From VR Professional to Teacher: Crafting Instruction Sessions


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Betha Whitlow, Washington University in Saint Louis.
Presentation for VRA 28, Atlanta.

Presented as part of the Instruction 101 session.

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  • It’s no great secret that at many institutions, Visual Resources Centers have become lonely places to work.
  • The transition to largely digital facilities means that what was once foot traffic has morphed into “hits” on our databases, blogs, and Facebook pages.
  • We risk becoming nameless and faceless to students and faculty who no longer need to see us to get what they “perceive” they need from us.
  • Alongside of this, we are living in a time of contested resources, where the phrase “survival of the fittest” isn’t to be taken lightly. In the spirit of job security, it might be tempting to hoard knowledge in an attempt to retain some sort of bizarre intellectual power over our clientele, but eventually, this type of behavior will lead to something worse than a merely threatened role…
  • Remember the dodo bird? No one else does, either….
  • But there’s hope: I’ve found nothing more effective for regaining a foothold with my patrons and proving the value of what we do as visual resource professionals than by sharing what I know about…
  • …image access, digital imaging, presentation technologies, and the new world of Web 2.0, through both individual and group instruction sessions. Such information sharing moves you out of your facility and back into the academic community, establishing you as a vital interpreter and guide to the technologies students believe they have mastered—but haven’t, in proper academic and workplace applications—and that frighten many faculty members into thinking the world is passing them by.
  • Specific instructional duties may not be in our job descriptions, but frankly, now is not a good time to be rigid, and besides, our job descriptions have never accurately reflected the diverse responsibilities characteristic of our profession. Don’t consider yourself a teacher? It’s natural if this is the case.
  • Most of us didn’t get into this profession because we are attracted to limelight. Still, there’s never been a better or more vital time than now to jettison your attachment to “what you are supposed to do,” and move on to “what you could do” in your position.
  • This presentation will focus on the process that underlies effective instruction planning. Take a few basic tools—(click) specifically, a template for developing a group instruction session, (click) some presentation tips, (click) a list of potential instructional topics (click)—and you are a step closer to revitalizing or even transforming your professional role.
  • At the end of this talk, what I hope you’ll feel more capable of doing is simple: and that’s teach.
  • Planning an instruction session is a lot like planning a vacation-(SLIDE) before you make decisions about specifically how to spend your time, you first need to know where you are going, and how you’d like to get there.
  • Logically, you’ll always start by selecting a topic, if one hasn’t already been suggested to you. (click) To get your feet wet, you might offer a session on a topic that you know well. For faculty, it might be a session on optimizing their use of your image management system or ArtStor. For students, it might be a “Presentation 101” class that emphasizes basic PowerPoint skills, quality digital image sources, and the use of projection equipment. (Click) Once you’ve broken the ice by doing a session or two, I’ve found that an effective, collaborative technique for selecting future instruction topics is to create a short list of potential topics with descriptions, and poll your patrons on which classes are of the most interest to them. Select two or three sessions to offer per semester—perhaps a combination of repeated and new sessions--and you are well on your way to establishing an ongoing instruction program.
  • After selecting a topic, the next step in the pre-planning process is to determine your teaching objectives. To effectively instruct, (click) you need to decide in advance what you would like your students to walk away with at the end of a session. (click) What, specifically, should the student be able (click) to do, (click) understand, and (click) care about as the result of your teaching? For what purpose will they be sitting with you for thirty minutes or even an hour?
  • To appropriate from Zen Buddhism, use your “beginner’s mind,” and think about your topic as a beginner would-with openness, eagerness, and lack of preconception. What excited you about the topic when you first started learning it? What got you interested in adopting a particular new tool or technology?
  • Remember that it probably took you far more than thirty minutes to learn what you know, so don’t try to pack all of the information you possess about your topic into the time you have allotted.
  • Instead, keep it selective and simple.
  • At the most pared down level, your teaching objectives should ensure that your students leave with answers to these questions. (click) What something is, (click) why it is useful, and (click) how to use it effectively in a teaching, learning, or research context. For example, I regularly offer a popular session titled “Introduction to Web 2.0: Facebook, Texting, Twitter, Your Students, and You.”
