UbD Educators Wiki

Keep Calm and Wiki OnSome years ago, after reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, I started a wiki for teachers to learn and share UbD units and ideas. Despite having over 500 members, the wiki doesn’t see a lot of new content. At this stage, I think only two members regularly contribute new content, and one of them is me.

If you are interested in helping, this is what we need:

  • Units and ideas from teachers in a variety of fields. Perhaps because I am an English teacher, and mostly English teachers keep up with this blog, most of the early contributors to the UbD Educators wiki were and still are English teachers, but as I said, aside from me, only one other English teacher is still actively posting units. I admit to using it myself just to keep track of my unit plans, which is fine, but it isn’t very interactive. If you teach using UbD, especially if you don’t teach English (but even if you do), please consider sharing your plans.
  • Chapter reflections. Miguel Guhlin made shell pages for chapter summaries. I admit I am conflicted about this because ASCD, Grant Wiggins, and Jay McTighe have been so supportive of the wiki, and I would hate to do anything that might prevent people from purchasing their book (which I think all teachers should read). However, I think it might be a great idea for people to use those pages to share their reflections and insights from chapters. If you have insights to contribute, please do.
  • What’s missing? What subject areas do we need to include? Links? Resources? If you think something should be on the wiki that isn’t, please add it.

Despite the fact that the main page has included a note that all the materials can be viewed by lurkers, and that you do not have to join the wiki to see anything, I still receive requests to join at the rate of one or two people a week, and none of the new members has made contributions in years. I don’t mind lurkers. If the early contributors had minded lurkers, we would have put the information behind some kind of registration wall. I am opposed to making people jump through hoops to access the materials, but I think this wiki has the potential to be a much greater repository than it is, and it can only become a great repository if we build it together.

I would be interested to know if people join with the intention of contributing but then feel shy about sharing their work online (overheard and paraphrased at the ISTE conference: Share your work. Teachers don’t share their work because they don’t think they’re doing great work. They ARE doing great work, but no one knows about it if you don’t share). Do people skim over the note about lurking and join because they think they will get to see more more materials if they do? I am genuinely curious, and I am not sure of the answer.

My hunch, as much as I hate the idea, is that folks are joining without reading that page, thinking they will access more materials if they do. The reason I think this might be the case is that I had a wiki for my students, and even though I clearly stated that only my students would be permitted to join the wiki, I still received requests until I finally had to turn off the ability to request membership because I was really tired of processing the membership denials for teachers who simply didn’t read. In the case of the UbD Educators wiki, over 500 people have joined, which is awesome, but they haven’t contributed, which is a lot less awesome.

On a side note, most of the visits to this blog are from folks looking to read UbD-related content, so I know there is real interest in the subject, and I know that teachers are looking for guidance and ideas. It might be nice if we could build up the wiki a bit so that they had some resources. In case you are worried, the materials are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, Share-Alike license, meaning that work posted there can freely be used and remixed with credit given to the original author, but not for profit.

I guess I will get into how I feel about sites like Teachers Pay Teachers some other time. Not sure I want to stir that particular pot right now, and to be honest, I’m not really even sure why I feel the way I do about the site, so until I can articulate my thoughts more clearly, I’m just steering clear. I will say I think teachers fall into two camps when it comes to sharing: 1) people who share everything; 2) people who refuse to share anything. I have been lucky enough to know a lot of teachers who share, and I have benefited enormously from their ideas. Through their generosity, they have made a better teacher. At it’s core, that is all the UbD Educators wiki is about—sharing ideas so that we can all benefit and become better teachers.

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Technology Integration for Preservice Teachers

Bethany Smith asked a great question on Twitter this morning:

I don’t remember learning much about technology integration when I was a preservice teacher, but then that was 1996-1997. We thought we were advanced for using email to communicate with each other. I’m not sure what has changed in the intervening years, if much of anything. I have found, contrary to popular belief, that young teachers do not necessarily know as much about technology as older teachers think they do, nor do younger teachers necessarily naturally integrate technology. (For that matter, I don’t think kids know as much about technology as teachers think they do, at least not using it for school or work, but that’s a separate blog post.)

