Wicked Problem Project Summation

The Ingham Academy High School is a unique learning environment. The Academy is an adjudicated youth school (grades 8-12) that is run with a partnership between the Ingham County Circuit Court, Highfields, and Ingham Intermediate School District. Students are added to the Academy whenever openings become available, which is usually when current students complete the Michigan Merit Curriculum or are dropped from court jurisdiction.  Students enter the academy with a variety of credits and abilities and are placed in available classes that will complete their middle or high school credits needed for promotion or graduation.  Because of this it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to create homogeneous classrooms in terms of progress through a given course or even the courses themselves.  This creates a learning environment that is heavily differentiated with some class periods having students in physics, biology, chemistry, and Earth science.  To make the situation more complex, attendance can be low due to outside and judicial situations involving students.

Providing for the successful understanding of content material at the Academy is, to say it lightly, challenging.  Not having as much access to the traditional solutions of teaching such as lecturing, collaborative group work, and a lesson plan that will fit an entire class period, I turned to technology to find solutions to the inefficiencies I have found.  The main problems I planned to address were poor attendance, seemingly insufficient class time to help all students effectively, and the limits of using a textbook to introduce topic material.

In order to address these problems, I enlisted the help of Moodle, an online course-ware management tool much like Blackboard or Angel.  Using Moodle, I was able to create lessons with multimedia questions, guiding questions within lessons, quizzes to check progress, and feedback options for all questions answered in Moodle.  This helps to reinforce correct responses and guiding those answering incorrectly to the right answer.  To begin this implementation, I chose my 8th grade physical science class.  This class is more homogeneous than most others I teach, because every student in the class is taking physical science, but due to absences there is still a need to reach students in different spots in the coursework.  There are also topics in physical science that aren’t presented well in a textbook when compared to a video, noting that multimedia presentations appeal to more learning styles than a textbook can ever attempt to cover (As outlined in Tips for Using Instructional Video and Public Television Programming in the Classroom).

To make sure that my plan to use Moodle for multimedia presentations, quick feedback, and increased lesson interactivity (with feedback on questions) was a good idea, I asked myself if it was worth using technology, or if I was just using a computer because they were there.  This analysis is based on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or TPACK.  In short, if a lesson has TPACK, the use of technology enhances the pedagogical strategies and better fosters content knowledge when compared to a non technological solution.  To help ensure that my solution fit with TPACK, I was guided by three questions.

The first TPACK question I addressed was, “how does the technology I have chosen support the teaching strategies and methods I have chosen?”  In my integration of Moodle into my 8th grade physical science class, my chosen technology, specifically the Moodle system, videos, and quizzes applies to multiple learning styles.  Students don’t only see a picture, read text, and ask questions when they think they don’t understand something.  Using my Moodle lessons and activities, students are viewing video, hearing lecture during that video, answering questions and receiving immediate feedback on their understanding.  In addition to this, Moodle being online, students who aren’t present on the day(s) of a lesson can complete the lesson at home or at a later date in school.

The second TPACK question I addressed was, “how specifically does this technology make the content in my problem more intellectually accessible?”  Traditional lessons involve reading through material, listening to some amount of lecture, answering questions, and getting feedback when you ask questions and when you get your homework graded.  This is about the best that this system can do, at least at the Academy.  When using Moodle, things change.  The content, being multimedia, should be more engaging and is better equipped to show things in motion and outcomes of interactions.  Possibly more beneficial is the feedback that is built into Moodle, because students get feedback after answering a question that either reinforces a correct response, or redirects an incorrect one.  This allows near instantaneous feedback that can change the course of a student much quicker than with a traditional lesson.  It is also relevant to intellectual accessibility that, using the traditional model, a student who misses a lecture doesn’t have a chance to hear that lecture again.  Using Moodle, if a student misses a lesson, it will still be there for them to hear, see, and complete.  This allows students to be redirected away from misconceptions more quickly, and to not miss the essential building blocks of knowledge that are presented in the Moodle lessons.

The third and final TPACK question I addressed was, “how specifically do your pedagogical choices make the content in your problem more intellectually accessible?“  Using Moodle presents several benefits over the traditional educational model in terms of pedagogy.  Moodle creates a learning environment that is more relevant, is better accessible because absent students don’t miss the experience of the lesson, and quick feedback to both students and teachers.  I try to introduce new topics by a demonstration, activity, or lecture that makes my students think about the topic and how it relates to them or past experiences they have had with the topic.  Being able to use multimedia presentations and guiding questions in Moodle, I am able to introduce a topic by showing relevant material and guide their observations to what is going to be covered in a subsequent lesson or unit.