  • While a topic this large could endlessly unfold, I determined in advance that I wanted the faculty and staff in attendance to leave with the following information: (click) a clear definition of Web 2.0, a basic understanding of some of it’s major concepts (like microblogging, tagging and blogging) and a feel for the predominate technologies, like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. This answers the first question that will help you define your teaching objectives--WHAT SOMETHING IS (click) An understanding of how students use and are impacted by Web 2.0 technologies, and how that informs what characteristics students are bringing to the classroom. This responds to the question of WHY What Your are teaching IS USEFUL to know. (click) A sense of how to work best with the Web 2.0 student, including brief capsule descriptions of different ways faculty might use various Web 2.0 technologies to add interactivity and interest to their courses. These capsule descriptions form the basis for future, single-topic courses on specific Web 2.0 technologies. This teaching objective JUSTIFIES WHY YOU ARE TEACHING THIS TOPIC, BY SHOWING HOW TO USE IT EFFECTIVELY IN A TEACHING AND LEARNING CONTEXT
  • Now, once you’ve got a clear sense of what you want to teach and what you’d like your students to learn, you can then turn to logistical details. (SLIDE) As yourself how much time you will need to teach this course? We live in multi-tasking world where the average amount of time someone concentrates on a single task is 3 minutes. If you plan to keep your audience interested, you should determine the shortest amount of time possible to adequately fulfill your teaching objectives.
  • The words “clear, concise, and short” should be repeated like a mantra. For a single topic session like using RSS feeds in teaching and research, I suggest 30 minutes. During that time, you should easily be able impart the basics: What is RSS, Why is it Useful, and How to Use it? For something more extensive like the Introduction to Web 2.0 class I teach, the session lasts for an action-packed hour, including Q and A.
  • You also need to determine what type of format will suit your topic—lecture, discussion, or hand’s on? If you are a beginning instructor or working with people who are new to a topic, I suggest starting with a seminar room setup for no more than 15 people, and a “loose” lecture format. A “loose” lecture format means that your students are allowed to stop you when they have questions, and to be comfortable with following up at the end of the session. The “lecture-style” approach puts you into the best position for presenting material clearly; allowing interruptions within a lecture turns the instructional process into one adult learners are familiar with—one based on inquiry—over one they intrinsically resist—indoctrination. This combined approach also starts to prepare you for the greater complexities of hands-on or workshop style sessions. This lecture-based format will work best with the basic instruction template I’m going to introduce today.
  • For the skeptics out there, those who know a topic so well that they can wax spontaneously about it, think again: don’t crash and burn. Even if you can deliver your session without a script, you owe it to yourself and your students to create a lesson plan which will allow you to fulfill the teaching objectives you’ve previously defined.
  • Simply put, just like a good piece of written work or a storyboard for a video, a successful instruction session should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Within that framework, each section should contain particular content geared toward fulfilling what you would like your students to learn.
  • The instructional design method I’m proposing is based loosely upon one of the more famous systems--the Madeline Hunter Direct Instruction system—but contains modifications that account for the fact we are largely presenting nuts and bolts or technical—not academic—subjects, and that our audience will be composed of college-age and adult learners, not K-12 students.
  • So, let’s begin with “the beginning,” or the first part of three clearly defined segments of a basic instruction session. It’s a natural inclination to want to start an instruction session by immediately outlining what you intend to cover.
  • I call it the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” approach—from the time we learn how to write, we are taught that linear recounting is an adequate way to deliver information.
  • What this doesn’t do is grab your students and put them into a receptive frame of mind for learning.
  • Both undergraduate students and adult learners: like your faculty, bring certain resistance to the learning experience.
  • Because of this, every effective instruction plan should include what I call “The Hook,” or the “Cold Open.” This is what is going to stimulate interest in what you will be presenting.
  • click) A “hook” can be a provocative quotation or image. (click) It can be an analogy that begins by comparing old, known information to new, unknown information. (click) It can be mind-blowing statistics. (click) Or it can be a combination of these things.
