Course-based Embedded Assignment

Teaching with technology is a descriptor of what I do on a daily basis. I work directly with teachers and my peers to help them realize that working with digital natives has new possibilities for teaching, facilitating and real world applications. This course has given me several new approaches to consider when delivering professional development. Working with such tools as eBooks, UDL lessons and collaborating with my colleagues on a pedagogical level has provided me with new insight as to how technology infused lessons should be planned. I work with the Intel Teach model and collaboration is a huge part of the project based learning scenarios which we examine, so that is nothing new. We talk about constructivism and how a classroom has to change in order to embrace it. So many of the course videos expounded on constructivism and connectivism. I am starting to embrace the idea of connectivism along with constructivism. “The network becomes the learning” according to Siemens (2009). My team reflection dealt with learning connections and I am going to start teaching more about the theory of connected learning.
I am currently a member of a committee at work that is examining high yield instructional strategies. Through our conversations (connectivism) our knowledge has grown and expanded as each of us is discussing our view on the most important strategies which instruction should embody. Our conversation will continue and our knowledge will evolve, but I made an observation that all of the strategies are undergirded by 21st century skills. It is now the foundation from which all of the strategies we are considering as highest priority are based.

This brings another point which I would like to make. I can compare working with other professionals to our group project scenario. In each we were charged to examine a scenario, formulate a plan to address needs, both teachers and students, and formulate a plan to address those needs. Both have professional development needs which support the teacher, provide new training and help the teacher to develop skills for continued professional development. There is a support structure in the professional development plan for our course scenario solution that will lead the teacher to comfort with technology and a more connected classroom.

I seem to keep revisiting that related set of terms, connections/connectivism/connected. The reason I feel this way is because the tools which we used create those connections to and within the learning. The class wiki which we developed is a environment for the students and teachers to organize, add and experience learning about the geometric concepts in the unit. Our team planned on a Google site and through the use of many tools which kept us connected. The Google doc, site, email, phone calls, texting, Skype and sometimes common thought patterns kept us working toward the same goal of creating a solution. We gave each other feedback and constructive criticism.
Speaking of our collaboration causes me to think about how we want our students to do the same. I believe that our classroom activities were embedded with collaboration. From the city teams using TitanPad for discussing, planning and creating a plan, to the NLVM website for laying out the blueprint for their city, to the videos which added to the knowledge base for geometry, our learning activities met the needs of many levels of students. Dealing with tools such as screen readers, magnifiers, and audio enhancement are not new in the realm of my work. I am aware of many digital tools which can assist students with special needs. However, I did come to realize that interactive tools can meet the needs of many levels and I will be discussing these with the special education and bilingual specialists at the service center to further explore their use with students. Bringing these collaborative tools to the students is the goal of this course and much of my work.

Revamping the professional development which I deliver will be occurring because of this course. Working with other specialists on a new level will be a goal that I will work to attain. Starting with a pedagogical discussion will be the first step as it was with our group. We decided on the actual lesson to be utilized in the scenario before any other decisions were made about tools or interaction or activities. I think we worked as a team, supporting each other, but working individually to bring our work back to the group and making sure it all fit together.
Planning my student activities and eBook, although on a different topic, and UDL were based off of the team work which was occurring. Our team was read and able to answer questions about any of our own parts of the scenario solution. We relied on each other for that support and made sure our plan logically flowed. Sometimes I thought we went into too much detail, but I respected the learning modes of my team members. With that in mind, I kept making sure that the connections between all our parts made a cohesive whole plan by constantly reading my partners’ sections, asking question, giving feedback and adjusting my parts as needed. Pitler et al (2007) supports the use of technology that supports cooperation and as we used our wiki, we too saw that our “group’s combined input strengthened the final project’ (p. 55). Additional information was gained through our weekly web conferences. As I was listening to the questions and solutions which other teams had about the scenario I realized that we were all experiencing the same insights and questions. We were all wondering if we were moving toward resolution of the scenario presented at the beginning of the course. Many of the discussions brought answers to the questions our team had. That was positive outcome of being a larger collaborative group. It makes me think about helping teachers to use smaller student groups and then bring them together as a larger group to create a body of knowledge. This is nothing new in the world of education. I want to show them how to do it in an online collaborative environment. Can you say wiki or PLC or Google Docs?

Overall this course has added much to what I will now do in my day to day work. Working with my team was also a value added experience. We had many of the components of a professional learning group. Solomon & Schrum (2007) describe these collaborative groups as “a place for teachers to learn, grow, and collaborate” (Encouraging Participation, para.1). This course has been one of the most productive courses, both personally and professionally, that I have completed in a post-secondary setting. The growth during and potentially for the future is evident from the content and approach of the course. Perhaps it is because the 21st century skills which we hope to show our educators and students how to use were part and parcel of the course. I’m sure this was by design, but it was very well delivered and I feel that I have benefited greatly from that design.

Siemens, G. (nd). The Changing Nature of Knowledge. [Video file]. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, p. 55.
Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education, Chapter 5, Encouraging Participation, para. 1.