Sunday, July 30, 2017

Video Production 101: Social Skills Video

As our final and culminating project for our "Planning and Producing Instructional Media" graduate class in our Instructional Technology Cohort, we were to plan and create an instructional video for our students.

Fortunately, at the same time, I was teaching a Black Rocket technology camp hosted by Hawkeye Community College titled, "Minecraft Animators". This was helpful because I was able to show my students there an example of my own storyboard as they were beginning to plan out their animations! This week was a culminating week for me as my summer graduate classes were finishing up and this was my final technology camp at Hawkeye Tech for the summer.

The most challenging aspect of this project was the fact that school was not in session at the time. I usually like to use students for instructional videos but was not teaching any preschool aged children at the time. Additionally, we cannot access our classrooms during the summer. Therefore, my storyboard settings didn't end up being in my final video due to some of these logistics. I was able to find a friend's set of children who were close to the appropriate age and up for doing some acting. Another challenge was a person who has plenty of footage of my classroom, was out of the country and did not have access to any of that video.

Next time I make an instructional video, I will use my own students during the school year, with parental permission.

I was very glad I had some video editing experiences before this project! I have created videos in the past similar to this. I did not feel intimidated by the project because of that. Knowing once I had the footage, I could manipulate it and plug it in how I wanted also made me feel less frustrated when the child actors were not quite perfect. Last time I made an instructional video, I did have access to a higher quality microphone. I will try to find a better recording device for my next video.

If you happen to be assigned a project like this, or want to create an instructional video for your classroom, I suggest browsing videos to start with! Also, if you are going to take the time to create a video, make sure the focus of the video is something you can use in your classroom. With many of my graduate projects throughout this cohort, I have tried to do just that!

Check out the final product below:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sound Design Dabble

This week we dabbled in sound design. I was far more confindent with this project as compared to the photography project. I've mixed music with photos before, as well as added sound effects to slide shows. I chose to tell a personal story about the Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp bell tower. Have a listen if you choose. All music and sound effects are Creative Commons.

Bell Tower Sound Project

The most challenging aspect of this project was recording my own voice during an emotional story. Every time I stumbled over my words, I re recorded the entire thing! I really wanted my words to be as clear as possible.

Next time I tackle a project like this, I want to have a friend listen to it before it is completed. I knew all the the words in the story and sometimes didn't realize what sound effects were just a little bit too loud because of that.

I was thankful that I had some prior experience with mixing audio. Audacity was tough to figure out and it  took many video tutorials for me to get the different audio tracks where I wanted them. Now that I know how to use Audacity, some aspects of this project would not take me as long as the first time around.

If you happen to be dabbling in sound design, don't feel pressured to get it right the first time. No one is truly 100% satisfied with their initial recordings. Also, try out Audacity or Garage Band, because the more software programs you know how to use, the more different software interfaces become transferable to other technology.

I enjoyed this project because you can share very powerful stories through audio tracks. Audio can be a very compelling medium when done well.

You should give it a try!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Photography 101: Steps to Improving My Media

       I made my first foray into utilizing some basic photography composition this week as a part of my grad class!

      I'm not one for fancy photographs, however, knowing some of these skills is helpful when building digital media. 

     We had to experiment with titling, the rule of thirds, and finding the position of most potential. Check out my rudimentary results: 


As you can see, my photos have a few flaws, but were taken with more consideration this time.

One of the challenging aspects of this assignment was that we had to choose the titles on the photos from a predetermined list. I had some great ideas for the cat in suitcase photo, but we couldn't venture out of those parameters. A second challenge was finding the place of most potential without compromising the true essence of the photo. I had a tough time deciding how to photograph my cat in the suitcase and feel I lost some of the photo essence in my choice of where I took the photo. This assignment was challenging overall because I have a very tough time visualizing anything, as I usually think in words, not pictures. I like photography, but I could never explain why I preferred one photo over another before. 

Next time, I want to try different angles and really contemplate what looks the most eye-catching as well as apply symmetry to my photos. 

