I Prepare Kids for Life…I teach Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS)

Dating back to the 1800s, Home Economics/Family and Consumer Sciences was an important profession that helped prepare women for household domestication. However, over the many years, this profession has changed the lives of many men and women and has advanced far beyond the original thoughts of Ellen Swallow Richards.

Currently, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences defines Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS/FACS) as:

…the comprehensive body of skills, research, and knowledge that helps people make informed decisions about their well being, relationships, and resources to achieve optimal quality of life. The field represents many areas including human development, personal and family finance, housing and interior design, food science, nutrition and wellness, textiles and apparel, and consumer issues (2015,para 1).

Unfortunately, the United States is in a place where the value of Family and Consumer Sciences is inconsistent from state to state.

Currently in my 5th year teaching Family and Consumer Sciences in CT, I have taught children in EVERY grade from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Despite the various ages of children that I have taught, the constant variable is that children NEED Family and Consumer Sciences. Family and Consumer Sciences has the ability to help students find their niche. Family and Consumer Sciences also has the ability to help students, girls AND boys, find themselves.

Friday night I emailed a mother to let her know how well her son is doing in my class. I told her that I was most impressed with his sewing skills and his pillow that he completed was by far one of the best I have seen in my 4 years of doing this project. Below is the response that I received from her:

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At the end of the day, I was just doing my job…communicating with a parent to let them know how their child is progressing. But at the end of the day, after reading this email, I realized I AM making a difference. I am changing the lives of my kids, and they are changing my life too…all thanks to Family and Consumer Sciences.

To all my Family and Consumer Sciences colleagues out there, here is my plea:

Advocate for your program, not just for you, but for your students. SHOW your administrators in your building, in your district, in your state, WHY Family and Consumer Sciences needs to be a relevant curriculum and area taught to students in grades 6-12.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What change are you going to be?

 

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Teaching Interior Design with Voki Presenter

As a teacher, no matter what  grade you teach or your content area, it is important to capture the attention of your students and make learning exciting so they can carry on their knowledge to other classes and their everyday life.

I teach Family and Consumer Sciences….or what people know as Home Ec….or Life Skills.

No matter what you call it, each name encompasses a content area filled with knowledge and activities that help students gain necessary 21st century skills and help them grow into more responsible and independent beings.

The assumption that is normally made about teaching Family and Consumer Sciences is that it is so easy because “you just cook and sew all day”. However, there are more things taught in Family and Consumer Sciences other than foods and sewing, one of those being, Interior Design.

I am currently in my 5th Year teaching Family and Consumer Sciences and from working with my students have found that they REALLY need to be engaged during presentations, in order to understand what is being taught.

I work with PowToon, which is another great educational tool for presenting, however, Voki gives a lot more options and allows teachers to connect the material in a stronger way.

*Disclaimer: Although I am writing specifically about Family and Consumer Sciences, Voki APPLIES TO ALL CONTENT AREAS!!!!

I first found Voki the summer of 2014 while I was a graduate student pursuing my M.Ed in Instructional Design and Technology. I researched the program and completely fell in love with it. I started to use it within weeks of the 2014-2015 school year with my 6th graders who created an “About Me” Voki, using Voki Classroom. My students absolutely loved it and what I loved about it was that not only were my students able to maximize their creativity, they also were able to work on their writing skills because they had to write a “script” for their character. I wrote a blog about the program and included pictures (https://fishphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/voki-changing-the-way-my-students-learn/), but click the video below for an example of the project a student submitted.

Now, I am in a different district with different students and I am using Voki Presenter to make my 8th Grade presentations more engaging.

When Voki Presenter first came out, I was a little anxious to use it because it did not seem that easy to navigate. However, you have to learn by doing, right?

I started to create a presentation and the more I played with it and worked on it, the easier font and background changes came, and the fact that I could add an avatar was AWESOME!

