Monday, June 30, 2014

PBL World 2014

As a visual processor, I created this info graphic during the PBL World conference to remember the inspiration each day brought throughout the week.  From growing, building, flipping, and evolving, the message was that we shape students for their best possible future. How we do that is through being real, providing real, and letting them explore all while creating beautiful work.  Each speaker was providing a different take on the same challenge and meeting that challenge in a way that I admire and hope to emulate.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

OneDrive - My new friend

Sharing information has been easy and simple with Google Drive and Dropbox, however, my organization has adopted Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive for Business to protect data and provide consistency for district, school, faculty, and student communication and collaboration.  While I work on the district level to design and develop online learning, I also teach for our virtual high school - to improve my practice and because working with a class of my own keeps me grounded to the essence of education - students.  This time of year our entire district is focused on End of Course Exams (EOCs), Advanced Placement Exams, and the state achievement tests for elementary and middle schools.  
My AP Art History class is entirely online, no textbook for students to review during this crucial crunch time.  While they can review content from the course and their notes at any time, several students were asking for a timeline to support their study efforts.  I spent two weeks walking back through the course from ancient Mesopotamia through the Renaissance, and into contemporary modern art.  The trick was how to best share the document with students while it was being created, and how to allow for some crowd sourcing of content from the class.  A final consideration was the file size, as we continued to add images of master works the document grew beyond the ability to email through our system.  

Microsoft OneDrive provided the best asynchronous means to upload and share the spreadsheet timeline with my class.  At first I shared the link with them through email, but last night after our most recent synchronous study session using Blackboard Collaborate, I discovered an instant QR code creator right inside the system.  By clicking on the three little dots after a document, and then choosing "Share", one is able to "Get a Link" that can be emailed or embedded in our course.  However, there is a little phone icon after the link and clicking on that icon provides an immediate QR code for either viewing or editing the document.  I can't wait to share this with teachers in our district!

Friday, April 25, 2014

The most exciting thing to happen to blended learning since the invention of the blender!

 Khan Academy Blended course
As a long-time blended learning teacher, advocate, and consultant my greatest struggle has always been how best to communicate and support the blended shift in a school or classroom.  Many teachers view blended learning as flipping instruction, or as student use of online resources or purchased instructional programs.  However, true blended learning goes beyond surface level technology integration, it creates a fundamental instructional shift in the classroom.  Even with teachers that "get it" there continues to be the challenge of administrator buy-in and technology support.  The Clayton Christensen Institute's site has been my go-to spot for explaining and introducing those in my organization to the various models and practices current in blended learning environments.  An exciting new resource created in partnership with the Clayton Christensen Institute and Silicon Schools Fund provides a free and open course that anyone can access and complete on Khan Academy.  This Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) provides structured and specific information guiding participants through definitions, models, case studies, practical applications, and in-depth uses of the various models to support stunt growth and achievement.  Click on the image above to see the elegantly designed course and learn more about blended learning.  Happy blending!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The power of infographics

For those of us who are visual, creative, thinkers... data can be overwhelming.  Just picking up a budget spreadsheet causes my eyes to glaze over.  However, great sites now offer professionally created inforgraphics covering a wide range of interesting concepts, topics, data, and ideas.  My favorite of these sites is 

Each week sends out an email with new and interesting info graphics.  Taking a break from current tasks and browsing through the imagery rejuvenates and inspires.

Recently I felt bold enough to try out some info graphic creation of my own.  I've seen some useful tools and templates online, but I wanted something a little more organic and a little less helpful.  HubSpot has a free PowerPoint template with 5 preset graphic styles.  Everything a creative needs to get started and test the waters.
I signed up on their site for the free templates, here is the link: Free Infographic Template on HubSpot.  Then I make a copy of the original, delete all but one of the slides, delete most of the template content, and design away.  I've also found it useful to build in stages, using a separate PPT file to create a section of content and the copy and paste all onto the info graphic template.  Once my design is complete, I save it as a PDF, the open the PDF and export as an image.  To me this is a natural way to tell a visual story using familiar tools and processes.

