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Community of Inquiry paper

Constructivism Analyzed using the Community of Inquiry Model

This paper is being added to my learning log as I prepare for the portfolio. That is why it is out of sequence with the dates.

Melissa Getz

Boise State University



The Community of Inquiry (CoI) is a paradigm established in 2000 by D. Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson, and Walter Archer that identifies how students learn in online asynchronous discussions. Over the past ten years several other researchers have joined in the scene by taking their own angles on how CoI can be measured, manipulated, applied, or just be useful. The Community of Inquiry is not unlike other learning theories where it has components that are made up of even more specific parts.  For CoI, the three main parts are called “presence” and within each presence there are variables that over the last few years have been used to measure the feasibility of the particular learning environment. First an overview of inquiry will be presented, followed by an introduction of the three presences along with some excerpts from literature.

What is Inquiry?

Inquiry is an educational practice that is based on the Constructivist learning theory. Constructivism has students create their own meaning for an assignment by having control of some of the direction or questioning involved with the lessons. Students derive meaning from the lesson instead of being told what to think or by being shown all of the answers. Hands-on learning is a constructivist approach because students manipulate objects to make meaning of the concepts or theories. Inquiry takes the hands-on approach one step further by giving students more control over the lesson, its content, or its direction. (Llewellyn, 2002) The Community of Inquiry is a manifestation of inquiry in an online written environment involving asynchronous discussions. Analysis of discussions using the Community of Inquiry model lets researchers measure the extent of inquiry that happens during said asynchronous discussions. Community of Inquiry is a learning theory because it analyzes learning that happens by means of interactive online discussions where ideas are developed over time via facilitation from each other or an instructor.

What is the Community of Inquiry?

Three presences were established in 2000 when Garrison, Anderson, and Archer published the paper, “Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education.”  The paper’s approach was to bring awareness to a new trend in higher education called computer-mediated communication (CMC).  They had done extensive research to delineate the components needed for learning to happen and they identified three core elements that needed to interact for a community to form where inquiry could happen.  It was in this paper that the social presence, the cognitive presence, and the teaching presence were born. Since year 2000, numerous education researchers have been wrestling with not only how to design asynchronous discussions so that all three presences can appear, but also with learning how to measure the efficacy of a discussion in the context of these three categories.

In a face to face classroom, students are given a question to explore, conduct the experiment with peers, and formulate conclusions. It is not feasible to do the same type of inquiry when students do not meet in person. However, inquiry can be done online using asynchronous discussions. For an online discussion to foster inquiry, it must have certain characteristics.  Since students make decisions about what to discuss, they formulate ideas and questions, and take ownership of what they say, inquiry is by definition involved. Students are given control over where discussions lead. If they go off topic, then other students will either point it out and steer them back on topic, or the off topic ideas will be ignored. Naturally, the participants have to be comfortable with the social setting and not be afraid to express their ideas. In addition, it helps if their ideas are received, considered, and processed by participants since having ideas validated carries a lot of weight in the online learning environment. If the social construct for the discussions is healthy, then a community of inquiry forms. Merely having a discussion forum does not guarantee it will evolve into a community where ideas are freely shared, respected, and altered.  There are other factors that need to exist. An instructor is still necessary to get the course started and to establish the safe discussion environment; however the students, when adequately engaged will create the community of inquiry because they will ask their peers questions to get others to think beyond their initial responses. Having students initiate questions that foster further discussion is a form of inquiry because the ideas and direction of the discussion are being generated by the students and not by the instructor.

Social Presence

The social presence component goes beyond netiquette to a more involved interaction with the other students in the class.  The three areas that comprise social presence are “Emotional Expression, Open Communication, and Group Cohesion” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000, p. 89). The social presence is often the element that constitutes the human side of having a discussion. It comprises the aspects of the conversation where people relate to each other and develop a personal investment in what is transpiring online, which may keep them coming back to the discussion area. Maintaining a risk-free environment where people feel open to sharing ideas is crucial to establishing the social presence. A risk-free environment yields open communication, and the group cohesion develops as participants collaborate to produce a product from the synergy of their ideas.

Cognitive Presence

The cognitive presence is as it sounds; it deals with the thinking that happens as evidenced by the discussion. The four areas that constitute cognitive presence are, “Triggering Event, Exploration, Integration, and Resolution” (Garrison, et al., 2000, p.89).  First there is a triggering event which stimulates the participants’ curiosities. Students are engaged by a question or a dilemma they need to solve. They exchange information as they collaboratively explore possible solutions. These interactions lead to integrating ideas into a thesis or possible explanation to the question or dilemma. Finally the group applies their ideas to a new scenario or tries out their proposal to determine its validity. The last part is a resolution of their synthesis- was their collaborative premise valid?