The key word in instituting technology integration as part of a preservice teaching program is integration. Technology shouldn’t be an add-on, or else preservice teachers will only come to think of it as such in their classrooms. Asking preservice teachers to create lesson plans and assignments for their college courses that integrate technology and then reflect on how that technology might be used in their classrooms might be effective. An e-portfolio would be a great start. preservice teachers could share it with prospective employers. It can be hard sometimes to find a job with no experience, and a great portfolio can encourage administrators to take a chance on first-year teachers if the portfolios show the young teacher to be thoughtful, engaging, organized, and involved in their field. That portfolio should include a blog. When I was a preservice teacher, my classmates and I had to write weekly “think pieces” about an issue we were concerned about. We passed these around in class so that our classmates could be exposed to our ideas, and of course, they were graded by our professors, too. A blog would be a natural forum for such thinking aloud.

Other artifacts that might be included in such a portfolio:

  • Evidence of understanding good presentation practices. I have seen some horrible PowerPoints in my day (often created by teachers and administrators), and teachers cannot be expected to teach students how to create good presentations if they themselves don’t know how. Presentation skills are a key part of any preservice teacher’s education.
  • Evidence of having created an online PLN through Twitter or through a group such as the English Companion Ning (or equivalent for subject matter). A link to the Twitter account or biography page should be sufficient.
  • Evidence of having created a wiki, perhaps as part of a group assignment for the course or perhaps as a repository for lesson plans.
  • As more teachers are flipping the classroom, I think an important piece of the portfolio should include a lesson delivered via audio, and a lesson delivered via video (could be a screencast). The topics should be well chosen in that they should be topics easily taught and learned via this method.
  • A link to the preservice teacher’s Diigo profile. I think social shared bookmarking has been one of the most fantastic tools to come along in my fourteen years as a teacher. It’s a quick, useful way to share great resources that can be integrated with both a blog and a Twitter account as well as your browser (depending on which one you use). I happen to prefer Diigo to other bookmarking systems myself, but it’s not the only game in town. Any professors teaching preservice teachers could make that call.

One of the most important things a teacher needs to learn when integrating technology is flexibility. Sometimes things go awry when you’re trying to integrate technology, and it’s important that teachers are able to change course if the technology fails. The Internet sometimes goes down. Sometimes the projector bulb burns out. Lots of things can happen, and it’s important that teachers include, as part of any lesson plan integrating technology, their backup plan for what they will do if the technology fails.

As part of their preservice teaching program, teachers should also learn how to search. Using boolean search strings will save them time and help them find resources they’re looking for quickly. Learning how to use the everyday tools of teaching, including projectors, the Internet, videos, and the like should be an essential part of a preservice teacher’s education.

To steal an idea from Melissa Scott, time to share tools, perhaps a weekly session, would be great. The way I would probably set this up is to ask preservice teachers to sign up for time if they have found a cool tool and then present and demonstrate that tool to their fellow preservice teachers. Before long, teachers would have quite a toolkit to take with them to their first job. Any tools that could more easily be shared via a Diigo group created for the preservice teachers would not necessarily need to be shared via presentation, and there should be an expectation that the preservice teachers will make use of Diigo, contributing shared links and also saving links.

It’s also key that preservice teachers understand the importance of rehearsing technology. Teachers who fiddle with tools they aren’t sure how to use in front of a group of students are wasting time and hurting their credibility. Try out the tools and figure out how they are used before asking students to use them or before using them in front of students. Don’t rely on students to be your tech support when you get stuck, which leads me to my final recommendation: learn basic troubleshooting. Most of the troubleshooting I do for other teachers, they could do themselves if they tried searching for the problem online. That’s the first thing I usually do anyway. I’m happy to help teachers. I don’t mind troubleshooting. However, they could save a lot of time if they learned how to do it themselves. It isn’t the best use of the IT department’s time to restart your computer if it freezes up when that is something teachers themselves could have done much more quickly on their own.

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Back to School

Pencil on PaperTomorrow is the first day of the 2010-2011 school year. I think the year I don’t become nervous and excited about the first day of school is the year I should probably retire. I teach because I like to learn and I like to share, and I can’t imagine not getting excited about wanting to learn and share more and better each year.

