EDTC 6433: Module 4 Reflection – ISTE4: Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Triggering Event Question: What are the most important technology-relevant societal issues to address in an evolving digital culture, and how do I best address them with elementary students? 

The ISTE Standard 4 for Teachers is about digital citizenship and calls on teachers to model, teach and promote digital citizenship in an ever increasingly connected world. However, it is difficult to set forth in teaching young students to be good digital citizens without having a clear picture of the current societal issues threatening the very practice of digital citizenship. For that reason my research question this week was twofold; I wanted to identify the primary issues to confront with digital citizenship, and then move on to finding good resources for teaching young learners about this important concept.

In my research two primary areas of concern for young students’ use of technology emerged repeatedly: appropriate ‘netiquette’ and online interactions in general, and maintaining health and wellness as it relates to technology use. However, far and away the greatest threat to students’ online interactions these days is cyberbullying. (Winn, 2011-12) As most adults can attest, interacting online involves a significant level of anonymity that does not exist in typical face-to-face exchanges. As a result, a culture has emerged that allows and accepts behavior that would be considered extremely rude and psychologically damaging if displayed in person. “Internet trolls” seem to enjoy disparaging others online because there is no actual human face or body language to evoke guilt, and unfortunately we see this occurring in the greatest numbers for our older elementary and secondary student population. It is time for teachers to stop ignoring the fact that students of all ages are using technology in a social environment without actually developing the unique social skills required. As educators, we must embrace the power of technology to teach the kind of empathy and compassion that our students will need to learn as they engage in a global world more and more every day. This is the root of digital citizenship.

The most powerful method that I found of addressing cyberbullying head on and cultivating online empathy was the use of school-based social networking sites. Much like typical social networking sites with which we are all familiar (Facebook, Twitter, etc), school-based sites allow students to create and maintain a personal profile, as well as interact with other profiles on the same network. The benefit of a school-based site, however, is that the network can be limited to just the school in which it is operating, creating a safety net without sacrificing authenticity of engagement. Popular sites such as Social Engine, Edmodo, or Ning all provide this kind of platform.

(http://www.edmodo.com, http://www.socialengine.com, http://www.ning.com)

Using any of these sites, schools can set up a network, invite anyone with a school ID, and consistently monitor and interact with all profiles as necessary. (Winn, 2011-12) These school-based networks offer kids the opportunity to practice social network etiquette and build the kind of empathy previously mentioned. As Soetoro-Ng and Milofsky (2016) explain in their article:

Root causes of conflict can be moderated with discussion that engenders curiosity about other perspectives, builds empathy, and makes complexity a friend rather than a foe. As some schools are already demonstrating, opportunities abound for incorporating these kinds of lessons into the standard curriculum. (para. 10)

I really like the idea of using a school-based social network in my classroom because it is an online platform with which we can realistically expect our students to relate. It is extremely likely that teenagers, and even younger kids, will begin using a social network on their own, so providing them a safe opportunity as soon as possible to practice the skills required, as well as creating a vehicle with which to directly teach issues of digital citizenship in the classroom seems highly logical. In an article shared by a classmate, Britte Taylor, titled Navigate the Digital Rapids, Lindsay and Davis (2010) urge educators to begin teaching students about digital etiquette and internet safety as soon as possible: “When should begin educating students? As soon as they start using digital tools for communication, collaboration, and creation through connections online or offline. […] Digital citizenship awareness can begin as soon as tiny fingers tap the keys” (p. 14). As school is usually the first environment in which young kids begin formally learning how to be responsible and happy citizens in their surrounding world, it only makes sense that we should teach them the same skills for the digital world as well.

 

References
Lindsay, J., Davis, V. (2010) Navigate the Digital Rapids. Learning & Leading with Technology. March/April 2010. 12-15.
Soetoro-Ng, M., Milofsky, A. (2016) The Urgent Call to Replace Fear with Curiosity. Education Week. 35(25). 23-28. retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/03/23/the-urgent-call-to-replace-fear-with.html
Winn, M.R. (2011-12) Promote Digital Citizenship through School-Based Social Networking. Learning & Leading with Technology. December/January 2011-12. 10-13.

