It is hard to believe that this is the last blog I will be writing for this Master’s program. It feels as though I only just created my weebly site instead of having blogged for the last year! What to say? There is always an unspoken high level of expectation for the conclusion of things. I should think of something very profound and enlightened to say, but the truth is, the most important thing I learned, was actually rather simple
Be willing to grow
It is that simple. There are so many countless resources for teachers and students and various theories about education and classroom managements and engagement. It can be overwhelming. But you simply need to be open minded and willing to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses and be willing to grow. Admit when you need help or are not familiar with an idea. Seek out feedback and ideas from peers and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with your students. They are your greatest resource. Ask them what they want and need. Be willing to take their ideas into action.
As I was reading through my old blogs, I stumbled across an one from the summer. In it I spoke about my intentions for the upcoming year. All the new strategies and resources I explore with my new students. While I have only partially lived up to my own expectations, I can see that I have grown a lot in a short year and am willing to continue to grow in the years to come.
Thank you cohort 12
Thank you Napa Learns
Let me start by stating the obvious: Designing a website is not small task.
Fortunately, my cohort members and I have been working with Weebly all year long within our different courses. Maintaining our blogs via Weebly has provided us with valuable and necessary practice. It is fair to say that I would be overwhelmed if not for the fact that I have become familiar with the basics of weebly, from inserting texts to uploading images and videos. Perhaps the greatest challenge of creating my capstone is balancing creative limitations of weebly against the necessary Touro criteria.
One key aspect of creating my capstone is keeping my audience in mind. My intended audience is primarily other educators. As a teacher myself, I know that when it comes to conducting the type of research that would lead me to such a site, I am typically looking for resources that are easy to integrate into my own lessons. With that in mind, I have made it a goal to provide a large range of helpful resources and as well as ideas and examples of how to implement them. At the very least I would be happy to know I have simply provided other teachers with engaging resources for their students.
Another aspect to consider is the importance of my content. As I create my capstone, I constantly have to choose between rifling through my old blogs or writing fresh words. Then I also have to worry about writing too much and over explaining which means running the risk of losing my audience’s interest. Meanwhile, if I am too brief and write too little my work may appear shallow and uninformative.
Last but not least, I have to give careful consideration to the visual appeal of my capstone. Especially considering how much I have learned about the color and design. There is a lot to consider aesthetically. One decision I am actually confident about is my choice to consistently use purple to accent certain texts throughout my site. I wanted to match the purple from my logo and use it throughout the pages as a way to create uniformity. I do however struggle with choosing my images and icons. For one thing they must be stock images and not copyright or pay to use. But more importantly I want each aspect of my sight to reflect my personal style as much as professionally possible.
All in all, I am more proud of the simple fact that I have come this far and learned as much as I have. Creating a website may not be small task but fortunately I have spent the last year preparing for this. To quote my mentor teacher, “Now is the time when the rubber meets the road.”
As a I reflect on my approach as a teacher, I am pleased to say that I have changed and grown. I can’t help but acknowledge that it is clearly due to the concepts and resources that I have been exposed to throughout this master’s program. Just as my driving question has evolved over time, so too have my thoughts on teaching and what I can do to better serve my students. Currently I am increasingly focused on the role of technology in my classroom as better means to better ends.
My students, like most, are more than fond of technology. They use it outside of school regularly so it makes sense that they would want to use it in school as well. I keep observing students collaborating and communicating via technology without being required or in some instances, even advised to.
When I am not thinking about how easy my students make digital collaboration look, I am busy thinking about the unlimited potential of what my students can produce. Already my students have made podcasts, informative videos and original movies. There seems to be no end to what modern students can learn and create provided their teachers are willing to stay curious and informed. You know, that whole "Life Long Learner" deal. We have to walk the walk. So that's where I am currently, attempting to serve my students by exploring new resources and finding engaging ways for students to create with.
I recently finished the final cut of my Capstone Video. I decided to stick with Adobe Spark as my video making resource. It was an easy decision to make as I already started my rough draft using that tool. Improving from my rough draft video was a simple matter of making a few revisions.
First, I needed to replace two placeholder images of the digital resources which I am promoting:
The last change I made to my video was a recommendation made by a fellow cohort member. They recommended that I make a direct mention to Touro University and Napa Learns. This was good advice and I determined to include an the logos of these two organizations.
