Thursday, December 17, 2009

Do you write more or type more?

Here's an interesting article I read today.  Since students spend more time using computers, cell phones and texting how often do students actually write with pencil and paper except for school?  Becuase of the use of technology in school how much time should teachers spend teaching cursive writing?

I remember spending a portion of every school day doing practice cursive writing, flowing letters neatly scripted to each line of the paper.  Many of us took pride in our cursive skills as if flowing cursive writing was a right of passage from little kid work to big kid work in school.  But todays' students are spending less time writing and more time texting.

By December 2008 110 billion text messages had been sent by cell phones.  I wonder how many letters were written on paper, poems composed in a notebook and thoughts from the heart were written in a diary in 2008?  Where does writing fit into the curriculum for today's students?  In some school districts teachers embed handwriting into writing for other subjects, according to Kathleen Reddy-Butkovich, curriculum coordinator for English language art in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.  Instead of taking time to do practice writing students write to complete subject assignments.

What do you think?  How often do you write with pencil and paper compared to using word processing or texting?  How important is penmanship in today's schools and in society?  Certainly we all need to be able to sign our names but how many of us sign our name in print?  How many of us sign our names in cursive and does it really matter?

Here's another thought - if you send thank you notes to people who give you presents at Christmas will you send a hand-written note or will you send them a text or email?  Surely I wasn't the only child who hand wrote thank you notes to all my relatives who gave me presents for Christmas and my birthday? 

How should writing be taught in schools today and should cursive writing still be taught? 

To read the entire article please go to:
Schools Adjust How Writing is Taught in Text Age

Image taken from the article (SUSAN TUSA/Detroit Free Press)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009

Jane Hart, Social Learning Consultant at Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (, has created a Slideshare presentation called Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009. As you look through this list, how many of these tools are you using with your students. Seventy-seven of these tools are free and can be used to enhance student learning and interactivity with the curriculum content being taught.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Girls Engaged in Digital-Game Design

Do middle school students spend too much time playing digital games?  If so, is there any value in what they are doing within those games?  There is a push to have all students, especially girls, to be more interested in STEM fields of study (science, technoloyg, engineering and math).  During the middle school years it's important to expose students to STEM careers as these students begin thinking about future careers and the classes they will need to take in high school. 

Girls and boys approach computers from different perspectives - boys enjoy being competitive and girls typically enjoy interacting with the characters and the environment of the game.  To meet this need "requires a much more sophisticated technology that has only been possible in recent years to create those kinds of games", according to Cornelia Brunner, the deputy director of the Center for Children and Technology at the Newton, Mass.-based Education Development Center.

Karen Peterson, the executive director of the Lynwood, Wash.-based Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, states, “The gaming industry understands that they need to attract girls and women. Games and the virtual world can be a really great hook for getting girls excited about STEM careers.”

How can teachers differentiate their instruction to better meet the diverse interests of boys and girls?

  1. Collaborative groups encourage girls to be leaders during instructional time.
  2. Provide a more face-to-face nurturing environment rather than a shoulder-to-shoulder environment found in a coed or boys' room.
  3. Consider comfortable seating - bean bag chairs or sofas.
  4. Challenge girls as much as the boys.
  5. Include the context surrounding the curriculum - who, what, why, when, where.
  6. Tie the lesson to real world situations.
  7. Encourage girls to ask questions in class.
  8. Provide opportunities for role-playing within the curriclum.
  9. Create a learning environment of openness and and understanding to encourage girls to take risks and be more willing to answer questions.
Strategies for Boys from
  1. Move around the room - front to back and side to side.
  2. Teach with a strong, loud, tone of voice.
  3. Frequently interrupt the lesson to directly ask questions of students.
  4. Provide clear instructions.
  5. Find non-fiction literature with strong main characters.
  6. Provide opportunitites to move and be flexible within the classroom.
  7. Use games or models to engage them in a serious conference.
  8. Use team competitions in academics.
  9. Remember that feeling-based questions are uncomfortable for boys.
To read the entire article please go to Digital Directions and read Getting Girls Engaged in Digital-Game Design.

To learn more about companies and schools who are making games for girls check out:
Universe Quest from the Hands On University Project

Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab

Her Interactive

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ED: Blended Learning Helps Boost Achievement

How is online instruction transforming education today? There are online learning programs that provide credit recovery, enrichment opportunities and core curriculum classes for students. Online learning also provides an alternative for students who do not like the traditional school environment.

A study conducted by SRI International found that online learning at the post-secondary level was more effective than face-to-face classes. Researchers also found that “blended learning needs to be more effective than conventional face-to-face instruction to justify the additional time and costs it entails.” The researchers also found that when students were given control of their interaction with the online environment and when students were prompted to reflect on what they learned, this did enhance the online learning outcomes.

Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning states, “the advantage of online or blended learning over face-to-face instruction alone ‘is the combination of rich student-teacher-peer communication and interactions that are both asynchronous and synchronous, better utilizing the precious resource of time during, and outside, the school day to maximize learning--and personalize it in a way never before possible.’”

Why does this blended model work best? The blended model possesses the factors that exemplify good teaching because of the, “increased interactions between students and teachers, increased depth of rigor and exploration into content, customized learning to meet the students exactly where they are in learning the lessons, better use of data to inform instruction, and providing additional student support to help personalize instruction by the teacher” according to Patrick.

To learn more about blended learning visit the International Association for K-12 Online Learning at

To read the entire ED: Blended Learning Helps Boost Achievement article please go to:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

E-Learning’s Gender Factor

We all know it’s important to differentiate instruction to better meet the needs of all students but how can this be done in an online environment Do we need to consider how to differentiate online learning environments for gender?

This month in Digital Directions Michelle R. Davis looks at how to differentiate instruction and increase relevance to gain kids’ interest and desire to learn. One research study in 2005 concluded that when given a choice girls chose to work collaboratively and were interested in partnerships on computers while boys wanted to work individually and wanted to compete. Girls in middle grades used the computer more for socialization and working on homework while boys played games and looked for entertainment.

Kelly King, the co-author of Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls: Elementary Level states that online courses for boys should include games, simulations, videos, be competitive with information presented in small chunks spread throughout the lesson. An online course for girls would include more information at the start of the lesson and collaboration would be stressed.

But not all boys are competitive and not all girls want to collaborate with other girls. So how can online courses meet the needs of all students? The key is customizing and differentiating instruction. Students today want to customize their music and TV viewing so students should be given a variety of ways to experience online classes and a variety of subject matters to learn, making sure all students are exposed to common core knowledge, according to Tom Carroll.

So as we look for ways to provide more digital content within the curriculum let’s look for ways to customize the digital content to make the learning environment successful for all students.