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EDTC 6433: Digital Storytelling Video Project

For this class, I created a Digital Storytelling video as my first project. This was my first experience with digital storytelling, as well as with making videos at all. I was nervous to create something like this, but the process turned out to be much more enjoyable and easier than I expected! The video I created is called What to Expect at a Parent Teacher Conference and it is intended for parents or guardians of English Language Learners (ELL) students in elementary school. I selected this topic because I anticipate working with high populations of ELL students, and I wanted to address an issue that many ELL students and/or their families often have concerns or anxiety about. I know that often these families have never experienced a parent teacher conference, so I thought that a digital storytelling video explaining the purpose of a conference and what they could expect from it would be a useful tool for helping them feel more at ease.


My Digital Storytelling Video

I can see this video being used in both formal and informal settings. One formal use could be at an information night held for ELL families at the beginning of a school year. I know that the concept of conferences receive a lot of talking time at these types of events, so a video like this could replace some of that talking. Additionally, teachers could also send this video link informally through email to any parents or guardians that express concern or confusion about an upcoming conference. Although the video is intended for ELL families, it could certainly benefit anyone with the same questions.

This digital storytelling video embraces ISTE Standard 1 for Teachers in two primary ways. First, it is an example of engaging students (and their families) in a real-world situation/problem through technology. Conferences are real events that happen, and they require families to authentically engage. This video is a good way that technology can help them to be more prepared for the conference in real life. Also, the video helps to “facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments,” just as the standard dictates. Students and teachers will be able to access this video anywhere they have the technology, so the learning can happen in any kind of environment.

Creating this project was an involved, but relatively painless process. I first decided on the topic, as described above. Then I did some research on what many ELL parents want to know when it comes to parent teacher conferences, as well as what most parent teacher conferences involve. After collecting and synthesizing the research, I decided on my main talking points and wrote the script for the video. I then collected photos and created some slides to help tell the story that I had already written. Finally I used iMovie on my Mac computer to put the photos and slides into a video format, overlay narration and music, and upload the video to YouTube. Throughout the process I consulted notes from my class, as well as some other instructional videos online to help guide me in the procedure.

Surprisingly I did not encounter any major challenges during the creation of this project. If anything, the anticipation and worry that I had leading up to beginning work on the project was the biggest challenge, as I had significant concern that it would be incredibly stressful and difficult for me. I did need to do some research on how to use iMovie, but I easily found videos online with step-by-step instructions for creating videos. Overall, the process went much more smoothly than I expected and I am pleased with the results.

I think that the most significant learning for me on this project came from actually creating a video using the software on my computer. I had no knowledge of how to do this before starting this project, and I found the steps for doing so to be relatively easy to learn and productive. In fact, I can see this kind of learning being quite valuable and accessible in a future classroom, and I now intend to use this kind of project both in my own instruction, as well as an assignment for my students.

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EDTC 6433: Module 3 Reflection – ISTE3: Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

Triggering Event Question: With a minimal level of digital literacy and technological familiarity, how can I demonstrate knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative educator in a global and digital society?

The third ISTE standard urges teachers to “model digital age work and learning” in their daily interactions with students, colleagues and professional communities. It basically asks that teachers not only find uses for technology as a tool in the classroom in general, but that they incorporate its use in their daily classroom fabric, modeling the practices of an “innovative educator in a global and digital society.” I have to admit, this standard intimidates me greatly. While I am excited to find digital programs that will help me engage students in learning, I am definitely not comfortable with technology use as a daily habit, and I do not have the skills to model digital literacy to students. With that discomfort in mind, I chose to research ways in which non-tech-savvy teachers could still involve technology in their classroom in a way that is accessible and effective for teacher and student alike.

I found four great general practices to follow in this pursuit. The first is to make “easy” technology a daily tool in the more administrative tasks that classrooms do each day. For example, I could use a daily weather app to discuss the day’s weather patterns during morning meeting. I could also maintain an online calendar for the class so that when reviewing the day’s activities, students could access a specific URL to check the calendar. I also found many suggestions for good websites with daily puzzles and activities that could be used for entry tasks or exit tickets. Finally, one great suggestion was to use NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day to initiate some interesting discussions at the beginning of the day and get student’s brain and critical thinking skills moving. (Starr, 2016) This seamless use of technology for tasks that we would already be completing in the classroom helps to model a daily access of technology without taking time from learning in the content areas.

