The Perilous Task of Creating Marvelous Online Content

When building courses or media for online consumption, content creation and calibration takes the lions share of development. Depending upon the purpose of the content, its creation and calibration is both perilous and perpetual. Whether it’s a general blog post, video, or podcast, content creation and calibration tends to flow through the Alpha testing stage of development, given that its creator is satisfied with the outcome. The designer of the content most likely has a special affinity for it because he or she has lived with the content for several months; has worked with stakeholders and subject matter experts on the content for several days; and has bore the labor pains during the birthing and delivery of the content for several hours. Given this process of content creation and calibration, it is no surprise that the Beta testing stage of content development rarely happens in academic settings, perhaps because the content creator simply wants the consumer to consume.

Content is the lifeblood of a course, hence, “you want to create something you’re proud of” (Branson, 2018). This means that content worth pride needs to be created in the same place that babies are made. A healthy baby develops in 9 months, as a result of the romance of two. However, in most cases, content creators don’t have the luxury of nine months to develop healthy content. One might ask, what goes into content creation and how often should content be calibrated?

Content creation

Monthly, I contribute content to ulimionline.com and thewordconsciousclassroom.com.  As the old cliche goes, it’s both challenging and rewarding. To help me create content consistently, I used advise from Amy Porterfield. Amy suggested Mega-Batching content by doing the following:

  1. Brainstorm content ideas
  2. Break the content ideas down into six topics
  3. Based on the topic, what question is being answered for the audience
  4. List resources needed to create content for that topic
  5. Decide how the content will be shared (i.e., blog post, video, podcast)

Click here for a link to a planning tool that I created, based on Porterfield’s advice.

Content calibration

Once the content is published, that is not the end of the creation process. It is actually the beginning. Like the development and maturation of a child into an adult, content is constantly in need of calibration and recalibration as contexts and audiences change. It is almost always necessary to reuse, revise, remix, or repurpose content, thus the calibration and recalibration of content is constant. Borrowing from the principles of creative commons, below I define the four Rs for content calibration and recalibration:

  1. Reuse – content might have to be reused across different platforms, hence having an archiving system for content is important.
  2. Revise – content might have to be revised based on updated information or the needs of the audience. Hence, keeping raw content is important for future revisions.
  3. Remix – content may be combined with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup) (Wiley, 2018).
  4. Repurpose – content might have to be adapted for use in a different purpose. Hence, blog posts might be repurposed for a white paper or a book chapter.

In sum, content creation and calibration is a constant, and it doesn’t stop once it is published. In other words, in order to fulfill its purpose, content incessantly evolves. Like anxious parents wanting the world to see the beauty of their baby, content designers want users to see the beauty of their content and find purpose with it. To increase the chances of the world seeing their baby as beautiful, some parents might opt for acquiring a designer baby. While content designers may not have that option yet, to increase the chances of beautiful content, some designers might opt to create and calibrate content along with a their content audience, thus extending the romance of content making to its users.

References:

Branson, R. (2018). Greatest Quotes. Business Blogs.Retrieved October 06, 2018, from https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/richard-branson-greatest-quotes/

Wiley, D. (2018). Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources. This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.

Gamification Can Help Teachers Personalize Learning

Gamification is the key to helping teachers implement personalized learning because “gamified environments are ideal for mastery learning[;] allowing students to repeatedly practice skills to meet learning outcomes” (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, p. 553). Research shows that gamification increases learner engagement, motivation, and critical thinking. Furthermore, games offer challenges to learners and are the best way to support student agency, student identity, and student “productive” power.

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According to Moje and Lewis (2007), student agency is the making and remaking of the students’ self, identity, and relationships. According to the Merriam-Dictionary, agency is defined as “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power.” Hence, gamification places learners in a role, condition, or state in which they have to exert their power through decision making, perseverance, leadership, and critical thinking.

