The Role of the Facilitator in PBL

One of the greatest challenges for an instructor in a PBL unit is to adapt to the role of facilitator. As a facilitator, my role in the teaching/learning process will change and I will need to let go of the traditional notions for a classroom and learning.  No longer will I spend most of my day in the front of the classroom teaching.  My role as a facilitator is essential for the effectiveness of the learning experience for my students.  As a facilitator I will develop a project for the class, oversee and assist students throughout the project, help students become more independent as learners, and assess and evaluate the success of the project as well as the students’ performance.    

An effective facilitator defines desired outcomes for the project.  The outcomes are discussed with the students early in the project and are a point of reference throughout.  A facilitator provides the focus of the project and the path towards the desired outcome.  An effective facilitator recognizes the group dynamics and behavioral styles.  They also ensure that everyone is heard and included.  An effective facilitator is confident.  He or she is always prepared and commands the attention of the room.  An effective facilitator asks good questions that can move a group forward, facilitate conversations and provide results.  He or she helps a group think outside the box and determine a course of action.  An effective facilitator knows how to handle a group and works with them to resolve conflict and be able to work together (Rickenbach, 2014).  

With project based learning, students will develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful including the necessary 21st century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.    Students will still learn the academic content they need through PBL and they will probably remember it better.  Project based learning helps students learn time management and become more organized.  Students will learn how to work together much like they will need to do as they enter the workforce.  By taking part in public presentations, students will develop their communication skills and their project results may actually make a difference in the community.  Project based learning is more engaging for students and allows students to take responsibility for their learning.  

In order to become an effective facilitator, I will need to make a few changes to my teaching style and they way I run my classroom.  One area that I will need to improve on is observation.  I will need to do a better job of examining student interactions and group them appropriately so that they will be most successful in their learning.  I will also need to develop a better way to facilitate groups when they have conflict.  Finally, I will need to become more adept at helping students think out of the box and look at tasks with different perspectives.  

 

Rickenbach, R. (2014, November 05). Are You an Effective Facilitator? Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/L-and-D-Blog/2014/11/Are-You-An-Effective-Facilitator
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Scaffolding & PBL

Scaffolding in Project Based Learning can be defined as the support provided and the clear expectations that are set so that project goals can be accomplished. In Project Based Learning, the best projects use scaffolding in order to keep the project and students organized.  When students are well prepared and given guidance, projects are most successful.  The difficulty with scaffolding is providing direction, yet also giving the students the ability to show some initiative, creativity, and resourcefulness. McKenzie (1999) states that there are eight characteristics of educational scaffolding:

  1. Scaffolding provides clear directions.
  2. Scaffolding clarifies purpose.
  3. Scaffolding keeps students on task.
  4. Scaffolding offers assessment to clarify expectations.
  5. Scaffolding points students to worthy sources.
  6. Scaffolding reduces uncertainty, surprise, and disappointment.
  7. Scaffolding delivers efficiency.
  8. Scaffolding creates momentum.

Scaffolding provides clear directions

As instructors create projects for project based learning, they have to try and anticipate any problems or difficulties that may arise.  The directions and plans for the project need to be clearly written so that students can efficiently move toward a productive learning experience.  Much thought needs to be put into the planning of the lesson so that the students know exactly what they need to do and what is expected of them.  As I have created my project “My Dream Playground,”  I have worked hard to think of every possible problem that may arise or issue that my students may encounter; however, since I have never planned a project of this magnitude, I am sure that there are things that I have missed.  I think that as long as the instructional designer has put a lot of thought into the project–the steps, directions, activities, and assessments, they will be well equipped to handle any potential problems and eliminate them either before the project begins or as the students work through the project.  

Scaffolding clarifies purpose

In project based learning, students are presented with the purpose of their project as soon as the driving question and entry event take place.  The students know why they are taking part in this project and the project has meaning because they know they are presenting it to a wider audience beyond their teacher and class.  In project based learning, each task builds on the prior tasks.  Each lesson and activity in “My Dream Playground” builds on the next in order for the students to complete their final presentation and reach the ultimate goal of coming up with a feasible playground for the school.     

