After reviewing the 11 iNACOL standards, I feel like my unit stands very strong in the following standards: F, G and H. Standard F is about being cognizant of diversity of student academic needs. Standard G is about assessment implementation that ensures the validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures. I feel strong in this aspect because the assessments I created for the unit are of collaborative nature and are also created by the students so it is easy to tell whether or not students are creating their own skit by the steps taken in the different tasks within the Key Summative Assessment and the creativity that goes into the group skit. In addition, I feel I am strong in Standard H because the design document goes into great detail explaining not only steps but also strategies of implementation that would be useful for anyone using my course unit shell in the future.
In contrast, the standards where I feel I could work on some more are Standard C because I feel like there are more opportunities I could incorporate that would help future teachers better implement this unit given the population of students I have and the available tools within the course unit shell. Following on that, Standard D is also lacking in my unit, as I feel that there are not that many opportunities for future teachers to see my guidelines for best practices, how to ensure student success and clear expectations on meaningful feedback.
In order to address these, my plan is to go by the powerpoint provided to use as a checklist and make sure I expand on the Hidden Files folder to ensure that a proper set of guidelines and feedback are given to anyone who could be teaching this course demo shell. I believe that an expanded Hidden Files folder will allow any teacher to 1.) go directly to this folder for strategies feedback, 2.) It will allow for a more centralized way of access the “How to’s” and other kinds of feedback.
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.
Designing an online/blended environment in which UDL is the norm is very interesting to me because my previous trainings: bachelor’s classes, credential classes, BTSA, and professional development only merely touch on providing resources and help for students with disabilities. Only now have I been able to really look at ways to interact with students in an online setting where all my students can be successful.
The reason why I believe it is not more thoroughly implemented across the board is because UDL is overwhelming without the technology piece. Only through technology have we been able to see success for all as feasible. I am always in awe at all the different ways assistive technology and UDL design really helps all students succeed and it makes me very excited for the future. I do wish though, that it would be more thoroughly implemented so all teachers could reach all of their students. Something that I feel, we are still lacking as a system.
Additionally, I think it starts with administration. If I were to try to explain to a skeptic administrator the reasons why UDL training is essential to our staff, I think I would use some of the resources I have seen in this class. Several videos show the power of UDL when promoted by committed teachers and a unified system that is there to support students. In addition, I would invite them to see in my own classroom what a difference in makes when a teacher is given the tools and the direction, such as UDL design and framework, to work with students with disabilities and the difference it makes in students as far as independence and dignity. Moreover, I would explain that there as a teacher, when looking at academic integrity and UDL, it all falls into place. It is my duty to equip my students as much as I can to try to deter cheating and copying in class. Online and blended learning using UDL as the basis of my teaching and creating meaningful assessments does really diminish cheating in class.
Overall, I feel like, as a designer of an online course shell, I have done a good job. I have looked at resources, I have played with the different tools available to me, I have looked for ways to discourage cheating by providing authentic assessments and I have allowed students to be more independent, even as simply as through the inclusion of videos that they can watch as many times as they want in order to learn at their own pace. I have, in addition, also looked into ways of incorporating closed captioning in videos as much as possible and have also included several forms of resources, media and static.
In that way, TPACK and UDL are unifying learning in such a way that more students will be successful.
As a Student/Beta Tester:
It was interesting trying to play a student with a specific disability and overall try to see it through the lense of a student, not a teacher. As a teacher, I had many compliments and was very happy to see all that work put together into her demo shell, because I knew how much time it takes to put together and how creative one has to be to troubleshoot issues like turning in an assignment on google docs or microsoft, to write on a Discussion board or journal depending on the objective of the assignment. Not only because it was nice to see the work but thinking about good ideas to incorporate on my own demo. In my feedback I had to keep reminding myself to speak from this particular student’s view not a classmate who I admired for her hard work put into this shell.
