Flipping the Classroom with Adobe Spark

This week I have been exploring the quality of Adobe Spark programs as a multimedia tool to create instructional materials and showcase student learning. In this blog post, I will discuss the need for a modern multimedia tool for my prototype, provide a brief description of each Adobe Spark program including an example of what I have created within it and, finally, conclude with a discussion of its strengths and limitations.

The need for a modern multimedia tool

I am using the concept of the flipped classroom for my prototype blended learning course, Organizational Behaviour. In the flipped classroom environment, the students are required to review the course content in Brightspace to prepare for class in which they will apply their learning with an interactive activity.

As mentioned, I am using Brightspace as a learning management system to house content and facilitate student interaction with other learners and the learning materials. According to Bates’ extensive review of educational technology literature, sound instructional design is a quality indicator of online learning, which includes the following four key principles:

  1. Consistent layout and design;
  2. Clear organisation and presentation of information;
  3. Consistent and easy-to-use navigation; and
  4. Aesthetically pleasing design and graphics.

While I believe that Brightspace can be utilized in such a way as to achieve the first three principles, I personally do not believe learning content can be presented with an aesthetically pleasing design and/or graphics using the tools within this LMS. However, course content can be designed and developed with more modern platforms elsewhere and uploaded or linked within Brightspace. This week I was investigating other digital media to accomplish this.

Review of Adobe Spark programs

I reviewed Adobe Spark which is a free app and web platform that enables users to create and publish images, webpages, and videos with Adobe’s three programs called Spark Post, Spark Page, and Spark Video.  Here is a brief explanation of each program:

Spark Spark Post

Spark Post allows users to create images with text to convey meaningful messages. Posts can be custom designed or users have access to templates. Posts can be sized for use in Spark Video and social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. Below is an image I created with Spark Post to accompany a recent tweet.

Adobe Spark Page

Adobe Page is a web-based method for storytelling that accommodates images, links to outside sources, videos, and text. There are creative alternative layouts within this product including a glideshow, which puts content into fluid motion as the user scrolls through the page. As an educator, I found this to be a more visually appealing method to present content than what comes standard within BrightSpace. This past week I have been experimenting with creating content for my prototype module. I invite you to click on the Team Building Skills image below to view what I have so far.

Team Building Skills

Adobe Spark Video

Through Spark Video users can incorporate photos, icons or other video clips to create a compelling or engaging message. Users can easily add voiceovers and free or personal music. Although the video maker itself does not allow for animated slides or frames, users can upload their own videos clips to offset this limitation.

I envision my students using video makers like Adobe Spark Video to demonstrate and showcase their learning to other groups of learners and practitioners via social media. This way, students have the opportunity to move beyond the closed spaces and institutional barriers of the LMS (Bates, 2015).

To motivate students to be creative in their learning, Stephen Brookfield (2015) in his book The Skillful Teacher argues that educators must build a case for such creativity. This can be done, in part, by the educator modeling such qualities. To demonstrate my own creativity, I produced the following short video explaining what students can expect in a flipped classroom.

Discussion of strengths and limitations

As I worked with Adobe Spark products this week I noted several strengths they can offer educators and learners along with a few limitations.

Strengths

  • User-Friendly: These programs allow users to create quality audio and visual digital products without prior experience in digital media design. These programs are adaptable for viewing on mobile devices.
  • Free! With a username and login, users can create digital content with access to quality images and fonts facilitated by creative commons. Alternatively, users can upload their own photos.
  • Community of Learning and Practice: Adobe Spark has created a community of learning specifically for educators through Education Exchange. Here, educators can access and share educational ideas and lesson plans, discuss sound pedagogical methods using digital media, and can access several digital media tutorials relating to the Adobe suite of products.
  • Inspiration: Users can be inspired by existing digital media products and have access to templates customizable for their own purposes.
  • How-To: Adobe Spark provides webinars, tutorials, and text instructions to support users when creating digital products.
  • Sharing on Social: Collaborative and networked learning can be facilitated by the ease in which completed Adobe Spark projects can be shared via popular social media platforms and embedded within other web platforms including LMSs.

Limitations

  • Accessibility: If a student can only access technology and/or an internet connection on campus this restricts their mobility in terms of accessing instructor-created materials or creating digital media using Adobe Spark.
  • Linear: While Adobe Page can present a modern web-based design of instructional content, it is very linear and does not provide a visual big picture of where student learning is headed within the presentation. See Prezi as an example of a concept map type approach.
  • Searchability: Creators of multimedia instructional or learning projects can share their work through social media platforms or by providing links.  However, these same projects are not easily found when using search engines. This limits the ability for those outside of our social media networks to access our digital media and educational artifacts.
  • Time: Adobe Spark programs are user-friendly, but still take time to learn and use. Educators may view this as a limitation and not venture into using such multimedia platforms.
  • Quality Content: Adobe Spark may be user-friendly with aesthetically pleasing images and design, but this does not guarantee high-quality educational content.

Overall, I am very pleased with the potential that Adobe Spark programs have for educators and students to create meaningful content and demonstration of learning. I have decided to continue using these programs to develop my instructional materials for my prototype.