A couple of features that I love about the avatars:

  1. Avatar Choice: There are so many avatars to choose from. You can choose from foods, holiday characters, historical figures (past and present), realistic people, and so many more! Also, you can edit almost every section of the avatar from skin color to accessories. Certain avatars are limited, but for others, the possibilities are endless.
  2. Avatar Voice: When selecting the voice for your avatar, you have 3 options. You can a) upload a voice fileb) type in what you want it to say and choose a voice, or c) record your own voice.
    1. Upload a Voice File: I have never used this feature but I am sure it is very simple to use.
    2. Typing a VoiceThis is plain and simple. Type what you want it to say, choose a voice, and you’re good to go. One thing that is important to remember is that the avatars are sometimes syllable sensitive- they may or may not pronounce the word correctly and sometimes you need to alter it.
      • When students are working with it, it really helps them focus on grammar and sentence structure. If you don’t put any punctuation in, the avatar WILL speak as one run-on sentence.
      • Voice selection is not only English. You can choose from a variety of voices from different countries and regions! If teaching lessons on countries and specific regions, you can alter the voice to have an accent from that region. If teaching foreign language, you can alter the language from English to the language your students are learning. It is awesome!
    3. Recording Your VoiceIf you do not want to type everything in, you can record your own voice using the microphone that is on your computer, or by calling a specific Voki number that they provide you with. It is very easy to use and when calling the number, it will prompt you with instructions.

Now as far as the presenter, there are a lot of great features! You can upload images, backgrounds, and text with ease! There really is not too much to say about the mechanics of how everything works because you are able to figure it out with no problems. The only thing I have had issues with is my avatar has not been playing automatically due to Adobe Flash Player. I have to right click and then select ‘run this plugin’ for it to work.

Below is my presentation that I use with my 8th Grade students. I also give my students guided notes so they don’t miss out on any information and once the slide and avatar has stopped, I refine the information and make sure all my students understand it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me in the comments and I will be more than happy to get back to you!

Happy Teaching and Learning!

https://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=a59afb1b7d82ec353921a55c579ee26d

 

 

Voki….Changing the Way my Students Learn


Problem: There are 16 different topics to cover in Family and Consumer Sciences. Beginning of the school year. 80 new 6th graders. How do I grab their attention and immediately get them interested in Family and Consumer Sciences, other than the idea that they get to eat when we have Foods Labs?

Answer: One word….Voki.

Currently, I am a graduate student at Post University in CT, pursuing my M.Ed in Instructional Design and Technology. Over the summer I took a course titled, “Integrating Learning and Technology”. One of the new learning tools that was introduced to us during our 8 week module was the program Voki (www.voki.com). In July, I explored the program and it seemed like something that was definitely different. I did not get too in depth with the website at the time, but kept it in my ‘Favorites’ for future reference.

In my 6th Grade classes, the first unit we tackle is an “About Me” unit, where students learn about personality, self-esteem, and what it means to be true to themselves. At the end of the unit, students answer specific questions about themselves that they present in collage form. As a teacher who teaches about 900 students in the district (I teach K-8 at 2 schools in the district….MP 1 and 3 at one school and MP 2 and 4 at another), I do not have a lot of room in my classroom or on my bulletin boards to display work. With that being said, this year I decided that Voki would be the best way to get my students interested in the project, it would allow me to get to know them even better, and it would cut down on paper. It was a project that was definitely different for them and capture their attention immediately.

I created a Voki Classroom account for myself and I was then able to input my students’ names into the program. Voki automatically created a username and password for my students which made it so much easier! I was also able to print them out so if the students needed to finish at home, they had the opportunity to do so. The Voki Classroom program allowed me to create the assignment which my students were then able to see. I gave my students the questions ahead of time so they could prepare their responses.

One of the things that is great about the Voki avatars is that you can type your speech if you do not have a microphone, however, it is extremely important that students write their speech in COMPLETE SENTENCES!!!! This was a great way to show my students how Family and Consumer Sciences connects to English Language Arts and emphasized the importance of good grammar!

Once the students completed their Voki projects, they then submitted it to me for review. I developed my own rubric to grade the students on their answers to the specific questions I gave them, however, I did give extra points for creativity. Some of my students got really into it, changing the background and voice effects of the avatar. Voki was so successful first marking period at my first school and was just as successful second marking period at my second school. Here we are in March and my students are STILL talking about it!