Teaching Presence

Although at first this may seem like the role of the instructor, the instructor is involved only as a facilitator who encourages students to help lead the discussion. The three areas that comprise the teaching presence are, “Design and Organization, Facilitating Discourse, and Direct Instruction” (Garrison, et al., 2000, p.89). The teaching presence emerges when students explain things to each other (direct instruction), ask clarifying questions or encourage others to be involved with the discussion (facilitating discourse). The design and organization component may be more difficult for students to foster if the professor has already established a routine or expectations for the discussions. However, giving students an opportunity to choose partners for assignments may put some of the control for subsequent discussions in the hands of the students. Since asynchronous discussions lack face-to-face spontaneity, identifying when participants are steering the direction of the discussion may be not obvious until after you see if the discourse has gone in a unique direction.

Some research over the last ten years

There has been a great amount of research done to clarify what social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence mean and to identify ways these ideas can be used to measure interactions or student behaviors in online situations.  It is possible that when researchers analyze their asynchronous discussions, a statement may fall into more than one “presence” category so the articles cannot easily be separated by their presence category. Instead they are identified here according to the main idea the paper was trying to establish.

How does the instructor/teacher impact discussions?

Some researchers have aligned their research with Garrison’s theories, whereas a few other people are challenging some of the nuances of the Community of Inquiry.  Shea and Bidjerano’s 2009 paper has a lengthy introduction about theories of how online instruction works and they delve into what Garrison and his group have established with the Community of Inquiry. They also recognize other groups who are organizing theories such as Mishra and Koehler, and Larramendy-Joerns and Leinhardt. Larramendy-Joerns and Leinhardt look at the online interactions as presentational and performance-tutoring instead of having three presences like Garrison’s CoI. Mishra and Koehler are the ones who coined the term, technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) model, which integrates Laramendy-Joerns and Leinhardt’s views. “Quoting Schulman (1986), Mishra and Koehler (2006), argue that the bifurcation of disciplinary knowledge and pedagogical knowledge was a major barrier to the improvement of instruction in schools” (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009, p. 544). This disconnect continues when teachers enter the classroom. They may know how to teach and what to teach, but not how to teach the content they are supposed to teach. An analogy to online asynchronous discussions is drawn. Online instructors may understand the mechanics of a discussion forum and the content that needs to be taught during that class, but do they understand how the instructor is supposed to behave so that student learning can be maximized?

Shea and Bidjerano propose that the instructor plays a significant role in the success of an online course. They administered a survey that included gathering demographic data in addition to the directed questions about student reactions to their coursework. They did not create the survey tool in isolation, but rather it was a collaborative process among several researchers, including Garrison’s group. Their findings conclude that there is a relationship between social presence and the ability of learners to extend their understanding of the content presented in the class. They assert that “teaching and social presence represent the processes needed to create paths to epistemic engagement and cognitive presence for online learners” (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009, p. 551).  What I am still not clear on, however, is if they view a teaching presence as one that is outside of the learner or if they recognize the teaching presence comes from within the learner. Some statements suggest that the instructor merely facilitates a teaching presence within the students; however, they imply instructor presence plays a role in increasing cognitive presence through the course instructor being engaged with the discussions as they happen. Students responded better when the “instructors’ judicious participation in online discussion” (Shea & Bidjerano, 2009, p. 551) focused the learners to pay attention to the relevant topics. They continue their discussion to suggest instructional designers must incorporate the role of the instructor into their courses. Although this paper did not choose to address direct instruction compared to “facilitation,” they suggest that direct instruction still has its place in the online course environment. They see this direct instruction being integrated in the ways the instructor participates in the asynchronous discussions. It looks like the creation of information still remains planted in the hands of the instructors. There continues to be a search for a way the instructors can use their content knowledge to facilitate inquiry in the students.

Does the length of the course affect how students learn?