Another resource I found suggested that I spend significant time reflecting on how to transfer my informal use of technology into the more formal setting of the classroom. Kumar and Vigil (2011) highlight that often “digital native” teachers (teachers born after 1984) do not naturally use the skills they have acquired through growing up with technology for more productive, formal purposes. However, through reflection and education, teachers can transfer their familiarity with online forums like Facebook, blogs, or podcasts to be highly engaging classroom tools. For example, teachers can create a Facebook page for their classroom and use it “for group work, to share resources, and to gather information about courses or assignments” (p. 150). With the right privacy settings in place, I can see this being a great motivator for students to stay updated on classroom activity.

One of the best suggestions for a digitally-illiterate teacher to use digital technology in the classroom came from an article on the Social Practice approach to learning. Kalman and Guerrero (2013) encourage teachers to learn new technologies in a social environment, benefitting from the many advantages of social learning (opportunity for verbal reflection, critical discussions, resource sharing, etc). This can easily be translated to a classroom environment when a teacher learns new technology alongside her students. As the authors explain:

While it is possible that [teachers’] students may be more familiar with technological devices and practices than their teachers, it is also very likely that they will be learning to use certain digital technologies together, creating opportunities for learning together, collaborating, exchanging knowledge and know-how, and co-participating in discovering how to use computers for academic purposes. (261)

This modeling of Teacher as Learner is incredibly valuable for students to see that no matter the age or position, anyone can still learn, make mistakes, and grow their knowledge base. It also creates opportunities for Learner as Teacher, giving students the space to be experts and proudly demonstrate their own prior knowledge.

Finally, no matter how many ways I find to use basic technology in the classroom, I will inevitably need to engage in ongoing professional development around technology use for educational purposes. A classmate of mine, Megan Leonard, recommended a great online option for professional development: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are web-based classes offered by many universities around the world that do not require matriculation or student status. As the following video explains, MOOCs are “a tool for democratizing higher education.”


(The New York Times, 2013)

After exploring several different MOOC options, I found many that are geared toward educators in both their course offerings and their summertime availability. Two courses that seemed particularly interesting were Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology and Online Teaching and Learning in K-12. I am eager to check out more MOOCs, both for professional and personal development!

Overall, reflecting on this ISTE standard has eased my anxiety around using technology in the classroom. Although I do not all of a sudden have a newfound familiarity or expertise in digital literacy, I have learned that there are many ways for me to use digital tools with my students while still continuing to be a digital student myself.

References
Kalman, J., Guerrero, E. (2013) A Social Practice Approach to Understanding Teachers’ Learning to Use Technology and Digital Literacies in the Classroom. E-Learning and Digital Media. 10(3). 260-275.
Kumar, S., Vigil, K. (2011) The Net Generation as Preservice Teachers: Transferring Familiarity with New Technologies to Educational Environments. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education. 27(4). 144-153.
The New York Times. (2013) Welcome to the Brave New World of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqQNvmQH_YM.
Starr, L. (2016). Integrating Technology in the Classroom: It Takes More than just Having Computers. Education World. retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech146.shtml.
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EDTC 6433: Module 2 Reflection – ISTE2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

Triggering Event Question: How can I use contemporary technology tools to strengthen small group collaboration and cooperative learning experiences for my intermediate elementary learners?

When imagining my future classroom, two dichotomies emerge: a pervasive atmosphere of group collaboration and creativity, and a persistent challenge to incorporate more useful, transformational technology into instruction and learning. I’ve always been comfortable with planning for collaboration; I’ve never been comfortable using technology. However, in considering the second ISTE Teaching standard, which states: “Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S,” I realized that technology could actually play an incredibly valuable role in promoting and allowing access to new platforms for group collaboration. After I made this connection, entirely new worlds of planning for small group instruction opened up for me, and a plethora of online resources and apps emerged.