To read the entire article please go to Digital Directions:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strong Communication is Key to Successful Online Learning

How can teachers in an online environment ensure successful communication? There are four skills that every online teacher must have.
  1. An effective online teacher must be able to facilitate interaction and act as a motivator, guide, mentor and listener to the students.
  2. An effective online teacher needs to be responsive to student and parent questions by maintaining open communication.
  3. An effective online teacher must know web-based technologies that provide collaborative learning for the students.
  4. An effective online teacher must be knowledgeable in synchronous and asynchronous instruction.
In addition to the above skills iNACOL also looked at what communication practices and policies help to make a successful online school. The report focused on three types of communication:
  1. Communication between teachers and students.
  2. Communication between teachers and parents.
  3. Communication between students.
It is best for online teachers to have multiple ways to share information with parents and students since not all parents have access to technology. The iNACOL article found that:
  1. Online teachers need to be multifaceted, facilitating instruction through synchronous and asynchronous technology. Teachers need to also provide tutoring to students, lead discussions, and evaluate student activities.
  2. Online teachers need to utilize online communication, email and phone calls as needed.
To read the entire article from iNACOL please go to
Strong Communication is Key to Successful Online Learning
Posted October 6, 2009, by Allison Powell at iNACOL

Monday, October 12, 2009

It’s Time to Get Serious about Creativity in the Classroom

Freedom within a structure – what does that mean to you? How about making an assignment clear and focused, while allowing students the freedom to decide how to accomplish the task. That’s how an art teacher describes art as a creative place to develop creative minds.

When we ask students to learn long division the students are taught to follow certain steps that will help them understand how to arrive at the correct answer. That’s replication. When students are shown how to weave paper to make designs many students will replicate exactly what was shown. Students need some traditional learning to build valuable foundation skills and students need to develop creative minds.

According to the article one way to nurture and develop real creativity is to ask students to use their new skills to accomplish an assigned, more complex task and to allow students to be creative in the application of the new skills. Find ways that will allow all diverse learners to be successful. Structure assignments to allow students the freedom to be innovative and creative then watch what students will produce.

How can you develop creative minds in your class? What technology could your students use to think outside the box to complete more complex tasks and apply new skills?

To read the entire article please go to Edutopia:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can Retiring Boomers Transform Schools?

Teachers who retire from STEM fields could be placed in “learning teams” with classroom teachers to bring real-life lessons into the classroom instruction and give teachers some valuable support. That is the idea behind the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), to create powerful, learning environments for students.

With a workforce of 78 billion baby boomers who are healthy and well-accomplished NCTAF suggests pairing strong professionals in STEM fields with classroom teachers to create strong learning experiences for the students.

According to NCTAF there are three forces driving change in education:
  1. New Learning Age
    o Students need to develop skills in creativity and communication to be successful in a globally, integrated learning culture.
  2. Open Learning Economy
    o Many network learning opportunities are available for teachers and students that can provide user-driven and user-created content.
  3. Growing Number of Young Educators Learning the Profession
    o Many teachers in the first three to five years of teaching leave the profession because they feel unprepared, alone and unsupported. Other professional fields offer more opportunities for growth, to work in teams and collaborate.

NCTAF is looking for states that are adopting this 21st century strategy to be effective models for other states to follow. Think about the knowledge that STEM retirees have that could be combined with the fresh ideas and technology knowledge of our new teachers to see the possibilities of providing enhanced, real-world lessons to the students.

To read the entire article from eSchool News please go to:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Edutopia: Ten Top Tips for Teaching with New Media

Free resource from Edutopia

Here is a tips list from Edutopia on ways to make the most of the latest technologies and how to bring new media into the classroom. This is a list of practical ways to prepare students for 21st century success.

  1. Break the Digital Ice
    a. Scavenger hunts, name games, and other introductory activities help teachers and students get acquainted so they can start building a positive learning community. Give this important classroom tradition a 21st-century makeover by integrating digital tools.
  2. Find Your Classroom Experts
    . Early in the school year, survey your students to find out about their digital smarts. You can take advantage of their technical know-how in the classroom, too, if you know where to look for help
  3. Get Off to a Good Start
    Spend some time on self-management strategies now, and your investment will pay off all year long. A wide array of Web tools can help students get better at managing their own learning.
  4. Think Globally
    a. By using online resources and new media tools for connecting, you will help your students see themselves as global citizens. One of the fastest ways to expand your students’ horizon is simply to connect your class with students who live somewhere else in the world.
  5. Find What You Need
    Instead of digging into your own wallet, take advantage of online tools and community resources to find what you need—for nothing. One of the best-known programs is (, Public school teachers post a specific request on the Web site. Citizen philanthropists choose which requests they want to fund. Kids follow up with thank-you notes. What gets funded? Everything from musical instruments to picture books to classroom technology.
  6. Make Meaning from Word Clouds
    Encourage lively conversation about words with the help of tools that turn text into visual displays. Wordle ( is a free tool that turns a block of text, or simply a list of words, into a cloud pattern. Teachers across subject areas and grade levels are finding good uses for this simple-to-use tool. For example, as a prereading activity, you might use Wordle to highlight key vocabulary.
  7. Work Better, Together
    Collaboration is a skill your students will need for the future. To help them work better together today, try using collaborative workspaces in the classroom. Google Docs, part of the Google for Educators toolkit ( /tools.html), is one example of a secure, online place for managing work in progress. Once you help your students set up free accounts, they’ll be able to access their spreadsheets, documents, and presentations anytime, from any connected computer.
  8. Open a Back Channel
    Creating a back channel is one strategy for inviting everyone into the conversation. Think of a back channel as a private chat room just for your classroom. Using an instant-messaging tool like iChat or Twitter for microblogging (, students can pose questions, make observations while watching a video or student presentation, or share a dissenting viewpoint.
  9. Make It Visual
    From document cameras to projectors to interactive whiteboards, these technologies make it easier than ever to use visuals to inspire curiosity, generate brainstorming, and engage diverse learners. Across grade levels and subject areas, good visuals help students build background knowledge as they tackle new concepts. You can use images to set the stage for a story set in a remote place or a far-away time. Primary sources from the vast Library of Congress ( archives, for instance, help students “see” the time period for a story set during World War I.
  10. Use the Buddy System
    a. Teachers can take advantage of a variety of communication tools to share ideas and strategies with colleagues.
    b. Classroom 2.0 ( appeals to both new users of Web 2.0 tools and more experienced practitioners. It’s a good place to throw out a question and get some quick answers.
    c. social-bookmarking tools like Delicious ( enable you to organize, comment on, and share noteworthy resources.

