A Semester-long EDR Reflection

When our Educational Design Research course began a mere 15 weeks ago, I struggled to grasp both the formatting of EDR articles and the components that comprised the methodology. Though the purpose of EDR as an application of theory to real world settings was clear, the types of cycles, phases, and theoretical underpinnings mystified me. After reading numerous EDR studies and undergoing the difficult challenge of preparing my own EDR proposal, I am left with a deeper understanding of the method. That being said, I still have plenty to learn about the complexities of design in EDR.

An EDR Dissertation?

When this semester began I could not foresee any way of using EDR for my dissertation. At first glance it seemed too lengthy and cumbersome a method to undertake as a culminating doctoral program study. Many EDR studies take place over the course of many years – a time frame no doctoral student hopes for in the dissertation process.

Throughout my tenure in the Ed Tech doctoral program, I have written numerous research proposals meant to take place theoretical settings. Having been an educational consultant, instructional coach, and professor, I have a preference for intervention based, qualitative research. Each time I wrote a proposal, I would find myself worrying about how I would make these studies happen when the time came to conduct research on my own. Who would I contact to participate? If not nearby, how would I get to them?

Though it seems frowned upon, I have always wanted to study my local area – my students, my courses, and my designs. I wanted to be both the researcher and the practitioner. After all, many educators act as defacto researchers in their classrooms, continually adjusting lessons and assessments based on student need. Who wouldn’t want to use that work to develop relevant, publishable research? Before EDR, I didn’t think such a study would be possible.

I am intrigued by the possibility of studying an intervention in a local context through successful completion. I see this as one of the most relevant contributions to research an educational technologist can make to the field. At this point, I’m stuck as to whether I want to pursue EDR for my dissertation. I’m not ruling it out but I do think that I would have to develop a more thorough understanding of study design before proceeding. I worry about my tendency to get lost in ideas – an issue that could prove disastrous when paired with the large scale of many EDR studies.

In order to make such a decision,  I would have to explore EDR further. Even after writing a proposal, I know I have deficiencies in understanding how to craft a theoretical  foundation from the literature (especially when the literature lacks empirical studies) and in the detailed design of the micro cycles. Though I was able to develop these in my proposal, I believe I would need even more development to implement the study successfully.

Thoughts on Peer Review

This semester, each of us conducted a total of four peer reviews of the EDR proposals generated this semester. I felt that learned more from this activity than any other with the exception of drafting mo]y own proposal. Writing an EDR proposal is no easy feat due to the complexities and detail of the study design. At times, I struggled to maintain clarity while conveying detailed information.  Being able to see how others organized and developed their proposals helped me tremendously. Receiving feedback from my peers about areas needed clarity helped to guide my writing and revisions.

EDR Design, Evaluation, & Implementation

In this module, we have spent significant time considering the implementation phases of design based research and how it relates to our literature reviews. Given that this is the third doctoral level methods course I have taken, I expected this portion of the experience to be easy. Of course, as has happened so many times with DBR, I found it more challenging than past study design projects.

I began planning my DBR implementation with the end (evaluation & reflection) and beginning (analysis & exploration) in mind to make the process a bit easier. Since integrating media literacy into my college history courses is something I already wanted to do, I knew which questions I’d have to answer before proceeding. Determining where students are with their digital media skills and faculty beliefs and knowledge of media literacy was an easy starting place. The literature on both faculty and students indicates a lack of knowledge and comfort that would have to be identified and addressed before progressing. The end wasn’t too difficult either – I knew that any study I conducted on media literacy integration would require the development of interventions and a determination of how effective they were to influencing student media literacy skills. Ultimately evaluating those outcomes and making decisions on adjustments when they do not meet expectations is the goal of the entire study.

The middle portion – design and construction – is the hard part of envisioning and planning when conducting a DBR study. Since the design and construction phases are so closely linked to the analysis and exploration phase, even the best made plans can go awry. In all my years of working with teachers – as an educational consultant and instructional coach – I know how quickly plans and reality can diverge. As such, I am always hesitant to draft plans without a deeper understanding of conditions. Since my topic is relatively new and weaves several disciplines together, I cannot gain that deeper understanding from the literature. There are simply too many gaps. It must come from the analysis and exploration.

I was able to come up with a plan for the design and construction of my study. However, I had some concerns about getting a study like this through an institutional review board. What is the best procedure for conveying plans of study when you do not quite yet know exactly how they will occur? If your plans change due to new information discovered in the analysis and exploration phase, do you have to return to the institutional review board with revisions? Will an institutional review board even approve a study of this nature when the steps are not concrete and clear from the beginning?

