Dissertation Proposal…check

Friday (9/16) I successfully presented my dissertation proposal and have permission to move forward.  (Which explains why this blog has been so quiet – all my writing has been focused on my dissertation research.)

Some Background

I have done the work.  I have searched (and continue to search) the literature.  I have written and rewritten over 100 pages (which is now whittled down to about 50).  I have had my dissertation adviser changed twice, and my committee reorganized three times.  With all this change there have been many different preferences and explanations I have had to provide throughout the entire process leading up to the proposal date.

All this change made me unusually nervous.  I have given many presentations.  I have managed classrooms of 40+ students.  I have presented to large auditoriums of people.  But all the change throughout this process made me uneasy.

Some Realizations

I am a Teacher.

When I finally moved into what I call “teacher mode” the presentation went smoothly.  I am a teacher at heart, and it is evident in the success I find when I’m in “teacher mode.”

This realization came first during a point with lots of questions. After quick short answers of “yes” to one question and “no” to the other, I proceeded to expand upon the yes and build to explain the no.  At the conclusion of my explanation I turned to the one who asked the second question (the one with the “no” response) and asked if there was something still bothering her.  She looked at me and first said, “How did you know I had another question?”  Internally I responded “Because I’m a teacher.”

But really, how did I know?  I knew because she had asked one of the initial questions and while I knew the one question was fully supported, this second question had the potential to still be muddy.  I knew because I could see it on her face.  I knew by the look of the other committee member that the other question had been thoroughly answered.  But as a teacher, I knew I need to make sure I followed up on her first question to ensure that I addressed the question adequately.

The Citations…

In preparing for this presentation, I knew that I need to demonstrate that I had thoroughly reviewed the research.  The foundation of my study needed to be constructed of previous research.  However, I struggle with remembering names and including them naturally in a conversation. (This is not unique to research – my sisters will always win at the “guess the name and artist on the radio game”.  I may know every single word of the song, may even know how to play it, but struggle to remember the artist and title.)  I don’t struggle as much in the writing, but definitely in the speaking.

In creating my presentation I made sure that I included the citations on the slides (they would be my “cheat sheet”).  At the beginning of the presentation I made a conscious effort to include the names, but it was when I let myself talk about the concepts in “teacher mode” that the connections became more clear.  One committee member said, “I wish you could have recorded that so you could hear how well you made the connections.  Those connections need to be equally clear in your chapter 2.”

Now to just put my “teacher mode” into my writing.


Using Multiple Instructional Models – SAMR and TPCK

It appears that most people are looking at my Why We Need Learning Theories post.  I think combining instructional models fall into a similar thought.  My current internal visual is actually using various magnifying glasses to closely examine an instructional design through multiple perspectives.  I would argue that good designers do just that – look at their work from multiple perspectives.

Not long ago I ran across the SAMR Model developed by Ruben Puentedura as a framework for evaluating how technology is being implemented in teaching.  Here is a visual of the model:

SAMR full model

Basically if the technology integration is at the substitution or augmentation level you will not expect to see much change in the teaching.  It is when the technology is integrated at the modification or redefinition level that we see transformation in education.

At AECT during a session on MOOCs David Wiley talked about how we know what strategies work well in a face to face setting with a class of 20, perhaps we just haven’t found the strategies that work in a really large course online.  Which made me think of this model – what are the strategies to integrate technology so that is causes the teaching/learning to be modified or redefined and thus transform the teaching/learning?

I wanted to review Dr. Puentedura’s work and was only able to find conference presentations posted on his blog http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/ and some YouTube videos.

In watching one of his longer presentations, I saw that he uses several models, including Mishra & Koehler’s  TPCK model.  At the beginning of the second part of the presentation Dr. Puentedura talked about the model in a way that gave me a new perspective on TPCK.  He states that you need to think about the content, pedagogy and technology “at the same time.” (at 3:05) They need to be connected and brought together.  There needs to be an opportunity for the content, pedagogy and technology to have equal influence on the design. This fits with my own best experiences where I am discussing a specific course with a faculty and bringing my technology and pedagogical expertise to the table with their content and pedagogical expertise to find best strategies in moving their course to a hybrid or online model.


