Back Into the Classroom

 · 3 mins read

At the beginning of my career, I was a classroom teacher, plain and simple. I loved educational technology and tried incorporating digital learning experiences where I could, but the truth of the matter is that not all schools are equipped for those types of strategies. I see this as a strength: all throughout my college experience, I was preparing to be a really tech-savvy educator and relied heavily on that for engaging students. When I ended up in school districts where there was little to no technology available (and in one case, an area where over half the students didn’t even have Internet access at home), it forced me to get back to the basics: solid pedagogy, well-designed lessons and thoughtful, goal-oriented assessments.

I left K-12 because there was too much red tape involved in making any real changes to the system and that was frustrating to me. It’s been three years since I’ve been at the helm of classroom now, so when I had the opportunity to teach again, I gladly accepted. This fall, I’ll be guiding students through their first semester at the university that employs me via the required “First Year Seminar” — a class that will meet once per week for 16 weeks.

The goals of the course are very straightforward: it’s all about teaching incoming students how to become college students. The learning objectives involve lofty ideas like “leadership” and “ethics and integrity,” which are all essential but which are also lessons that can’t be communicated solely through PowerPoint.

I’ve been provided with some starter content to get off on the right foot, but as an instructional designer, I’m even more excited to dive in and start figuring out how I can make this course a really meaningful experience for students. Since I’m teaching a fall section, this will be one of the first courses many of them will take at our university and I believe it’s important to ensure not only that the objectives are met, but that the students feel like they got something of value out of it too. It’s also a great opportunity for me to practice what I preach to my faculty all the time. It’s my chance to put my money where my mouth is and experience the planning, implementation, and aftermath of best practices like making effective use of face-to-face time, creating authentic assessments linked to objectives, and using technology only for significant improvement of learning opportunities. I’m hopeful that this experience helps me learn more about what faculty face when they’re in the college classroom.

To that end, there are a few things I know I want to do as I begin the planning stages of this class: flip the classroom, authentically assess whether students achieve learning objectives, and incorporate goal setting and achievement planning into this course. I’m also taking suggestions. If you’ve taught similar classes or know of people who have, I’d love to chat and share resources.

I’ve also identified some goals that are more related to my instructional design practice. For instance, I’m using Canvas as my LMS, a Drupal-based content management system called ELMS:LN for content delivery, and I’m hoping to incorporate some interactive H5P activities into the instructional portions of the course that the students will be working through when they’re not in the classroom. I’m also planning to test out some xAPI related data collection too. If nothing else, this course will be a huge learning experience for me, and with any luck the students will get something out of it too!

I’m really excited to get started, and I’ll be sharing my successes (hopefully) and inevitable failures along the way. Stay tuned!