Learning to Learn

I’m taking a MOOC called Learning to Learn*. This is an amazing MOOC. I recommend it to anyone, young or old, who would like to become a better learner. This course is well thought out, professionally done, and Dr. Barbara Oakley has done an amazing job making sure her lectures are clear, engaging, and useful. Please share it.

Do not be shy about sharing this MOOC  with learners, young and old, around you who may make good grades as well those who struggle. Perhaps the A students aren’t really learning the material, just memorizing until the test, as I did so many years ago. I wanted to be a good student; I just didn’t know how. There isn’t a reason not to know how today. The MOOC is freely available to anyone who would like to learn. The next offering is October 5, 2014.

*You can find the MOOC on on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) by the UC San Diego. Dr. Barbara Oakley, the is the main instructor. Dr. Terrence Sejnowski also lectures.

2014 Higher Education Horizon Report: 6 Key Trends

The higher education Horizon attempts to identify and describe emerging trends in higher education within the next five years. It then to takes a look at the potential impact these technologies have on teaching and learning.  A expert panel is selected and a wiki is used for collaboration and open to make their findings transparent. You can find the wiki at horizon.wiki.nmc.org and the complete report at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2014-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf

Not swayed by the shinny new thing, the principal measure for inclusion into the report is its pertinence to teaching and learning and creative inquiry in higher education. See the innovative pedagogical practices chart below.

chart illustrating 28 Innovative Pedagogical Practices
Innovative Pedagogical Practices

6 Key Trends

1. Growing ubiquity of Social Media

According to the report (quoting Business Insider), 40% of the world population regularly use social media and 70% of faculty and the general population use social media in their personal lives. Not only that but “today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to the cloud by the billions. Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening.”(p. 8)

Plus, social media isn’t just for the young. The largest growth is in the 45+ age group! As an instructional designer, I find the combination of age and ubiquity exciting because most of the learners in post secondary education are working adults. The bottom line is that instructors can integrate social media into their courses without the implications of non technical users…cool beans.

2. Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning

“The tremendous interest in the academic and popular press in new forms of online learning over the past few years has also heightened use of discussion forums, embedded videos, and digital assessments in more traditional classes, with the intention of making better use of class time. An increasing number of universities are incorporating online environments into courses of all kinds, which is making the content more dynamic, flexible, and accessible to a larger number of students. These hybrid-learning settings are engaging students in creative learning activities that often demand more peer-to-peer collaboration than traditional courses.” (p. 10)

Yeah. Need I say more?

3.  Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

I knew that adaptive learning software could be used to mine information so that learners comprehension is monitored and instruction is adapted to the learner’s need. I stink at math and Khan Academy leads me down the path to competence and I work my through the levels.

I never thought before about the collection of data from learning management systems to improve teaching and learning by tracking trends and student data to help students at risk and to personalize the learning experience. This data also helps academia as a whole as tracking trends may help predict why some some students drop out more than others.

4.  Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

I am so happy that students are moving from consumers to creators. I remember in high school, so long ago, that the teacher’s idea of engaging students was to require them to produce a poster or perhaps book cover as part of a project. I can’t draw and felt it was simply busy work. How can drawing a book cover possibly help me remember the content?

Today, students as creators means students learn by making rather than as consuming content. Yeah. Hurray. It’s about time. The reason I write this blog is that it helps me learn the content. I have to process the information in this report and tell it in my own words. Yet, it is public; anyone can see it so I am extra careful about word choice (a struggle), spelling, and grammar. If I summarize and internalize the report I am no longer consuming the information, I’m creating something from it.

Besides, will we be writing papers in the business world, unless we are education or some areas of business commerce, not likely. But we may have to pitch our ideas to the boss and engage our audiences in a way that an essay can’t do. I realize that writing well is important, very important, but surely there are other ways of expressing ourselves so that every assignment isn’t to read text and then write a paper.

5.  Agile Approaches to Change

This long range trend involves institutions that are “increasingly experimenting with
progressive approaches to teaching and learning that mimic technology startups. …universities around the country are nurturing entrepreneurship within their
infrastructure and teaching practices….[There is] a growing emphasis on both formal and informal programs that build students’ interests in solving social and global problems, creating products.”  (p. 16) Now we are thinking. After students add up this massive amount of debt, they are going to need the skills not only to get a job but to create one!

