GaVS EPortfolio: 2016-2017
Mr. Colby Williams
Years Teaching: 11 years
Years Teaching with GaVS: 5 Years
Position: English Instructor with GaVS Language Arts Department
Current Classes: AP English Language and Composition AB, World Literature and Composition A, World Literature and Composition AB, Curriculum Reviewer
Special Certifications: Gifted, English 9-12, AP College Board Certified in the area of AP English Language and AP English Literature
My teaching philosophy is one centered on individualized learning and instruction. I've always been a firm believer in student-designed projects; by allowing students to take charge of their educational path, they are more likely to remember what they have learned and will demonstrate a stronger motivation for learning. Doing this negates the one size fits all approach frequently embraced by many educational institutions throughout the United States.
It's been quite a while since I've stopped in to a Just in Time session (live or recorded). In fact, it's been almost 4 years since I've gone through the JIT session as a new employee of GaVS! For my professional development log this September, I decided to revamp my Smore newsletter skills. I've recently redesigned my ePortfolio and now use the Smore platform to display important information regarding my learning experiences as an educator. The ePortfolio itself is evidence of the new skills I learned from college Ashley Inglese; in particular, I've learned to fully embed the visual and the textual to create graphic organizers for both my ePortfolio and for the students in my course.
Reflection for Professional Development, October 2016
On Saturday, October 22nd, I attended the bi-annual GaVS PLS in Cumming, GA. I had the opportunity to catch up "in person" with my colleagues while learning valuable information about web tools and strategies. One particular session was held by tech savvy guru Don Heard; he focused on the new Tech Tips site. I was interested in his presentation because my computer is the life line when it comes to my work with GaVS. I have since read through a few of the articles on the site. I've followed some of the advice and have defragmented and run diagnostics on my own computer. I found this information useful and beneficial to my technological well-being.
I decided to virtually attend (albeit asynchronously) the tech tips chat led by some of my esteemed colleagues. I was able to learn more about Tellagami, Educaplay, Adobe Spark, and Pixton. I had used sites similar to Pixton before (PowToon, for example), but I found the interface of Pixton to be a bit more user-friendly.
I decided to use what I learned about Pixton to craft an announcement for my students as they went into Finals week. I truly enjoy learning about new education apps. On one hand, it allows me to get my "tech fix" that I like when I'm using my iPad or laptop, but more importantly, however, it allows me convey information to my online class in an effective, eye-catching way.
Reflection for Professional Development, February 2017
For February, I decided that I wanted to learn more about TheSIS Grade Reporting, so I had the opportunity to hear Corrine McKeown and Kumiko Herndon provide information about the different tools available in TheSIS. I've included two screenshots of tools that I have found quite helpful -- and I've used them (and plan to continue using them) to not only my advantage, but my students' advantage as well.
The first screenshot is a graphic organizer showing how we can determine to what feedback to provide students when we upload and post grades biweekly. I find this helpful, for I have always struggled with choosing "Doing Well on Homework" or "Improving Understanding." This graphic organizer makes it much more clear which feedback comment I should use.
The second screenshot is not so much a TheSIS tool as it is a valuable way to view student progress in the course. In this image, you can see how many logins a student has made and how there is a correlation with the grade in the course. I ran this report for students in my own AP Language class. I will use this tool (accessible from the Resource menu) to contact students who may not be logging in as often as they should.
I had the opportunity to visit some of the public schools in Boston during March of 2017. I went as part of a group called Leadership Fellows -- a program run by Public Education Foundation. As part of our Spring Study Trip, myself and three other colleagues traveled to Boston, Massachusetts; while there, we visited two public high schools that offer a vastly different experience from your typical high school: Boston Arts Academy (BAA) and Edward M. Kennedy High School for the Health Sciences (EMK).
I was blown away by what I saw throughout my observations. Fully engaged students, differentiation on all levels, strong cross-curricular units, involved and invested faculty members -- BAA and EMK were models that should be followed in face-to-face schools and in virtual schools.
I went away from this trip thinking about how I could use what I learned in my online classroom. The cross-curricular units led me to think about ways we can create stronger cross-curricular units here at Georgia Virtual. I wonder if it is a possibility that we could shift towards planning with faculty from other departments (for example English/Social Studies) to craft a Humanities unit.
I've been serving as an AP Language Exam reader since 2012, and each year I find it to be an extraordinarily rewarding experience. Over a period of 7-8 days (depending on the pacing) I score exams while consulting with other readers, table leaders, and exam leaders. It proves to be helpful not only in terms of grading essays, but in AP course instruction as well.
