T509 Project: EdTechTeacher Self-Paced Course on Formative Assessment Tools

It was so great seeing people’s projects at the T509 Project Faire! I wasn’t able to see everyone’s but the ones I did see were amazing!

In case you weren’t able to make it to ours, I wanted to post an update. Additionally, if you’re a teacher, it would be great to get your feedback! For those of you who gave us feedback today, thank you so much!

Here’s a link to our project. 

In an earlier post, I mentioned a bit about our project challenge. We (Bobbi, Valerie, and me) were working with EdTechTeacher to create an online self-paced learning experience using their existing assets. The challenge was we had to create something that would be self-sustaining and would require no moderation. We had the freedom to choose the topic, and decided on formative assessment. We looked through their assets and compiled a list of free tools that were accessible on any device, and then surveyed teachers about which ones they would be most interested in. Socrative, Google Forms, and InfuseLearning were the top three.

Most of the feedback we received from teachers were that they wanted to be able to skip to what was relevant to them. They wanted to be able to learn something and immediately be able to try it in their classrooms. They also wanted a space where they could get guidance or feedback.

The biggest challenge we faced was trying to create that collaborative space that would require no moderation from ETT. While many teachers are on Twitter, it’s very difficult to archive all activity. With Facebook, while things are archived, you get that endless scrolling. Someone would also have to moderate that. We thought about Pinterest but we didn’t see how we could create an open board that anybody could pin to. While an open Google+ community is something we are thinking about pursuing, some initial moderation may be needed.

So, our solution was Reddit. We were initially thinking about creating a separate subreddit for each tool, but ended up creating an EdTechTeacher subreddit. On reddit, you can create it so anyone can add content and users can upvote/downvote it. You can also search for specific topics within a subreddit. This platform could be used and require little to no moderation on ETT’s part. Users could just upvote/downvote. If there were really active users on the subreddit, they could be promoted to moderators. Additionally, you can create a wiki for a subreddit, or set it so that anyone who adds to the subreddit can add onto a wiki based on conditions, either that they have a specific amount of points or that their account is at least x days old:

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We’re not sure how ETT feels about Reddit, but I think it’s an avenue worth exploring. There was some concern about teachers not using Reddit – but there’s actually a pretty active Reddit teacher community.

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There’s over 22,000 readers and plenty of recent content.

Additionally, there are plenty of other educator subreddit communities:

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I think tapping into this existing space could be really neat. These teachers are already active on Reddit, and if they were to take our course, they would probably post on Reddit. There’s also many spaces within the subreddits to promote ETT.

Anyways, that’s where we’re at. Based on the feedback we receive, we’re going to make some changes to our site and give some recommendations for ETT.

The Odin Project

After hearing much buzz about The Odin Project, I decided to check it out. Part of my personal learning while I’m here at Harvard is to build skills that will make me more hirable. I’m still exploring possible career paths but generally, most of the things I’m interested require a better understanding and familiarity with the technical side of things.

The Odin Project is a free self-paced course on web development. This is from their site and explains their project:

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I think that’s a pretty cool concept. I don’t know exactly how many people are using this site, but I think it has the potential to be a massive space.

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While not all the lesson pages have user discussions, I think it’s great that on the ones that do, there’s interactions and exchanges between users. I also think it’s great that the site has a section on forming in-person study groups and providing resources to connect with other learners. I think it helps address the issue of isolation when learning something on your own. It’s nice to be able to interact with others.

I’ve only explored the first section, but here’s what I like:

  • Simple design – everything flows really well
  • The information is categorized in a logical manner with learning goals for each section
  • Built in user comments/discussions
  • Validation on progress

I really love this progress bar. As you go through each page, the circles fill up and you see the percentage of content you’ve finished looking at.

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I also really like that you get to “check” each lesson as you complete it.

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I’m a huge fan of the design and overall information layout.

Has anyone else tried this out?

Technology, Access, and Equity

Lindsey’s post on the digital divide and media literacy touched on some issues that I have been thinking about since I was a teacher. These are issues that pushed me out of the classroom, and drove my decision to come to HGSE.

Like Lindsey, I am also a huge proponent of media literacy. I think it’s very important for people to be critical consumers of media instead of passively consuming everything that’s being thrown at them. I think it’s also important for students to develop the skills to craft their own messages, and to be able to participate in our digital culture as creators.

I think this isn’t really an issue for schools that have the proper resources and support. However, for schools like the ones I have taught in, it’s a huge challenge. Access is a huge issue. The schools I worked in, for the most part, didn’t always have the infrastructures in place to run more updated software. There was also a lot of disconnect between the IT department and schools. Teachers didn’t really have any autonomy over the software that could be installed and used on classroom computers, but then the process for getting technology approved could take months.