6.  Evolution of Online Learning

As online learning garners increasing interest among learners, higher education institutions are developing more online courses to both replace and supplement existing courses. According to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group published at the beginning of 2013, more than 6.7 million students, or 32% of total higher education enrollment in the United States, took at least one online course in Fall 2011 — an increase of more than half a million students from the prior year. As such, the design of these online experiences has become paramount.

Okay now I’m really excited because as an instructional designer, much of my time is spent developing online courses. And not only is this finding job security for me, it is exciting that in order for this trend to grow, more institutions will equip faculty with the skills and tools to be quality online learning facilitators. What an exciting time for students. I think online courses have the potential to be even better than face-to-face classes because faculty and institutions are beginning to see the value in additional instructional design support.


I see an exciting future for learners everywhere. Higher educations is moving, abet ever so slowly, from a Socrates learning environment to an environment of movement and change.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC
Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New
Media Consortium.

Flipping Your Classroom

I first heard about the Flipped Classroom listening to a TED talk on the Khan Academy so when I found the book Flip Your Classroom by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, I ordered a copy. The authors acknowledge that they were not the first to initiate a flipped classroom, nor do they propose that their flipped classroom is the flipped classroom. What they do is explain their experience with a flipped classroom and why they feel it is successful.

So what is a flipped classroom?

A Flipped classroom is a method of instruction where the student basically does what is normally done in the classroom at home. And at school the student does what s/he would have done at home. Although technology does not have to be a component of a flipped classroom, Bergmann and Sams recorded their lectures for the students to watch at home. Then, the next day, students work on the assignments that in a traditional classroom are assigned at home. This gives the instructor the classroom time to help the students with concepts they struggle with as well as discover holes in student learning.

Why would you want to flip your classroom?

Flipping your classroom will change the way you teach. You will no longer be the sage on the stage. Instead of repeating lectures year after year, you record a video (or use another means of getting your content to your students) once and spend the rest of your time with the students.This give you more time with your students. You get to know your students better.

Flipping helps your busy students, the ones that continually miss because they are in student activities. They will no longer miss your lecture when they miss your class. They can watch the lecture on their own time and then do their work independently, catching up with you when they ARE in class.

Flipping helps the struggling student. In the traditional classroom the brightest and best raise their hands and ask questions. Meanwhile the students who struggle are often “lost” and do not understand the material well enough to do their homework, or spend hours going over the problems in frustration. In a flipped classroom, you have the opportunity to find misunderstandings and give struggling students the attention they need to grasp the material.

“Flipping allows students to pause and rewind their teacher.” (p. 24) Some students are unable to take notes fast enough. Other students find the pace too slow. Flipping allows students to listen and take notes at their own pace.

Flipping is ideal for a Mastery Classroom

A mastery classroom, a popular trend that received a lot of attention the 70s, is a classroom model where students learn at their own pace. Once difficult for an instructor to keep track of and maintain, technology can be leveraged to help with the assessments and repetitious tasks. In a flipped mastery classroom, students are provided with all the materials necessary to complete an objective and the teacher is there to guide the individual students whenever they need assistance. Bergmann and Sams talk to every kid in every class every day. Teachers are not able to do that in a traditional classroom.

The advantages of Flipped Mastery Classroom is that all students can move at their own pace.  Content mastery helps students with time-management skills as well as puts them in charge of their own learning. It gives students timely (often instant) feedback and provides opportunities for remediation. And it ensures that all students are involved.

The Flipped Mastery Classroom and Universal Design

The most exciting aspect of the work Bergmann and Sams did in their flipped classroom is when they took their teaching to the level of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Basically, Universal Design, coined by the folks at Harvard, is classes designed around how individuals learn rather than designing a course one way that every learner has to follow.  UBL basically proposes that instructors provide students with “multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement.” The point is to meet the objectives, correct? So what difference does it make whether the student verbally meets requirement, or makes a podcast, videocast, or writes down the requirement in a blog? I wholeheartedly agree. I dislike watching videos. I would much rather read the material. And an answer written in my blog is my learning to keep! These teachers do not require every student to complete every problem! They do not care how a student meets the objective…just that they meet them! I would have loved to have had teachers like that when I was in school. A quote from the authors worth repeating…

“Allowing students choice in how to learn has empowered them. Students realize that their learning is their own responsibility. Teaching them this life lesson is more important than our science content.” (p.68)

The book has much more information than I have gone over here. I hope I have peaked your interest. It is an easy read. Pick it up and consider flipping your classroom.

