Because of my internship… Reflection Post #8

Because of my internship, I am significantly more confident in my knowledge and skill set in developing courses, content, and instructional design. Not only do I believe that I have given a meaningful contribution to Smithsonian Enterprises, but I also have concrete projects that I can show off and discuss. Within these projects, each was beneficial in developing a practical skill set that will undoubtedly be helpful in my future career.

Companion Classroom Resources for Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects

The Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects course developed my soft skills in virtual museum research and instructional design and hard skills in using ADDIE, mindmapping, and course development on a MOOC. ADDIE and mind-mapping were used to develop the inquiries from the questions to the objectives to the objects. The mindmap allowed for us to put ADDIE into a visual which was really helpful for staying on track. MOOC is an interesting platform where not everything is intuitive so it makes me more confident in my ability to figure out and design on a platform.

This course is also my first attempt at working with HTML and it was a lot of trial and error. This was frustrating but helpful as it is something I’ve never worked with (and never needed the patience for) but it was interesting to learn a new skill that I haven’t had the opportunity or necessity to learn before. Ultimately, I really enjoyed thinking about what the user experience would be like and creating this experience myself. With the help of exceptional SME and my mentor, this course was started and developed by me and has been an excellent opportunity in elearning course development.

Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology

The Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology has been a great experience in building a self-paced elearning course. For this course, much of the content was built on a different platform. It was our job to transform, build, and develop it on a MOOC for SmithsonianX (Smithsonian’s edX page). We also wanted to update the assessment for the course to make it more interactive for individual students and the community of “Trekkies.” Alison was really interested in my ideas and after a few sessions of bouncing ideas off one another, we combined my idea for a blog and her methods of tying it back to the course discussion boards, to ensure that the assessment would appeal to all audiences. Ultimately, the assessment, titled “Starlog,” would exemplify their developed beliefs and Star Trek Resume for the class and allow for students to use as much creativity and thought as much as they desired.

Aside from assessment creation, the Star Trek course also deeply developed my HTML skills. It was important that we follow the CBS style guide to stay true to the show and its fans. Much of my part in this course was with the visual design. This involved putting in the right code and style for each page and ensuring consistency.

With over 2500 learners registered for the course from all over the world, I am exceptionally proud of this course and hopeful that it will continue to run smoothly after I leave.

Power and Responsibility: Doing Philosophy with Superheroes

The Power and Responsibility: Doing Philosophy with Superheroes was a great experience in working with an SME that was involved throughout the entire process, Dr. Christopher Robichaud, and an instructional designer who is very knowledgable in technology and more than willing to speak with me on how she builds this piece into her design, Karina Lin. Both come from Harvard, as the course is in conjunction with the Harvard Extension School. In this project, I realized how much I enjoyed working with an SME and seeing a course that is instructor-paced. Part of my job is being responsive to students and interacting with students, something that I didn’t really need to do in the other courses and it is a welcomed change of pace to read through adult-learner responses and see their thoughts on big philosophical questions. Currently, the course has over 700 registered participants, also from all over the world, and it is very interesting to see the various responses in real-time.

Because of this internship…

I also learned what can go wrong in a course. For the C3 course, I have learned that it takes A LOT of time to develop a high-quality course. I started this course and in this current moment, we do not have enough content to release it. Because this course relies so heavily on teacher feedback and the teacher’s schedule, as well as museum specialists ,when the government is shutdown, it was difficult to keep developing when we weren’t able to get their feedback. That being said, I still learned the important process of building a prototype course, creating a survey and coordinating a beta-test with teachers and students, revising and continuing the build out from there.

For the Star Trek course, there was an issue with the licensing and contract from the platform it formerly existed on and the course had to be pushed back. This was no one on our team’s “fault” and something we couldn’t control but it likely had an impact on learner engagement for those that registered back in February but ended up needing to wait until April. This is something that we can’t truly know but being on top of all areas of the development and launch is something that I learned is very important.

In the Philosophy and Superheroes course, I was reminded of the failures of technology and how important it is to double check your work. The course was rolled-over from a previous run with the course with minor updates and revisions. Unfortunately, the course did not roll over as it should and more than half of the content was gone or incorrect. Fortunately for me, this gave me more time and experience in designing and developing a course, as well as creating a polishing and QA process for this course.

Overall . . .