This is a study that I do intend to pursue – in fact I’ve already submitted a proposal to present it with colleagues at an OER conference this fall. I just worry about our capacity to get approval to conduct such an in-depth, sensitive study – especially when both students and faculty are involved.

References

McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. New York, NY: Routledge.

Literature Review & EDR

Though I have written many literature reviews in the past through both my educational technology and history degrees, the experience of writing a literature review for an EDR study is unique. Though literature reviews for studies of all methods are used to inform the background and purpose for the research questions being asked, a deeper level of ambiguity exists when developing an EDR study due to the issue of context. Researchers conducting a literature review in the analysis portion of EDR must simultaneously consider both the context of the research setting as well as the knowledge existing in the literature.

While writing my literature review for my EDR proposal, I found it difficult to focus. Generally, when I design a proposal on a non-EDR study, I have some sort of hypothesis about how the study will turn out.  However, the problem I have chosen for this EDR proposal is complex and I am not sure how it will result. In essence, I have no answers – just lots of questions. This situation makes it difficult to craft a literature review because I don’t know what situations will inevitably arise later in the study. I have wondered if this is a common experience among researchers conducting an EDR. Is it common to return to the literature review and updated it in the midst of an EDR? I can envision this being a possibility.

Another muddy point I had while conducting my literature review was a distinct lack of research tying the various components of my study together (media literacy education, higher education history, and active learning). Though topics in the articles referenced other topics, there was no single article uniting them. It occurred to me that if my study was conducted, it could be the piece of literature connecting the three areas – a feature which I think is unique to EDR. This lack of information also made it clear why the field-based investigation is a crucial component during the analysis phase of EDR.

Overall, I found myself struggling to craft the literature review and find key studies to help piece together background information necessary. I don’t know how much of this is the lack of pedagogical studies conducted by history faculty (in comparison to other fields) or if it is a typical experience in crafting a literature review for an EDR study. Perhaps it is this lack of knowledge about a problem that makes the EDR study so unique. As we continue through the process of learning about EDR, I cannot help but continue to associate it with the idea European explorers of the 15th century (think Columbus). Those who conduct EDR are truly exploring the major issues of education as they occur at a grand scale. I see lots of potential benefits from this kind of work.

Educational Design Research

In the past month, we have begun exploring Educational Design Research (EDR) methods. Though this research approach informally aligns with the way I have designed past courses and training materials in practice, there are a number of complexities that complicate the methodology. Below is a brief description of each “muddy” point I still have at this point in our studies of EDR.

Connecting EDR Models and Publication

I can’t recall a time where I have struggled to understand a published study quite like I have this semester with the EDR publications. For at least a week, it seemed as though the example studies I was reading and the descriptions of EDR models by McKenney and Reeves (2012) and Bannan (2007) didn’t align. At this point, I am not really sure that they do align fully – especially when taking publication dates into consideration. McKenney and Reeves (2012) description of a general EDR model followed the Hakkarainen (2009) study. I suppose I expected the terminology between models and publications to align clearly. When that didn’t happen, I had to really struggle to identify the model components within the publications.

Identifying EDR Cycles

McKenney and Reeves (2012) describe various types of cycles – micro, meso, and macro – that characterize the iterations of an EDR study. At this point, I am still having trouble applying these cycles to published examples of EDR. I do not know that I fully understand the characteristics that define each cycle which may be the source of my problem.

EDR Concept Map

For our first reflection assignment, we were asked to create a concept map of our current understanding of EDR. The full version of the concept map can be found here.

edr-mind-map

Because I am having such difficulty conceptualizing educational design research as a whole, I dedicated my concept map to organizing the various components presented in the readings as a means of processing. All of the components of this concept map originate in McKenney and Reeves (2012) or Bannan (2007). The concept map begins for me with inspirations. EDR pulls several concepts from both curriculum development and instructional design. Both components must be considered when designing educational design research in terms of the level of reach as well as developmental processes. Next, I move across the concept map to inputs which highlight the various points of reference researchers can draw on to begin conceiving of an educational design research study.

Next, I move to the methods and frameworks which details the components of the study. Though it is not possible to indicate via a Coggle, I can see numerous areas where the Generic Model and the Integrated Learning Design Framework overlap. For example, the informed exploration piece of the Integrated Learning Design Framework is essentially the analysis and exploration phase of the Generic Model. Both phases describe the point of the study where researchers explore the problem of the study in greater depth through literature reviews, needs assessments, initial surveys, etc. Despite the similarities, it does seem that the Integrated Learning Design Framework is geared more towards practical elements of exploration when compared to the Generic Model.

