This semester, I designed and facilitated a graduate level course called Real World Learning Design. It is course 4 in a series of 5 in WSU’s Innovative Instructional Leadership Certificate program.
Last night, my students presented their findings from the semester. I have streamed our final presentations online before, but frankly, that has not been good enough. We might be lucky to get 1 maybe 2 viewers at any given time. Just randomly tweeting out YouTube Live links does not automatically equate to an audience. (and an audience that will remain with you for over 2+ hours)
We discussed, as a class, that “audience” is an important characteristic of “Real World Learning” design. I decided, in efforts to model this, to find an authentic audience for our teachers’ presentations. We needed people who cared (beyond our classroom) about what our educators were doing. While we still were streaming this event via YouTube live (for both a digital audience AND to capture and archive the learning artifact) we also had a live f2f audience that included our superintendent, director of curriculum instruction and assessment, our high school principal, instructional coaches, our school board chair, and representatives from higher ed (graduate level prof and teacher prep prof). These are people who are curious about the work we are doing and genuinely care about what is happening in our classrooms. Presenting work to an authentic audience has a tendency to improve the student’s quality of work (from the elementary student to the grad student).
I will admit, as the RSVPs of attendance started coming in… I also became nervous.The audience also included my peers, my superintendent, my board chair. Did I do a good enough job to support these educators? What if the presentations do not go well, what does that say about me? About my course design? My facilitation? That lasted a while… and then I came back to my senses. I know these teachers. I know the quality of their work. I know the passion for their kids and their profession. They got this.
Below is the video of their presentations. It’s over 2 hours long but is so worth the watch. It is a great artifact for me as well. It is something I can refer back to later, it is something I can potentially show future students. It is will serve as an ePortfolio artifact for me.
It’s hard to tell from the video, but as the stories and journeys were unfolding, there was a certain level of excitement in the room — Both from the other teachers (this was the first time they heard their classmates present) and the audience. Now, imagine how you would feel if your superintendent was live tweeting your presentations with comments like below? I appreciated it immensely!
I am so PROUD of our teachers in Byron. You INSPIRE me every day. Saw amazing presentations tonight by Byron teachers. WOW! #byronbears
— Jeffrey Elstad (@jeelstad) December 1, 2016
What will be the impact of having the right people in the room, hearing the story of our educators? Time will tell. But the buzz did not stop last night and the conversation continued today. Regardless of what happens next, I am very proud of the work of these educators and more importantly the learning experiences they created for our students. WTG!
My reflections on the course design/facilitation
It sucked. Yes, I said it. While my students produced some excellent work – the course needs some significant improvement. Below are my reflections for the next go around:
- Problem 1. Course design is completely flexible and totally open on day 1 of class. That means, I have to have all resources, activities, assignments, and progress report templates done before day 1. While there are due dates there still is quite a bit of flexibility for students to do as much or as little as they want, and revise accordingly. (my students love this kind of flexibility) There are flaws to this. #1 being how do you fix problems of the course, while in the course live and your students are all over the place within the content? The added online component also makes it difficult to revise in a completely open course.
- Problem 2. This course lacked s:s collaboration and communication. While my face to face sessions was some of my best designed so far (One of my personal goals is creating engaging f2f PD) the online collaboration was missing. There were no discussions between our 3 face to face meetings. As this can be a very complex topic for some educators, there was a need to discuss with others and come to a mutual understanding of RWL. And with the problem of #1…Trying to schedule a discussion (that was not previously scheduled in an OLL course) was not going to work.
- Problem 3. I introduced design thinking in this course. I LOVE IT. It was fun to see an activity I did in one of my F2F sessions, tried, applied and tweeted out by my students in MS and HS classes the next week! However, there was a clear disconnect btw the design thinking activities and the RWL work. I think it all has to do with timing and deadlines within the course. On a positive note, I know what needs fixing and I loved facilitating this work. Could be applicable in multiple areas in my job as prof and dir. of technology!
- Problem 4. We need a good book. And discuss it. I have lots of resources but in the course – but I think a book study could be very beneficial. Right now – I am thinking either Tony Wagners – Most Likely to Succeed or Yong Zhao’s World Class Learners. If you are aware of any good reads… I would appreciate it!
- Problem 5. I need to re-evaluate course objectives and make sure course resources/activities are aligned. Focus on specifically on objective 1 and 3.
- Connect students and core content to organizations, professionals, and community members and provide rigorous authentic learning and career/life oriented experiences
- Evaluate roles in education where teachers become activators and co-learners who model “learning to learn”
- Explore and unpack 21st-century skills and habits of mind to model and foster with today’s learners
- Assess the impact of real world design on student learning and motivation
- IDEA – Continue to re-evaluate the Mindset, motivation, and self-directed learning course and continue to promote in future courses. We need to come back to that language and discussion often.
- IDEA – Last night one of my students presented her project which was a series of mini projects. I actually am wondering if the idea of sprints, could be a great way to take small steps to RWL or even a great way to try something small before going a little deeper with it. Or be an entirely different path for a user?
- IDEA – How about streaming the presentation on the districts FB page? Or maybe even inviting the entire community…. Hmmm.
- IDEA – Build in a feedback loop for teachers designing their lessons. Might be beneficial if they have a draft, and they actually pitch the idea to the cohort for feedback.
- IDEA – I need a PLC. I have a PLN, but I am so jealous of educators that have a good support group to discuss learning and strategies around courses. Now, I am not saying members of my PLN could not become my PLC but I need to create a support group specific to course design. You interested? I would be happy to give you feedback on your designs as well. Let’s not work in silos! Reply to this post or DM me via twitter (@jenhegna). My next course (and FINAL) is Innovative Instructional Leadership…Starts January.
- Disclaimer – This was attempt #1 of this course so I do have to cut myself a little slack. The first version of anything is not as good as subsequent versions. With one son’s graduation and my other son’s wedding, bringing on a new building in my district and being short 1 tech at the start of the school year… I was drowning. But I had to ship what I thought was a decent course. While I am being very critical of my work (as I should) my feedback from my cohort is very positive.
“You force reflection and deep thought with your assignments. You don’t tell us what to do, but instead require that we think long enough to tell ourselves. This is true across all courses, but I felt it most in this one.”
“Project challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone.”
“I thought the result of this course was beneficial to me as a professional and will certainly help my thought processes when meeting the needs or learners.”
- Now that the reflection is done, I look forward to revising the course into RWL 2.0. Stay tuned!