I took a learning theory class last summer and my professor said there is no scientific evidence that people have different learning styles. However, we all have learning preferences. For instance, I would much rather read material than watch a video. (Yeah, I know, that’s weird.)

Professional Development Article, 2

Professional development of novice teacher educators: professional self, interpersonal relations and teaching skills.

Shagrir, L. (2010). Professional development of novice teacher educators: professional self, interpersonal relations and teaching skills. Professional Development in Education, 36(1-2), 45-60. doi:10.1080/19415250903454809

This article notes that teachers that educate teachers should be experts in their field. The article contends that it is more important to note what teachers of teachers know than that of the teachers themselves. The reason given is because this knowledge is imparted to new teachers and so on. Therefore, the teacher educator must develop his professional identity with training and lifelong learning.

The author notes that although there are teacher educational institutions that provide development courses for teacher educators, these courses are brief and take place before the teacher educator begins teaching. (whew!)  This article describes a research project on an one year model for the professional development of new teacher educators. It was found that teachers preferred to learn while they worked because it gave them opportunities to integrate what they learned in their jobs. Also they felt that their colleagues as a support group during this process. Lastly, they felt that being a part of the program help them find their identities as teacher educators.

Professional Development, Article 3

Evaluation Across Contexts: Evaluating the Impact of Technology Integration Professional Development Partnerships

Smolin, L., & Lawless, K. A. (2011). Evaluation across contexts: Evaluating the impact of technology integration professional development partnerships. Journal of Digital Learning in Digital Education, 27(3), 92-98.

In this article, the authors explore the “possibilities for collaborative evaluation of technology integration professional development (TIPD) to transform technology practices in schools” (Smolin & Lawless, 2011, p 92). The article evaluates three specific models  of professional development—Developmental Evaluation, Responsive Evaluation, and Layered Research. The articles examines key issues associated with implementing the models and analyze how the models can , “strengthen and sustain professional development partnerships” (Smolin & Lawless, 2011, p 92).

The article briefly describes two current evaluation models. The first model is by Lawless and Pellegrino who propose a three phase evaluation model, evaluated in sequence: the 1) professional development program, 2) teacher outcomes, 3) teacher change and student achievement. The second model is from Desimone who’s model is similar to Lawless and Pellegrino except Desimone proposes a  model where the evaluations are repeated indefinitely.

The authors believe both of the above models are incomplete because they don’t take into consideration all the stakeholders involved and the relationships between the stakeholders. Smolin and Lawless feel that these models should include and foster long term partnerships between all of stakeholders. Stakeholders would include the group that funds the technology, the universities that teach the technology, and the teachers that ultimately teach the technology. If there isn’t a partnership between the stakeholders then the changes from any of the three stakeholders is short-term.

Teachers have difficulty sustaining the transformative practices they learn in professional development without ongoing support and mentorship. As such, their potential for affecting their students’ learning, as well as their mentorship of new teachers, is difficult to achieve. Higher education partners lose an important laboratory of innovation as well as placements for their students. When success cannot be sustained long-term, funders are hesitant to continue their support. As a result, teaching and learning may revert back to the status quo (p 93).

The partnership of the three stakeholders will facilitate questions such as how research should be gathered and who should evaluate the results, providing feedback that all the stakeholders can use. This will result in a shared vision and build long term relationships creating an impact on professional development.

The authors look at three models that are designed to approach professional development as a collaborative approach. The first model is the Developmental Evaluation. In this model goals and outcomes are not predetermined but are revealed through the learning process and the evaluator is part of the program design team. Stakeholders are co-designers in this model.

