PoP – Prototyping

I focused my prototyping efforts on three separate areas: connecting students to useful resources at the college via their online classroom, video code demonstration, and online code collaboration.

Connecting Students to Resources

During an email conversation with the director of the center for teaching and learning at the college, a couple of very useful resources were shared with me. One of the resources was an idea that presented itself during one of my brainstorming sessions only to find out that something very similar had been implemented into all of the online classrooms across the college. I won’t include my own prototype of the student resources area because to both my pleasure and amazement, it already came to fruition! I thought I would share a screenshot of the resources area since it was originally part of my problem of practice. Even though I didn’t implement a student resources area into my online classrooms (because it’s already there now), this is validation for me and confirms that I was on the right path with linking students to resources at the college.

A student resources link is located within the left-side toolbar area. When the link is selected, the user is taken to a Student Resources page within Canvas (the college’s LMS) where a list of available resources at the college is displayed. The student can click on any of the icons with the resources page and they will be connected to the appropriate area within the college’s website for additional contact information. Kudos to the Center for Teaching and Learning department at the college!

Student Resources Link within the college Canvas LMS.
Video Demonstration

The next brainstorming idea that I prototyped for my online classroom was a video demonstration of one of the Hands-On Practice exercises in the course textbook. One of the assignments during the first week of class is to create a simple course homepage using HTML. The video demonstrates the process of creating a web page along with explanations of some of the basic HTML elements that are used within most every web page. A useful online resource is shared at the end of the demonstration. My intentions are to upload the videos to YouTube and then create a link to the YouTube video from within the online classroom. For the purpose of this prototype, you can view the YouTube video below or watch it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/bx30gK5Ow4U.

 

Online Code Collaboration in Real-Time

The final brainstorming idea that I decided to prototype was the use of a free, online code editor that allows people to engage in collaborative coding in real-time. The tool I chose was Collabedit. Collabedit works directly within your web browser, no software or installation is needed. It’s also cross-platform compatible so Mac, Linux, and Windows users can collaborate with each other directly within their web browser. This tool would provide me with a way to provide online assistance to students who are having issues with their code or a way to do a quick lesson or coding explanation.

I prototyped a tutorial-type document for using Collabedit in PDF format. This PDF document contains some basic information along with a number of screenshots that visually displays the interface and process. I plan on providing a link to the Collabedit Tutorial within my online classroom in an existing module that is titled “Instructional Documents & Resources” so the students can easily download and review the document. I will direct the students to this document before the start of a Collabedit session so they have an idea of how the tool works and also how to create their own session and invite collaborators to the session. I’m hoping that with continued use in the online classroom, the tool will create a very positive, supportive, and useful learning experience for the students.

You can view the Collabedit Tutorial document here.

The prototyping process was enlightening. It allowed me to take an idea and create a user experience from that idea. The hardest thing for me during the prototyping process was trying not to refine it too much. I have a tendency to rework a project until it’s perfect and I will not display it until has been refined. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s a prototype, not the final product. What I found extremely beneficial, was the amount that I learned about Collabedit, the online collaboration tool, while creating a tutorial PDF for the students. By actually walking through its features and using the tool, I now feel more comfortable with using it as a way to support and assist students in my online classes. I’m really excited to try this out with my students and get their feedback. It was a prime example of learning by doing!

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A “Tangible” Idea

Our Connected World…

Our connected world sketch.I decided to take the idea of “our connected world” and transform that idea into something both visual and physical – turning the intangible into something tangible so to speak. I made a smiley face out of some paper that I had lying around my house (putting my childhood skills to use) to represent a person at the center of a connected world. I used orange yarn to create a circle and on that circle resides a series of objects/devices that connect to each other either directly or indirectly. The blue yarn extending from each object/device connects the person to that object/device. Essentially, everything is connected! I work with technology on a daily basis so the idea of always being connected to something or someone is a reality that is very much present in today’s world.

The Connected World at my Home!

