Build It for Yourself

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I’ve been tweaking some minor things on this online portfolio today, and while viewing resources from other blogs, I ran across this post in The Rapid E-Learning Blog:  Here’s How an E-Learning Portfolio Builds Your Skills.  Not only does a portfolio highlight your skills, but it can drive you to improve skills and stretch your professional limitations as you document new projects and use a blog to reflect on practices and your own learning.

Keep it simple and focus on just yourself. Don’t worry about getting likes or views. – Tom Kuhlmann

Now that I have my portfolio built, I need to outline my next cycle of professional growth goals and focus on specific projects that I want to design and document for the portfolio. I can make that determination by reviewing the qualifications and skills that employers want to see.

On one side, I listed all desired qualifications and on the other, my corresponding experience. Needless to say, there was a big gap between what companies wanted and the skills I had. So I went out and acquired the skills by volunteering or participating in projects. Then I created a portfolio to document what I was learning and the types of projects on which I worked.  -Tom Kuhlmann

This blog post gave me confirmation that I’m on the right track in creating a portfolio and reflective blog to record not only my work experiences and skills but my thinking and learning about the work.

How has a portfolio and/or blog improved your professional skills?

Work | Create | Share

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During my search for free online courses last month (see my Keep Learning post), I discovered some great resources from an instructional designer and from a writer/artist. Each of them have websites, write blogs and newsletters, produce podcasts and write books just to mention a few of their pursuits.

Go Design Something

After taking a look at Kristin Anthony‘s online course, Go Design Something: The Course, I listened to her podcasts on the same subject, read some of her blog posts and viewed her portfolio. This week, I read Anthony’s ebook entitled Go Design Something: 5 Steps to a Kick-Ass Instructional Design Portfolio.

It’s a good read for not only instructional designers but anyone who wants to build or improve a professional portfolio. It inspired me to focus my efforts, search for examples and models to emulate, create and share. She includes some super resources to get any newbie started and gives “Go Do” assignments at the end of each chapter.

For someone who wants to create an online portfolio but doesn’t know where to start, the simple process that Anthony outlines in her book and podcasts will provide a great roadmap. I haven’t taken her course, but for those who need a more structured and formal learning experience this course may be something to consider.

Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon is an writer and artist who has written several books and has given TEDtalks on the subject of creativity. I learned some tips for structuring my time so I can make stuff that I like, but I am most excited about his ideas on the mash-up of passions we each posses and how we can remix others work through daily practice (not plagiarism) so that we can amplify and transform our own work.

If all of your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? Go make that stuff.

If you have two or three real passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life.

Get Busy

In each of these books, the authors outline frameworks for setting up a plan and establishing routines for getting “the work” done (whatever work you’re doing). The next step is to DO THE WORK.

  • Get out there and make stuff.
  • It’s ok to fail, in fact it’s necessary.
  • Share yourself and your work.
  • We live in a digital age, but don’t forget about the benefits of analog work.
  • A big part of work is PLAY.

If you have read either of these books, I would love to know what you learned and what you’ve implemented. Do you have any ideas and resources related to this topic that would help me stay inspired to create and to share?

See It and Be It!

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This is a reminder to my fearful self…

On those days when you get caught up in a swirl of activity that doesn’t align to your real self – STOP and fear not. You were made with purpose to be who you are – not who others want you to be.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life and don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”          – Steve Jobs

See the real you… What does it take to see the real you? To see your purpose?

Courage

Be the real you… What does it take to be the real you? To live your purpose?

Dedication

Live your truth… TODAY!

Keep Learning

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Photo Credit: Ann Davis 773, flikr

I’ve had a super time the past couple of days scouring the internet for free online classes or courses and have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve found everything from professional to personal offerings as well as mini courses, more in-depth courses, and even pathways to certification. Of course you pay for some of the more popular and in-depth offerings but many of the fees are reasonable.

I discovered that there are many self-paced options as well as facilitator- or instructor-led courses which take place at specific times throughout the year. I spent time this morning engaging in a few of the short, introductory, self-paced materials and not only have I learned about some things of interest, but the experience has sparked some ideas and creativity to put toward other projects.

For years, I’ve used YouTube as a resource for learning about new things or how to do things I’m interested in or need help with so I can finish a household chore or task at work. Needless to say, I’ve been on board with anytime, anywhere, any pace learning for my professional (and personal) learning needs for a while so this search for more free learning opportunities is a natural progression for me.