In 2009 Akyol, Vaughan, and Garrison published their findings on how the social, teaching, and cognitive presences are affected by the length of the course. Their research was actually quite limited which should open them up to further publications as they refine their impressions on whether a four week class compared to an eight week course has an effect on what and how students learn in online classes. With the data they collected, they determined that integration, a component of the cognitive presence, is stronger for students who are in the longer course.   In addition, emotional expression, a component of the social presence, is also stronger for the longer courses. In contrast, students in the shorter course excelled more with group cohesion, a component of the social presence, and with exploration, a component of the cognitive presence. As for the teaching presence, there was no statistical difference between the two groups. This paper had so much of the research design and analysis done so poorly that I hope they redo their “experiment” with a much larger sample size and an analysis that does not make identifying student contributions for one category of a specific presence exclude other categories. For example, they decided to measure each category of the social presence based on what was said in the asynchronous discussions. This is fine, but then they added up all of the comments and decided to figure out what percentage each category made up the total number of comments. There is a bit of logic missing here because a comment that reflects on “group cohesion” should not mean that a comment was not made about “affective or emotional expression.” They are not comparable in the sense that saying something that falls in one category is a deliberate lack of saying something in another category. In addition, who is to say that there should be a specific distribution of the comments?  They grouped the data this way to give an overall impression of what students say in their discussions; however, the variables that influence what students choose to say were not exactly controlled. Regardless, more research needs to be done on the influence of course duration on how and what students learn in online classes. If nothing else, they need more data if they continue to feel compelled to use a line instead of a vertical bar graph to illustrate two data points. With at least three points they can start to establish a trend and therefore there may be some logic to doing line graphs.

Research design learning resource

Douglas Archibald is another professor who publishes papers focused on the Community of Inquiry. Although his 2010 article was very short, it set him up for future publications that look at how his Research Design Learning Resource (RDLR) is effective with preparing students for doing research in the social sciences, mainly in education.  He is using the Community of Inquiry Instrument, a survey that lets researchers analyze the components of asynchronous discussions with respect to the three presences, to evaluate the discussions students have while doing the RDLR program. The CoI instrument was developed by several other researchers, including Garrison, in 2008. With Archibald’s paper we see how the CoI framework is being extended to support specialized research that other professors are doing.  People other than those who work directly with Garrison can choose to incorporate CoI into the paradigm they are trying to promote. Like Shea & Bidjerano, Archibald seems to want to stretch the understanding of CoI into pragmatic analysis of online learning in ways Garrison’s group has not yet examined.

Collaborative virtual environments

Hamza-Lup and Stanescu work with haptic feedback devices, which are mechanical objects connected to the computer so that a person interacting with the virtual environment can have kinesthetic feedback. They have created physics interactive lessons where students do not just play with the equations for force equals mass times acceleration. The students feel how their force affects the acceleration.  The kinesthetic parameter lets a third sense join the two that are most commonly used with online discussions: vision and hearing. Now people can feel what they see or hear going on in their virtual world. Students can do an action and not only see its effect, but they can see the equations change as they alter what they are doing. It is an immediate feedback mechanism. What does this have to do with CoI?  It may not be obvious, but the CoI measures what happens when the visual and audio learning styles are used for asynchronous discussions. Hamza-Lup and Stanescu want to see how the CoI framework can measure the ways haptic feedback can “enhance the ways in which students can explore content at a distance” (2010, p. 81). They don’t intend to change how CoI is interpreted or used; instead they prefer to add another dimension that can provide context for measuring the social, cognitive, or teaching presences.

Measuring metacognitive gains using CoI

The cognitive presence may be analyzed by evaluating the variances of metacognition.  Akyol and Garrison (2011) recognize the cognitive presence component of CoI and therefore have their paper align with the CoI construct. Their paper focuses on the metacognitive part of the cognitive presence whereas other publications (Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Garrison & Vaughan, 2008) elaborate on how the cognitive part of the inquiry deals with the factual or content part of the learning. Whereas the social presence would address issues that may be somewhat akin to netiquette, the cognitive part deals with how well concepts are explained or debated in the discussions.  They found that quantity does not equal quality because clear writing can express ideas more powerfully than fluffy, unfocused statements. On the other hand, too much brevity allows for misunderstandings, which may inconsequentially lead to a more in depth discussion as more critical thinking is used to analyze what is being said, as well as for identifying what needs to be mentioned. They determine there to be three stages of metacognition:  Knowledge of Cognition (KC), Monitoring of Cognition (MC), and Regulation of Cognition (RC). They monitored and evaluated transcripts of online student discussions to evaluate where students expressed knowledge of their learning or their relationship to the information being discussed (KC), when students made evaluator comments about what other people said (MC), or made comments that affected the direction of the conversation (RC).