I’m trying out BuddyPress and a wiki for my classes. Our school has Edline, but I found it too limiting for what I wanted to do. I’m looking forward to seeing what my students will be able to do with both.

This semester is my last semester of grad school. I should graduate in December if all goes well this semester. I’m very excited to be finishing. In case you were wondering, I did receive top marks on the project I spent my summer working on. If you haven’t seen the finished product, you can visit it here.

Other stuff I have on tap this year: my first ever presentation at NCTE. I’m both nervous and excited about that. It will be good to see some friends at NCTE, too.

Today I am working on my first week’s plans, which include introductions to British lit., American lit., and Joseph Campbell; teaching the lede and 5W-H questions in journalism; and beginning novel studies on A Farewell to Arms, Brave New World, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Campbell

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ITMA Project Finished!

Finish lineI am very pleased to announce that my ITMA project is finished. I have turned it in and am just awaiting the feedback.

If you would like to check out the finished product, visit the wiki.

The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning is that I didn’t have to work on the project today because it was finished. I am hoping to enjoy the last couple of weeks of my summer and not work on anything.
Creative Commons License photo credit: ThisIsIt2

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Audacity and GarageBand

Modified Podcast Logo with My Headphones Photoshopped OnFor my ITMA project today, I did quite a bit of playing around in Audacity and GarageBand. I have made a few podcasts, but I haven’t honestly played around with the software beyond recording and editing. I wanted to learn how to add music tracks to podcasts and how to diminish the music so it functions like an introduction.

Both programs allow you to add music and diminish it, but it’s much easier in GarageBand, and it’s also much more intuitive. I found I really liked GarageBand’s interface, too. I know that Audacity is free and available on multiple operating systems, whereas GarageBand is $79.00 as part of iLife ’09 and only available on Macs, but I would go as far as recommending using GarageBand over Audacity if you have a Mac. Everything I tried to do was just so much easier, and I had more options.

If you want to see what I’ve done so far with the podcast lessons, you can check out my work. I’m not done.

As of today, 98.25 hours on this project as a whole (150 hours required). I want to try to finish before I go on vacation in mid-July.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Colleen AF Venable

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ITMA Project Update

A spider loves its workI apologize if you’re getting tired of these project updates. This ITMA project IS my summer, apparently, so I’m not really working on anything else to reflect on. Since my last update on June 18, I’ve done a lot. The first objective in the professional development wiki I’m creating is for the learners to create their own websites. I learned a great deal about video last week that will prove useful as I forge ahead, particularly with the podcasting lessons.

I have completed four modules for this first objective, which means my lessons on choosing a site type and selecting models; RSS and feed readers; selecting a site service and creating a website; and copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons are all finished.

I learned a lot I did not know about fair use. I am hoping that module will be informative for learners, too. It’s strange how some parts of the project I thought would take a long time haven’t, while others I didn’t anticipate taking much time took a lot of time. Case in point is the section on copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons. Altogether, I spent about 9 hours and 30 minutes on that part. Most of that time was research. On the other hand, I have already completed 3/5 of the module on adding content to a website (adding text, adding images, and adding videos). I worked on that part of the project for four hours today, but probably about an hour of that time was going back and finding the original Flickr images I used in the project and making sure I gave proper attribution. I really would have thought it would take longer, but with so many site services offering easy content management, it didn’t turn out to be difficult to learn how to do anything. That’s a good thing. I think the easier it is to create websites, the more encouraged the teachers who do the program will be. I really hope they utilize our Google apps and create Google Sites.

I am still not 100% happy with the quiz service I used to create the two quizzes on the site, but I have not yet found a better one.

If you want to check out what I’ve done, you can find the wiki here. If you want to check out specifically the parts that are new since the last time I discussed the project, take a look at these pages:

I track my hours using a time log in Word that details each task I’ve done and also in Excel, which figures out the math for me. As of today, I’ve spent 79 hours on the project. I am required to spend a minimum of 150 hours.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kadavoor.

