EDTECH 541 Course Reflections

May 3, 2010 at 4:18 am (ED TECH 541, Portfolio) (, , )

What I Learned

Coming into this course, I had minor experience incorporating technology into lesson activities. Additionally, while my job responsibilities at McGraw-Hill very much focus on evaluating and reviewing lesson and instructional design, I have much less experience actually creating lessons from scratch without lesson plans. In this course, I learned a great deal about some of the tools available for students and teachers to integrate the Internet as a resource in everyday class work. At the same, I was able to gain valuable first-hand practice in building lesson plans of my own, without subject-matter experts to guide every step.

As I worked through the course, I was able to reinforce my understanding of the importance of continued learning and reminded of the vast amount of information and the sheer volume of tools available on the Web. It is very overwhelming at times, and my favorites folders have swelled from all of the interesting and helpful links I encountered inside and outside of the course materials. This wealth of information supports the idea that both open source tools and materials and pre-developed lessons and packaged materials have important places in today’s classrooms. Teachers have an incredible responsibility, and the everyday tasks are very time consuming. While lessons and teaching can take place heavily influenced by Web materials, premade materials are still an important source of controlled learning to enhance learners’ growth.

AECT Standards Met (http://www.ncate.org/public/programStandards.asp?ch=4#AECT)

1.1.1.a Write appropriate objectives for specific content and outcome levels.

Each of the assignments for Weeks 4 through 13 of the course, as well as for the final thematic unit activity, included a list of objectives, and the final thematic unit activity includes evaluation/assessment components that delineate outcome levels and associated metrics.

1.1.2.a Create a plan for a topic of a content area (e.g., a thematic unit, a text chapter, an interdisciplinary unit) to demonstrate application of the principles of macro-level design.

For EDTECH 541, I created a thematic unit around the big idea in social studies – Production. Various technology and Internet resources were researched and incorporated in the final thematic unit lesson plans. 

1.1.2.b Create instructional plans (micro-level design) that address the needs of all learners, including appropriate accommodations for learners with special needs.

Week 14 included specific information about how to incorporate accommodations for diverse learners, as well as a blog post discussing the importance of including these accommodations for learners. Additionally, accommodations are included in the final thematic unit lesson plans.

1.1.2.d Incorporate contemporary instructional technology processes in the development of interactive lessons that promote student learning.

Throughout the course, technology materials have been included as part of each lesson activity developed for the thematic unit and incorporated in the final thematic unit activity.

1.1.3.a Produce instructional materials which require the use of multiple media (e.g., computers, video, projection).

The thematic unit activities require the use of computer technology, a microphone for recording an audio blog, posting a video to a free video-sharing Web site, creating a Glogster poster presentation, and working with a presentation software as part of a team.

1.1.3.b Demonstrate personal skill development with at least one: computer authoring application, video tool, or electronic communication application.

Throughout this course, I have further refined my ability to develop Web pages using Dreamweaver and I have maintained a blog for the first time for weekly assignments.

1.1.5.a Utilize a variety of assessment measures to determine the adequacy of learning and instruction.

Several types of products and assessments were incorporated in the thematic unit materials.

2.1.3 Use presentation application software to produce presentations and supplementary materials for instructional and professional purposes.

Students were encouraged to use online tools that act as presentation tools (eBook, Glogster, presentation software, and so on) for several assignments during the course.

2.2.3 Use appropriate video equipment (e.g., camcorders, video editing) to prepare effective instructional and professional products.

We completed a video blog for one assignment and a voice thread for another assignment. I incorporated these tools an another assignment during the course that was built into a learning activity for students.

2.3.2 Design, produce, and use digital information with computer-based technologies.

In EDTECH 541, I have used Dreamweaver to create online lesson plans, WordPress to maintain a weekly blog entry, Glgoster to create an online lesson, created a video library of resources, researched a potential budget for purchasing educational technology tools, research assistive technologies for students with diverse learning needs, and created a video and voice response activity. The list could go on and on, as the entire course involved the use of computer-based technologies in the creation of coursework.

2.3.4* Incorporate the use of the Internet, online catalogs and electronic databases to meet the reference and learning needs of students and teachers.

The main focus of this class was to incorporate Internet tools and resources in lesson activities for students.

2.4.1 Use authoring tools to create effective hypermedia/multimedia instructional materials or products.

We used a variety of online tools to create materials for the course. Glogs, video blogs, WordPress accounts, eBooks, and voice threads, just to name a few.

2.4.4 Use telecommunications tools such as electronic mail and browsing tools for the

World Wide Web to develop instructional and professional products.

Browsing tools are essential to the creation of materials for this course, as well as essential for the development of learning activities for potential students.