Here's an example of my first attempt.  This info graphic was used in a district-wide online professional developent training on Common Core, PARCC assessments, and the connection of those to our district strategic plan - MNPS 2018.  You can see how each of the three sections is divided, those were each built separately in their own PPT file and then copied and added to the info graphic file.  Once the major content and imagery was in place, I shared the raw file with my team and had them make changes to text and font, shadows, and reflections to produce a jazzier feel.  The final product was then uploaded in the course and printed off using a poster maker.

We were all rather pleased with the results but were unprepared for the popularity of the graphic.  Several schools have made their own posters of the info graphic, and recently one school even tweeted out an image of the poster.

So, why not give it a shot?  Download the templates for yourself and see what you can do. Just be sure to post in the comments so others can see your amazing info art!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Discovering Discussion Posts

Discussion posts provide students with the opportunity to test out learning and gain feedback from peers.  Throughout our learning journey we have posted initial thoughts concerning prompts proposed in our course utilizing resources shared from primary resources.

As one considers the opportunities such constructive and collaborative activities provide, where would you find resources to engage your students on the topic of online assessment?  How would you share these resources with your audience?

The following rubric will be used to score your response:

Score 4 worth 25 points—student correctly identifies the artwork and connects the image to the prompt  (20 pts). Student includes the cultural context of the artwork, directly connecting the culture with the artwork’s physical attributes in at least three areas (30 pts). There are not any significant errors.
Score 3 worth 24–20 points—student correctly identifies the artwork and connects the image to the prompt (20 pts). Student includes the cultural context of the artwork directly connecting the culture with the artwork’s physical attributes in two areas (25–20 pts).   There may be a few minor errors.
Score 2 worth 19–15 points—student correctly identifies the artwork but does not connect the image to the prompt (10 pts) or student does not correctly identify the artwork but identifies the style, culture or time period (10 pts) with correct reasons to support their statements (15 pts). Student includes some cultural context of the artwork and only attempts to describe the artwork’s physical attributes (20–15 pts). The essay is generally not well developed. There may be significant errors.
Score 1 worth 14–10 points—student does not identify the artwork or connect the image to the prompt. Student includes only vague cultural context for the artwork and only attempts to describe the artwork’s physical attributes (25–20 pts).  The essay is generally not well developed. There may be significant errors.
Score 0 worth 0–9 points—attempt is made but without valid concepts (15 pts) or no attempt is made (0pts).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Detection v. Inspiration


While some free online tools exist to support the detection of plagiarism, most institutions purchase programs such as Turnitin, Grammerly, and SafeAssign, to check not only Internet resource plagiarism, but to host a database of previously submitted student work for the institution.  This practice can greatly enhance an institution’s ability to hold students accountable for academic integrity, even if a student copies his or her own work from a previous course.  Although these programs promote the ethical use of information, they create a false sense of security in that the work a student submits is their own.  In my district’s virtual school, there were some cases in which a student account was submitting work of sufficient academic integrity, however, the student’s parent was doing all the work.  This prompted the virtual school to implement a policy in which content in an online course is split into modules and each student must schedule a “call-in” with the teacher of record to talk about what they have learned in the module.  This process has greatly helped in ensuring that the student of record is the one completing the work.  The virtual school final course exams are proctored and students must come to a testing site and provide photo identification to be given the online exam.  In this manner, the virtual school has been able to prove that the student of record is the individual completing and submitting the work.
The punitive nature of copyright infringement, whether intentional or unintentional can hinder the body of academic work and creativity (Jocoy, & DiBiase, 2006).  Last year during the training for building blended courses in Blackboard©, teachers were cautioned and trained on the proper use of citation and copyrighted materials.  The fear of retribution convinced some teachers to limit their use of the learning management system and caused a backlash from others concerned about their own intellectual property rights.  


