Brief Reflective Notes on the Leadership of E-Learning, Technology and Creative Services

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Although, this department (ETC) has been a fixture of UF’s College of Education for a number of years, this year has been a year of optimization of services.  Throughout the past year, our department has coalesced into a very agile and forward-thinking group composed of five distinct sub-teams. These teams, usually not found clustered in one department, all work intimately to help our faculty to reinvent online education practice, implement new ways of teaching and learning; build engagement and support for alumni, current, and future students; create web designs that leverage learning, usability, and aesthetic design; and, support the building of collective efficacy and collaboration through internal marketing and awareness. The main pursuit of this office is to become leaders of instructional design for the university and the field of higher education.

Instructional Design for Online Learning in Higher Education

It is generally acknowledged that online educational experiences offered by most institutions of higher education do not reflect identified high-yield learning strategies (e.g., Hattie, 2009; Marzano, 2009), specific strategies (including frequent and specific feedback) for the online environment (Mandernach & Garrett, 2014; Mayer, 2015), or the teacher presence (Ragan, 2015) found in their analogous face-to-face counterparts (Berrett, 2016). A recent national survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (2016) suggests the problem may rest in multiple areas, including the preparation of faculty and staff to create pedagogically sound digital learning opportunities. The report suggests, “high-impact educational practices are offered by many institutions, but rarely required.” Additionally, the findings indicate that approximately 36% of Chief Academic Officers report that “most of their current faculty members are using digital learning tools effectively in their courses.” This seems to ring true. Incidentally, the UF College of Education (CoE) has earned its first #1 ranking from U.S. News and World Report for our online graduate programs during my tenure. However, “faculty credentials and training” was still cited as an area of need in the scores that make up this ranking.

Our College of Education and its faculty have the greatest experience on campus in planning and implementing innovative pedagogical change in any context, including but not limited to online learning. This wellspring of expertise must inform future University of Florida endeavors in online education. Recent work in the area of multidisciplinary approaches to teacher preparation being offered online include the newly formed Center for Elementary Excellence in Teacher Preparation, the cross-department institution of teacher observation and mentoring through synchronous and annotated video solutions, cutting-edge research agenda (including the exploration of cognitive and social neuroscience methodologies and technologies) of Educational Technology faculty, video-based research conducted in SESPECS, and the digital outreach efforts to communities of learners led by our CoE-based centers. It is imperative that the teaching and learning research ecosystem fostered here at the College of Education is leveraged in support of the growing need for expanded online degree offerings and highly individualized learning environments.

Brief Notes re: Strategies in Redesigning ETC in 2015-2016

Communication and Collaboration

One of the main goals for this past year for ETC has been investing in relationships, connecting departments doing similar or complementary work, and supporting the improvement of all online activities. The first collaborations included the analysis and restructuring of hardware (servers) and the gap analysis of current websites. This massive undertaking (three months) was a change that could happen through collaboration with IT and wouldn’t necessarily impact the ETC staff directly. In effect, this change, and the rebuilding of the relationship between the two offices, allowed the instructional and cultural changes to happen more gradually. This direction allowed for the planning of slower change of “behaviors of people” in our department over time (Deutschman, 2005).

Relationships with key stakeholders of faculty, specifically department chairs, were revisited with renewed vigor and transparency. I led this charge, supported by our administration and instructional design. Additionally, the web design team leader assisted with the “soft sell” of our services, creating digital “profiles” for key department areas.

Employing Research-based Attributes of Highly Effective Online Learning

Our team has led the way for the implementation of attributes associated with effective online learning, backed by the understanding that designing online educational experiences founded in learner motivation and interest rely on shared contextual learning activities that promote the use of technology in service of creating authentic online collaboration and interaction (Sawyer, 2016) while supporting a personalized learning approach (U.S. Office of Educational Technology, 2016).

Specifically, we have worked to offer online learning opportunities that promote explicit articulation of student outcomes, the integration of assessments (formative and summative), learning designs promoting self-directed and collaborative learning, and implementing professional development strategies that assist faculty in embracing and utilizing technology effectively for teaching and learning (U.S. Office of Educational Technology, 2016).

