How unexpected opportunities can inform practice

This post is the first in a series of posts based on course work completed for the class Education as an Advanced Field of Study that I completed at Northeastern University.

This annotated bibliography item reviews a case study that developed during the progression of an environmental studies class that connected students with professionals in the field. The findings may be helpful to faculty who are interested in learning more about how to integrate practitioners of certain expertise levels into coursework for a connected class, as well as how sharing the results of unplanned teaching practices can be beneficial to all.

Meretsky, V. J., & Woods, T. A. N. (2013). A novel approach for practitioners in training: A blended-learning seminar combining experts, students and practitioners. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Volume 13, Number 3, 48–62. Retrieved from: http://josotl.indiana.edu/article/view/3123/3605

The authors of this case study were concerned with the disconnection between academic areas of study and the context in which the taught skills and knowledge are applied. Through their design of a blended course format professional practitioners in the US Fish and Wildlife Service regularly interacted through videoconferencing with graduate students in the area of environmental science. Data collection and analysis was qualitative and relied primarily on surveys given to students, practitioners and participants. Since the authors also served as the instructors, or facilitators of the course their thought process behind the design and adjustments to the course was included as well.

Since the authors were also intricately connected to the design of the course being studied, I had hoped to find some self-reflexivity which would better define the impact of Meretsky and Woods’ values on their evaluation of the blended seminar. However, since the case study grew out of the initiation of an outside agency, and Meretsky and Woods acknowledged that their data collection occurred based on the “unexpected opportunity”, it stands to reason that the authors retroactively recognized the importance of the experience in connection to existing research on situational learning, experiential learning and cognitive apprenticeship. Results from practitioners and students indicated that on a very general level the interaction was positive and from students’ perspective added value to course. The authors included many details about logistics, opportunities and challenges of the course which coupled with the general data collection indicate a positive area for future study.

This piece helped to inform me about a different concept of blended learning. Ideally I had been searching for more experiential based application of blended learning, however since the study included some unexpected collaborations between the agency practitioners and the students, I found it relevant to my focus. In particular the organic development of the collection of information indicated how unexpected opportunities can inform learning practices by chance, and how logistics and environmental concerns can inadvertently increase attention and usage of hybrid learning collaborations.

Tracking Lab Stats: My First Infographic

My first infographic

Make room on the fridge – I’ve got something to post! Today I felt like I finally had success working on an infographic workflow. This has been a hot topic with the digital media tutors and one I’ve been trying to figure out through a variety of methods. My goals were:

  1. Locate a design component that was relatively easy to use and did not require a steep learning curve.
  2. Being able to output the result in a format that students could take with them. (One of my goals with everything digital!)
  3. Integrating data sets from Excel
  4. Being able to interact with the data would be frosting on the cupcake – but I wasn’t counting on that one. (Spoiler alert – I got FROSTING!)

So what did I do/try?

Thanks to one of our super librarians (thanks Brenda!!) I was notified that Lynda.com had a group of tutorials on infographics. I set to work watching and settled on “Creating Infographics with Illustrator”. Using the graphing function within Illustrator I was able to come up with the primitive version below….

My first attempt using Illustrator's graphing capabilities

My first attempt using Illustrator’s graphing capabilities

Did I mention that I’m not a designer? Ok – good, just checking. 😉 So although I found this quasi-functional, it seemed to require a higher level of design expertise to incorporate multiple infographic elements. (As a side note I thought it would be a cool idea to try to make the graph at the bottom of the page mimic the Green Moutains with the time starbursts starting as sun in the morning and moving to a moon at night. However, I quickly determined that was going to take more time that I feasibly could devote to trying to figure something out. It did sound like fun though.)

My next stop? Piktochart! I noticed this tool being used in the lab this semester by a few students and it was already on my radar from a few posts here and here. (Thank you Edudemic!)

I had already crunched the numbers by exporting the data collected on a Google SS via a Google form to an Excel spreadsheet, so I had segregated and totaled the data that I was targeting. Piktochart offers a few free templates, however I decided to go with a blank template to see how difficult it was to start from scratch. By adding blocks I was able to create different sections of data and a header for the chart. Since my main focus was data manipulation my end product is very chart heavy b/c I wanted to see how the different types of charts displayed on the screen. Curious what this non-designer, multi-color loving, tech-tinkerer created? Check it out below. BONUS – I was able to embed it in my WordPress blog using iframes…although I’m not sure how stable this method is. (Functions on hosted WordPress NOT on WordPress.com.) :’-)

It’s not perfect – I know, but it does represent what I think is a workable workflow that does not require a learning curve the size of the Grand Canyon…or even Middlebury gap for that matter. It’s do-able, interactive (5 stars there) and web based; which are all items that I think will be seen as beneficial. But I’m still curious.

Are you helping students to create infographics? What tips do you have to share?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my Eportfolio!

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”                -ISAAC ASIMOV

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I was a shy kid who grew up into someone who is mesmerized by communication.  I love to read, write, teach and design and have been lucky enough to find job opportunties where I have been able to maximize these skills. Currently I work in a higher education environment and I love being immersed in a culture of constant learning.

This site is intended to document my accomplishments in these areas of expertise. As you’ll see on these pages I am skilled at managing large scale projects in an organized and disciplined manner by utilizing my strong interpersonal and communication skills. I use these strengths to draw teams together, design a plan, implement those actions while documenting our work so that other teams can be integrated into the project as it progresses. .

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this work. I can be reached via email at hstaffo@gmail.com and you can also find me on linked in at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hstafford or you can follow me on twitter @hstaffo