Making a Connected Learner is an instructional video series designed for classroom teachers and school leaders. The four-part series demonstrates how Google+ tools can be used to facilitate engagement in professional learning committees (PLC’s). Under the direction of leadership at my school we are required to be active members of PLC’s. Each PLC is required to stay up to date with their relevant area, provide peer learning sessions and act as a “first port of call” for classroom teachers. a term, usually at school during break times.
In our school we have established several committees’ however there is little to no engagement occurring. Most rely on lengthy
email chains or WhatsApp groups to communicate. It is also important to note that we use the Google+ Suite as schoolwide networking platform.
This PLC disarray has provided the context for the Making of Connected Learner series, designed to extend professional learning and knowledge networking opportunities in my current K-12 school. This exegesis will explore and deconstruct the first episode in the series, Part 1 Google+ Communities. This episode has two clear learning intentions for viewers, which is to build their understanding of professional learning committees and develop their knowledge and skills to create, edit and add
members to a Google+ Community. Although only one episode has been created, I believe networking platforms such a Google+ Communities need to be used in conjunction with other tools. Furthermore, one standalone how-to-guide would be insufficient in building or promoting a culture of connected learning. The other three parts of the series would explore synchronous and asynchronous tools for networking such as Google+ Hangouts/Meets, Classroom and leveraging Google Calendar and Gmail. In addition to exploring the context and instructional design theory which informs the episode, I will critically evaluate and analyze the video’s design, content and purpose.
Context of Arterfact
As discussed in the introduction, my school is working towards developing a culture of learning through the establishment of PLC’s. According to Pang & Wang (2016), PLC’s are understood and enacted differently in diversified contexts. In my school’s context, professional learning committees are considered a culmination of Wenger’s (2015) Community of Practice and Dufour’s (2004) Professional Learning Community. Taking the student learning focus from Dufour (2004) and the shared collegial passion and regular interaction from Wenger (2015), our school has created a hybrid of these two professional learning approaches. Here teachers are part of subject specific groups that knowledge network with the shared goal of improving student outcomes and learning.
It is widely recognized that one of the most important factors that influences the construction of knowledge or learning is social interactions (van Merrienboer & de Bruin, 2014). Therefore, whether knowledge is being exchanged through a community of practice, a professional learning community or committee, each relies on social interaction. Corneli and Danoff (2011) suggest that this knowledge networking can be described as “peer-based teaching and learning between equals” (p. 2).
I think it is important to note here that there are several different types of knowledges that you would expect to find in a teacher network, including both tacit and explicit information (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger, 2015). The sharing of tacit knowledge, such as strategies to support students establish relationships, requires informal modes of communication such as storytelling, conversation or coaching. I believe that Google+ Communities provides the opportunities for both types of knowledge exchange.
Making a Connected Learner Part One Google+ Community, is a multimedia instructional video shared via YouTube. This five minute video consists of two minutes of talking-head video, a one minute animation and over one minute of screencast footage. The video is narrated throughout, alternating two background songs sourced from the royalty free site Bensounds.com. Several tools were used to create this episode including iMove, QuickTime Screen and Audio recording, PowToons and Canva.com.
Informing Instructional design theories
The instructional design of the episode was informed by several theories and models including the popular ADDIE model, Cognitive load theory (CLT) and Cognitive theory of multimedia which stems from CLT (Brame, 2015; Mayer & Moreno, 2005).
The ADDIE model consists of five phases Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. As echoed in Instructional design (n.d.), there are some weaknesses to this model that I also experienced including the lack of opportunity for experimentation or exploration of tools. Thus I used the model more as a planning tool as it provided a systematic approach to scaffold the project timeline. In contrast, iterative models such as SAM (evaluate, design, develop)
recognize that learning content and information is not static, allowing designers to re-evaluate, re-design and re-develop (Allen, 2012). This kind of design model compliments my approach to designing online learning experiences.
CLT suggests that any learning experience is made up of three cognitive loads being the intrinsic, extraneous and germane load (deJong, 2010, Ibrahim et al. 2012). Cognitive theory of multimedia uses these same principles, recognizing that working memory has two channels of receiving information, visual and auditory (Mayer and Moreno, 2003). When these two channels work together, the working memory’s capacity is maximized and new information can be constructed (Brame, 2015). It is suggested that in order to maximize engagement and learning, the extraneous loads should be reduced, the intrinsic loads managed leaving space for the germane loads (DeJong, 2010, Brame, 2015).
Intrinsic loads represent the subject matter, in this instance the conceptual understanding of PLC’s and a knowledge of Google+ Community features. Segmenting, a form of chunking can employed to effectively manage this load (Guo et al., 2014; Ibrahim 2012). Extraneous loads being the cognitive effort that does not help the learner achieve their objective (Brame, 2015), can be reduced using signaling which is the process of highlighting important information using on-screen text or symbols.
I consider the design structure to be a defining strength of the instructional video. As can be seen in Figure 1, the video was segmented into several multimedia parts, including an animation, image titles, screencast and talking-head footage. In addition I used a several text-overlays to draw viewers’ attention to key information such as learning objectives. Making learning intentions explicit and visible can maximize learning outcomes (Hattie, 2012). This signaling of key information is represented by the pink flags in Figure 1.