My experience with this internship has been invaluable. I’ve been able to work with amazing people, who were very knowledgable on the content and the skills but still very receptive to my ideas and more than willing to work as a team. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Smithsonian Enterprise and feel that I am walking away with a very developed skill set in elearning course development, digital museum work, and instructional design.

You can’t do everything – Internship reflection #7

When I came into this internship, I believed that it was solely the historian creating the digital project. It was developed through their own research and their own production, like writing a thesis or a book. What I have come to realize is that a digital project, like most things, is a team effort that takes much more than one person researching and developing it but a group of people from different perspectives to create something of quality.

As a result of this experience, I have a much better sense of the division in jobs and how jobs that might fall into the category of “digital humanities” breakdown. I have found that in a corporate setting, it is rare to find a subject matter expert (SME) that is also the person creating the content for others. There are so many parts to a project that creation takes more than one person to produce a quality project that people want to use and will use. Specific to my position, you do not see a historian who is also the instructional designer creating the online course. It isn’t the historian deciding where to put a piece of information on a webpage, where the desired audience will see it, it’s the content strategist. It’s also not the historian fixing the course when the rollover falls through and half of the content goes missing, it’s the IT person. It’s also very important that a group of the desired audience is available for a beta test to ensure that the course runs properly and that students are actually meeting the objectives. Communication is key between all to make sure that there are the proper objectives and the right information in the right place to ensure student success. This is not to diminish either side or to say that a person can never be both but rather to say that neither can create a quality project without the other. It is through teamwork and communication that the project grows out of and is successful.

This insight truly came from me trying to be both the SME and the instructional designer while developing the companion course. While I was being a historian, I forgot the teacher/instructional designer side and while I was being an instructional designer, I found that I would forget the history side. Ultimately, it took Alison to help me focus and I came to the revelation of why these sides tend to be separate. The teamwork made for a nice balance and a great first (soon to be second) inquiry resource in our course. Of course, as I’m typing this I do wonder if there are positions that do operate as both and what type of training and experience the person had to do to develop such a vast knowledge and skills base to operate in a corporate setting.

From this realization, I have had to think about where I want to fit into this breakdown. Do I want to lean more on the side of the historian or the teacher? Or do I want to be on content strategist or the instructional designer? Reflecting on these questions, I have found that I really enjoy talking to the people who know a lot about subjects and the coordination and analysis of content so I believe that I am starting to fall more on the strategist/instructional design side of the issue. I find working as a team to be much more useful and enjoyable for the long term so this realization is very comforting in thinking about my career path.

Internship Reflection #6

WMy internship has required a lot of instructional design, course development, and virtual teaching methods and skills from the start. It has also required a lot of my knowledge on C3 and teaching history with objects. I believe I have a basic knowledge of each of these but this internship has allowed me to really test my knowledge and application of each of these skills.

Building the companion course has been a great refresher in lesson planning and instructional design skills that I built throughout my undergraduate degree and while getting my teaching certification. Being reminded of backwards design and having to use these skills to create and build-out the assessments, content and overarching inquiries has been very useful. Alison has also introduced me to MindMapping which is an excellent tool for thinking about objectives and staying on track. It’s a very practical and makes the main objective of a lesson clear so that I can easily stay on track.

Having my teaching certificate be from New York, I have worked a lot with C3 Inquiry and this working knowledge has been very helpful in this internship to create my own inquiries with objects on the companion course. However, this is where I’ve found a prescribed teaching pedagogy to be unrealistic for a traditional classroom because of a jam-packed curriculum and standardized tests at least once a year. After talking with teachers, we learned that they weren’t using C3 Inquiries because they took too long and didn’t leave them enough time to teach and emphasize all of the facts and concepts that students needed to know to complete the curriculum and pass the tests. Because of this, we toned down the companion course inquiries to make them practical for teachers to use without losing the important historical thinking skills that inquiries develop. Applying the research of scholars like Dr. Wineburg and Dr. Mills Kelly on historical thinking and the “new” expectation of a history class helped me to decide how much I could shorten the inquiries, which never entailed any parts of the C3 Inquiry model.

