November 16 2014

Nurturing the new…

waterfall“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”  This quote by C. S. Lewis seemed to sum-up my final thoughts on my recent studies. We are not meant to tear down the thick architect of our traditional education systems, but to nurture the desolate and isolated areas in order to grow new systems. New educational systems that meet the needs of the new digital learner.

I have experienced so many great things in the Best Practices Series of professional development classes, that I can’t even begin  to put it all into words. I may not have started with the group I finished-up with, but I never felt out of the loop, and am glad I finally completed the series!  I thank all of you for sharing your ideas and experiences with me and wish you all the best of  luck and great successes in your future online endeavors!



November 14 2014

Capstone: Final Reflection & Future Goals

“There is a bigger picture, just step back from the canvas.”

― Ilona Simone

When it comes to online classes – I love the discussion forum. It is where I think we obtain the utmost value from these courses , share ideas and experience other points of view. Being involved in this aspect of online  teaching allows for the self- reflective thought that refines our skills and makes us better teachers.  Needless to say , I could not wait to jump into the fray, field questions, direct & re-direct  the learning in my Mentor’s course. Be the 24-hr teacher! However, in my practicum course, there was a glaring realization that I quickly discovered, Discussions were not the same. They were not the same at all, not the engaging experience that I loved  and had experience as in this PD/graduate class. These students were …High School students. They are just learning to develop the critical thinking skills we have been perfecting since our first college experiences. Discussions were not of the same caliber, and as a result were very frustrating for me. For the first week. No responses, na-da, none, nothing for my very thoughtful, delicately phrased questions, meant to ‘get them to think more deeply about the assignment’, questions. Ok-I got one, late on the last day of the week , after I had already given up and vented to my mentor. What had I done wrong?  Why were they not answering?  And the very calm, wise answer…was… nothing! It wasn’t me.  But I had clearly misunderstood. The assignment expectations and guidelines had been laid out weeks before. This was not the “discussion” forum I was used to. There is no immediate feedback loop, no banter, no pondering a dilemma or critical thinking. Not right away. It was later, spelled out in a new assignment or in a part2 , a week down the road….. The students understood. Once you posted there, you basically didn’t look back, just moved on to the next assignment on the list. Hmmm, I didn’t get it.class

After some good “mentoring” , I did see the light. My mentor was simply using this area with another purpose in mind. It was used for assignment feedback yes, but NOT from the teacher, from other students. My mentor chose to stay out of the discussion. This was a new strategy for me.  And it proved to be a good one. This experience lead me to realize that these forums can be adapted and used for other exercises, group work, simulations that can, and do, add significant value to the overall class. It really is all about identifying the needs of the students and adapting the technology to best meet those needs. When designed and executed properly, student to student interactivity can be accomplished, successfully, in the online classroom.

As I look to the future, my long range goal is fairly straightforward. I would like to develop and teach in an e-learning environment.  I want to engage my students and better prepare them for life in the 21st century. I want to get them to think outside the box, introduce them to everything “new” and to help them realize that there really is a world full of possibilities at their fingertips. I want to be a better education, a better communicator, a better writer.

Lofty goals, yes and not all are in my immediate future. My short-range plans include developing a stronger blended learning environment. One that utilizes all the available technology tools to their greatest advantage, for both the  teacher and self-directed learner. The tools that are available to me right now are encouraging.

  • Edline – our LMS
  • Office 365 with Onedrive, and Onenote ,  & Office 2013 desktop
  • Adobe Creative cloud – CS6 suite
  • Edublogs
  • OpenBroadcaster- screen capture tool
  • Full computer lab with Win8.1, office, adobe, as my classroom
  • Windows Surface3 , WIn8.1 touch screen and all the bells & whistles
  • Online apps like & animota, prezi, glogster, padlet, & popplet etc. etc.
  • My youtube channel for video

New apps and their possible uses in the classroom pop up every day. promises to be a very active window on my computer screen. Edublogs-Class blogs for reflective journaling and interactivity is definitely going to remain in my arsenal. We are a Microsoft school, and the possibilities for the classroom with office 365, and some of the new add-ons that are available , are pretty amazing. Some concrete objectives I’d like to tackle this year, aligned with the tools to accomplish them:

  • Use office 365 more often to provide digital feedback on student work more efficiently and effectively.
    • 12 digital research papers waiting to be assessed, √check.
  • Create lesson tutorials, with screen capture and audio ,covering content and rudimentary computer skills that can be posted and accessed online. Used for review, missed class assignments and eventually begin to flip my classroom.
    • Open Broadcaster program installed and ready to go, √check.
    • Adobe Premier for editing ,√check.
      • Learning “how to”, after this class I should have the time. √Check!
  • Begin to use audio recorded feedback for student assignments.
    • Built into almost every device we own, √check.
  • Continue to develop and expand my class blog to enhance student interactivity.
    • Definitely working on it! √
  • Video record myself in front of the classroom. I think this will provide great personal feedback to help improve my teaching style and classroom  presence.
    • Video camera, √check.
    • Video editing tool, √check.
    • Learning “how to”, also working on it!√√

I could go on and on. There really is so much I’d like to do. Time of course, is the major constraint to all my plans.  Finally completing this capstone has shown me that I can get there.