To receive this free resource from Edutopia please sign up for the free e-newsletters at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class

Many times teachers are looking for ways to help students focus and stay on task. Here is a list of ten smart ways to increase classroom participation with a short example for each.
  1. Start class with a mind warm-up
    a. Ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board.
  2. Use movement to get students focused
    a. Have students join in simple choreographed physical movement.
  3. Teach students how to collaborate before expecting success
    a. Prior to an activity, create a teamwork rubric with students that reviews descriptions of desired norms and behaviors.
  4. Use quickwrites when you want quiet time and student reflection
    a. Have students do short journal-writing assignments to calm down.
  5. Run a tight ship when giving instructions
    a. Before speaking to the class, require (1) total silence, (2) complete attention, and (3) all five eyeballs on you (two eyes on their face, two eyes on their knees, and the eyeball on their heart).
  6. Use a fairness cup to keep students thinking
    a. As part of classroom management, the teacher should create a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, then its easier to use your fairness cup.
  7. Use signaling to allow everyone to answer your question
    a. To ensure that all students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions that every student must prepare at least one answer -- letting them know you expect an answer.
  8. Use minimal supervision tasks to squeeze dead time out of regular routines
    a. While passing out papers, ask students to do a quickwrite or to pair up and quiz each other on vocabulary words.
  9. Mix up your teaching styles
    a. To keep students involved and on their toes, try to move from teacher-centered learning to student-centered active learning, and vice versa.
  10. Create teamwork tactics that emphasize accountability
    a. By insisting that students "ask three before me," you make it clear that they are expected to seek assistance from all members of their team before they turn to you.

To gain more insight into these tips please read the entire article at Edutopia:

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Rise of Digital Textbooks

Is your school district ready for digital textbooks as part of 21st century learning? eSchool News looked at school districts who shared their motivations for a digital textbook program.

Since many textbook companies already provide electronic content along with supplemental and remediation content California is compiling a list of free, open digital textbooks that meet state-approved standards and will be available to high school math and science classes this fall. Just having computers in the classrooms isn’t enough; it’s how those computers are being utilized to enhance the learning for all students, empowering them with new skills.

The cost of purchasing textbooks has continued to rise and because the world is growing and changing as such a rapid pace many textbooks have outdated information by the time schools received them, not to mention the weight of some textbooks. Digital textbooks would cost less and could be easily updated through a single download of new information to the computers. Just as the world around our students is continually growing and changing so should the information digital textbooks would provide to the students. Schools wouldn’t have to wait till the next textbook adoption to provide current, real-world information to all students.

Marion County Public Schools in Florida decided to use digital textbooks as part of a three-year technology plan to provide wireless network access to all secondary schools. The school district also felt that digital texts will help keep the information current. As the world and information changes the digital textbooks could be updated quickly by downloading new information.

To read the entire article please go to eSchool News at:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eight Ways to Use School Wikis

With school just around the corner teachers are beginning to plan for next school year. One way that teachers can increase collaboration among their students is to use Wikis. Wikispaces can also be used to store digital materials, screencasts, presentations, PDFs and other content. Wikis are also a great way for teachers to collaborate and share within a school or school district. Let’s look at the eight ways to use wikis in your school.
  1. Decrease disruptions of instructional time
    a. Instead of everyone listening to all the announcements for an entire school, teachers can read over the principal created wiki and read only the announcements that apply to their students.
  2. Make meetings more efficient
    a. Team meetings and planning can be collaborated thru a wiki
    b. Each team can have their own team meeting page on the wiki site
  3. Collaborate on important documents
    a. Wikis are a great place to create, revise, and update the school education plan
  4. Enhance professional development
    a. All materials needed for professional development workshops can be housed in a wiki for the school
    b. Discussions can be created for each professional development workshops for teachers to extend their learning of the materials
  5. Share and collaborate on curriculum maps
    a. Teachers can collaborate and plan out their curriculum maps by subject, grade level or by school thru a wiki
  6. Save trees and time
    a. Many documents for the school can be housed in a wiki and teachers can access from the wiki printing only what they need
  7. A portal for all your lessons
    a. All lessons for a particular subject can be uploaded to a wiki where teachers can discuss, create and collaborate on the lesson plans throughout the school year
  8. How to get started
    a. Go to to learn more about creating a wiki for yourself, other teachers or for your school
    b. Do a search for Educational Wikis on the internet to see all the ways schools, teachers and students are using wikis

Article from Tech & Learning July 21, 2009
Eight Ways to Use School Wikis by Lisa Nielsen

The Morning Announcements

Do you remember morning announcements when you were in school? Not very exciting but times have changed with audio and video communication technologies. Many schools have learning stations, interactive boards, on-demand resources and Kiosk viewers in the halls. With all of this technology what is the best way to do the morning announcements?

Let’s look at three examples –

Formal Model
Some schools use a journalistic organizational approach with news meetings where the group discusses past, present and future stories for the morning announcements. The teachers who work with these students usually have a strong journalistic background. These high school students are producers, directors, reporters and anchors who were trained in middle schools. Many of these schools have production studios with students learning skills that can transfer to television and journalism jobs.

Informal Model
Each student has a job and usually rotates through the jobs to learn each position. Rather than a journalistic model these students produce a more expressive, democratic model. Students collect news from various sources including the Internet and present a more personal style to the morning news. These schools usually have a designated place to broadcast each morning using the computer, some type of camera and they show videos clips from earlier events. Somewhat scripted but certainly open to creativity and flexibility.

Morning Announcements as “Local News”

At some schools morning announcements are a unique blend of local news by students for students keeping them informed. It’s a presentation that meets the needs for that day. Throughout the school year many students will be involved with the morning news learning how to speak to the camera and present information to the school. These segments can be recorded that morning and presented as a short clip along with the principal's morning announcements for that day. Short, impromptu segments videoed by the teacher or other students for the next day's announcements.

Whatever style your school chooses it’s important for teachers to spend time teaching students how to create and present the morning news building their skills, confidence and understanding of how to use technology to create a presentation that best serves the school community. This is one way that schools and teachers can incorporate technology into the morning news and create opportunities for students to be involved in the learning process of creating and producing short informational presentations.

Article title: Morning Announcements – Reflections on a Timeless K-12 Ritual written by Michael Schoonmaker:

From School Video News: the For Teachers section.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 Ways to Become More Tech Savvy This Summer

Have fun checking out each of these tools and think about how you could integrate these tools into your lessons.

  1. Create a Video Vault
    a. Use Miro 2.0 (free open source HD video player and video podcast player) to select videos to use with classroom lessons. Save videos to a flash drive and you’re ready to content specific videos to your students.

