This week was an introduction to Understanding by Design or Backwards Design. This is a model that I was exposed to the summer before I began teaching. My initial thoughts then was that it seemed to make sense, but I didn't know how it would look in application. My thoughts this week are a bit more nuanced. Education is both a science and an art. The science is expressed in understanding the learners, what is to be taught, and designing a model that will enhance their learning. The art is expressed in choosing the manner in which the plan will be executed. I do think Understanding by Design allows for both the science and art of education that attracted me to become a teacher in the first place. I like that there are aspects that are fairly rigid and uniform, such as the 3 general categories. I also like that it is focused on the student, but that the teacher still has room for his or her own creativity and personality. Where I still struggle is with defining the learning objectives. It seems like these have already been defined by the state Core, yet it seems that some fellow teachers want to reinvent the wheel by creating new objectives. I can't understand the disconnect. I also struggle with the battle of covering a topic versus truly understanding the topic. I have yet to see how teaching US History which is so linear in any other manner. All of the other US History teachers that I have worked with teach in a similar manner of lectures and reading that are chronological in order, a DBQ at some point, and then tests. It would be great to see something else that can work, because this is the only format that I have been exposed to.
So I felt like this week's lesson was pretty wide-ranging. There was the video that gave an overview of the historical development of learning, followed by readings on what Instructional Design is, and concluded with a look at various theories. I don't think it is ever a bad thing to reflect upon better practices to improve learning. Every year and every class should get some analysis consideration so the teacher can better develop and implement instruction. I feel that most teachers have a pretty good sense about what needs to be conveyed. But there are so many options of how to convey the information and what materials to be used. There are times that reading a primary source will be best. But variety will help to better engage the students. It is easy to fall into a routine and pattern that is comfortable for both the teacher and student. But I believe that the more thought and effort that is put into designing a lesson can help students to be learners and for knowledge to have a greater impact on their lives.
I am mostly confused by this week's assignment. I disagree with the premise that thumb drives are bad and that the 'cloud' or any other online provider for saving work is far superior. In my life, I teach in a portable classroom that has experienced interruptions with the network, live in a home where my ISP has had issues, or visit a cabin frequently that has no network access at all. I am also confused about the need to set up a Dropbox account or something similar. Does not a Weebly better serve the purpose of ePortfolios better? Now it may not be the intent with a cloud service to share every piece of work, but I am of the opinion that I generally want to only share high quality work anyways as part of my portfolio.
Now, I don't want to be all negative about this week's presentation on ePortfolios. It is nice to be able to access files anywhere around the world from any device that can access the internet. Videos and other media files do take up lots of storage space on thumb drives, so the significant storage capabilities on the web are a nice bonus. And a portfolio in an electronic form online is probably going to be accessible, adjustable, and editable for quite awhile. Whereas any files from 20 years ago that were saved on floppy disks, ZIP disks, or hard disk drives of non-internet capable computers are not doing a whole lot for me.
I thought today was a good introduction to the course and how things are going to work. I don't know that I learned anything terribly new. I was already familiar with Weebly and Dropbox, and the other platforms that were discussed were fairly limited. I guess it is reassuring to know that there isn't something else out there that is far superior. I think I still have a bit of a concern about how to use an ePortfolio in my classroom. The few projects that I do in my class would still be better served without using electronic media. However, I am encouraged about the blogging options associated with Weebly. I want my students to engage with the issues and with each other, so I am hopeful to learn how this can be used by students to respond to each other on various topics.