As I mentioned in this Capstone Introduction, my immediate intent for the development of my blended  entrepreneurship classroom is to incorporate significant tech elements and to reinforce content with a hands-on learning experience that will ; reinforce computer skills, build self-confidence and encourage young entrepreneurs.  My plan is to integrate what I have learned in this course in the development of interactive online activities for all of my classes, not just Entrepreneurship. I want to engage my students and build those necessary 21st century skills. I am now confident that I can adapt lessons similar to my mentor’s Negotiations game, Sales Call simulation and Market questionnaire into a blended classroom environment. Potentially using Office 365 One drive …or the discussion forum on our LMS …or possibly class blogs to bring more technology and interactivity into the classroom.

And finally, I would love to share what I have learned with a group of like-minded professionals, that can be sounding boards and mentors and cheerleaders as we continue to learn in a supportive collaborative environment!

And maybe, eventually (if I don’t run out of time)…. I’d like to continue with my post graduate work and obtain my CAGS in curriculum instruction and development.


I may not be 100% successful and I may not get it all completed but…

“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely”

Auguste Rodin

November 12 2014

Capstone: On-Line or Face-to-Face?

A Reflection on online pedagogy as it is similar to and different from face-to-face instruction.



As we close out our studies on best practices and becoming an online teacher, it only seems fitting to examine both the  online learning environment and the tradition classroom.  Both learning environments have their advantages and disadvantages, similarities and differences.

The two learning environments are  very similar , they are both classrooms. Traditionally you deliver subject content , develop a community, engage the participants, provide feedback and assess student learning. Assessments are varied to accommodate diversified learners, feedback is timely and provides encouragement to improve student progress. This in-turn fuels inquiry ,engaging young minds to learn more. The same learning models exist as well, student-teacher, student-student and student-content interactivity all occur and are essential for a successful learning experience, whether  online or in the face-to-face classroom.

Their differences are more apparent. Online is asynchronous allowing for flexibility and 24/7 access to resources. Online you can think before you “speak” , which leads to deeper thinking and  a more synthesized response. A student -centered environment where the learner can go at their own pace and exist on a level playing field. However, the virtual classroom is often considered distant. Many students develop a sense of isolation and may become disconnected from the learning experience. A synchronous class room is real time with everyone together in a group. A sense of community is inherent, all students are in class and a member of the class; sharing information, space and time, where interaction is immediate and spontaneous.

Online teaching requires strong written communication skills, organization, hours of pre-planning and the technical ability to master the LMS. The instructor is now a mentor and coach, providing guidance, support and encouragement to an unseen audience.  Online learning requires a self-disciplined student with a high level of time management skills, self -motivation and organization. Students now take on the responsibility of becoming a life-long learner.

Traditional face-to-face teaching has the advantage of visual contact, a somewhat teacher-centered approach using body language and tone of voice to facilitate communication. When moving to an online model , teachers must learn to master written communication skills and students must learn to read with greater attention to detail.

The online experience encourages the teacher to collaborate with students in the creation of a more dynamic learning experience. Access through technology allows for a more personalized teacher-student relationship. Discussion forums, written feedback and private message threads allow for personalized instruction and in-depth reflection. 

Personalized feedback from the instructor, builds mutual respect and provides students with encouragement


and motivation to excel at future assignments.

Typical feedback from my practicum instructor is illustrated in the artifact to the right.

Student-student interaction demonstrates genuine collaboration, trust and content appreciation, illustrated  below.





Detailed , specific instruction is essential in the online environment. The level of detail of written instruction is illustrated  below.



A hands-on element and real-world connection has always been an important component of my teaching philosophy. At first glance this would appear difficult in an online classroom. Recent experience in my practicum course has provided me with new insights into how even the most difficult projects can be accomplished in the virtual classroom. Extensive use and  examples of online collaborative group projects were plentiful in my practicum course, Entrepreneurship. My mentor’s curriculum does a great job in bringing real-work examples into the classroom. Creating a personal ledger in MS excel for a week’s income and expenses, developing, generating and executing a sales call to family and friends as potential customers, negotiating and agreeing on a price for a sales item with a classmate, creating a customer survey , giving it to potential customers, collecting and analyzing the data; are all authentic situations every entrepreneur must face when starting a business. These projects engage the learner in real-world examples, challenge students to think beyond the general content and apply that knowledge to future real-world experiences. These students are young entrepreneurs with the 21-century skills they need to be successful!