The metacognitive partition, Knowledge of Cognition (KC), plays a role when the students state their understanding of the topic being discussed and the process by which they are discussing it. If they recognize limitations in an online discussion then that is part of the knowledge of cognition because they are aware of how an online discussion can limit spontaneous responses that might otherwise cascade in a face to face discussion. The debate over ideas and concepts falls in the category of Monitoring of Cognition (MC) because students are determining where their ideas align with their peers and where they may contradict each other. Naturally netiquette needs to be followed when debating interpretations of content so during the debate, the social presence may be involved. When certain students dominate the conversation or tend to steer its direction, then the Regulation of Cognition (RC) is happening. Not every student will regulate the flow of the content matter and ideas it generates in every discussion. There may be times when students are elected to be the facilitators of the discussion. When students behave as strong regulators of cognition, their teaching presence is being expressed. By exerting control over the discussion and guiding its outcome, students are following a constructivist approach to learning.  They are not being passive participants. Instead they are influencing the direction of the discussion, thereby demonstrating behaviors desired when students do inquiry based learning.


Akyol, Z., Garrison, D.R. (2011). Assessing metacognition in an online community of inquiry. Internet and Higher Education (14), 183-190. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.01.005

Akyol, Z., Vaughan, N., & Garrison, D.R. (2011). The impact of course duration on the development of a community of inquiry. Interactive Learning Environments, 19(3), 231-246. doi: 10.1080.10494820902809147

Arbaugh, J. B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S.R., Garrison, D. R., Ice, P., Richardson, J.C., & Swan, K.P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. Internet and Higher Education, 11, 133-136. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2008.06.003

Archibald, D. (2010). Fostering the development of cognitive presence: Initial findings using the community of inquiry survey instrument. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 73-74. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.001

Garrison, D. R., & Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century : a framework for research and practice. London, New York: Routledge Falmer.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T. & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2, 87-105.

Garrison, R.D., & Vaughan, N.D. (2008). Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles and Guidelines (1st Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hamza-Lup, F. G., & Stanescu, I.A. (2010). The haptic paradigm in education: Challenges and case studies. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 78-81. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.12.004

Larreamendy-Joerns, J., & Leinhardt, G. (2006). Going the distance with online education. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 567-605.

Llewellyn, D. (2002). Inquire within: Implementing inquiry-based science standards. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, Inc.

Mistra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teacher’s College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2009). Community of inquiry as a theoretical framework to foster “epistemic engagement” and “cognitive presence” in online education. Computers & Education, 52, 543-553. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2008.10.007

Worked Example Screencast

This was fun because I needed to create a mini-lesson for a student I’ve been working with in my day job. I decided to create a short lesson on the equations used for solving pH and pOH problems so she could get through that part of the unit. Now that I am learning in the EDTECH program how to spice things up, I added a little flair, but was very careful to not have audio conflict too much with written words. After the first slide I made a separate button for the  viewer to click if they want to hear an explanation. I felt like I was creating the narration that accompanies museum walking tours. I leave it up to the listener to decide if they want to listen or not. For students who are in an area where sound would be a problem, there is enough on the slide for them to be able to think about what they are being shown. The Articulate Storyline player also has a mute button so if they are not allowed to listen to the first slide, they can at least watch what goes on in the slide. Only the first slide has automatic narration. I also have much of the problem solving demonstrations enter in steps so that the student is aware there are steps to solving the problems. Answers do not just magically appear.

I put the video up at my website because I want people to be able to interact with it. I don’t know what is happening with our stuff on the EDTECH servers, especially when we graduate, so I might as well put this up at Embrace Challenge now. That was the link to the shockwave file. It is also available in HTML5 because Articulate is just that cool. WordPress, however is not, so I put in the long url to the swf and there is another shorter link that will hopefully take you to the presentation. My student was so cute- I had her use this the day after I made it and she said I could make money doing this. Little does she know what really amazing tutorials are already out there. I’ll be happy if somehow these can be accessible to my students.

pH and pOH equations


Melissa’s Digital Story

Although not every image matches my words as well as I would like it to, nor are all of the images impeccable, however, this did not turn out all that bad. I put it up at YouTube in a private setting so I think you need the URL: to see it. This was quite an interesting assignment because it took several different drafts and many hours to decide what to say. My first “drafts” were about 20 minutes long which is not what I wanted to create. I spent many hours scanning paper photos to make them digital and am glad I had the means to do that. Although my final story is as simple as I could make it, I did get to include on image among the ones I found that my mom has already passed along to me.

