Tag Archives: grad school

Podcast #4 – Online Learning vs. The Traditional Classroom

Listen to Podcast #4


As a traditional 8th grade SS teacher by day and an online graduate student by night, I have first hand experience in the ongoing debate of online classes vs. traditional classes.  I have been convinced that online education is the way to go, and then I live, see, and experience the benefits of traditional classes and I’m back on the fence again.  For the sake of discussion, I see a lot of value in both, and I think more than anything it depends on the student and how they lean.  With a great teacher, a traditional classroom for most students is irreplaceable.

Obviously, there is a lot of value in online education.  Online classes provide a unique opportunity that traditional classes do not.  For example, students can access the material at any time.  In online environments, students can work more at their own pace and have much more time to accomplish various tasks.  Various learning styles can be incorporated into the online curriculum so that many students can be successful at the same activity because they are allowed to demonstrate what they learned in a variety of different ways.  The activities have to be student-centered in online learning.  Also, since students are accessing materials using their own computer more often than not resources are not an issue when teaching and learning.  Students can collaborate in unique ways that are more closely related to 21st century workforce skills.  Students can communicate in ways that are more similar to the communication skills needed to succeed in an ever-connected world.

However, even with all of the pedagogical benefits of online learning, as a current classroom teacher I see and experience so many non-educational benefits of the traditional classroom that I have yet to experience as a student in online environments.  Traditional classrooms – with good teachers – instill students with passion, interests, relationship skills, and a host of other attributes that students need in order to be contributors to our society.  I consider these skills and emotions to be a part of the hidden curriculum of traditional education.  For example, teachers teach students to be organized, confident, passionate, compassionate, etc. or at least we try to.  You would be hard pressed to find those skills taught in just about online environment.

Not too mention, students learn to communicate face to face.  They learn how to read one another and know how to respond and act.  They learn how to troubleshoot social situations.  In traditional classrooms, students learn to cope, prioritize, organize, and succeed.  Sure they can experience some of these things in online environments, but it’s not the same.  Seeing a teacher show how proud they are of a student is not as meaningful as reading comments in an online grade book.  Working with other students face to face and physically getting your hands dirty in a chemistry lab is not the same as simulating a lab in a Google Hangout. 

You see online learning does have a long lasting and much needed place in education.  Students benefit greatly in online learning environments and they need to learn those skills, but nothing will be able to replace the intangibles learned in the classroom. 

Podcast #3 – Digital Citizenship Defined by #edchat

Listen to Podcast #3


For my third podcast, I thought I would incorporate my latest blogpost regarding #edchat and discuss one of the recent #edchats I participated in called “Digital Citizenship.”  The question posed for the October 2nd, 7:00 pm #edchat was “How do we define good Digital Citizenship, and what are specific things teachers can do to support that outcome for students?”  Obviously, this is a topic that prominently emerged within the last 5 years.  The concept of digital citizenship has been around for a while, but in the past, teachers and schools combatted the issue by simply not letting students online.  However, as we have slowly seen the advantages of using online tools in the classroom, we have started to scale back the filters.  With that scale back comes the responsibility of teaching and protecting our students about online use and their own digital footprint.

With the push in Internet Safety among our students in part due to the 21st Century Act that was passed recently, our teachers are tasked with teaching students what good “Digital Citizenship” looks like.  One of the problems raised over and over again in this week’s #edchat was that teachers are not sure what Digital Citizenship really is or how they teach good digital citizenship.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s a fairly new concept for most teachers because it just came down the pipe a few years ago. 

Many of the participants were concerned that “digital citizenship” was going to become one of those words like “meaningful learning” and “connected educator” that is poorly defined even though we now consider both of those to be essential staples in today’s classroom.  Even though digital citizenship remains poorly defined, teachers also have to combat the fact that their idea of digital citizenship can be different from someone else’s idea of digital citizenship.  Just like everything else that emerges within education, teachers have to figure out the best way to fit “digital citizenship” into their classroom curriculum.  The law says it has to be taught, but how it is taught and the best way to teach it is up to the teacher.

