Teaching = Team Sport


I spent part of my break reading The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan – founder of Khan Academy. It’s a great read. One chapter caught my eye – “Teaching as a Team Sport” and I couldn’t agree more.  I started my career in K-12 education with 16 years teaching 4th grade.  In my early years, my classroom was definitely my own island. In fact, at one point I left my position to become Technology Coordinator. After two years, I decided to go back into my 4th grade position. The principal and vice-principal sat me down and said they were a little concerned that I would continue to run my classroom on my own with no outside help. (And yes, I am an only child.) Evidently, when I left, the three 4th grade teachers became a “team” and started doing everything together…lesson plans, newsletters, field trips, etc. They were concerned that I would not want to be a part of the new team and I assured them I would give it a try. I did – and loved it.  My dear teaching friends changed my own teaching life forever, and I am so grateful! We collaborated on everything. This authentic, true, loving collaboration helped us run three 4th grade classes like one unit. Sharing ideas was exciting! Our energy was constantly renewed from the enthusiasm of a new idea leading to best practices.

In a one room classroom, that is all you get – one teacher. But when you join forces with others, you can gain from their experience and expertise. Khan also made mention that this multiple-teacher approach solves the problem of teacher burn-out by giving teachers professional companionship and real-time support that makes work less stressful. “Younger teachers would learn from more experienced ones. Older teachers would absorb energy and fresh ideas from newer ones. Everyone would benefit from being less isolated” (Khan, 2012, p. 199).

This tends to be more common in K-12; however, it is a positive trend that is moving into higher education as well. The benefits of inter-disciplinary collaboration are many. Share your ideas and expertise. Collaboration can help decrease the workload and increase a positive spirit.  So – what will you do to increase collaboration on your campus?


The picture above? I was playing with an app called Rhonna Designs (Designs to Uplife and Inspire).

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It was selected as one of the features in the Trends/Stylish Photo Editing category for 2013 @AppStore. It is a great app, easy to use, and worth taking a look at! Congratulations to Rhonna Designs! It is currently free HERE. 


Why I am Flipping My Classroom

I have decided to flip my Technology for Teachers TEDU 480 course this next semester. Why? Is it just to follow the trend, to say I am flipping my class, or to try something new? Honestly, it is none of them. I truly made this decision out of a need to improve the course.

Last semester was my first time teaching the course. The students that take this course are candidates in the teacher education program. I made the assumption (yes, wrong to do!) that my students understood technology well. My first assignment was to create a video blog introducing themselves to the others in the course. I really thought this would be a simple task…but for many it wasn’t. (Rule #1- know your students.) Our course met once a week, in the evening, for almost 2 hours. During this time, I lectured. A couple of weeks into the course, I decided this wasn’t working. Who wants to listen to their teacher talk for hours? I knew I wouldn’t if I were a student. I knew I needed to engage the students more so I incorporated many hands-on learning activities. But it was difficult to complete all I needed to say and still give time to work collaboratively on projects. I needed more time to work with them 1:1 to help them through the technology difficulties. I wanted to move from presenting information to them  to exploring and learning together.

I am excited to start this new semester with a flipped classroom. I am positive that it will help my students by creating a more interactive environment. I am in the process of recording my lectures using my ShowMe app.

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I chose ShowMe because I am familiar with it, it is easy to use, and uploads easily to YouTube. Next, I wanted to find a way to analyze the viewing of the videos by my students. Will they watch the full video? How will they interact with the video? In my last post, I wrote about Zaption, which I still feel is a great option. Although I truly enjoy Zaption, there is a fee – and I want an option that is free. A reader of my blog (thanks aacurran!) posted a comment to try EduCanon, which is similar and free.

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EduCanon does require my students to sign up (for free) in order to view the videos, but I think it is a great option. Students watch the videos, and then I  inserted questions throughout the video that pertain to their understanding of the content. They cannot skip through the video without answering the questions. I can track student progress and proficiency to identify challenging concepts. I will be able to use this information  in my flipped setting to inform my next lesson. I believe students will enjoy it. By focusing on essential content, I have kept the videos to about 10 minutes.

The thing that excites me the most is how much class time this will allow me to have. I will be able to use the extra class time for hands-on learning. We will be able to explore deeper into some technology tools that we were not able to explore last semester. Their frustration level will decrease because I will be there to help them in class.

Finally, I wanted my followers to know about ThingLink’s free educational upgrade available only 2 more days! ALL SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES that invite their teachers to join ThingLink before the end of December will get free access to ThingLink Premium features for the year of 2014 (a value of $250 per teacher account).

All new teacher accounts created before the end of December will get 1-year of free access to ThingLink Premium features including:

• Custom icons
• Image slide show (coming soon)
• Groups for classrooms
• Image analytics
…and more!