I did not get to go in depth about why I have the personality I have, which was one of my original goals, but I think I was able to express enough for people to get an idea of my neuroses and obsessions. I did not get to elaborate how I never expected to see 40 until it happened because my genetic father died when he was 39 and 3 days old. It would have taken too long to include that history so I’ll mention it here. It is because he died when I was 7 and the impact it had on me that I led the path I chose until the last time I left the classroom. I was 41 in 2010 when I left the rooms with tables and chairs for the second time, and will probably be the last one. Every day after age 40 is truly a gift and It is pretty neat how I get to live a life I did not spend years planning, like I did in my first 40. I just get the benefits from the crap I did in the first 40 so that my next chapters are not as difficult as they could be.

Yes, I am aware I broke rules of Multimedia Design, but I HAD to put labels on some of the images even though I am talking and telling my story simultaneously.

I hope you enjoy my story and don’t find it 5 minutes of boring rhetoric. Enjoy!

EDTECH 523: Communication Plan

This Communication Plan is supposed to cover:

  1. Routine Tasks
  2. Critical Thinking Prompts
  3. Management Issues and Strategies
  4. Online Discussion Forum Checklist/Rubric
  5. One original idea, category or thought

Routine Tasks:

  1. Check discussion forums daily to see if there are new posts.
  2. Check email to see if students tried to contact me.
  3. See who has turned in assignments.  If students who did not turn in assignments are on an IEP that requests they get additional nagging, nag them.
  4. Check to see what is coming up for due dates and post a reminder in the news forum or similar place.
  5. If there is a synchronous session about to happen, check my audio and video equipment to make sure they are working properly.
  6. Find a parent to call with good news.
  7. See if there are parents to call with less than happy news.
  8. Grade anything that needs to be graded.
  9. Write feedback to myself about how well things are working so I  can note what needs to be changed the next time I teach this topic.

Critical Thinking Prompts:

Starting discussions with leads like:

  • What do you think about…
  • How would you determine…
  • Why do you agree or disagree with…
  • Evaluate famous person’s quote.
  • Give feedback on the paper,- post a journal article or link to website for students to read
  • Why is person’s ideas realistic, successful, or other adjective?

Discussion Board Strategies

  1. Have students start threads so that they can have a variety of places to share their “reply” type of responses
  2. I liked Adam’s suggestion of using a discussion forum as a way to do a jigsaw. Have questions already posted, students pick one question to answer, then they respond to something someone else said.
  3. Send students on a mission to find something online. It could be a picture, an explanation, or a specific website that gives specific information about a topic. They need to come back and share what they found to the rest of the group.
  4. Like we do here in the EDTECH program, students can post their unique projects to a forum for others to evaluate and to give feedback or suggestions for improvement.
  5. If there is a challenge question, you can have the forum set up so that you can’t read anybody else’s posts until you make one yourself. So let’s say there is a dilemma and you ask students to problem solve it. Each person needs to put up their own solution before they can read everybody else’s.
  6. I liked Glori’s idea of doing case studies. People would propose their recommendations for their case study. Then they would examine what everybody else put up to formulate a better idea or guide their peers toward more in depth thought.
  7. Ethical dilemma- students brainstorm how to solve an ethical dilemma. This is similar to a case study, but far less involved.

Management Issues and Strategies:

I am not excited about managing anything- my classroom management is pure dumb luck. I would kill my kids with kindness and make them feel too guilty to cause trouble for us. Discussion boards are not something I am looking forward to managing because I expect students to avoid them. So, to motivate students to post to boards or to continue posting, I can try:

