Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New posts available at http://www.drbarbbrown.com/

This site will no longer be updated as of August 2014. Please check out my website - http://www.drbarbbrown.com/ for new blog posts.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reflecting on a year after oral defense…

Some might wonder, what happens after graduate students complete the oral defense.  I will share my experience over the pas school year (2013-14) following my oral defense examination.  Three stages can be used to describe the year: (1) finalizing the dissertation in preparation for graduation, (2) sharing the work, and (3) exploring research interests.

During the oral defense, the examiners provided some valuable feedback about the dissertation and areas for improvement.   Prior to submitting the final version of the dissertation in digital format for sharing publicly it was necessary to make minor edits.  Once all changes were complete, the final version of the dissertation was submitted to fulfil graduation requirements.  There are also some administrative tasks required to apply for graduation especially if attending the convocation.  In my case, the convocation took place over two months after completing the oral defense. 

Second, it is important to share the study beyond the dissertation.  I submitted a paper for presentation to http://www.csse-scee.ca/conference/ The Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference held in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in St. Catherines.  The paper was accepted and I attended and presented the work at the conference at Brock University in May 2014.  Currently, I am preparing for another presentation in August 2014 and drafting a manuscript for publication about the research.

Last, the year has been filled with numerous teaching and collaborative learning opportunities, such as: continuing to teach online graduate courses in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, conducting research and PD with the Galileo Educational Network, co-writing a literature review about technology in higher education for the Provost’s Learning Technology Task Force, and working with a team to develop a STEM course for pre-service teachers.

I also had the opportunity to co-present conference sessions throughout the year including the following sessions:
  • Ethics in academic writing and research, a session for the Graduate Students  Research Seminars and Colloquia Series in February 2014
  •  Learning to let go: The world continues to spin when we let students take charge, a session presented at the IDEAS 2014 Conference
  • Learning technologies in higher education, a session and paper presented at the IDEAS 2014 Conference
  •  Principals’ technology leadership, a session presented at the CSSE 2014 Conference
  •   Collaborative instructional design and course development, a session presented at the CSSE 2014 Conference. This session was based on an article published in 2013: Brown, B., Eaton, S., Jacobsen, M., & Roy, S. (2013). Instructional design collaboration: A professional learning and growth experience. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3).

Other publications included two book reviews for Education Canada and one encyclopedia definition:
  •  Brown, B. (2013).  Book review. [Review of the book Never underestimate your teachers: Instructional leadership for excellence in every classroom, by R. R. Jackson]. Education Canada.
  •  Brown, B. (2013). Book review. [Review of the book Culture re-boot: Reinvigorating school culture to improve student outcomes, by L. Kaplan & W. Owings]. Education Canada.
  •  Brown, B. (2013). Technology-enhanced learning environment. In R. C. Richey (Ed), Encyclopedia of terminology for educational communications and technology (pp. 304-305), New York, NY: Springer.

Overall, the year has been extremely rewarding!  I look forward to continuing my learning and growth over the next school year and pursuing areas of interest. My current research interests include technology-enhanced learning environments, leadership, instructional design, school reform, innovation, social networks, and professional learning communities using action research, case study and design based research methodologies.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Preparing for Oral Defense

Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end written by Linda Dale Bloomberg and Marie Volpe (2012) is an excellent resource for graduate students while writing a qualitative (or combination of qualitative quantitative) dissertation. This resource is also useful as a review or checklist following the completion of the first draft or preparing for the oral examination. The contents of the book are organized into three sections. The first section is about choosing your approach and writing your proposal. The second section is a chapter-by-chapter guide and the third section includes suggestions for preparing for completion. Many chapters include annotated bibliographies for additional sources and writing samples.
An entire chapter is devoted to defense preparation. Bloomberg and Volpe (2012) describe the purpose of the oral defense examination as an opportunity:
(a) To publicly discuss what you have researched and what you have discovered in the process; and
(b) To evaluate the acceptability of the study as a scholarly piece of research in your area of specialization, and to make a collective decision about recommendations for revisions. (p.233)