  2. Using Photos
    a. Use Big Huge Labs to do fun things to photos, such as make posters or magazine covers.

  3. Creating Comics
    a. Turn pictures into a comic book by using Comic Life software or create storybooks or picture albums.

  4. Create a Wiki
    a. Wikis are a great place to organize, collaborate and share information with your students and staff. Try using PBWorks.

  5. Form a Questionnaire
    a. To help students understand content more deeply teachers need to question students. Try using SurveyMonkey to create professional online surveys for your students or staff.

  6. Share Snapshots
    a. Teachers can start a project within the school, district, or across the US by sharing images and information through Picasa, a free photo editing software from Google. Teachers can create photo web albums to share and students can enjoy adding pictures to the web albums.

  7. Survey a Situation
    a. By using Google Maps check our various locations your students will study this fall thru novels, social studies or historical events.

  8. Cache In
    a. Geocaching can be a great way for your students to find places they are studying. Geocaching uses a global-position-receiver that makes latitude and longitude come to life for your students.

  9. Know the News
    a. How great would it be for your students to read front page news items from around the world? To help students better understand the global economy think about using Newseum, an interactive online museum.

  10. Listen Up
    a. Have you ever wanted to set up a series of stories or poems for your students? By using Lit2Go teachers can select from free audio collections of public domain books to download for your students. Collections can be browsed by author, title, or database and can be downloaded as a PDF so students can read along while listening to the stories.

Take some time to browse through these great resources and think of all the ways these resources will motivate your students to be active, engaged learners.

Article from Edutopia The George Lucas Foundation – July 10, 2009:
Image from Microsoft Clip Art

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The UN's World Digital Library

Four years ago James Billlington, U.S. Librarian of Congress wanted to share cultural and educational data from the Library of Congress with anyone who had access to the Internet. On April 21, 2009, UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the Library of Congress unveiled the World Digital Library, a collection of 1,200 high-resolution digitized files that allows users to zoom in on ancient documents and archival photographs.

Resources may be searched by keywords, time period, place, type of item and the institution that contributed the data. Descriptions are given for the materials in seven languages while the documents are shown in their original languages. Currently there are books, journals, documents, photographs, audio and videos. There are currently 457 maps in the World Digital Library and I hope there are plans to continue adding cultural and educational data to this digital library.

Students and teachers can find interesting items like the first printed edition of a 16th-century Japanese novel called The Tale of Genji; a journal by Ferdinand Magellan kept from his voyage around the world; a panoramic view of Constantinople; to an early recording of Marseillaise, the national anthem of France.

To check out the new World Digital Library please click here or go to:

There are many ways that teachers and students could utilize this information to make learning more engaging and real world.

Article from Time Magazine April 22, 2009,8599,1892916,00.html

Image from the World Digital Library

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Global Competition: U.S. Students vs. International Peers

The U.S. has been leading a movement of discussion about the importance of educational technology and 21st Century Skills that all students need. But several countries are doing a better job of preparing students with technology skills which means that US schools could fall behind other countries in using educational technology to improve K-12 schools.

Australia, Britain, China and South Korea have launched plans to make sure students will know how to effectively use technology for learning and work. Developing countries such as India are making financial commitments to ensure that technology skills are taught in schools.

What makes the difference between U.S. students and international students? According to the article U.S. students know how to use cellphones, computer applications and multimedia equipment but they are not being taught to think critically about what they present, how to analyze content or how to employ tools for specific tasks and problems. Students are not receiving consistent, engaging, comprehensive instruction in how to apply technologies to the kinds of assignments given in schools or the workplace.

According to Donald G. Knezek schools need to instill critical thinking, analytical and technology skills as well as creativity, collaboration and communication into the curriculum. According to the article many states in the US have become more deliberate in infusing technology into the curriculum since the No Child Left Behind Act but states have been left to figure out how to reach this goal. How can schools help students gain “technology literacy”? How can schools engage students to use technology for more than Web research or as a presentation tool?

Here are several sources of information for teachers:
ISTE’s Educational Technology Standards for Students

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – Framework for 21st Century Learning

Intel Education Programs and Resources

Benefits of Technology Literacy Projects

Teachers: Content Literacy

Article from Digital Directions - June 16, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Online School for Girls Launches This Fall

This will be the first ever online school in secondary education for girls. The online school was developed by a consortium of independent all-girls’ schools.

The four private schools that will offer the pilot courses next school year are: Harpeth Hall School located in Nashville, Tennessee, a 5th – 12th grade college preparatory school; Holton-Arms School located in Bethesda, Maryland, a 3rd – 12th grade college preparatory school; Laurel School located in Cleveland, Ohio, a K – 12th grade college preparatory school; and Westover School located in Middlebury, Connecticut, a selective boarding school for 9th – 12 grade girls.

Currently 44 states have some type of virtual secondary schools but none of these virtual schools specifically address the educational needs of girls. Ann Pollins, President of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools stated, “We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, twenty-first century academic experience.”

The Online School will offer two pilot courses this fall with four additional courses being offered spring semester of 2009-2010 school year. The Online School will focus on several key principles based on current research on how girls learn best: emphasizing connections among participants; incorporating collaboration into the learning experience; inspiring and rewarding creativity; and engaging in real-world problems and applications.

In the future the Online School will provide an online education that is flexible, affordable and accessible to a diverse, worldwide student base including students who need a flexible school schedule, students who are home schooled, or students who need opportunities for challenging and/or unique coursework.

To read the complete article from Harpeth Hall School:
To read the complete article from Nashville Business Journal
Image from Microsoft Clip Art

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Online Games for Learning

Online games have been described as casual games, serious games and advergames but to teachers and parents what do these labels mean?

Casual Games
Casual Games are designed for entertainment. Some casual games are preloaded on computers such as Solitaire while other casual games are downloaded. Learning can occur but mostly casual games are for fun.

Serious Games
Serious games are designed for learning. Simulations, military training, corporate education, health care are just a few ways games are designed for learning. It’s easy to find educational games on the internet from pre-school to university level. Serious games are categorized by genre, complexity, and platforms building maturity and learning.

Serious games focus on specific learning outcomes that can be measured. But do these serious games really promote learning? When the game design is focused on learning outcomes, then learning is possible. According to Mary Jo Dondlinger a game that motivates players to spend time on tasks mastering the skills of the game, is time spent stimulating learning outcomes. Even some casual games like EVE Online can produce real learning outcomes. One player from EVE Online stated that once he had managed a virtual corporation that spanned a universe he could easily manage a real corporation.

Computer games with 3D graphics are being used in the workplace, for recruitment, to improve communication and train employees at all levels. The military trains soldiers using “virtually real” environments where soldiers build teams and prepare personnel for specific missions. One of the most popular games online today is America’s Army.

