up alongside of buildings to support workers in their skyward efforts.”
I agree, scaffolding is structure, but I think another key element to scaffolding is support. Scaffolding is a system of structure and support. I’ve tried more of a discovery approach with several projects giving students very little guidance in order to let them learn to solve problems on their own. These projects generally turn out to be nightmares. They do not go in the direction I had envisioned and my time is spent answering questions and pushing students along because it just isn’t clear what they are to do.
Continuing with the building scaffolding illustration, the scaffolding is a guide to the workers. Workers can see where they must work and the direction in which the work is moving. The scaffolding is safe and provides an efficient means for construction. Scaffolding in PBL must be the same way. It should provide learners with a clear sense of direction. They will know where they can move in order to stay within the supports and they will have a clear sense of the direction they are to go.
In my project “Business Savvy” I plan to support students through demonstrating the goal of the project. Students will get a clear sense of direction through rubrics and good and bad examples of completed project segments. I plan to guide students by creating resources and providing links to resources I’ve already approved and know will be of use. This is a large project, so it’s success depends on the use of scaffolding to provide a clear sense of direction to keep students moving forward.
I have to say, I’m not looking forward to the amount of reading in the course, but as I begin, I greatly look forward to the potential benefits of the knowledge and experience I gain here with Dr. Thompson. Prior to the course I’ve had little experience with program evaluation, and just one week into the course I already see where this process has been overlooked in my current district. I’ve always been frustrated by the purchase of technology just for the sake of having it in the classroom. It is irresponsible and ineffective. I’m hoping to take my experiences and possibly my evaluation results to the administration to demonstrate the need of evaluation within our district.
Although this module involved a large amount of challenging reading, I enjoyed the opportunity to research material on an area of interest, games and education. I am making more connections now to the constructivist theories behind games and their attraction to so many. I recall my first game system, the NES and Super Mario Bros. Although this was not the first video game, it was perhaps what made the video game industry take off.
The designers started things of easy, within the Zone of Proximal Development, simple movements to the left and right and jumping up and down. Soon little mushroom guys come along and you quickly learn that running into them kills you. You then learn to jump over them. Then, maybe by accident you learn that if you land on top of one it kills it. This can be used with later enemies as well but not will all enemies. Then there are pipes, some of which you can do through to enter secret areas but in later levels those pipes become dangerous when fire spitting plants pop out. It is a constant cycle of using what is known, being given new tasks or challenges within ones current ability range, and gaining new skills and knowledge based on a cycle of problem solving and failure.
It’s been almost 30 years since Super Mario Bros. and games continue to evolve, yet our education system has remained nearly unchanged. I continue to hear of the need for individualized education but I see very little change.
Games are not the answer to all of the problems but they have the potential to make a difference when used as an environment for student learning. Not only could students engage in content within the game, but perhaps more importantly, the skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, etc. gained in playing are essential to their success in the 21st century.
In my classroom I continue to encourage student exploration and communication with one another. Rather than come to me for an answer I ask students to talk to a classmate first. This gives the classmate the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge while learning to help others. I also encourage students to try things out either by reading the tooltips or trial and error. There is no need to fear failure or mistakes because we have the magic combination of CTRL+Z to undo mistakes. I strive to make my students independent learners. After all, what do they need me for? The answers to the questions are right at their fingertips.
Greek philosophers (Socrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippus, Epicurus).
Photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons, Matt Neale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greek_philosopher_busts.jpg
Again I struggled through the complexity of the philosophical language used in the course readings and found myself resorting to other resources (possibly not as reliable) that put things into terms that I could better understand and therefore made it easier to understand the suggested readings. I guess this kind of fits with my theories on learning however. Yes the topic was chosen as part of the class, but in order to make meaning for myself and construct my own knowledge I had to find text that was meaningful and relevant to me. This then helped put other readings in context so I could form a better understanding of the topic. That being said, I feel constructivist theories, whose belief is that knowledge is constructed from personal experiences (Jonassen, 2012 and Ertmer, 1993), best describe my thoughts and strategies on teaching and knowledge construction.
As a computer teacher, I use technology with my students daily, but I struggle to find a balance in what I teach and how I teach it. Ideally, I would like to give students more time for discovery but find this difficult at the elementary level because students do not yet have the knowledge about how the technology works. At the elementary level I feel I should give students the basic knowledge of tools such as word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and using the internet. I currently use an I do. We do. You do. strategy, which allows me first to model a lesson, lets students practice the lesson with my help and the help of classmates, and then lets students try things on their own and even experiment with new tools. I struggle to find a way to balance class time that would allow me to give students the background I feel they need in the basic use of the computer and computer applications and using some of the amazing web 2.0 tools for communication and collaboration. In an effort to counteract this, I have started an afterschool Minecraft Club using MinecraftEDU giving students the opportunity to create and communicate in an open ended world. I have also provided students with access to online accounts for sites like kerpoof, Sploder, and CoasterCrafter, which give students the opportunity to use creativity, processes of design, publishing, and communication with peers. In addition, I have created a Symbaloo webmix with links to web 2.0 tools involving creativity and research that students can access during their time in the media center or from home. I am excited about the prospects of gamification of the classroom and hope to find ways to gamify my class and make more use of games and simulations.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance improvement quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (2012).Theoretical foundations of learning environments (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.