PBL: Final Reflection

What do you now understand best about Project Based Learning?

That PBL is truly a collaborative effort, not just among the students, but the teachers developing the project.  A good PBL lesson involves the input of many people to design, create, implement and review.  While a single teacher can conduct a PBL class, it enhances the students’ chances to retain learning when it is a school wide approach.

What do you understand least well?

This class provided a good foundation for beginning to use PBL.  However, not actually doing it in my school, I am still unsure what it will look like in action.  I have seen some videos that showed elements of a PBL class, but I still would like to see what one looks like live and be able to ask questions when I am uncertain as to what is happening.

What did you expect to learn in this course?

Since I had no experience with PBL, I expected to be introduced to what it was and how to use it in the classroom.  I believed this course would provide me with the necessary tools to develop a PBL classroom.  I also hoped to be able discuss the benefits of PBL at my school in order to persuade the administration to consider giving it a test.

What did you actually learn?

I learned that PBL requires a lot of time to prepare.  Teachers must coordinate with one another to ensure learning is focused on the driving question.  Math can be taught in a more meaningful way that excites even the least interested students.  Students can be given more voice in the choices they make, thus better furnish them with the tools and skills needed for the 21st century world.

More or less, and why?

I learned more than I expected because I had no real idea what PBL entailed.  I only knew it had something to do with projects.  The work required to develop a PBL classroom is incredibly large.  The potential resulting benefits for student learning is even larger.  I don’t know if PBL would be feasible in my school because it would require a shift in thinking among administrators and teachers, but I do know that my students would benefit immensely from it.

What will you do with what you have learned?

I started this course about the same time I reviewed a PBL program for possible inclusion in my school.  I am now better prepared to create a proposal for my school to consider adopting PBL for a test run to increase our students’ motivation, test scores and employability skills.

Post Project Reflection

Who will you involve in the process?

In the Army, we had a part of every mission called the After Action Report.  This was conducted at the end of the mission.  It involved everyone who participated in the mission.  The purpose was to see what went well to build upon for future missions and what didn’t go so well to improve preparation for future missions.  This would be my guiding process for conducting a post-PBL reflection.

What will your process look like?

I would start with a self-reflection.  This would allow the opportunity to think about issues that each person feels needs to be discussed.  Then each team would meet before bringing everyone together for a class discussion.  This gradual build-up could increase participation if students don’t feel like they are being put on a spot.  Afterwards, a final self-reflection to absorb all the information.  This would be followed by a similar process that occurs among the staff to institute changes for future projects.

Is it just a one-time assessment?

For any assessment to have value, there must be action that leads to changes.  These changes will in turn produce new results and new issues which would require more changes.  Like any educational process, in order to flourish, these changes are necessary to prevent stagnation of learning.

Role of the Facilitator

Will my role in the teaching/learning process change?

The expression “sage on a stage” fits me as a teacher, though I tend to use the word “diva”.  In a PBL unit, there is more student-centered learning, so my role will require less direct instruction and more guidance.  However, having worked in a GED environment where students may not be on the same subject, let alone the same topic, I am familiar and comfortable with conducting a class where students are working at their own pace.  Although it isn’t PBL, I feel that I can easily adapt into the PBL environment.  And, if you ask my students, I have can do so and still be the GED Diva.

What are the skills of effective facilitation?

Being an effective facilitator requires knowledge of the content, like a teacher, but demands so much more.  Facilitators need to guide the process and keep it on track.  They must, as stated previously, possess knowledge.  However, their job is not to convey all the information themselves, but to elicit and draw thoughts and ideas from the group members.  They are not just results-oriented.  The process of how the results are obtained is vital and facilitators need to direct the learning so that all members are involved throughout the process.

Will the students develop the competencies and skills needed to be successful?

Interestingly enough, some of the smartest students I graduated with have not gone on and fulfill the promising futures that were destined for them.  Meanwhile, students who were fairly average academically have become very successful.  This would seem to contradict the intent of school.  Yet, when you realize why, it makes sense.  The successful people are generally ones who have good communication and collaborative skills – 21st Century skills.  Success in most careers is not an individual result.  It is generally derived from the ability to work as a team.  Often times in sports, a team with lesser talent triumphs over a group of highly-skilled individuals.  This is because they functioned as a team and completed a team-oriented task.  These are the skills that need to be developed in order to be successful in life.  Having a strong academic background is a benefit, not the foundation.  In the traditional classroom, where the academics are given top priority, the 21st Century skills may be ignored.  However, In a PBL classroom where 21st Century skills are the basis for learning and academics are the tools used, the likelihood of becoming successful is increased as more students will develop their abilities in both areas.