Scaffolding keeps students on task

A timeline or calendar keeps students on task and helps guide the project along.  Students know what is expected and when it is expected so that they are not wandering in all different directions.  In “My Dream Playground,” the students will be provided with a calendar of events so that everyone knows the timeline for when different parts of the project are due.  In addition, with each major portion of the project, students will be given guidelines or rubrics for what is expected of them.  They may go about accomplishing the steps of the project in different ways, but they are all given the same guidelines to follow so that they can stay on track.

Scaffolding offers assessment to clarify expectations

In the beginning of scaffolded projects, students are provided rubrics, standards, and examples in order to define excellent work.  For my project, students will be provided rubrics for their oral presentation, 3D model, and peer evaluations.  Expectations and a sample of quality work will be provided from the start, and students will continually meet with the teacher throughout the project.

Scaffolding points students to worthy sources    

In a scaffolded project, the teacher undertakes the preliminary research.  Realizing that the internet lacks credible sources, the teacher picks the best sources in order to help students accomplish their task.  Depending on the teacher, students might have to use the resources provided by the teacher or they may use those sources as a springboard to further their research.  In “My Dream Playground,” I will provide the students with four sites they can use to research the size and cost of playground equipment and playground surfaces.  They will be allowed to look for other resources, but not spend too much unnecessary time on this.  If they choose to use a different resource, they will need to obtain teacher approval before using it.

Scaffolding reduces uncertainty, surprise, and disappointment.

Instructors are expected to test each aspect of a scaffolded project to anticipate anything that might go wrong.  This will eliminate any student frustration as the project progresses and maximize student learning.  After students have completed the project, lessons may be further refined.  Each aspect of the “My Dream Playground” project has been carefully scrutinized so that the lessons and activities run smoothly for the students.  It is hard to anticipate every roadblock so changes will most likely be made during and after the project has been completed.  

Scaffolding delivers efficiency

Project based learning is very involved.  However, when properly scaffolded, students are focused, have clear expectations, and remain on task.  The “My Dream Playground” project has been carefully planned with a clear timeline.  Each lesson builds on the next leading up to the final presentation.  

Scaffolding creates momentum

The entry event, driving question, and its subquestions will create a great deal of excitement and momentum for the project.  They draw the students’ attention into the project and set the wheels in motion in order to motivate the students to project completion.  

McKenzie, J. (1999, December). Scaffolding for Success. In From Now On. Retrieved March 4, 2017, from http://fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html

 

Obstacles to Integrating Tech in Language Arts

Using technology should be an integral part of education in today’s classrooms, but it does come with its challenges.  It can make the learning situation much more complex, yet educators recognize these difficulties and continue to work and prepare themselves to try and integrate technology successfully.  

In the area of language arts, technology has changed the format and types of communication that people encounter which adds new challenges to language arts instruction. Literacy used to involve being able read and write and make meaning from the written word.  With the ever-present and constantly changing internet, 21st Century literacy skills now include being proficient in media literacy, digital literacy, and information literacy (Roblyer, 2016, p. 261). Teachers must develop new instructional strategies to help students adapt to a more global means of communication.  This means while teaching students how to read and write, we also must empower them to be able to analyze and critique the messages portrayed in images, language, and sound (Alliance for Media Literate America, 2001).  We also have to teach them to recognize when information is needed and how to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content in an ethical manner even when guidelines and rules continue to change or are ambiguous (“What is digital literacy?”, 2009).

In order to deal with these new skills, teachers must include new strategies in Language Arts instruction. To advance reading and writing skills, teachers must teach students how to read not only written text, but also multimedia text.  Using multimedia in instruction helps students decipher text that is nonlinear (Robyler, 2016, p. 263).  Teaching about information literacy should not be isolated to one lesson, but should be an ongoing process.  Students need to learn how to perform proper searches and evaluate information for reliability and credibility each time they seek out information.  Finally, we cannot be afraid to allow students to interact socially.  Instruction should allow students to share their work and encourage collaboration with their peers and with others on a more global scale.