Sign up – email #premium to education@thinglink.com or use THIS LINK to sign up. Click the picture below to see some of the educational uses.

4 Great Digital Tools to Try!

I came across four great technology tools and am pleased to share them with you! I know I am excited about giving them a try. The first one is my favorite – Zaption.  This tool is perfect for the educator using the blended learning model or flipped classroom.

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Just as the title states, it’s all about making the video interactive. Teachers can take their own recorded videos – or videos they are using for their course – and infuse them with questions and polls. Students watch the videos and at pre-determined spots, the video stops and inserts a question for the student to answer. The question can be multiple choice, a poll, or a discussion. It causes students to go from being passive recipients of information to engaged learners. The teachers will have a record of the analytics and responses. There is a cost with leveled membership plans but the basic plan comes with a free 30-day trial. It’s worth trying out!

Empressr is a free online digital storytelling/presentation tool. It allows you to create, manage, and share rich media within minutes. Only you, and the people you give access to, can access your presentations. It will even embed into your LMS or website.

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Projeqt is “an online story engine”. It allows you to create a presentation with live content. How? It pulls in tweets, blog feeds, interactive maps, audio files, and streamed videos on the web. Users can create “stacks” of information with layers of content. Click here to view some samples.

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Finally, give ClassMarker a visit. ClassMarker is an online testing source. Create custom tests and exams with no software installation. Results are automatically graded and instantly available. Brand your test with your own images and colors. Upload files, images AND videos to the tests! Visit ClassMarker for more detail!

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My Experience with Online Learning

Last year I received my M.Ed. in Teaching & Learning / Instructional Technology and Online Instruction. My position now allows me to work with instructors as they develop hybrid courses. I decided to share my thoughts with you regarding my own online education.

I learn with the online format.

I taught in a traditional classroom for over 25 years and I love classroom teaching. But the fact is, online learning is for a certain set of learners – and it may not be for everyone. I happen to be a self-starter, organized, and I love learning new things.  I have strong time-management skills, am motivated, and am comfortable with technical communication. These skills are important for online learners. I thrive in the online classroom.

Yet, it wasn’t just the fact that I enjoy learning. Other factors were in place which helped me be successful in my program of study:

  1. My courses provided clear guidelines. There was a certain format to the online program, and the syllabus, assignments, and details were consistent.  In each course, I knew where to go for examples, discussion posts, lectures, and even questions.
  2. The discussion assignments were thought-provoking. The instructors asked relevant, real-world questions which allowed me to relate the material of study to my own work. It was meaningful.
  3. I was asked to meet with peers. I was surprised when I first signed up with the online program that I was asked to meet synchronously with my peers and professors. I thought, “Hey. Can’t I just do this on my own time? Why do I need to meet with everyone?” But I grew to enjoy this time. In almost every class I met at some point with my peers and instructor face-to-face in real-time via Skype or Hangout. This helped form relationships.
  4. I was asked to consistently collaborate with peers. Again, in almost every course, there was an element of peer-to-peer collaboration. Whether it was research a project or new technology, we met both synchronously and asynchronously. This continued to form relationships.
  5. I was challenged. I enjoy a good challenge. My reading materials, assignments, research papers – they were difficult. I enjoy a good challenge and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a task well-done.
  6. My instructors were real. They sent notes of encouragement and shared their own lives. To this day, a few of them stay connected via Google + and still invite me to join their class hangout sessions!
  7. My courses provided choice. I cannot state this of all my classes, but many of my courses provided a choice for assignments. In fact, one course offered the entire course of study as a choice. This was a bit “new” to me – and very open ended, but I was able to create an entire faculty training manual for BYOD for the school where I was employed. It was useful, relevant, and I enjoyed the research.
  8. My assessments and feedback were meaningful and timely. My instructors provided thoughtful feedback. It amazed me how  my instructors would provide HUGE amounts of quality feedback on my papers. They not only read them, they reflected with me and provided discourse. They encourage thought. When there were doubts, they asked questions. They provided useful links for further research. My learning process grew through my assessment and feedback.