Some helpful suggestions in preparing for the oral defense:
  • be prepared to summarize your research problem and key findings (if permitted, put together a brief presentation with slides/visuals as part of your opening remarks)
  • be prepared to defend your choice of research tradition, data collection methods, sample selection procedures, data analysis
  • be prepared to explain any figures or tables

A few days before the oral defense:
  • reflect on the value and contributions of the study
  • recall relevant literature and authors
  • probe yourself about how your study contributes to the literature and practice
  • try to anticipate possible questions and try to identify strengths and weaknesses of the study (theoretical components of the conceptual framework, gaps in the literature, major theorists informing your work, conflicting issues in the field, unanticipated outcomes, insights, assumptions, limitations, suggestions for researchers, policy makers, practitioners, etc.)
  • try to get lots of sleep leading up to the defense as you might not sleep the night before

Day of oral defense:
  • arrive early so you can review your notes and opening remarks
  • have a copy of your dissertation with you so you can refer to sections when the examiners ask specific questions and provide page numbers
  • be prepared to make jot notes while the examiners ask questions to make sure you answer all parts of the questions
  • ask for questions to be rephrased if you are uncertain
  • avoid overlong or off-topic answers and keep answers focussed on your study and the literature (i.e. focus on your dot)

Bloomberg, L. D. & Volpe, M. (2012). Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What do you see?

Innovators, Designers and Researchers: Leading a New Knowledge Network Conference
I attended the Innovators, Designers and Researchers: Leading a New Knowledge Network Conference this week sponsored by the Galileo Educational Network (http://galileo.org/) and the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary.  I was part of a panel of six graduate students that were asked to attend different conference sessions and keynotes during the three day conference. We gathered information in relation to the conference themes and priorities:
  • What are the key innovative practices or ideas presented?
  • What research aspects were highlighted as informing those practices?
  • How does this innovative practice live in the teaching and learning in the classroom?

The following is copy of the words I used to express the big ideas identified and how I addressed why visible learning and courage are critical for today's learners and learning environments.

I will begin with a phrase from a popular children’s book published in 1967 – “Brown Bear, Bear What Do You See?” written by Bill Martin and illustrated by Eric Carle.

What do you see? We all see and sense different IMAGES as part of the bigger picture. I believe this was demonstrated by the confluence of ideas presented by my peers on this panel.  We leave this conference with inspiration and courage to change our lens and reframe thinking.

What do you see? A re-occurring theme emerging from the conference is that learning is visible or in John Hattie’s (2009) words – in his book Visible Learning – “excellence is attainable” and “there are many instances of excellence” (p. ix). We saw instances of excellence.

Learning is VISIBLE, we see.  We see VISIBLE learning.

We see evidence of exploration, empowerment and engagement in rich inquiry.

We see evidence of creating. For instance, numerous examples presented interconnecting theory and practice to foster knowledge-building.

We see evidence of openness for sharing and publicly celebrating provocative artifacts in technology enhanced learning environments.

We see evidence of collaboration and trusting partnerships for rich inquiry and innovative practice in the company peers.

We see evidence of collective action in service of authentic, trans-disciplinary and creative work.

We see teachers, students, school leaders, parents, community members and researchers passionate about their work; taking risks and at the same time incorporating play and messy learning. We had the opportunity to engage in professional dialogue and networking; we had the opportunity to discuss VISIBLE LEARNING.

What do the blind see?  One group provoked all of our senses and shared an inspiring experience of color and inquiry, and taking action to make a difference for the blind in our community.

What do you see? One presenter reminded us that “kids can hit any target they can see.”

Another presenter, one of our keynotes - Punya Mishra, shared an example of being out at a soccer game and observing a coach standing on the sidelines.  Impressed by the strategy used by the coach, he later approached him to share his observation.  He told the coach that he particularly liked the phrase he kept repeating to the players during the heated action of the game.  Instead of telling the players who they should pass the ball to or what they should do next, he continually coached the children by repeating “what do you see?” encouraging them to see the bigger picture. LEARNING IS VISIBLE.

We need courage to be part of the dialogue. We need courage to innovate, design, and research.

We need courage to be part of the non-scripted path towards possibilities. A quote shared in a session from a participant involved in a research study suggests we need courage: “It’s not thinking about what is. It’s thinking about what could be. It’s about what’s next.”

We need the courage to be shouting “what do you see?”

Monday, March 25, 2013

Disruption to Standardized Testing

Alberta is revisiting the notion of standardized testing, known as provincial achievement tests, in grades 3, 6, and 9.  According the Edmonton Journal on March 24,2013 (http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Alberta+standardized+school+tests+will+emphasize+competency+over+content/8146027/story.html) it appears there is interest in shifting the exams from content based to competency based. I am pleased to hear there is less emphasis on regurgitating facts and increased emphasis on application. However, I was really hoping for a complete disruption to standardized tests.

Similar to other educators, I have typical questions about standardized testing.  I recognize that simply asking these questions will not cause a disruption to standardized testing.   
  •    Is it necessary to continue testing ALL students in particular grades across the entire province or could sample testing provide similar results?
  • A teacher already informs the parents about student progress (with much more detail than one exam can provide), so what is the purpose of the standardized test?
  • An increasing amount of students are using personally owned devices regularly for learning and demonstrating their learning. Will contemporary standardized tests continue to demand students use old technologies (paper/pen, CD, etc.)?
  • What are some strategies to help alleviate the increased anxiety for students writing standardized tests?
  • What format will be used to test application of learning?
  • Are there also changes for the high school diploma exams (weighted 50% of grade) on the horizon?

I will offer an uncommon testing scenario to stimulate discussion about disrupting standardized testing.

A middle school child was extremely excited to be nominated to write an exam.  The child prepared for the exam individually and in discussion with a teacher at the school providing mentorship.  Preparation for the exam involved practicing the competencies at school and engaging in some self-directed time at home reviewing the related content.  The exam was scheduled on a non-instructional day.  The parent dropped off the child at school for the exam and the child was beyond excitement to have this opportunity to write the exam.  When the parent returned to the school, two hours later, the child came beaming out of the school with a grin ear-to-ear and proudly carrying a type written sheet.  The child immediately read the letter that was written as part of the exam process.  

This is a true story about my child when he was nominated to write an exam in order to receive a patrol award.  How often are kids asked to write a letter about themselves providing evidence of their competencies as part of an exam? How often are kids this excited about writing exams?  

What are your ideas for disrupting standardized tests?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cursive vs. Digital Dilemma

Cursive vs. Digital Dilemma
When writing a keepsake letter to your child in the digital age, is it important to pull out the ink pen and hand write the letter in cursive writing or use a digital option?  This is a question I asked other parents engaging in a similar task.  Some thought it might be more meaningful for the child to receive a written-by-hand letter.  Imagine the child opening the letter years later and saying, “Wow, this letter was written by mom” or “This is in mom’s handwriting.”  Some parents also believe it needs to be hand written to prove the authenticity of the author.  In contrast, other parents wondered if the child would even be able to read their handwriting.  I look at my own handwriting and I can barely read it!  Would a child get so frustrated trying to decipher and read the handwriting and the letter would not get completely read or the message would be lost? 
So, I asked my child – “Would you prefer to receive a letter from your mom written-by-hand in cursive writing or in digital format? “ With no hesitation, the response was DIGITAL.  The following reasons were provided for selecting a digital letter versus handwritten letter:
  • -        Looks like you put more time and effort into it
  • -        Easier to read
  • -        You can send the file to me right away
  • -        You could embed media into the file so it’s not just words
  • -        The content of the letter is what makes it “written by mom” not the handwriting and not the signature at the bottom.
Why would you choose digital or handwritten format to write a keepsake letter?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

MOOC Introduction

This week I enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) - http://etmooc.org/ on educational technology and media. The first task is for participants to create an introductory post. This is my first experience in a MOOC, so I plan to share my experiences in my blog posts over the next few weeks.  Since this is my reflective space that I use for educational technology, I thought it would be appropriate to include my MOOC experience in this blog space and use the tag  #etmooc for the associated posts. One of the learner expectations in the course is to maintain a personal blog for continuous reflection, creativity and resource sharing.

I reviewed the welcome and introductory session for the MOOC  facilitated by Alec Couros and he shared a site called about.me (http://about.me) for creating a personal biography page.  The site is really easy to use and quickly allows users to add background images, text information, and options to add links to social networking tools.  I was looking for a tool to create a personal infographic but decided the about.me page would be perfect for using during presentations as well.  So I created a page and it is now active and at http://about.me/barb.brown    Thanks for the inspiration to do this Alec!     

I’m currently putting together a presentation for new teachers learning how about blogging and plan to share my newly created about.me page during the session.  It will be much easier to provide one short link to participants instead of providing various contact options or a business card (do people still do that?).

Here’s some information about my upcoming blogging presentation …

Learning Together in the Blogosphere
Session Description: Empower learners to create, share, interact and collaborate online through blogging.  What are the principles of design in creating a rich multimedia educational blog? What are some pedagogical considerations for blogging and micro-blogging in K-12 learning environments?  In this session we will discuss how to set up and manage an easy to use class blog or your own professional learning blog while considering issues of copyright and intellectual property.  Take away some tips and tricks to support an engaging and collaborative learning journey in the blogosphere!

I will admit, I’m not an active blogger and definitely not an expert in blogging.  I look forward to viewing the recorded session - Introduction to blogging in education by Sue Waters in the MOOC - http://etmooc.org/ for more ideas. I'm planning to share both my successes and challenges in keeping up with blogging but will also share how experts in the field are suggesting blogs can support collaborative knowledge building. 

For instance, I previously blogged about Wes Fryer and how he inspired me to use blogging with graduate students in an online class through his book - Playing with Media: Simple ideas for powerful sharing (2011), Chapter two. Fryer discusses many ways blogs can be used with students (pp. 58-62) and argues that we need to create and share multimedia messages effectively:
Level 1: Broadcast sharing or homework blog for informational purposes
Level 2: Professional reflection blog
Level 3: A collaborative class blog

During the session, I will share how Posterous Spaces (https://posterous.com/) [NOTE: POSTEROUS is NO LONGER ACTIVE] can be used to easily set up a collaborative class blog with students. What do teachers need to consider when using blogging or micro blogging in the classroom?   What are copyright and intellectual property considerations in the blogosphere? How can we promote creating and sharing for collaborative knowledge building with students?

Another resource – The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the new media age by William Kist (2010) will also be shared during the session.  On p. 58, Kist (2010) offers rubrics for blog assignments; on p.73,  Bud Hunt’s guidelines for blogging with students;  and on p.85, examples are provided for teaching about online etiquette and characteristics of good blog comments.  There is also a discussion on p. 120 about the common issues expressed by teachers, such as the issue of not having enough time for social networking . 

Personal Learning Networks: Using the power of connections to transform education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli (2011) is another great resource for teachers. The authors argue personal learning networks can transform schools and “our schools need to harness each student’s natural propensity for participating in online spaces and funnel that energy into building powerful networks for learning that are used in every class almost every day” (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p. 7).The authors discuss research supporting the use of blogs and positive impact on writing fluency and motivation on p. 50. The text also offers strategies for empowering students in networked classrooms as a combination of:
  • Connecting students and teachers inside the classroom;
  • Publishing student and teacher work locally and globally;
  • Connecting students and teachers outside the classroom;
  •  Connecting with experts around the world; and
  • Collaborating with others to create and share knowledge. (p.71)

Any suggestions for other resources related to blogging or advice for the session are welcome!