Beta-testing Designs with End-Users

Today, learners demand more customization, voice, and practicality from their learning environments (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). Hence, instructional designers will have to upgrade learning environments in order to meet the demand of today’s learners. As discussed in an earlier post, content creation and calibration cannot be done in a silo. Content that is customized, incorporates the students’ voice, and is practical for students, has to be co-designed with students. Hence, content that is co-designed with learners is the ultimate form of personalized learning.  

Flow theory

Why should instructional designers include learners in the content creation process? First, by including learners in creating content, the learners themselves intrinsically set learning goals for attainment. In other words, when instructional designers introduce learners to the instructional objectives and learning outcomes for the units and lessons, the learners then can determine their own learning because they have been empowered by the instructional designer to customize and practicalize the content and they have been allowed to add their voices to the content creation and learning process.

Second, by including learners in the creation process, a learning flow that produces deep engagement and learner motivation can be established. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) argued that “clear goals, individual control, tasks that the individual is capable of successfully completing, and skills that must be learned” is what establishes a flow for deep learning and engagement. When learners co-create content, tasks are designed that are not too challenging or too easy. Students co-design tasks with teachers that align with their personal interests, thus placing them in a flow channel of learning.

Third, learner voice, choice, and agency are all embedded in co-designed instructional design models, as these types of models highly value empowering learners to make decisions about ends, priorities, and means (Reigeluth, Myers, & Lee, 2017). When students are empowered, then they are more engaged and thereby more capable of attaining their learning goals and the instructor’s teaching objective. 

Alpha vs. Beta testing

In many cases, after instructional designers have created their content without student input, they typically test the content in the alpha stage through the student view. For instance, instructional designers might make sure that the links work, that the dates of content release are correct, and that the aesthetics of the content is appealing. If the content passes the instructional designer’s alpha test, then it is delivered to the student without any trial run. Some would argue that this is a travesty, as students are being held accountable for content that was not given a trial run by the learners. Cars are test-driven, wine is taste-tested, and movies have trailers, all for the sake of testing the quality or operation of the product. Why then are students not given an opportunity to give their content a trail run?

Why content should be beta-tested with students

When instructional designers allow students to co-design and beta test the content, students are able to find bugs and fix them, improve content features, and optimize the distribution of learning, teaching, and assessing (Kalaitzidis, Litts, & Halverson, 2017). “In software development, the beta phase is an accepted, normal, predictable stage of product development” (Gonzalez, 2018). This is not the case in traditional instructional design. Gonzalez (2014) mentioned that “beta is a lifelong commitment to continuous …growth” (para. 4). Hence, shouldn’t instructional designers adopt beta-testing as a form of continuous professional growth? 

After doing some research on this topic, I created an instrument that not only supports mega-batching content creation but beta testing content with learners. For the instrument, click here. I also created a content rubric checklist for students that can be used for beta-testing content. This checklist is based on UC Berkley’s checklist. In sum, if instructional designers truly want to personalize learning for students, then they will not only have to incorporate the learners’ voice, choice, and agency, they will also have to incorporate co-designs that are beta-tested with end-users.

Reference:
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper [and] Row.

Gonzalez, J. (2014). Teaching in Beta: What We Can Learn from Software Developers Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/beta-teaching/ on October 14th, 2018

Reigeluth, C.M., Myers, R. D., Lee, D. (2017). The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. (2017).  Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

 

Digital Media Design and Blended Learning

Blended learning can be defined as a formal education program in which a student learns partly online and partly face-to-face. Blended learning is also an exciting way to personalize learning for students however, creating and calibrating assignments for different blended learning models can be daunting.  Blended learning has many models (i.e., station rotation, lab rotation, individual rotation, flipped classroom, flex, a la carte, or enriched virtual) and assignment/task creation for each model depends upon the purpose of the learning task and the learning path that the students are on. 

Specific blended learning models can be used to fit the differentiated need of learners based upon the instructional learning goal. Using Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model, learning experiences can be tailored for specific students according to their specific learning needs. The table below shows how blended learning can be meshed with Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model in order to consider how to design and calibrate assignments and tasks.

Much of the current content for assignments and tasks being used for the various blended learning models are pre-packaged by publishers, hence, transferring those materials to a district’s online learning management system as well as converting materials into digital media can be quite time consuming and overwhelming. Hence, when creating assignments for the different blended learning models, the standards of learning, the instructional procedures and the students’ learning stages and learning processes are essential to the creation and calibration of content design and digital media design.