Advergames are a combination of casual and serious games and have been used as a form of marketing for movies and television shows. Advergames are sometimes the most visited section of brand websites promoting repeated traffic and reinforcing the brand.

But what does this mean for education in public schools?
A virtual learning environment needs to encourage content exploration, be learner-centered and individualized. Our digital native students prefer to:
  • Receive information quickly
  • Multitask
  • View pictures and videos
  • Interact and network with others
  • Receive instant gratification and rewards
  • Learn information that is relevant, useful and fun

Digital learners today need online learning that is stimulating and develops critical skills. Once successful program is DiDA Delivered, a diploma program in IT skills for secondary students in the UK. To check out the site please click here:
The curriculum for this program includes 4,000 learning objects and 300 serious games and teachers can develop their own content to add to the learning environment. DiDA looks similar to Second Life and Active Worlds.

Considering that children ages 8-18 spend at least 50 minutes per day playing video games education needs to provide stimulating, learning environments where students acquire 21st century skills necessary for today’s workforce. To do this learning designers and game designers need to work together to provide a more engaging and effective learning environment for all students incorporating social networking, and other Web 2.0 technologies.

To learn more about online games for learning please read the entire article Serious Games: Online Games for Learning at:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who are the Virtual Students in Your Class?

Here is an interesting article to think about. As face-2-face teachers we all have ways to encourage class participation, behavior and time on task but how does this work in an online class? Who are the other students in an online class when students are enrolled from across the state or around the world?

Meet Jane Malan, a thirty-something part-time school teacher interested in languages. Jane was given the duty of being the second facilitator in an online class contributing to theoretical and technical assignments, and at times giving advice to students in the course. Jane seemed to know how to model collaborative behaviors the students could follow and she regularly participated in the “social” posts. I guess some would say she was the model student, or was she?

Jane Malan was placed in the online course to start discussions among the students, encourage others to stay with the course, and to participate in all discussions including the social posts. I imagine the other students liked her but Jane wasn’t real. Jane was a “ghost student” created by the instructor of the course and Jane was controlled by the instructor.

At the end of the course the instructor revealed Jane’s identity. The instructor wanted to answer two questions by “infusing” Jane into the course:
  1. How does a virtual student enhance online community?
  2. How do students feel about the ethical issues of instructor’s hiding and then disclosing the identity of a virtual student?

I’ve taken online courses and I began to wonder if any of the other students in those past courses were “ghost students” and how would I know? My next thought was why did the instructor feel she had to create a ghost student for the course? The instructor called her Methical Jane, the combination of mythical and ethical created to improve students’ online learning success. The instructor rationalized that if an online course had ineffective facilitation or lack of communication the students’ success and performance would be lower. Also a controlling instructor could weaken online communication and lower students’ success.

I do not see the rationale behind the instructor choosing to create Jane Malan and there is definitely an ethical issue of trust between the instructor and the students. Considering that students should follow proper netiquette when posting to an online class the instructor should already have the ability to monitor forums, blogs, assignments and other postings. So why be a ghost student?

If the instructor is worried about the quality and quantity of collaboration and communication between the students then the instructor needs to be better trained and prepared to teach online without resorting to “ghost students” selectively placed in a class. Another ethical issue would be the idea that an instructor could become a “ghost student” in a colleague’s course. For what reason? To spy? To take information from a colleague’s course to use in their course? To find a way to defame the colleague and/or their teaching practices?

This study raised a lot of ethical questions for me. More than I can ask in one short blog posting. So I invite you to read the entire study and the short summary article to see what ethical questions you have and to ask that you share your thoughts on the issue of “ghost students” in an online course?

To read the entire student please go to:
Methical Jane: Perspectives on an Undisclosed Virtual Student

To read a summary article outlining the study please go to:
Chronicle of Higher Education

Monday, June 1, 2009

10 Most Dangerous Things Users Do Online

I recently listened to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. One of the characters was Lisbeth Salalander who was a computer hacker and quite good. She was able to completely take over a person’s computer, follow a trail of money, find bank codes and was able to transfer money from the bad guys’ accounts to new personal accounts she set up. I began to wonder if I was doing all I could to protect my computer from being hacked or becoming a victim of identity theft?

We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t give out too much information on the Internet so I thought with summer vacation fast approaching it would be a good time to remind people how to stay safe on the Internet.

When you think about all the people who will be on vacation this summer with lots of free time you know some of those people will be looking at ways to hack into computers or take part in identity thief. Just type in “computer hacking” or “how to steal someone’s identity” and see how many results you get.

Here is a list of the ten most dangerous things users do online from School CIO dated May 29, 2009:
  1. Clicking on email attachments from unknown senders
    a. Email attachments are still the easiest way to contract viruses on your computer.
  2. Installing unauthorized applications.
    a. If you can buy and download a software application for $19.95 that sells for much more you’re probably not getting a bargain and the application may have hidden malware or Trojan viruses.
  3. Turning off or disabling automated security tools
    a. Even though some security tools may slow down the performance of your computer it’s not a good idea to ignore security updates or just turn off the firewall. This opens up your computer for attacks from malware or viruses.
  4. Opening HTML or plain-text messages from unknown senders
    a. HTML text and images may be infected with spyware. Other HTML files may contain Java Scripts or macros that allow an unknown person to gain control of your computer turning the computer into a botnet zombie.
    b. A botnet zombie also known as a zombie army is a group of Internet computers that have been set up to forward transmissions, spams and/or viruses to other computers on the Internet without the owners knowledge. Basically your computer becomes a computer robot or “bot” for the originator who gains control of your computer.
  5. Surfing gambling, porn or other legally-risky sites
    a. Most workplaces restrict Internet access to risky sites through content filters. Your home computer doesn’t have the same level of filters and restricted access and many of these legally-risky sites put your computer at risk. When you visit these risky sites a cookie is placed in your computer. That cookie can trigger pop-ups to start appearing when you’re on the Internet – pop-ups of inappropriate advertisements. Systematically deleting the cookies on your computer will help.
  6. Giving out passwords, tokens or smart cards
    a. You may have to use a smart card or security token at work but how do you keep your password from family and friends? Simple – don’t give it out. A family member or friend may decide to “look around” and you could become a victim of identity theft.
  7. Random surfing of unknown, untrusted sites
    a. Surfing unknown sites can make your computer vulnerable to adware and spams because hackers like to crack into browser securities, One way to protect your computer would be to surf with active content disabled.
  8. Attaching to an unknown, untrustworthy WiFi network
    a. Sitting at a quiet restaurant using a free WiFi connection may be a nice respite this summer but what about the guy in the next booth who may be hacking into your laptop using that same free WiFi network?
    b. Be aware that wireless cards that use Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) are easy for hackers to get your username and password.
  9. Filling out Web scripts, forms or registration pages
    a. A lot of sites today use some type of security such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to provide security when making purchases or giving out sensitive information so if you’re not sure a website is secure call the company and speak to a representative before giving out personal information. Also look for websites that begin with https which are more secure.
  10. Participating in chat rooms or social networking sites
    a. One of the biggest problems with social networks is the amount of information someone can learn about you by simply searching. Hackers can find out where you work, your business partners, names of family members, where you live and even when you plan to take a vacation. Even using a “closed circle” won’t keep out people who are looking for information so be careful how much information you share in a chat room or social network.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Creating Cities of the Future