I am so thankful that Voki has come into my life and I am excited to keep using Voki in different capacities in my teaching throughout the various grade levels I teach. I am also extremely excited to be a Voki Ambassador! Voki has changed the way I teach and the impact that it has had on my students is unbelievable! I would be a fool not to spread the word and teach others about how this can change their educational worlds as well!

Below are some photos of the students working on their project and a video of a sample project!

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EDU 627: Change and Quality Management

Change Management and Quality Management are extremely important for instructional design because in order to properly manage a project and have it be successful, these are the things that need to get done.

Kotter’s 8 Stage Change Process (n.d.) is the foundation to an entire instructional design project, including: create a guiding coalition, develop a vision and strategy, generate short term wins, and consolidate gains. These steps ensure and support quality management, enhancing product quality and process quality. The role of the project manager and the 8 Stage Change Process are similar in the sense that both establish a sense of urgency, create a guiding coalition, develop a vision and strategy, etcetera. Basically, the 8 Stage Change Process IS the exact method same as the description of the role of the project manager.

I strongly believe that Kotter’s 8 Step Change Process ensures and supports quality management in the sense that it holds the project manager accountable for product and process quality. However, in order for this to be supported, as with many things, product and process quality needs to be measured. One of the greatest ways to assess product and process quality is through metrics.

Generally, according to UpEDU (2014), “All metrics require criteria to identify and to determine the degree or level at which of acceptable quality is attained. The level of acceptable quality is negotiable and variable, and needs to be agreed upon early in the development lifecycle” (para 4). Furthermore, measuring product quality is best achieved through “reviews/ walkthroughs, inspection, and execution” (UpEDU, 2014, para. 7). Additionally, process quality is best achieved through the use of measurement techniques such as: “progress, variance, and through the use of product quality measures” (UpEDU, 2014, para. 10).

It all makes sense to me now about how metrics ties into this entire program! When I took measurement and metircs, I understood it but didn’t quite see the full significance of how it related to the program, but now knowing how it directly ties into project management, it all makes things much clearer for me.

For more information on change management and how it works and what it means for you, view the video below!

Ultimately, the project manager has the most difficult job because they are the most responsible for the entire project. However, as stated in last week’s blog, with a strong communication plan, anything can be accomplished through the eyes of project management.

References

UpEDU. (2014). Concepts: Measuring quality. Retrieved from http://www.upedu.org/process/gcncpt/co_meqlty.htm

Wedell, G. (2011). What is change management? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__IlYNMdV9E

EDU 627: Effective Communication and Project Management

With many situations in life, communication is always of the utmost importance. When thinking of and discussing project management, communication is one thing that should always be at the top of the priority list.

Projectmanager.com (2014) states, “As a project manager, it is your role to actively manage the messages emanating from your project team, project deliverables, and the project artifacts that your sponsors, users, and wider audience come in contact with your project” (0:13). One things that is great about project management is that sometimes there are people on the team who are solely responsible for communications. In my case because I am the instructional designer and project manager, I would love if I had someone solely responsible for communications because it would make things a little easier for me and would allow me to better focus on the tasks that I should be responsible for. The video below gives a great overview of what needs to be included in a communications plan:

Bourne (2011) writes, “The purpose of communicating with any stakeholder is to build his or her understanding of a project. But there is a huge gap between looking at a written message and understanding its content” (para 1). In many instances with projects and project management, there are always many stakeholders involved. In relation to my project, one of the biggest communication challenges that I am going to have is with one group of my main stakeholders- the Chief Academic Officer and the Instructional Leadership Director.

Both stakeholders are very busy and are difficult to get in contact with because they are always in and out of their office and if you do contact them, whether it be via phone or email, there is never a guarantee that you will get a response. It can become very frustrating when the other group of stakeholders, the teachers who are on the receiving line of the PD, want answers and you cannot provide them.

In order to overcome this obstacle, a clear communication plan needs to be established that is agreed upon by all parties. If the plan is direct, then there is no room for miscommunication and/or inaccuracies in the process.

References

Bourne, L. (2011, June 23). Project communications: A visual understanding [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/8950/

EDU 627: The Instructional Designer vs the Project Manager… a 2-for-1 special?