  • In my Introduction to Web 2.0 talk that I deliver to an audience largely of faculty and academic staff who are barely aware of these technologies, I start with two images (the PPT slide with students texting and on computers) and ask “Does this look familiar?) Usually, this brings some laughter and the eyes aren’t as glazed over.
  • I then move to a well-known, somewhat overused, but utterly relevant quotation by Marshall McCluhan where he talks about the impact of electronic information on young people. Here, they nod their heads in recognition as they think about those images of students glued to their phones and laptops in class.
  • I then offer that McCluhan wrote this in 1967. (click) And that his idea of integrated “electric” information meant “television.” An analogy or connection to a previous information age that they can relate to and understand is made.
  • Lightbulbs begin to go off in their heads.
  • That’s when I move onto mind-blowing statistics about the new information age, delivered as quickly as I can read them. (click, click, click)
  • Finally, da, dah, dah…..I deliver the reason to be in this session to them: That information explosion is largely due to one thing, Web 2.0.
  • Now that I’ve got a captive audience, I briefly present (in a sentence or two at most) the organizing framework of the information to follow, based on my teaching objectives. For the purpose of the Introduction to Web 2.0 session I’ve been using as my example, I might say that “after this session is complete, I hope you will walk away with a clear sense of what Web 2.0 is, how it impacts your students in the classroom, and what you can do about it.”
  • (click) Image, (click) Quote, (click) Analogy, (click) Mind-Blowing Statistics, (click) then teaching objectives (click) =the beginning or Introduction to your instruction session. Not every topic lends itself to all of these approaches, but choose a hook before a summary of what’s to come, and you have a better chance at winning over your audience.
  • If you aren’t great at conceptualizing such an introduction, I suggest that you watch the instructional “Common Craft” videos, which do an excellent job of illustrating the “hook,” particularly in the analogy department. If pressed and if they have a video on the proper topic, one of these videos can serve as your hook. I’ve done this in a pinch or when the creative juices just aren’t flowing.
  • Now we’re at “the middle,” or the point in your session, where you introduce your content, and address directly what you’ve decided you want your students to learn from the session. (SLIDE) This is the “input” phase, where the basic information about a topic is fed to people in a clear, step-by-step fashion.
  • In this phase, you will respond to two of the three questions you used to define your teaching objectives: what something is, and why it is useful to know about. This should happen before you provide specific, discipline-based applications of the technology. (So, key terms and concepts always come before specific uses).
  • For the Introduction to Web 2.0 talk, my teaching objectives included defining Web 2.0, what the associated concepts and technologies are, how students are using it, and how it impacts who the students are bringing to the classroom. So for this “input phase,” I do the following: (click) Define Web 1.0 (something that faculty members understand) before defining (Web 2.0)-which is something new. Describe several of the major Web 2.0 technologies, so that everyone understand how they operate. (click) Discuss the nature of the Web 2.0 student, including how technology proliferates throughout their lives, what technologies they are using regularly, and what this means for their needs and expectations of faculty members.
  • I can move onto the “end” or the third and final part of my instruction session. This is called the “modeling” phase. This phase brings closure to your topic, reinforcing for what or why a new technology or concept is useful.
  • Good teaching is about bridging the gap between theory and practice, so in any instruction session, it is necessary that you make whatever you are teaching relevant and provide examples of how the knowledge given can be used productively in the professional lives of your audience.
  • For the Web 2.0 session, I provide several examples of how faculty members can use Web 2.0 technology to provide the degree of collaboration and interactivity that their Web 2.0-generation students are coming to expect. This includes how course blogs, course wikis, Google Docs, and Twitter can be used in a teaching and learning context. These brief descriptions of the potential classroom applications of Web 2.0 technologies also serve as jumping off points for additional, topical courses on specific technologies.