Creation and calibration of assignments and tasks considers whether one should use analog or digital tools within the design while examining best practices for streamlining online assignments with other activities. If digital tools are to be used, then students can help co-design the digital media that will be used to enhance their learning. The following is a list of questions that teachers can use when creating digital media content:

  1. In order for this assignment/task to work, what gaps need to be filled with other tools/strategies?
  2. How will this assignment/task evolve?
  3. Does the assignment/task as intrinsic value for students?
  4. How can learning be distributed to students by students using digital tools?
  5. How will the learning be assessed?
  6. Can assessments be organically built into the assignments or tasks?
  7. How will the assessment be used to enhance student learning?

In sum, Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson, stated that “Instruction and the design of it should not be rigid, top-down activities. As learners grow, create, and demand new resources, the design of instruction must adapt to meet their needs. Instructors should elicit ideas for these refinements from learners themselves” (p.177). This suggests that instructors should keep assignments and tasks flexible and dynamic.

References:

Coil, C. (2010). Teaching tools for the 21st century. United States: Pieces of Learning.

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Personalized Learning is a necessary commodity for a V.U.C.A. world

How should learning look in a V.U.C.A. world? V.U.C.A. is an acronym that stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The age-old dependable formula of traditional school being used today is not enough to prepare students for a VUCA world.

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Spencer and Juliani (2017) in their book, Empower: What happens when students own their learning, stated that many students in traditional schools were and still are actively compliant, “trying to navigate a system that was designed to produce people who follow the rules and waited to be told what to do.” After graduation, many students, including some of us, waited for someone to tell us what to do.

Opposite of traditional schooling is personalized learning. Personalized learning is the best approach to mass education within a VUCA world because a VUCA world needs students who are go-getters, decision makers, designers, creators, and dreamers. According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) personalized learning tailors instruction, expression of learning, and assessment to each student’s unique needs and preferences. Additionally, personalized learning foster’s self-regulated learning and self-directed learning skills needed for a VUCA world.

In sum, Spencer and Juliani (2017) submitted, “our job is not to prepare students for something; our job is to help students prepare themselves for anything.” By employing the principles of personalized learning, we can effectively prepare students for a VUCA world.

Reference:

Turn your classroom into a personalized learning environment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=416&category=Personalized-learning&article=Turn%2Byour%2Bclassroom%2Binto%2Ba%2Bpersonalized%2Blearning%2Benvironment 

Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: What happens when students own their learning.

Learning Objects promote personalized learning

As I do more and more research on personalized learning, I realize that student voice can easily be incorporated into lesson designs. One way that students can contribute to their own learning is by creating learning objects. Learning objects are modular instructional tools related to content, practice, or assessment. Depending upon the topic at hand, students can be encouraged to create learning objects for themselves and/or their peers.

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Learning Objects in a web-enhanced classroom can increase learning engagement and student understanding. Learning objects can take the form of a video, an interactive learning module, or a photo. The main purpose of learning objects is to take a “meaty” learning standard and boil it down to specific knowledge and skills that can be taught in smaller units.

For example, according to the Common Core State Standards, in Grade 8, students should: Understand and apply the Pythagorean Theorem.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.G.B.6
Explain a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.G.B.7
Apply the Pythagorean Theorem to determine unknown side lengths in right triangles in real-world and mathematical problems in two and three dimensions.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.G.B.8
Apply the Pythagorean Theorem to find the distance between two points in a coordinate system.

This is a “meaty” standard that requires unpacking. Once unpacked, one can see that students need to know and understand how to first explain a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. A learning object can help with that. Students can learn Pythagoras’ theorem using a professionally created learning object or a student created learning object. Once they understand the concepts behind the theorem, then they can be encouraged to apply the theorem to a relevant situation within their lives.

anigif_enhanced-5542-1442311388-2In a web-enhanced classroom, teachers would encourage their students to create learning objects using such tools as Explain Everything, Screencast-o-matic, or Doceri. With student created learning objects, students can now clarify their understanding at their learning pace and share their learning with others.  Thus, having students create learning objects authentically promotes personalized learning because the student’s voices are now added to the mix.

 

Lifetime Learning is not about Knowledge Acquisition

We are moving deeper into the age of conception. Daniel Pink described this age as “an era in which mastery of abilities that we’ve often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind” (p. 6). From Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, one can surmise that students in the conceptual age must be able to:

  • create artistic and emotional beauty
  • detect patterns and opportunities
  • craft a satisfying narrative
  • combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention
  • empathize
  • understand the subtleties of human interaction
  • find joy in one’s self and elicit it in others” (p. 51).

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Many of the traditional practices being used to teach our students in the conceptual age are not engaging learners in authentic ways, thus confining student identity, student agency, and student power. These traditional practices focus solely on the acquisition of topical knowledge and facts.