It seems wonderful that there are policies in place that recognize the need for using technology in Language Arts instruction and Roblyer (2016) lists a lot of great strategies for addressing these needs, but let’s be honest, there is still one large issue that needs to be addressed—professional development.  It’s hard to expect an educator to even know how to grow as a literacy professional and connected educator when they do not receive any type of quality, formal instruction.  Many times school leadership does not provide this type of professional development so it is up to the educator to personally seek out their own professional learning through developing personal learning communities and communities of practice (Roblyer, 2016, p. 268).  One would hope that an educator would realize the valuable knowledge gained and be motivated and have the ability to seek out these relationships and opportunities.

References:

Alliance for Media Literate America. (2001). What is media literacy? AMLA’s short answer and longer thought. In Center for media literacy. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/what-media-literacy-amlas-short-answer-and-longer-thought

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 261-268). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.         

What is digital literacy? (2009). In Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from https://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu/welcome/dpl0000.html

Integrating Technology into the Library

It is no longer a question of whether to use technology in schools, but how to effectively use technology to enhance student learning.  As the library media specialist for my school, my role is to come up with innovative ways to use technology across the curriculum, design student experiences that use technology in original ways, select appropriate resources, and collaborate with my colleagues to plan effective student-centered technology enhanced lessons.  These lessons must allow students to develop their information literacy and computer skills, interact with members of the community, and understand that the skills they are learning can be applied to their everyday lives (Hughes-Hassell, 2001).

Technology is a tool that can be used in the library to solve problems.  Hughes-Hassell (2001) states that it can be used to “gather, organize, analyze, and present information.” There are many ways to use technology effectively in the library in order to make it more engaging, relevant, and authentic. One basic way is to use technology to play review games with students on library skills, genres, parts of a book, library terminology, the Dewey decimal system, etc. Using video in the library can really help create a more complete picture when presenting lessons to students. Chances are pretty good that you can find a clip on YouTube to enhance any lesson and if not, you can upload your own video to share with the students.  It is very expensive to house current encyclopedias on site at school; however, through technology, my students can access the most current electronic resources such as encyclopedias, journals, and magazines to gather research information. Digitized resources through the Library of Congress can augment lessons through the use of primary sources.   Technology can help students communicate with other students from around the world or reach out to scientists, researchers, and authors.  Older students might contact experts using e-mail.  Skype visits with experts might also be set up to aid in lesson understanding and allow students to communicate with authors about books they have read and the writing process.  Portable technologies, such as laptop computers or iPads, can be used to gather data outside the classroom and tools such as spreadsheets can be created to help students analyze their data.  Students can use a variety of authoring tools like presentation tools, digital booklets, animated reports, and videos to present any type of project or research.  Technology can also be used to take students on virtual field trips and simulate real-life experiences for students. Webquests can guide students to search the internet for specific information.   Technology can provide scenarios and interdisciplinary connections to enhance learning.  For example, after reading the book Gopher Up Your Sleeve  by Tony Johnston, students might use websites like enature.com to learn more about the animals in the poems.

Technology on its own does not facilitate learning, but a huge difference is made when it is used in conjunction with meaningful resources and authentic experiences.  School librarians should collaborate with teachers to design learning opportunities that utilizes technology to address the needs of the learner and curriculum goals.  

 

Hughes-Hassell, S. (2001). Enhancing student learning with technology. In American Library Association. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/publishing/editions/samplers/penaasl.pdf

Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

Instructional software is used to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic.  Five specific types of instructional software include drill and practice, tutorial, simulations, instructional games, and problem solving.   