I am interested in your feedback with respect to the Adobe Spark Page I created to deliver student content. In addition, do you see any other potential strengths or weaknesses with using multimedia programs such as Adobe Spark?

 

 

 

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Extending Brightspace Borders: Creating Networked Learning Experiences

My goal for my blended learning prototype is to be practical and applicable to a course I teach called Organizational Behaviour delivered to first-year diploma students in the School of Business. While I was hoping to explore the many possibilities of open source learning platforms and other types of media, instructors in my institution are required to use Brightspace offered by D2L to deliver online and blended courses. The features I have used in this learning management system (LMS) are uploading content, student discussion forums, formal and summative assessments tools, and the student gradebook. While I have some experience, which seems ideal, my initial thoughts on being restricted to using a LMS were bleak. Let me explain.

Considering the Closed Borders of a LMS

I have found most LMSs I have had experience with both as a student and educator, while useful, were not entirely user-friendly, clunky, and worst of all once the course was over all the evidence of learning was no longer accessible. Delivering a blended learning course strictly within a LMS closes the learners off to networked learning using the open web. As Audrey Watters from Hack Education ponders, as do I,  who really owns the learning and why is learning locked-in and locked down? Watters emphatically urges educators in higher education to move beyond the LMS and into the open web. It is unclear to me whether she is advocating for the abandonment of a LMS, or if she means that educators must expand the borders that surround the LMS to include the use of many multi-media platforms available in the open web? What is your interpretation of her closing argument?

Expanding the Borders of a LMS

Bates, in his textbook Teaching in the Digital Age, argues that while core technologies such as the Internet and LMSs are important tools for education, it is digital media (text, graphics, audio, and computing) that promotes interactions between educators, learners, and content whereby learning becomes meaningful. LMSs such as Brightspace provide opportunities for this interaction, but for me, expanding the borders of the LMS and including digital media tools available in the open web is important to facilitate networked learning. These multi-media artifacts are student created and owned and are typically housed in the open web then shared within the LMS. For example, creating a YouTube video and then embedding it in Brightspace. Another example may be blogs hosted externally and linked within the LMS. This media can create exposure to a wider networked learning experience. And, ultimately, where learning has infinite possibilities.

There is one other important issue I wanted to address regarding LMS platforms, including Brightspace. I have always found that these platforms have awkward text and visual design, do not convert well to handheld devices and are not as user-friendly as widely used social media platforms. This can sour the user experience, as it had for me while I was a student, and was a major reason I was shying away from using a LMS. However, I recently discovered that Brightspace has a new user interface called Daylight that has a more modern look and can adapt to smaller devices. It is my hope it addresses these aesthetic and functional issues.

In conclusion, I feel much more confident in using the Brightspace LMS as a central hub for my course prototype. With multi-media artifacts created and stored in the open web yet shared within Brightspace, it is my hope students will feel more of a sense of ownership and can take most, if not all, their learning artifacts beyond the course end date. In addition, the presence this will allow them in the open web can lead to a wider learning network.

My next steps in exploring the capabilities of Brightspace to create a networked learning experience that extends its borders:

  1. Are there apps compatible with Brightspace to make the learner experience more meaningful. For example, is there an app that allows access to the LMS?
  2. Look further into the capabilities of the new user interface, Daylight, with respect to sharing learning created in the open web.
  3. How can social media be linked or utilized within Brightspace? Similar to linking a Twitter feed to a blog.

Thank you for following along. I am interested in your thoughts on my plan so far. Is there anything further I could consider when using a LMS that may enhance the student experience?

Incorporating Technology to Enhance Student Experience

Enhancing Student Learning Experience using Technology

I am excited to delve into the possibilities of creating a more dynamic and interactive learning experience for a course I teach called Organizational Behaviour using technology. As it stands now, this introductory course is content/term heavy. In my experience, more time is spent on learning (dare I say memorizing) the theories and definitions in order to prepare for two major exams. This has only left a small amount of time to concentrate on making the content applicable to the students’ experiences. However, I believe reducing the weight of these high stakes exams can shift the course from a content centered to student-centered focus. I am confident this will pave the way to find more creative ways to engage students with the content, making it more applicable to their current situations and potential future work experiences. There is a team building project in this course that is relevant but in need of a reboot! This is where I believe I can focus my project in EC&I 834.

Incorporating Technology in the Team Building Project

One of the major goals of our institution is to provide students opportunities to gain employability skills, which includes the ability to communicate and work in teams effectively. Many of the components of this course including communication, power dynamics, role expectations, personality types and conflict resolution play a significant part in how a team develops and functions within an organization. To experience these theories and concepts in action students are assigned to a static group to complete activities and assessments throughout the course. After participating in these activities, students are required to reflect on their experiences based on the concepts learned.

While I have delivered this course using a blended learning approach, technology was predominately used as a classroom aide. On Bates’ continuum of technology-based learning, I would say the class functioned more on the far left than right! Considering the use of technology is an integral part of developing employability skills as set out by The Conference Board of Canada, I believe it is time to reboot the student experience in this class, including the team building project, by incorporating a significant technological component.

I am curious, what team-building exercises have you been involved in that you found most valuable? What technologies have you used that help facilitate effective teamwork (at work, school, volunteering etc)?

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your thoughts!