Four weeks goes by in a flash. I am racing against the clock to make sure that I can get in as much as I can into the skeleton of the online course that I have been tasked to develop. With all that we have read, and learning from the examples of the classes that we are taking, I know that there is much more that can be done to develop my course. I see my work so far as a strong starting point. From here I can think about how I can make the next iteration stronger. Each time I read through the files and directions, I see more that I can expand on over time. Maybe after I am finished with this program, I can explore a variety of online offerings to see how other places are delivering their product. Asynchronous online learning is where PD has to happen for me. I know it is that way for many. Keeping it affordable, appropriate, academically rigorous, and accessible is the the brass ring.
I am working on populating my online class with resources. I keep getting sucked down the internet rabbit hole. There are so many great resources out there on online privacy, how to write an email, and being a better professional you. I think I need to let go of some of the content control that I want and simply ask more questions of my learners and send them out to bring back resources with explanations. This will take more revision, but I believe it will be more true to the COVA philosophy. Teachers will be able to explore a topic as it relates to them, then create a resource that serves them purpose. This revelation would have been more helpful an hour or two ago..... not to late.
I am building out an online course. It is a cumbersome task, but starting with an outline has definitely made this process manageable. I have been able to translate my outline to folders and subfolders in Schoology, and grow my course in a structured manner.
Creating a predictable folder structure will also allow students to more easily navigate the class as they progress through the modules. Establishing the folder structure early on helps me keep track of what modules need populating and which have all components. At some point, I should check to see what the course looks like from the student perspective. This is my first run with Schoology. If only there were more time in the day.......
Along with all of the online discussions, viewing, and reading, I have been making my way through the COVA eBook - Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning Opportunities, by Dwayne Harapnuik, Tilisa Thibodeaux, and Cynthia Cummings. I felt an early connection with this book when in the introduction, Dr. Harapunuik writes of the difficulties he experienced interacting with traditional schooling. I wasn't cut out for traditional schooling. I made it through my 10th grade year in one of the finest public education systems in the state of Pennsylvania before I jumped ship for my self-guided homeschool experience. I now have two sons who don't fit neatly in with the general population. I believe that these ideas about giving students choice and voice in how they learn would go a long way in allowing my children to find more connection, success, and happiness with the educational system. Right now one is already getting lost. How do we transition the old industrial-era model of instruction to the COVA model? How do we educate millions of students in a way that we know is more meaningful when we as a country barely fund the current model? We want trauma-informed care training and supports, restorative justice practices implemented, instruction based around COVA practices. To do them all, we need radical change to our systems and real funding for the supports that make these practices work in practice. I am excited to learn more about these practices and see these ideas spreading, and understand that this is the beginning of that transformation. I hope that my children's teachers are learning about COVA and applying the COVA ideals into their student learning experiences that they provide. I hope that one day, our students will truly have choice and voice. Until then, my boys and I will be doing the best we can on this learning journey.
I have been taking online classes with a wonderful group of people over the last few months. I have seen many of their posts and comments on our discussion boards, viewed some of their recorded video responses, but I know very little about these people whose paths have merged with mine for these last few months. This is the first class that we have all been in where I feel that I have gotten a good look at who they really might be. Although one class relied heavily on video recordings for discussion posts, I can't say that a rehearsed and recorded video gave me a look into someone's soul. Perusing the websites of my counterparts has made me feel so much more connected to the group. I feel now that I have a better understanding of their personalities and I can hear each voice. Everything from the organization, layout, color scheme, font choice, and what content each of us chooses to include says a lot about each of us. This is really where the COVA philosophy shines through and we can see each of us as the individuals that we are.
I think I am the queen of driving a technology support desk insane with a wacky unfixable problem. My latest issue has been with the attempt at migrating my ePortfolio to a subdomain. My intention was to separate my working site from my school site. I direct students to this site, so I was not too keen on having so much about myself so easily accessible. Having all of this out here also makes a lot of information about what I am doing up front and public. Grad work, personal life, beliefs, CV....... I know that I can limit what I put out here, but part of these reflections are meant to be about the process. Back to the tech issue --- After tinkering with Wordpress, considering rebuilding from scratch seemed impractical. I realized that one reason that I paid for webhosting was for customer service! I could clone my site to a subdomain and add my eP pages. I wouldn't have to rebuild everything AND I could retain the work that I had previously completed on my site. Cloning the site worked great! I was excited to see it live at ep.myitrt.com. The first step was a success! But alas, editing would be my downfall. That must have been too much to wish for from the internet gods. Sadly, they frowned down upon me and my request, and my help ticket is now stuck in support ticket purgatory. If you have a heart, send a prayer to the internet gods for the ascension of my eP. For now, it resides at myitrt.com.