After tweeting out the concerns surrounding the definition of digital citizenship and the concerns about teaching the concept to students, the conversation shifted to setting parameters for the term.  Most people agreed that digital citizenship meant leaving a strong, positive, contributing digital footprint.  Teachers need to help students see that what they do online never disappears, and that is completely okay if students are positively contributing to whatever online environment they are participating in.  However, even with the groundwork laid, teachers continued to offer up extended definitions of digital citizenship related to cyber bullying, filtering, facebook, twitter, etc.

Finally, mixed throughout the entire #edchat conversation were suggestions of specific things that teachers can do to help our students meet the outcome of what we defined as digital citizenship.  Almost every contributor offered up some sort of variation of modeling.  Modeling is long lasting and time-tested strategy that works well for most students.  Teachers model a certain behavior and students mimic or follow that model thus meeting the teacher’s expectations.  One teacher noted that teachers who participate in #edchat and contribute in a positive manner on twitter instead of gossiping are modeling good digital citizenship.  One of the foremost experts on all things tech, @web20classrom Steven Anderson, tweeted that “Digital Citizenship/Ethics are normally stand alone lessons and activities when they should be woven into the curriculum. “ 

With that being said, I would agree with my colleague, Steven Anderson, that students should be taught this concept by working it into our everyday lesson plans.  Digital citizenship is a huge component of the 21st century curriculum and one that all teachers need to begin to embrace.  No matter how you define it, digital citizenship is here to stay.

A Flipped Classroom (podcast)

Listen to my podcast created for my ECI 512 Emerging Technologies for 21st Century Teaching and Learning graduate class.

Transcript below:

Just this past year in my 8th grade Social Studies classroom I have started to “flip” my classroom.  For the past year or so, my teammate has been flipping her math classes and has had amazing success so far.  She finally convinced me to give it a shot once I began teaching U.S. History.

For those of you who don’t know, flipping classroom, as defined by flipping pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman, is an instructional strategy where the students watch the lecture at home and completed related assignments, labs, projects, etc. in class.  More than anything, flipped classroom is about the meaningful learning activities that replace lectures in the classroom and less about the videos themselves.  Throughout much of their research, Sams and Bergman have written over and over that flipped classroom is a combination of direct instruction and constructivism that allows students to receive instruction at home and spend class time practicing and exploring the content to better understand what they learned.  The whole idea being that students spend more quality instructional time learning in class with the teacher.

So you are probably wondering how does this fit into emerging technologies, well it doesn’t necessarily, but flipping the classroom does fit very well into the idea of emerging 21st century learning ideals and strategies.  I chose to flip my classroom for a number of reasons, but I’ve paired down the list to 4 according to how they relate to 21st century learning.

  1. Students can work at their own pace – Within a 21st century learning environment, students should be able to dictate their own learning pace.  Flipped classroom allows students to do just that.  After teachers create the videos, students have watched them, and the class has completed the activities, students can go back and watch the videos for review or clarity.
  2. Teachers can easily create individualized instruction – In today’s classroom, all instruction should be individualized and customized to the needs to every child.  As a teacher, I know how difficult that can be.  Flipped classroom doesn’t make that 100% possible, but it does make it much easier as I am freed up to meet with students or small groups during a class period.
  3. The learning is centered around the student – One ideal that has been around since the beginning of time is that learning should be centered around the student.  A 21st century classroom only reinforces that ideal.
  4. Transparent classroom and increased use of online tools – While technology is the not the focus of a flipped classroom, it does force teachers to create a more transparent classroom and increase their use of online tools with students.

I’m the first to admit that flipping is not for everyone.  In fact it took me a couple of years and a classroom switch to see the value of it in my classroom.  However, one of the most important practices for teachers in a 21st century learning environment is a teacher’s need for reflection in order to better themselves as a professional.  In article written by Mary Beth Hertz on edoptia.org entitled “The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con,” Hertz writes that “as long as educators are constantly reflecting and asking themselves if what they are doing is truly something different or just a different way of doing the same things they’ve always done, there is hope that some of Dewey’s philosophies [of student centered learning] will again permeate our schools.”