November 12 2014

Web 2.0 video Reflection

While gathering artifacts to include in my final project for the capstone course of  the Best Practices series for online teaching, I realized that I had neglected to post  my completed final project from  my web2.0 class. It was that class that truely started my exploration of lots of awesome technology tools.  I have since been able to incorporate many of these techy tools into various blended classrooms @ my curernt high school.

As to why I hadn’t shared the video -?>?-  I’d venture to say that I simply ran out of time, told myself I’d get back to it  OR attempted the post it and mercilessly failed! I have decide to add it today, as a friendly reminder of all my hard work back in March 2013 😛  And to allow my fellow capstone coursemates an opportunity to view it. Also every once in a while, I like to remind myself how far I’ve come!


November 11 2014

Week 5 – Communication







In Effective communication in an online environment, Dr Bruce Johnson simply states, “Effectively communicating with students in an online classroom requires new techniques.” This is ,of course, easier said than done. It is the level of clarity  in which we deliver the message that predetermines its effectiveness. Johnson points out that “all of the details within a message become important, including the tone of the message, the word choices used, and the mechanics of the message. ” The classroom teacher traditionally  relies heavily upon  face-to face delivery. Think  of the last lesson plans you provided for the substitute, that were not followed because the sub &/or the students did not fully understand the directions. It seems clear when we read it, but the simplest piece left undefined can lead to misinterpretation. Which in turn leads to more questions and more time on the lesson than originally planned. In the online environment, both student and instructor rely “upon written communication as a primary means of delivering feedback and addressing the <students> developmental needs.” When this feedback and communication is personalized and completed in a timely manner it can build a strong communication channel. Close attention to content detail and specific word choice can make the difference between a positive or negative experience. As the classroom teacher moves into the online environment, we must focus on perfecting our written communication skills just as we have with oral communication in our face-to-face classroom.


November 6 2014

Capstone: A case study

A Case study of an Entrepreneurial student

As a method to evaluate the effectiveness of my online practicum course Entrepreneurship, I  examined one student’s progress for the first 10 weeks of class. This case study examines the students participation, interaction with both the teacher and other students, level and demonstration of critical thinking skills, familiarity with content , time spent online and level of academic success.

For the purposes of this evaluation, I will refer to the student as Tom.

One of the first characteristics that drew me to this student was his level of participation. It was evident very early on, that Tom was a motivated learner. He began the first weeks of class by actively participating early each week, something that was encouraged by the instructor but only demonstrated by a few students. Tom was often the first to post in discussion threads and always took the leadership role in the group work. His work ethic continued throughout the course as he continued to login early in the week to complete reading assignments, discussion posts, group work, weekly exercises and required journal entries.


Mid-way through the course Tom remained motivated, was visually active in all course areas, and continued to demonstrate  great time management skills. Scores were high in all areas and almost all work was completed on-time. The system login history shows Tom had logged in 43 times in 30 days indicating multiple logins per day in some instances.

On one occasion, work was 1 day late due to inactivity from his partner on a group project. Illustrated in the artifact above. Repeated attempts to obtain answers from Tom’s partner, resulted in a request for help from the instructor. This Illustrated a high degree of ownership for the task that needed to be completed and self-directed learning. The private discussion thread with the instructor explained the situation and requested help early on the last day of class, was updated after 8PM and also contained a follow-up notification from Tom @ 6AM.  I included this artifact above because it clearly illustrates the students commitment to his learning and comfort level in communicating with the instructor.

There appeared to be no problems with the technology needed for the course content and for course navigation. An exercise using MS excel was executed without help from the instructor. Many of Tom’s peers struggled with this assignment which may have been due to a lack of understanding of the software program. Tom completed the work on time using the system drop box.


Reflections & other weekly exercise were completed well in advance of the deadlines. These reflections displayed strong content knowledge as well as a deeper understanding of the concepts, illustrated above in his thoughts on his own business .

Week 7 Tom was very involved in an active discussion , adding valuable information  in his original post as well as helpful feedback to other posts Clearly demonstrating critical thinking skills, interactivity with peers and maturity for this age group.

student grades

student grades


Tom’s commitment to his learning and strong work ethic is demonstrated though his overall quality of work which is also evident in his high grades in the course. I reviewed login data to determine the possibility of a correlation between time online and student grades. There was clearly a correlation of these 2 elements for students with poor grades and significantly less time online. However, there was less of a correlation for those students that excelled in the class. Based on the number of times logged in , higher ranked students ranged from mid 100 to 500 total logins for the course. This data lead me to believe that there is a very strong argument for achievement in an online environment being attributed to the readiness of the learner. The need to master time management skills , overall preparedness and organization, along with the degree to which the students are self-directed learners is critical to their success in an e-learning environment.