These days, my search goes beyond YouTube because I’m trying to determine whether or not to pursue formal learning by working on another degree. And, I need to make sure it’s the right field to pursue not only for the short term but also for any long-term plans after retirement. I have a BS, Master’s certificate and Master’s degree so, to be honest, I keep wondering whether or not I want to spend time and money for another formal education experience. I hope that by utilizing all of the free resources available through the web I can determine which route to take — formal education with a degree or informal learning with certification and badging options.

Based on this new information, I’m leaning toward developing my own learning plan and acquiring or developing skills that will help me to do work that I love and give me more options professionally. The trick is to have not only the motivation but the commitment to complete the learning plan and demonstrate proficiency. This leads me to wonder whether or not I could create a plan using the professional growth format I’ve used in this portfolio. Of course, it would need to be expanded, but the great thing about doing this would be the connection to and improvement of my portfolio pieces and blog. All of these components could work toward showcasing my learning and abilities.  Hmmm…. something to keep pondering. 🙂

I am anxious to participate in some of the live courses too so I can build relationships with instructors and fellow participants, but I plan to use the self-paced resources first. I’ll return to this subject in a future post(s) to update you on my decisions about which learning route I will take to expand my skills as well as my thoughts on my online learning experiences with these new resources I’ve found. I’ll also expand the list of course providers as I discover more options.

If you are looking for informal ways to learn and like self-paced and on-demand learning opportunities, take a look at the following sites.*

Coursera

edX

Udemy

Udacity

*I’m also looking at possible courses and learning paths on Lynda.com which is a fee-based service, but you can gain free access through some public libraries.  Check with your local public library, or surrounding county libraries that collaborate with your library, to see if they have a subscription that you can access.

Please leave your comments and tell me what you think about online learning, self-paced modules, free internet courses or designing your own learning plan. Thanks!

Stop the burn!

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burnedcar

Photo Credit at end of Post

Sometimes teachers feel like this car looks – burned up, broken down and falling apart. I recently had a conversation with a teacher who is experiencing occupational burnout and this person pointed to unnecessary and/or ineffective professional development (PD) as a contributing factor. This teacher’s dissatisfaction and fatigue is spilling over into every area of life causing a strain on relationships at home as well as work. This person, whose greatest ambition was to be an educator, is now contemplating quitting the profession. The unhappiness on the face of this seasoned and distinguished teacher haunted me to the point that I was driven to find some sort of direction or guidance to share that might help teachers feeling burned out by the endless demands being placed on them. So, yesterday I began researching and pondering how districts might better support teachers in the area of professional learning (PL).

Since the basis for my investigation was simply the feelings of this one teacher, I was curious to see what the TELL KY survey 2015 results revealed in the area of PD and here’s what I found.

TELLratingscale

  • One of the bottom three ratings in the area of Teacher Leadership is the role teachers play in determining the content of PD programs. Results indicate that 41% of teachers have only a small role or no role at all in PD decision-making.

PDgraph1

  • Among the lowest three ratings in the area of Professional Development was differentiated PD showing that 29% of teachers believe that PD is not differentiated to meet the needs of individual teachers.

PDgraph2

As I examined the entire list of survey questions and results in the PD section of the TELL, I wondered if this is a true reflection of Kentucky’s state professional learning system. Have that many districts and schools really made the shift from traditional one-size-fits-all professional development to professional learning experiences that are largely driven by teacher reflection aligned to district improvement needs? If the TELL survey included questions related to professional learning and flexible scheduling that encourages teachers to exhibit exemplary level performance in the area of growing professionally, would that give us more insight in to the status of district PD programs?

After I reread the Kentucky Professional Learning Guidance and Professional Growth Plan resources, I wonder if self-directed professional learning that helps to meet the 24-hour requirement could alleviate some of the burden on teachers. I learned of this from reading Washington Co’s PD schedule, which contained the guidance and tools for teachers to collect and document their self-directed learning experiences. I wonder whether or not more districts would utilize self-directed learning designs if learning activity could be more easily quantified for use in the credit hours framework? How might this be done so we don’t undermine the idea that professional learning is a continuous and ongoing process that is focused on outcomes?