The animation included illustrations and characterizations that triggered situational interest by having elements of concreteness personal relevance and ease of comprehension (Magner, Glogger, and Renkl, 2014).
Ease of comprehension
One aspect I failed to address was the system requirements needed to implement Google+ Communities into schools or organizations that do not currently use the Google Suite as their main networking platform. I created the episode on the premise that those viewing would already be a part of an establish Google Suite network. Upon reflection and acknowledging that the video was shared on YouTube making it available to anyone, I am worried viewers may not have all the information needed to successfully establish a community.
Timing: Video and production
One of challenges I faced was reducing the time of the video. When first piecing the episode together the video was over 15 minutes long. Guo, Kim & Rubin (2014) conducted an empirical study of instructional video production and student engagement in MOOC’s and found that shorter videos had higher engagement rates and videos with pre-production improved student engagement compared to videos with only post production.
Although I had a clear project timeline, there were several aspects to pre-production that I failed to consider especially when creating the talking-head footage and screencast. Firstly, setting up a space adequate for audio recording that reduced background noise was difficult. In total I spent over 12 hours of pre-production, recording and post-production to create a five minute video. The thought of repeating this process 3 more time to complete the series concerns me. So much time creating for such a short video. In the planning stage I was mindful about using tools that I had worked with previously, in the hope that the production process would be quick and smooth. Some of these tools include PowToons, iMovie and QuickTime. Although it was a long production, I am curious to know how long it would have taken using unfamiliar programs or tools, such as Screencastify, MovieMaker or Moovly. I am fully aware that I cannot keep using the same tools and software, exploring and trying to new technologies is essential to being a digital educator. I wonder to what extent can my skills be transferred to unfamiliar tools or platforms?
I believe the episode achieved its purpose of providing viewers with an increased understanding of PLC’s and provided a basic introduction to the features of Google+ Communities. However, upon reflection, the audience may have also benefited from more of a focus on best practice use of the platform. For example, I did not highlight the importance of establishing a committee leader or what that role would look like on Google+ Communties. Wenger-Trayner & Wenger (2015) suggest that it is important to recognize the role of co-ordinators or leaders in PLC’s. Furthermore, the more I experimented and explored the tool the more I became aware of how teachers like myself, may misuse some of the features. How to best leverage the features of the platform to contribute positively to the PLC using communication and collaboration could be a potential follow up episode.
Although I am extremely pleased with the final video there are some things I would do differently next time. I would have liked to provide more opportunity for viewer engagement by using a more receptive and inviting narration that used questioning and metaphors to help viewers activate their prior knowledge. I would also consider using an alternative screencasting tool, QuickTime created high-quality videos however using the software’s felt unnecessarily complicated.
Furthermore, although I would not change using a video, I acknowledge that instructional videos have a limited lifespan.
For example, as soon as Google+ Communities updates its platform this video will essentially become outdated as the screencast would not be accurate.
Helping teachers build their understanding of learning communities and knowledge networks was always the intended goal of this instructional video. Moving forward, I would like to see myself, my colleagues and other teachers become confident and fluent knowledge networkers, so much so that we can start to support our students establish their own knowledge network.
Allen, M. W., & Sites, R. (2012). Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An agile model for developing the best learning experiences. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.
Brame, C. (2018, May 07). Effective educational videos. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/effective-educational-videos/
De Jong, T. (2010). Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: Some food for thought. Instructional science, 38(2), 105-134.
DuFour, R. (2004) What is a ‘professional learning community’?, Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6–11.
Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014, March). How video production affects student engagement: an empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), E134-E136.
Ibrahim, M., Antonenko, P. D., Greenwood, C. M., & Wheeler, D. (2012). Effects of segmenting, signalling, and weeding on learning from educational video. Learning, Media and Technology, 37(3), 220-235.
Instructional design. (n.d.). ADDIE. Retrieved August 27, 2018 from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/addie/
Mayer, R. (2005). Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. In R. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 31-48). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511816819.004
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.
Morain, M., & Swarts, J. (2012). YouTutorial: A framework for assessing instructional online video. Technical communication quarterly, 21(1), 6-24.
Magner, U. I. E., Glogger, I., & Renkl, A. (2016). Which features make illustrations in multimedia learning interesting?. Educational Psychology, 36(9), 1596-1613.
Pang, N. S., & Wang, T. (2016). Professional learning communities: Research and practices across six educational systems in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 36(2), 193-201. doi:10.1080/02188791.2016.1148848
Sorden, S. D. (2012). The cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Handbook of educational theories, 1. Retrieved from http://sorden.com/portfolio/sorden_draft_multimedia2012.pdf
Hove, P. E. (2014). Characteristics of instructional videos for conceptual knowledge development (Master’s thesis, University of Twente).
Van Merrienboer, J. G. & de Bruin, A. (2014). Research Paradigms and Perspectives on Learning. Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology: Fourth Edition. 21-29. 10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5_2.
Wenger-Trayner, B. & Wenger, E. (2015) Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/