Last are the outputs or outcomes of an educational design research study. Both practical and theoretical contributions should arise following the iterative cycles and results which guide both future research endeavors as well as practical recommendations for implementation.

Though I know this initial concept map is basic, it does identify my relative understanding of the methodology thus far. I kept it simple intentionally, allowing me to adapt and change the model as my conceptual and practical understanding of educational design research grows. Ultimately, time permitting, I would like to return to this concept map and update it at the end of the semester as a means of measuring my depth of understanding through this course.

References

Bannen, B. (2007).  The integrative learning design framework: An illustrated example from the domain of instructional technology. In T. Plomp & N. Nieveen (Eds.). An introduction to educational design research. Retrieved from http://www.slo.nl/downloads/2009/Introduction_20to_20education_20design_20research.pdf

Hakkarainen, P. (2009). Designing and implementing a PBL course educational digital video production: Lessons learned from a design-based research. Education Technology Research and Development, 57(2), 211-228.

McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. New York, NY: Routledge.

Swan, K., Day, S. L., Bogle, L. R., & Matthews, D. B. (2014). A collaborative, design-based approach to improving an online program. Internet and Higher Education, 21, 74-81.

 

Final Reflection

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It is hard to believe that another summer session has come and gone so quickly. This was a course that I was really excited to take as I frequently teach online and am always looking for ways to use technology to get students out of the LMS and engaged in real, honest history content. I was certainly not disappointed this summer as we explored a variety of ways to integrate technology into our content and lessons. Everything I developed this semester is something that I can use in my classes this fall – that’s a win!

For this reflection, we were asked to write about the following topics:

  • What have you learned?
  • How have you grown professionally?
  • How your own teaching practice or thoughts about teaching have been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?
  • How theory guided development of the projects and assignments you created?.

This summer I learned so many things. First and foremost, I realized that I have a lot to learn about technology integration. I wish I could take the class again to absorb even more information! This semester was one of those moments where I realized the absolute depth of information out there on technology integration (in general) and at times it felt overwhelming. In this age of overwhelming information, each teacher has to make decisions on what to use and focus on as it applies to their students and content. Technology integration should be purposeful, focused, and driven by their content\students rather than the tool. Otherwise, initiatives will largely be ineffective or unsuccessful.

Professionally, I have truly grown in terms of thinking about how I use technology with students. This summer I realized that I need to spend more time aligning my technology choices with intended outcomes. My grandmother has always loved to say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the instance of technology integration, an ounce of planning is truly worth a pound of achievement. Now that I am formally moving into a full-time teaching position at one of our community colleges, I intend to do this technology integration planning weekly.

In terms of theory, I have spent the past few years struggling with the balance of constructivism and objectivism. My instruction is firmly constructivist – it’s student-centered with lots of opportunity for exploration. However, I have worried throughout my career that while my students learn to think independently perhaps they are not getting a strong enough foundation in history. I especially worry about this in my online courses. This semester has given me the chance to explore those themes in greater depth. Rather than being either-or, I now believe that instruction should be a good balance between constructivist and objectivist approaches depending upon need. There are a few tools that allow the teacher lots of flexibility in terms of approach. One of my favorite finds this summer was Versal which allows you to create a number of activities and compile online resources to create a fully integrated online lesson or unit. I plan to create and embed several Versal units into my Blackboard classes this fall in order to achieve a stronger objectivist-constructivist balance for students.

Blog Self-Reflection

I generally love blogging and reflecting on my work, especially in the summer. However, I just could not get into my course blog this semester as I did with some of the projects and activities we did in class. The causes of my blogging apathy elude me. It could be that I am taking 3 classes and teaching 3 classes at once (I’m exhausted) or perhaps it was that there didn’t seem to be much history technology integration scholarship out there. That being said, I did find something to talk about in each blog which I believe had some relevance in terms of history technology integration. Below are my thoughts on each of the rubric segments for course blog.

Content (65/70) – I think this was my strongest area of performance in terms of the blog entries. Each week, I tried to really connect the thoughts I had in the activities with research (or lack thereof) or the course materials. Most of my posts were genuinely personal reflecting issues I’ve had or observed in my career in education. It is the personal reflections that were possibly the most helpful to me in the blogging process.

Reading & Resources (20/20) – Unless my blog post was purely a professional reflection, I always posted references. This is something that I have gotten into a habit of after two years of doctoral courses. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find more history focused resources on technology integration that were current. However, knowing that this is a significant gap in the literature gives me some guidance in terms of future scholarship.

Timeliness ( 15/20) – Despite my best intentions, I almost never posted before the due date. I needed the week to really process everything going on in the course (theories, materials, activities, etc.) which often meant writing my blog at the end of the week.