2.4.5 Develop effective Web pages with appropriate links using various technological tools (e.g., print technologies, imaging technologies, and video).

Throughout out the semester, I have created Web pages for EDTECH541 connected to my Ed Tech homepage for BSU.

2.4.8* Prepare instructional materials, bibliographies, resource lists for instructional units, and other materials as appropriate to support students and teachers.

We created example activities and other support materials in the creation of lessons for this course.

3.4.1 Identify and apply standards for the use of instructional technology.

Identifying and correlating to NETS is an important, and graded, aspect of the thematic unit lesson plan structure.

4.1.1 Apply project management techniques in various learning and training contexts.

As the holder of a Project Management Professional, this standard hits home with me. Every lesson and project completed requires solid project management in the development of learning materials. To complete lessons on time and with specified feedback, a strong plan must be in place for each week’s assignment.

Professional Growth

While I am not a teacher, and do not hold a teaching certificate, I do work in educational publishing, so my professional growth based on all my courses and Boise State is varied and important. EDTECH 541 ended up being very timely for me, as my current role at McGraw-Hill is creating a new reading intervention program for grades 3-8, with technology as the leading component of the program. In particular, one of the three rotations of the program, a 40-minute block of time, five days a week, is comprised of a project-based learning with a focus on both writing and 21st century skills and constructs. Many of the projects in the course have helped in the development of the instructional design for this project-based learning. Specifically, we have been exploring free online tools and a poster tool for presentation. The work in building a technology budget encouraged me to find some free online tools, and those immediately became part of the toolset for the program I am working on. Additionally, Glogster has served as a spectacular model for what we had already planned on doing to enhance an existing poster-creation tool for my company.

Outside of the project-based learning, I have incorporated my learning in other areas. The way Dr. Gerstein has encouraged us to work through the materials has greatly enhanced my understanding of how to build materials in preparation for my BSU portfolio. This has been a fantastic side benefit of this course. However, more importantly now, the course required that we build our materials to share online (I chose to continue with the BSU personal Web site) and to maintain a blog. Both my work on the Web pages and on the blog have turned out to be very useful to me both in my current job and in my efforts to land a new position with a greater direct relation to educational technology. For instance, with the short-form writing and with links in hand, I have been able to use my coursework as writing and technology samples for several jobs I have pursued. Additionally, I was able to quickly and effectively create a Web site for sharing work samples to focus group participants for our new program by leveraging the skills I have gained in this course.

Change in Teaching Methods/Thinking of Teaching Based on Course Assignments

While I of course knew there were innumerable Web resources for education, the tasks in this course helped to focus me on some of the more important and widely used tools available on the Web. The projects and assignments provided insight on tools, practice and application of skills, and experience looking for the right materials in the right places. I was required to use tools that I have reviewed in the past, but never really thought about including in my assignments or in my work experience. Often, we default to including some basic productivity tools or simple Web searching or Webquests in lessons, but the effort to really step through the process and incorporate the Internet into lesson plans can take teaching in an entirely different direction.

My instructional design experience has long been on the side of directed instruction. Often, this end of the educational spectrum is tied to teaching of core knowledge and facts, as opposed to the use of 21st century tools. I would posit, however, that this is either a simplification or a result of older programs and materials that have not been revised to really focus on how technology can be incorporated successfully. Throughout this course, I have been able to create assignments that are true to the teacher-directed instructional design I know well, but also include new tools and content creation tasks students need in today’s classroom. In the end, that is what I think I will take away from this course; a clear exemplification of how these two, often conflicting approaches to instruction can be combined into cohesive learning activities.

How Theory Guided Project Development and Assignments

I have to go back to the first assignment of the course to really start a discussion of how theory guided my assignments. One concept is based on a presentation I participated in by David Warlick in 2008. In his presentation, Mr. Warlick focused on how we are facing an uncertain future, but with unprecedented tools to approach that future. (2008) The second piece I re-reference here is a research paper about the economic impact of neglecting technology for today’s students. (McKinsey, 2009) These references lead me to choose the big idea of production for my thematic unit. I wanted to address how technology can be used to take student from being consumers to creators of content, but, at the same time, introduce them to the idea that the world truly is shrinking and that technology tools are essential for communication and growth across their school, and, eventually, career choices.

There are other theories and concepts that certainly played their role in my work—the importance of 21st century skills and learning goals, Blooms Digital Taxonomy, among others; however, they were more on the assignment-by-assignment basis. The first two concepts are the guiding reasons why I have chosen to work on an Educational Technology degree. As the father of two young children, I see the absolute importance of building education, communication skills, and digital know-how throughout their lives. We, as educators, must make a commitment to take technology from the land of theory into the world of reality.


McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office. (2009). The economic impact of the achievement gap in America’s schools. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from: http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/achievement_gap_report.pdf.

Warlick, D. (2008, June 30). Our students, our worlds . Presentation at the National Educational Computing Conference, San Antonio, TX.


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How Technology Can Level the Playing Field

April 22, 2010 at 3:09 am (ED TECH 541, Portfolio) (, , , , , , , , )

Free, compulsory public education is a given in the United States. It has not always been this way, and it certainly isn’t that way around the world. That often gets lost in the shuffle of discussing the future of our future education. However, even within our school system, we have long left many students out in the cold for a variety of reasons—race, religion, gender, and those students with disabilities. Some of this inequity was resolved through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. At the same time, children with disabilities were still not being included fully in the education process. With the creation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the 1970’s, attention was finally being paid to ALL students. IDEA put into place six general principals, and, for the first time, gave a clear definition to who these students are. (Parent Mentors of Ohio)

Six Principals

  • free appropriate public education
  • appropriate evaluation
  • individualized education program
  • least restrictive environment
  • parent and student participation in decision making
  • procedural due process

Who Qualifies for Special Education?

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual Impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other health impairment (now includes ADD/ADHD)
  • Specific learning disability

Simply having the principals and categories laid out by an important piece of legislation is not enough to ensure equal access to education, and, even when there is access, a fair and equitable education for these students with special needs. This gap has spurred many different groups to step in and try to create educational materials and processes that ensure every child has access to a quality education. One such group is the National Center on Response to Intervention. Response to Intervention (RtI) combines individual education plans, assessment, and intervention activities into a school-wide or district-wide system of implementation to meet the diverse needs of all learners. (National Center on Response to Intervention) With the increased acceptance of this plan of attack, it has become increasingly important for teachers to reach all learners to ensure success. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the testing requirements outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB, and its eventual re-authorization, have increased the impetus of schools to meet each child’s needs. Okay, so meeting all learners’ needs is a valid goal and something almost all teachers want to do. With the increased pressure, teachers need new tools to reach these diverse learners as outlined above. And technology can do just that! Whenever I think of technology leveling the playing field for all learners, I start with two sources. First, the federal government created a set of Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, known best as Section 508. If I am going to build a technology component or incorporate a component in a program, I want to make sure that it meets minimum accessibility standards, and Section 508 is a great starting point. (National Archives, 2001) I would then evaluate a product to see if it complies with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles as laid out by the Center for Applied Special Technology. (CAST, Inc., 2010) By choosing programs and publishers of content that can demonstrate Section 508 compliance and that adhere to UDL standards, you are ensuring that many students will be able to access the content you are presenting.

Standards and design principles are important to many categories of special needs learners, and ensuring appropriate Response to Intervention is an essential starting point for building student learning. But what are some of the actual tools for reaching students? It would be nearly impossible, and is certainly outside of the scope of this blog entry, to try and list them all. Instead, I can quickly list a few ideas that show the power of technology to reach learners and some resources to go to find tools for specific needs. The tools listed below are not even the tip of the iceberg; assistive and learning technologies are available to a mind-bogglingly overwhelming degree. Technology Tools

  • Screen readers and text-to-speech tools—These tools help students with visual impairment to access content on a screen in ways they would never be able to do with print, becoming part of the general classroom.
  • Close captioning—For students with auditory deficits, captions are becoming an increasingly available option for accessing voiced materials.
  • Skype or other streaming video chat—Students who are unable to attend classes in person for a variety of reasons can become part of the classroom with their peers.
  • Practice software—Individualized, CD-ROM or Web-based software that provides just-in-time, targeted instruction has the potential to reach kids where they need instruction most. If the software includes remediation and differentiated feedback, it is like having a teacher’s aide in the classroom.
  • Collaboration and communication tools—Students that may struggle with learning English or be reluctant to participate in class with other students can become more participative by using Whiteboard clickers, leaving audio or video blogs, and so on. This involvement enhances their learning experience

Web Sites to Assist in Selecting Assistive Technologies


CAST, Inc. (2010) UDL guidelines—version 1.0: introduction. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines

National Archives and Resources Administration. (Dec 21, 2001). Electronic and information technology accessibility standards. (Federal Register) Retrieved from http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm

Parent Mentors of Ohio. (n.d.). The history of IDEA. Retrieved from http://www.thelinkto.org/parentmentor/history_of_idea.htm

National Center on Response to Intervention. (n.d.). What is RtI? Retrieved from http://www.rti4success.org/

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