Program Revision

Over the ten years that this program has been in place, it has been revised each year. Every year offers new challenges, and when there’s a big change- such as moving to a new school or new software- it can lead to a quantum leap in the way I teach.

The McFatter Years:

For my first year developing a new lab, I spent the summer before the school opened with a committee of county technology education teachers was formed . The original plan was to create a “modular” style curriculum that included project binders, videotapes, web pages, etc. We wanted to make a curriculum that was similar in form to the commercially available curriculum from Pitsco and Lab Volt, but use some humor and background stories to set up the project as if it were a real-world problem.

The summer came and went, and the curriculum was only fifty percent complete. It turned out to be a much bigger project than any of us had envisioned. The students arrived, and I began with the orientation thinking that we could finish the curriculum at after school meetings. After two weeks of orientation and a couple of design problems, I realized that the curriculum would not be finished in time since we had only been able to schedule one after school curriculum meeting. The first revision of the curriculum took place three weeks in to the new program at McFatter. I knew that it was time to quickly develop a “Plan B,” so I hurriedly developed a series of memos that presented the projects as design briefs. It was definitely a solution born out of adversity, and I wasn’t entirely sure it would work. I saw it as a temporary fix until the real problem could be addressed.

The biggest problem was that I was unfamiliar with much of the hardware and software in the lab, and the projects I was familiar with were rather complicated. I feared that the students would not be able to successfully complete even simple projects without some guidance. I handed out the “Memos” that were fabricated to look like interoffice memos within a company. I posted a generic rubric that I received at my first ITEA annual conference from the D&T Section (Thanks to Alan Paul and his team for the rubric) as the grading criteria for the projects.

I feared that the students would do poorly since I couldn’t help with half of the projects and the other half were so complicated. They asked for little help and I was sure it was because they were totally lost. But as I began to look at the work the students were doing, I found that it was far above what I had expected; even beyond what I had hoped for. The students were doing much more than the original curriculum had called for. Their work was much more advanced than what we had in mind for projects. In the failure of creating the curriculum we as a team had planned, a newer, more exciting curriculum was accidentally birthed.

Initially, the program was paper-based. Students received “Inter-office” memos on paper that described the projects that were to be done. The projects were evaluated by the rubric and reports were turned in on paper. The projects were graded without student input and all projects were equally weighted. There was no team project. Near the end of the year, a simple web page with only the scenarios and a few links was available. The project and documentation were equally weighted.

The second year, the online curriculum was created. Students could now access all information from class at home, as well as using push technology in the lab to create an active desktop portal to the curriculum. The memos were recreated with more consistency, and several items were added to the scenarios (materials, evaluation criteria, and guidelines). There was a team project that spanned the whole year, but it was an optional extra credit activity. Projects were all documented on a one page report, no sketches were kept, no portfolios created. The project was 40% and the documentation 60% of the grade.

In the third to fifth years, the online curriculum will undergo yet another facelift. The interface will change to make it more user-friendly. There are two projects per cluster, but only one requires documentation. This documentation, however, requires FULL disclosure of all activity for the project, including rough sketches, brainstorming, planning drawings, research documentation, etc. The second project will not require documentation, but will still require all steps of the design process. The documented project will be worth twice what the undocumented project is worth. On documented projects, documentation is still 60% of the grade. There is also a class project that goes throughout the whole year, in which students must create and manufacture a telephone, and prepare marketing and packaging materials. The telephone prototype must work.

Bayside High:

I moved to central florida for a while and taught three years at Bayside High School. I started out in a middle school lab, but soon switched to a Communications Technology lab at Bayside High. It was a great transition for me to get out of the “wide and shallow” world of Technology Education into the “Thinner and Deeper” world of Communications technology. It allowed me to really focus on the areas I was strongest, and I experimented with keeping the class together on the same projects. I found it much easier to manage this way, and I also found that the students seemed to be moving along much faster. I also became an “Adobe Education Leader” at this time and really got focused on learning all the areas I had been weak in (indesign and Illustrator). I was there for 3 years, every year adding another supplemental project (Offset printing, screenprinting, video editing).

Seminole Ridge

Seminole Ridge was my first lab to develop from scratch. The school was new and I developed the purchasing list. This was a fascinating and exciting (albeit challenging) project to be sure! I had done a lot of work with Brevard County developing their Educational Specs so I had in mind what I wanted to do. My involvement with Adobe deepened, and my students are certainly benefiting. The depth of the projects are growing, and the students are completing them with incredible success and speed! This website has been through many iterations here (one due to a server crash! Yikes!), and I have been working lately on making sure that the curriculum prepares my students for Adobe Certification. Also, the video tutorials began here, as did the second section of scenarios for advanced students. Big revisions at Seminole Ridge include the development of After Effects curriculum and more professional video work.

Most of the revision at Seminole Ridge had to do with the influence of Mike Skocko at Valhalla High School Mac Lab. Mike’s example was a challenge and curiosity to me. As a result of just watching his website develop and with the ways my students were learning Flash over the internet from his classroom, I was challenged to make this site even more helpful and innovative than it had been in the past. When I built this site there were few people that had done such a complete job of making their class online, but Mike took it a step farther. I had to mention him here since he’s an absolutely brilliant teacher and pioneer on this whole “class on the web” journey. If you haven’t checked out his site, please do. Incredible work.

UPDATE: 09.03.09– Our program is #1 in the world when it comes to testing and having students pass the Adobe Certification Associate Exams. With over 200 students passing the test- we are well in the lead. Mr Moya’s classes and Mrs. Mavrookas’ classes along with my own are producing excellent results in preparing students for the exam.

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