My research illuminated three main activity categories in which collaboration through technology seem to be most transformational. They are digital storytelling/blogging, project-based learning, and online collaborative competition. Digital storytelling is part of a greater phenomenon emerging known as “new literacies.” (Zoch, et. al, 2014) This term is defined as the “new ways of reading and writing made available by technology as well as the competencies associated with them, such as design, navigation, and collaboration” (p. 32). Through digital storytelling, students are provided an online platform on which to imagine, develop, revise and publish their own writing – either stories, reports or blogs. Most web-based programs that allow for this also involve an element of interaction from other students with accounts. One well-recommended program is kidblog.org.

kidblog-org-uses

“How Teachers and Students are Using KidBlog” (source: http://kidblog.org/home

Like most blogging sites, this one lets students design a blog to their liking, post writing on the blog, and comment and interact with other blogs through the same site. This could be a great resource in the classroom for helping move kids through the writing process, including peer revision and editing. As the website states, “Kidblog gives students’ writing a meaningful purpose and an authentic audience. Students are motivated to write for their peers and engage with a global network.” (kidblog.org) Blogging and digital storytelling is clearly a highly effective instructional tool for students to engage in both writing and collaboration.

Another element of classroom activity in which digital collaboration could play a powerful role is group project-based learning. Anytime students are asked to work together on a meaningful, authentic project with a purpose they engage in high levels of collaboration and group thinking. Sometimes the most difficult part of this process is the first stage – planning. With so many different ideas and levels of organization, it can often be very hard for groups of students to get on the same page in order to progress to the development stage. This is where certain tools exist to provide an online space for this kind of chaotic planning. The best one I found is basecamp.com. Mostly marketed for businesses to collaborate in planning, Basecamp provides just that – a base camp for all of the driving ideas and inspiration in group learning to be collected in one place. From there, the tool makes it easy for individuals to develop their own portions of an overall project while maintaining a cohesive group dynamic. The video below includes an overview of the tool, as well as a demonstration of its use in a business environment. I can imagine repurposing Basecamp for the classroom by giving students similar log-in information for each group, and encouraging them to access the site both during classroom work time, as well as while individually working from home.

Another great tool for project-based collaboration was recommended to me by a peer, Megan Highsmith. The common Microsoft program called OneNote is already known to be great for organizing many different ideas in one place, but as Megan noted to me, OneNote has developed a tool geared specifically toward a classroom environment, called OneNote for the Classroom. This program offers many different strategies and abilities to teachers for organizing lessons and classroom work, but it also includes a space called the Classroom Notebook, where students can collaborate with each other, engaging in shared thinking and brainstorming, as well as commenting and interacting with each other’s work. (onenoteforteachers.com) This could definitely be an easy-to-implement technology with a lot of opportunity for digital collaboration.

The final area of classroom learning that seems particularly applicable for incorporation of technology is friendly competition-based games and projects. As Mote, et. al (2014) state in their article for the ISTE’s journal, “Two of the biggest and longest-standing hurdles facing educators are integrating technology into the classroom effectively and developing authentic collaboration within the classroom. Online competitions and camps can help meet both of these challenges” (p. 17). Competitive collaboration can be an excellent way to motivate young students and engage them in academic production which they might otherwise be intimidated to pursue. Allowing for competition in the classroom also helps foster positive social skills and strategies for coping with disappointment. One program that has been used to allow for online competition is Scratch, a program which introduces students to coding through tutorials, coding activities, and even video game creation. (Mote, et. al) Of course any technology used to cultivate friendly competition in the classroom should allow for teacher oversight, and should be monitored closely to avoid negative interactions or bullying. However, the benefits from competitive collaboration certainly make it a valuable use of technology in the classroom.

Although I am intimidated to incorporate technology into my instruction, I certainly recognize the value that it will add to many of the strategies that I already plan to rely on, such as group collaboration. Students of the 21st century not only must learn to collaborate digitally, but they will inevitably be more motivated and excited to engage in digital-based learning and production as well.

References
Basecamp. (2016) Basecamp. retrieved from https://basecamp.com
Kidblog. (2016) Kidblog: Safe and Simple Blogs for Your Students. retrieved from http://kidblog.org/home/
Microsoft. (2015) OneNote for teachers. retrieved from http://onenoteforteachers.com
Mote, C. W., Kafai, Y., Burke, Q. (2014) Epic Win: Inspire Engagement through Online Competitions and Collaborations. Learning & Leading with Technology. 16-21.
TechnologyAdvice. (2014) Basecamp Project Management Review. YouTube. retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGf6tI5XU_E
Zoch, M., Langston-DeMott, B., Adams-Budde, M. (2014) Creating Digital Authors. Kappan. 96(3) 32-37.