Learning Asset Production and Digital Asset Management

Early on in the transition, it was agreed that investment in high-quality videography and other learning material design was a priority in enhancing and/or redesigning the existing online courses, and we created a mobile video unit and a small studio. Furthermore, the investment in these resources would help other areas of the College of Education, including the Office for Alumni Affairs and News and Communications. The video and photography digital learning assets produced support three main areas of work:

  1. Research-based video observation for learning (e.g., teacher video self-reflection or leader preparation in observation practice to inform instructional improvement). This focus is supported by recent research in video-based teacher observation for reflection on practice (e.g., Gates Foundation, 2010; Stigler et al., 1999), in teacher preparation and professional development support (Guaden & Chalies, 2015), and evaluation (e.g., Kane, Wooten, Taylor & Tyler, 2011).
  2. Classroom video examples, lectures, and expert interviews as digital pedagogical support. The literature informing this work includes the measurement of student engagement in video-rich MOOCs (e.g., Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014), the examination of the impact of case-based video assets for instructional design (e.g., Gomez, Zottman, Fischer, & Schrader, 2010), and the review of the impact of teaching video used in professional development courses (Borko, Koellner, Jacobs, & Seago, 2011).
  3. Marketing and awareness video for external stakeholders of the College of Education (including alumni, partners, and legislators).

In addition to video, which has increasingly become vital to our work, our department has employed instructional, user-centric design principals to everything from websites to paper-based marketing material for programs. The team has built and maintains a digital asset management (DAM) system with photography and video archives that may be accessed by media and communications personnel throughout the college. Illustration, animation, graphic design, and branding were all employed to assist in redesigning the aesthetic look of courses, websites, ideas (e.g., STEM Hub and logic models for grant applications), and physical space (e.g., banners, posters).

Cultural Change

In the effort to improve the culture of the College of Education’s Office for E-Learning, Technology, and Creative Services (ETC), we have explicitly engaged in an initiative that has motivated the internal stakeholders of our office to revisit our commitment to improving and supporting online and hybrid instruction for all degree and certification programs. I have worked closely with each of our internal teams (instructional design, web design, creative media production, systems administration, and student support services) to establish attainable but rigorous goals and have provided opportunities to build processes to achieve their goals. We planned a retreat to revisit and explore our identity and better understand our mission, to interrogate our shared beliefs and values as a group, and to plan strategies to build and strengthen relationships across our college and the university (Wheatley, 2005).

Mark Dinsmore (Associate Director for Enterprise Systems) and I targeted staff to take on informal and unofficial but recognized leadership roles, mentoring and reinforcing goals and objectives daily within small groups. We instituted a weekly department huddle with a focus on shared “project-based” discussion. We also created an “on boarding” series of strategic meetings for all new programs and those being redesigned, including every facet of the department. This continuous project/program-based improvement model in group meetings and individual mentoring allowed all teams to engage in discussions.

Implementing Uniformity in Processes of Support and Production

All sub-departments of ETC have been assisted in documenting and codifying processes for production of digital learning assets, courses, websites, reports, etc. This work has been difficult but has provided uniformity to the stages of design and delivery of learning experiences for all courses and programs. Our team has worked to become cohesive and build on strengths associated with assisting faculty, students, and the College of Education.

Some Foci of the Department in 2015-2016

  • Creating innovative CoE course content production that includes video, photography, graphics, animation, software, etc.
  • Designing or optimizing online pedagogy, supported on researched best practices.
  • Refining of data analysis for strategic support for all departments.
  • Supporting faculty innovations, research, and outreach/communications.
  • Supporting student recruitment, alumni and student engagement, and success through effective web strategy (social media, web redesigns, graphic design, illustration, etc.) and student services.
  • Hosting and supporting infrastructure of products as diverse as web applications to large databases used in research or in testing.

 

References

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2016). Recent trends in general education design, learning outcomes, and teaching approaches. Retieved on April 1, 2016 from http://www.aacu.org.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2010). Measures of effective teaching (MET) project–Working with teachers to develop fair and reliable measures of effective teaching. Retrieved on December, 7, 2012  from http://metproject.org/downloads/met-framing-paper.pdf

Berrett, D. (2016). Instructional design: Demand grows for a new breed of academic. The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 4, 2016.

Borko, H., Koellner, K., Jacobs, J., & Seago, N. (2011). Using video representations of teaching in practice-based professional development programs. ZDM Mathematics Education, 43, 175-187.