Remember the movie WALL-E? Everyone was evacuated from Earth to live on a fully automated luxury spaceship to spend five years on a cruise in space while the earth was cleaned up by an army of robots - WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class). But in the movie the earth is still covered in trash seven hundred years later. Could this really happen? Can man build a spaceship that could sustain life in outer space for seven hundred years?

Children watch cartoons and movies with elaborate futuristic worlds all the time. What if you asked students to create a new city for the future? Where would students choose to build a city? What would the city be like? How would the city be built? Would students create a city where everything could be easily controlled by computers? What would students include in their cities – housing, food, schools, entertainment, and jobs? Lots of questions.

Do you think only cartoons and movies have futuristic worlds? Let’s look at The Seasteading Institute:
In February the Seasteading Institute announced a contest for architects, engineers, students and hobbyists to design a seastead, a permanent, stationary structure that is specifically designed for long-term living in a marine environment. Participants were given a patented 3-D model of a seasteading platform to create an architectural design. The winners were announced May 18, 2009.

Check out these winning designs:

How can teachers bring real-world projects like this to their students? What software could teachers use to help students create future cities and worlds? How about Google SketchUp?
Students can create 3D models and share them with their friends. There are Training Videos, a warehouse of models that people have created to give students ideas, and a section that covers a list of features. Teachers can access the K-12 SketchUp for Educators section to learn about the free version and the Pro version.

Teachers and students can begin with the self-paced tutorials to learn the concepts of modeling with SketchUp from Google. Check out this Introduction to SketchUp:
Other tutorials are located here:

To help you get started check out the 3D Vinci site for K-12 ideas using SketchUp.

Google image found at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Advanced Thinking in Digital Storytelling

The Creative Educator Spring 2009

The foundation of any digital story begins with a good story, one with a point of view, a dramatic question, and emotional content. Bringing the story to life for the reader through the words of the story should be more important that all the transitions, visual and audio effects, background music and text styles that the students can add to the digital story. As an example of visual effect, instead of writing “He was walking down the street,” the student may choose verbs and adjectives to describe how a character was walking down the street, “With his head held high and slightly cocked to the side, teeth clenched, and shoulders back he strutted down the street like he owned the town” draws the reader into the story allowing the reader to be a more active participant.

Once a story is mapped out on a storyboard the students will be able to decide which technology tool will best add the effects, transitions and sounds to best bring their stories to life. If the students are using still images to illustrate their stories, panning and zooming can add a certain impact and dynamic feel to the story. But transitions can be a problem. Help students understand there should be a reason for using transitions to tell the story, not distract from the story. A great story could be lost to the viewer because the students crammed all the effects they could into the finished product. Just because they knew how to add all those effects doesn’t mean that those effects added anything to the story. Students need to learn that less is more.

So what about the background music? Does the story need music to give a dramatic impact to the story? The background music should set the tone, add to the pacing of the story and augment the emotional content of the story, not distract from the story. Let the students’ own voice personalize the story and also help students to decide what sounds, soundtracks, or sound effects can best enhance their stories.

The main focus in digital storytelling should be the writing experience with the technology as a tool to enhance and bring the story to life. There are many tools that students can use:
Audacity for podcasting the story
PhotoStory 3 to enhance the story with images and music
Movie Maker to add images, video and music to the story
Voice Thread to allow other students to add their comments to the story and the images
PowerPoint presentations

To read the entire article please goes to Spring 2009 edition of the magazine.

Virtually Restored Egyptian Temple

Students who are studying Egypt and the Ancient Temple of Karnak can now virtually visit the temple. Thanks to the University of California, at Los Angeles team who created the “Digital Karnak” students can visit a three-dimensional 69- acre site that’s filled with temples, gateways, obelisks and 100 sphinxes dating back to 1951 B.C. to 31 B.C.

Similar virtual sites have been created by this team – Rome Coliseum, Roman Forum and Pompeii’s Villa of the Mysteries. These virtual models can be seen through Google Earth. To read the complete article pleas go to:

So let’s look at Digital Karnak with Google Earth. Teachers and students will download the link to the desktop of the computer and once Google Earth is launched the file should appear in the left sidebar. No special hardware or software is needed. Begin by clicking on this link:

Students will be able to trace the development of the temple from the Middle Kingdom (1950 BCE) through the Greco-Roman Period (31 BCE). The model shows the chronological change in the temple as it was being built.

To access the Digital Karnak click here: Once you have arrived select from one of the following sections to begin your adventure.
1. Time Map
2. Experience Karnak
3. Browse Archive
4. Google Earth

There is also a large gallery of pictures at the Temple Complex Overview link found on the Digital Karnak page. What a great way to have your students take a field trip !!!

Image from Google Earth and the Digital Karnak:

Technology Integration

In March of last year Edutopia published an article on technology integration. Several points were made from the article:
  • Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning:
    o active engagement
    o participation in groups
    o frequent interaction and feedback
    o connection to real-world experts
  • Technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine.
  • Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like.
  • Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they've found online.

The goal is to effectively integrate technology into subject areas by allowing teachers to grow into roles as advisers, content experts, and coaches to the students. Technology should help to make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.

Fast forward to April 2009, how are we using technology in the schools today? Take a look at this video from one high school in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Video Source:

What is your school doing to integrate technology into your curriculum?

To read the entire article:
Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many

To learn more about what works in public education please go to:
Edutopia - The George Lucas Educational Foundation

3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction

The April edition of The Journal posted an article that dealt with the benefits and instructional uses of wikis to engage students. A wiki should promote evaluating, synthesizing, elaborating, analyzing, problem solving, decision making, knowledge, base construction, argumentation/justification and learning communities according to Wake Forest University.

