Archive for the ‘Online Teaching and Learning’ Category

Top 5 Takeaways from the iLearn Conference

March 5, 2018

iLearn icon

As is my habit, anytime I attend a conference I share out my top takeaways/learnings. The iLearn Collaborative Conference was held in Denver last month. Here are my top five takeaways, based on my experience and interests.

1. Authentic Video
I often recommend that teachers/facilitators create and post personal “selfie” videos to introduce modules in their online courses.  Jessica Glynn from Denver Online High School took this concept and modeled three crucial elements in her video.  First, she was authentic.  Her video was direct and unedited.  The minor flaws gave it an authentic feel-not rehearsed or perfect.  Secondly the video gave the students the impression that she was “present” in the moment and in the course.  Videos like these are essential in maintaining instructor presence throughout an online course.  Thirdly, in something that surprised me, she not only modeled self-reflection but also lifelong learning as she shared a discovery she had learned in a PD session she attended.  With Jessica’s permission, you too can see the video example here.

2. Close Reading Tools
Jessica Glynn also shared her online approach to close readings-a protocol that is very popular with my literacy friends. Students are given three choices on how to participate: Join teacher-led small group in person, join teacher-led small group via Zoom,or read independently and use the tool Nowcomment. This was the first time I had seen NowComment.  It looks like a fantastic tool to facilitate discussion around a text.  I know this is something you could do in Google Docs, but NowComment has additional features such as giving you a quick count of the comments.

3.  The Science of Online Learning
When I saw, in advance, the presentation deck from Erika Twani and Bryan Goodwin I quickly changed my schedule and headed to their room.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The core of their message is this four step process:
1.     Interest -What do I know, What do I want to know?
2.    Research -Searching for and processing information
3.    Develop Skills -Exercises, Problem solving, Creativity
4.    Relating -How can I apply this to my life
I had some time to work with Joy Schnabel, an English teacher and I came up with this possible sequence for her students:
Have students choose a place to go on vacation.
Research the location.
Vet sources on the internet-what is valid info?
Create a brochure (or a video, audio, essay, letter) to convince their parents to take them there.
Using this sequence, students get a chance to create an alternative assessment and flex their online/multimedia skills.  It’s a win-win!

4.  Innovator Keynote
Catlin Tucker delivered the keynote on day two of the conference. Catlin has kids ditch traditional notebooks and instead document their learning with photos, videos, and writing online. She believes in creating an authentic audience for her students, connecting them with community member panels for large scale projects.  They ask the tough questions of the students.  When students know there is an actual audience, it is a powerful incentive. Her kids also go to TEDEdClubs and produce TED talks. This is a teacher who is not afraid to take risks, challenge and trust her students. She is definitely someone to follow. You can find her on Twitter @Catlin_Tucker

5.  Edcamp 2.0
Jeri Crispe, Chastity Stringer, and Dodi Schrader are from the Thompson School District. They were excited by attending an Edcamp (as I have been) and decided to roll out a localized version to their teachers. First they generated topics by surveying the teachers.
They produced a video to explain the Edcamp process. They listened and planned with educators with Edcamp experience.  Via email, flyers, and face-to-face interactions, they recruited presenters/facilitators. Finally, they designed an online session board and provided space and food. They call it 2.0 because it is their second iteration. They made sure there was a facilitator for each session, someone with a little bit of expertise.
And, in something that makes me very happy, they leverage Schoology for sharing the session materials.  I believe everyone who has Schoology should do this for conferences and professional development, even when it’s face-to-face.
Their new design for PD includes:
Outcomes determined by the learner
Teachers share expertise
Learn something new
Apply the new learning
Evidence-based reflection to inform practice and next steps

Well, that’s my roundup of the iLearn Conference in Denver. I’ve made myself a promise to submit a proposal to present next year at this and several other conferences. I’ll let you know how that goes. I hop you get to attend some conferences and share your learning as well.

Taking Off with RocketBook

February 2, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 11.17.39 AMI’ve really revved up my year without paper/printing with the purchase of a Rocketbook.  It is rapidly allowing me to leave paper behind. This quick promo video gives you the idea behind the innovation:

I’ve been using it for a month now and have found no downsides.  It has been scanning and erasing flawlessly and everyone seems interested in it when I use it in front of them. The book costs between 20 and 30 dollars, but the app is free.  I’ve set it up to send material to my work email, personal email, work Google folder and my team’s Slack channel.  By purchasing the larger format book, I can also scan paper documents in an instant.  I’ve scanned documents, notes and even objects!  This is a major game-changer for anyone wanted to save paper like me and my team.  We’re thinking about giving them out as gifts to teachers and leaders!  Here’s the process:

I set up my scan destinations.

destination assignment

I decide what I want to scan.

