Role of the Facilitator

Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

The expression “sage on a stage” fits me as a teacher, though I tend to use the word “diva”.  In a PBL unit, there is more student-centered learning, so my role will require less direct instruction and more guidance.  However, having worked in a GED environment where students may not be on the same subject, let alone the same topic, I am familiar and comfortable with conducting a class where students are working at their own pace.  Although it isn’t PBL, I feel that I can easily adapt into the PBL environment.  And, if you ask my students, I have can do so and still be the GED Diva.

What are the skills of effective facilitation?

Being an effective facilitator requires knowledge of the content, like a teacher, but demands so much more.  Facilitators need to guide the process and keep it on track.  They must, as stated previously, possess knowledge.  However, their job is not to convey all the information themselves, but to elicit and draw thoughts and ideas from the group members.  They are not just results-oriented.  The process of how the results are obtained is vital and facilitators need to direct the learning so that all members are involved throughout the process.

Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

Interestingly enough, some of the smartest students I graduated with have not gone on and fulfill the promising futures that were destined for them.  Meanwhile, students who were fairly average academically have become very successful.  This would seem to contradict the intent of school.  Yet, when you realize why, it makes sense.  The successful people are generally ones who have good communication and collaborative skills – 21st Century skills.  Success in most careers is not an individual result.  It is generally derived from the ability to work as a team.  Often times in sports, a team with lesser talent triumphs over a group of highly-skilled individuals.  This is because they functioned as a team and completed a team-oriented task.  These are the skills that need to be developed in order to be successful in life.  Having a strong academic background is a benefit, not the foundation.  In the traditional classroom, where the academics are given top priority, the 21st Century skills may be ignored.  However, In a PBL classroom where 21st Century skills are the basis for learning and academics are the tools used, the likelihood of becoming successful is increased as more students will develop their abilities in both areas.

What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

However, facilitation is an area where I need to improve.  Facilitators take more of a back seat in the process, whereas, in my class, I find that I still spend a lot of time providing direct instruction to my students – just on a smaller scale.  As a facilitator in a PBL class, I need to spend more time listening to students all the way through and not stop them as soon as I realize what they need.  In order for students to better retain knowledge, they need to form it in a manner that makes sense to them.  I need to allow them the time to talk through it.  Also, if they make an error, instead of correcting them, I need to guide them to think it through and realize what their error was and go back and fix it.

Reference

Section 2. Developing Facilitation Skills. (n.d.). Chapter 16:  group facilitation and problem-solving. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main

 

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Designing Integrated Curriculum

When my students take the GED Ready Test for Social Studies or Science, I hand them a calculator.  Their first response is, “Why do I need a calculator for the Social Studies/Science test?”  I explain to them that there is Mathematics in Social Studies and Science.  Inevitably, they say “That’s dumb.”  Therein lies the biggest challenge in interdisciplinary projects.

Education has done a disservice to students by separating learning into disciplinary courses.  In real life, scientists, engineers, archaeologists – anyone and everyone – uses skills learned in all courses in an interconnected way.  Students, however, if they have never been exposed to this, don’t see that connection (this helps explains why students in Algebra have trouble conceiving letters as numbers).  Once students begin working on interdisciplinary projects, they will begin to make those connections (a relief for the Math teacher who tires of the question, ‘why do I need to know this?’).  If students are exposed at an earlier age to this process, it will be more natural for them as they age.  The longer the delay, the harder it will be to reshape their ways of thinking what is a Math/English/Social Studies/Science class.

A second challenge is from educators themselves who may have never taught this way before.  Like the students, you are taking them out of their comfort zone and they may resist.  As a Math teacher, I can teach about numbers, but when it comes to English, I don’t teach too “good”.  But, in an interdisciplinary approach, I don’t have to teach English.  I will work with a team providing the students with the mathematical education they need to successfully complete the project.  Working with fellow teachers, especially those outside our field, can be another new and rewarding experience.  As a team member, you will be designing and implementing a curriculum together.  You will have peers to discuss ideas with (similar to most business environments) and develop a stronger plan.  An added benefit is that the students will see teachers working together, modeling how to collaborate.

Currently, my school is not a traditional one.  We do not have courses like a high school.  When it comes to academic education, we are focused on basic skills and credit recovery or high school equivalency.  I am the only GED teacher.  I am responsible for educating my students in all four GED subjects.  Our high school diploma programs are through established online diploma programs.  We don’t have any say in curriculum.  In order to implement an interdisciplinary approach, it would require a radical change in thinking at our administrative level – something that I don’t foresee happening.  Unfortunately, our students, many who have been failed by the traditional approach to teaching, would benefit greatly from an interdisciplinary curriculum.  They are in dire need of 21st century skills in collaboration and communication and yet we focus on getting them to pass the GED (or obtained their diploma) just so we can meet our quotas.