So how can teachers use wikis to ensure higher levels of engagement with students? Three challenges were presented.
  1. Creating meaningful assignments: a wiki assignment should be collaborative with all students participating to complete the assignment. The process and outcome should depend on the collaborative success of the students. Some examples would be –
    a. The assignment is open and not closed
    b. The assignment requires participation
    c. The assignment uses the participation to move forward
  2. Grade Value for Constructed Input: a student’s grade should reflect their active participation within the wiki as well as the final product. Some examples would be –
    a. Working with and building on existing information
    b. Inputting new information
    c. Synthesis of ideas and relevant use
  3. Collective knowledge use: learning takes place for the students when they are able to apply what they have learned in some meaningful way. Some examples would be –
    a. Non-complex problems
    b. Preset solutions
    c. Inadequate time allowed for the recess

Wikis can provide an effective way for students to engage in higher-level thinking skills through collaborative learning. Teachers will need to plan carefully when and how to use wikis encouraging students to explore content, discover new information and work together towards a solution and/or final product. By using a problem-based approach students should acquire the skills needed for higher-level processing skills and complex problem solving skills.

To read the full article please go to:
Article written by Ruth Reynard: "3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction," T.H.E. Journal, 4/1/2009,

Technology Empowers Differentiated Instruction

Technology offers a great potential to help students and prepare them with 21st century skills but how does that same technology help teachers differentiate instruction for all students? In January of this year ISTE provided several examples of classroom projects that helped students learn while keeping them engaged.

Certainly students enjoy school better and learn more with they are being taught in ways that respond to their readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. Teachers can better meet these needs by changing four elements of their instruction: content, process, product, and learning environment. Teachers can differentiate their instruction by changing some of their instructional strategies, management strategies and including software applications, video streaming, the Internet and other technology resources. Differentiated Instruction should include digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity which should lead to better student achievement.

One way teachers can better understand their students is to do an interest inventory, survey, observations or interviews. You can check out Survey Monkey at:,
Free Online Surveys at
Zoomerang at

Differentiated Strategies
  1. Tic-tac-toe board of activities where students choose to demonstrate their understanding of a topic by making a choice from the board. To learn more about tic-tac-toe boards go to
  2. I-Search – students work individually or in pairs using the internet and other research tools to investigate a topic of interest. A couple of examples:
    a. I-Search Unit –
    b. I-Search Curriculum Unit –
    c. Webbe template and storyboard –
  3. WebQuests - students work collaboratively using web research tools to investigate a teacher-designed topic of interest. Examples:
    a. WebQuest page –
    b. Pre-Writing a Webquest –
    c. WebQuest Maker –
  4. R.A.F.T.T. – this strategy integrates reading and writing in a non-traditional way with students creating a product that illustrates their understanding.
    a. R.A.F.T.T. stands for:
    i. Role – the role of the character
    ii. Audience – audience for the product
    iii. Format – the way a student choose to show their understanding
    iv. Topic – the final product: who, what, when where, how
    v. Technology – software application used by the student
    b. What is R.A.F.T.T. –
  5. Jigsaw – students are assigned a subtopic of a particular topic of study within a group. Students research their subtopic and then “jigsaw” with other subtopic experts from the other groups to produce information about the subtopic. Once complete the student returns to the original or “home” group to share their knowledge. The home groups can build a wiki to share the information learned.

    For more information about differentiating instruction using technology go to

Ocean Explorer Brings Undersea Science to Life

Robert Ballard founder of the JASON Project

The JASON Project connects students with explorers during live sea expeditions to motivate and excite students about science. It’s called “telepresence” technology that enables an unmanned robot submarine to stay in the ocean 24-7. If a robot submarine finds a major discovery – maybe a lost city or sunken ship - experts in the scientific fields can be at a command center within 20 minutes, remotely controlling the submarine and its cameras. Through a live production studio students will be able to experience these breakthroughs.

How is this possible? Fiber-optic cables will transmit video feeds from cameras on the robot submarines to a command center at the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography. Other command centers are being built at 11 other oceanography institutes across the country which are linked through the ultra high-speed Internet2. National Geographic is spending $11 million to help build the live production studio.

Students at Internet2 connected schools will be able to view the remote camera images from the sea floor and listen to live conversations among the scientists. Rhode Island middle schools are connected to Internet2 and the district is building remote command centers in the school libraries. With this access the students will be able to see firsthand the explorations and be able to remotely control the submarines. How cool is that?

According the Robert Ballard the reason for targeting the JASON Project to middle graders was simple – he wants the future stars to be scientists and educators and if students aren’t interested in science by eighth grade he doesn’t think they will become interested in the upper grades.

To learn more about the JASON Project go to:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How will YOU see the future? How will OTHERS see you in the future?

When my father was ill in 2003 the doctors gave him a disposable pill-sized camera to swallow that would record pictures from inside. I was fascinated by the camera and I really wanted to see how this camera worked and how the pictures would be downloaded from the camera, but my father wouldn’t let me touch the camera, he just swallowed it with a huge glass of water. So much for my curiosity.

Fast forward to today. Rob Spence, a documentary filmmaker who lost one of his eyes due to a childhood injury, now wants to replace his prosthetic eye with a high-tech wireless web-connected video camera. He calls himself Eyeborg. His current prosthetic eye is not an orb but a soft material that sits on a peg that was surgically implanted inside the opening. Right now there is a team of people working to make him an eye camera with a miniature lenses and a wireless transmitter. Once the team can make a powerless solution and a wireless solution for the eye camera Rob will have a bionic eye.

How will this eye camera affect the future of optical robotics? One member of the team thinks this camera will lay the groundwork for curing blindness. Could someone who is blind be able to see again using ocular technology? Others on the team think this will give people the ability to record everything they see and experience.

Please watch the video for this amazing eye camera ocular technology.

Please visit the Eyeborg Project website for more details.

Eye image from Microsoft clipart
Disposable camera image from Google Images
Eye Camera screenshot from Spacecast video

A Foundational Structure for Learning

David Warlick spoke about the “Native Information Experience” for digital learners at the NCTIES conference last week in Raleigh, NC. He spoke about how school leaders and teachers are finding ways to implement learning 2.0 with their students.

David spoke about the eight characteristics of networked and digital information experiences that teachers need to bring to their classrooms from observing the outside-the-classroom informational experiences that defines the unique networked, digital, information culture of today’s students.