An eportfolio is extremely important in any field. Without an opportunity like this course to have time to develop a portfolio, one might be hard pressed to create one of any substance at the last minute when a desirable job becomes available, or when asked to justify the value of one's work in a position. Every budget cycle, there comes the possibility of close scrutiny of each support role and every person holding those support roles -especially those that not everyone understands. I have grown to greatly value the time that this class has afforded to build out my personal statement to the world. Having my published and growing EP lets me control a big part of my own online narrative. I get to showcase my interests and successes. I can show through example how I engage with my instructional community. I can give people insight into how I got to where I am.
Originally, this site was For Them (Students, Teachers, Everyone). This course has allowed me to be a little selfish. There is room on this site for all of us - me included. I think that as teachers we forget about ourselves sometimes. We forget to take care of our own basic needs. This site, this EP is for me, and I am learning to be okay with being a little selfish, self-indulgent, wordy, foody, irreverent......
Approximately two years ago, the principal at one of my schools said to me, "I want to create a space in this building that looks like no other place we have here - a learning space that belongs in this century. Can you do that for me?" I gladly accepted the challenge and set out with my Rocketbook and ruler to scope out and sketch out a room for our awesome new space. I'll spare you the intricacies of a purchasing and approval system under supervision by the state, but I will say that the process took almost two years to get most things in place.
We now have a freshly painted classroom with a variety of student seating and collaborative grouping options. 3D and regular printers, shared monitors for each work group, whiteboard space, and three interactive LCD SMART Boards for student collaboration. All that remains is the mounting of the SMART Boards.
When students and teachers get a sneak peek at the room, everyone realizes how energizing a space can be. Students want to learn in spaces that show that we respect them as humans and learners. Student-centered spaces such as these allow for flexible grouping, choice in type of work space, and the ability to access both modern and traditional learning tools. This room intentionally lacks a teacher desk or work space. The student is the center of learning in this work space. We hope that one day, every student will have the opportunity to learn in a space such as this one. All students deserve that type of experience regardless of socioeconomic status.
Building out my ePortfolio and my website is a time consuming process. A valuable process. As I pull together the pieces and read about ePortfolios and intellectual property, I am forced to consider my own feelings about ownership of ideas and work product. It turns out that my beliefs about work product are close in alignment with those of a sharing economy, and not of one where the state (employer or school system) owns your work or means of production. I also think that everyone should work hard towards the common good and people should be able to survive off of their hard work; however, I do not believe that any one person should be able to hold all of the marbles when others have none.
The materials that I create, I share freely. The collections I aggregate, I make with love. The ideas I share, I give credit. I believe that collaboration, not competition, will make better teachers of us all.
I often hear adults - myself included - telling kids about how things are going to be when they grow up. "When you grow up, you are going to have to..(insert specifically ordered process )... otherwise..(insert horrid consequence)....."
I am guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty. This is fixed mindset, anti-COVA language. I am guilty of consequencing the choice and voice right out of my own children. Instead, I should be allowing them to live more in the world of the "why not; let's try it!" As I work on retraining my voice to encourage the spirit of exploration in my children, I want to ignite that same spirit of adventure and fearlessness in myself and my colleagues around me. I realize that I must first start with retraining my own brain (Sentis, 2012). That starts with knowing that I may not be there yet, but I do possess the ability to grow (Dweck, 2016).
Throughout this program, I have been able to shape and apply my learning as it applies to how I envision my leadership path. The ability to have agency in exploration and expression allows for my real-world application of what this program offers as we do it in real time. Having that ability to choose how we express ourselves in these courses allows me to practice the skills we are learning as we are learning them.
Succeeding in an academic environment has always been a struggle for me. The growth mindset has helped me to refocus my thoughts and come back to my mantra when attempts at organization, tasks, and focus become overwhelming. Reframing failure as growth opportunity has been key to my ability to being able to participate in this program. A big part of my growth experience has been opening myself up to failure. This program allows me to attempt to achieve success with relative anonymity. Texas is very far away.
Even though Texas may be physically many miles away, I do feel that our cohort has developed a sort of bond through our discussion boards. Our networks are growing. As I encounter people's Twitter handles and professional websites, I tend to follow them to add to my professional networks so that I can learn form my peers. Learning happens everywhere. Our professional networks reach around the world. You can read more about my PLN thoughts here.
But that is all about me and my personal guilt and growth..... What about how I really feel about the state of education? I believe that every teacher and student deserves to survive - physically and emotionally - the public education system that employs and/or educates them. You can watch my video and the token project that I am participating in to represent what school should look like here.
Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Sentis. (2012, November 06). Retrieved April 29, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELpfYCZa87g&feature=youtu.be
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