The process of taking an idea and transforming into a physical form was enlightening simply because I found it extremely easy to find items in my house that are part of a “connected world” in some way, shape, or form. I used 13 items to visually display the idea, but I could have easily found many additional items around my house. As I added an object to my “connected world” circle, I thought about how it actually played a role in the connection. For example, my Bose portable speaker is Bluetooth enabled which connects to the other Bluetooth devices in my house and the Xbox controller connects to my GoPiGo robot, which is also connected via Bluetooth to my computer(s) and Raspberry Pi. It’s amazing!

I never really thought about how connected these objects really were to each other and to me until bringing the idea to physical “life”. I think that when an idea becomes tangible, it allows you to see things and experience them in a different way. I really enjoyed this experience, it allowed me to visually see and experience the connections of the world of technology right inside my home.

Ideas, ideas, & ideas!

Problem of Practice: Ideate Mode

It was all about brainstorming and incubation during the ideate mode. Engaging in ideation over the past few weeks, with the focus being on increasing student retention in online courses (my PoP),  involved multiple activities which included gathering ideas during a brainstorming session, letting the ideas incubate, maintaining an incubation journal, and finally, reflecting on those ideas.

As a quick side note, I recently read the following statement (shown below) related to brainstorming in the latest edition of the Runner’s magazine. A perfect example of a “mind break”.

“When I run, I have my most unbridled thoughts. It’s a brainstorming session, as well as a time to process any issue that may be presenting in my work as food analyst and activist.” – Robyn O’Brien (Food industry analyst and author)

Part 1 of Ideation: Do a Brainstorm Session

Brainstorming notes during brainstorming sessions.

I conducted two formal brainstorming sessions and one informal session. By “informal” I mean that the session was an impromptu session based on the participants availability and I used Facebook and text messaging – I thought I would try something a bit different.

The formal brainstorming sessions included teachers both inside and outside of my discipline. The informal brainstorming session included students and parents.

The following ideas came out of the brainstorming sessions:

  • Online workshops that promote student success and preparedness
  • Create online tutorials demonstrating code, techniques, methods
  • Create class assignments that focus more on real-life scenarios
  • Have the students build something “real”
  • Prerecorded online webinars that students can watch on their own time
    • Post them to the online classroom
  • Create hands-on assignments that include demonstrations
  • Take an abstract concept and apply it to something “real”
    • e.g., use robots to teach coding concepts and coding languages
  • Make use of online simulators
    • Write a program and then deploy it through the use of simulator to bring a real-life experience to an assignment/project
  • Run an extra credit contest and award extra points for the best designed website, best content, best graphics, etc. – motivate and engage students
  • “Early turn in” – offer the students extra points for submitting their work prior to the deadline in order to motivate and engage students
    • e.g., if work is due on Sunday,  you get 5 extra points for turning it on Friday and 3 extra points for turning it on Saturday
  • Assign a group website final project rather each individual working on their own separate website
    • Promotes collaboration
  • For help discussion forums, offer extra points to students based on how many students they help
    • Gets students involved with helping each other, teaching and learning
  • Job shadowing different IT departments at the college that help students gain experience
    • Run a raffle of all interested students, choose 2-3 students to job shadow during the semester, maybe 5-10 per week, rotate in different IT areas: web development, networking, help desk, etc.
    • Motivates students
    • Engages students
    • Builds their resume
  • Assign a “pre-quiz” worth 10 points that asks questions to find out if students are properly prepared to take an online course
I also noted interesting topics of conversation during the brainstorming session that involved students and parents (read below). 
  1. Interesting activities and good teacher engagement. I’d imagine a lot of people’s biggest problem with online classes is communication to their teacher, or motivation to actually get the work done. Probably reply time would be most important. And i usually use email with my teachers.
  2. My take on being successful in online vs traditional classrooms has to do with having many overlapping variables that drive success. The method of engaging in the class might appear radically different, but I don’t see it that way. A student might be “shy” in a classroom and not raise their hand or they could be “shy” in an online forum and feel they have nothing to add. Seriously, in a case like that, it’s part of the instructor’s job to create an environment that encourages engagement and a clear communication of the expectations of the course. I could think of dozens of others, but I still go back to the same point…NOT that many differences. If a student has an unsupportive environment, the form of receiving the coursework doesn’t matter. Part of it is being able to navigate life and having the time for the prep and necessary work away from the classroom to succeed. Not to sound overly-pessimistic, but it’s never a one-way street for the student nor the instructor. There is give and take and responsibilities on both sides.
  3. I tend to drop a online class when it seems to be so overwhelming. Under week 1 there is 200 items that need to be completed by next week. To me it feels like I have no support in this class. I have yet to have an online class with a lot of instructor involvement. One class after the instructor “introduced” himself, we didn’t hear from again. I was really worried thinking maybe he died and no one knew. I even emailed him with no response. I dropped the class. Everyone taking an online class knows there is a lot of work involved but the professors have to realize we have other classes, work full time and have a family. I personally rather take a brick and mortar class because i feel i get more out of it because of the professor interaction.
  4. I’ve never taken an online course, though I know people who swear by them. Part of my problem would definitely be the family responsibilities – hard to sit at a computer with laundry baskets around you waiting to be folded and dinner waiting to be made. My problem is that I don’t feel I’m “tech savvy” enough to make it through an online course, like I wouldn’t even know where to begin, so that’s why I would shy away from even trying one. But if I knew it was for every level of computer knowledge, even one like mine, I might be more willing to at least try it. One of my biggest questions would be how do I contact the instructor if I needed help with anything, and would they be willing to help me?

