Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Do You Teach or Do You Educate? That is the Question...

As an instructional Coach, I struggle daily with the concept of the modernization of education.
What does that mean?

We are stuck in mindsets of the teachers who taught us who taught them who have, by now, died leaving us in a world that they would never recognize.  Yet, we persist in the lessons from the past.  It's what we know.  We teach as teaching has been taught to us.  This need to change.  We need to modernize our approach to education.

Although this is an older video by Pierre722, we need to shift our perception of ourselves from teacher to educator.  When I say shift our perception, I mean not just in title but in practice.  Can we do that? 

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2006
"Education is not the filling of a vessel, but the kindling of a flame." - Socrates

Credit must go to Conjure One for the soundtrack - used without their permission. I made this using iMovie as part of a digital literacy program for teachers at the Foothill College Krauss Center for Innovation in Los Altos, CA. All the pictures I took on campus. Please feel free to use this video in any way wish so long as it is used to inspire others to educate!

Please feel free to use this video for any purposes that promote the discussion (and critique) of what it means to teach, educate, inspire, and otherwise prepare our young people to contribute to and help build a future with increasing promise for humankind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Building Community in a Distance Learning Course


Cameron, B., Kostelecky, K., Morgan, K., and Williams, K. 2009. Group projects: Student perceptions of the relationship between social tasks and a sense of community in online group work. The American journal of distance education, 23 (1), 20-33.

Palloff, R., and Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: John Wiley & Son Inc.

Palloff, R., and Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Peck, M. (1987). The different drum: Community making and peace. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Powell, J., and Lines, J. (2010). Making learning personal: Recommendations for classroom practice. About Campus, May-June, 19-25.

Ritter, C., Polnick, B., Fink, R., and Oescher, J. (2010). Classroom learning communities in educational leadership: a comparison study of three options. Internet and higher education, 13, 96-100.

Steelcase WorkSpace Futures. (2010). How the workplace can improve collaboration: Converging spatial, social and informational trends are creating demanding workspaces that support new patterns of collaboration. White Paper, June, 1-7.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Static vs. Dynamic Technologies

I find myself tending to explore more and more dynamic technologies in my courses and with the teachers and students I work with.  The challenge in doing so, as a coach snot assigned to a classroom, is time.  Embedding these dynamic technologies in helping students explore and produce content, communicate with distant learners, and collaborate with peers synchronously and asynchronously is my goal as I hope to return to either a F2F or distance learning teaching position.   Until then I lumber in the midpoint with one foot in dynamic and the other stuck in the static use of technology.  I say this for I coach teachers in the use of technologies, but simply using them does not make them dynamic.  Technologies become dynamic when they are used to promote student production of information, collaboration on products they are creating, and communication among students is self-generated and interactive.  Alone the technologies are all static; we make them dynamic!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Engaged Learners

Engaging learners is a challenge in any educational setting.  However, when you take away the physical presence of humans, you are faced with an even greater challenge.  No longer are you able to read the body language or even verbal responses a student may have to a learning environment.  The level of learner engagement in an online course is dependent upon the tools and approaches an instructor elects to use.  As approaches to instruction are considered, there are three focal points we must consider: content, communication, and collaboration.

To foster the development of content knowledge, an instructor has a vast array of tools available.  Among them are vidcasts, podcasts, YouTube, teacher created presentations, Google scholar search, on-line encyclopedias including Wikipedia, blogs, Twitter, webinars, and articles.  The interesting thing about these tools is that they could be the same tools that students produce as a culmination of their learning.  With an online course, I particular enjoy viewing available videos to help build knowledge.  They offer a distant physical presence.  The videos may or may not be of the instructor facilitating the course; nonetheless, they provide the human figure which often lacks in a distance learning environment.  It is also a strategy that helps meet the needs of the diverse learning styles of our students.  Beyond video, the internet is perhaps the largest warehouse of information in the world.  Google search options like Scholar, online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, and social networks like Twitter provide endless access to knowledge.

Instruction is much more than ensuring that knowledge is accessed and acquired.  In order to assess that the knowledge is ingrained in the learner’s thought process, it is essential that communication occurs between students and with the instructor.  Communication can take a wide array of approaches.  There are the discussions that take place in virtual spaces supporting the course which include discussion boards and course cafes.  These are public platforms of communication and they may also include Twitter, social networks, and peer or class blogs.  However, communication must also occur in safe places.  Emails, Skype video calls or chatting permit students and teachers alike to have more candied conversations regarding the course work.  In these spaces support can be offered without discomfort.  Peers can not judge feedback in this space.

