Reflections for 820 Online Instruction and Design
My first critical design decision concerned what OCM would best support my blended class plans. My ultimate choice was heavily influenced by the context of my school environment where each student is issued a Chromebook. After reviewing the CEP 820 Showcase for this course, I chose to use Google Classroom as my hosting site. The Classwork tab affords student-friendly access to the Daily Agendas. While the Stream was very productive for the use of Discussion Questions, conversely, its further use appears to offer only potential confusion for a student-user. One of the immediate constraints for the use of Google Classroom as my OCM involved the limitation for the use of embedded videos. A website would have afforded this option. With Google Classroom, use of links to videos are required. On the other hand, the Google Classroom site offered many affordances such as automatically created student portfolios, an impressive and organized format, and a link to a Google Classroom Calendar. Other Google apps that students would be using in my design include Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Drive. Each of these apps interact seamlessly with Google Classroom, a bonus that would not be as affordable in other website building options. Google Classroom works particularly well for the blended classroom. Assignments can be neatly ordered. And instructor feedback is easily afforded. Students can submit a variety of assignment formats including videos, Google Docs, and Google Slides. A specific constraint in my context is a lack of visibility outside of my Defiance City Schools community. Outsiders cannot easily view the site without an intervention by the local IT Director. Also, the school district has chosen to limit student access to Youtube. So, all videos appearing on the site, as well as all closed captioning had to be re-created using the Camtasia video editor. In spite of these limitations, the ability to organize the daily Agendas was a definite plus for Google Classroom.
Concerning pedagogical choices, I have been an admirer and adherent to the work of Robert Marzano. I like to engage students by helping them to successfully experience group work. The Google apps make this goal exceptionally possible, affording both synchronous and asynchronous interaction. My pedagogical choices do require students to complete individual projects, participate in research, and practice public speaking. The choice to require writing and research is purposeful, supporting the ongoing commitment in my school district to reading and writing across the disciplines. I have encouraged the students to participate enthusiastically in collaborative learning and peer assessment. I believe that students produce their best products when revision is an expected construct in the assessment process. I followed a three tiered approach to each of the Daily Agenda assignments where learning was followed by exploration and creation. Within these three tiers, the concept of TPACK was diligently employed, balancing technological, content, and pedagogical goals in the planning of the blended class experience. The learning process included daily synchronous sessions, as well as synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Planning involved awareness of my self knowledge of the dynamic teaching landscape, an awareness of how students are learning today, an awareness of my content and options for delivery, and perhaps most significantly, an awareness of how a blended classroom would foster interaction between peer students and the instructor. In my context, Universal Design For Learning has become a unifying and required component of instructional planning. Hopefully, the blended design for this class affords clear evidence for learning in the digital age, including multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression.
Finally, concerning pitfalls, I chose to assign dates for the Daily Agendas. Strategically, this limits the flexible use of the OCM. It seemed to be a necessary procedure, but the dates will have to be changed with every future use. While the use of dates for assignments does take full advantage of the usefulness of Google Classroom, the lack of flexibility and potential need to rewrite the Daily Agendas based on pacing and the district calendar may be problematic.