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ITMA Project Progress Report

Caution Works in Progress & Reflection by u07ch on FlickrAre you getting tired of my progress reports on this project? I hope not! It’s all I’m doing aside from summer stuff—reading good books I don’t have the time to read during the school year, making pies for the family reunion, trying to figure out if the oven is broken (it’s not), and updating WordPress.

The project, if you haven’t peeked at it yet, is a professional development program that will allow beginners on up to learn how to create their own websites and podcasts and teach their students how to do the same. At this point, my storyboard plan has 48 pages, but I have discovered the need to add pages here and there, and the final project may be longer. I have (almost) finished the first two modules for the first objective: creating a website. I uploaded some screencast videos to TeacherTube not realizing their moderation process was so long. I don’t know why, given how much of my writing is available online, but I felt squeamish about posting the videos to YouTube. So I am still waiting for the videos to appear on TeacherTube, and therefore, the RSS module is not quite finished.

I don’t think I explained the modules before. The lesson on creating websites has five modules:

  • Module 1: Choosing a Site Type and Selecting Models
  • Module 2: RSS Feeds and Feed Readers
  • Module 3: Selecting a Site Service and Creating Your Site
  • Module 4: Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
  • Module 5: Adding Content to Your Site

I am in the midst of building Module 3. I have completed the first segment, which concerns wikis. I’m not sure if I will work tomorrow because it will be a busy day, but when I do pick up the project again, I will be working on the blogs page. So far, I am having a lot of fun creating the project. I am finding all kinds of websites, particularly blogs and wikis, that I didn’t know about.

I haven’t started the podcasts lesson yet, but it will have three modules:

  • Module 1: Subscribing to Podcasts
  • Module 2: Selecting Podcasting Software
  • Module 3: Creating and Editing Podcasts

You can check out the work in progress here, but it’s far from being finished. Still, I feel good about the progress I’m making.

Creative Commons License photo credit: u07ch

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ITMA Project Update

NECC 2009 Wednesday Day 4  - 07I am making some good progress on my ITMA project. You can read my project proposal here. I finished my instructional analysis, which was a lot of work, but valuable for planning.

I have just begun creating the actual project. I have been having a lot of fun with the project. So far, I have completed six pages on the wiki that will house my project. For the first module, I have teachers exploring what kind of website they want to create. I had a lot of fun finding models of wikis. Some teachers are doing some great things with wikis. Here is my model wikis page.

I’m possibly looking for something else to use for the personality quiz on types of websites. I don’t have a lot of confidence that the one I used will do what I need (it seems to limit the number of quiz takers, forcing me to reset the numbers). If you know of a good personality quiz maker that I can embed in a wiki, please share.

A while back I promised more regular posting. I am going to commit to three days a week for the summer, starting this week. Here’s the schedule:

  • Mondays: Reflections on professional reading, professional development and grad school.
  • Wednesdays: Sharing lessons, tools, or ideas.
  • Fridays: Wild card. Whatever I feel like posting goes.

Creative Commons License photo credit: krossbow

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Project and Report Proposal

working on my MacBookProThis summer I am taking a course called Project and Report as part of my instructional technology program. The goal of the course is to select a topic of interest and spend approximately 150 hours developing a project. My proposal was approved, and my adviser seem enthusiastic about it. Here is my proposal.

Project Description

I would like to create professional development program for my colleagues at the Weber School in Atlanta that will help them learn how to create and implement Web sites (including wikis) and podcasts in their classrooms. This professional development program will consist of a series of modules that my colleagues will be able to work through at their own pace. After they complete the modules, my colleagues will have created a Web site and podcast as well as a unit or lesson plan implementing the Web site and creation of a podcast in the classroom. I would also like to submit a proposal to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission in order to pursue accreditation for the course as a means for educators in the state of Georgia to earn professional learning units.

Objectives

  • Given access to a variety of Web site creation tools, professional educators will be able to construct a Web site for managing materials, communicating with students and parents, and sharing resources.
  • Given Audacity or Garage Band, a computer, and a microphone, professional educators will be able to construct a podcast.
  • Given access to a variety of Web site creation tools, professional educators will be able to execute a unit or lesson teaching their students how to use and construct a Web site.
  • Given access to Audacity or Garage Band, computers, and microphones, professional educators will be able to execute a lesson or unit teaching students how to construct a podcast.