Collaborative tasks are at the core of instruction that engages learners.  Without the content and the communication this piece would not be able to exist.    Most of us are familiar with wikis, my preferred wiki is Wikispaces.  It is user friendly and ads free.  In spaces like these students can create content together and the instructor can monitor who is doing the work.  It brings collaborative group work to a more accountable level permitting instructors first-hand to confirm the contributions each member offers a group.  Discussion features allow peers to provide discussion point, reflects, and concerns regarding a page or product.  Google offers collaborative opportunities for groups to produce documents, projects, and even maps together.  However, my preference for presentations is Prezi as it permits shared creation of a project.  Finally, a valuable collaborative tool I would like to use more with students and peers alike is DiigoSocial bookmarking is becoming a fabulous tool for students to share as they conduct research as part of a team.  Participants are allowed to highlight and level notes on a web page collectively.  These collaborative supports offer allow us to offer our students opportunities which span the spectrum of learning from information gathering to assessment.

Involving learners in building content knowledge, engaging in communication with peers and instructors, and working on authentic, collaborative, problem-based tasks in the online environment is readily achieved through the use of rich, web-based tools.  Everyday there is something new.  (I haven’t even begun to address the apps available to foster new avenues for content knowledge development, communication, and collaboration.)


Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.

Durrington, V. A., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190−193.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Module 3 Post: The Assessment of Collaborative Learning

Collaboration is a vital skill for all learners to experience and find success. The challenge in any learning environment is to balance the individual skill and the collective skill assessments. Many of our students are assessed on their individual abilities, and often when they find themselves in an environment where they depend upon collaborative efforts of a group there is discomfort and anxiety.

Two years ago I was teaching a freshmen high school English class and ran into a situation that exasperated this scenario. In a multi-ability group students were assigned the task of translating a scene from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" into an understandable representation to share with the class. The group size was five. They were given expectations and a rubric in advance. Groups received individual participation grades that were determined based upon the rubric and my evaluation as well as the groups evaluation. With two strong, dominating individuals in one group and the collective mark of a "C," I found myself after school reviewing the group rubric with them. These top students couldn't collaborate with unlike individuals. They didn't try. They didn't work as a team, and the other members couldn't work with them. In a face-to-face setting with students who have been together in their learning experiences since kindergarten, collaboration was not a developed or even introduced skill.

(I am wondering if performing collaborative tasks online may be more effective than face-to-face collaboration among high schoolers. It could eliminate those preconceived judgments people have towards one another. But this is another realm of research.)

Scott Peck is quoted in Palloff and Pratt’s work: “‘It is our task—our essential, central, crucial task—to transform ourselves from mere social creatures into community creatures. It is the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed’” (2007). For this to become a reality, as educators we need to focus on elevating the value of collaboration through strong collective assessments.

Assessment of collaborative learning is a challenge. If collaboration is an essential skill, it needs to be required for all learners. Yet, we are challenged with the notion of meeting individual learning styles of our students. If learners are more comfortable with independence, do we require collaborative work? I believe that individual growth occurs when learners find themselves in situations of dissonance. If collaboration is the key component in learning, instructors need to value it, require it, and support it. The role of an instructor becomes one that “help[s] the team assess whether those goals are being met, and provide guidance for any changes that might be necessary” (Carroll, 2008). It is challenging but vital to collaborative group success. We need to keep in mind that all learners have varying experience and success in collaborative groups. As instructors we are the strongest supports for our learners.

Through the use of collaborative groups, assessment comes at many levels. Signs of successful collaboration are found when “individuals must engage in self-monitoring, team process monitoring, and proactive commitment to the work of learning” (Anderson, 2010, p.460). Along the same lines, Palloff and Pratt perceive “student self-assessment as a crucial component of performance in an online course containing collaborative activities” (2005, p. 24). Instructor presence and peer evaluation are also important features of assessment (2005, p. 26). “Empowering students to take control of their learning process” (2005, p. 30) makes the assessment of learning an investment on the student’s part. It helps promote ownership in the act of learning, as well as, the fair and equitable assessment of that learning. George Siemens reinforces this approach by presenting a model that sequences assessment: students assess peers, students receive feedback from online community, and educators assess using contribution logs (2008).

As Siemens states, Americans traditionally value individual abilities. What will place learners on a level playing field so that they can be vested in the success of a team? Future job experiences will depend upon their collaborative skills. How do we shift mindsets of teachers and community members to value the collective efforts of our K-12 learners? If we can share a common perception of collaboration, our future growth as a society will flourish as Peck describes.


Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.

