Reflection and Wrap-up
This professional learning course stems from my Professional Learning Plan I created in another class. Except for the initial web conference, the Digital Learning Workshop is 100% online and asynchronous. Since this pandemic has forced school districts to rethink their approach to meaningful lesson delivery, developing a Digital Learning Workshop seemed the best way to help teachers and staff develop the skills necessary to thrive in a blended environment. The 5 modules I developed for this course follow a common pattern and contain two assignments. The first learning activity is basically a tutorial of a Google app, and the second activity requires teachers to apply their new skills to transform one of their lessons into an activity that both face-to-face students and virtual students can complete.
Instructional Design Theories
Many of the theories we have studied throughout this course lend themselves nicely to online learning; however, when building my online professional development course, I adopted the constructivist approach. I learn by doing, so I tend to teach my students in the same manner. Moreover, I find that my students are more engaged in the learning when I give them enough information to get them started and let them work through the lesson/activity, asking questions as needed. As I designed my course, I wanted my learners to practice the skills presented in each module (constructivism), while making sure they have an opportunity to reflect on their learning (cognitivism) and apply what they have learned in their own classroom settings (connectivism) (LearningDctr, 2010).
UbD Plan Implementation
Backwards planning works well for me, considering it is difficult for me to not to begin a project with the end in mind. Having a clear learning goal for each module really helped me to flesh out a plan that will help learners achieve the desired level of mastery. Furthermore, knowing the learning goals helps to determine the types of activities needed to engage learners in each module. Since these modules are experiential in nature, I used videos that show learners what to do and where to find the features in the different Google apps that are being taught.
Because “the UDL Guidelines emphasize the importance of fostering collaboration and community (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014),” including a variety of different activities was important to me as I built this course. I used a variety of ways for learners to show what they learned, as well as different avenues for learners to share their finished lessons with others and reflect on their learning. As I build more online courses, I will continue to utilize the UbD framework, so that all learners will not only benefit from the knowledge they gain, but also come away from their learning with a finished product they can use in their classrooms.
Importance of Online Learning
Since the COVID–19 pandemic has permanently altered the face of education, teachers and administrators alike have had to rethink everything they know about lesson delivery and content mastery. While some have embraced the change and are moving forward at full steam, others are still struggling with the technology tools that have become a requirement. While higher education institutions are adjusting their instruction to help future teachers incorporate these digital learning tools into their lesson plans, there is currently a bit of a learning gap. For this reason, school districts need to step up and educate teachers on various online learning tools so they can better serve their virtual learners.
Furthermore, it would benefit larger school districts greatly to investigate the possibility of starting regional online schools which would relieve some of the burden currently placed on teachers. Since virtual teaching is most likely here to stay, it makes sense to open a school that houses the virtual teaching format and that can service other school districts in their region. It is difficult to cater to both face-to-face students and virtual students at the same time, and virtual students deserve to have teachers who understand the ins and outs of virtual teaching and can provide a much more robust online curriculum.
If this course has taught me anything, it is that online professional learning is not only an important avenue for teachers to access on-demand professional development, but also essential to the growth and development of virtual education. Virtual teaching and learning are here to stay, and it is up to the school districts to step up and provide the necessary resources that will help their teachers and administration educate their virtual learners. Technology is ever-changing, and we must do all we can to keep up or we will be left behind.
LearningDctr. (2010, June 17). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism & Learning and Instructional Theory [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YOqgXjynd0
Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. T. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing, an imprint of CAST.