Handwritten erasable notes, scribed with a “Frixion” pen:

notes taken

A three-dimensional object:

3d object to scan

or even a document (not obscuring the destination choices at the bottom:

document to scan

I open the free app on my smartphone and take a photo.  It automatically goes to all the locations I’ve selected with checkmarks:

destinations selected

Voila!  It’s arrived at its destinations!

So,  what do you think?  Any questions?  Are you using a Rocketbook?

Moving Away from Paper-Early Moves

December 15, 2017

367488-fujitsu-scansnap-ix500I started down the path away from using paper earlier this year when I took two file drawers-one at home and one at work-scanned all the important documents and filed them away on hard drives and Google drives.  Part of my motivation was to free up some space and the other was to make content searching more efficient.

A larger motivator happened in the middle of the year when I learned that the copiers/printers on my floor alone at work print 500,000 copies a month.  This made me think that my school district must be spending millions of dollars each year on printing.  So, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could save money by printing less?

I read two books recently (Tribes by Seth Godin and Switch by the Heath Brothers) that are sparking my thinking on how to lead/create change in my organization.  The change I want to happen is to reduce the use of paper.  I will be posting here on my blog my strategies and progress toward this goal, and I will make the goal specific and attainable.

I’m looking at leveraging Google docs for handouts, interactive notes and personalization.  At my face-to-face workshops I’ve been using a Google doc with a basic outline for attendees to take notes as a group.  The doc also has resource links at the end which serve as handouts and future references.

This week I had a handout with fill-in boxes to give to my team.  Rather than print  out 12 copies I used the copy feature on Google docs.  I highly recommend this practice to everyone.  Here are the simple steps:

  1.  Create your Google Doc
  2.  Setup up sharing so anyone with the link can edit
  3.  Copy the link
  4.  The end of the link will look like this: J_M/edit?usp=sharing    CHANGE IT  to look   like this: J_M/copy
  5.  Share the new link with /copy at the end.  Users will be forced to make their own copy of the document!

I hope you get a chance to try out this copying method.  I look forward to your comments and suggestions as I set about to make institutional change around printing and the power of leveraging electronic documents.

Online Course Design

December 1, 2017

Theo_van_Doesburg_Composition_VII_(the_three_graces)As the resident online learning expert of my team I’ve been asked to create an intake form/document with essential questions to ask clients when they approach us to design an online course.  Looking through my books and internet resources I did not find any comprehensive form or guide to fit our needs. So I went about creating one on my own and then receiving additional input from two of my teammates.  The resulting document is here for you to use and adapt for your own needs.

You’ll notice that the information we seek is both nominative and design related.  We separated them in to categories so that clients could see the overall logic of our questions.  There are also practical questions relating to ownership, timeline(s) and roles/responsibilities.

One important thing we learned in the process of working with a recent client is to give them this document to peruse ahead of time, otherwise it is overwhelming to answer all of them in an intake interview.  We also let the client know that we didn’t need answers to everything right away since it is a process and development of a course takes time.

I’m sure this document will change with practice over time and if you’re involved with online course design I welcome your comments on it.

Top Five Takeaways from Schoology Next 2017 Conference

August 17, 2017

Schoology Next BadgeAs most of you know, after I attend a conference I share my top takeaways.  I was very fortunate to attend the Schoology Next Conference in Chicago this summer.  Here are my top five discoveries:

1. Great tips on Gamification in PD

Jared Lopatin led a session with more tips than I could imagine.  Having us join the gaming in his course we first were divided into teams by responding to an Egg Sort Quiz in Schoology.  Based on our question response, we were placed on a team with a unique name.  Design tips from Jared include:

  • Using teams helps keep a social element that tempers individual competition
  • Use the word “challenge” instead of “assignment”
  • Go big with points, think 100’s for any activity, more points means more excitement
  • Create a video intro to each challenge
  • Use individual and team leaderboards
  • Don’t display who is on which team so that participant and to instruct with each other to find out
  • Award bonus points for activities like the discussion boards.
  • The weekly discussion boards became extremely active due to fun questions/challenges.

Given Jared’s advice, I may gamify one of my future courses.

2. How to prevent students from eluding the post first before reading other posts restriction.

A good control feature to elicit original posts on a discussion board is to set them so that students must post first before seeing the posts of fellow classmates.  I learned that students were eluding this by posting anything(even a single word), reading others, and then deleting their initial post.  To prevent students from doing this, set the discussion board so that students can’t edit/delete their posts, and let them know about this additional accountability setting, so that they’re not surprised by any consequences.