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EDTC 6433: Module 1 Reflection

ISTE Standard 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

Triggering Question: How can I use technology to support active student engagement and authentic language use for my English Language Learners?

When considering the public school classrooms of the 21st century, two features are inevitably prominent: a high population of English Language Learners (ELLs), and the overarching influence of technology on the environment, curriculum and learning materials. With this in mind, it would be negligent for teachers to think that they could ignore the innumerable benefits that using technology can have in working with their ELLs. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) defines in their first standard that teachers must “use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments” (ISTE, 2016). Although it seems daunting to add another element to a task that can already be overwhelming outside of the scope of general education, I am learning that invoking technology in the instruction of ELLs actually allows for more active engagement in materials and content, as well as more productive peer collaboration leading to greater language use and expanded vocabulary.

Of the countless choices in kind of technology to use in the classroom, one choice seems to be most obvious and easiest to implement: iPads and iPad applications (apps). Although many schools do not have the resources to provide iPads to all of their students, most classrooms these days have access to at least a set of 2-4 iPads to be used at teachers’ discretion. With just this small addition to classroom materials, iPads can allow students to participate in collaborative learning, individual engagement and even social networking. With iPads students gain easy access to discussion boards, which are especially useful to ELLs in practicing social English. A peer of mine shared an article that explored the use of technology in working with English Language Learners, which stated this: “Discussion boards can create a platform for students to be actively engaged in academic and social English while outside of the classroom environment” (Brozek & Duckworth, p. 14).

Of course, incorporating iPads into daily instruction requires teachers to select appropriate apps to present and make available for students. In my research I found four distinct features to look for in selecting iPad apps for promoting active engagement and language use among ELLs. These features include an open-endedness in academic goal or outcome, an invitation for joint collaboration, an element of synchronized learning, and a multimodal characteristic of communication. Two apps that I found reflect all of these features, and have been found to be extremely successful in working with young ELLs. These are Nearpod, a teacher-directed app used for guided reading in small groups, and Our Story, a student-directed story building app.

Nearpod allows teachers to create what is essentially a powerpoint presentation, upload the slides to the app, and then share and progress through the presentation with all students on an iPad. This is especially recommending for guided reading with small groups because the readers and the teacher can work through a text one page/slide at a time. The teacher can also embed opportunities for quizzes, poll questions and drawings for comprehension – all of which can be shared from the student’s ipad directly to the teacher, or among all of the users present in the group. This is a clear use of synchronized learning because the teacher can control the rate at which students move through the app by only making certain slides available at a time. It is multimodal because the app allows for many different modes of communication through the various additions the teacher can provide. Delacruz (2014) asserts that “In order to meet linguistically diverse student populations, teachers need to find creative means of communication and expression. Using Nearpod as an app allows students to communicate through drawing, poll questions, and quiz answers” (p. 67). The following short video gives an overview of the app’s overall abilities through examining its use in large group lecture.

Apps that allow students more open-endedness is learning outcome also promote high levels of engagement and interaction. One such app is Our Story, as described by Kucirkova, et. al (2013). Our Story lets children create their own digital stories through pictures, text and sounds. They can then share their story digitally, or present it orally. “There is evidence that older children (9-11 years) participate in collaborative engagement through creating multimodal stories on computers” (p. 181). Technology such as Our Story that allows for creative expression and collaborative exploratory language use is excellent for engaging all students, and especially English Language Learners. Such programs especially support the first component of the first ISTE standard: “Promote, support and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness.”

Overall, contrary to my previously-held assumptions, technology use in classrooms actually tends to evoke more peer interaction among English Language Learners, rather than less. Cooperative computer activities allow students to interact socially without adult guidance, and therefore asks them to practice both social and academic language in a more authentic setting than teacher-directed instruction. I am eager to implement these apps and more in my future classroom, and navigate the wide open world of technology use in ELL instruction.