Schank reminds us that “we need a different approach to knowledge than we currently have” (p. 22). In other words, “we need to teach students to attack the facts and not to replace them with other facts” (Schank, p.22). Moreover, Schank submits that, “students are not taught to use the information they have, to question other information” (p. 23). Continuing down this traditional path will not prompt personalized learning for our students. Therefore, being predisposed to Schank’s advice, I believe that it would behoove educators to move from a knowledge-based education model (which is curriculum design) to a process-based education model (which is instructional design). Schank calls this process-based education model, story-centered curricula.  I’d like to tweak what he calls it, to story-centered design.

“Real knowledge is acquired as a natural part of an employed cognitive process in service of a goal” (Schank, p. 79). Below is a list of Schank’s twelve cognitive processes that underlie learning:

  • Conceptual
    • Prediction
    • Modeling
    • Experimentation
    • Evaluation
  • Analytic
    • Diagnosis
    • Planning
    • Causation
    • Judgement
  • Social
    • Influence
    • Teamwork
    • Negotiation
    • Describing

As students engage in authentic learning experiences, “knowledge acquisition is a natural result of engaging in cognitive processes that are being employed to satisfy a truly held goal” (Schank, p.79). Hence, it is the design of the learning experience that should be the focus. “A good [learning experience] relies on the creation of stories that a student can participate in and feel deeply about” (Schank, p. 90). Perhaps, using stories which are goal-based and involve role play, can be an approach used by teachers as an instructional design model in a web-enhanced classroom.

In sum, lifetime learning is not about knowledge acquisition. It’s about continuous development of the twelve cognitive processes, student identity, student agency, and productive student power.

Reference:

Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lesson Enrichment and Lesson Extensions Open the door to Student Voice and Choice for Personalized Learning

Why is it that Lesson Enrichments and Lesson Extensions are typically reserved for the Gifted and Talented student? Perhaps I am wrong, but based on my own experience as a Classroom Teacher and as a Reading Specialist, I haven’t seen many school-aged children offered an opportunity to pick an extension or enrichment activity of their choice to work on. Doesn’t lesson enrichment and lesson extensions increase student voice and choice within their own learning? Below is the Carolyn Coil Model. This model illustrates horizontal and vertical differentiation for students. It also illustrates how lesson extensions and enrichments can enhance personalized learning for students.

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Lesson extension exercises allow students to explore topics that are in the curriculum. This is one method of providing students with a voice and a choice  in their learning. Lesson enrichment exercises, on the other hand, allow students to explore topics that are not in the curriculum. This is another method for giving students choice and voice in what they learn. Lesson enrichments tend to happen during genius hour. While lesson extensions occur within the unit of instruction.

As teachers design instruction that is personalized, they should consider including either an enrichment exercise or an extension exercise within the unit. Both are initiating methods for personalizing learning for students.

Instructional Design Models Should Enhance Student Identity, Promote Student Agency, And Provide Student Power

When designing instruction for web-enhanced classrooms, we must consider the role of student identity, student agency, and student power. Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, student identity is the ability to be able to identify with the particular discourse or language of the community. As students learn more from the learning community, their ability to identify with the subject allows them to act as a key subject within the community.

Student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, the students’ identity, and the students’ relationships. When teachers promote student agency, they are allowing students to make and remake learning tools, learning resources, and learning activities. These acts lead to productive power for our learners.

Student power is cultivated on rich relationships and high quality interactions. Hence, in web-enhanced classrooms, what applications will best help to meet the learning goals while supporting the development of student power, student agency, and student identity?

white-male-1871370_1920Student productive power, is not only having skill and will to achieve goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, how can instructional-design models tap into student power, student agency,  and student identity? Roger Schank’s Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science can save our schools listed five issues that he claims educators are not effectively addressing. They are ability, possibility, methodology, constraints, and goal alignment.

  • Ability – whether students can learn whatever it is that you want to teach.
  • Possibility – whether what you want to teach can be taught.
  • Methodology – what method of learning actually would teach what we want to teach.
  • Constraints – whether the selected learning methodology actually will work, given the time constraints and abilities of the students, and other constraints that actually exist.
  • Goal alignment – determine a way that will make what you want to teach fit more closely with real-life goals that your students actually may have.

I’ve contoured Schank’s list of issues in order to fit them into the discourse of personalized learning.

  • Ability – what is the students learning profile?
  • Possibility – what is the students learning potential?
  • Methodology – what instructional design model should be employed?
  • Constraints – what are the limitations of the learning environment and what are the constraints for achieving the learning goal?
  • Goal alignment – what are the teacher’s goal for instruction? What are the student’s goals for learning?

Will Richardson reminds us that we should increase student agency over learning. Our current emphasis on improving teaching is not cultivating the student’s agency, the student’s identity, or the student’s productive power. In other words, we should shift from a focus on teaching practices to a focus on student-centered learning practices.

References:

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.