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Moje and Lewis (2007) submitted that Student identity is a continuous formation of the student acting as a subject within a community. In other words, how students behave, speak, and function ultimately forms the basis of the students’ identity. Hence, gamification requires that learners act as a particular subject in a particular discourse community. Strictly speaking, depending upon the goals of the learning quest, learners have to function in a particular role in order to successfully complete the learning goals of the quest. They must also understand the context, nomenclature, and linguistic rules of the discourse community within the quest. What is more, gamification places learners in a variety of roles and discourse communities that they would not otherwise be. 

superman-1825726_1920Student “productive” power, as defined by Moje and Lewis (2007), is not only having the skill and will to achieve learning goals, but also having independent thought and autonomous action towards self-regulated learning and self-directed learning. Hence, gamification capitalizes on autonomy, learner choice, and learner control.

In sum, gamification shows learners that failure is not final… As a matter of fact, the repetitive activity of games supports perpetual skill building and leaves little time for players to sulk in failure. Much like gaming, personalized learning environments allow students to be immersed in a rich learning experience that yields multiple outcomes of learning, thus generating a learning constellation progression of knowledge and skills. If educators really want to implement personalized learning in their classrooms, then they will need to consider gamification.

Reference:
Kingsley, Tara L. & Grabner-Hagen, Melissa M. (2017). Vocabulary by Gamification. The Reading Teacher. 71. doi:10.1002/trtr.1645.

 

Moje, E. B., & Lewis, C. (2007). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In. C. J. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. B. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. (pp. 15-48). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Moving from Standards-based Learning to Competency-based Learning using Cognitive Measures

Since 1983, the standards movement purported to:

  • provide a common body of knowledge and skills for students
  • provide educators with a comprehensive view of what students need to know and be able to do
  • provide public schools with a common focus
  • provide parents and the community with accountability

The standards movement not only completed its list of deliverables, but it created a culture of importunate testing and reactive ways for addressing achievement gaps. It not only taught educators how to measure teaching and knowledge acquisition, but it shifted the attention of educators from authentic student learning to contrived instructional techniques for isolated content-based knowledge and skills.

Most educators argue that “alignment of instruction to appropriate standards remains enormously important” (Rickabaugh, 2016). I, however, argue that the standards movement will impede educators from being global and systemic in their efforts with implementing personalized learning. In fact, I argue that educators should go higher on the grain floret and move to competency-based learning.  Schaef (2016) submitted, “the most important difference of all between standards-based learning and competency-based learning is the commitment to the student” (para. 8).

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Prior to the standards-based movement of 1983, there was the competency-based education (CBE) movement that was already underway in institutions of higher education. Markedly, CBE was not a popular approach because it “lack[ed] conformity around standards and a theoretical backing thus making it difficult to clearly define and implement consistently across programs” (Gervais, 2016). As a result, the standards movement gained in popularity over CBE, and it is has been implemented at a large scale.

Still, in light of the current web-enhanced educational practices, educators should re-examine CBE using the lens of instructional technology. This student-centered learning approach especially meshes well with personalized learning because competencies “emphasize the application of skills, knowledge, and dispositions rather than content knowledge” (Schaef, 2016, para. 15). CBE has the potential to shift our current commitment from the standards-based movement towards a new commitment to student skill sets, knowledge, aptitudes, and/or capacities.

References:

Gervais, J. (2016). The operational definition of competency-based education. The Journal of Competency-Based Education, 1(2), 98106. doi: 10.1002/cbe2.1011

Rickabaugh, J. (2016). Tapping the power of personalized learning: A roadmap for school leaders.

Schaef, S. (2016, October 09). ReDesign. ReDesign Blog. Retrieved December 27, 2017, from https://www.redesignu.org/what-difference-between-competencies-and-standards.