  • So, to reiterate, your basic instruction session consists of three elements designed to address your teaching objectives, otherwise known as “what you would like people to learn”: (click) The Beginning, or “hook,” consisting of a provocative image, video, statistic, or anology designed to draw your audience into your topic (click) The Middle, or “input” phase, where the nuts of bolts of a particular topic are explained and key terms defined (click) The End, or “modeling” phase, where that topic is given specific applications for teaching and learning
  • Following your impeccably organized for maximum impact instruction session, you should make sure to leave time for “Checking for Understanding,” more commonly known as Question and Answer. I have found that Q and A sessions work best when you move out toward your audience, …
  • …so if you have been presenting from behind a lectern, stand up and walk to the side or in front of it for this part of the session. It’s disarming, its interactive, and it makes you seem accessible, meaning that your audience may be more likely to ask you questions. If you aren’t planning on offering a course evaluation, here is where you can get a sense of what information you may have missed, or what areas of your instruction session weren’t entirely clear for your audience.
  • Following your Q and A and to close your instruction session, it is important to encourage your students to try on their own whatever you have presented as soon as possible. In teacher’s terms, this is called “independent practice.” The notion of “independent practice” poses particular problems for the types of instruction session we offer. Because they are usually one-time only opportunities, we have no mechanism for checking in and evaluating whether or not what we have taught is being applied. (click) At minimum, make sure to provide your contact information to your students and encourage them to follow up with you. (click) Even better, if you had a small number of session participants, contact them after the session to make certain their needs were met and questions answered.
  • So now you have the basic tools to create an instruction session: you have the questions you need to ask before you sit down to lay out your instruction session, and you have a basic template for organizing and presenting the instruction session itself. But no matter how prepared you are, presentations work best when they are well-delivered. No talk on designing an instruction session would be complete without providing a few tips for making your presentation style as professional and interesting as possible.
  • First and foremost: practice, practice, and practice again . Practicing ensures that your jokes sound natural, that your sentences make sense, that you are comfortable with the content as it is being delivered. If you are using a script, practice allows you to mark it up so that the delivery seems less formal, and more spontaneous. If you are working from keyword prompts in the Notes field of PowerPoint or on flashcards, practice will help you be both casual and concise, which is more difficult of a balance than you might imagine.
  • Body language and tone of voice are significant components of any effectively delivered presentation. (click) When you are speaking to an audience, you need to position yourself so that you are comfortable. We are taught in high school speech class that there are rules for how to present, but they need not involve gripping a lecturn. So If you are happier sitting at the head of a table while presenting in a seminar-type room, do that. If you prefer standing alongside a lectern or presenting from a stool in front of the room, experiment with that approach. The point is to put yourself into a physical position that optimizes your chance to deliver a session in a relaxed manner. (click) Lean forward toward your audience a bit, (click) make sure to smile, (click) and find a few points in the room where you are comfortable making eye contact. (click) If you tend toward the monotone delivery, practice will help you develop inflection and emphasis.
  • If you are using PowerPoint, Keynote, or other presentation software for your session, (click) remember to never put up a slide and read verbatim from it. (click) Ideally, the slide and commentary should each include some information not found in the other. (click)Slides should be used less as the primary place where information is delivered, and more as visual tools that help to propel the presentation along. Let your voice do the talking, and don’t lean too heavily on the content of your slides to speak for you.
  • Finally, I want to point out the most overlooked teaching tool: humor. Learning about new resources and technologies is intense enough without it being delivered with a dour manner and a heavy hand.
  • If you listen, you’d be amazed how few sounds of laughter you hear in a given day, so if you can inspire that it will go along way toward getting your audience on your side.
  • Again, most of us didn’t go into the profession because we’re natural standup comediennes, but as visual resources professionals, we have special tool in our arsenal: images and film. There’s some funny stuff out there, and we’re experts at locating what will best enhance our point.
  • In my presentations, I’ve used this McDonald’s McRib locater, which rates that weird, boneless monstrosity by freshness, to teach mashups,
  • tossed up this great picture of Andy Samberg high-fiving a stuffed cougar,
  • thrown in this image of Battlestar Gallactica actor Aaron Douglas holding Torvald the Norwegian troll to illustrate the oddities of Google search returns,
  • and played this brilliant if profane YouTube video on “what if Facebook were live.”
  • I’ve even exploited my younger, big-haired self illustrating the wonderful world of Facebook, where anything can come back to haunt you.