Where do you fall in the project management vs instructional designer showdown? For most of us, we are a product of what I like to call…the most bang for your buck crew…you know, the 2-for-1 special at the store you always choose! You see, we, the 2-for-1 special people, wear many hats as a project manager and instructional designer. Lucky for us, however, there are connections that can be made between both project management and instructional design.

Project management supports instructional design in many ways. One of the first ways that project management supports instructional design is by using project management skills. Williams van Rooij (2010) writes:

Even when the roles of instructional designer and project manager are filled by the same individual, using project management processes enables the project manager to: (1) clearly define the project, develop realistic schedules and manage change; (2) choose those processes, levels of detail and methodology components appropriate to the specific project; (3) operate in an organised and efficient manner; and (4) have more time to devote to the management ‘soft’ skills, such as team building (p. 855).

Furthermore, Williams van Rooij (2010) references Layng (1997) by writing, “Layng sees project management as a tool to help instructional designers develop detailed outlines of instructional materials and learn a method of managing those outlines” (p. 856). This idea by Layng is a key idea connecting project management and instructional design because project management allows the instructional designer to be more organized and focused on the project or task at hand. In the instance that the instructional designer and project manager are the same person, this proves to be extremely beneficial.

Another way that project management and instructional design are similar can be seen through the implementation of a task/needs analysis. A task analysis, or needs analysis, is “a fundamental practice that is embedded within organizational change initiatives, and especially those involving human performance” (Post University, n.d., Slide 3). I compare the task analysis to a pre-test that I would give my students. The task or needs analysis is the step that analyzes the full program or project that has to be developed and is directly linked to instructional design due to its connection to Human Performance Technology (HPT). This crucial step in project management and instructional design can either make or break the entire project. In addition to the task/needs analysis, sequencing is also something that can either make or break the entire project. Sequencing is crucial to a successful project because if the sequencing is wrong and doesn’t make sense, the entire project is not going to make sense and will not be as organized as it should be. In relation to education, teachers need to successfully perform sequencing when planning and implementing their lessons so everything flows and makes sense to the students.

On the other hand, project management and instructional design can also differ. First and foremost, the most evident way that project management and instructional design differ is by the difference that project management includes a focus on not only designing the project or training, but also focuses on the budgeting of the project. I believe that the job of the project manager is more in depth as opposed to the job of an instructional designer.

My final project is a professional development for the middle school Family and Consumer Sciences teachers about how to incorporate technology into their lessons. Two of the primary tasks for this professional development are: research different media that can be incorporate into the FACS classroom and develop age appropriate lessons using technology such as PowToon to enhance and re-design PowerPoint presentations. One of the things that I need to make sure I remember is to keep a solid balance between project manager and instructional designer. The video below definitely is a great reminder of what NOT to do when being a project manager that will help me through building my project.

References

Post University. (n.d.). Managing instruction & technology. [Presentation slides]. Retrieved from http://www.coursematerials.net/edu/edu627/unit3/index.htm

Williams van Rooij, S. (2010). Project management in instructional design: ADDIE is not enough. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41, 852-864.

Self-Esteem

In my 6th Grade classes, our current unit is called, “Discovering Yourself”, where we talk about heredity, characteristics, personality, and most important, self-esteem. Today in my discussion on self-esteem, something just completely clicked for me and brought me to a place I haven’t been in a very long time.

I said to my kids, “You know, you either have a high self-esteem or a low self-esteem. There have been times where my self-esteem has been very low and then there are times where my self-esteem has been and can be very high….maybe even too high. Like now for instance. I AM AWESOME. And I want everybody to know how awesome I am. And guess what?! If they don’t think I’m awesome, that’s too bad for them because they are completely missing out and don’t need to be apart of my life!”

Do not allow the negative words or actions of others take over your being. The second we take ownership of that negativity, we fall into a cycle that becomes difficult to break free from. I admit that I have allowed the hurtful words and actions that have been done to me push me away from activities and others due to my own feelings of inadequacy, but guess what? I was never nor will I ever be a victim. You grow, you stay strong, and you have faith that there is a plan for you greater than you could ever imagine.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Be honest. Be brave. You never know what one kind act or word can do to change somebody’s life.