(I remember how if I wanted to show a YouTube video in class, I would need to email it to a specific department that would review it, and if they found it acceptable, they would upload it to a server and email me the link. This process sometimes took weeks, which wasn’t really efficient. And this was the process for something that is ideally simple – the process for getting software/programs approved could take months. It took a whole year to get the Oregon Trail app approved.)

Then, even if schools have access, the technology itself isn’t enough. Most of the time, what ends up happening is thousands of dollars in technology sits unused in a warehouse for months because there wasn’t much consideration or thought put into how it was going to be implemented. Or, the technology is rolled out, but teachers don’t receive much support in integrating it effectively.

Technology often ends up being re-appropriated into what’s already being done. If we’re to look at the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, we can see the various levels technology can be used. From my experience in low-income districts, much of the use was still in the substitution and augmentation levels. While that’s a start, I wonder how we can push technology integration toward the redefinition stage.

I recall going to various edtech conferences, such as CUE, and being both inspired and frustrated by the things I saw. There are some novel and innovative things being done in this space, but what is frustrating is that it isn’t always accessible or scalable in urban schooling environments or areas where access is an issue. Sometimes this lack of access was due to cost, and other times because of the bureaucracy of school districts.

I often wonder how MOOCs could be a game changer in this. It seems that MOOCs want to increase access to quality education, but I wonder – access for whom? From most of the readings and things discussed this semester in T509, it seems most MOOC participants are usually already educated and looking to advance their careers. So MOOCs enable them to do this, and that’s awesome for them. However, I wonder how we help those who don’t fit that description? Whose responsibility is that?

I also wonder how I can play a role in this. I often struggle with this and what career I would like to pursue. I want to create awesome edtech products for low-income schools, but how can I do that if they don’t have access to it? How do we increase access? How do we help school districts build themselves?

Learning Unity: Progress So Far

Learning how to build a game in Unity for our T522 project has basically taken over my life.

I don’t know if we will have a complete game built by the end of the semester but we will at least have part of it done.

The part I was working on was getting the crates to be clickable and draggable. It’s still not totally perfect but considering where I started, it’s pretty neat to see how I have progressed.

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Attempt 1: The crates would change color when you hovered over them and you could click and drag them, but there wasn’t any physics component.

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Attempt 2: The crates have physics attached to them but kept falling through/not landing on the boat.

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Attempt 3: The crates are landing on the boat but there’s glitches in the coding. Some crates go toppling/flying/replicating.

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Attempt 4: The crates aren’t as glitchy but some aspects still need to be tweaked.

Next Steps:

  • Set up colliders/hit boxes so the crates “snap” to a specific part of the boat
  • Set up event triggers for animations – the boat will change position showing how its balanced or unbalanced depending on how the crates are placed

Our overall project concept is a one-stop STEAM shop with interdisciplinary learning games. This is one of those games, tied to the objective of learning one-to-one correspondence.

The objective of this game is to balance the boat by placing the crates on it, and taking those to the Science Lab. The crates are filled with materials that can then be used to upgrade your ship. The bigger your ship is, the more crates you can carry, and the more customizable options you will have.

I’m also working on the Science Lab component with another of my project mates in T550.

Here’s some concept art one of my project mates put together:

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The idea is that the user will be able to draft/piece various parts of a ship together onto a blueprint and see it in real-time.

So far this has been a really awesome/frustrating experience. It’s awesome because I’m learning so many new things. It’s frustrating because I want to get it to work right away, and it takes many attempts to get something workable.

My experience has made me think about fixed and growth mindsets a lot. Prior to being at HGSE, I would have never thought or even attempted to make a game. I just didn’t really see myself as being able to develop those skills. Truth be told, I’m kind of a perfectionist and it really frustrates me when I can’t get something the way I want it to be right away. The more I think about my own learning I realize that the things I have learned to do – crocheting, for example – have been experiences where I failed over and over again. While I may have initially been upset/frustrated at “not getting it,” I started to look into solving those problems. I knew I could do it, and it would just take practice and different techniques to find what worked.

I’m also thinking about some of the concepts we’ve been learning about in T509, such as connectivism and learning networks. I don’t think I would have made progress as quickly as I did if it weren’t for the Unity community and forums. Whenever I had an issue, I could just google it and there would usually already be a thread about it with solutions. When I first posted in the forum about my plans, an user pointed me to some resources that were extremely helpful. There are also TONS of video tutorials on YouTube. It’s so awesome.

For anyone who is also working in Unity, or plans to, I highly recommend the Unify Community Wiki. Users post their various scripts/solutions for others to use, modify and adapt. The Unity forums and Unity answers are also helpful if you are having problems.

The Unity Asset Store is also incredible and amazing. There are many free, open-source assets you can download and import into your own game. You can also buy assets. This saved me a lot of time as I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel – I could just take something and modify it to fit my needs.