What changes will you need to make in order to become an effective facilitator in your PBL unit?

However, facilitation is an area where I need to improve.  Facilitators take more of a back seat in the process, whereas, in my class, I find that I still spend a lot of time providing direct instruction to my students – just on a smaller scale.  As a facilitator in a PBL class, I need to spend more time listening to students all the way through and not stop them as soon as I realize what they need.  In order for students to better retain knowledge, they need to form it in a manner that makes sense to them.  I need to allow them the time to talk through it.  Also, if they make an error, instead of correcting them, I need to guide them to think it through and realize what their error was and go back and fix it.


Section 2. Developing Facilitation Skills. (n.d.). Chapter 16:  group facilitation and problem-solving. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/leadership/group-facilitation/facilitation-skills/main


Designing Integrated Curriculum

When my students take the GED Ready Test for Social Studies or Science, I hand them a calculator.  Their first response is, “Why do I need a calculator for the Social Studies/Science test?”  I explain to them that there is Mathematics in Social Studies and Science.  Inevitably, they say “That’s dumb.”  Therein lies the biggest challenge in interdisciplinary projects.

Education has done a disservice to students by separating learning into disciplinary courses.  In real life, scientists, engineers, archaeologists – anyone and everyone – uses skills learned in all courses in an interconnected way.  Students, however, if they have never been exposed to this, don’t see that connection (this helps explains why students in Algebra have trouble conceiving letters as numbers).  Once students begin working on interdisciplinary projects, they will begin to make those connections (a relief for the Math teacher who tires of the question, ‘why do I need to know this?’).  If students are exposed at an earlier age to this process, it will be more natural for them as they age.  The longer the delay, the harder it will be to reshape their ways of thinking what is a Math/English/Social Studies/Science class.

A second challenge is from educators themselves who may have never taught this way before.  Like the students, you are taking them out of their comfort zone and they may resist.  As a Math teacher, I can teach about numbers, but when it comes to English, I don’t teach too “good”.  But, in an interdisciplinary approach, I don’t have to teach English.  I will work with a team providing the students with the mathematical education they need to successfully complete the project.  Working with fellow teachers, especially those outside our field, can be another new and rewarding experience.  As a team member, you will be designing and implementing a curriculum together.  You will have peers to discuss ideas with (similar to most business environments) and develop a stronger plan.  An added benefit is that the students will see teachers working together, modeling how to collaborate.

Currently, my school is not a traditional one.  We do not have courses like a high school.  When it comes to academic education, we are focused on basic skills and credit recovery or high school equivalency.  I am the only GED teacher.  I am responsible for educating my students in all four GED subjects.  Our high school diploma programs are through established online diploma programs.  We don’t have any say in curriculum.  In order to implement an interdisciplinary approach, it would require a radical change in thinking at our administrative level – something that I don’t foresee happening.  Unfortunately, our students, many who have been failed by the traditional approach to teaching, would benefit greatly from an interdisciplinary curriculum.  They are in dire need of 21st century skills in collaboration and communication and yet we focus on getting them to pass the GED (or obtained their diploma) just so we can meet our quotas.


PBL: Effectiveness in the Diverse Classroom

Find an article on the topic of the effectiveness of Project Based Learning in diverse classrooms. Post a reflection on your thoughts regarding your research this week on Project-Based Learning. What were you able to find? How do you think PBL will fit into your teaching style? Do you have an idea for a project? If so, begin articulating it now.

From the research I have done, the strongest aspect of project-based learning is in how it develops skills beyond intellectual knowledge that students will need when they move on.  By working in teams, students must learn to interact with one another.  Placing students in groups with others who they might not normally associate with at school prepares them for a working environment where they will not know co-workers when they first start working.  They need to learn how to integrate in order to form a cohesive team.

To increase the chance for success, teams need to be accountable for the success of each individual.  This I believe would be the hardest concept for students new to PBL to accept.  Many have always learned in an environment where only what they did mattered for their own grade.  Students who have been previously successful might be initially agitated that they have to assist their fellow classmates in order to obtain a satisfactory grade.  However, if the project is thoroughly planned and introduced to the students with clear and concise assessment rubrics, the students will be fully aware of what the requirements are from the beginning, then they can begin to understand how this different approach will benefit them.

Over the years, I have generally adapted my teaching to my students under the philosophy of whatever it takes.  If my students need a whole class lecture approach, that is what I will do.  If one-on-one tutoring is needed, then I will do that.  This is not to say that it will be easy to incorporate PBL.  The aspect of PBL that I think will be the hardest adjustment for me is in how the content is presented.  As a math teacher at a school that is very test/numbers driven, I have always focused on teaching my students how to solve certain problems.  Many of my students come from schools where they were unsuccessful in direct instruction, however, that is what they know and it is what they are comfortable with despite the results.  Therefore, switching to a PBL classroom would be a big adjustment.  Considering that we have an open entry/exit system, I will always have to deal with this issue.