Derry , S., Pea , R., Barron , B., Engle , R., Erickson , F., Goldman , R., Hall , R., Koschmann, T., Lemke , J., Sherin , M., & Sherin , B. (2010). Conducting video research in the learning sciences: Guidance on selection, analysis, technology, and ethics. Journal of the Learning Sciences , 19, 1–51.

Derry , S., Sherin , M., & Sherin , B. (2014). Multimedia learning with video. In R. Mayer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 785–812). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Deutschman, A. (2005). Change or die. Fast Company, 94, 53-57.

Fullan, M. (2009). Turnaround leadership for higher education. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Goeze, A., Zottman, J. Schrader, J. & Fischer, F. (2010). Instructional support for case-based learning with digital videos: Fostering pre-service teachers’ acquisition of the competency to diagnose pedagogical situations. In D. Gibson & B. Dodge (Eds.), Proceedings of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference 2010 (pp. 1098-1104). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible-learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Kane , T. J., Wooten , A. L., Taylor , E. S., & Tyler , J. H. (2011). Evaluating teacher effectiveness in Cincinnati public schools. EducationNext, 11(3).

Mandernach, B. J. & Garrett, J. (2014). Efficient and effective feedback in the online classroom. Magna Publications White Paper. Retrieved on March 28, 2016 from             http://www.magnapubs.com/white-papers

Marzano, R. J. (2009). Setting the record straight on “high-yield” strategies. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(1) 30-37.

Mayer, R. E. (2015). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd Edition). Cambridge University Press: New York, NY.

Ragan, L. (2012). Creating a Sense of Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom, Online Classroom, 12(10), 1-3.

Sawyer, K. (2016). The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed.) Cambridge University Press: New York, NY.

U. S. Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Characteristics of future ready leadership: A research synthesis. Retrieved on April 2, 2016 from http://tech.ed.gov/leaders/research/

Wheatley, M. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. Barrett-Koehler: San Francisco, CA.

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Always Asking Questions & Always Learning

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Working on the University of Florida’s College of Education Online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership has provided me a golden opportunity to learn more about Florida’s educational leaders. The last few years of my career have led me into very divergent, but exceptional, learning opportunities. From leading the development of curriculum for online courses to setting up methods for large-scale registration and submissions for district-based inquiry, I have not been able to rest much on what I have learned previously in my career. I am constantly in challenging (but insanely exciting) situations.

With the Online M.Ed., I have been given the chance to search out and interview principals at all levels of career experience to be included in the courses. I believe this “real-world” perspective from leaders in widely varying school contexts provides the students with an extraordinary unique advantage. It has provided me something extraordinary as well. Next to finishing my dissertation and teaching my elementary and high school students, learning from these wonderful leaders has been the best part of my career in education.

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The leaders pictured include (L-R): Hudson Thomas of Pompano Beach High School (Broward County), Roxana Herrera of Palm Springs Elementary School in Hialeah (Miami-Dade County), Dr. Joseph Joyner- Superintendent of St. Johns County Public Schools, Lynette Shott of Flagler-Palm Coast High School (Flagler County), Scott Schneider of Terry Parker High School (Duval County), and Lawson Brown of Charles Duval Elementary School (Alachua County). These are only a few of the leaders we have interviewed.

The cover stars of the flier below are two exceptional leaders: Christy Gabbard and Stella Arduser of P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida. They are also featured on our website now (https://education.ufl.edu/edleadership-med/).

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What will be your legacy?

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What will be your legacy?

In 2003 (as I remember), I was asked this question. The question followed the most concise history of time I had ever seen: a timeline drawn in chalk across three of the four walls of a classroom by a professor as he spoke to his class. He speculatively marked the beginning of all time and walked through major historical events, such as the birth of the planet and the end of the dinosaurs, all the while contemplating on the significance of time. Right before his line ended, near the very end of the third wall of blackboards and after just beginning to chart the dawn of the human species (literally just a few inches of wall contained everything from the first humans to the Crusades to World War Two), he stopped briefly to ask someone their birthdate. He marked it on the line. His hand moved probably less than a millimeter. He marked their death. Then, the last remains of the chalkboard and his continued walk across the fourth wall of the room was accompanied by just this description- Time will continue, the endless march of time. You were here so briefly. What was important to you? What was changed for the better by you? What did you do with your brief existence? Anything? What will be your legacy?