References
Brozek, E., Duckworth, A. Supporting English Language Learners Through Technology. Educator’s Voice. 4. 10-15.
Delacruz, S. (2014). Using Nearpod in Elementary Guided Reading Groups. TechTrends. 58(5). 63-70.
ISTE. (2016). Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers.
Kurcikova, N., Messer, D., Sheehy, K., Panadero, C.F. (2013). Children’s Engagement with Educational iPad apps: Insights from a Spanish Classroom. Computers & Education. 71. 175-184.
Ryne, A. (2014, March 14) Using Nearpod [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjl63hahSF4.
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EDU 6444: Educating Exceptional Students – Final Reflection

For this course, ‘Educating Exceptional Students’, I was asked to complete a peer review document (attached at the end of this post) in which I researched journals and articles around a topic of my choosing, and then summarized the findings of the texts in my own essay submission. I chose the topic of Standardization as it affects English Language Learners, and it was valuable to me in many ways.

First, I was glad for the opportunity to focus on English Language Learners in a course that otherwise mostly discussed students with behavior or learning disorders. As ELLs are indeed considered exceptional students, and are in fact a population I expect to work with significantly (being an ELL endorsement candidate), it was valuable for me to focus my research on this student population in the context of the overall general education classroom, rather than on teaching and learning strategies specific to ELLs, as most of my endorsement classes have done. Likely, I will be a general education classroom teacher with a high population of ELL students in my class, rather than a focused ELL specialist, so this assignment allowed me to explore how something that applies to all students affects ELLs more specifically. As a result, I will not only be a better teacher to my ELL students, but I will be a more effective general education classroom teacher overall.

Additionally, I found this assignment helpful because of how well it fit in with the learning I was doing in my other courses at the time. In another class I was examining the realities of ELL education in Washington state, so by diving into peer-reviewed journals and other documents on the subject of ELLs and standardized testing, my research was not only justified for this assignment, but my overall learning for my other coursework was significantly enhanced as well. This assignment stretched me as a learner, an educator of exceptional students, and as an advocate for English Language Learners. The holistic knowledge I gained as a result of this assignment will serve to help me approach teaching in a more holistic manner as well, understanding that no issue in education exists in isolation, but rather is intertwined with countless other considerations as well. Examining and allowing for these connections is what will make me the best educator I can be.

Peer Review Document

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EDU 6150: Reflection on Program Standard 4: Content Knowledge

This course (EDU 6150: General Inquiry, Teaching, Assessment Methods) has been a real wealth of knowledge. Overall, I feel that this course was one of the first in our program to provide me with concrete, applicable knowledge about the work of being a classroom teacher and designing a plan of instruction which ensures student success. The program standard which I feel I most improved on through this course was #4: Content Knowledge, specifically around setting instructional outcomes and designing coherent units, lessons and learning activities.

The most helpful materials I studied this quarter were the various excerpts from the text Understanding by Design published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. This pedagogical approach is entirely centered around the idea of Backward Design, or more simply, starting with the end in mind (see Figure 1). The backward design process encourages educators and curriculum developers to begin planning an instructional unit by first identifying the overall learning objective or goal. Once this is established, the criteria or evidence by which learning can be proven is decided, and this generally becomes the summative assessment(s) or project(s) completed throughout the course. Finally, the planner designs the individual learning activities and tasks which most adequately lend experience toward the overall goal identified in the first step. Through this traditionally ‘backward’ process, an entire unit is created with a much more thoughtful and enduring focus than that which is built on merely day-to-day activities or worksheets.

Stages in the Backward Design Process

Figure 1: The Stages in the Backward Design Process (from Understanding by Design)

To dig one step deeper into the backward design process, and help ensure coherence in the overall unit, the Spiral Curriculum is a tool I learned in this course for providing scaffolding within a unit, and facilitating a more comprehensive acquisition of knowledge for students. Understanding by Design defines the spiral curriculum as the idea “that big ideas, important tasks, and ever-deepening inquiry must recur, in ever-increasing complexity and through engaging problems and sophisticated applications if students are to understand them” (Understanding by Design, p. 135). Basically, the spiral curriculum asks teachers to first introduce basic ideas, then apply them directly to learning, then learn a little bit more and apply that, and then revisit the basic ideas to ensure they have been retained. This process is repeated over and over, so that the learning consistently circles back to the fundamentals, much like a spiral. This tool helps me feel that applying a broad concept such as Backward Design is a bit more manageable in smaller increments.

Overall, I have enjoyed this course and the pedagogical and content knowledge it has given me. I feel much more prepared to begin the planning process involved in instruction, and much more excited to step away from a prescribed curriculum and have a creative voice in the content which I will provide to my future students.

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