As a Designer/Teacher:
As a designer, I was a bit nervous to show my demo shell to someone else, especially knowing that they had done theirs as well and knew exactly what to look for. I very much appreciated their feedback as it was meaningful and on point. I really like that the person giving me feedback was not just praising without really saying much but really gave me meaningful information I could go back and look at and decide to change or not. Not only that but my reviewer did an excellent job putting himself into the shoes of the case study student which really helped me see how a student with a disability would cope with the assignments on my demo shell.
As a whole, I do feel like getting really into the demo shell and preparing it for someone to look at really got me thinking about best practices. In addition, thinking about my current students’ capabilities and environment really helped me decide what would be appropriate for them so that the assignments are challenging yet not too difficult that they would ultimately get discouraged and fail. The entire process this week, including the checklists, got me as close as possible to putting this into real practice as if it was with my students. And the ideas and suggestions from my reviewer were practical, minor tweaks that will make my shell even better.
Now that the Key Summative is in the course shell I feel good. The process of putting it together was interesting, I thought I had all my corners covered and as I was putting them in the shell, more ideas came, and several small changes took place. For one, I wanted everything under a folder and as I created the tasks, they looked too overwhelming, so I decided to break them down into tasks, various of which had a drop box for students to turn in something. And I am going to be honest, some items I am still not sure about, but being that I spent hours and hours in front of the computer adding and deleting and changing stuff, I am going to have to think about and come back to it and decide later. It might be that I add the rest of the assignments and then decide until later.
Overall it has been a very interactive experience, always thinking about, how my students, their levels and their limitations come into play as my shell gets completed. Also, after the discussion of this week, the idea of a synchronous meeting and its real objective come into play. That on its own has been a challenge, but the insights that my classmates brought after I asked the question “How do you see yourself using this with your current students or demographics?” I got some good feedback and plan on using that as the basis of my plans later in the course.
The outside expert I am reaching out to for this unit is a curriculum leader for the science textbook we are using in class. Currently, our textbook is not very hands on and not very practice in the hands-on classroom. Because this has been a problem in my classroom, I am reaching out to this expert in hopes to meet with him or any of the teachers working on this section of the textbook in hopes to engage in some real discussion about how to reach all students, first of all, not just the ones in the middle, but also help other populations of students such as the ones that have an IEP, students whose first language is not English, and students who excel in academics and are often bored because the content does not challenge them. My idea is to bring some of the learning opportunities to their attention and help them see what a 21st century learner needs in terms of engagement, real tasks, meaningful learning opportunities and other ways of learning.
I am using this resource as a way for my students to get real meaning into their learning and also I want the curriculum leaders to look into other ways of engaging students, maybe it wont always be using a device, but including more activities that are collaborative, that get students emotionally invested in activities and learning opportunities. I think if anything else, it could get them to think about some of the activities they have at the end of the book that don’t relate to students and are simply not enough.
The culminating assignment for my Science Lesson Demo will be to have students, in groups of 4-6, put together a skit in which a cell heroically performs the job it is supposed to do thanks to the different organelles and their own jobs despite obstacles such as common cold viruses, living organisms not drinking enough water, not eating well. Props can be used with materials available in class such as construction paper, masking tape, newspaper and tempera paints. Therefore, in preparation for the Key Summative Assessment for the Science Demo Lesson I will be showing the following video.
The above link is an example of a skit created by students in which they performed, or discussed the function of their organelle within the cell. This will be used BEFORE students begin working on their summative assessment and the idea behind including this video is to discuss what they see. Students are to look for key features that make it a successful skit and key features that the students would need to develop to be even better. Students are to match their discussions with the grading rubric of this assignment and dissect it to understand all parts of it before they actually begin their skit.
Some of the UDL guidelines presented on this particular assignment are Multiple Means of Representation because students will not only read the grading rubric with the teacher in class, they will also get to see this video as an example. It is up to them to decide how successful the video production is for the purposes of our class and our unit goal and objective. It also provided Multiple Means of Action and Expression in that students will be supported as they come up with their own skit, using this media production as their basis for what their own presentation would look like.