I will serve again in 2017; this year, we will score in Tampa, Florida. In the past, however, I've traveled to Kansas City, Missouri and in Louisville, Kentucky.
Reflection for Data Analysis, September 2016
I've enjoyed using the Insights Portal; while there are many helpful tools within it, I find that the Course Access 611 tool provides important information in regards to course log in habits. In the screenshot above, most course access "events" occur on the due date itself (I've marked these with arrows). In the week between due date weeks (I've boxed these in yellow), I've noted that students are accessing the course far less frequently. This doesn't come as a surprise, however, I have started contacting students more during these "off weeks" to provide friendly reminders to log in to the course and complete coursework.
This is related to my data analysis entry last month (September 2016). I was aware of the Class Engagement tool, but to be honest I had not used it; rather, I spent time in the Insights portal. However, once I saw the interface of the tool I immediately gained a preference for it. The user-friendly interface makes it easy to see (at a glance) the time it has been since a student has accessed the course. As you can see from the screenshot above, there seems to be a correlation between grades and last time a student logged in. I plan on using this tool in the future to contact students who are going more than 3-4 days without logging in; I have already begun to do so.
I know that I can improve in many areas, but I pride myself on being on point with communication with stakeholders. You can view my communication log in TheSIS and see where I have contacted parents, facilitators, and students for a variety of reasons -- to provide both positive feedback and clarify what a student needs to change in terms of their behavior or work ethic. It never surprises me, however, that when student survey data is released each semester, I have a handful of students who say that it takes me 2-3 days to respond to emails or phone calls. In reality, I have a touch of OCD when it comes to this. I make a definitive point to take action and respond to calls and emails with in 24 hours (usually 6-12 hours) . As a parent, I've experienced slow response times when it comes to my own kids' teachers, so I can understand the frustration that goes along with it. That's why I stay on top of it.
As you can see in the screenshot above, a good majority of my students in the World Lit A course agree with me; however, there are 9 who feel that I take up to 2-3 days. This is simply not true. I think they must be understand the assumption that weekend days count? Even then, I often contact stakeholders on the weekends. I will strive to maintain a detailed communication log in case this becomes an issue in the future.
As you can see from the two screen shots above, my AP Language students are struggling with questions that concern inferences. This is apparent from the Quiz Statistics tool and the reports that I've run through their Shmoop class page. By using this data, I have started to shape the synchronous sessions (and the feedback I leave the students) towards explaining what inference is and how to improve inference skills on course material. So far, this seems to be helping, as is apparent from their second round of Shmoop assignments. Hopefully, this improvement will only continue as we make our way closer to the exam in May.
For my Insights Portal data focus this month I chose to use the tool for discussions. I've been interested in seeing how my students' participation in the Discussions Forum correlates to their grades in the course.
The screenshot above reveals a wide range of engagement; as you can see, there are students who have only read through 134 posts and students who have read through more than 2000. This is quite telling, for students who don't participate as often tend to have lower scores.
I would like to try and use this information to conditionally release "reminders" on the news feed only for students who lack in participation with discussion posts. By doing so, I can hopefully encourage students to invest more time and energy into the interaction with their classmates.
After viewing my Spring Survey feedback and comments, I have one major takeaway: sometimes it's best to actually call a student rather than contact them through email. As you can see, I received great feedback regarding my communication in the course. Most students rated me highly in this category. As you can see from the screenshot, however, two students felt that I didn't resolve their issues.
While email is an extraordinarily useful tool, sometimes the details and specifics of a set of instructions can get lost through that kind of communication. I think in the future, if a student has a major concern that I think will require detailed instructions, I will call them rather than email them. This medium of communication will eliminate any possible misunderstanding.
The AP Language team decided to create an extra learning opportunity for students in the course this past September. Given that the 2016 election is taking place, we decided to augment the course so students could practice recognizing logical fallacies and the classical appeals (logos, ethos, and pathos). As you can see from the announcement for the ELO, students viewed the debates and performed a "textual analysis" of the content of the candidates' speeches. Many students took advantage of this ELO and learned much from it!
1) Review the dropbox items you have grades for so far.
2) Choose your lowest graded dropbox item (excluding zeroes).
3) Revise and resubmit the assignment to the SAME dropbox. Title your submission "Revision."
4) I will rescore the assignment and add 10% to the original score.
Please complete this by Friday, November 4th at midnight. Let me know if you have any questions!
For my World Literature and Composition A course, many students were struggling with a few of their assignments (in particular the rough draft essay and the compare and contrast essay). I decided that I would create a remediation/extra learning opportunity that would allow students in the class to show mastery of the standards - most notably the Writing standards.
