Category Archives: Journey

Starting a Journey

This summer I spent a good amount of time reflecting on my teaching practices and the results that I have seen and I was not happy. I asked myself the following questions and tried to make sense of it all.

  1. Do students seem to enjoy my class? Yes. The evidence gathered are the relationships formed with students, the “Thank you’s” and ” I want to take AP Chemistry so I can have your class another year even if I don’t like Chemistry.” (Those who have been teaching for a while, you know that student.)
  2. Am I seeing improvement in student performance? Yes, since implementing county Common Final Exams I have noted that my students’ performance is on par with many from around the district.
  3. Do I feel that as a teacher I am trying new things to benefit the struggling students in my class? And I noticed that over the past few years, the answer has been, “No.”

This is what bothered me. I found myself slipping into a mindset that sound cynical and detached while stating that I was trying “so hard” to help every student succeed at Chemistry. My evidence, I reviewed the scores of my struggling students that worked hard until the end. Now some may ask, “Was it a high number of students of something?” The answer to that is no but, over the years I have noticed that changing some of my habits may have provided a better chance for these students to reach higher level of performance. I wanted to share some of these habits as a way to remind myself to keep working to improve and encourage anyone else who may be like this. Read More

How do you start an arguement?

Storm Front 4

The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” Joseph Joubert

In my first six years of teaching I have learned so much about Science education.  I started my career using the textbook as a guide and started to notice that this presented content in a way that seemed a bit unnatural to understand.  Over the years I have worked and tried to refine my presentation skills to move toward a scenario where the students can learn to explore and develop a deeper understanding of the content. So when we received the news that we would be a digital school this year I was excited and just waiting for the opportunity to have the students dive in and start experiencing Chemistry.

As the school year began, I was quickly reminded that all though many students are tech savvy when it comes to their cell phones, but basic computer literacy is a major challenge.  Due to this reality, my dreams of starting this line of thinking were delayed.  Although this was a reality I noticed a pattern with my students, they all loved to argue with one another.  From the standard level to the advanced, daily arguments were common. But they were arguing the wrong way. They spent time conferring with their classmates for support with no evidence or reasoning beyond their opinion or limited world -view. This made me think, “Why not begin the coming year teaching them how to argue using logic reasoning and Science to aid them?”

So this summer, I am going to spend some time building my courses and starting with this task. I wonder how it will go, but here goes. Stay tuned for the adventures, lessons, and hilarious stories along the way.

Image by mrpbps, “Storm Front 4” Some rights reserved.

Leaving ADDIE for SAM


Developing learning products is a difficult task.  Most would think that anyone can watch someone else do it and imitate it, or use the logic, “I was once a student, I know what I liked and didn’t like.  I could design courses.”  This mindset leaves us in the sad place of one-sided, boring, one-size fits all products that we have seen in use for years that do not adequately service the learner.  One of the major issues that I have run into is, “What is the best model to use for design and development of said learning products?”  For this reason I began reading “Leaving ADDIE for SAM” by Michael Allen.  I know, I know it sounds like a strange romance between a couple from the 1950’s but it is comparing and contrasting the two Instructional Systems Design (ISD) models.

First some background, ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  The ADDIE Model was designed at Florida State University to explain  “…the processes involved in the formulation of an instructional systems development (ISD) program for military interservice training that will adequately train individuals to do a particular job and which can also be applied to any interservice curriculum development activity.” (Branson, 1975)  So how can we design materials for rapid development and implementation.  Over the years many have modified their approach to ADDIE because they found there to be challenges.    Because this model is linear in nature, each piece must be completed before moving on.  This also means that if there are any issues with the design, they may not be seen until the Evaluation phase toward the end of the project.  Allen rightly points out that this leads to strained timelines, low resources, and ultimately a poorer product than attempted. (Allen and Stiles, 2012)  Others have recognized the need of an iterative process to combat this issue but noted that the need for planning and the multiple approvals make it difficult to come up with a testable product in the early stages.

This brings us to SAM or the Successive Approximation Model.  This model brings the iterative process in the early stages to guide the design and development processes. The input is collected from the shareholders, project managers, and potential learners to improve the final outcome.  My original thought is that by gathering input from so many people this early in the project  there would be  so many ideas and/or critiques that the project will never be complete, but this model takes a change in mindset.  Being a Science teacher, I am relatively comfortable with experimenting, the SAM model asks the designer to experiment and ask the questions  “Why isn’t this a good design?” instead of “What are all of the possible ideas?”  The approvals are still necessary, but there is flexibility to make changes as you go instead of waiting until the end to realize there is a problem. (Allen & Stiles, 2012)    

As you can see from the title of the post, This is only the beginning of my exploration with this model, but I can’t help but think of how this relates to not only e-learning development but also face-to-face blended instruction.  As I read through this book I am re-evaluating many of the units that I have set up in the past.  I see areas for improvement and areas for removal in order to provide quality learning experiences for my students. I am  looking to my PLC members, colleagues, and students to assist in the design process.


Allen, M. W., & Sites, R. H. (2012). Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An agile model for developing the best learning experiences. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Branson, R. K., Rayner, G. T., Cox, J. L., Furman, J. P., King, F. J., Hannum, W. H. (1975). Interservice procedures for instructional systems development. (5 vols.) (TRADOC Pam 350-30 NAVEDTRA 106A). Ft. Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, August 1975. (NTIS No. ADA 019 486 through ADA 019 490).

We have begun to begin…

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Lao Tzu

Hello, My name is Andrew Baldwin and I am a classroom teacher and an Instructional designer.  I have been teaching Chemistry for the past five years.  I believe that students should work toward Mastery of information instead of just trying to get a grade.  This involves a focus on learning over simple memorization of facts and dates.  This is reflected in the activities that I use and design as well as the learning module that I build.  The emphasis is placed on critical thinking, hard work, and creativity as these traits have been fostered throughout my academic career.

One task that has been on my mind for a while is “When should I start working on my own personal projects or take on clients to expand my business aspirations?” Notice that the question did not begin with whether or not I should pursue it.  I believe that each person has the ability to add something to the world around them and instead of questioning whether or not, they should start moving and learn as they go.  With this thought in mind,  this day that I will begin my journey.  Along the way, I will share my review of web tools, assessment techniques, and activities that I am working on in an effort to encourage others out there to just get started.  As I share feel free to comment and share your experiences.

I hope that you will join me and that we can grow together.