3. Using Schoology during F2F workshops

Throughout the conference we referenced a Schoology course that contained folders for every session.  This was a great way to find/share/save resources and save a lot of paper too! Folders contained slide presentations (Google Slides), links, videos and handouts.  In addition to just storage/reference, presenters also used the poll features to do live polling of the audience, and discussion boards for ideation, sharing, and questions that could be answered afterward in followups after the conference.  I’m still participating in some of the discussion boards weeks after the end of the conference!  I highly recommend everyone create a Schoology course for every face-to-face workshop you facilitate.  AT DPS we’re doing this for an upcoming professional development day where I’m giving a workshop.  I have a folder ready for all my material and activities.

4. Adult Learning Theory Applied in PD

Gina Harman and Rachel Gorton gave great examples of how they design blended courses.  They focus on the Why-telling what the benefits will be for teachers and their students.  They model adult learning principles by letting teacher choose their own path, including cohort collaboration and sustaining their course over nine months.  They’re fond of using simulations that put the learners at risk in situations.  Then they learn through feedback (automated in the simulation) and in the end receive digital badges and certificates to reward their achievement.  You should know that I’m a fan of digital badges/microcredentials.

5. Back Channel app 

I’m a strong believer in the power of backchannel chats, and was so happy to find this app.  You can find it by going to your home page in Schoology and looking on the left for App Center.  Click on this and scroll down, find Backchannel app and add it to your courses. It will say “starting at $15” but educators can get a FREE account.  This app solves the problem of how and where to host real time chat and get backchannel discussions going.  What I really like about this app is not only does it fully integrate with Schoology, but it also has K-12 friendly features of teacher moderations, profanity filter, upvoting, teacher pinning, search and teacher locks.

Gifs in a Jiffy

June 9, 2017

gif-iconTo support an upcoming streaming event I needed to create a gif. (Let’s not digress into a debate on how to pronounce gif.)  Denver Public Schools has a commitment box that is made available at all large culture-building events.  Since this upcoming event will be solely online I came up with an idea to make a virtual commitment box to interact with.

First, I needed to create a gif showing someone dropping a commitment card into the box.  I searched for gif creators that could do the job for free and with the least amount of hassle.  I tried, Imgflip and  with the latter winning out for ease of use.  I shot a four photo sequence of my coworker, Anna, dropping a commitment card into the box.  When I uploaded the images to the interface was intuitive and simple.   Although all I had to do was upload and reorder the images, there were multiple choices available to me: resizing, animation speed, repeats, and even the option to add music. In about a minute total working time, I had my gif downloaded.

My next task was to create the Google form and add it to the top.  Google forms is becoming more and more open to customization.  I chose a blank form, changed the color to match the card Anna holds in the animation and then uploaded the gif to the description area of the form.  You can take a look at the finished product here:

I think this is going to work out pretty well for the event.  What do you think?  What is your favorite gif maker?

Top 5 Takeaways from CBOL 2017

May 12, 2017

CBOL 2017 logoAfter attending any conference I try to share my top takeaways.  Here are my top five from the Conference on Blended and Online Learning (CBOL)  held this year in Colorado.

1.  Personalized Learning in Jefferson County:  Students have control over the pace and path of their learning in the Virtual Academy.  Despite it’s name implying a 100% online experience, there are face-to-face days with tutoring, guidance and enrichment.  This makes me think that the metastudy done years ago by the Department of Education is still valid-Blended (hybrid) course delivery is the best of both worlds.

2.  DIY Personalized PD discoveries: The smartest person in the room is the room (crowdsourcing, leveraging everyone as experts).   The best PD is developed by teachers for teachers.  Take a look at their presentation here.   During this hands-on, group-sourced session, we came up with these ideas.  Besides this being an engaging session and producing group notes and artifacts, I loved the fact that they walked the talk.  I don’t know why more PD sessions don’t leverage google docs for collaborative notes.

3.  From that session, I proposed this metaphor to describe personalized learning:  Drinking from a water fountain as opposed to a firehose:  water fountain personalized learning metaphorI think the metaphor works pretty well.

4.  Becky Nusbaum gave a captivating, interactive presentation where she both showed how Twitter could be used to cultivate PLN (Personal Learning Network)s for teachers, while at the same time we tweeted to each other and added ideas to the session.  I thought that this was a good way to have participants dive right in to the tool being discussed.  Two good resources she shared were  Twitter for Teachers, Chatting and Best Practices  and the Directory of Ed Chats.  It’s on my to-do list to develop a workshop for teachers on developing PLNs.