I'm always jealous of those who can easily visualize the world around them, this would have been helpful for me to have developed before now! I have improved my visualization skills, but not to the point where I am confident about my photography. 

In the future, if you are working through the Instructional Technology program, I would suggest remembering that any start is a start, even if it's a little sloppy at first! If this is your first time trying to add some professionalism into your photography, expect you may need practice.

Photograph on!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Learning Online = Comfort, Teaching Online = Access

Do you know what you would say about online learning?!

           I've just wrapped up a graduate level course about online teaching and learning! When I first began the course, I associated learning online with comfort. I enjoy being able to learn at home and wearing comfy clothes while pursuing my MA degree. There's also something to be said for not having to trudge onto a windy, freezing college campus after working a full day as a preschool teacher in Iowa! I would not change this original word association. As our instructor, Lois Lindell, stated several times, "good teaching is good teaching". As long as instructors follow great teaching practices, learning in a comfy setting can be relaxing and purposeful at the same time. 

          I'm a advocate of not only digital literacy for all learners, but also of digital equity. I equated online teaching with access. If information and content is open-source and out there for any learner to access, we've taken one step closer to furthering digital equity. While access does not always give way to true equity, access can lead to more learners acquiring information. After going through this course and learning more about best practices of online teaching and learning, I'd change that association to engagement. In the physical classroom setting, you can easily see if students are engaged or not with a simple scan of the room. As an online teacher, you have to take further purposeful steps to ensure online learners are engaged.

          When I began this course, my goal was to learn how to encourage others in integrating instructional technology with integrity and purpose. As a student in this course, I was able to work through a well thought-out system with detailed modules. I appreciated observing an excellent model of how modules can be laid out clearly with accompanying learner objectives. Additionally, I co-created an online experience for adult learners instructing them on how to use a book creation application. For my individual project, I designed an online learning experience for early childhood educators new to Cubetto robots. Both of these projects will lead other educators to implementing more technology in their classrooms. I feel like these projects and working through a well-designed module system have helped me meet my goal in encouraging others to integrate technology. 

         One of our textbooks for this course was Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching, by Kerry Rice. In chapter two, Rice focuses on the "key principles of effective online instruction". As we went through this chapter, I started to feel more open with the concept as seeing myself as an online teacher in some shape or form. This chapter shifted my perspective from a future career point of view. I connected the most with the "learner-centered psychological principles" where Rice cited a collection of statements about "teaching practices in the online environment". This list can be found on pages 26 and 27. I haven't always seen teaching online as learner-centered and reading through these practices helped me see how online teaching can be just as engaging as a physical classroom environment, if not more so.  

       Our second textbook was Continuing to Engage the Online Learner by Rita-Marie Conrad & J. Ana Donaldson. As you may have guessed, this easy to read book focused on engagement strategies in an online setting. Through the readings of this book, I found the "Phases of Engagement model" to be helpful when thinking through how to make an online course engaging beyond the level of observation/inactive participation. This textbook especially helped me consider how I would begin an online course. In the initial engagement phase, "the key is to create a nurturing and safe environment for the student where her or his input is encouraged and valued" (17). This phase is very similar to how a physical beginning of the year classroom would begin. However, in the online setting, instructors need to be very purposeful during this initial phase as it sets the tone for the rest of the online course. It's a bit easier to get to know students in person. Getting to know students online takes more intentionality and effort on the part of the instructor. 

           My most memorable portion of the course were the projects we created over the course. Our projects gave us the most bang for our buck. I enjoy creating something with others or individually knowing I can use what we've created right away in our professional settings. I don't mind the module discussions we did as a part of this course, but they aren't what I valued the most.

           At first, I didn't really picture myself as someone teaching online. As we moved through the course, I realized being a teacher leader can also result in developing online content or modules. This perspective has changed how I see myself as a teacher leader. In the future, I want to keep in mind best practices of online teaching and learning, especially as I continue to move through this MA program. 

           This course helped me see the career possibilities out there for me as I work through this graduate program. I will benefit greatly from this wider view as I consider next steps and future opportunities!