The second model is the Responsive Evaluation model and this model emphasizes collaboration. Recursive observations and interviews as well as document analysis are the focus of Responsive Evaluation. Stakeholders are co-designers of the professional development.

The third model is called Layered Research. Also a collaborative model, Layered Research focuses the relationship of the stakeholders on developing new knowledge. This is done by all the stakeholders being involved in the research.

All three models, Developmental Evaluation, Responsive Evaluation, and Layered Research shift the focus from traditional forms of professional development to an approach which calls for all the partners to include all stakeholders perspectives which fosters success. Because all partners work together, results are available during the course of the professional development rather than waiting for yearly testing.

As a test study the authors implemented a professional development program integrated with the group that funds the technology, the universities that teach the technology, and the teachers that ultimately teach the technology. Even though the authors learned that the teachers learned more and the lessons were improved, and although the PD was collaborative, the research itself wasn’t complete because they used “limited perspectives to guide the evaluation…and four years later the relationships weren’t sustained” (p.96) The authors attribute the missing research  on insufficient funding.

Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational Researcher, 38, 181–199.

Lawless, K. A., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional development in integrating
technology into teaching and learning: Knowns, unknowns, and ways to pursue better questions and answers. Review of Educational Research, 77(4), 575–614.

Smolin, L., & Lawless, K. A. (2011). Evaluation across contexts: Evaluating the impact of technology integration professional development partnerships. Journal of Digital Learning in Digital Education, 27(3), 92-98.

Professional Development Article

Connecting Instructional Technology Professional Development to Teacher and Student Outcomes

Martin, W., Strother, S., Beglau, M., Bates, L., Reitzes, T., & Culp, K. M. (2010). Connecting instructional technology professional development to teacher and student outcomes. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(1), 53-74.

This article is about a program evaluation study, and not an academic research study. The Educational Development Center, Inc was contracted by the University of Missouri to conduct an external evaluation of a professional development program called eMints.

The focus of the study is on eMints (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies.) eMints is a professional development program that was created by the UM (University of Missouri) to help “help educators, administrators, and technology specialists understand how to integrate technology into an instructional approach that employs inquiry based learning, alternative assessment, collaboration, and community building among teachers and students.” (p. 55)

eMints was developed using professional development features such as

  • a reform approach (being mentored or coached, participation in a teacher network, working in internships or immersion activities )
  • being sponsored by a university (resources from UM)
  • new technologies for teaching and learning (The program teaches how the technologies they are taught can support instruction.)
  • student achievement (lesson plans developed by participants must adhere to state standards and align closely with ITSE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Students)
  • active learning (Participants discuss technology implementation ideas, get hands-on practice of software and participate in peer reviews.)
  • integration between the program and teacher’s knowledge and beliefs (Teachers volunteer and select a program that aligns with their beliefs. They also participate with at least one other teacher from their school.)
  • sufficient duration (Depending on the program the participants have a 90 hour or 250 hour contact with an instructional specialists.)
  • collective participation in the department of the participants (Participants are from the same school, grade, and department.)

The purpose of this research was to study the impact of the eMints professional development program on student outcomes. The majority of the PD sessions are designed to link technology and new pedagogy directly to classroom applications. To accomplish this, time is given to participants to create and prepare lesson plans for classroom use.

To collect teacher and student outcomes, lesson plans were evaluated and student samples were submitted. The study found that the amount of time participants spent with the instructional specialists was directly related to the quality of the lesson plans. Also the study found that lesson plan quality was associated with better student achievement. And even though some studies show no that technologies do not necessarily improve learning, this study showed that lesson plans including technology had the most improvement in student achievement.

Some of the limitations of the study was that there wasn’t enough funding to observe the participants in classroom instruction, small sample size, and amount of data collected. However “despite those limitations” the study provided “evidence instructional technology professional development an have a positive impact on teachers and students.” (p.71).

Basically to have an impact on students, professional development needs to have an impact on teachers. But to do that takes a considerable amount of time, coaching, and a connection to application and practice of the materials, all aligned with the teacher’s belief system.

Beyond the date of the requirements on this paper was an article dated in 2008. These teachers did not have this much help and support. But the bottom line is in both cases teachers who spent the effort trying to improve their classes did.