What will I take from this course?

The time is ticking faster and the course is almost over.  Now I have to put my teacher hat back on and start mentally preparing myself to teach middle school students.  I have so many ideas that I have learned from this course that I want to implement them all into my class.  But, I really need to stand back and reflect.  The most I got from this class is all the information that everybody shared on diigo.com and in their discussions.  I am very proud of everybody’s  contribution to my education and their own.  I loved how everybody had a share in the teaching presence and how Alex facilitated the learning.  This was an an excellent example of an effective student-centered learning environment.

This weeks discussions were great, they varied from online classes to inclusions.  One thing that I wanted share again was the ISTE standards in technology that 8th graders should be able to do before going to high school. Being an 8th grade teacher and 9th grade, I usually still have students that are having difficulties with technology.  I am surprised with that observation, because of students are being raised around technology.  In the publication, Technology in schools: suggestions, tools, and guidelines for assessing technology in elementary and secondary education,  listed the following standards that 8th graders should be able to accomplish:

1. Apply strategies for identifying and solving routine hardware and software problems that occur during everyday use.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of current changes in information technologies and the effect those changes have on the workplace and society.

3. Exhibit legal and ethical behaviors when using information and technology, and discuss consequences of misuses.

4. Use content-specific tools, software, and simulations to support learning and research.

5. Apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum.

6. Design, develop, publish, and present products using technology resources that demonstrate and communicate curriculum concepts to audiences inside and outside of the classroom.

7. Collaborate with peers, experts, and others using telecommunications and collaborative tools to investigate curriculum-related problems, issues, and information, and to develop solutions or products for audiences inside and outside of the classroom.

8. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of task and solve problems.

9. Demonstrate an understanding of concepts underlying hardware, software, and connectivity, and of practical applications to learning and problem solving.

10. Research and evaluate the accuracy, relevance, appropriateness, comprehensiveness, and bias of electronic information sources concerning real-world problems.

I do believe that these standards should assist the students in either online or face-to-face class to succeed with learning.  I am actually going to observe and take notes of my 8th graders to see how many standards that they can achieve.

I had a great summer learning and being challenged to do my best at learning.




Technology in schools: suggestions, tools, and guidelines for assessing technology in elementary and secondary education. (Retrieved from:http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/tech_schools/index.asp).

What have I learned in this course up to now?

Listening to Rob Piorkowski’s reflection podcast about teaching Elementary French 1 was refreshing hearing his experience teaching online.  He stated that he had an activity that had student pair up for a project and there were so much complaining and problems that he tanked the paired project.  He also discussed the amount of time that it took for him to tweak each page with everything from grammar to having all the links work.  He also mentioned that when assignments were coming in that it just kept coming in.  His advice to us is to keep up with the assignments or it will overburden us.


I always think it is hard to describe what have I learned when someone ask me that question.  When I narrow this question to what have I learned in this class then I have to say that I learned that there are different ways of learning and what methods are considered in designing an effective learning environment.  I am a dedicated face-to-face teacher that has been teaching in a lecture delivery method, because that is what type of teaching I have observed my whole life.  In this class, i had to wrap my head that I have to design a course that the student is responsible for their learning with me as a facilitator.  So, knowing all this, I had to carefully design a course that has the students looking up more information than what is given.  Alex has taught me that given them too much information, as I would in a regular class, the students would just rely on the information that I wanted them to read or watch a video.  Another key point that Alex said to us was not to just rely on the computer as an online course.  I have the students go outside and sketch the moon for a month or go to a nearby planetarium and do a report. I learned by listening to the feedback while designing the course.


The learning was actually different in this course.  There were lots of assignments that kept our brains turning all day.  The discussions kept us on our toes looking for new material to teach others in our discussions.  The discovery of new material was always a reward, because it was more fuel for the fire.  Sometimes I found new material that had nothing to do with what we were studying but had something to do with how I teach my class.


I think what hinders me most in learning is the time restraint in a day.  We do have many responsibilities and sometimes it just get in the way.  One of the other hindrances is the writing of what is learned.  I know that sounds strange, but I have always struggled with grammar and I do try very hard trying to catch myself with mistakes before I hit send.  This becomes a time restraint in itself.  I am still struggling with the language of my course information.  I feel like I am coming to a completion of the astronomy class with about 100 proof readings ahead of me.  Just kidding, a few more proof readings.



Glitches are my best friend.