 

School Evaluation Summary

REFLECTION

I expected this to be one of my more difficult assignments due all the writing involved.  When I first started, those expectations seemed confirmed.  My initial thought was that two weeks wasn’t going to be enough; I would need that much time to fret over how hard it was going to be.  However, once I got going, the project- while no means simple – became less daunting.

Rating each section and subsection would seem the easiest par for a numbers guy.  Some of the areas fell out of my level of knowledge or expertise.  Those were the Administrative and the Connectivity.  In order to better understand them and accurately rate them, I talked to others at my institution.

Once the ratings were completed, I knew I had to justify them in the summary.  I knew why I rated each area as I did, but communicating it in a written summary was going to be  a task.  I started with the easiest ones, Curricular and Support.  I felt I knew these ones best as they most pertained to my position.  As I completed each section, I had more faith in my ability to do the others.

KNOWLEDGE GAINED

Upon reading the summaries of others, I discovered that I was not alone in feeling that we are not utilizing technology efficiently.  Many classmates shared similar feelings of frustration with their schools’ technology standing.  In some ways, I began to realize that my school was even ahead of many others in some ways.  We have Promethean Boards that allow for much application of technology.  We have more access for students to computers.

DESTINATION

My initial reason for seeking a Masters of Educational Technology was to be able to better use technology in the class room.  After this first course, I believe it would be more beneficial to convince my school to develop a technology department that could support the teaching staff.  That would require being able to convey the necessity of such a department through a process much like this evaluation.  I believe that I have gotten a start in that direction.  Hopefully, by the time I graduated, I will have a finish to go with that start.

SUMMARY

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SPREADSHEET

https://docs.google.com/a/u.boisestate.edu/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AscO3dSZ2U9KdEw4WGJFOGF0ZkZuZDkxb05rY2dESUE#gid=0

Ethical Issues in Educational Technology

The most current assignment was to do a VoiceThread on Digital Inequality.  This was group project.  My group consisted of Ron Gardiner, Mike Procyk, Beth Russell, Brian O’Neill and me.  This is the link to the VoiceThread:

http://voicethread.com/#q.b2752878

The scenario we were given is that our group are members of a Digital Inequality Task Force hired by our State Superintendent of Public Instruction to make recommendations on how to best utilize a special allocation of $50M to address digital inequalities in the state.

This was a three-week project.  The first week involved a lot of reading about Digital Inequality.  I mean A LOT OF READING.  By the end of the week, we were discussing our thoughts on Digital Inequality and the options given to us.  At times, it seemed like we would never come to an agreement as there was much debate (especially between Mike and me) over the options.  However, all of us maintained a civility that is uncommon today in many debates.  Turns out, Mike and I actually were in more agreement than we initially believed.  From our discussion, we came up with a ranking order of the 7 options.

The second week was dedicated to planning our presentation.  I felt the first priority was to elect a group leader who would keep track of what needed done and delegate assignments.  I nominated Ron because I believe he had the best grasp of the issue from the previous week’s discussions.  Plus, being a former military person, I know he had experienced leading diverse groups.  Ron was agreeable and no one else stated any objections.

Ron started by creating an agenda that everyone began to add to.  Well, almost everyone.  Turns out there are TWO Brian O’Neill’s at Boise State and we had the wrong one to start.  Once we figured that out, we contacted the correct Brian and he quickly got on board.  Amazingly enough, the group was so well in sync with one another, that whenever someone posted an addition to the agenda, it was accepted by the group as being an appropriate step.

The final week was the creation of the VoiceThread.  Ron started the thread by creating a power point presentation.  Everyone added to it, just like the agenda.  I was delegate as production chief, so I kept track of where we were and assigned commentary roles within the thread.  Also, we had a checklist for the rubric to make sure we didn’t forget any required procedure.

This project started off slow for me.  At times I was frustrated when things were not going smoothly.  The group, especially Beth, kept me in check and focused on the task.  In the end, I think our group created a well thought out presentation.  Not any easy task when we had one member 9 hours ahead of us and another (after we found the right one) 3 hours behind.  We literally covered half the world.

When Dr. Gardner first developed groups, I asked if they would change for different projects.  He said he wasn’t planning on it, but would consider it.  Well, Doc, I changed my mind.  I think our group meshes well together and I would like to finish the semester with them (no offense to the other classmates in other groups).