Cooperative Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Situated Cognition and Cognitive Apprenticeships, and Guided Design Process

1. Similarities or differences between the theories/models? Do they share common foundations or principles?
The four models we have studied this week share many similarities and differences, but they are all grounded in the idea of collaboration, group work, and social constructivist ideals.  During my undergraduate work, I took a class that required us to research social constructivism and my findings really resonated with me.  I saw a lot of value in many of the social constructivist principles that could really benefit a lot of students.  All four of these theories have tenets of social constructivism that require collaboration, discussion, creation, etc. among students, small groups, and teachers.  Although not necessarily direct components of Cooperate Learning, all four theories can be based on problem solving and generating possible solutions from research and many other ways to gather information to solve the problem.

Likewise, all four models value group work and collaboration, which aligns very well with the shift to common core standards. Developing online modules based around these models and standards would pose some challenges when working in group work, collaboration, etc., but the modules are much better off if they are developed with student collaboration in mind.  Also, Guided Design, Situated Cognition, and PBL are better off if the objectives/problem/task are embedded with context to real-life situations.  While Cooperative Learning did not directly mention embedding the content with context, all four of these strategies are greatly enhanced when they utilize meaningful context and make the learning for students more personal and realistic.

Even with all of those similarities and common principles, there are some differences between the four models.  As stated previously, even though Cooperative Learning would benefit from problem solving ideas and meaningful context, it does not require either to be successful.  In addition, all four models vary regarding the types and amount of feedback, the amount of solutions needed for problems, and the types of problems (ill-structured and well-defined) presented at the beginning.

2. Initial reactions to learning theories/models? Barriers to their use? Benefits to overcoming the barriers?

After I read through all of the learning theories/models, my initial thoughts were that these models would be very hard to implement in online modules due mainly to the time constraints associated with creating a model based on one of these theories.  Not that any of them would be impossible, they just require a lot of upfront planning and preparation — way more than the other modules from the previous weeks.  Each of these theories, if implemented online, require the teachers to allow for collaborative environments like Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, Google Docs, etc.  Likewise, students need places to put their thoughts and share planning guides, research materials, and final products.  While Google Docs seems like the obvious choice, it’s not always the best option for the class or the most convenient.  Overcoming the collaboration barrier for planning, creating, and finalizing would allow these theories to be successfully applied in online environments, which would make those online classes more meaningful for students.

Another initial reaction…How do you create authentic discussion based learning using the discussion tools available in an online environment?  While the small groups in each of these models would be learning within their groups, I think it’s important to bring the entire class together at some points throughout the class to discuss what they are learning so other groups can benefit from all the lessons learned throughout the course.  However, from first hand experience, generating discussions in online environments, while essential, can seem forced thus rendering the discussion pointless because students are only sharing what they think they need to share or what the teacher is looking for.  Overcoming the authentic discussion barrier is very possible if the teacher works carefully to craft questions that require meaningful answers and higher level thinking.  Likewise, the teachers in these online modules have to monitor and contribute to the discussions to guide their students’ thought processes and challenge their students’ thinking.  If one is able to overcome discussion barriers, all of the students would greatly benefit from enhanced discussions because now they are able to not only learn from themselves and their group but also from the experiences of the entire class.

3. Would you attempt to use any of these theories/models with the students you are currently teaching or hope to teach in the future? Why or why not? Could elements of the theories/models be modified so that they would work with your current/future students?

I think everyone uses Collaborative Learning on a regular basis in most classrooms.  Many of the strategies listed in the powerpoint such as Think-Pair-Share and Jigsaw are staples within many classrooms.  They are great strategies when trying to cover a large topic in a short amount of time and also when you really want students to take responsibility for their own learning.  However, and this could have been discussed in the previous section, Cooperative Learning scares me a little bit in the classroom.  If I design Cooperative Learning units and projects, it’s difficult to grade students fairly because I work hard to assess my students only on the mastery of the content and not their work ethic.  While their work ethic is valuable to me and to them, my job is to assess students ability to succeed within my classroom using the content and the level at which they achieve and nothing more.  I think Cooperative Learning has a place in the classroom in many formative instances, but I find it difficult to work in all facets of Cooperative Learning in most summative instances.