I am a GED teacher.  I cover each of the four subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies).  I have students who need to pass all four test mixed in with students who only need to pass one, two or three tests.  They are at different levels of ability with different strengths and weakness in each subject.  Having a class on just one topic in a given period would not be beneficial as possibly half the students don’t need to focus on that topic.  My thoughts are that for my project to be the most productive, it must involve students creating some sort of study guide or game that centers around concepts they need to focus upon in order to be successful on the GED test.  This would allow students to develop the skills they need while creating material that their peers could use to strengthen their knowledge base.  Teams could be assigned based upon whichever test(s) the students need to pass.


Vega, V. (2012). Project-Based Learning Research Review. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/pbl-research-learning-outcomes


Assistive Technology Blog: Accessibility Features on My Computer

I use a computer with Windows 7.  There are four assistive technology tools available. There is also an Ease of Access Center that has seven features.

Assistive Technology

Magnifier – Magnifier allows the use to magnify part of the screen.  I am familiar with this technology because my wife has vision issues and uses this feature.  There are three settings:  full screen, lens and docked.  Full screen makes the whole screen larger by a chosen percent.  Lens places an on-screen magnifying lens that moves with the cursor.  Docked splits the screen and has a magnified version at the top.

Narrator – Narrator reads the text on your screen.  Another tool for people with vision issues or reading difficulties.  As someone who likes to hear the words that I am reading, I thought this would be a helpful tool for me, but I have yet to figure out how to get it to work right.  All it will read is the narrator window or the Ease of Access panel.  I have never gotten it to work on a word document or a website.  In researching on the Internet, it appears this is a common problem that was never fixed by Microsoft.  If you need a screen reader, I would suggest finding another one.

On-Screen Keyboard – I have typed this sentence with the on-screen keyboard.  If you do not have or can not use a keyboard, it is a helpful tool.  However, unless you have a touch screen, it is very time consuming.

High Contrast – This is another tool for people with vision issues.  This will heighten the contrast of items on the screen to make them more distinct from others.  It changes to white text on a black background, which is handy when working in very bright area (such as outdoors).

Ease of Access Center

The Ease of Access Center allows the user to make adjustments to the computer for the following purposes:

  • Use the computer without a display
  • Make the computer easier to see
  • Use the computer without a mouse or keyboard
  • Make the mouse easier to use
  • Make the keyboard easier to use
  • Use text or visual alternative for sound
  • Make it easier to focus on tasks –

There are features designed for people who are blind, like text to speech and audio description.  I have used text to speech before (because I never learned to touch type) and it is helpful.  Speech recognition can also be used to control the computer without a mouse.  To use this tool, you need to train your computer to understand your voice.  From what I could find, audio description tells what is happening in a video, but only if the video has an audio description track. There are other features to help people who have other vision difficulties like color blindness and farsightedness.  They allow you to change the thickness of the focus rectangle and the blinking cursor, turn off unnecessary animations and remove background images.  You can also change the cursor’s color and size.

Just as there are accessibility features for those with vision issues, there some for those with hearing impairments.  Visual notifications can replace sound and text captions can be displayed for multimedia presentations.

There are functions available for managing your keyboard and mouse or even using your computer without a keyboard and mouse.  You can turn on the mouse keypad to control the mouse and manage access to windows, like preventing windows from automatically resizing when moved to the edge of the screen.  This is helpful for people who have difficulty using a mouse.  Sticky, toggle and filter keys can be activated and you can adjust the keyboard shortcuts to make them easier to use.  Sticky keys allow you to assign multiple key controls to just one key.  This is would benefit people who may have only one hand available to them.  Toggle keys send alerts to notify the user that certain keys were pressed that turned on features that might be unwanted.  Filter keys benefit those with unsteady hands by ignoring repetitive keystrokes or ones held down too long.


Setting accessibility options in Windows 7. (n.d.). its-knowledge01.campus.ad.csulb.edu. Retrieved from  <https://its-knowledge01.campus.ad.csulb.edu/display/help/Setting+Accessibility+Options+in+Windows+7>.

What accessibility features does Windows offer? – Microsoft Windows Help.” (n.d.). windows.microsoft.com. Retrieved from  <http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/what-accessibility-features-windows-offer#1TC=windows-7>.