I like how he easily jumps from model to model, making connections across them.  Which is better seen in the first part of the presentation. I think all too often people get “stuck” into one way of thinking – I use this model and this is the best model for me and my course/students, I will always use this model.  I’m all for models – they help make the design of courses transparent.  But I do like looking as a design through various lenses – which is what I feel Dr. Puentedura is recommending and modeling in his presentation.


In an interview with Stefan Olsa from the Center för Skolutveckling in Sweeden he says something at the end of the interview that caught my attention.  The question was where do you see schools in about ten years? (at 3:55) He would hope to see a school where the technology is integrated at the redefinition level, “where the students become the true owners of their own learning.”

Transitioning from K12 to Instructional Design?

I was recently asked how I transitioned to becoming an instructional designer after teaching in K-12.  Actually, I’m not officially an instructional designer.  My current job title is Senior Instructional Technologist – which translates into supporting faculty with the integration of technology.  I am currently a PhD candidate in an instructional design program which will open some opportunities for me, but I’m still not sure I like the model of the Subject Matter Expert handing over all the content for the Instructional Designer to create the instruction.

I must say that transitioning out of K12, when all your recent experience is in K12 is extremely difficult.  My decision to leave K12 was difficult for me emotionally.  Add the credulous looks during job interviews and it made me truly question if I had done anything that society saw as worthwhile.  Once I finally did get a job, through a temp agency, I found secret delight in the fact that I was the only one in the office that could successfully fix the copy machine.  At least that was one skill I gained in all that K12 experience.

But back to the question, which I think is a good one – how did I transition from K12 to instructional design.  I began my career as a French teacher.  I had always told myself that I would look at getting a MA degree, if life permitted, after a few years of teaching.  So during my second year of teaching I began looking a programs.  I loved teaching French, but an advanced degree in French was not that enticing.  I looked at MBA programs and did a bunch of searching for programs in teaching, instruction, technology.  It came down to an MBA in organizational behavior or education/instructional technology.  The Educational Technology degree won out.

At the end of my program I looked at my school and realized – as I discovered is often the case – that the teacher who was really into integrating technology in the classroom and had been the technology guru for years was an institutional icon.  I was not going to progress or use my degree in that school.  (And those institutional icons also tend to be men who think that women can’t do technology – at least all the ones I encountered.)

I applied to all sorts of jobs.  There was one job in particular that is very similar to my current job – supporting faculty at a University with technology – that I really wanted.  The rejection letter that I received was kind and offered some insight that changed my job seeking practices.  While this job was what I wanted to do, I needed to get some more experience before I could be considered for a job like that one.  I came up with a list of three things that I needed – 1) more experience with technology, 2) more experience with different age groups and 3) experience with a more diverse population.  (My first job was in a high school with an extremely homogeneous population.)  So then I started looking for jobs that would give me those experiences.  The job I ended up with was as a Site Technology Coordinator at a K-8 school where the number one language spoken at home was Farsi.  Not exactly what I wanted – but it provided me with the 3 needed areas of experience.

Fast forward to my current place of employment, I actually started at the University through the temp agency as an office specialist.  It was a job, I could do it and I was working at the University.  (More experience in higher education was on my current list of experiences needed.) I basically opened the mail and answered phones (and fixed the copy machine).  I would periodically watch the employment opportunities to see if there was anything.  I happened upon the instructional technologist position, applied and got one of the openings!

I was finally working at a University supporting faculty with integrating technology!  But still not an instructional designer, in fact most of the faculty saw me as simply the Moodle technician – some still do. (Moodle is the learning management system we are using.)  Patiently, I have attempted to convey the experience I have, both as an instructor and as an online student.  I have moved up in the department and have had some wonderful opportunities to learn an grow.

So, in reality I’m not an instructional designer – I’m currently not sure I want to be.  But rather than jumping straight from K12 into instructional design I had to build my resume so I had the skills to match the job.  I know that any good teacher can easily transition to instructional design.  The problem is convincing the people who are doing the hiring that you have the skills – not only to do the job, but to work in an office.  (In one interview, the interviewer expressed concern about me being able to function in an office setting.  I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I think a functional teacher could more easily transition to an office than an office worker could transition to the classroom!)