Taking Advice from Einstein on the Achievement Gap

There has been a gap in student achievement since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Students of color, students with disabilities, students acquiring English as a second language, and students of low socioeconomic status continue to display a significant disparity in their academic performance. Many institutions of higher education and organizations of policy studies have conducted research on the achievement gap and suggested solutions for closing the gap (i.e., better teacher preparation, active parental participation, and a rigorous curriculum). Furthermore, the “myriad [of] changes to our education system over the years – increased accountability, calendar and schedule changes, school choice, merit pay, ability grouping, smaller schools, increased testing, higher standards – few have resulted in improved outcomes for all learners” (Rickabaugh, 2016).

This perpetual phenomenon of the achievement gap continues to exist regardless of the time and resources devoted to this problem. Perhaps it is time for educators to take a little advice from Einstein.

Einstein submitted, in order to solve a problem, one will have to think higher than the thoughts that created the problem. Hence, the problem of the achievement gap can not be solved using the same thinking that created it.

Schools of the industrial age were founded on curriculum-theory models, which are inclined to be descriptive and results-oriented (Reigeluth, 2009). Approaches that utilize curriculum-theory models focus on “what to teach” thus producing a linear, continuous learning progression that ultimately leads to satisfying standards. Furthermore, the focus on “what to teach” places standards and results at the center of teaching and learning rather than the student. Subsequently, the effects of curriculum-theory models has crystalized and created a space for achievement gaps.

To dissolve the achievement gap, 21st century learning requires educators to think about teaching and learning in a new way. To truly solve the achievement gap problem, thinking must be on a higher level than curriculum-theory models. For this reason, educators must stop being results-oriented, and start being goal-oriented. Perhaps, instructional-design theories are the next best option for examining teaching and learning. Instructional-design theories are probabilistic. In other words, these models place the learner at the center and creates instructional conditions, desired outcomes, and instructional components based on the learner’s personal learning goals and learning profile. Instructional-design theories focus on “How to teach.” In other words, by focusing on “how to teach“, students are placed at the center of teaching and learning rather than standards and results. Conceivably, instructional-design theories will form non-linear discontinuous learning progressions that leaves no space for achievement gaps.

In sum, to genuinely close the achievement gap, Einstein’s advice must be followed. Educators will have to think higher than the thoughts that created the problem.

References:

Reigeluth, C. M. (2009). Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory. New York: Routledge.

Rickabaugh, J. (2016). Tapping the power of personalized learning: A roadmap for school leaders.

Empowering Learners with Non-linear Learning Progressions

Most curriculum theory models use linear learning progressions that create continuous linear pathways of knowledge and skills for students to achieve within a fixed period of time. Students must know and be able to do several predetermined behaviors that are a direct result of a meaningful learning experience in order to achieve mastery. But are linear continuous learning progressions conducive to personalized learning?

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Curriculum Theory Models use prearranged learning criteria that fails to include the students’ voice or offer the students choice in what, how, when, and where they learn. Whereas design-oriented models, use a prescribed set of learning criteria that begins with the students’ voice while offering the students choice in what, how, when, and where they will learn.

Thanks to technology and adaptive learning platforms, the linear path of learning progressions that currently exist for many students can now be rearranged into a constellation map of knowledge and skills. This constellation map of knowledge and skills is also known as a learning skills map. With the learning skills map, students are no longer limited to a linear scope and sequence of knowledge and skills of content acquisition, and they can progress through their learning with more flexibility and enrichment.  The learning skills map links many interconnected concepts that students opt to pass through on their learning journey, in any order they wish. The learning skills map also allows students to craft their own learning playlist. Thus, students choose which concepts and skills they would like to study and the sequence they would like to study in.

In sum, personalized learning is far from being a continuous and neat linear learning progression. It’s a messy discontinuous non-linear learning progression that is different for every student.  Much like gaming, personalized learning allows students to be immersed in a rich learning experience that yields multiple outcomes of learning, thus generating a constellation of knowledge and skills.

Reference:

Achieve, (2015). Retrieved from https://www.achieve.org/files/Achieve-LearningProgressionsinCBP.pdf

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.