Module 6 Summary and Reflection

Module 6 involved the presentation of a synchronous lesson.  My partner for this project was Marci Smith, who is also a math teacher.  Based upon her suggestion, we chose to do a lesson on transformations.  Our main synchronous learning strategy was the solo fishbowl. This strategy lend itself well to the lesson because it allowed students to practice sketching their transformations and receive immediate feedback on how they were doing.

Since Marci has taught this lesson much more recently, she adapted her plan to a synchronous environment.  I handled much of the administrative work in Adobe Connect by setting up our layout, adding polls and creating the whiteboards for the fishbowls.  We split up the instruction of the lesson into four main parts:  the introduction activity (taught by me), the main lesson (Marci), the fishbowl activity (me) and self practice (Marci).  In order to be prepared, we spent two nights going through the lesson in mock fashion on Adobe Connect.

Overall, the lesson went well.  Working with Adobe Connect for a second time, I found that it was easier than the previous time.  We ran into an issue where Marci was not able to stay connected and I had to start the main teaching portion, but she was able to get reconnected and pick it up without missing a step.  We did prepare more than we needed for the time allotted, but we had planned for what to eliminate without compromising the key points of the lesson.

Reflect on assessment of learning outcomes in online environments. Consider the following questions in your reflection:

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

The best type of assessment strategies in the online environment are formative ones: assessment that occurs ongoing throughout the course.  This could be informal assessment in the form of immediate feedback during a live lesson (such as our solo fishbowl activity discussed above) or more formal assessment using a rubric.  In the asynchronous environment, reflection post such as this are extremely useful tools to assess a student’s level of knowledge.  Students should seek out feedback from their fellow students.  This form of assessment helps to create the collaborative community that drives much of the virtual classroom.  Students should provide feedback on how well the assignments met their learning needs.  Finally, in order for online learning to have any value, the students must realize that their participation in all activities is vital.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

The biggest difference between the online and the traditional classroom is in quizzes and exams.  While online classes can administer quizzes and exams, to rely on them to the extent they are in a traditional classroom would be faulty.  While test security measures can be created online, assuring that the student taking the test is the actual student of the class can be, while possible, an impractical feat.  While a student could get someone else to do his/her work in the online environment, the time involved would make it infeasible.


Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

10 Best Post of EDTECH 523 (Spring 2013)

There were so many good posts, that I had to develop rules in order to select the 10 best.

Rule 1 – I eliminated any of my own posts.

Rule 2 – I chose posts to which I posted a response.  I felt that if the post was important enough to me when I responded to it, then it should be recognized.

Rule 3 – I wanted to have 10 different students represented on this list.

The list below is in chronological order.

1.  Community Building and Collaboration Due-Tue 2/19 byDustin Kisner – Monday, February 18, 2013, 8:57 PM

Community Building and Collaboration Tools

    There is a lot of value in online collaboration not only in education but also in the workplace. I currently use a few different Web-based collaborative tools in teaching and with work. The Math department I am apart of has been using dropbox as an online collaboration tool for the entire year. We continue to add lesson plans, projects, activities, etc to dropbox and we of course have a folder that we all share. Within the folder we share, we all have separate folders we add to and a few files for curriculum maps. Then as a student I currently and in the past have used google docs to share and edit papers, projects, etc. As a teacher I use schoolfusion, which is very similar to moodle or blackboard. I use it for discussions, announcements, assigning homework, printing worksheets and anything else related to the classroom. From my personal experience using online collaborative tools with classmates, as a student and as a teacher it has been very effective and I can not imagine not using those tools.

   I have noticed a few benefits as a teacher using online collaboration and community building tools. One of the benefits is that students have access to the entire class anywhere they have an internet connection.  From the reading this week it helped to make sense of how online collaboration could be more effective than in a classroom when dealing with participation. There are a large group of students that fear public speaking so they will not speak up in a regular classroom. With online collaboration there is more a chance they will “speak” their mind. Which I have seen in many of my classes. But it is a double edged sword.

   One of the pitfalls is students saying things that are inappropriate or regretful, they feel too comfortable sharing things or saying something they regret later. They sometimes feel they can hide behind their computer and do not realize it affects real people, being unaware of proper netiquette. Other pitfalls could happen when instructors need to create “expansive questions” or questions which compel the learner to write meaningful, reflective responses. If this done not happen students will either not respond or they will respond with a bare minimal response that is not very lengthy or in depth. You can also have “groupthink” as discussed in the text.  Certain individuals can overwhelm the group with their input. Students may feel disconnected and not participate or leave the group.

   Thinking of the readings and the experiences I have had with online collaborative tools there are a lot of things the instructor can do to head off a lot of the issues that can occur. With clear instructions and rubrics a lot of these issues go away. Make sure each student is aware of proper netiquette, and use a good icebreaker to help students feel welcome and comfortable with classmates.