I also discovered possible options like competency-based PD with micro-credentialing, but it seems like the task of getting that type of system up and running would take a lot of man hours and financial resources. I’m curious as to whether or not it might be well received and worth the effort? Would it require state- and district-level policy changes? Are teachers ready for that type of learning opportunity?

I know this post only skimmed the top of the issue of teacher burnout as it relates to professional growth activities so hopefully my musings will stimulate more in-depth discussions on these problems and support positive resolutions. But, I wonder if solving problems with PD will have enough effect to make a noticeable difference toward relieving over-burdened teachers. I speculate that it can if teachers are given back that extra time being taken for sit-and-get PD hours and encouraged to apply that time to activities that aren’t so easily measured like book studies, mentoring, coaching, etc. Teachers who engage in these types of activities outside of the school day should be allowed to count that time toward the 24-hour PD credit requirement. What can we do so it happens in every district in Kentucky?

 

Questions to stimulate further thought, discussion and problem solving in the area of professional learning planning.

  • If districts design and implement flexible professional learning plans that promote teacher autonomy, will teacher satisfaction and performance improve? Will student learning outcomes increase?
  • How can Principals and district leaders honor different ways of learning to address the learning needs of their teachers?
  • What are some ways teachers can advocate for themselves when pressured to participate in unnecessary PD or PD that doesn’t align to their professional growth goals?
  • How can leaders create situations in which decision-making, in the area of PD, is wielded by teachers who are proven to be trustworthy experts in their field?
  • How can teachers who are so passionate about the profession they love live a balanced life and prevent burnout?

 

Photo Credit: flickrDuncan C; Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

No More Dumping

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For the last seven months or so, I’ve been examining learning designs I’ve used for face-to-face and online professional learning (PL) experiences in the past. As I read blog posts and articles from Cathy Moore and books like Designing for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen, I see how I’ve been guilty of dumping all over my participants. The information dump phenomenon goes by many names… sit and get, drive by and spray and pray. Although  I see a progression in the right direction on many of my latest PL designs, my goal is to really let DOING instead of KNOWING drive my design choices. I want to also incorporate the idea of learner choice into the equation. Let me emphasize here that I’ve always been an advocate of learner choice and I’ve done so by providing multiple options for participants to choose which activity to complete. BUT, the problem in my design has always been in providing the information first (presentation) and then allowing time for learners to take action (do something). Sticking to such a linear progression keeps me from being able to differentiate for varying learner abilities.

Instead of marching through content in an information –> activity, information –> activity, information –> activity type way, I’ve learned how to provide a problem-based scenario in which the learner creates a solution. Now here’s the choice part. Participants are faced with the problem first but information they may need is provided and they can access it if they need it. This way, you’re not boring anyone who already knows the content but needs practice applying solutions using that content. And, anyone who needs information first before they begin to create a solution can access the information they need so that learning looks less like information –> activity and more like this.

Photo Credit: Cathy Moore – Action Mapping

Based on what I’ve learned, I was able to meet one of my professional growth goals by redesigning a mini-lesson that I co-created during the Kentucky Professional Learning Academy. Take a look at Design 1 and then Design 2 which incorporates scenario-based learning using action mapping and learner choice strategies. What do you think? Be a critical friend and leave a comment.

Learn with Video

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I just participated in an awesome webinar presented by Ty Marbut and hosted by the eLearning Guild. What was most notable about this webinar, besides the interesting video production tips, was the connection he made between social learning and instructional video. Marbut highlights how we are best motivated to learn from those with whom we have respect. He explains how we observe and take in information about those around us and decide whether or not we will learn from them. We make judgements about someone’s effectiveness by observing their physical presence, the way they move, as well as their physical appearance. He notes an intriguing study which demonstrates that when students who had never taken a course by a particular professor were shown 5-10 seconds of muted video of the professor they evaluated him/her in the same way as those students who rated performance after taking a semester-long course. Wow!

Marbut uses these research findings to demonstrate how important physical presence is to video tutorials or training videos.  He compares a few sample videos, some with video of the instructor and some with audio only, so participants can see how much better a video is when it contains shots of the instructor. He also points out how to take that a step further by NOT using scripts and teleprompters which can make the speaker look stiff and boring.

Remember, if you want to engage your learner they need to respect you. They need to see something in you that demonstrates how you are someone who is worthy of listening to and engaging with so that learning can happen. It’s worth the time it takes to get comfortable in front of the camera so get out there and practice and assess your performance so you can improve your delivery and engagement of learners.