Carroll, B. (2008, June 12). Assessing the quality of collaboration in virtual teams. Retrieved October 11, 2011, from Leading virtually: Leadership in a digital age:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer) (2008). Principles of distance education. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Startegies for the Virtual Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning communities. (Vodcast). Principles of Distance Education DVD produced by Laureate Education, Inc., Baltimore

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Video Presentation Brainstorming Session...

So, I've selected BUILDING COMMUNITY IN A DISTANCE LEARNING COURSE. Beyond the articles I find, I plan to interview students and teachers who have lived the life of a high school distance learning course. I have emailed the NH Virtual Learning Academy to see if someone there would be willing to talk to me. Our high school does have two teachers who have and do teach through that academy, so I should be able to arrange time with them.

I need to keep in mind that building community is a challenge for even a F2F course. I have always prided myself on establishing a strong sense of community in that setting. My challenge is to identify the key components of community that are essential in any setting and then go from there.

Story Boardish narrative...
1. Title with welcoming music
2. A series of images that show community flashed rather collectively for a several seconds
3. Brief discussion of best practices in establishing classroom communities in general (include research)
4. Transition into distance learning with a deliberate, guiding question and images of a distance learning setting
5. Student interview about courses and feeling a part of a community (in both environments?)
6. Perhaps back to research support based on the information gathered
7. Teacher interview about how they build community (in both environments?)
8. Research information
9. Distance Learning administrator interview that I hope guides administrative expectations and expresses the value community has from their perception.
10. Hope to end with the wishes for the future of online courses from administrator, teacher, and then student stakeholders
11. Images of what distance learning community building looks like and music
12. images fading to resources with music.
13. Bluppers often help us realize that community was developed simply in the making of the video, a product of a distance learning experience. (Up for negotiation)

Love, love, love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Collaborative Interaction: Module 2

George Siemens identified three elements of distance education “that are creating more effective learning experiences and giving distance education an identity of its own distinct from F2F courses.” They are global diversity, communication, and collaborative interaction. I agree all are vital to the success of a distance learning class. I would also add the element of establishing a sense of community, something that challenges even the face-to-face educator. Collaborative interaction is at the heart of building a community in a course.

In the blog “How the Workplace Can Improve Collaboration,” Hughes Marino Inc. explores the variety of ways collaborative interaction can occur in the work place. The focus of the information presented is establishing those collaborative space as necessary for the future of collective work. “With cloud computing one of the established trends of the decade and the launch of technologies like Google Wave and Intel’s Dynamic Composable Computing, worker data is becoming more easily shared, enabling new levels of synchronous collaboration for even distributed teams.” The technologies available are helping foster more effective collaboration in the workplace.

Many of the technologies available are allowing collaborative interaction to flourish. Through the use of wikis products can be created through team efforts. Shared documents, like Google Docs, do much the same; however, wikis allow users to collect multiple varieties of information in a single web page. Collaboration isn’t just limited to common spaces. Blogs can also foster collaborative interaction. Users of blogs permit ideas to be shared and feedback to be given through discussions. Another key tool that has helped develop collaborative interactions is social networking. This platform for collaboration allows for the number of people collectively developing ideas to be of a greater number. English Companion is a strong example of how teachers collaborate and grow as a group.

The rise in collaboration in the workplace is a direct result of the innovative tools available on line. However, blogger Alan Lew questions the accuracy of presented statistics regarding the use of social media among educators in his May 1, 2011, post. I believe he is correct we should question the research presented especially if it is unable to be supported by our own research. Knowing the importance of providing resources, it is difficult to validate the YouTube videos or multimedia presentations that do not reference sources. As writers we need to be certain to provide those references to help build our own credibility. None the less, Lew believes that the use of the tools I have mentioned above are on the rise—so do I.

We are moving to a much more collaborative world and the educational tools we use are fostering that shift.


Hughes Marino Inc. (2011, September 21). Steelcase: How the workplace can improve collaboration. Retrieved September 28, 2011, from Hughes Marino:

Kanuka, H. (2010). Understanding e-Learning technologies-in-practice through philosophies-in-practice. In T. Anderson, The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 91-118). Edmonton: AU Press.

Lew, A. (2011, May 1). Really? That Many of My Colleagues are using Social Media in their Teaching? Retrieved September 28, 2011, from Web 2.0 Teaching Tools:

Oblinger, D. G., Barone, C. A., & Hawkins, B. L. (2001). Distributed education and its challenges: An overview. American Council on Education and Educause.

Parker, N. (2010). The quality dilemma in online education revisited. In T. Anderson, The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 305-332). Edmonton: AU Press.

Siemens, G. (2008). The future of distance education. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Education, Inc.

Simonson, M. (2008). Distance Education: Higher Education, K12, and the Corporate World. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Education, Inc.