Drill and Practice

Drill and Practice software provides exercises where students work examples and receive immediate feedback for their answers.  It includes flash card activities, chart fill-in activities, branching drills, and extensive feedback activities.  Drill and practice is often looked down upon, but it does have its benefits.  Roblyer (2016) states that drill activities provides effective rehearsal for students and allows them to transfer newly learned information into long term memory.  Once students master lower order skills, they can use these skills for higher order thinking activities.   Drill and practice software provides immediate feedback to the students, can increase motivation, and save teacher time. Even though drill and practice software is sometimes criticized for being outdated, teachers should seek the use of this software to meet specific needs for their students (Roblyer, 2016, p. 81).  Quizlet is an example of a drill and practice software that I use in my fourth grade library class.  Quizlet is a website that allows teachers and students to create and share flashcards.  While studying literary genres, students can read and listen to the literary genre terms and definitions. They can use the program as flashcards, take a fill in the blank quiz, practice spelling the terms, and play games that involve the terms and definitions.   Through drill and practice, games, and quizzes, the students will be able to spell the literary genre words and identify the meaning of each genre.

Tutorial

Tutorial software provides instruction on a topic much like a teacher instructing in a classroom.  With tutorial software, students should be able to learn the material without any additional help or materials. There are two types of tutorials, linear and branching. Linear tutorials provide the same instructional sequence regardless of student performance.  Branching tutorials are more sophisticated and lead students along different path based on how they respond to questions and how they show mastery of the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 83-84). Tutorials are generally used with older students who are able to read and are more popular in military and industrial training.  It can serve the needs of the classroom that use the flipped classroom or screencasting strategies.  Tutorial programs provide a more self paced review for students who need further instruction in a topic area.  They also allow more advanced students to move on to additional learning activities at their own pace when a teacher is not available to present the material (Roblyer, 2016, p. 84-85).  In my fourth grade library class, I use screencast-o-matic to record tutorials for all my research lessons and post them on my classroom website. When researching and completing projects, students work at all kinds of speeds. The screencasts help the slower students go back and review information I already presented and they help the more advanced students work ahead at a faster pace.

Simulations

Simulations are a computerized model of a real or imagined system that is designed to teach how the system works.  There are two main types of simulations. The first type teaches about something.  The second teaches how to do something. Simulations are predominantly used in science. Simulations are best used when a real situation is too time consuming, dangerous, expensive, or unrealistic for a classroom setting (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92).   In the past, I have not used simulation software in my fourth grade library classes, but this year I am working on having centers set up when the students come to class.  I was able to obtain some laptops and iPads for my centers and found PhET to be good quality simulation software. PhET is an interactive simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder.  It provides free and interactive math and science simulations at all grade levels. Using these simulations in the library would allow my students the ability to further explore and process topics that they have learned in class.   

Instructional Games

Instructional games software adds game-like rules and/or competition to learning activities.  They are often used in the same way as drill and practice games and simulations, but they are considered separately due to their different instructional elements.  Instructional games have rules, an element of competition, and are entertaining for the students.  Schools have been slow to adopt instructional games due to the cost, inadequate hardware to run the games, and good quality software has been hard to find.  Instructional games are beneficial because they provide the element of play and enjoyment for the students.  Teachers can capitalize on this enjoyment and spend more time on a curriculum topic with their students. Educators do have concerns with instructional games.  Some educators worry that students will get caught up in having fun and this will draw attention away from what is to be learned (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92-96).  In my fourth grade library class, I have used Jeopardy games to review library concepts.  It is a fun way to review topics at the end of a unit and circle back on old topics covered throughout the year.  We don’t play the game all the time so the novelty makes it more exciting for the students.  The students work together in teams to answer questions and the game is more engaging than providing review worksheets because we can discuss answers together and clear up any misunderstandings with the material.  

Problem Solving Software

Problem solving software is used to teach problem solving skills.  There are two main approaches used in problem solving software.  They are content-area problem solving skills and content-free problem solving skills.     Content- area problem solving software focuses on teaching skills mainly in math and science.  Content-free problem solving software focuses on teaching general problem-solving abilities.  Effective problem solving software must be clearly linked to cultivating a specific problem solving ability in students.  Problem solving software can be interesting and motivating for students; however, it is important to test the software for its effectiveness in teaching problem solving skills before adopting it with the students.  There is also concern that students will not be able to transfer knowledge they learned using the software to other areas (Roblyer, 2016, p. 97-100).  One example of problem solving software to use in my fourth grade library class would be Kidspiration.  The students at this age are still very new to looking up information, synthesizing and outlining the essential information they need, and using that information to write a well constructed report.  Inspiration provides the logical steps a student would take to perform these functions at their level.  Students can begin with a graphic organizer, then create an outline from the graphic organizer, and finally use the outline to create their report..  Students could work individually or with others.    Using this software might be more time consuming with the students, but the information created might be more coherent for the students to read rather than using paper and pencil.        