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

2.  Edmunson – Community Building and Collaboration byShelly Edmunson – Monday, February 18, 2013, 11:08 PM

Do you see value in web-based collaborative tools?

Web-based collaborative tools are valuable in both online and face-to-face environments. In the online environment they are especially important as they are used to help build a sense of community and belonging among students. Web-based collaborative tools allow students to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously. Students can use Skype or Google + to collaborate face-to-face. Students can use discussion boards or blogs to post reflections or questions they may have regarding course content and assignments and can comment on classmates’ posts. Students can work collaboratively on projects using tools such as Google docs or Voicethread. According to Pallof and Pratt (2007), collaborative effort helps learners achieve a deeper level of knowledge generation while moving from independence to interdependence, thus strengthening the foundation of the online learning community.

I have used Google presentations in my multimedia class for students to work collaboratively. By using this Google presentation students were able to work on the project synchronously, they could see the changes being made by other students, and they had access to the project in the classroom as well as outside the classroom.

What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

There are can be pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities. Students may not be familiar with the collaboration tools being implemented or they may not have access to the technology needed. We cannot assume that all students have the skills, tools or technology being implemented. Some students may also struggle with feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts or opinions in the online environment. It is important for instructors to pay attention to students that may be just “lurking” and not participating in the discussions or activities. It is important for instructors to be aware of the pitfalls that may occur and to intervene when needed. All means of communication, including the telephone and face-to-face meetings, need to be employed in order to address concerns and deal with problems (Pallof & Pratt, 2007). Pitfalls may also be avoided by establishing clear expectations and guidelines for participation in discussions and other collaborative activities.

As a face-to-face classroom teacher they main issue I have had with implementing collaborative activities using web-based tools, is that we are blocked from the majority of these collaborative tools in my district.

Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

3.  Re: Community Building and Collaboration Due-Tue 2/19 bySusi Schmidt – Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 11:16 AM

Do your see value in Web-based collaborative tools?

There is tremendous value in web-based collaborative tools.  I remember attending school before the rise of the World Wide Web and I can remember how challenging it was to try and do a group project.  All group members had to decide on days/times to meet and it had to be in person! This method took so much more time to complete than it does today with the advancement of technology and web-based collaborative tools.  When working with others in a group whether it is for an employer or for school, there are so many tools out there just for meeting.  Examples of this include software programs like Adobe Connect or Go To Meeting.  These programs allow users to virtually meet and share ideas without having to leave the comfort of home or the office.  These programs allow you to not only speak to each other, but every user within the group can share documents, photos, etc to other members of the group in real time so everyone can discuss and also make changes while they are in the meeting.  They also allow the use of web cams so the group members can see each other face-to-face as if they were not really many miles away from each other.  This is important when communicating as it reduces communication barriers that can pop up with other forms of communication.

There are many other different forms of web-based collaborative communication that can be used when working in groups to complete projects, such as, the use of Wiki’s, social media, blogs, virtual worlds, presentation sharing, and forms of multi-media.  For instance, using a cloud type storage for your group after you choose specific conferencing software to use is extremely beneficial.  Google docs is an example of how members of the group can share access to group documents and keep track of the most up to date versions of projects.  This eliminates the group having to repeatedly e-mail documents back and forth to group members.  This can become very cumbersome for even 2-3 group members, let alone more members.

According to Palloff & Pratt (2007), collaborative work forms the basis for the student’s ability to participate in the transformative learning process.  In an online course, it is crucial that the instructor have the students engage in a collaborative experience to promote student interaction.  By promoting student interaction, it helps keep the students engaged and actively learning, which in turn, will help them take what they have learned and apply it to their daily lives.

What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

There are always going to be some pitfalls in implementing certain collaborative web-based tools.  The first one that I have personally experienced working in groups is the different experience levels with technology.  I have been in groups before where we only had access to certain conferencing tools and had to spend quite a bit of time trying to explain to all users how to work them.  This took away from valuable work time that we had as a group, even though we didn’t mind explaining the software.

One other pitfall of the online or web-based collaborative tools is actually face-to-face discussions.  One thing I have found from being a full time online instructor is that students tend to think that they can be more aggressive or verbally abusive in online discussions.  I have had to turn a few students in for code of conduct issues for not respecting fellow peers and their opinions within the online discussion forum.  It seems that there are many students who truly do not understand that speaking (or typing) is the same, as you would speak to someone in the classroom in person.  Telling someone that you think their post is stupid or that they don’t know what they are talking about is completely inappropriate and when you sit them down and talk to them about it, you can often ask them if they would say the exact same thing they said in the online discussion forum to the person’s face and often times they will say no.  This is why it is so crucial to teach netiquette in an online environment because many people would be surprised that it happens even at the higher education level.


Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd edition).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

4.  Re: Module 4-5-6: Best Practice in Online Ed — due Feb 26th byJessica Smith – Monday, February 25, 2013, 5:56 PM

What does good online instruction look like?

Good online instruction anticipates the different needs of learners enrolled in the course. Quality online instruction outlines how students are to communicate with each other, how to obtain technical assistance, and how often their instructor responds to email.

Quality online instruction consists of small discussion groups where learners are required to participate and focus on a specific task.  Students should create an artifact based on the content they learned during the module.  Students should receive feedback on their discussion, as well as the artifact they create.  Feedback takes the form of acknowledging receipt of their work, as well as information specific to an activity.

Students need deadlines or checkpoints spread throughout a course to ensure that they manage their time effectively.

Setting high expectations for students and communicating them appropriately to students allows them to know what the expectations are upfront.  Communication can take the form of posting exemplars of what to do and what not to do.

Does it look the same for all grades levels and content areas?

A significant amount of research is available for post-secondary, graduate, and professional students.  I had difficulty finding research specific to the type of students I teach.  Without having research to reference, my opinion is that online instruction is as different as it is similar.  All good online instruction involves developing quality learning materials, setting deadlines, guiding students, assessing their learning, and providing feedback.  What differs between grade levels and/or abilities requires an instructor to tailor materials to meet the unique social-emotional learning needs of the students enrolled in the course.  Certain groups of students may need assistance with procedural or non-content skills before they are ready to approach content.  Specifically, they may need mini-lessons in sending emails, using a chat room, posting on a discussion forum.  There needs to be an opportunity for students to learn this skill, receive feedback, and continue to improve.

Will effective face-to-face teachers be effective online teachers?

Not every face to face teacher will be an effective online teacher, just as not every online teacher will be effective face-to-face.  There is no way to make a blanket statement that teachers from one field will be able to transfer their skills immediately to the other.  The demands for time, resources, and preparation change based on the content area, grade level of the student, a teacher’s previous teaching background and if they are provided curriculum or are able to create their own.  Just as a face-to-face teacher may mesh well with one school system or administration does not mean that they will if there was a shift; there is no assurance that an online teacher will be effective with each educational system they work with.  There remains a need to ensure a good fit between an individual educator and their teaching philosophy along with the educational system or organization they represent.

5.  Re: Lead a Discussion for course Section 4172/4173 K-12 topic 3/5-3/12 byKatelyn Conner – Saturday, March 9, 2013, 10:40 AM

What a great question! I teach third grade in a district that is currently implementing the common core. Each day, I seek ways to allow students to more self-directed and take ownership of their learning. Some students do this naturally. However, other students that are lower achievers need more scaffolding and guidance in order to learn at the level the common core requires. Additionally, I find that the common core, so overwhelming in its requirements, actually allow for LESS student centered learning. There is so much to cover in the common core, that I find myself actually doing more teacher centered activities than ever before. It has really been challenging for me and my colleagues to find ways to provide more student centered learning activities and cover all of the common core standards. That being said…

Do I feel that I need to maintain control of the learning environment?

I feel that I need to ensure that students are indeed engaged in meaningful learning activities. So, I guess I feel that I need to maintain control to a certain degree. Depending on students ability to be independent in any given activity, my control in the learning environment adjusts based on student need. I would love to release learning to my students for each and every activity, however, in a third grade classroom at a low-income school, it just can’t happen all the time. In an online learning environment, it seems like it would be even more tricky to know for sure whether releasing control to the students would be an appropriate thing. However, I think it’s important to expect students to rise to the challenge.

How comfortable would I feel giving over that control to the learners and being an equal participant?

Totally comfortable! As long as students are ABLE to learn without strong guidance from me. Typically, I find that some students are able to be self-directed and control their own learning most of the time. I’m extremely comfortable releasing those students and trust that they are making the right choices to enhance their learning. However, different groups of students require more scaffolding and support. I work more closely with those students. So, in essence, differentiation is key! In the online learning environment, I would love to watch students construct their own learning through the activities while I facilitate and learn with them.