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I know I still have so much to learn but I’m really excited about how far I’ve come.

Hogwarts is Here

Yesterday my friend Nick told me about Hogwarts is Here, an online space where students can enroll and take 9-week courses. The goal of the site is to “simulate a true academic Hogwarts experience” and you start as a first year, taking the same courses that Harry Potter did: Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Defense against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Astronomy, and Transfiguration.

Apparently, you can also join “dorms” and clubs, where you can engage with other users. According to their home page, there are currently 20,000+ students studying at Hogwarts.

I think the difference between this site and Pottermore is that Pottermore focuses mainly on people exploring new writing and scenes from the Hogwarts world, and that Hogwarts is Here is aiming to delve into more of the academic aspect of Hogwarts. As a huge HP geek, I think the fact that these fan sites exist are pretty neat. Even though Hogwarts is a fictional world, there are clearly many people who would like to delve into it and learn as if they were there. You can receive a Hogwarts education without all the dangers of dementors and evil wizards.

I decided to enroll out of curiosity.

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Not as cool as getting a physical acceptance letter but still pretty neat. You can choose your own house, which is different from the sorting on Pottermore. (Choosing is pretty hard because I consider myself a Gryffindor/Ravenclaw hybrid. But okay, Ravenclaw!)

So, once you’re in, you can see the courses you can take. You must complete all first-year courses before moving on to second year.

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I clicked on “Charms” and this is what I see:

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It looks like you can go through the lessons at your own pace. I can’t see any lesson other than lesson 1, as it seems each lesson must be completed before you can see the next one. The assignments for lesson 1 are a multiple choice quiz and an essay. The first “lesson” is all text, which is somewhat disappointing – it would be neat to see videos. Then again, I could see why it might be a large amount of work – the site seems to be run by volunteers who like Harry Potter. It’s not like they’re getting paid for this.

The concept seems similar to The Magical Circle School, which is an online space where users can enroll and learn about various paganism topics and practices. The courses are also run by volunteers who would like to share their knowledge. Your assignments are graded by the people who are “teaching” the classes. I put teaching in quotes because it’s mostly all text that they have written, and you’re basically reading it. I don’t feel there is as much interaction there. Then again, I could see why they may not want to do videos: in most places, identifying as Pagan or Wiccan or any other “non-traditional” religion could have negative consequences. They probably want to keep their identities anonymous by using pseudonyms as they currently are using.

Anyway, on The Magical Circle School, you go through courses and complete assignments based on what you learned in the text you read, or the outside sources professors link to. When you complete a course, you receive a certificate. There is also a forum where you can talk to other users enrolled in courses, which is pretty cool. (I was on the site for a while but apparently they delete your account if you don’t log in within a certain amount of days, and then you have to start over. Also, outside of personal religious curiosity, I didn’t really see how continuing these courses would benefit me. I don’t think “paganism history knowledge” on my resume is going to do much for me.)

Hogwarts is Here also has some social aspects. The “common rooms” are chatrooms where you can talk to other users who are in your house. There are also forums where you can talk about assignments and interact with other users in other houses. There are definitely some roleplaying aspects.

I don’t know how much time I will devote to this considering how many other priorities I have going on in my life right now. Learning more about a fictional world I am already somewhat obsessed with is probably not a good idea. If this had been around when I was a kid, though, I would be super into it.

It makes me wonder what the user demographics are. Are these younger kids who were introduced to HP by their teachers or parents? Or are they people like me who grew up on HP and are very attached to that world, even if it’s fictional?

What would completing/knowing this Hogwarts knowledge gain you, other than geek cred? Or does it not matter what you gain, as long as it’s something you enjoy?

HGSE Hackathon Demo Day and EdTech Showcase

This was my first Hackathon experience ever, and I have to say it was really fun. Throughout the entire event I found myself riding this high energy wave. After it was over, though, I found myself crashing and feeling the exhaustion. I came home yesterday and collapsed on my bed for hours. This wasn’t even an all night Hackathon event – from what I heard, most run for 24/7 and people are up all night hacking and coding away at their projects. I can’t even imagine what those must be like.

For me, the event was like all the concepts from the courses I’m taking were thrown into a weekend. There was design thinking and the iterative process, which is something I’m learning about in T522, Dockterman’s class. There were elements of constructionism, which is what I’m learning about in T550. There was some data visualization, which is what I’m learning about in T510s. There was also the overall challenge – how do you create something that has a massive reach – which is something I’m learning about in T509 Massive. It was pretty neat, though, being able to apply what I’m learning in my classes to our product at that Hackathon.

Yesterday all 11 teams demo-ed their pitches/products in front of the judges. I thought it was so neat how different everyone’s idea was, even though we were all working around the same challenges.