Responses to Other Students (25/30 points) – I think there was only one instance where I didn’t get to add responses to other’s blogs. Otherwise, I tried to be diligent about reading numerous blogs and made comments when I felt like I had something relevant or helpful to add to the conversation.

Overall, I think my blog performance was largely proficient this semester. Had I been able to find more rich resources that applied to history and if I had been more timely, I think my performance may have shifted more towards outstanding.

 

Debriefing the PBL Process

many small light bulbs equal big one

After any new project is complete, debriefing is the crucial step most frequently overlooked by teachers. Sometimes the most important parts of learning lie in the reflections we have after the event, lesson, or unit is over. There are a number of ways to debrief but two are my absolute favorite methods.

First and foremost, self-reflection is my preferred method. Scheduling time to stop and review your work can be hard to do but is necessary. Learning logs like this one make the process easier as one can look back and review thoughts and plans they had weeks or months previously. Things often appear differently in retrospect so recording the process as you go along is exceptionally important.

My second preferred method of debriefing is to collect feedback from others. If I am teaching a class or conducting a training, I want to know what the participants think about what worked and what didn’t. With any project or plan, there’s always room for improvement as we cannot always predict how others will interpret or react to our work no matter how well structured it is. Secondly, having strong peer feedback is important. I am fortunate to have a strong network of social studies colleagues that I can call and ask for help anytime. They are happy to look over lesson plans, instructions, outlines, etc. and point out things that work or need work.

Ideally, a teacher employs both types of debriefing and uses the feedback from both to create a full picture of needs and strengths. Debriefing should never happen just once in the life of an instructional project. Rather, teachers should debrief often and continue to improve practice. I think formative feedback before, during, and after implementation is most beneficial with the before implementation comments coming from peers and the during and after feedback from students or participants.

Overcoming Barriers to Technology Integration

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Do you see this picture – you know, the one with the vast black background and two tiny specks of light? Do you know what it represents? It’s the black hole of social studies related technology integration advice when you Google the term “barriers to tech integration in the social studies classroom”

I have addressed this issue briefly in the past. There are simply not many social studies specific resources and ideas online – especially not in comparison to other content areas such as math, science, or English. While we are rich in primary sources and other history-related documents, there is a distinct lack of discussion surrounding integration ideas. When there are research articles or resources out there, they are generally dated and things have likely changed since the time of their publication. Now, I am not saying that technology integration is not happening in history classrooms – au contraire. Rather, I am saying that we, as history, teachers, are not doing a good enough job sharing our successes and failures online.

When it comes to generating ideas for my classroom, I like to search the web to see what other educators are doing. That becomes difficult to do when no one is sharing out there. There is a strong social studies community on Twitter and I wonder why that dialogue is not trickling down into blogs, research articles, and shared\open lesson plans. As such, I think the first barrier to technology integration in history is the lack of resources and sharing in online communities. What should we do? Blog and share more of what we, as teachers, do in our classes regardless of success and failure.

The other struggle I see with technology integration in the social studies classroom is the lack of quality, content-specific resources and tools. This is also something I have blogged about in the past. There are a few amazing resources out there including Mission US and Docs Teach. The Smithsonian Museum also has numerous online exhibits that bring the documents and artifacts that define history to life for students. However, given the lack of national interest in history education, there will never be as many resources generated for us as there are for the STEM subjects.

As I see it, history teachers have two choices. First, we can continue to adapt generic resources (such as Padlet, Google Docs, or Prezi to name a few) to meet our needs as many of us have for some time. The other option is for history teachers to begin to generate online content, activities, games, and resources that utilize technology and share it with the online community. That being said, the content should drive our technology choices, so sharing those lesson plans and integration ideas long with the resources is a powerful practice as well.

If history teachers can commit to freely sharing their practices, resources and stay open to creating technology content that is related to social studies, I believe that black hole of information on Google will eventually be a thing of the past.

Facilitating PBL

definition_facilitate

Now that much of the design process for this PBL is completed, consideration of  my own behaviors during the project is the focus. In PBL, the role of the teacher and students shifts: student-centered learning takes center stage, so to speak, and the teacher becomes a facilitator rather than the sole deliverer of information. This shift can make many teachers uncomfortable especially when their performance is tied to student performance on standardized assessments. That kind of pressure drives us to control the process which often has the opposite effect on students.

For most of my education career (though not all of it) I have acted as a facilitator rather than a deliverer of content. Teaching online forced me to reconsider my pedagogical practice as it is much, much harder to find ways to lecture in an eLearning format. So there is not a huge shift to make in the face to face realm for me. That is not to say that I don’t have more to learn about skillful facilitation.

