Building my demo unit definitely felt like an authentic experience, more so because we were given the opportunity to choose our own grade level, subject, unit. I was able to apply it to something I was about to actually start teaching in my own class. Of course by the end of the unit I was done with that part of the unit but it definitely gave me the liberty to look at resources I was currently accessing and even use some of the learning activities I had planned for my unit. Much of the design is so valuable that I will try to incorporate next year once I have a better handle on all logistics of creating a blended environment in my class. Additionally, the resources and planning design very much felt different than our normal lesson planning, I felt like a 21st century educator, a pioneer at that, and it was a great feeling.
As far as my role of designer versus my role of student are concerned, they were both different and yet very valuable. Having the role of a student and beta-testing someone else’s unit was a great experience. It really forced me to not look at the lessons as a teacher but as a student, and I had to work hard at being withdrawn and easily distracted. I had to really think about how a student with a specific learning disability could tune out the activities provided on her unit shell.
I think my experience designing this lesson, with the deep-rooted idea that learning should be authentic and should carry meaning really pushed me to go beyond the textbook reading selections and worksheets that the curriculum for this unit is currently set up for my students. It really pushed me to look at cells differently and learn even more about how they behave in order to provide that opportunity for my students to also learn those processes as well. In addition, designing the Key Summative Assessment was very interesting. I had to move aside the end of unit test, even the test I had created for my students last year in which I use a diagram of the cell and have students use the word bank to fill in the blanks. I had to really think about collaborative assessments and one which pushed students to apply their knowledge further than they normally do.
I think, in order to push the learning further, as a class, we could have also explored other platforms in order to create a blended or fully online environment. There are other resources that work a little bit better with Google accounts and since most of us work at districts where students have google accounts, exploring platforms like Edmodo or Schoology would have really gotten us to work with, compare, contrast and really explore further what it feels like to put together a course unit in an online platform. I think that, aside from the great resources that CourseSites brings to the table, it did lack ease of use by teachers, the ability to increase fonts to make it elementary school student-friendly. To me, working with a platform that has Google integration as an option, really makes it realistic for me to put together a lesson unit for my students and in a matter of weeks I could have them working on assignments, but some of the roadblocks of CourseSites makes it a bit hard to work with. Other than that, I really appreciated all the resources it contains, including the rubric maker, discussion board, journal and the integrated grading system.