There are numerous amounts of instructional software available to deliver instruction in a variety of ways. It is important that educators are careful in selecting these programs to ensure that they provide the best possible educational experience for their students.   All programs have their benefits and limitations, yet can be integrated in a meaningful way.   

References:
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed., pp. 81-100). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Content Curation

Beth Kanter (2011) states that content curation is “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.” Content curation is more than just picking a bunch of links to information about a topic and posting them. It involves careful consideration of whether the information is relevant to the reader, comes from a credible source, is annotated with a reflection from the curator, and is organized in a meaningful way for the reader to better understand the topic. The curated content is also continuously updated and kept current by its author in order to provide the best content for the reader. Curating content has become an essential practice due to the large amount of information that is shared all over the internet.

This week I worked with my PLN mini group to come up with a checklist for assessing the quality and value of a curated topic.  We used a Google Doc to create this checklist.  Using Google Docs is nice because each of us had editing rights to the document and could add information and comments at any time.  Because of some time constraints I had, I got started with the project by providing the group with a list of criteria or questions for evaluating our curated topics that I developed from reading our resources.  I also provided the links to the resources I used.    My next group member took the list I created and expanded upon it by providing explanations for some of the criteria, citing the resources, and developing our list of references. Finally, the other two group members finished the explanations and reviewed the references to be sure they were properly formatted using the APA style.  We worked well together as a group given our busy and varied schedules and I believe we developed a quality checklist.

Here is the link to the checklist our PLN created:

Content Curation Checklist

Kanter, B. (2011, October 4). Content curation primer. In Beth’s Blog. Retrieved from http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/.

Digital Divide/Digital Inequality

For the past few weeks I have spent some time reading about the issues of digital divide and digital inequality. Digital divide and digital inequality are two separate factors that impact our society.  Digital divide refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that do not or have restricted access.   The technology applies to landline telephones, cellular phones and services, television, computers, tablets, and the internet.  Digital inequality moves beyond an inequality in access to technology and encompasses inequality among people with access to technology.  Digital inequality includes people with lack of technical ability, lack of interest or computer literacy, and those who cannot afford it.

We rely on technology more and more each day. We cannot take for granted that everyone in society has the access to technology and knows the most effective way to use it. Even though a gap still exists between technology users, it is shrinking.  The next step is to provide users with the equipment and skills they need to use this technology.  Without this, the gap of digital inequality will widen.  With the knowledge I have gained from my readings, I will better be able to identify areas of digital inequality in my school  and address them according to the AECT Code of Professional Ethics.

After reading about these issues, I used the presentation tool Haiku Deck to explain the issues of digital divide and digital inequality and factors that create digital inequality at the school where I am the technology coordinator.  Please click on this link to view my presentation.  I have created many presentations in PowerPoint, but by using Haiku Deck, I learned new methods for making them more effective.  My takeaway from this project was to keep my slides simple, limit the number of images, use keywords, and break up information into multiple slides.  If I had more time to work on this artifact, I would have broken up my issues of digital inequality and my solutions for these problems even further into more slides.  In order to elicit a discussion from the audience, I  would have asked more questions of the viewer on the solutions slides. Finally, I might have also come up with some catchier titles on my slides and incorporated some of my own images rather than stock photos.  I plan on having my junior high students use Haiku Deck for a future project so that they can become accustomed to creating and giving a more effective presentation.

Welcome!

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Welcome to my Learning Log.  As I travel on my journey through the EDTECH program at Boise State, I will be adding examples of my work from each course. Along the way, I will also include reflections of what I have learned, my accomplishments and struggles, and how this journey has impacted my role as an educator.

Photo:www.gotcredit.com