I been trying to tweak my course all week and it still came down to the last minute to work on the course before the due time.  If the due date was Sunday, I be working on it up to Sunday, so it doesn’t matter when the due date is set, I would be working on it to that time.  I what I have learned is that it does take a lot of attention to details to make sure we design the courses for online teaching to be an effective course.  I believe the hardest part of all this is making sure we have written enough directions that the student feels comfortable taking this course.

Garrison’s article, “Online community of inquiry review: social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues“, stated that three main aspects of social presence are effective communications, open communications and group cohesion.  I did follow these three social presence components to make my course feel like it is a online community with different ways for the student and myself to communicate and allow the student to learn.  The discussion activities and the portfolio project has a lot of room for students to really get to know each other while learning from each other.  So, participation of belonging to the class community is essential for the learning process of both the individual student and myself.  My course feels like it is mostly completed, but I feel it is a living document that can be improved on constantly.



Building an online community to be an effective online course

I think the course is coming along quite well.  The checklists is a great tool to show where I am at in the designing of the course.  I have to proofread everything and decide of little changes in the way I might have worded some directions and add some directions that I thought were clear but need a little bit more for clarity sake.  The assessment piece of the course is one thing I have not figured out how to apply it, yet.  I need to mess with the grading application to get familiarize with its functionality.  I do feel comfortable with the set up of the modules and the activities and how they are organized in their perspective order.

I did have issues with putting rubrics together for the portfolio project.  I adapted a rubric (Allen and Tanner, 2006) that was designed for a science fair project and eliminated the oral portion of the rubric.  The rubric covers the criteria of scientific approach and the presentations of the project.


The one thing I have learned about myself through this designing process is how much patience a person needs to put together an online course that will last around 14 to 20 weeks long. Time and time again, all the “Breeze” presentations have discuss the importance of completing the design of the course prior to the start of the class.  All of the speakers that joined in the video discussions, this module, had the same message of making sure the course is finished and ready to facilitate before the class begins.  The other key thing I got from the advice of the participators was the different ways to engage the students, so an online community is created within the class.  That is one thing that I am trying to get my head wrapped around the concept of engaging the students.  I have the discussion forums, bulletin board, and ask me section, but I really don’t have an activity, such as voicethread that will collectively join the community to a specific activity.  I have thought about voicethread for the mnemonic device activity, where the students would either write out, audio, or video their mnemonic device.


Garrison’s article for this module, listed indicators that facilitators needs to observe in the student’s work and behavior to determine the impact of the three elements of an online community:


Elements Indicators
Social Presence Risk-free expression

Encourage collaboration

Cognitive Presence Information exchangeConnecting ideas

Apply new ideas

Teaching Presence Sharing personal meaning

Focusing discussion

The main purpose for the indicators in each element is to produce results for an effective online community.

A little tweaking here and there, the course should be ready for a group of 8th graders to explore Earth and beyond.




Allen, A., & Tanner, K. (2006). Rubrics: Tools for making learning goals and evaluation criteria explicit for both teachers and learners. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 5,197-203.

I didn’t think finding or creating a rubrics would be hard.

My reflection for this week is the frustration of putting things in their rightful place.  All the presentation and reading that we have viewed and read leads to the same thing about teaching presence.  The breeze presentation couldn’t hit any harder the point of the facilitator to design and organize the course to flow easily from day one.  It is necessary to have the course completed and fined tuned before “you can take it out on the road”.  I think I just got overwhelmed by having all my activities already written down and had my feedback in front of me.  I made a lot of changes before I even started plugging in.  I was hoping to use edublog for the journal entry and I just couldn’t figure out how to start my own class, I think I had to purchase a plan.  Instead, I made a forum to satisfy my needs and it is pretty simplistic for the students.  I feel I have enough substantial information and direction to facilitate the students in the direction of finding the resources that they can acquire their own knowledge and share with the rest of class.

By examining the exemplars, especially the astronomy course, I had to think that how can I make this course slightly ,not as intense, easier than an undergraduate course.  I can’t assume the 8th graders will understand everything they read and listen to, but I do hope to spot problems so I can intervene early enough, so the student doesn’t get to far behind.  I am trying to focus on the seven principles mentioned in the breeze presentation.  This is such a great guide in framing what I am trying to encompass in the course.  I still feel that I need more details in my course information and more clarity, so the students are stuck trying to figure out the how the course is operated and start learning.

I found an article by Gaquin (2008) that focused how teachers could assess notebooks.  I took the information and tweaked it to fit the journal entry idea for students observations and “what they just learned”.  She expanded to expository writing to help assess another opportunity to expand on the writing aspect of science.  Still, I am having issues of being satisfied with rubrics that I feel is detailed enough for an effective assessment.