  • Do remember that the key to funny is to never warn your audience you are planning on being funny. Just throw up an unexpected, entertaining picture as you deliver your session and let it work its magic.
  • In closing, I’m sharing with you a short list of potential topics, most of which I’ve taught at my university. In addition to Introduction to Web 2.0, Presentation 101, and basic classes related to our image database and ArtStor, courses I’ve taught include Introduction to Google Docs, Introduction to Google Tools (Google Groups, Blogger, Alerts, Maps and More!), File Management 101 (Protecting your assets, and simple solutions for individual image management), Introduction to FLICKR for teaching and research, Introduction to RSS for teaching and research, How to use Zotero, DIY Digital Imaging, Going Places: blogging and photography for study abroad students, and Privacy 101: Managing identity in the digital age. I’m currently working on a course related to new presentation technologies and trends called “From Prezi to Pecha Kucha: New Presentation Trends.” Many of you may be saying that there’s no way that you’ll be able to learn enough to approach this breadth of instructional coverage.
  • (Click) But to be a good instructor, you need start by being a consumer of knowledge, and read sources inside and outside of your expertise. You also should be reassured that you don’t need to be an expert to teach a particular topic. (click) You simply need to understand the steps you took to learn it, (click) and to be able to translate that into an instruction session plan. (click) Combine that plan with the right mix of visuals and a presentation style that works for you and what you have to say, and you’ll no longer just be the VR professional in the lonely room—you’ll also be the head of an active “center” from which knowledge and information about the technologies relevant to teaching and learning with images is effectively shared, even if your VRC is no longer a physical gathering place. And that’s something that can’t be replaced by a subscription to ArtStor or a billion images on Google.
  • From VR Professional to Teacher: Crafting Instruction Sessions

    1. 1. From VR Professional to Teacher: Crafting Instruction Sessions Betha Whitlow Washington University in Saint Louis [email_address]
    2. 8. Share What You Know About…. <ul><li>Image Access </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Imaging </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation Technologies </li></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 </li></ul>
    3. 9. It’s not my job…
    4. 11. Instruction Planning <ul><li>A template for developing instruction sessions </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation Tips </li></ul><ul><li>Great Topics </li></ul><ul><li>= TEACHER </li></ul>
    5. 14. Pre-Planning: The Art of Selecting a Topic Start with what you know….. Then Collaborate With Your Patrons
    6. 15. Pre-Planning: Determining Teaching Objectives <ul><li>After your session, what should your students be able to…. </li></ul><ul><li>Do? </li></ul><ul><li>Understand? </li></ul><ul><li>Care About? </li></ul>
    7. 16. Beginner’s Mind <ul><li>Openness </li></ul><ul><li>Eagerness </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of Preconception </li></ul>
    8. 19. Determining teaching objectives, or Questions that deserve answers… <ul><li>What is this? </li></ul><ul><li>Why is it useful? </li></ul><ul><li>How can I use it effectively in teaching, learning, and research? </li></ul>
    9. 20. Example of Teaching Objectives: The Takeaway from Introduction to Web 2.0 <ul><li>A clear definition of Web 2.0, its major concepts, and it’s predominate technologies (WHAT SOMETHING IS) </li></ul><ul><li>How Web 2.0 impacts students in the classroom (WHY THIS KNOWLEDGE IS USEFUL) </li></ul><ul><li>A sense of how to work with a Web 2.0 student, including how to implement various technologies into courses (HOW TO USE THIS KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTIVELY) </li></ul>
    10. 21. Pre-Planning: How Much Time? As little as possible….
    11. 22. Say it with me…. <ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul><ul><li>Clear, Concise, and Short </li></ul>
    12. 23. Pre-Planning: Lecture, Discussion, or Hands-On?
    13. 31. If you want an interested audience….. Always start with a hook…
    14. 32. What are “hooks?” <ul><li>Provocative quotations or images </li></ul><ul><li>Analogies that relate old information to new information </li></ul><ul><li>Mind Blowing Statistics </li></ul><ul><li>Mashing up of all of the above </li></ul>
    15. 34. There is a world of difference between the modern home environment of integrated electric information and the classroom. Today’s child… is bewildered when he enters the nineteenth century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment--where information is scarce, but ordered, and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules.