Unfortunately, I do not utilize PBL enough in my classroom, and I wish included more PBL projects and units. As an 8th grade SS teacher, I could create many authentic problems that our nation has faced, is facing, or will face throughout my class.  While some of the initial problems would only have one solution that we as a nation chose, the students could easily offer up alternative solutions that could have worked in addition to researching the chosen solutions from the past.  Obviously, I could front-load prior knowledge using my flip videos, and then my students would actively work in groups to solve the problem I created for them.  With all of the primary documents available for U.S. history, providing resources for the PBL project or unit would be easy.  Students could use those documents to research solutions used in the past by our nation to solve problems and compare them with the problem our nation is facing today and their potential solutions.

4. Since we’re taking learning theories/models that were not necessarily created with the Web in mind & turning them into Web modules, what Web-based tools/resources could be leveraged to carry out these learning theories/models online? Please spend some time identifying tools and resources for this last point, as this background research should help you complete your projects more efficiently.

I know there are many web 2.0 tools out there that could be used to support the collaborative piece in these theories/models.  I am also fully aware of Google Docs, Blackboard Collaborate, DimDim, Skype, etc.  However, I have used in my class for the past couple of years a technology called etherpad.  The idea behind etherpad is that users are provided a blank word document that they can write on individually or as a group.  The document is stored at a unique URL that students make up or can be randomly generated.  As long as the students know the URL, they can access the document any time.

It’s a great tool for collaborative lessons, projects, or units.  Students can share their thoughts, resources, and conclusions all on one or multiple documents and they never have to worry about saving.  The document saves automatically, and you can manipulate it very similar to a wiki in that you can move back drafts or see who is editing.  However, you don’t have to worry about multiple users editing the document at once as you do with wikis.  Some of the etherpad websites even have built in chatrooms as well.  I have used this in class to write collaborative essays or just simply as a planning guide for students doing collaborative projects.

Below is a list of possible options:



Why I Love RSS

~The following post is written for my ECI 512 class, but you may enjoy the read anyway.~

RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a way to aggregate all of the information you read on the Internet in one central place that is normally spread out all over the Internet.  RSS users can “subscribe to a website’s content using tools such as newsreaders or aggregators” (Duffy, 2006).  I use RSS feeds to pull in the latest blog posts from the edu-blogosphere that I read consistently. I also use RSS feeds to pull in articles from New York Times, CNN, local news, tech news, and sports.  It’s a great way for me to stay on top of everything I would like to read without spending tons of time checking all the websites to see if they are updated.  You see…RSS feeds have changed the way I read the news.  Instead of going to get the news, RSS feeds allow the news to be sent to me and then I can sort, categorize, read, ignore, or just about anything depending on the RSS tool you use.

RSS feeds have yet to really find a place in education except for among techy teachers.  However, I feel that RSS feeds can be used to improve best practices, create a transparent classroom, and help teachers grow professionally.

How to improve best practices using RSS:

  1. Teachers can compile a list of websites that generate content related to their subject field (Duffy, 2006).  Students can access these feeds when researching to ensure they use creditable websites.
  2. If students are creating current events in your SS class, create an RSS feed of news-bits that have a political bias.  Have students summarize their current event but also analyze and address the bias in the news report.
  3. “In using blogs with students, instead of visiting each student’s individual blog teachers can subscribe to an RSS feed that allows them to obtain instant notifications and updates relating to any new content added…Additionally, students themselves can also subscribe to the feeds of their friends, peers and teachers” (Duffy, 2006).

How to create a transparent classroom using RSS:

  1. Students and parents can be notified of classroom website updates via RSS feeds.
  2. RSS feeds eliminate the need for email subscription lists and parents can be notified of announcements, events, dates, and student news by email.

In order for teachers to grow professionally using RSS, they have to be committed to reading other teacher, administrator, student, or parent blog. While teachers may not always like what they read in the blogosphere, it is important to have your thinking challenged and inspired.  Using RSS aggregators is a great way to bring blog updates about the educational blogosphere right to your computer.  This is the number one way that I use RSS, and I love it!  It’s the best kind of professional development.

While I have been using Google Reader as my RSS reader on my mac and FeeddlerRSS on my iPhone, there are tons of various web-based RSS feeders out there as well as tons of apps for iOS and Android phones.   I encourage all of you to find a few blogs and websites, and then find an aggregator to get started.  If you are daring enough, try using RSS feeds in your classroom and let me know how it goes. Bring the Internet to you!


Duffy, Peter and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pages pp. 31-38, Brisbane.