Finding the Sweet Spot in Personalized Learning

The optimum point at which the most effective contact occurs, is known as the Sweet Spot. Hence, what is the optimum point of personalized learning?

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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. Hence, learners are the heart of personalized learning because they have to make the choice to interact with the content and they have to decide how much attention and effort they will devote towards the learning task. In other words, the optimum point or the sweet spot of personalized learning is the learner’s ability to self-regulate and to be self-directed during the learning task.

So what is the difference between self-regulated learning (SRL) and self-directed learning (SDL)? According to Pamela Bracey’s Literature Review, self-regulated learners decide what, when, where, and how to learn. They also choose how much effort they will employ on the metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral aspects of learning. On the other hand, self-directed learners diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources necessary for learning, choose appropriate learning strategies, and evaluate their learning outcomes. With self-directed learners, the learning is self-paced and usually initiated with an incentive and/or an interest.

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SRL and SDL are both necessary in a web-enhanced classroom in order to support the learner’s acquisition of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, the more sophisticated the learning needs of the learner, the more self-directed and self-regulated the learner will become. Adler (2011) in his Paideia Proposal, submitted that learners need to know the what of learning but not at the expense of the how for learning. Hence, by allowing learners to choose what, when, where, and how to learn, teachers are supporting SRL. When learners take the initiative to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources necessary for learning, choose appropriate learning strategies, and evaluate their learning outcomes, then they are at the why for learning. In other words, they are becoming self-directed learners. Teachers can support SDL by teaching students to use feedback, to self-assess, and to set learning goals.

Paideia Curriculum Framework

What makes SDL and SRL the sweet spot of personalized learning? First, students need to have an ample amount of self-directed and self-regulated learner characteristics since these learning dispositions help students reach the optimum point of personalized learning.

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Second, SDL and SRL support student agency, student identity, and student power. In an earlier post, student agency was defined as the making and remaking of the students’ self, the students’ identity, and the students’ relationships. Student identity was defined as the ability to be able to identify with a particular discourse community or identifying with the language of various learning communities. Finally, student power was defined as productive power built on rich relationships and high quality interactions. SDL and SRL provides students with space to develop their intellectual skills and to enlarge their understanding of ideas and values related to the learning outcomes.

In sum, possessing SDL and SRL skills are necessary for 21st century learning. The instructional design process for web-enhanced classrooms can not meet the unique learning needs or preferences of students without consideration of SDL and SRL, the sweet spot of personalized learning.

References:

Adler, Mortimer J. (2011). The Paideia program: An educational syllabus. New York: Macmillan.

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 

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.
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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.

 

Goal Setting F.A.S.T.

One technique Instructional Designers use to focus on the goals of instruction is the functional analysis system technique, or F.A.S.T. technique. FAST is a simple chart that the Instructional Designer fills in, that starts with the action and ends with arriving at a goal for fulfilling that action. In other words, the FAST technique works backwards in order to help put a focus on the larger goal or goals at hand.

To implement this technique into lesson designs for web-enhanced classrooms, first start with the desired action and then work backwards by doing a functional analysis of that particular action. Asking how and why questions will help with the functional analysis. For instance, How does it function? Why does it function? The answers to those questions will help students derive at a goal for learning that particular course learning outcome.

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Starting with the action will help students arrive at a final goal for learning.  For instance, when students are enrolled in a Mathematics course, first assist them in becoming familiar with the course learning outcomes for that particular mathematics course. Then, show the students how to convert those course learning outcomes into actionable goals.

Here is an example from Grade 6 mathematics CCSS Standards: Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.1
Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, “The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak.” “For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes.”
Converting this standard into an actionable goal using the FAST technique would look like this:
FAST

The FAST technique is a foolproof way to incorporate student voice and choice in lesson design for web-enhanced classrooms because it allows the students to set goals from themselves within a framework of standards for learning. By teaching students to convert course learning outcomes into actionable goals, students automatically add their voice and choice to their learning and their goals for learning.