Materials and Methods

I will create a wiki that will house the modules. On the wiki, I will create lessons in the modules that will be delivered through the following means:

  • Written tutorials on wiki pages.
  • Screencast tutorials (video).
  • Podcast tutorials (audio).

Learners will need the following tools in order to complete their tasks:

  • Computers.
  • Microphones.
  • Audacity or Garage Band audio editors.

I will need the following tools in order to create deliverables:

  • Snapz Pro X Screencasting Program.
  • A wiki site.
  • Garage Band.
  • Microphone.
  • iMovie video editor.

I will begin by creating a wiki that can be accessed by students (professional educators) can access at their convenience so that they can complete the course asynchronously. The wiki will include pages with written, video, and audio tutorials on creating Web sites and podcasts. For the purposes of this course, I do not plan to teach students HTML but instead guide them toward creating Web sites with WYSIWYG editors. Once teachers feel comfortable using the selected Web editors and programs, they will create and submit a lesson or unit plan implementing what they have learned in their classrooms (for example, a history teacher might create a lesson plan in which they will teach students how to create a podcast discussing a historical event).

Justification for Project

I met with my Instructional Technology department and other faculty members in order to determine what instructional technology needs they had that could be addressed through my project. They unanimously expressed their desire to learn how to create Web sites and podcasts for their students. They also wanted to be able to use these tools in their own classrooms, constructing lesson or unit plans in which they would teach students to construct their own Web sites and podcasts in order to demonstrate their learning.

In our most recent SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) evaluation, one recommendation that the SACS accreditation committee had was that we implement technology more effectively across the board. While our school offers several computer labs and appropriate equipment that would enable teachers not only to create their own Web sites and podcasts but also for our students to do the same; however, because we have not had professional development in creating Web sites and podcasts, many teachers feel uncomfortable with or uneducated about the process of constructing Web sites and podcasts. They have admired some of my efforts in use of Web sites and podcasts both as resources for students and as tools for students to demonstrate their learning.

Criteria for Evaluation

The criteria for evaluation will be successful completion of modules designed to teach various steps involved in the construction of Web sites and podcasts. Teachers will also develop a lesson plan or unit plan implementing Web site or podcast creation as a means for their own students to demonstrate their learning. Upon completion of the course, teachers will evaluate the course using a rating scale evaluation that rates the course based on the following criteria: clarity of instructions/tutorials; organization and ease of use; and relevance of the content of the course.

Creative Commons License photo credit: icatus

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UbD Educators Wiki

I recently posed a question for discussion on the UbD Educators wiki. At this point, the wiki has over 100 members, and one would think it would be more active, but to get down to brass tacks, I’m the most active member of the wiki. The wiki is not closed to lurkers, so if all you wanted to do was get ideas for teaching, you wouldn’t need to join. Lurkers cannot edit pages or join discussions, however. I am interested to know what can be done to make the wiki more of a true repository of UbD units and discussion. I use the wiki when I am planning a new major unit, and I have found the two templates, the UbD Filter and the UbD Unit, to be helpful when planning units. The feedback at the start was very good, but member involvement has declined somewhat.

I spent some time today tagging pages in the hopes that the information might be easier to find. As always, I encourage members to join up and contribute. We have no math, science, fine arts, foreign language, physical education, or special education units, and we have only one (one!!!) technology education unit and one social studies unit. I suspect a lot of members teach these subjects, and often when people join up, they tell me they are doing so because their school or district is encouraging or requiring UbD; therefore, we ought to have more units in those areas, I should think.

UbD is something I strongly believe in. I have seen it bring more transfer, coherence, and, well, understanding to my own teaching. Planning using UbD guidelines makes me think about all aspects of what I teach and helps me plan more authentic lessons. One compliment I received from a student is that I always “try to make [learning] relevant to our lives.” Creating more authentic audiences for writing tasks has been a goal of mine this year, too, and planning using UbD has helped. I truly feel that this wiki could be an excellent tool, but I admit that right now I feel a bit like I’m in an echo chamber over there.

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