I am grateful to the kind rejection letter that helped me see what experience I needed.  I have continued to use that framework – it might not be my ideal job, but does it give me skills and experience that lead me in the direction I’d like to go.

So this is where I would sum up my advice from my experience…

  • One thing I have learned is that building bridges is important.  You never know who will be that connection that will get you in the door.
  • Ask the interviewers what skills and experiences you are missing that would make you their ideal candidate.  This is the one thing that really helped me find the best job right after my MA degree.
  • Continually learn – whether it is a degree, community education classes or simply playing with the free versions of instructional tools available, keep learning.  And document that learning by building a portfolio or website.

Here is some additional advice from watching a friend.

  • Look for opportunities to use your skills and talents outside of the K12 classroom.

I have a friend, also in the instructional design program, with a background in deaf education.  She was introduced to a parent’s group who were looking to create instructional materials to support young children who are deaf.  This simple introduction led her to become an educational consultant on their current project.  This resulted in an amazing project for one of our classes, as well as something to add to her resume.

Good luck with your searching!  There are opportunities out there.

Testing Throughout the Year

Although I am not currently in the K-12 setting, I have been watching the Common Core Standards unfold.  I have yet to delve into the details of the standards, but I had to pause for a moment today.

While reading about some of the changes in California with the implementation of the Common Core Standards set for Fall 2014 for English and Math (State plans big changes to testing, instruction) the statement about testing sounded a bit odd to me.

Tests will be given throughout the school year as well as at the end.  This will provide quicker feedback to teachers rather than waiting months before finding gaps in student understanding.

Good instruction includes assessments throughout the entire process.  Teachers are providing tests throughout the year, along with other assessments that tell them where the gaps are in student understanding.  Teachers watch, assess and adapt their teaching DAILY! every minute!

Let me make it clear, these tests are not for the teachers nor are they for the students nor are they for the parents of those students, these tests are for everyone else.

Teachers are not waiting months before finding gaps – they see them everyday and work against great odds to find a way to reach all their students. Parents have the option and opportunities to talk with teachers about their own child through a myriad of methods (email, phone, parent-teacher conferences, etc.).

These tests are so that everyone else can “make sure” that teachers are doing their job.  These test results will not be quick enough nor efficient enough to provide teachers the feedback that is needed to teach our students well.  This feedback will be used by others to try and dictate what they think the teachers (who have already been trained in teaching) need to be doing last year.

Makes me think that teachers are actually bees from Hawtch-Hawtch! (Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss)

For more information about the bee near Hawtch-Hawtch check out the following:

Out west near Hawtch-Hawtch…

High-Stakes Reform: The Politics of Educational Accountability by Kathryn A. McDermott

Who’s Who & what’s What in the Books of Dr. Seuss

Optimistic Teacher … despite the odds

My husband has told me that I am a pessimist.  For the most part I would have to agree.  However, there is one place where I am a definite optimist – teaching (and leading – which I consider almost synonymous but is not the focus of today’s post).

I have consistently had great hope and confidence in my students.  I set high expectations and watched my students succeed.  I have comforted them when they struggle and rejoiced as they have soared.  I believe in the human race.  In its capacity to create, dream, explore and innovate.  This is something that I believe belongs in the classroom.  (I believe it belongs in our leaders – but that is another road I will not take today.)

So when I read about Fear and Self-Loathing In the Classroom by William Johnson, I am disheartened.  I am not surprised, but it does make me sad.  While I do believe there is room for improvement in education, constantly hearing that you are failing does not engender even hope for change.

There are so many places students, children, teenagers are told they are not good enough.  Advertisers, the number of friends on Facebook, what they wear, what phone they have, grades etc.  Presidents and other “education experts” have been declaring for many years “Our schools are failing”.  We don’t need to add to the bucket of “fear and self-loathing”.