To my surprise, many students took advantage of this opportunity and submitted another version of the assignment that was much stronger than the first. It also benefited their grade as you can see from the announcement. Of course, before many of them completed the revisions, they attended the chat session, which allowed me to provide them with one on one instruction regarding revision and editing.
My AP English Language colleagues and I have been collaborating throughout our Philosophy Unit in the course. We have noticed that many students are struggling with an assignment called the "Lecture on Good Quiz" - and because of this, we decided to do a little differentiating for students who might learn better textually than they would aurally. The link presented in the unit tends to be more of an auditory lecture with components of sound, while the quiz is a basic multiple choice assignment.
This additional assignment provides students the chance to write short answers to the questions they might see on the multiple choice quiz.
Many students have taken the opportunity and have remediated their scores.
For students with accommodations, there are many important facts to keep in mind: extended time on tests/quiz items, assignment extensions, and modified syllabi. I've used a combination of each of these depending on what the accommodations have called for. One of the most beneficial accommodations, I believe, is a modified syllabus. From my observations, I don't feel that many students truly benefit from extended time on a quiz -- many of my students with this approved accommodations finish within the time allotted for students without accommodations.
However, I do find that a modified syllabus proves helpful to students who might struggle with ADHD, time management, or a variety of other factors. Above is a screenshot of a syllabus that I have modified for a student. The assignment that has been eliminated centers on a standard that can be assessed elsewhere (in this case, on the module/unit test). I hope to continue this practice when helping develop and review courses.
Thanks for Kelly Gardner for this idea! I usually spend time posting links to my synchronous sessions individually on the course homepages. It can be a bit tedious and take lots of time to do this; however, during the last GaVS PLS, Kelly shared with us how she posts her links -- simply create a Padlet with links to the synchronous sessions, post the Padlet link under "Links" widget on the course homepage, and simply update it each week. This has saved me much time and effort while allowing me to create a more lively announcement that might attract students' attention more.
I've used Turnitin as a tool since beginning with GaVS back in 2012. However, I've continually tried to improve my use of commentary through the Grademark tab as I provide students with beneficial information regarding revision and editing. Here, you can see a screenshot of a Grademark commentary report that I created for a student in my World Lit AB course.
In the coming semester, I hope to use the Audio tool in Turnitin since the user interface will become more integrated with the Originality report. This, coupled with my extensive use of Quickmark features, will provide students with further opportunities regarding the drafting process.
I've started to use my Adobe Sync sessions as in-class practices for annotation and close reading rather than lecture. Although I do feel that a lecture/presentation definitely has a place, I don't find it as effective as real-time practice with close reading.
In a March 2017 session, I decided to help students with annotating poetry since they were struggling with poetry analysis in the course. I presented to them the SIFT method (SIFT stands for Symbolism, Imagery, Figurative Language, and Theme/Tone). As a class, we annotated a poem by Wilfred Owen titled "Dulce Et Decorum Est"; as you can see from the annotations in the image from above, many insights were gained regarding Owens' poem.
I hope to continue to utilizing SIFT and other annotation and analysis strategies (such as SOAPStone, DIDLS, and OPTIC) to help students as they make their way through course content.
I've always used feedback stamps, but I'm just now starting to realize how valuable they can be! I don't always use them, but I find that they are quite useful with assignments that are classwork grades and do not required extensive feedback on writing (for example, I typically would not use feedback stamps for major essays such as a research paper).
Above are a few stamps that I use on assignments that are "snap shots" of student understanding; the Gothic Elements chart from my World Literature course is an example of an assignment that I would use these on. I typically use them for when a student does an outstanding job, for if the student received a sub-par grade, I would need to specify why with individual comments/feedback.
Goal #2: Increase AP pass rates (three or higher), so that each GaVL AP test pass rates exceed state and national rates
As you can see from the screenshot above, GaVS AP English Language has a "pass rate" of 70% -- exceeding the national rate for the exam in 2016 (Collegeboard.org). I believe that this is due to three dominant factors: the type of students taking a rigorous AP course online tending to be more independent thinkers, the excellent team we have with AP English Language, and the utilization of the Shmoop website.
Goal #3: show evidence of utilizing data analysis tools in order to improve student achievement.
I've consistently reflected on various tools in the Insights Portal and how I've used them to improve both student instruction and achievement. I find the Insights Portal to be extraordinarily helpful in determining how I can change as an online teacher. Furthermore, I've used Fall and Spring survey results to amend my instruction.