Learning is about so much more than earning points and bean counting.

This post was brought upon by the needs that the #UAEdTech learning community have expressed, is responsive and reflective in nature and a model of the type of transparent learning that the course instructors are asking you to engage in throughout the semester. It is also a model of the type of reflection, scaffolding and re-teaching that you will need to provide to your future students in your future classroom.  

Over this past weekend, I received multiple emails regarding the Week 2 grading for Assignment 1.0 Networked Professional Learning. All of the emails contained some variation of a similar theme, “I just saw my Week 2 grade and I am just wondering where I lost points?” As I reflected on the questions being asked and thought about my response, I felt it would be best to address them in an open manner for the benefit of the entire #UAEdTech learning community.

I understand that the format of Assignment 1.0 may be a bit new and different from the other experiences that you have had in school to date. I also understand that it will take some time to get use to this style of learning. The points and feedback you have received to date reflect that you are learning and show room for growth. This is perfectly normal. If you’re a points person (I’m clearly not and firmly believe that we can assess learning with a variety of data beyond just statistics), the total points this week actually account for a mere 7% of the total points you can earn for just this assignment during the semester.

Do not look at the percentage you received on this 1/14th of Assignment 1.0 as a failure. It is certainly far from that. If you have to use the word FAIL, I hope you look at it as your First Attempt In Learning. With this lens,  you will see that you have 13 more weeks to show your learning and growth as a Networked Professional Learner. The points for the Week 2 assignment simply establish a baseline of your understanding. While your baseline may be lower than where you would like it, a review of the rubric will  probably tell you that the grade you received for Week 2 falls within the Satisfactory or higher range, so there is no need for alarm.

A few things to think about as we forge on through the semester. I think they’ll be helpful for you.

I would strongly encourage you to go back to the Course Assignments document and carefully re-read the description of the Networked Professional Learning assignment. Make sure you you read the bullet point items and you understand those. Once you have done that, review the Course Assignment Rubric for Assignment 1.0. Make sure you look at each of the 3 criteria you are being evaluated on and keep that in mind as you work on Assignment 1.0 each week. Once you complete that review, I think you’ll see that this may involve more time and attention than simply writing one post a week and tweeting its link. If I did not make that clear during the course orientation or it did not come out during your thorough review of the Essential Items on Springboard, I hope it is clear now.

Make sure you cover the weekly online content in its entirety. This means watching all the videos and reading all the articles. They all relate to the weekly topic and will help you develop a framework for your blog posts. Feel free to write a reaction or response to a video! Record your own video response, post to YouTube and embed it on your blog! Find a selection from an article that you think was important, quote it on your blog and then explain what makes it so important.

Your attention and engagement with the weekly online content (Watch these Videos/Read these Items) is crucial to knowing what to blog about each week. I am providing multiple prompts during these early weeks to help get you thinking about things to write about. That does not mean that you have to address all of the prompts in one post. As we progress, your personal learning interests, questions and thoughts will be what you use to determine what you will blog about.

In the event you are totally stuck and unable to think of anything to blog about, you can always consult the Blogging Prompts for Teacher Candidates document located in Springboard>Content>Digital Communication Hub.

In this course, blogging does not serve as simply an assignment or worksheet that you check off each week to get points with minimal effort and move on. In my opinion, that type of work serves very little purpose and very little learning may actually occur. In this course, blogging serves as a form of self-reflection where you explain your understanding of something (a topic or content) and provide links to digital resources that support your understanding of the something (a topic or content).

Because blogging is deeply personal, everyone’s post are likely to take various forms, formats and lengths. This can be messy, but that is OK. There’s a learning curve for everyone to negotiate on their own (course instructors included), and that’s what we will do. Along with the personal nature of blogging comes opportunity to express yourself in different ways. I’d encourage you to look at the Course Assignments document, paying attention to the options for blog posts listed under Assignment 1.1. There is a tremendous amount of flexibility here for you, should you choose to take advantage of it.

Each week, you need to make a concerted effort to engage with the other students and instructors in the course around the topics we are covering. This occurs through the online content, face-to-face conversations at Open Labs, blog posts, blog comments, sharing those posts on Twitter and sharing related resources that you find on your own via Twitter. There is no magic maximum or minimum number for this. You need to demonstrate your thorough understanding of the weekly topic through these various means. You need to make your learning transparent and show the instructors that you understand the weekly topic and you can apply that to your personal life or your future classroom.

Remember, if we were meeting in a traditional lecture format, you would be in class for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. This would not include the time you would spend on reading and completing assignments. Even though this is a blended course with an integral online component, you still should be putting in the same amount of time each week on this course as you do your other courses. You should expect to spend roughly 5 hours of time working on this course each week. That’s an estimate on my part, based on being both a student and a teacher in online courses in the past.

Finally, a few things I want you to encourage to do each week.

  • Take chances and try new things! You will never be penalized for trying something new and having it not work out. If this happens, reflect on what challenges you experienced and discuss it on your blog. Share what steps you are going to take to try avoid those challenges the next time.
  • Learn about things you are interested in and passionate about. This will be especially important as you begin your Major Project!
  • Take personal control of your learning and share that learning with others! Engage in conversation through the Twitter hashtag. Tweets can be much more than just links to articles! @Reply to people! Strike up an online conversation with someone you might not know!
  • Seek out answers from others in the course! We literally have 125 experts in one thing or another in the 3 sections of this course. Get to know them and take advantage of their individual brilliance!
  • Always keep think about ways technology helps and hinders learning inside and outside the traditional educational setting.
  • Have fun! Ask questions! Be creative!

It is easy to get caught up in how many points you are scoring, but this course is not about points. It’s about learning. It is my job to challenge your thinking around the potential and possibilities of technology in the classroom, innovative pedagogies that can support learners in all places and spaces and I intend to do that. It may make you uncomfortable as you struggle with topics and things that may be new or unknown, but that’s ok. You see, learning occurs when you begin to reconcile the known (your past experiences and what you’ve always done) with the unknown (what you’re being asked to think about). As an instructor, I am focused on helping you make connections, build new schema, construct new understandings, and grow as a learner and future teacher. I want to make you think, analyze and reflect because these are the skills that you will be required to demonstrate on the edTPA!

This course really offers a unique type of learning experience for each person. But I assure you, if you put forth your maximum effort and make your learning transparent, you will not fail this course. Along the way the course instructors will continue to model for you the type of connected learning opportunities educational technology can offer. At the end of our time together, I think you will find that you have grown and learned in ways you never had even considered prior to this class, and if that’s the case, then I feel confident that we have both done our jobs. Thanks for your time and commitment to ongoing, life-long learning and allowing me to be a part of it.