Some of the vignettes William Johnson shares in his article – a student becoming physically ill during high-stakes testing, another shaking uncontrollably while trying to recite a 14-line poem, the tears of not feeling smart enough for high school.  These are not isolated events.  With each cry of “Our schools are failing!”, do we not realize the impact on the individual students.

At the end of his article he cites the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher and teacher Dan Brown’s summary of the report in stating that our schools of full of fear.  This is not the ideal environment in which to grow our future.

I uncomfortably feel the weight of that fear.  My teaching has taken me out of the classroom.  I am one of those numbers who has left the K-12 classroom.  I taught for 10 years.  My last group of students will be forever ingrained in my heart.  I went back for their graduation.  The first graduation in their family for many of them.  I grieved for those who were not there.  I rejoiced with the family of the valedictorian with a full ride scholarship to Brown and all the other first time college bound students.  And I cried with each one who looked at me in complete astonishment that I had kept my promise to be there.  I had come because I believed in each on of them.  I still do.

The (K-5) Teacher side of ‘Design’: in Teaching vs. Instructional Design

This is a continuation of  looking at ADDIE from instructional design through the lens of a K-5 teacher, we are looking at Design.  For previous posts on this subject check out the Teaching vs. Instructional Design category.


According to Gagné (2004), the Design step of ADDIE includes the following:

  1. Translate course goals into performance outcomes, and major course objectives (unit objectives).
  2. Determine the instructional topics or units to be covered, and how much time will be spent on each.
  3. Sequence the units with regard to the course objectives.
  4. Flesh out the units of instruction, identifying the major objectives to be achieved during each unit.
  5. Define lessons and learning activities for each unit.
  6. Develop specifications for assessment of what students have learned.

1) Translate course goals into performance outcomes, and major course objectives (unit objectives).

In the K-5 setting, the course goals are determined by the state standards.  How those standards translate into the unit objectives in the classroom, is something the K-5 teacher determines, often in coordination with the grade level teachers.

2) Determine the instructional topics or units to be covered, and how much time will be spent on each.

The K-5 teacher, often in coordination with the grade level team divides up the content into the designated school year.

3) Sequence the units with regard to the course objectives.

Along with the school calendar is the timeline for the state testing, often well before the end of the year.  Not only do the teachers have to meet the objectives, but they must decide which objectives will be taught after the state testing.

4) Flesh out the units of instruction, identifying the major objectives to be achieved during each unit.

At the K-5 level, this is often done in coordination with the grade level team.

5) Define lessons and learning activities for each unit.

I think this is the part that most people understand that teachers do.  Teachers have been sharing lesson plans for a long time.  I’m not sure how a teacher could only do this one step.  Well, a good teacher definitely does more than just this step.

6) Develop specifications for assessment of what students have learned.

There are a number of different ways to assess what students have learned.  I think most people think all assessment is multiple choice tests.  (High stakes testing ends up being like this, not that it is the best way to assess students.)  Especially when you think about the K-5 setting, there are many things that can only be assessed by doing.


Design is the step where content and context come together.  Regardless of which role you have (instructional designer or teacher) there is much work that must be done in coordination with the other role.  One could argue that there are a number of designers who do all this and the teachers simply implement.  But having evaluated pre-service teachers in CA – watching video of them teaching and scouring their very detailed lesson plans with modifications, the teachers that simply taught the script (because the school required it), did not teach well.  However, that same script taught by a teacher who has done analysis and worked out a design that will work for that specific classroom, were incredible teachers.

Remember, I was only looking at the second step in ADDIE and only looking at K-5 teachers. I will continue this thinking going through the various levels of teaching and looking at each of the ADDIE steps.

Gagne, R., Briggs, L., Wager, W., & Keller, J. (2004) Principles of Instructional Design (Fifth Edition). Belmont CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Are Teachers Instructional Designers?

In my original post about teaching and instructional design I ended with a question on why instructional designers don’t see themselves as teachers.  Perhaps I was asking the wrong question. Perhaps I should ask: Are teachers instructional designers?

See one person’s thoughts on this question – Are Teachers Instructional Designers?

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