    16. 35. Marshall McLuhan wrote this in 1967 . And he was only talking about the influence of television on the way young people behave and learn.
    17. 37. Information Overload? <ul><li>As of August, 2008, there were more 71 million blogs. That’s 71 million more than in 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>There are over 60 billion e-mail messages sent every day. </li></ul><ul><li>40 billion gigabytes of UNIQUE, NEW information will be produced this year. That’s as much as 296, 000 Libraries of Congress. </li></ul>
    18. 38. This Information Explosion is Largely Due to One Thing: Web 2.0.
    19. 39. Once your audience is hooked… Reel them in with a brief summary of the information to follow!
    20. 40. Image Quote Mind Blowing Statistics Analogy Teaching Objectives The Beginning
    21. 41. Common Craft
    22. 42. The “Input” Phase Where Key Terms Are Defined Where Basic Concepts Are Described
    23. 43. The Input Phase Should Reflect Your Teaching Objectives Specifically, the teaching objectives that answer the question of what something is, and why it is useful…
    24. 44. Example of Input Phase Information (For an Introduction to Web 2.0 class) <ul><li>Define Web 2.0 and describe important Web 2.0 technologies and concepts (what Web 2.0 is) </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss the Web 2.0 student (why Web 2.0 is useful or important to know) </li></ul>
    25. 45. The “Modeling” Phase Where what is useful about a technology is reinforced with specific teaching and learning applications
    26. 46. Theory versus Practice?
    27. 47. Example of Modeling Phase Information (Introduction to Web 2.0 Class) <ul><li>Explain how to enhance classroom </li></ul><ul><li>collaboration and interactivity through the use of: </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Course Wikis </li></ul><ul><li>Google Docs </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul>
    28. 48. Basic Instruction Session Template <ul><li>The beginning, or “hook” and brief summary of what your students can expect to learn </li></ul><ul><li>The middle, or “input” phase, where the nuts and bolts of a particular topic are explained and key terms defined </li></ul><ul><li>The end, or “modeling” phase, where a topic is grounded in specific applications for teaching and learning </li></ul>
    29. 49. Q & A
    30. 50. The first step to a good Q and A session? Loosen up and work the audience
    31. 51. In Conclusion…. Encourage independent practice. Provide contact information Check in with your participants
    32. 52. Now that you’ve got the basics.. Enhance your style
    33. 53. Practice Makes Perfect.. <ul><li>Natural sounding jokes! </li></ul><ul><li>Sentences that make sense! </li></ul><ul><li>I actually know what I’m going to say next! </li></ul>
    34. 54. Body language and tone are your allies <ul><li>Get comfortable </li></ul><ul><li>Lean forward </li></ul><ul><li>Make eye contact </li></ul><ul><li>Inflect! Emphasize! </li></ul>
    35. 55. PowerPoint Do’s and Don’ts <ul><li>Slides are not scripts </li></ul><ul><li>Slides and spoken content enhance—not replicate--each other </li></ul><ul><li>Slides should be visual. You should be verbal. </li></ul>
    36. 64. Audience, I’m going to be hilarious now!
    37. 65. Instruction Session Topics: Imagine the Possibilities! <ul><li>Introduction to Google Docs </li></ul><ul><li>Google Apps of Interest </li></ul><ul><li>File Management 101 </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction to Flickr for teaching and research </li></ul><ul><li>How to use Zotero </li></ul><ul><li>DIY Digital Imaging </li></ul><ul><li>Going Places: Blogging and Photography for Study Abroad Students </li></ul><ul><li>Privacy 101: Managing Identity in the Digital Age </li></ul>From Prezi to PechaKucha: New Presentation Trends
    38. 66. A good teacher… <ul><li>Desires to acquire knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Understands and documents the approach they took to learn particular topic </li></ul><ul><li>Can translate that approach into a lesson plan </li></ul><ul><li>Grasps the importance of style as well as substance </li></ul>