6.  Re: Voice and Tone Discussion Activity–Due 3/12 by Ashley Leneway – Sunday, March 10, 2013, 12:53 AM

I selected the role of parent opposed to proposal…(assuming we’re discussing this for a traditional, face-to-face, high school, not a virtual one)

I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today and share my concerns for allowing students access to social networking sites such as Facebook in our school. There are many reasons I am opposed to this proposal, many of them you’ve already heard. I think it’s important to think of the intended focus of the social networking sites. Was Facebook designed to be used for education? I believe the answer is no. Although I do believe students need to learn about how to use social networking sites appropriately, I do not believe that is the responsibility of the school. It’s my opinion that our teacher’s time should be spent educating our children, not monitoring and policing the correct and appropriate use of social networking sites. Secondly, as a parent, I have selected to keep my children in traditional schooling partly because I believe in the importance of socialize with their peers. It’s my hope that their time here will be enriched with social interactions and the creation of friendships, and not virtual ones.  I do believe there is a time and a place for Facebook, but I do not think it’s appropriate for our school, especially not at this time. There are lots of collaborative sites that are intended for educational purposes and my first suggestion is that we get the high school education association involved in looking at those sites and evaluating the effectiveness. Is there one that is educationally based that they would be interested in using? Also, the students say that they are old enough to handle themselves, that they will follow Acceptable Use Policy and have their parents’ permission but I think recent coverage of the use of social networking tells us that students don’t truly understand the implications of their actions online. Therefore, my second recommendation is that we start an after school program for both parents and their children that will dig into the world of social networking; allowing parents to become educated and involved in their children’s social networking and to teach students the (long terms and sometimes life changing) implications of their actions online.

7.  Re: Adult Ed Discussion 3/13-3/19: Improving Online Class Participation & Implementation byScott Hogan – Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:30 AM

I feel like I’ve experienced some of the same problems that students in Claire’s class went through.  In a previous EdTech class I didn’t participate in at least a handful of discussion related activities, mainly because I didn’t see the relevance for me, didn’t want to spend the time, and it didn’t look to be a big portion of the grade.  I know that doesn’t sound good, but with my personal situation at the time it was a decision I had to make.  At the end of the course I looked to have an A according to the online grade book.  Over the course of about 18 hours right before grades were due I watched online as my grade fluctuated from an A to a D with just about every stop in between.  It was as if the teacher was trying to find a way to retroactively punish students for not participating as much as he/she had hoped.  I sent an email with a copy of the grade scale that had been sent out at the beginning of the term just to remind the professor that there was a record of what was expected.  I say that to say this:

1) Make sure that as an instructor you clearly understand and communicate what the expectations are for involvement and communication on forums and in class discussions.

2) Your syllabus must be detailed and accurate.  Look at it to make sure that at the end of a course you don’t feel like students got grades that you don’t feel accurately judge their effort.  I try to do that with my classroom, but still am frustrated when a student of mine skips a project but still gets a B or higher.  But if the rest of their work is that good there isn’t much I can do about it.

3) Before the next course is taught, reevaluate your learning outcomes.  Check to see that planned activities can actually lead to those goals.  Don’t hold on to something that doesn’t work just because it is what you’ve always done.  Too many teachers (traditional and other) stick with activities or pet-projects that are fun but don’t really meet state standards or lead to desired learning outcomes.

8.  Re: Discussion Question for K12-Section 4172 3/13-3/19 bySherri Harrelson – Saturday, March 16, 2013, 7:38 PM


This is an excellent discussion involving an interesting article!

1. I disagree with some of the findings of this study for multiple reasons. In terms of validity and reliability, I don’t feel that there was enough variety in the study subjects, nor that the samples were large enough. As far as the outcome, I disagree that learning synchronously produces a greater amount of “personal participation.” While I agree that I personally, as well as other students I’ve had courses with, tend to “gab” more about topics unrelated to class materials when using synchronous communication, I feel that personal participation has always been equal, if not greater, when using asynchronous means. More often than not, I wouldn’t choose to use synchronous communication, and the times that I have used it were less than productive. In fact, in a previous course with optional synchronous meetings many students that “attended”  barely communicated at all. In addition, planning tasks for my current courses would be virtually impossible using synchronous communication tools due to the many differences in time/ schedules.

2. I think that asynchronous learning would best serve the k-12 population for the majority of tasks, although I have seen a few very valuable synchronous lessons and feel that they could be used periodically to assist in teaching difficult concepts. In many cases, virtual k-12 students are no different than us (meaning college level learners) in that they are busy, have other demands on their time, and frankly may not see the value in using ongoing synchronous tools. While synchronous tools certainly have their own benefits, I feel that meeting the demands of 21st century learners means teaching and learning occur asynchronously on the student’s schedule.


9.  Re: Lead a Discussion for 3/20-4/2 4172 byJenni Harris – Thursday, March 28, 2013, 1:08 PM

1.  What are the pros and cons of using a discussion board?

In my opinion, the biggest pro for using discussion boards is the student’s ability to take significant time to formulate their answers. Because the response doesn’t have to be communicated immediately, the student has time to reflect and research answers to the questions posed. Additionally, the student has time to write a concise answer when they feel ready, or have the time to post. This can alleviate the anxiety some students feel when responding in face-to-face or synchronous situations.