Below is a screen-cast of my project’s implementation and reflections:
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Professional Learning Plan

In choosing to take CEP 811 and 812, I hoped to expand my knowledge of educational technology so that I could better use technology in my classroom. Teaching in a court based school, any tool that I can add to help students have more options is a good one. Though each teacher only has two computers in each classroom, and one fifteen computer lab that is in use by computer classes for a few hours of the day, there are many opportunities to integrate technology in the classrooms. I have worked with my principal to look into a Computer On Wheels lab (or a COW), and it looks like we will have one with between ten and twelve computers available next school year. Because of this, and my experience, I want to make sure that I am a leader in my school, if not my district, in bringing technology into the classroom as a way to solve problems in unique learning environments. I hope to do this by:

An audio-cast of this plan is HERE in mp3 format.  Below is my Professional Learning Plan outline:

  • Continue taking classes in education and educational technology
    • Keep on the forefront of each field
    • Integrate new technology as it becomes available
  • Look into getting my educational technology certificate and possibly masters degree.
    • Get the tools I need to get on top of the technology available
  • Keep connected with resources that will keep be up to speed like MACULspace
    • posting
    • joining groups
    • attending MACUL conferences?
    • Connect with other educators through Facebook, my blog, and other outlets
  • Integrating use of technology in all of my classes
    • Search for relevant technology in each class that I teach
    • Use technology to present information how students desire learning
    • Continue implementation of Moodle into all of my classes
      • Expand upon Wicked Problem Project use of Moodle in physical science class
      • Use Moodle to present lessons and to gain quick assessment of student achievement
      • Use Moodle to integrate other technologies into each class
  • Championing use of technology throughout my school, alternative education, and my district
    • Encouraging other teachers to integrate technology in their classrooms
    • Teaching other teachers what I have learned, and learn what they know or are learning
    • Head professional learning experiences that expand colleagues set of tools
      • Have teachers leave PD with new tools, not just a new goal
  • Work with my Principal and district to make sure we have relevant technology available
    • Ask how I can help in acquiring technology
    • Learn more about grant writing and opportunities
      • In science (such as NASA space grant) and at risk youth
  • Keep relevant
    • Monitor educational research on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
    • Poll for student interest and success of technological integrations
    • Change strategies based on assessment data in and outside the classroom

Group Leadership Project

My group in CEP 812 has completed the Group Leadership Project on creating a lesson in Moodle. We split our presentation into three parts, the introduction, and the conclusion. Scott took the intro, I took creating the lesson, Scott took embedding media into a question page, and Becky took the question pages and the conclusion. Each of us used a screen-cast program to do our pieces, and they were to be spliced together using Windows Movie Maker (WMM). I accepted the task of splicing the videos together using WMM. This way, each of us was able to take a sizable chunk of the project, creating a project without ever meeting in person.

The basic idea being described above didn’t seem like it would be that much of an issue, but as it is said: the devil is in the details. Scott and I used Screencast-O-Matic (SOM) to create our portions. Becky used Jing. Becky did have some issues with her microphone but was able to get her audio recording. Scott ran into some issues with Teacher Tube’s videos not integrating into Moodle (or even my website for that matter) very well. We decided against using Teacher Tube videos because of this, though I hope to find a solution for Teacher Tube in the future. My difficulties didn’t come until the splicing in WMM.

Much to my delight, SOM allows you to download created presentations in AVI, MP4, or FLV formats. AVI integrates wonderfully with WMM, so I used thatfor this project. Jing, much to my dismay, only outputs in .swf flash. I am speaking of the free versions, let it be known, and the paid version of Jing does allow MPEG 4 output. Not having access to the PRO version of Jing, I had the task of converting the tricky .swf file of Becky’s presentation so that I could integrate it into the WMM project. Having converted files between formats before, I figured this would be easy, but it took many tries and the better part of an hour to find a program that could successfully convert Jing’s .swf into AVI format. Several programs, including MOYEA, Quick Time Pro, Real Player couldn’t convert the .swf into anything. Surprisingly, MOYEA actually crashed upon every conversion attempt, and I’ve used it before quite successfully. I was able to get it converted with iWisoft Flash SWF to Video Converter. Many kudos to the creators of this software!

With the video finally converted, I was able to splice all of the videos together, trim off some time, and add ending credits. The video was uploaded to MSU’s AFS space because of the size, and is linked at the bottom of this post. Because we each took many takes with our screen-casts, little trimming was needed. Even so, it is always good to have the option to take out some repetitions and dead space with WMM.

After completing this project, I would definitely not use different screen-cast programs because of the difficulties in splicing. At the least, I would make sure that the output of each screen-cast program is actually compatible with the program being used to splice the individual pieces together. As for now, unless it’s PRO, I’d rather not deal with Jing due to compatibility issues. Pre-planning was also very important in this project, and I would work to ensure that as much as possible would be completed in all aspects of a project. I am also planning to look into changing from WMM to another movie maker program that is more compatible. The main reason for this is the difficulty that I had getting the .wmv to work in Firefox. MP4 would be a more compatible format in all browsers, but luckily the .wmv can still be downloaded and played in Windows Media Player, or played in Chrome and IE. Linux has some great movie making software options including Cinerella that I might look at in the future. Compatibility is a nerd’s best friend sometimes, and I plan to find more tools that are more compatible for future projects.

 

Group Leadership Project If this link doesn’t play nice in your browser, right click and “Save link as” to download the video.  Firefox hasn’t been playing as nice as IE and Chrome lately. I was able to save it as a MP4 here, but the size is too small for detail.