As indicated in the definition above, a facilitator makes things easier. That means that as I observe students work, I need to look for problem areas. Where are students deficient skill-wise? What content is harder to learn or understand? What do students need to be successful? Identification of student problems or challenges is the first critical component of effective facilitation.

Determining how to solve problems or support students struggling with an issue becomes the next step for a facilitating teacher. This may involve teacher research, inviting a professional to class, locating support documents, creating support processes or activities, or sharing student examples. Sometimes an act as simple as providing the right feedback to students can help students out of a problem.

As I mentioned previously, though I am used to facilitating, I can stand to learn more about effective practices. The best way I know to do this is twofold: first, to research other’s facilitation methods and\or read books on the topic can often help me reflect on my own practices and improve. Secondly, observing other teachers facilitate student work is immensely helpful. This can be done with colleagues or by watching instructional videos.

I believe that giving students independence through semi-structured learning activities in a supportive environment ensures that they learn – not only content information but skills as well. There have been too many instances where I have watched students wither under continued teacher-centered instruction to lead me to believe that student-centered classrooms are the best way to ensure student growth.

Scaffolding PBL

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I had already touched on this in the last journal reflection but I’ll recap how I foresee scaffolding working in my project. Scaffolding is essential in any course regardless of whether or not PBL is being implemented. For students in my classes, it is likely that they have not experienced a PBL unit before and that they are not used to having lots of academic freedom\hands on time in a college course. Thus, structure and support will be essential for students to succeed in this PBL unit. Below is a brief summarization of how I have planned for scaffolding in my project thus far.

Activity Structure: Course activities and assessments are designed in such a way that they build from easier to more challenging. The students begin by completing individual explorations of upcoming content. I reserve the challenging activities for in-class activities where students can have the benefit of peer or teacher support when needed. In general, activities follow the we do – you do format where students are able to see an example of a process before being expected to complete it on their own.

Support Materials: When possible, resources and support documents will be provided to students to help them with course activities. For example, there are a number of helpful websites that provide information on how to take notes or critically read college-level content. For our primary source analysis activities, students will benefit from the use of analysis documents from both the National Archives and the Library of Congress. As we go through the semester, I will college student samples to help demonstrate what mastery looks like for each assessment.

Instructor Support: Most of the in-class activities are student-centered freeing me up to facilitate and support learners when they need it the most. As students explore primary sources or work on writing, I will be able to walk around. observe, and support on an as needed basis.

Institutional Support: At times, there will be topics where students need support that is better provided by someone other than me. For example, I can teach some writing skills but in extreme cases, a student may benefit from the assistance of a writing instructor in the writing lab. My college has a number of student support groups and facilities designed to help learners grow in terms of skills. When the need arises, I will either direct students to these experts or invite those experts into the classroom.

The Advantages: Integrating Technology into History

Teaching history today is far more complicated than it used to be even a few decades ago. The rapid availability of information and multimedia can make even the best traditional lecture look like a modern-day archaeology exhibit. Though the essence of history and its studies has not changed, the process by which information is gathered, learned, and shared has evolved.

The use of technology in the history classroom provides a number of unique opportunities for students not afforded by previous generations due to financial and geographic constraints. A student who has never ventured beyond their city limits can visit the ancient pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China with a few clicks of a button. These opportunities have the potential to create a new, digital world in which history can emerge for students. Below is a brief listing of the relative advantages of integrating technology into history instruction.

  1. Engaging: Who doesn’t find playing an American Revolution game far more interesting than listening to a lecture? Integrating relevant technology into history lessons can ensure that students remain interested in the material. These experiences may also serve to maintain student attention later when the content is not as interesting.
  2. Personal Perspectives: Technology provides the opportunity to access exhaustive collections of primary source documents which give students insight into a very personal aspect of the content studied in textbooks and other course materials. Frequently secondary source accounts glaze over the intricacies of events and time periods, tending to favor a summarized approach to the content. Online repositories such as the Library of Congress and National Archives open the door to new perspectives in historical studies.
  3. Practice Digital Skills: Any time students can work with technology or online, they have an opportunity to practice their digital skills as well as appropriate digital citizenship. By utilizing popular Web 2.0 tools (such as Twitter, WordPress, or Google Drive) students can practice digital skills just as professionals do in their daily jobs today. The classroom provides a safe environment by which to engage in this practice and learn new methods students may not have normally explored on their own.

Ultimately, integrating technology into history courses makes the content come alive. Students can explore the people, places, and events in new ways as they see fit making their learning experiences much more customized and personal.

References

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.