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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