This also required quite a bit of thinking on how teachers would be using media and technology in the classroom, something we discussed a lot in History 689, Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age with Dr. Schrum. Ultimately, I laid out two ways that I believe would be feasible for a teacher. They could either break the featured sources up and fit them in as activities to complement their own lessons or they could attempt to do the full inquiry in one day. I also gave suggestions for what teachers to use depending on the technology available. For example, if each student has a laptop or other device then they can likely move through the inquiries on their own but if students don’t or if the teachers believe students will need more support, then it’s also very easy for the teacher to put onto whatever screen they have available so that they can move through the inquiry as a group.

The skills and knowledge I have used and tested throughout this internship have been incredibly helpful and very practical for my future career.

Internship Reflection #5

What about your internship has been an eye-opening (new or unexpected) experience? What were your initial expectations? Have these expectations changed now that you are half-way through? How? Why?

Again, my internship has continued to be an amazing, hands-on learning experience. I have gained so much knowledge in the ways of instructional design and course design/development.

The most eye-opening piece is the work in how to make an online course seem seamless to users. I’ve really learned that it is the little details that users won’t notice are there that make all the difference. For an example, the way one word bolded can make the whole page different by drawing the user’s eye right to that detail on the page and emphasizing what they need to know or do. I suppose this is something I’ve known from my own studies in education and my own digital classroom use, but something I’ve never had to think about from the perspective of design a course, beyond the content and education objectives.

My initial expectations were very limited in that I thought I would only be an assistant in the making of a course. I did not think that I would be entrusted to create an entire course on my own, with my companion course, Companion Classroom Resources for Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects. And I certainly did not think I would have the opportunity to design a course that thousands of people will take with the Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology course. I truly did not expect this much freedom or to be asked for my opinion and knowledge in so many instances.

Now that I am half way through the internship, my expectations of the internship have changed in that I’ve recognized that I’m doing real work and something that will go beyond my internship. I’m realizing that this is not a side-project I’m working on for Smithsonian but something that people will actually see and use and how important it is to make sure I pay attention to the abovementioned “seamless” details. This has had to be the case since Alison consistently reminds me of the little fixes that need to happen and commends me when I notice them myself, which I’m doing more and more. I also know that my name, along with Smithsonian, will be attached to these projects that are being put out into the world and I want them to be the best that they can be.

This internship is allowing me to apply all that I’ve learned from my education background and my history degrees and helped me realize that educational technology is the field that I want to be in. Keeping in mind the expectations of Alison, and thus, the Smithsonian is making me hold myself and my work to higher expectation as well.

Internship Reflection #4

My internship is going exceptionally well. I’m thoroughly enjoying researching the materials and methods, building the class and working with new tools. The course building and designing are exactly what I want to be doing and working with Alison has been very beneficial. She’s been very helpful at providing resources, assistance and answering all of my questions. Her feedback is also very helpful. We will be releasing the beta test to teachers tomorrow, which is very exciting.

Building the class and having the beta test ready to go (almost) has been the most successful part of my internship. I’m really looking forward to other teachers looking at it and getting feedback from them. I’ve worked really hard on this class so I just hope that they find it useful but can also give me ways on how to improve it.

I think that my attentiveness to detail and ability to take feedback has helped me be very successful in my internship.  Communicating with Alison regularly has been really helpful and she points out easy fixes. She has also let me have a lot of independence with the project and encourages me to try everything on my own before stepping in. The fact that I have really built this course on my own has given me a great sense of pride so I really want it to be useful to teachers and engaging to students. 

The most challenging part has been working with HTML and coding. I have very, very limited experience working with any code and I’ve really had to jump into the world of HTML on the Edx site. Being patient and trying to figure it out on my own before being willing to reach out and accept help has been difficult but useful in overcoming this challenge. 

Another problem that I came across was even finding resources within Smithsonian. The problem isn’t that they aren’t there but that there are SO MANY. It’s difficult to find a source that has relevant information to the compelling question and to decide what will be most helpful to students. The only exception to this was with John Adams. Adams’ sources are practically all owned by Massachusetts’ Archives and various museums in New England. It took some reframing of my own thinking to see how one of the two sources that was within SI could be useful and then building questions so that students could also reframe their view to get at what the object tells them about him.  

Overall, I’m very excited about how the internship is going. I feel that I am learning a lot and tomorrow will be the ultimate success when the beta test is released. The internship has not only gotten me to rethink and learn more about history but also about instructional design and digital education resources that I did not think I would be getting out of this program but am very grateful that I am.