5.  The keynote speaker, Tom Vander Ark, shared his 18 tips for student-centered learning.  Tom talked about many of these tips as “must do’s” such as: Every student should work on publicly publishing something (as a team) HS level.  Every student should have work-based learning…work-study at Christo Rey for an example.  “High school kids can change the world right here right now.  Let’s give them the skills to live and succeed in this complex world.”   These are powerful ideas and his enthusiasm for them is contagious.   Here is a link to his presentation.  I highly recommend looking at his list.

2016 ATD Conference Top 5 Sessions

September 16, 2016

yjyxkn7iThrough the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer.  Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas.  Here they are, in non-ranked order.

1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce  Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick.  I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things.  First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good.  It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience.  Context is king.  Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.

2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus.  David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily.  He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools.  Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time.  He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.

3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions.  The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages.  I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.

4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones.  Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines.  He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions.  Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.

5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek.  If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here.  Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways.  We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action.  Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere.  Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice.  By building trust people will follow you.  Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me:  Anyone can lead.  It’s a daily practice.  We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you.  This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward.  In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other.  If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.”  Let’s do it!

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.


Hanging Out on Air

August 19, 2016

googleplushangoutonair-300x207Dear Faithful Readers,

Sorry it’s been a while since posting…this summer has been hectic.  But the good news is that I have plenty to share over the coming weeks!

First, I want to talk about the streaming broadcasts that I hosted for the DEPLA (Digital Educator and Personalized Learning Academy) event this summer.  I volunteered to handle all streaming from one of the classrooms.  My challenge was to find equipment to support a panel discussion and to select the best free streaming platform.

In regards to selecting the platform, I chose Google Hangouts on Air and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of scheduling, automatic recording, and even stats for attendees and recording views.  I highly recommend it for these features.  Thanks to the static urls, we were able to publicize the links before the sessions (for live attendees) and afterwards for viewers of the recordings.  Here is our page of links to the recordings.

My biggest challenge was to find a usb audio mixer for the streaming room since my other mixer was being used in the cafetorium (yes, that’s what they called it, a combination of cafeteria and auditorium).  I purchased a Alesis Multimix usb audio mixer for this event.  This is  a mixer I would highly recommend for it’s affordability, ease of use and high quality sound with no noisy channels.  This mixer made me very happy over the two days of streaming panel discussions.

The lessons I learned to improve my streaming for next year are:

  1.  Try to use a better webcam or video camera
  2. Try to get a backdrop for the panel to avoid distractions and
  3. Look into a virtual or physical video mixer to run more than one camera

Here are photos of one of the panels and my humble streaming rig:

panel at deplamy streaming rig at DEPLA 2016


Online Learning Conference Review

October 16, 2015

olc logoLast week I had the pleasure of attending the Online Learning Conference in Denver.  I want to share my top five takeaways in this brief review.

1. The Glance Test.  In an impressive session by Laura Wall Klieves from Duarte, we were introduced to their Glance Test.  Using their rubric we looked at slides for 3 seconds and determined if they contained more signal than noise.  Elements we looked at included singular message, audience relevance, visual elements and arrangement. This reinforced everything that I’ve learned from Presentation Zen and “Lose the Bullets”.  I’m hoping that I can convert more people at my current workplace to this line of design.

2. Intelligent eDesign. Using the psychology of how people learn, course designers should remember that brains learn best when solving a problem (use PBL), use social learning, puil rather than push learners.  Learners like variety-our brains like different sources of input.  Aligning with Adult Learning Theory, let learners self-direct whenever possible and give them rewards/motivation for learning.

3. Interactive Videos.  This is something I’ve been meaning to try out with Youtube tools, making videos interactive with links.  They showed a really cool tool Hapyak that allows designers to embed not only links and branching but even quizzes into existing videos.  I’m definitely going to try out this tool.  The presenters also emphasized the value of video to encode into our memory using multisensory immersion and emotional content.  This harkens back to my work in Digital Storytelling.

4. Gamification. Another approach I’ve been looking at incorporating into my learning design.  This graphic connecting with Bloom’s Taxonomy gave me some entry points to explore.  There is no doubt that our brains are wired to play games, they are ubiquitous thanks to mobile devices and social media, and they keep us motivated and engaged.

5. Whiteboard Animation.  By now most of us have seen whiteboard animations where a human hand draws images and words on a white background accompanied by narration or music.  Until recently you would have had to hire an animation company to produce one of these videos.  Now there is software available to create some pretty professional looking short videos.  I attended a hands-on session using VideoScribe and we quickly created videos on our own.  I intend to purchase a subscription and try out this tool some more.  I am attracted to the customization that this particular software provides.  Look for a future post and example from me.