Tell the Story

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While most Americans celebrated Independence Day today, I spent the day finishing Cole Knaflic’s book Storytelling with Data. I’m sure that spending my day like this today makes me the queen of all nerds. 

I’ve never been a numbers person, but I got involved with strategic planning several years ago at work and added data analysis to my professional growth plan, which has taken up residence there. Do you ever really get to a point of taking data analysis off of your growth plan? Maybe for some, but I’m sure it will always be an area of growth for me. Both professionally and personally, data analysis will always be one of my growth areas that will require focus and dedicated time spent learning how to better collect, analyze and share data in a narrative that invokes action. 

What drew me to Knaflic’s book was this video. In the video clip, she speaks to the need for creative and artistic data visuals that help you tell the story you’ve discovered in your data.

Leverage design to indicate to your audience how to use and interact with your visualizations.

As I read the book, the importance of pretty and functional visuals was not lost on me. I’ve seen some graphs and visuals that did nothing to help me understand the purpose for which they were intended; a lot of bars, lines and dots colorfully displayed but devoid of a conclusion that I should reach. 

If there’s a conclusion you want your audience to reach, state it in words.

By keeping it simple, highlighting what the audience needs to see and framing the data in a story that the audience can emotionally connect to, you help the audience understand the importance of what you’ve discovered in your data analysis. 

In conclusion, if you bother to take the time to collect and analyze your data don’t lose sight of the most important part – design visually appealing data communications that pinpoint a call to action for your audience. 

If you know any data visualization experts who might have time to mentor or coach me as I practice what I’ve learned, leave me a comment or send a private message via email. melsuzfer@icloud.com

View Strategically and Learn Authentically

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Photo Credit: flickr, turkeychick

Student Learning

For years, I’ve been interested in video production not only for the enjoyment of the process and the resulting content but for the implications it has on the learning process. As a teacher, I used video production with my students to parallel the writing process as well as to motivate and engage students in the development of a writing piece for their portfolios.

A related topic to video production is video use within the classroom and today I read an interesting article that outlines 40 strategies for viewing comprehension. An accompanying link within this article takes you to a post on “how to YouTube your classroom” which has many awesome ideas on how to design your curriculum and instruction the way YouTube would if they ran your classroom.

Each article explains how to move teaching and learning from disconnected activities in which students are passive consumers to engaging interactions that are designed to

…promote self-awareness, meaningful collaboration, and cognitive growth. — How to YouTube Your Classroom

Teacher Learning

Whenever I think about or talk about the subject of video and learning, my mind always goes to the use of video to enhance professional learning for educators. What better way to coach yourself or be coached than by using video you’ve captured of yourself teaching and then to critically analyze what you see (or don’t see).

For so long, it was impossible to use video then it was too labor intensive and too expensive for everyday purposes like observations and coaching. Now, multimedia and video are everywhere so educators at every level need to be thinking about how they can utilize and benefit from video to enhance learning for both students and teachers.

Your Learning

As you ponder this post and the accompanying links to information about video and learning possibilities, what will you do next? Now that you know how to strategically view video and use video for teaching and learning with students as well as for professional learning with educators, take a moment to outline how you can use video as a part of teaching and learning in your situation?

How might you implement one strategy for viewing comprehension in your classroom or in the instructional design of an online learning experience this year?

How might you use video footage (of yourself or others) for professional learning purposes to plan and monitor your professional growth this year?

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?

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!

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.