I’ve devoted significant thought to the revision of a lesson plan called Folds & Fractals. I began by examining the relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy knowledge within the TPACK system. Next, the lesson was viewed from the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) vantage point, looking for ways to fundamentally address the needs of the diverse group of learners teachers serve. Finally, I examined how both my and students’ personal learning networks (PLN), those people and resources we turn to when seeking out knowledge, can assist with learning in the context of this lesson. I think the unique constraints that outreach education works within require specific solutions to achieve effective learning in diverse environments. I identified several opportunities for improvement within the lesson plan.
One of the most fundamental changes to the lesson results from how the tools and changes to the context in which students will be learning would allow us to maximize the time we have with students. Rather than providing limited pre-program activities to students, I proposed actively connecting students to Cranbrook’s knowledge and resources so that Cranbrook becomes part of students’ PLN before we even visit. Some parts of the lesson, such as having students draw a Sierpinski triangle, can just as effectively be done with video instructions prior to the lesson.
By virtually sharing our collection with students and asking them to respond by seeking out similar patterns, we can begin the lesson by addressing misconceptions if students chose any images that would not be a true fractal pattern. Through input from students on our blog, we already have a prior sense of what students are thinking about the lesson content, which allows us to prepare for any possible changes in pedagogy that may be needed.
Having laptops available to students provides certain affordances that are a natural result of the relationship between content and technology. Through their use, students can better perceive how computers are a powerful tool in visualizing fractals. The relationship between pedagogy and technology is also addressed. In the prior version of the lesson, the laptop was only used by the educator, which did not support student-centered inquiry. With these tools in hand, students are now more empowered to drive their learning. This carefully considered but highly responsive balancing act between content, pedagogy, and technology is a fundamental aspect of TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2009).
The introduction of recent technology in the lesson also helped us address different needs within the diverse student body we serve. Research indicated that female students would be more apprehensive about using technology in the classroom (Gunn, 2003). For that reason, the face-to-face lesson begins with goal setting and a brief introduction to the technology used. I suspect that the gender gap has decreased or been eliminated, but other types of learners may still find this approach useful. This is related to UDL Checkpoint 6.1, which seeks to help students estimate the amount of time and energy needed for a task (CAST, 2011). By having access to appropriate tools on their laptops, students will also be able to more independently explore fractals of their choice, some of which are more complex than others. This addresses UDL Checkpoint 7.1, namely providing choices on the perceived challenge of an activity (CAST, 2011).
Our evaluation methods for outreach programs, which consists of a multiple choice test on content and opinions, needs to remain constant until the end of the grant. However, this does not prevent us from identifying other forms of assessment. Since a large part of our program is encouraging the creative process, the notion of a virtual portfolio allows us to see the result of that applied creativity. I think the adoption of a more inquiry based approach also results in students pursuing different paths, which would be hard to assess with only one type of assessment, so a portfolio may again be more appropriate. One aspect I would like to explore more is the use of formative assessments, which can be aided by the use of technology.
This revision process was difficult, but appropriately so. I’ve developed certain ways of forming my lessons that need to be challenged in order to, at the very least, justify my choices, but hopefully allows me to make better choices. What this has shown me is that it takes a certain comfort level with these different frameworks before they can be effectively integrated, which I have not achieved yet. The difficulty of this process also suggests to me that I am trying to make changes within a lesson design that is too traditional to easily accept the changes, so perhaps my outreach approach needs to be completely transformed. The next couple years in the MAET program will support me in that endeavor.
CAST (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines
Gunn, C., McSporran, M., Macleod, H., & French, S. (2003). Dominant or different: Gender issues in computer supported learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 14-30.
Mishra, P. & Koehler. M. J. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too.Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 14-18.