More important than the detection of plagiarism is the development of student’s sense of ethics and integrity.  Challenging students and building a culture of respect for individual contributions will have a greater and more positive impact than whether a program caught a “copy/paste” infraction.  The lesson is not, in the not getting caught, but in the not wanting to steal in the first place. 
Just as the Internet has provided almost unlimited access to information in the virtual classroom, teachers in the physical classroom have had to deal with these issues as well.  In a great post entitled, “Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use For Bloom’s Taxonomy”, blogger and educator John Sowash shares how teachers can challenge students in meaningful and creative ways.  Similarly, online courses can be designed with the intention of getting beyond the copy/paste option and into the creation of more personalized content that cannot be stolen but must be created to meet a specific goal.
Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lions, Technology, and Multimedia ..."Oh My!"


Have you seen the GEICO© commercial with the Antelopes?  Poor Carl the king of beasts, reduced to slinking away from a delicious meal because of technology.  Have you ever wondered how the story ends?  Do the antelopes realize that they will have to take off the night vision goggles in the daytime?  What if Carl comes up on their blind side?  Reliance on technology alone is a dangerous thing.

Technology and Multimedia

Technology provides a vehicle for delivery of communication in the online environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  Multimedia designed well and with a focusing purpose can add to the content delivery and meeting of diverse learner needs (Cooper, Colwel, & Jelfs, 2007).  While all these are useful aspects of technology, some drawbacks include the diverse systems, software, platforms, and Internet speeds of the student. 
As an instructional designer in the learning technology department of my organization, there is a constant battle between the use of technology for the sake of technology and the careful design and implementation of technology to enhance learning.  Two years ago, our state received a large grant called “Race to the Top” from the federal government to increase instructional use of technology, STEM, and the technology infrastructure of the district.  One million dollars of the grant was set up as a competitive grant, which all schools were able to submit a proposal.  Guidelines and stipulations were given, but the end goal was to encourage school leaders to break out into innovative ideas and strategies for the use of technology to engage students and teachers.  The surprising and sad fact was that many of the grants were more about the “stuff” than the learner outcomes and program goals.  The schools that were chosen came up with some terrific ideas, and all those who submitted put a lot of work into their proposals, but technology alone is not the answer (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2008).  In a similar manner, an online instructor must carefully plan and design the use of technology as a tool to meet a desired student outcome (Conrad, & Donaldson, 2011).  If transactional distances are vast, meaningful interactions made possible by the technology will increase the engagement and construction of collective meaning (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010).
When designing instruction in any medium, the designer must first consider and analyze the target audience.  As a clear picture of the end user is developed, better choices can be made as to appropriate learning objects and course design (Burgstahler, 2006).  Not all students may have access to high-speed Internet, or unlimited streaming capabilities.  Students may have time or geographical distances that would make synchronous activities difficult.  Many online courses include a minimum requirement list to help students assess their equipment and access to the content.

Drive by trainings... "Oh My!"

Through my work in the K-12 realm, I am most excited by the possibility of creating sustainable professional learning communities through our district learning management system.  In the past we have jokingly referred to our efforts for professional development to be “drive by trainings” in which participants enjoyed the session, but little transference occurred from theory to practice.  With 148 schools, and over 5,000 teachers, our small staff of 7 struggles to make inroads into the classroom.  However, by offering face-to-face sessions with an online organization and online professional development, we are beginning to see that the continuous support and online interaction creates an elearning community focused around a purpose.  In a recent webinar, one of the speakers shared a profound thought that collaborative learning leads to collective knowledge (Marini, McGonagle, & Peterson, 2013).  The opportunity to facilitate groups, project based learning, discussions, and shared content with the powerful connection of the learning management system has me excited about the upcoming year in our schools.  Here is a simple Infographic I created to help explain the concept of online interaction as it relates to face-to-face interaction. 
Levels of Interaction created by Tischann Nye, March, 2013 for the MNPS Learning Technology Department.

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Burgstahler, S. (2006).The development of accessibility indicators for distance learning programs. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 14(1/2), 79-102.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.
Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Marini, P., McGonagle, L., Peterson, K., (2013, June).  Collaboration and Content in Online Course Design [webinar].  EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO).  Archived at:

Simonson, M., Smaldino S., Albright M., & Zvacek S. (2008). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.