In just a few short weeks I’ll have three additional letters after my name to signify my shiny new Master of Education degree in Digital Learning and Leading. I have to say it’s been a pretty cool ride. The program all about giving learners COVA – that’s Choice, Ownership and Voice in Authentic assignments. I’ve really loved all that I’ve learned the past year and a half, even though it hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been comfortable. I knew from the first class that I was going to like the program, because from the beginning we had choice and voice in the assignments. It was great to be able to put into practice the things that the Instructional Technology Specialists in my department try to encourage teachers to do with their students.
One of my first assignments was to explain my strengths in digital learning and leading, and I had the freedom to select the way I would present that information (I taught myself how to use Sway with this assignment). The program really models how to make the choice-and-voice assignments work; each class gave me the opportunity to learn a new tool and to use it appropriately. I was able to demonstrate my learning via Biteable, Adobe Spark, Piktochart (I love Piktochart soooo much) and so many more. The tool, of course, was always kind of beside the point; the point was the feeling of ownership a learner gets when selecting her own way of demonstrating her knowledge.
I’m fortunate to be in a leadership position in my district, and I also loved how I could apply my grad school learning directly to my particular situation. Whether it was the class on developing online courses, the one about designing better professional learning, or the one on action research – all of them had a direct effect on something I was working on “in real life.” In a large organization like mine, change happens very slowly, but I feel like my goals for change are at least somewhat aligned with the district’s. That makes even small changes seem much more possible. My district has used the Understanding by Design framework in curriculum design for years, and that prior knowledge predisposed me for success in the DLL program. I had already been conditioned to think about what we want students to learn, and to work backward from there.
Early on during the degree program, we were encouraged to select an innovation project, and the most satisfying accomplishment during the course of the degree, without doubt, has been the progress on that project. I knew that I wanted to do something to address the major gaps in digital literacy that I sometimes see in our district. My project, originally called “Improving Digital Literacy Through Student-Created Content” got off to a good start when I first blogged about my idea just over a year ago. I had many people tell me right from the start that they were interested in and supportive of my idea, and I am so appreciative of that early encouragement. I was passionately committed to my idea and I loved all the coursework that helped me bring it to fruition. The project now has the significantly less tongue-twisty title of CLICK – for Collaborate-Learn-Instruct-Create-Know – and to date has garnered 60 student-created tech tips. CLICK is truly a labor of love for me, and I am so excited to see how it continues to develop over the next year. More importantly, I am excited to see how it impacts student learning – because if it doesn’t do that, what’s the point, right?
While I’ve always tried to allow for participant choice in the professional learning sessions I deliver, I will say that it’s still sometimes a struggle to remember to incorporate principles of COVA. There are some classes, for example, where we just need to convey a certain set of facts to our audience; our Chromebook rollout is an example of that kind of class. My favorite training, though, is to help teachers design authentic technology integration experiences within the context of what they’ll be teaching anyway. The COVA model helps me make those coaching experiences even more meaningful.
I sincerely hope that the time and effort I’ve put into this program have led me to creating more significant learning environments – the kind that help learners of all kinds not just collect the dots, but to meaningfully connect the dots. Keeping students and their learning at the center of my efforts, while acting as a facilitator, coach, and mentor, typically produces good results. When I work with teachers, I always try to start by determining the understanding of my audience and then working from there, and I try to leave lots of time for questions and discussion. My team will be conducting more webinars this year. I’m optimistic that we can continue to create significant learning environments even in a virtual experience.
What are your thoughts, dear teachers, on the kinds of learning that you have experienced with my team this year? Have we provided you with choice? Ownership? Voice? Have you felt the learning was authentic? I’d love to read your comments about how we have or haven’t met your expectations, and what we might do to improve in the future.