After having watched the final cut of my video there is only one change that I would have really liked to make and that is to have used my own students likeness in the video. While my students have signed waivers at ACMS to use their images and likeness, they are covered under Touro waivers, and I did not want to deal with issues of waivers and additional paper work.
Creating the Poster design was not necessarily a difficult task. It seemed a sole matter of deciding where to place my information.
One issue I did encounter with the assignment was the fact that the research data itself was from my first semester over a year ago. Which means the focus of the research is different from my current driving question. I suppose I see the purpose of proving my ability to conduct actual research and deliver data. I just wish I could have focused on newer data from my more recent action research. My presentation at Mare Island will address students who I have not seen since last year and I fear my familiarity and memory of the figures will not be as fresh as I would like for such an important presentation.
In working on my capstone film, I have had a lot of successes. I think this is due to the fact that the project I am teaching my students right now involves writing scripts and making films of their own. This has been truly fortunate timing. I have shown my students Adobe Spark in the past and recently we have covered story-boarding. Having this level of transparency with my students has ultimately benefited my work. It has given mutual authenticity to their work as well as my own. Overall, I am confident in the message and tone of my video. I think it will do a sufficient job of conveying the purpose of my capstone without being too cluttered.
While I have had some success with my work, that is not to say I have not had an equal share of struggles. Stock images are very frustrating. There seem to be countless stock images and yet, so few of what I envision. I have had to resort to taking footage of my own students working, which is not an issue except for the additional consent forms required.
Another issue I have is with timing. Initially my script was longer than 90 seconds. Then, after some rewriting It fell under a minute, which I feared may be too short.
My main goal is to provide solid content in a brief and simple way.
My next steps will involve replacing my placeholder stock images with more authentic images of my students. Ideally I would work in live footage however that will eat up more of my limited time. Currently I have no voice over and need to rectify that issue. After that, I should have a decent advert for my capstone.
At my site, ACMS, we value collaboration. I am fortunate to have specific time set aside to interact with my colleagues in order to improve my pedagogy. One such way is a process we call “Friendly Feedback”.
Friendly Feedback is a process we use to present ideas and provide meaningful feedback.
There is a specific protocol we follow to ensure that identify the strengths and potential of an idea.
For instance, I might present an upcoming project to a group of teachers, each from different content areas. As I present, they listen, and look through any resources that I provide.
Then, my peers have the opportunity to address my proposed idea in three categories.
When I think about what makes a good critical friend, I consider our Friendly Feedback protocol.
Helpful and constructive feedback must be rooted in honesty, while also be supportive.
I would hope that any peer offering feedback would consider our simple three steps. Find something that you like about the idea, then identify possible issues and ultimately help build on the idea. That is what I hope to encounter when sharing my own capstone work. Tell me what I’ve done well, what I needs fixing and how to ultimately expand the idea.
Video Production Journey
Creating a real representation to communicate what is in your mind is rarely an easy task. Before I could begin storyboarding my video, I had to first decide what my goal actually was. My goal for this video is that I will help fellow teachers realize that there is both a need and an opportunity to enhance the way we leverage technology in our classrooms. I want to help teachers recognize the value in collaboration as it applies to critical thinking and problem solving.
Once I had decided on my goal, I had to decide how I could visually communicate this idea. Firstly, I need to consider my audience. As my audience will primarily consist of fellow teachers, I must ask myself, what kind of video would I myself be interested in watching? What would make it stand out from the countless videos that we as teachers are all too familiar with? Personally, I find that I am more interested in the students. When considering a pedagogical shift, I always consider my students first. How will this affect how my students learn? How will it help and is it right for them?
With that in mind, I need my video to emphasize students. Therefore, I plan to use footage of my personal students in our authentic classroom environment. I will likely need to procure permission to use said footage but I feel the authenticity will enhance the video. I know that teachers tend to be critical thinkers by nature, therefore I will present my audience of teachers with two things: A problem and a solution.
I will likely open with a shot of a student working on an assignment alone. The video will show and imply the struggles that many students face when attempting to solve a problem independently.
Then, I will address how well students have adapted to technology both in and out of the classroom. I will show how humans are pack animals and by nature are designed to collaborate with their peers. This will lead into the role that technology can play in education. Specifically, by enhancing collaboration and critical thinking skills. I will conclude the video by inviting teachers to learn more about how they can leverage specific technology to improve learning experiences for their own students.