Here is an infographic I made to share these ideas:

Online Class (1)

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Millennials View of Education

I recently read about the Millennial’s view of the education sector. I decided to put the information into an infographic so that I could absorb and think about the statistics more:

millennials view of education


It’s sad statistics, really. The education sector should be the leaders in innovation, collaboration, and creativity because this is what we want to bring about in our students. Correct? Yet these statistics make some sense to me. Teachers, for years, have taught in the confines of a classroom…surrounded by four walls and isolated from the rest of the classrooms. But I believe this is changing. I am so thankful for my past teaching friends (Kathy and Sheri!) for teaching me about collaboration. We learned how to teach as a team. Our walls extended down the hall into each other’s rooms. Whatever I was doing in my room, so was Kathy…and Sheri… and vice versa. Now, because of mobile devices and tech tools,  collaboration can extend outside our classrooms to other schools and communities around the globe. By using tools such as Google Docs, Skype, and Google Hangout, and even Twitter, lack of collaboration cannot be an excuse. I realize there are still educators and administrators that shun the use of technology tools. But I hope that, through our own collaborative efforts, we can reach out to those who remain blocked within their own four walls and extend a hand to invite them into our collaborative learning communities. We need to do something to change these statistics.

What would YOU do?

My Google Glass Dream @Googleglass

My son told me once Google Glass was out that I would be asking for one. Brett, you are right. As an educator, I can imagine great things, innovative opportunities, and student/teacher creativity and collaboration with Google glass.

The one thing I really would like to try is  Google Glass for assessment. It would be nice to grade an assignment, record it while I read and grade, ask questions, and comment. I could send the video to the student as a part of the assessment review or even conference real time. Wouldn’t that be great?

An Infographic by www.OpenColleges.edu.au

Options and UDL: Make Learning Perceptible

photo credit: Priya Saihgalphoto credit: Priya Saihgal on Flickr

I have been a teacher for a long time. My first teaching experience was 1985 teaching 9th grade English. My memories of the experience are few … I remember the students, the belt I wore, and what I learned. I still remember when it dawned on my that I was quickly losing the attention of my students as we read together The Old Man and the Sea and that I needed a new plan of action. I changed my approach, my unit — just about everything except my students — and it worked.

According to Universal Design for Learning Principles, learning is impossible if information is imperceptible to the learner, and difficult when information is presented in formats that require extraordinary effort or assistance. To reduce barriers, it is important to ensure that key information is equally perceptible to all learners.

Those are big words — learning is impossible and equally perceptible. We have to provide options for perception — options for learning and understanding. We must provide the same information in many different ways so that our students will learn.

Visual: Offer ways of customizing the display of information.

Try a variety of visual tools. PowerPoint seems to be the most prominent software used at our university. Within PowerPoint, try a different font,color or size to gain attention. Add images, video, or animations. Give one of these other visual tools a try:






…or create an infographic!

Auditory: Offer alternatives for auditory information

We all know it’s true that after a while of hearing someone talk, all we tend to hear is wha wha wha. Change the tone and emotion of your voice. Add space. Whisper.

How about trying your hand at a podcast? Add some music if you want. Or, try a screencast with TouchCastKnowmia, or ShowMe.

Touch: Offer alternative ways to learn and turn in work

Give students more hands-on learning — even in the higher education classroom. Even though I teach a Technology for Teachers course, this week we are using large post-it papers in groups for rotating group work. Get up and move around every now and then. Next semester I am working on including more hands-on technology activities. My students enjoyed each time I used NearpodPoll Everywhere or Socrative. Not only that, I am working in a new way to add choices to what they turn in for assessment. This past week I let my students know they could turn their observation report in to me however they wanted — email, Moodle, paper and through a variety of options — written document, video, etc. I am hoping that I will see some creative efforts!

Offer your students the ability to discuss topics in class — through a variety of means (online chat, Google hangout, webcast). Differentiate your discussions to extend beyond the classroom. When in the classroom, try creating small discussion groups, then get up and switch groups. Move around the room.

Finally, I want to share with you that I am trying out something new as I type this today! I have been creating this post through Medium.com . Medium takes away the distractions of formatting and provides a blank white surface. Did it focus my thoughts? Perhaps. I did enjoy it, though! Visit the original post HERE.

Faculty Focus Email

Read this article about a teacher in a traditional classroom who set up online chat sessions through Google Doc to discuss their first draft of their composition. Simple. Easy. Many students prefer interacting via text rather than spending time in an office. Although face-to-face may be first choice in many instances, this is a good alternate choice!

Faculty Focus Email.

Navigate the Wild – Social Media

I recently read some interesting statistics concerning employers using social media for recruitment. As posted by Lisa Nielsen here, 92% of companies hiring use social media for recruiting. LinkedIn is #1, used by 93%, while Facebook is used by 66% and Twitter by 54%. As an educator in higher education, I see the need to educate students in social media skills. According to the figures, 1 of 3 employers reject candidates based on something they found in social media profiles. I know this is true! As a past principal, I had teachers posting information that would make a parent cringe.  One of the first steps in teaching about social media and digital citizenship is to understand what social media tools are out there. Here is a handy “field guide” to help you navigate the wild!

Navigating Social Media: A Field Guide

by Lemon.ly.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.