December 23, 2017 by Rhonda Kinstner
When I began the Digital Learning/Digital Leading program I was already an experienced user of technology. Having completed Lamar’s Educational Technology Leadership (ETL) program in April of 2014, I was fully aware of the advantages to using technology to design authentic projects. I enjoyed pushing the boundaries of technology as an educational tool and wanted to influence others to do the same.
My first real challenge was creating an e-portfolio that would be used to track my professional development work. My former (ETL) portfolio resides on a Google site, which was perfect for the collaborative educational works I created throughout that program. But for this program, I decided to bring an old blog I had created back to life. This decision required me to view WordPress from a new perspective, as an e-portfolio instead of just a blog. It took a lot of time to organize my thoughts and ideas in a way that made my portfolio easy to use. But through the process, I learned enough about the customization and editing capabilities that when it came time to design a webpage for my new business, WordPress was an obvious choice. CartandDriver.com is a site that I can manage personally, saving my business the cost of a web page designer.
I learned a lot from my research throughout this program. Most significantly, it confirmed to me that (1) Teachers need to be trained effectively before they can be expected to change the way they do things, and (2) professional development is typically ineffective. It really got me thinking about how we could better prepare our teachers for creating learning environments that included both traditional and innovative learning strategies. My first literature review ultimately led me to my innovation plan, which I named MoBLE, which stands for Motivating Blended Learning Environments.
As I reflected on my own learning philosophy, I realized that significant learning environments have long been at the heart of every educational decision I’ve made. I also realized how similar my learning philosophy is to that of John Dewey, whose constructivist theory focused on an emphasis of real problems as opposed to theoretical ones. Like Dewey, I consider education to be an active and constructive process.
I was asked to create a big, hair, ambitious goal” (BHAG) and then create a significant learning plan that would help me to achieve it. I used Dee Fink’s three-column table (Fink, 2003), which became the template for my technology department’s UBD’s.
Recognizing the vital behaviors of the people I work with, and who I could rely on to help me make change was essential for the success of my innovation plan. As I considered the Six Sources of Influence (I targeted Social Motivation as the key to my creating blended learning classrooms and innovative change. I am convinced that it is the most important source of influence, at least in my profession.
In the Spring of 2017, I focused on the outline for my innovation plan, Motivating a Blended Learning Environment (MoBLE), creating my call to action, including learning activities, my timeline, and even my video pitch. EDLD 5388 was about developing effective professional learning, a topic about which I’ve come to be quite passionate. Because professional learning is at the heart of my innovation plan, I conducted a lot of research that convinced me that the way it was approached in my current position was not only ineffective, but contradictory to what I was asking the teachers to do with their students. I was determined to break the mold. I began thinking of ways that I could model blended learning as I promoted the concept to my colleagues.
In April, 2017 I published The Importance of Blended Learning in Professional Development, which included studies of how professional development is approached from a variety of industries around the world, and what was working effectively. EDLD 5314 called for a study of digital learning in a local and global context. Evidence pointed to successes around the world, where professional learning included innovative, blended strategies. My literature review was summarized with a call to model the change we want to influence. I decided that my innovation plan would have to include more integrative activities and stations in which students collaborated and worked independently.
In June, EDLD 5315 focused on assessing digital learning instruction, and I was asked to create my action research outline, providing strategies for connecting and communicating ideas in my presentations to my co-workers. Determining what evidence I would be looking for, and how I would measure it was challenging, and deciding what kind of research I would need to support my plan required a lot of reflection and serious thought. But it helped me to narrow down what exactly I needed to do, making the research process much more efficient.
EDLD 5318 called for a design of the instructional materials I planned to use with my Innovation Plan. I chose to use Schoology as my primary online instruction resource, and designed my course to include five units, during which videos, shared (collaborative) documents and shared media albums would be used by teachers in my building as blended learning tools. All of this served as examples for how innovation (technology) could be used in the classroom to individualize and personalize learning.
The timing of EDLD 5316 could not have been more appropriate for what I was doing in my classroom. Every school year, my first unit is based on digital citizenship, and safety is significant part of that unit. Approaching digital citizenship as having nine general areas of behavior made the process of planning my lessons a bit easier. Targeting each of the nine essential areas of digital citizenship – etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety and security allowed me to create lessons that provided a comprehensive unit with my students (Ribble, 2015). It was also in this course that I realized the value of PowToon as an instructional tool for K-5. I created a video about digital citizenship that I am comfortable sharing with my students, and plan to use the online application for future lessons as well.
This program has helped me to realize that I’m passionate about using technology not as a subject, but as an educational tool. I’ve spent much of the past five years studying the professional uses of technology, and integrating it into the curriculum at my schools. My professional goal is to influence change in how teachers present their lessons, and to encourage them to use technology to personalize, authenticate, and get kids excited about learning. In my mind, no concept at school should be taught as a “subject” but rather as useful information that will help us solve problems in the future. We need today’s youth to grow up to solve problems on their own, without having to be told how to do it. My mantra in any classroom has been “there’s more than one way to do anything” and it makes sense to me that we allow our students to figure out what way works for them, by challenging them with real world problems that they have to find solutions for. This philosophy became the topic for an article I wrote and submitted to Educational Leadership magazine. The article, titled Creating Interdisciplinary Authentic Learning with Technology, fulfilled an assignment requirement for EDLD 5317 and at the same time allowed me to take action toward making the change I seek.
As I complete my Digital Learning, Digital Leading program, I am pleased to look back at what I’ve learned, and to know that I’ve been able to apply my new knowledge to help others, students and teachers alike. While I would love to be more active online leading change in PLN’s and educational forums, I tend to focus on improving my own practice, and that of my colleagues. I’m hoping that I can find a position that allows me to help other teachers to blend their learning strategies, and become more innovative. Our kids deserve that.Page Break
Collins, J., & Porras, J. (2004). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Fink, L. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools (3rd ed.). International Society for Technology in Education.