For this video, I will most likely utilize Adobe Spark. I am a big fan of the resource and have used it successfully in the past.
The most challenging aspect of this project is the time constraint. I have a lot to say and share with my audience. I hope I will be able to do a sufficient job in 90 seconds. Being concise is the name of the game. I will need to use images to communicate large amounts of information in a short amount of time.
When I first started brainstorming my logo, I began by drawing. I quickly turned to seek digital assistance. In class we discussed several potential resources for creating digital logos. The resource that I ended up using was LogoJoy. I found the website to be very user friendly. The site works by building a profile around your personal taste. You select your preferences out of various options such as color schemes and fonts. Then, uses simply enter their company name and tag line. The site then generates several options for users to select from. Each option is individually accessible to edit further. I enjoyed using this resource. It made creating my logo very simple and offered lots of variety.
The first logo I drafted on LogoJoy featured a star. When selecting an initial design, I wanted something that represented the notion of collaboration and coming together. I felt that stars might be a good symbol as it is five different points coming together to form an iconic symbol. Also, there are infinite stars in the sky just as there are infinite perspectives and ideas to be shared.
For my second attempt, I focused on collaboration in the natural world. Bees are some of the most well accomplished collaborators. They work together with a common goal. Alone they are weak but together they achieve so much. So I created a logo of a honeycomb with a single bee. I am very partial to this particular draft. I have the logo in Purple. My research would suggest that green would be a more appropriate color for education but I personally associate purple with education as it is has been my school colors for years.
My final draft steps away from the natural and looks towards man’s creation. Simple puzzle pieces, using black and white positive and negative space. This seemed like and obvious yet necessary option to consider. Puzzle pieces are appropriate for my capstone project as they need to come together in order to complete the big picture. Unfortunately, I feel like puzzle pieces have been over utilized in branding.
While the visual aspect of my logos have changed, I have consistently held on to tag line “better together”. I think students can truly benefit by collaborating and sharing ideas beyond their own classrooms. Humans coming together with common goals has always been the best way to achieve some of our greatest accomplishments.
As far as I am aware, the school where I teach does not have an official Mission Statement geared specifically towards Educational Technology. We do however have a Vision Statement which we reflect upon frequently when designing our projects and lessons.
American Canyon Middle School Vision Statement:
“Inspiring and preparing students today for the possibilities of tomorrow by instilling the 4 "C"s (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration & Creativity) in a respectful, safe, collaborative community by utilizing clear expectations and focusing on strengthening relationships.”
Furthermore, my site’s vision statement is in alignment with the Napa Valley Unified School District’s vision, which reads:
“Our mission is to transform lives by instilling 21st Century skills and to inspire lifelong learning.”
When I examine these vision statements from the perspective of to technology, I concentrate on the“possibilities of tomorrow”. Undoubtedly, this includes advancements in technology, which our students will need to become proficient in. ACMS is a “bring your own device” school and we have even gone so far as to loan out Chromebooks to any and all students in need of a device. Currently, every single student that I teach can and should have a device on them at all times. This allows us to begin instilling certain 21st century skills early in their academic careers.
With regard to my own capstone project, I have been focusing on leveraging Technology to enhance Collaboration as well as Critical Thinking which aligns directly with 2 of the 4 C’s of my school’s Vision Statement..
Gottfried’s audience was high school educators, specifically ELA teachers. In my personal opinion, Gottfried’s site was very text heavy and at times perhaps even overwhelming. It was clear that like myself, Gottfried has evolved her driving question throughout the program. In that regard, I can appreciate the difficulty of communicating a concept that has shifted over time. I would say, considering who her audience is, that Gottfried did a solid job in reaching her audience.
Dearborn’s audience was primarily elementary teachers in need of technological support. For many teachers, technology can be intimidating considering how comfortable our young students tend to be. Dearborn implemented a combination of text and images as a means of effectively reaching her audience. Perhaps one of her best decisions was including not only student samples, but surveys of her fellow educators. Ultimately, I would argue that Dearborn did a more than sufficient job in addressing her audience.
Saslow’s audience was also high school educators, specifically science teachers. Saslow’s goal was to provide teachers with the means to create lessons that are not only engaging, but also cover necessary standards. Saslow’s site was efficient and easy to navigate. The fact that he is a science teacher was clearly communicated by the way he designed his page as it was very practical, without sacrificing valuable content. I believe he did a great job and that his audience would benefit from visiting his site.