Part 2 of Ideation: Keep an Incubation Journal

Following the brainstorming sessions, I maintained a journal where I kept personal notes, a record of my thoughts, and any new interesting ideas that came to mind. I even had one of the brainstorming participants come up to me the next day and give me a few more ideas which I included in my journal. In order to easily maintain the journal and to be able to access it anywhere online across devices, I used Evernote. My journal kept getting more and more detailed as the days passed. I also included a “PoP Notes” section in Evernote to keep track of additional notes not related to the brainstorming session but notes that are important to my PoP.

A slideshow of my incubation journal entries in Evernote:

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The PoP Notes that I’m maintaining for my own information as an additional part of my incubation journal:

Part 3 of Ideation: Reflect on the Ideas

I have learned a great deal through the process of ideation, brainstorming, and incubation. One of the most difficult parts of the process for me was letting the ideas incubate – it seemed that this part was never-ending for me. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be like that but I found myself constantly thinking and coming up with ideas after brainstorming, so much that I kept thinking that I was losing my focus. I don’t necessarily feel that that’s a bad thing that ideas keep flowing, but given the scope of the project, it started making me anxious simply because there is a deadline associated with the project.

I found that working through one of the Da Vinci processes based on the chapter reading for this topic, was very interesting. It allowed be to try something different and use a technique/process that I had never tried before – it brought about a new way of looking at an existing problem. I honestly did not think the process would generate any ideas but in the end I was amazed at the results! I also thought the incubation journal rocked! It proved to be extremely valuable not only in documenting my thoughts, but as a way to help me visually “see”  issues/ideas/solutions.

In my incubation journal, I summarized my thoughts regarding the ideas and areas that I would like to pursue and keep (shown below).

I am strongly considering the following idea(s) to implement within the next course sections:
  • Create videos demonstrating code, techniques, and methods associated with weekly topics
    • Supports learning and student support
  • Use online tools with students to review source code in a collaborative environment
    • collabedit, CodePen (online, free, and works through the web browser – no need to download any software)
    • Supports learning, collaboration, and student support
    • Connecting with students
  • Adding links within my online classrooms
    • student resources, job announcements, internship opportunities, and workshops

As final thought, I think the ideas that I listed above are all doable. Adding the resources to my online classrooms can be implemented immediately and will require a minimal time commitment. Creating the videos for instruction will involve more of a time commitment, but if I initially focus on the areas of the greatest need, it will be the most beneficial choice for the students and will impact them immediately. Using online collaboration tools for supporting students is something that will occur more so on an individual basis as students need assistance.

Onward to prototyping and testing! The journey continues!