These eight “Native Information Experiences:

  1. Are responsive – authentic, personal experiences of sending out and receiving responses from others. Receiving responses from others being the payback for the students.
  2. Measures Accomplishments – by the audience and comments from their friends.
  3. Values Safely Make Mistakes – students learn by failing; they will keep doing something until its right.
  4. Demands Personal Investment – students invest a lot of cumulative time in their informational experiences.
  5. Values Personal Experience and Identity – students need to be part of a social group, sharing and learning from others.
  6. Rewards with Audience and Attention – audiences have to be earned. Rewards for the students come from having other see what they are doing. One site was mentioned concerning rewards and audiences – Fan Fiction where students write and add chapters to an online story.
  7. Provokes Communication – through technology students carry their friends with them all the time always communicating.
  8. Are Fueled by Questions – many students are not afraid to ask questions

Understanding the informational experiences of our students will help schools and teachers achieve learning 2.0 in their classrooms – having students create, communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, and be engaged learners will cultivate new learning experiences. Teachers need to use the many web 2.0 tools that are available – wikis, blogs, Flickr, ePals, RSS feeds, social bookmarks, social networks, VoiceThread, Audacity, PhotoStory 3, Movie Maker, Animoto and others to enrich the learning experiences of all students.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

So You Want to Teach Online

What steps should you take to change face-2-face
course content to online content?

First you will need to know what course management system (CMS) your school system is using. Is your school system using Moodle, Blackboard or WebCT? Take time to learn the features of the CMS, the interactive components, the gradebook and decide what features would work best for your course content. If there are features missing that you would like to use, then look for free Web 2.0 tools such as Flickr, Google Blogger, Webpaint, VoiceThread or other free online tools.

The modules of the CMS form the navigational structure of the course so make sure to know the layout of the CMS your school system will be using. Now begin to organize your course content into the modules. To make this easy use a concept mapping tool such as Inspiration, Microsoft Word or just map out the course with pencil and paper. Make sure each module of the online course focuses on the goals and objectives of the curriculum. There are three areas the course should be organized around – course materials, discussions and assignments/activities. Make sure to include completion times for each course task to help students plan time to complete all work.

Let’s look at each area:
Course Materials. Course materials can be web sites, video clips, PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, online articles or lecture notes. Remember to find ways to differentiate the instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Discussions. A discussion board is one of the primary tools for connecting with the students to see how well they understand key concepts of the course. Make sure discussion questions require students to engage in higher-order thinking. Also, think of ways to use the discussion board to motivate the class and remember that teachable moments will occur in the discussion board. Use a detailed scoring rubric for the discussion board so students know the expectations required for postings.

Assignments/Activities. Think about listing all assignments, due dates and scoring rubrics in a downloadable document to help students stay organized and to make sure they understand expectations. Make sure students know the file formats accepted for posting assignments. Instructors should not have to spend a lot of time trying to open student assignments from various software applications. Think about using a Frequently Asked Questions forum where students can ask questions about the course and assignments.

Once the content modules are created and organized, decide how many modules to make available to students at a time. Post modules weekly to prevent students from jumping ahead while allowing students time to post missed assignments from the past weeks. It’s also helpful to make sure students have a complete understanding of the past modules before working on future modules.

Whether posting complete courses or supplemental materials online for a face-2-face course, instructors will need to know the technology skills of the students. Instructors can prepare a student information sheet listing the necessary technology skills for the students. Make sure to outline all course expectations for the students letting them know that online courses usually need more time than face-2-face courses. Even though online courses are accessible 24 hours a day, students need to know they should expect responses to assignments and other postings within a time period set by the instructor.

If your school system offers online courses and/or online supplemental materials it would be helpful for students to complete an orientation to familiarize them with the online course software and the navigational structure of online courses. As students work through the online materials always look for ways to improve the course, making note of what worked well and what changes are needed. At the end of the online course provide students with a course evaluation to help decide if the online course met the objectives for the course.

Once an instructor decides to remake a face-2-face course to an online course there are many helpful resources. Here are just a few resources.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Moodle or Not to Moodle?

Since I am learning about Moodle and building a Moodle site for our school district I thought I would explore Moodle sites this week. Moodle was developed as free open-source e-learning software that helps people create online courses for students and adults. So how are other people using Moodle outside of public school or college education?

Here is a short list of some of the interesting sites I found in the United States at:

And last but not least I couldn't resist including this site:

  • After School Hackers: – OK, I know what you’re thinking and so did I at first, but this is actually a site for school-aged children to learn computer programming. This site is for a specific school district so I wasn’t able to log in as a guest but what a great idea – fun learning for students after school.

There are over 10,000 registered Moodle sites just in the United States so this is just a small sampling of the various ways that people are using Moodle. Realize that most of these sites require a person to log in which means creating a Moodle account. Just because you may already have a Moodle account for a course or school district doesn’t mean you can automatically log into another site. But you can continue to use the same username, email address and password for each Moodle account you create.

We should all be lifelong learners and the Internet along with Moodle is creating many online learning opportunities for people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Low Tech Meets High Tech

Stop motion animation is a process where someone creates an armatured, poseable puppet that is brought to life in a movie by slowly moving the puppet in small increments and filming one frame of film per increment. Sound’s hard doesn’t it and a little boring.

But there are several excellent films that have been created by using armatured, poseable puppets. Two films were produced by Tim Burton, Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993 and Corpse Bride in 2005. Recently Coraline was released as a new 3-D stop motion animation movie based on a Neil Gaiman novella.

So why use stop motion animation? It takes years to produce a movie, lots of building miniature sets, and lots of puppet parts. For Jack Skellington’s face there were at least 25 different heads each with a different facial expression. The small scene sets have to be created in detail and filmed from every angle. Some of you may wonder why people would work for several years just to produce one movie. People like Tim Burton do this type of work because they have a passion for animation and ways to bring animation to life. Every child has had a doll, animal or toy that they brought to life in their mind everyday when they played. Disney has brought many animated characters to life in movies for children and adults to enjoy.

Today the low tech aspect of creating poseable puppets or spending hours drawing animated characters has blended with high tech computer graphics and digital medias to produce visually entertaining 3-D movies like Coraline and Shrek.

So what does all this mean for students today? In North Carolina there are two good film schools for students. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has a film studies program that prepares students for careers in film production. This program is the third largest film production center in the United States, which is also a part of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest film studio outside of Hollywood. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts also has a School of Filmmaking which prepares students for careers in traditional film production and digital medias.

For students in Forsyth County, Reynolds High School will be offering a new “Arts for Academics” program this fall that will teach animation. The three courses are:
  1. Animation – to introduce students to the many types and techniques of animation
  2. Introduction to Art / Foundations (Art One) – to provide an overview and emphasis on the elements and principles of art and design.
  3. Electronic Media – to show students how the computer may be used as an art making tool through programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash.

Any student can learn about stop motion animation through websites like

Clay Animator that teaches about clay animation and stop motion animation. Students can learn about the art and science of creating, animating, and editing clay and stop motion animation projects. The website also demonstrates the stop motion animation techniques by using interactive tutorials, lessons, pictures and videos and the site offers a list of suggested animation software. Check it out the dancing figure at

Images found at Clay Animator: