Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Differentiated Syllabus: Continued Revisions of a Tech Integration Course

I've taught seven sections of Technology in the Classroom across four semesters, and each time I've made substantial changes to the course based on my reflections and feedback from my students. I've blogged several times about the evolution of this course. As the semester comes to a close and I look ahead to next semester, I am again making course revisions. My students gave me some really great feedback, which I'm using to continuously try to improve the learning experience for students in this course. Here's some of the feedback they gave:
  • Make the virtual field trip assignment a graded assignment with more specific and clear criteria
  • Involve students more during Google Hangouts
  • Spend more class time on big assignments
  • Have more app / web tool smackdowns in class
  • Provide more support for the personal learning network assignment
I'm incorporating all of that feedback into the course design for next semester. I'm also doing something I've attempted to do previously but have only had success with once, during a course I co-taught with a colleague: I've revised the syllabus for this course to provide students more flexibility and choice. My new syllabus is designed as a menu, which is one format for constructing a differentiated learning plan for students. You can take a look at my revised syllabus here. Developing a syllabus in this format has forced me to think about which assignments are absolutely necessary for application of course content. What I've decided is that there are two non-negotiables for this course: developing a personal learning network (PLN) and blogging. Within both of those assignments, there is a great deal of choice, flexibility, and ownership. Students gather their own evidence of PLN development throughout the semester and use that evidence to justify a self-assigned grade for the PLN assignment. (See an example of a student's PLN evidence here.) Students also have several options for blogging prompts (thanks to a shared Google Doc from Alec Couros) and are encouraged to be creative in communicating with their audience.

Beyond those two assignments, I'm giving students choice with assignments I typically require all students to complete. In addition, I'm introducing two new assignment options I haven't used in the past: a Wikipedia assignment (thank you Bethany Smith!) and a plan for gaming in the classroom (thanks for the feedback Dayson Pasion).

As you can see, I've gotten help from many educators along the way, and as this course continues to evolve I imagine collaboration with other educators and feedback from students will continue to help me improve the course. One final note about collaboration for this course: I've been working with Chris Casal, a technology teacher / coordinator in Brooklyn, NY, to develop a collaborative learning experience for my students and his. We've been blogging about the experience here and are hoping to share our story at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta.

I'd love to get your feedback on these course revisions and welcome your suggestions for improving the course.

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