Internship Update #3

In my time with Smithsonian Enterprises thus far, I have developed numerous skills in researching, designing and building content. Researching how C3 should work and what it should look like beyond what I learned while getting my teaching certification took a lot of time to go on to the C3 website and through the professional development course that SI offers. I also had to research what teachers were looking for and what would be most helpful to them. That’s how we, my mentor and I, came up with the short activities that get at C3 goals and skills but don’t take so much time. This process is still ongoing and likely will be so that we ensure that we are making a product that’s beneficial for teachers.

Next, we had to research a topic that teachers could hopefully look at and use to beta test the product, assuming we can put something together by the end of November/early December. This is how we arrived at Early Presidents/Founding Fathers for the first unit. The Smithsonian has a ton of digital content that teachers can use but it is buried in the many different places that this content can be found. I went through most SI resources to find already built content that can be used in a C3-minded way.

Designing and building content skills came together (and still are) in the next phase of creation. I had to come up with a compelling question, as the C3 Inquiry Design demands. Thinking about what would be important for a middle-schooler to know and think about that could be applied to a civic ideal, I decided on “What qualities are important in a leader?” From there, I found materials that I could relate to this topic.

After collecting materials on the presidents we selected, I started building them in the studio site for Edx. The first build had all of the information and activity for each president on one page. This seemed like too much information and more difficult for teachers to decide how and when to move on to the next part of the activity. In the next build-type, I broke this down so that each president had their own unit and so that each part of the activity was broken down into MOOCs version of a slide or it’s own page.

As I was playing with what the setup of the course should be, I also had to dive into the world of coding and HTML. I’ve previously used this before on WordPress and Omeka for my other projects but only in brief manners. For this page, I had to figure out how to fix copied text as I was taking information directly from Smithsonian sites and how to text wrap and move pictures so that they fit into the page and students can see the object while they’re answering the questions.

Each of this skills will continue to be developed as I move through the internship. It will be interesting to see what will need to be fixed and changed with the material and design after the beta test.

Internship Update #2

My internship experience is going exceptionally well. I feel that I’m working really well with my mentor, Alison, and she’s helping me take advantage of all that the Smithsonian has to offer. Alison has introduced me to several people that are able to help me within the internship and with my future career path. For an example, last week I met with a museum educator who offered to let me help on an upcoming youth day that she puts together for SI. Alison’s also shown me a plethora of resources from the Smithsonian’s that I didn’t know existed. For an example, Learning Lab is a really remarkable tool and it’s too bad that more teachers don’t know about it. Hopefully, my project will help teachers to get on Learning Lab and use the collections that I create, as well as create their own. In addition to showing me the resource, she also introduced me to a woman who runs professional development seminars and knows Learning Lab inside and out. History Explorer is another excellent tool that will be helpful to the project and to any future classroom of mine. I’ve had plenty of time to go through many of these resources and we’ve figured out ways that they can be incorporated into my project. After weeks of very informative research and talking with teachers, we are finally moving on to creating concrete parts of the project. I’ve really enjoyed the research portion but I am looking forward to creating the content.

To create more of these positive experiences, I believe I can keep reaching out to anyone and any resources that Alison suggests. It’s been really beneficial to talk to various people and get their advice and ideas and learn about the resources that they’re experts on. Additionally, following up with them has been, and I assume will continue to be, very beneficial to my project and my career.

I’ve realized that I work very well bouncing ideas off of other people. Some of the meetings I’ve sat in with Alison and others have been the best for forming ideas, versus trying to put together ideas on my own. While working in Google Docs is helpful for putting my own ideas down and being collaborative on our own schedule, it has also been beneficial to talk with others and combine our ideas before starting something concrete.

Smithsonian Internship Introduction

Almost two weeks ago, I began my internship with the Smithsonian Enterprise’s Office of Online Education. I will be working to create professional development for teachers to use the classes that the Smithsonian has on in their traditional classrooms. There are six classes on edx, using the MOOCS platform. Two are already meant to be PD for teachers and the others were designed to be lifelong learning classes for people of all ages. The SI has found though that teachers also really like these classes and that they could potentially fit into a traditional classroom and be very beneficial for teachers and their student’s learning. The first class I will be focusing on is Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects. From there, I will be developing the other classes to fit into the format taught in Teaching Historical Inquiry. For example, Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects uses the C3 Inquiry Design Model. One of the other courses offered on SI Edx page is Smithsonian’s Objects that Define America so I will be developing resources for the teacher so that they can easily use the C3 method and teach Smithsonian’s Objects that Define America in their classroom.