Like any talk meant to inspire, this question could have been forgotten. I have heard it hundreds of ways. What made this different was the individual asking it. He wasn’t trying to become the next self-help guru or to land his own TED talk. He was simply trying to set the stage for and facilitate future lessons to align to the differentiated goals for students in his course (on the lifelong professional development of our own abilities in leadership). Students could, upon reflecting on this question, begin to connect the learning experiences to something personally held to be important.

Things appear to be divergent. To an outsider, every action or word uttered may appear to be completely reactionary or disparate events in a life. However, once one knows something about their potential legacy…once someone really understands what drives them, all decisions…every action is fueled with more responsibility to the vision one had set for themselves and the world around them.

I believe this idea of legacy works for all people, organizations, etc. It is what helps to provide one with a personal “brand”.

I have been asking this question of the educational leaders I’ve interviewed over the last couple of months. I ask them, at the conclusion of course-based questions: What do you want your legacy for education/students/teaching/etc. to be? Why? What is (fill in name of school or district or group of people) like after you are gone? What are you doing to affect that change now?

The answers are all different. Every individual has a unique vision of their legacy, whether they want to change the educational landscape for struggling students to those that want to change the opportunities for potential careers in their district from access to technology-rich programs to those that just want to be forgotten.

As I just write these brief, unedited thoughts in the middle of the night, I am thinking about my personal goals, my mission, my potential legacy. I wonder if those with whom I work have ever considered these things. I wonder if our team has a collective mission…or if there is a thought to what our team legacy will be. What is our brand and why?

 

Photo- shot from Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, on my way to running the New York Marathon again in 2011.

Filming at St. Johns County School District and Reflection

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Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to interview a few members of the district leadership in St. Johns County School District, including the superintendent (Dr. Joyner- pictured above), who left me reflecting for the rest of the evening. Dr. Joyner spoke of servant leadership, shared values, and his passion for doing the best thing for the students of the community. Two of his principals echoed his drive for the continuous improvement of the learning experience for all students while staying true to the core values of the community in which they serve. This interview experience was something very special. I felt like I was granted a small glimpse into the inner workings and decision-making of the school district. More than that, I felt as if I was not interviewing but learning more than I had expected, reminded of my own core values and my continuing education. The day left me reflecting long into the evening and this morning. I am grateful for this chance to better understand one of the state’s top leaders and his leadership team.

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This experience kept reminding me of reading beyond the Greenleaf book about servant leadership. It reminded me of the philosophical writings on values and ethics that meant so much to me (Keirkegaard, Scarry, Simone Weil, etc.), and I was off revisiting things that I had kept on our shelves at home (probably as some sort of physical version of my mental schema). There has never been a way to silo, compartmentalize or categorize experiences as discrete things with no relation to one another. Things are related, even when it is imperceptable. For me, this is a basic truth. The experience of interviewing these individuals, my own personal desire to grow in my understanding of the world, and the reading that has kind of continued to build my Borges-like library are all connected. My dissertation, which is centered on perception and a desire on the participants’ part to lead education, is related. I may not have made all the connections or discovered the links between these facets of my life, but I am certain that they are not completely divorced from one another. I was reminded of this yesterday during a simple interview with really amazing people.

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Working References for my Proposal (with a photo of Cy Twombly’s Academy and another of me after reading all of these)

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Twombly- “Academy”

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Me, just after reading all of these.

 

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Actions take outside of context

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Basic summary- Approx. 100 Miami-Dade County Public School principals are the sample in a longitudinal study of their instructional leadership behaviors as predictors for student achievement. Interestingly, coaching, evaluation and development of the instructional programs of the school are identified as predictors of student achievement growth. However, classroom walkthroughs negatively predict student achievement growth (especially in secondary schools). This, according to the study, is due to the lack of association of the walkthrough as part of the overall instructional program or school improvement strategy. Intersting. Evaluation as just a “to-do” activity has no power in improving anything really. But, read it yourself and conclude what you want.
Study- Grissom, J. A., Loeb, S., & Master, B. (2013). Effective instructional time use for school leaders: Longitudinal evidence from observations of principals. Educational Researcher, 42 (8), 433-444.
DOI: 10.3102/0013189X13510020