Cons in asynchronous communication can result from poor behavior from students, either purposefully inappropriate or lacking in netiquette, just as they can in face to face classrooms. Another issue that Palloff and Pratt discuss results from the fastest typists appearing to be the loudest voices. This can be intimidating in an online forum where the student’s have varying abilities in typing and expression.

2.  The Palloff and Pratt (2007) state “there is a concern that some instructors are simply posting discussion questions and then do not log back into the course to monitor progress or offer input and feedback.”   What should be the teacher’s role in a discussion board?

The instructor should make students aware that they do read every post, even though they may not respond to every individual. The instructor should know when it is appropriate to participate in the forum, asking leading questions that cause students to reflect and find deeper meaning. When students are being inappropriate, off topic, or not following posted netiquette rules, then the instructor should step in through private messages to help keep the discussion flowing and create a safe environment.

10.  Re: Lead a Discussion- Section 4172- K-12 4/4-4/10 byAmy Armstrong – Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:12 PM

Identify and describe either a lesson that would benefit from synchronous instruction, an objective that would benefit from real time assessment, or some other activity that would be better if done in real time.

Having a guest expert interact with students would be best done in a synchronous environment. Most people wouldn’t be able to give a time commitment of checking in on a weekly discussion board. However, having the expert chat in real time with students would be very beneficial for students. They can ask questions and listen to the expert and get a different perspective on a topic. For example, if students are reading a play, asking a local actor to talk to students about stage direction, or how they become a character, or memorize lines, is a real world application of what students are reading about and it gives the reading of a play new relevancy (especially if it is Shakespeare).

Finkelstein states that “the full potential of any learning experience cannot be achieved when learners are led to ponder Tell me again, why am I here?” How would you answer this hypothetical question from a student? Relate your answer back to the indicators for real-time online learning on pages 7-10 or to list of skills assessed uniquely live online on pages 12-13.

Students have every right to ask the question, “tell me again, why I am here?”. I think that question may come up more if a teacher has real time lessons that don’t necessarily provide something extra to the student. I would tell them that they are here so they can gain a deeper appreciation for the subject matter (example: a novel or short story). According to Finkelstein, a good teacher inspires and gives an extra spark through the voice, spirited explanations, and gestures. This can’t be conveyed as easily online, but if a teacher posts a particularly moving video of themselves or has an online discussion where students can see the passion their teacher has for the subject matter, that may inspire students to delve deeper into the content. It may also satisfy their question of why they are here.

What good practices from Chapter 2 pages 15-32 does your activity foster?

The activity mentioned above was to have a guest speaker discuss their playacting skills in relation to a play students are reading. Some of the good practices this activity entails would be that it encourages contact between students and faculty, as the teacher should be helping monitor the real time discussion. Listening to a guest speaker will encourage active learning, as the students must listen and respond to what the guest speaker is saying. Having a guest speaker answer their questions will also give students prompt feedback, which is another good practice mentioned in chapter 2.

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

In order to create my synchronous lesson evaluation, I decided that it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think I could top Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles.  I started with them and researched the internet for expanded information to create the specific points to look for when evaluating a synchronous lesson.  Finally, I used this  SynchronousLessonEvaluation to review the two lessons below.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was a hands-on tutorial on using various Photoshop features.  The instructor gave the student the opportunity to choose which features she wanted to learn about.  The instructor demonstrated the tool and then the student was given control to practice.  This was the right strategy to use.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could have been done with more students with the cracker barrel strategy. Prior to this lesson, certain students would be assigned a tool to instruct in a given virtual room.  The other students would then move around the rooms and learn from their classmates how to use the tools.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

The lesson could be done asynchronously by recording the instruction and having the students view the video and practice what they learn.  However, by having the instructor there in the synchronous environment, the student is able to get immediate help if they are having difficulties.  Personally, I would rather have the synchronous learning for this topic as I know how frustrated I would get if I could not get the tool to work right.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was an icebreaker activity where students meet other students.  Pairing up in breakout rooms to ask each other questions is very appropriate.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could be done asynchronously, but if time is available for the students, it is better handled in a live environment.  I feel the icebreakers in the courses in the MET program take up too much time; time that could be added to some of the longer, more content-related projects at the end of the course.  Instead of breakout rooms, the activity could have been handled in a whole class setting.  This wouldn’t necessarily be more effective, but just as effective.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

A magnetic brainstorm, where students post words that describe themselves.  If you see a word someone else posts that fits you, you can increase the font size.  This would be similar to how tags increase in size the more they are used in a blog.