Achieving a teaching presence in my course.

This week’s topic was an eye opener for me.  I always thought of teaching presence is teacher presence, not even close.  The breeze presentation has gone through a variety of aspects to think about when it comes to teaching presence within an online course.  Alex explains, thoroughly, that to have an effective teaching presence, the teacher must institute the “Seven Principles” to achieve this as a developer and/or instructor.  The three principles that caught my eye to work on was:

  • Gives prompt feedback
  • Emphasize time on task
  • Communicates high expectations

I need to reflect on what I have been working on and make changes to implement these principles to fit into what I am try to achieve.


I think that I am on the right track in designing the course.  I am having issues trying to design a course for 8th graders with a voice of authority, but not as stringent as what I have seen in the exemplars.  I keep thinking that the students are 8th graders and needs structure, but they will try to push your buttons, by rebelling in some sort of manner.  I guess I need to get out of this mindset and make sure that I emphasize the all directions as clearly as possible in the course information.

I want to make sure that I present the content in a way that the students will respond to it with the discussion questions that will expand on their answers with more quality questions to do more research.  I would like the students to have a higher order of thinking in their discussion and not just answer a question that goes nowhere.  To keep their interest level and high order thinking moving ahead in the course, I need to have a quality rubric and some means for feedback for the students to understand what they are learning.  Also the presentation gave a wonderful idea for shared resources or has me suggest resources to build the community of learner.  The diigo.com that we are using is something that I think is great, but I wonder if 8th graders need some other type of platform to use as their sharing resource storage area.

So the biggest issue for me this week is the wording and the numerical value of the rubrics that I want to use for the class to access discussions and their blogs.  In the video “Using rubrics to promote meaningful online discussions” states that the most important aspect of a rubric is to “inform students of expectations and therefore improve the quality of student work”.  Then it is important to decide what criteria that is going to be used to assess the students:

  • Timeliness
  • Uniqueness

– Exemplary: New an idea, new connection, has depth and details

– Proficient: New idea or new connection, but lacks depth and/or detail

– Basic: few, if any new ideas or connections

– Below expectation: No new ideas, “I agree with” statement

  • Critical thinking
  • Mechanics
  • Connections

– Exemplary: Clear connection to content, real life, etc

– Proficient: Connections are made, but not clear

– Basic: Limited connections

– Below expectation: No connections, off topic

  • Understanding of content
  • References and resources

I still have some more research on rubrics before I choose one.




Pickett, A. M. Understanding Teaching presence online. SUNY Learning Network, (Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/mod/resource/view.php?id=9299)

Purdom, R. Using rubrics to promote meaningful online discussions. University of North Carolina at Greensboro. (Retrieved from http://www.uncg.edu/tlc/hybrid/online/online_discussion/using_rubrics_video.html).

Have I missed something?

Wow, I just finished the draft of the course learning activities.  I kept observing the exemplars to see if I am on the right track with how I want to set up my course.  The set up is not my issue of frustration, it is more of reducing my teacher presence than I am use to as a traditional class room teacher.  I am glad that there is an exemplar that is a science based astronomy course for me to see how it is set up.

When I observed the astronomy site, I have to keep in mind that my course is focused on 8th grade.  I have to keep in mind that I cannot assume that they have a lot of prior science experience and the know how to handle labs, especially virtual lab setting.  I also cannot assume that the students are going to write high quality post and journal entries.  I do know, which I will take from the examples is the way that there are plenty of examples for the students to model their writing.  I also think that having a visual tutorial can also  assist students to successfully acclimatize to using the resources that they need to be successful.  I have incorporated in my draft plenty of discussions and journal writing to emphasize the student-learning and student-content components.  I took the textbook out of the course, all together, to allow the online resources be the learning tools that the student will utilize.  I did incorporate more videos in the course because the student  need more visualization for a subject matter that is to vast to normally experience in “real life”.  I still thinking that I need more types of activities that can be done off-line to learn a concept.  The students can observe  the phases of the moon and maybe take photos and display them to the class or write a description of the phases.  This activity could be part of the portfolio project.

I do feel that I am making progress and I do agree that a quality online course takes many, many hours to design.


Influences in creating activities

This week in my reflection blog is to look at how I am doing things in this course by the articles that people are sharing and our assigned reading and observations.


Why do I do things the way I do?