The pitches themselves can be kind of intimidating. We all had 5 minutes to relay our idea/product and the work we did. Trying to synthesize everything you’ve created into 5 minutes is incredibly challenging, but it really forces you to think about the essence of your idea. We had spent a large chunk of Saturday practicing our pitch over and over again, and getting feedback from all the mentors.

My team actually ended up winning the Impact badge award, which was super exciting and awesome. Even though our product didn’t exist, the fact that the judges thought our idea had potential for a big impact was really humbling.

The badges are being delivered through Credly, which is a digital badge achievement recognition platform. From my understanding, different organizations can give credit for participation in events via digital badges and credentials. I had always thought of badges as just images, but apparently these badges are loaded with data about the details of the event as well as whatever documents that verify your participation in said events. So, if you presented at some conference, you could get a badge for that and it would link to your presentation. Then you can share these badges on various social networks, including your LinkedIn profile, and people can see what you’ve done. I think it’s cool that Credly is trying to provide a platform to spread recognition of the various ways people participate in learning and skill-building.

I remember reading something in our readings this week about one of the recommendations for MIT, and one was to look into badges and other forms of recognition. I think that would be an added bonus for completing MOOCs – having a badge that you could put on your LinkedIn profile. At least I know I would like that!

Speaking of LinkedIn, here’s my profile.

Also, today was the Educational Technology showcase. There were various vendors set up on the third floor of Gutman talking about their products and the work they’re doing. Google was there and they had Google Glasses that you could try on, which was pretty cool. There was a reception at the end where they showcased the Hackathon event via pictures and a video, which was awesome, too. I hope they post that later!

I’d really like to participate in more of these types of events. There’s actually a few coming up but due to prior commitments I won’t be able to attend.

For anyone who is interested, though, this weekend there’s the StartUp Scramble at the Harvard iLab. HIVE (Harvard GSE Innovation and Ventures in Education), formerly Bridge, is also going to have HIVE nights every Thursday night. Each night will center around an education entrepreneurship area. It’s an open space for people to work and get feedback on their ideas and connect with others. These nights are going to be held at the new LaunchPad (formerly the media lab in Gutman), which is a really neat space to work in.

Overwhelmed in a Good Way

I’ve always been the kind of person who loves a challenge. I tend to take on many tasks/projects. I guess I’ve become used to “keeping busy.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, keeping busy was my way of dealing with emotional trauma as a kid. Now as an adult, I’m in a much better place, but I still haven’t really gotten out of the habit. Whenever I’m not doing something, I get restless. I feel like I should always be doing something. At the same time, however, when I’m doing too much, I start getting overwhelmed.

Right now I would say I’m overwhelmed in a good way. I have enough on my plate to keep me busy, but not so much that it’s making me anxious. At the same time, I’m really struggling to strike a balance while I’m here. Yes, it’s great to be involved in projects and network. Yes, it’s great to socialize. But, for me, I feel like it’s also important to find time to just be, breathe, and relax.

Another thing I’m finding is that it’s hard to take advantage of all the opportunities that arise. I feel there is always something – an event, a speaker, screening, outing, etc. Sometimes these things overlap, and you’re forced to choose between many amazing options.

One of the events I’m taking advantage of this weekend is the HGSE Hackathon. Google, edX, and HGSE are presenting challenges in education and students are getting together to come up with solutions that leverage the power of technology. I’ve never really participated in a Hackathon before so I’m really looking forward to it.

Another thing I am finding is that as a Harvard student you have access to so many learning resources and trying to find time to use them all is overwhelming.

One way I’m trying to prioritize my options is determining what can wait and what can’t. Most MOOCs, for example, can be taken at your own pace and at any time. So while I’m enrolled in some, I’m not too worried about completing them while I’m here because I can always do these later.

On the other hand, I recently found out that if you’re a Harvard student, you get a year’s worth of access to Lynda.com for free. I would rather do these while I’m here so I can avoid paying $25-40 a month. (I’ve got loans and stuff to pay, you know?) I plan on completing some Lynda tutorials on my downtime during weekends and plan on spending some of my winter break learning new things.

I found some really neat looking courses on game making:

I feel these will complement some of the skills I’m learning in CS50.

On a side note, I really like how Lynda tutorials lists how much time their whole course takes, or at least how long all the video portions are. As a learner, I really appreciate that because I can make decisions about how to fit a course into my schedule.

The other thing I really want to take advantage of while I’m here are going to the various museums and events around the city. One thing I really regret about my undergrad years is that I didn’t really explore the area I was living in. I would really like to explore Boston and Cambridge, and get to know the area I’m living in a bit better.

Time is flying by so quickly and I don’t know where I’ll be going after I graduate, so for now I’m just going to make the most of my time here.