My role in the organization is learning about these classes, how they’re designed and developed, what their purpose is for the general public and how this purpose can be beneficial and useful in the classroom. From there, I will be creating materials so that teachers can easily use these Smithsonian resources in their classes. From creating a list of web resources to making notes for teachers and manipulating existing activities so that they can be used in a traditional classroom, my tasks are very interesting and seem relevant to the mission of the Smithsonian in getting their resources to be used by as many people as possible.

Thus far, I have been really excited about doing the research. Looking at these classes has shown me a lot about how beneficial my own education was and how it prepared me to be a teacher, as I already have experience with the C3 method. Reading what the classes teach has also been very interesting from a historian’s perspective. Moving forward, I’m very excited to be creating resources that will help teachers. It seems that I will have a lot of freedom and that my mentor is very interested and accepting of my input, which is exciting and gratifying in itself. Helping teachers on a digital platform is precisely what I want to be doing and it’s even better that I am able to use Smithsonian materials to do so.

Social Media Narrative Project

In this project, students are assigned a perspective to create a fake social media account for, based on given sources. In essence, this social media account is building the narrative of the historical event from that perspective. The purpose of this project is to develop student’s historical thinking skills and, specifically, to get them to think about multiple perspectives and how a historical narrative is created out of primary sources. All of the students will be reading the same sources but they’ll be reading it through the lens of their assigned perspective, thus triangulating sources and thinking about how events are understood by different groups of people.

The activity itself is developing historical thinking skills and the content matters less. As Wineburg describes, the historical thinking skills are being taught with priority and the content is second. That’s why I created the template that can be applied to whatever content area a teacher wants. The project provides many options for teachers. They can pick what perspectives they want and what type they want, a person, place, thing or any other type of perspective relevant to their content. Then, they can choose which social media platform they want to use. Facebook for longer posts, Twitter for shorter posts, Instagram for pictures or “other” if something else comes along that relevant and well-known to students. Next teachers can choose how many sources students are required to use, where to find those sources, how many posts are required, and how they’d like citations to be done. I’ve created a list of things for students to think about while they’re doing the project but since it’s downloaded in a Word document, teachers can change that too.

In addition to creating the fake account, students will be reviewing the narrative that another student from a different perspective creates. The hope is in that students will be thinking about what narrative their social media account is creating while they’re making it, and that other student will be seeing how a social media account is creating a narrative. After this component, students will be answering questions on what it means for the “bigger point of view.” These questions ask students to reflect on what it means when all of the accounts from different perspectives are put into one “feed.” This will hopefully help them to reflect on the narrative that is told and taught and on what that means for the greater historical narrative that they’ve come to know. Students should be creative, put themselves into the assigned perspective’s mindset and think about what it means for learning history overall. This project incorporates connecting an activity relevant to the students, social media, with historical content and aims to grow their historical thinking skills.

Here, I have provided the project template, an example of a potential project (the template filled in), an example of the completed activity (U.S. & USSR are good examples, Cuba a poor example), a rubric, and the Twitter Template that I used from Tes Institute. Each are  a Microsoft Word document so that they can be any part can be altered.

Social Media Narrative Project Template

Narrative-Project-Cuban-Missile-Crisis Example

USA Twitter (Good Student Example)

USSR Twitter – Good Student Example

Cuba Twitter – Poor Student Example

Social Media/Narrative Project Rubric




Draft of Project

My project is aiming to get students to think about different how historical narratives can differ based on a differing point of view. Students will look at primary sources and create a social media account based on the perspective they are assigned. The goal is to get them to think about the narrative their account is creating. From there, they will look at someone else’s account and dictate the narrative that they’re telling. Once everyone is done, the teacher can pick the best from the different perspectives and put them all together. Then there are questions for students to answer that get them to think historically and to think about how a historical narrative is built.

Here, I have provided the project template, an example of a potential project (the template filled in) and an example of the completed activity.

It would be helpful to know if I’m providing enough direction or what I could do to improve the clarity of the project from.

Narrative Project Template

Narrative Project Cuban Missile Crisis

USSR Twitter

USA Twitter

Cuba Twitter

Twitter_Template_9703   From Tes Institute