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Connect the Dots (la la la la la)

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.      – Francis of Assisi

When my children were small, they looked forward to sharing in Pee Wee Herman’s adventures.  Despite what we now know about Paul Reubens, the many characters and their weekly fun made PeeWee’s Playhouse a favorite.  One segment in particular came to mind as an instant analogy as I continued to work through the course plan and found myself singing “connect the dots, la la la la la.”  As always, YouTube did not disappoint.  In fact, this particular episode of Connect the Dots pretty much also metaphorically illustrates this week’s work.  In it, PeeWee creates a spaceship with the dots, taking off into outer space.  He is so excited as he blasts off and sees the stars and moon. But alas, he loses his space map and has to land to ask for directions whereupon he meets up with scary giant ants.  Luckily he has his trusty spaceship to return to his friends at the playhouse.

At the end of last week, I had created the outline of matrix I would use for my project, based on the Smith (Conquering the Content) model and had determined the competencies for each of eight modules based on several resources used during Project-based Learning training.  I had a meeting scheduled with the head of online learning for the school division with the purpose of learning more about their program and if there were existing parameters for online professional development.  The goal was to save a step later of having to conform to different platform standards when pitching the project to the division for use in the school.  Like PeeWee in the rocket ship, I was sure this blast into outer space would lead to new discoveries.  It did.  I learned of a resource, North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) used as a framework for online learning development, which draws from best practices of the Southern Regional Education Board. CONNECT THE DOTS….the SREB’s High Schools that Work is the framework for the Smaller Learning Communities implementation grant for which I am designing the professional development.

Then I lost the space map.  It turns out these resources, although very good, predominantly serve the purpose of teaching and supporting teachers who teach online – not professional development designed FOR teachers using eLearning.  There is some transfer, but I was hoping for something more direct.

With a table full of the many resources gathered last week, I returning to CONNECT THE DOTS, adding a few new resources, and continuing to work through the matrix organizing the major points.  Smith suggests 5-7 per module.  I felt this might be excessive, but as a first-time developer was determined to live by the rules.  Enter the Giant Hungry Ants.  There is a lot of content, but mostly activities, as this professional development is currently structured.  I also learned from the evaluative research on this particular Professional Development for ADLT 650, that certain content and exercises were more meaningful to the teachers than others.  In listing the major points associated with each competency, I began to notice what was missing and what modules seemed to be redundant. I consolidated three into others.  What was missing for me (and maybe I’ll clue Smith in) is determining the appropriate delivery in a blended course – what should be delivered F2F, and what is best online and the weekly introduction of Web 2.0 tools.  The progression and integration must be considered.  Finally, this course would not be a successful PD for teachers without a module devoted to managing successful project-based learning.  To be honest, this is the biggest potential for true personal development.

Then came the other Giant Ant – the nudge that time is of the essence – that this course actually ends in a few weeks and focus is important.  So I created a schedule for myself:

Week of April 7 – 12:  Complete draft of course components

Week of April 14 – 19:  Finalize course plan

Migrate overall course information (syllabus, etc.) and first module to Blackboard platform for testing

Note:  April 18-22 Spring Break – no work

Week of April 21 – 26:  Develop rationale for school division PD online learning

Week of April 28 – May 3:  Prepare presentation

It was about at this point that I was really missing collaboration.  I really want to make this project meaningful and useful in its design, but I also need some support in how to think about this as an online course.  I’ll meet you back at the playhouse.

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