I feel that I am always thing about something that I am observing or just curious about.   In the article, “The Role of Questions in Teaching, Thinking and Learning” states, “Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions. To think through or rethink anything, one must ask questions that stimulate our thoughts”.  I always think to myself that when I see someone that thinks they are always right and they never listen to anyone, they are not learning or thinking.  I do feel that mind is stimulated when I learn something new, to get that point, I had to have a question in mind.  I am one of those people that might not ask a question to someone, so I can research it myself for that satisfaction of self-taught.  I love all this resource that is available to us on our computers compared to all the hours that I spent at the library.


What have I learned that I did not know before?

Through the presentations and audio on activities has me more aware of the importance of breaking my units into module that are in some logical order of the topic or the way the textbook is set up.  The Art History classes set up their module the same way that SUNY Albany has set up for activities, down to the recommended module of seven, plus or minus two.  I feel that having seven or eight modules spread out every two weeks does help the students with time management.  The German language class was set up slightly different with double the modules that fit to the textbook, but the time frame seem to be more accelerated to complete all the modules into that semester.  I would feel rushed with that set up, even if it was done with shorter assignments with less time.


I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to use textbooks in an online course with many other resources that are available.  I did observe on of the students in class will use an online version of their textbook to have easy access to it.  I think that would solve my problem, if my district could pay for the licensure for each book.  The one art history teacher rewrote the text for the students because of the reading level or difficulties that see foresees in the class.


How will I apply what I have learned to my course?

In the presentation, Alex had brought up so many useful tips to design an effective online course.  The one point that sticks to me is to use the template as much as I am comfortable using to design this course.  It is more difficult to create something, especially if there is something that has already been proven effective.  Also, use the network of people that are available to assist in designing activities.  I definitely will have an Icebreaker module to set the class into the right frame of mind that all the participants are in the class for the same reason and they are all going to be working together on assignments and discussions.  So, all the students need to build a relationship with each other and the teacher. In the article “(My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy” states, ” interactivity is what differentiates an effective online course from a high-tech correspondence course”.  The Icebreaker will assist students how the course will be handled with assignments and discussions.  Another point that the German class emphasized that all directions need to be very concise so the students don’t get confused what they need to do.  So, I will make sure all my directions are in the mini lecture and what my expectations are for each individual module.


What decisions have I made so far about my course?

I have taken pieces of what the instructors in the example courses have shown us.  I will open the Icebreaker module a week early to give students the opportunity a check out the course.  I will definitely have eight modules, so I don’t overwhelm the students with a look that will stress them.  I will incorporate a mini lecture, haven’t decided another name for it, to make sure the students get the highlights of the modules and what and when things are due.  I will incorporate a requirement of a diigo.com account so the students will be responsible for recording and sharing any resources that they discover.  I need to find a couple more activities that are interactive or that can be done offline to add into the collection of resources to make the students feel like they are being challenged and that they are thinking and learning.


How do I interact in this course?

I feel comfortable with the interaction between myself and the other students and I will ask questions if I am sure I cannot figure it out.  The discussions are done professionally amongst the students and we are all trying hard to teach each other new knowledge from new resources.  I feel it is still difficult for me to not just be straight to the point and I need to dig deeper into information to be received by someone else.  I know I have read or heard the information, but the person I am talking to needs more information for a fuller understanding.


What is working for me in this course?

I am starting to put online educational theories to an applicable format that can be used in a online class.  I am learning that things that I do in a FTF class will not work for an online learning environment.  I am enjoying the experimentation of different resources that I can use online and even bring back to my FTF class next year.  The discussions are a very important part of the course; even the Art History professor mentioned that the discussions are worth 40% of the grade.  This large percentage puts a high price tag on this assessment.  This blog site is a great idea to show what things are going through our minds during the process of designing an online course, which is very new to most of us.

Designing a class online

It has been a hectic week of public school.  Now I have time to immerse into my creation of an astronomy class for 8th graders.  I have looked over the exemplar and listened to the interviews.  The main thought that I went through my mind as how confident they were in their design and implementing of the courses.  If something didn’t work, like online quizzes, he took them out of the course.  They have been doing this for years and I can feel that they can design and create their site and tweak it as it goes.

I was having issues with my moodle shell , trying to figure how to insert my course information.  I took my own advice about taking a break and then come back and try again.  Thank goodness that the break worked out and I figured out how to insert information.  I guess it would have been easier to ask, but I like to learn the hard way and now this information is in my head through learning.  I research how other studies looks at how an effective online course should be done and most have the same message.

Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan, Director of Instructional Design and Development for Penn State’s World Campus, the following snippets are just a taste of the insider’s advice found in the full report “10 Principle of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education (retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/principles-of-effective-online-teaching-best-practices-in-distance-education/):

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #1 Show Up and Teach — The necessity of this statement is borne of the misimpression that the  online class “teaches itself.” Since most of the course is already authored and designed for online delivery, instructors may believe they simply need to serve as the proverbial “guide on the side” as the students navigate the learning system. Not true!

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #2 Practice Proactive Course Management Strategies — The online instructor can help create a successful learning experience by practicing proactive course management strategies such as monitoring assignment submissions, and communicating and reminding students of missed and/or upcoming deadlines.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #3 Establish Patterns of Course Activities — Although the online classroom environment provides tremendous flexibility of time and place of study, establishing and communicating a course pace and pattern of work can aid both instructor and student, and alleviate confusion around how the course operates.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #4 Plan for the Unplanned — For those small or not-so-small occasions when “life happens,” having a strategy for informing students of these changes can go a long way to maintaining course continuity.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #5 Response Requested and Expected — Timely instructor feedback is essential for the online learner to manage their learning experience. Instructors are expected to respond to student inquiries within one business day.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #6 Think Before You Write — Most experienced online instructors can relay a variety of stories about a dialogue with a student that went awry due to a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the intended message. Take special care to be as clear and concise as possible.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #7 Help Maintain Forward Progress — Students in the online classroom rely on the timely return of assignment and exam grades in order to maintain positive forward progress in their studies.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #8 Safe and Secure — Using the institutionally supported learning management system provides increased degrees of security and confidentiality and keeps “institutional business” within the appropriate confines.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #9 Quality Counts — Instructors need to establish strategies for addressing the quality of the  online learning experience, including content resources, instructional design strategies, and systems performance.

Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #10 (Double) Click a Mile on My Connection — As with many aspects of the online classroom, the technological infrastructure plays a critical role in determining student and instructor satisfaction.

Most of all the advice on the Internet is very similar in origin, which makes me feel that we are on the right track to learning to create an effective “working” course.  With the understanding that the course will be tweak here and there while it evolves.

Avoiding assumption when planning a project

What did I learn?  (Part I)


I have just finished a long week of giving the science regents to my Physics and Earth Science classes and graded them.  Now to end the week with the Living Environment and Chemistry (proctoring and grading) and then I will have plenty time to develop the online astronomy course of my dreams. Boy, I assumed that my students had the skills to do well on the regents.  You would of thought I wasn’t assuming with all the reviewing to prep for the test.


When we first started this course, I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to recognize as an assumption that I should be aware of while designing this course.  After reading, “A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them” by Pickett (2008), I have a new fondness for assumptions.  Her advice was to “assume nothing”.  This is one advice I surely will take and treasure.  I always thought I don’t assume things in my classroom, but when I go through my reflection process, I find that I assume too much of the students and I tend to blame them for things I shouldn’t assume that they already knew that basic information.


Being a science teacher and always a student, I am interested in the process of critical thinking.  I never realized that when I make an inference, that I was making an inference based on the assumption from my prior beliefs.  “The Critical Thinking Community” stated the basic of inference and assumption:


Ø      Inference: An inference is a step of the mind, an intellectual act by which one concludes that something is true in light of something else’s being true, or seeming to be true.


Ø      Assumption: An assumption is something we take for granted or presuppose. Usually it is something we previously learned and do not question.


The article also stated. “As always, an important part of critical thinking is the art of bringing what is subconscious in our thought to the level of conscious realization. This includes the recognition that our experiences are shaped by the inferences we make during those experiences”.  I always teach that an inference is from your prior knowledge weather is right or not.  And now I can reword my definition to include assumption.


In the article, Pickett (2008) mentions many assumptions that you may encounter while designing a distance education course that you can avoid by designing the course from the perspective of the students taking the course.  I will heed that advice knowing that I am designing the course for 8th graders.  I learned from the reading not to assume that they all know their way around the technology and they can follow simple directions for the interactive activities.  I will not assume that they will have the same learning outcome that is expected and the understanding of any lab activities that are virtual in origin..  I believe my list of assumptions can get very long, knowing how unpredictable this age group can be.  Now that I am not assuming anything, I can move on to the next step at planning this awesome astronomy course.



The Critical Thinking Community. (2011)Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions, http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-distinguishing-between-inferences-and-assumptions/484