This winter quarter (2018) I co-taught a course called Learning with Technology at Seattle Pacific University. It was a course for pre-service teachers from a variety of different disciplines. We had students who were already teaching and going back for their Master’s degrees, some that were student teaching and others that were somewhere in between. The description of the course was as follows:
This course addresses research and promising practices related to how to use technology effectively for student learning. During this course we will address the ISTE Standards for Students, focusing on how students use technology for creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.
After meeting with meeting with my co-instructor, Dr. David Wicks, we set out to design a course that addressed the new student standards and expose students to one of the many tech integration tools that they could use to evaluate the quality of technology enriched instruction.
The QUEST model
The QUEST model (Wicks 2017) was used to design the learning modules related to the Student Standards. This model is inquiry based and aligns nicely with the Student Standard 1. Empowered Learner, which asks students to “leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by learning sciences.”(ISTE 2016) We posed questions from the standard each week and asked them to come up with, and post, their own question to a discussion board in the Canvas course. Since they came from such diverse experiences, we asked them to try to focus their question on their own content area specialty so that it would have some relevance to them and make the resources they found more useful in their daily practice.
During the Understanding phase they were asked to do their own research to answer their own question. Not only did they have to practice digital literacy skills such as searching and curating content but they were actively engaged in the Knowledge Constructor student standard as they “made meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others” and “critically curated a variety of resources using digital tools”. (ISTE 2016). Once they’d found research and resources that helped them answer their question they posted them to a discussion so that their thinking was made public to the group. Because they were making that learning public they were also experiencing Student Standard 2. Digital Citizen because they needed cite their sources and “employ effective research strategies”.
In the Educate phase they interacted with each others posts and posed more questions or suggested solutions to others. We also tried to do a Google Hangout every other week so that students could learn more about the standard and ask questions of each other and the instructors. This was meant to be a collaborative learning process. It allowed them to stretch their thinking outside their subject area expertise and allowed them to give feedback or share resources that would help others answer their questions. This kind of collaboration is part of the student standard 7. Global Collaborator that asks students to “use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others.” (ISTE 2016)
After this step, they were asked to share their final solution and related resources that addressed their question. They did this on a personal blog that they were using as an ongoing portfolio of their work. They had been put into PLC groups to create job alike groups (as much as possible) so that they only had to comment on three other classmates posts but they were expected to comment on each others final blog posts. This is a way for them to teach others and share their work with a larger audience. This helped them experience Student Standard 1.b “Students build networks” and to practice 6. Creative Communicator as they had to “communicate clearly and express themselves”. (ISTE 2016)
Reflection on the Model
After having experienced the QUEST model as a student myself in the Digital Education Leadership program I will say that this kind of learning has a high learning curve for some students. Many of us come from traditional teaching and learning models and are used to being told what to think by the instructor. This model asks students to truly take ownership of their own learning. There are rubrics and check lists in place to help guide the structure of the posts and the type of information that should be included but the question is unique to each student. For some this was a little unsettling at first and they asked a lot of questions that were mostly related to “am I doing this right?” Eventually, they settled in. Both David and I had vacations early in the quarter which, unfortunately for the students, meant that they didn’t get immediate feedback on their first module very quickly. In retrospect, the first module is the most vital to respond to so that they are confident they are meeting expectations. I wish I could go back and do that differently.
As for the model itself, it was very freeing for me as a student to focus my energy on the questions that interested me or were relevant to my job as a coach. I think that the students in our class valued that flexibility as well by the end of the quarter. We did run into some difficulties with finding a good tool for students to interact with the recording of the Google Hangouts if they were not able to attend in person. They used YouTube to comment in so everyone could see their questions but it was not ideal. It would be nice to find something that could be embedded in Canvas to keep everything in one place. The other challenge was with Canvas. It did not make it easy for students to provide evidence that they’d commented on each others blogs. We had them cut and paste their comments into a Canvas group discussion but that also added an extra step for the participants.
The Individual Project – Evaluating Technology Integration
One of the challenges with technology in my own district right now is not necessarily getting teachers to use technology but in getting them to use technology purposefully and with good quality design that engages learners and moves away from just recreating traditional learning experiences digitally. The largest part of my work in this class was designing the individual project. We wanted to our students to have the experience of looking at a lesson through the lens of technology and evaluating it based on a model. We chose the Triple E Framework (Kolb, 2017) as a model partly because I like the simplicity of the rubric and the questions and because it is focused on developing quality learning experiences that have a technology component rather than focusing on the technology as the centerpiece of the lesson.
The project was divided into 5 phases. The first phase was to find a lesson that they could use to evaluate using the rubric. We left the selection of the lesson pretty wide open and encouraged them to find something in their content specialty area or something they had used or were thinking of using with their students.
The next three phases asked students to use the rubrics for Engage, Enhance and Extend, which are the three E’s in the Triple E model, to evaluate the lesson based on the three questions that are central to each area. They used her None, Somewhat and Absolutely scoring system and then wrote a reflection on what they learned about their lesson using the rubric and some guiding questions that I posed.
The final phase was to put it all together, tabulate the scores and write a reflection on the process of lesson evaluation using this model. We also asked what, if any, suggestions they would make about technology tools, resources or strategies they might use to improve the lesson.
Reflection on the Project
I discovered a couple of things. First, they needed either an example, a checklist or some more explanation of what type of lesson they should look for. Some students chose lessons with very little technology included in them in the first place. When they were evaluating using the Triple E rubric they were hesitant to score it low in areas that asked for technology or had a number of areas that they could not score at all because there was not enough technology included in the lesson. If I taught this again I would add some supports into that phase that would help them pick a lesson that would make the job of evaluation a little easier.
Overall they did a nice job reflecting on the lesson and the process. I am not sure they had enough tools in their toolbox to be able to adequately suggest tools and enhancements to their lessons, however. Although Dr. Wicks often included a tool in our Google Hangouts that was related to the standard, it might be worth considering working in some more hands on work with tools as part of the course. It would give them a broader range of knowledge of the types of tools that would be available to them if they were teaching to either the standard or as a part of redefining a learning experience. I am not quite sure how to do that without making the time spent on the class unreasonable but they could be creating artifacts with various digital tools to show their learning around the solution to their question as opposed to just a written reflection in their blog post.
ISTE | Standards For Students. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Retrieved from https://www.tripleeframework.com/