  1. Positive feedback with words in the forum or through a personal email.
  2. Bribery with extra points as an incentive to just get students to be on the board.
  3. Ask students to talk about themselves. Let the discussion area be student-centric at least at first. Let students take ownership of the space before you squish their brains by having them expand their content knowledge in a forum.
  4. Use icebreakers. Our class came up with some amazing icebreakers to get students to share something about themselves. My peers did a wonderful job of organizing work we have done in the class and collected our icebreakers here. 
  5. Do landscape style summary posts to recognize at least one contribution from each student up to that point.
  6. Although I will have a list of netiquette suggestions available in our first section, I want to invite students near the beginning of the class to share reasons why netiquette is important. I would also like to discuss what bullying looks like and why it is inappropriate. Some students may not realize that what they say is interpreted as bullying so I want to make sure students are aware of how to make our space safe. In this discussion I also want to include a review of what type of information is OK to put online, what information should not be shared, and the differences between where our class discussion happens and social media in general. Within this discussion I also want to point out why “I agree” or “Hello” posts are ineffective.
  7. In fact, we will have to have a forum where we set some ground rules, if I have not mandated them already. If this is my students’ first time in a discussion setting, we need to condition each other on to how to come to terms with too many posts to read. Part of the learning curve with online learning is to forgive yourself for not being able to read everybody’s posts. I want to discuss strategies with students about how to choose threads to open. I want to caution them about types of posts to make or not make if you want people to open your thread. I am an expert at turning people off in discussion forums so I know very clearly what to post to stop a discussion or truncate it before its time is exhausted. I can advise my students accordingly. We will have to have an introductory forum where we play with what to do and what not to do. I also want students to collaborate on strategies of what to pay attention to in our class’s LMS setting, what can be pushed aside until you have more time to spend reading, and what could possibly be ignored for a while without it causing too much trouble. (Number 7 is somewhat of a twist on what Palloff and Pratt say in chapter 4 of Building Online Learning Communities.)
  8. I want to have a survey always available for students to give anonymous feedback. I will address their feedback somewhere in the course so they can see that I am taking their suggestions seriously. If they know I care about their ideas and find them to be valid, maybe they will share more of them within the real forums?
  9. What is in chapter 7 will be very valuable. At the moment it is very difficult for me to hypothesize what my online classroom will be like because I have yet to experience an online classroom where I have freedom to make decisions like the ones that are described in many of the samples in chapter 7. I can make a list of what students can expect from me, though.
What students can expect from me, their instructor:
  1. Feedback from emails or phone calls within 24 hours.
  2. Honesty.
  3. Someone who cares about students’ academic lives.
  4. Someone who expects students to make mistakes and to use those mistakes as learning opportunities.
  5. Someone who has high expectations and therefore will push every student to succeed. I will happily listen to challenges students face and will brainstorm with you ways to conquer currently perceived obstacles.

Online Discussion Forum Checklist/ Rubric:

Discussion Board Rubric

My discussion board rubric tool:

I am using the PBS rubric and Alexis Alexander’s rubrics to guide my discussion board rubrics. These rubrics rely on students being able to physically start a new thread when they reply to a general question.  There is a diagram at the end that shows a graphic for how this type of forum can work.

What is expected in a post:

  • Minimum of 50 words; no maximum
  • Relates to the question posed or directly reflects what someone else said in response to the question
  • Sincerity
  • Unique ideas or properly cited if not unique
  • Proper grammar and usage of the English language

What could make up a post:

  • Additional questions that expand the breadth of what has been said
  • Personal anecdotes that relate to the question posed
  • Quoted responses from the readings with your interpretation of what it means
  • A respectful dissension of what someone else has said
  • Discuss a related issue about which you would like feedback
  • Provide an additional source that contributes to this topic that was not already provided in the course material. Tell us why you think this is appropriate.

Scoring Rubric:



Needs improvement

When did you post? Your first response starts a thread within 4 days of the forum opening. Your follow up two posts are within two weeks of the forum opening. You are not limited to only doing two follow-up posts; this is the minimum required. Your first response does not start a thread, but your posts stimulate discussion in the forum.


Your first response happens later than 4 days after the thread starts, but it still stimulates discussion.

Your first response does not start a thread, nor do any of your responses stimulate discussion.


Your first response happens after 4 days after the thread starts and it does not stimulate discussion.

What did you post? Initial post and responses are on topic, demonstrate thorough understanding of it, and stimulate other people to think. Initial post and/or responses are somewhat on topic, demonstrate some understanding of it, and/or stimulate some productive discussion. Initial post and/or response are off topic, demonstrate faulty understanding, and/or do not stimulate any additional productive comments because of the quality of what you posted.
Usefulness of posts? What you say contributes to other people’s schema. Others can use your ideas to generate their own, or to expand their thinking. You are able to get other people to consider a perspective that they may not have already thought about. What you say does not stop discussion, although there may only be a few people who can relate to your suggestions. Your posts are difficult to understand, do not provide concrete ideas others could use, or are very limited with their application.

Diagram of how forum responses can be structured:

image of how Melissa wants to set up discussion areas

A forum set-up so that discussions have threads.

DiscussionParticipation is a pdf copy of the diagram.

Naturally there are more than three students in the course. The idea is that each person does an initial post before writing a response post. You continue to write response posts until you run out of ideas.

One original idea, category, or thought:

Teaching presence- is it possible?

Several education scientists have published their views on how discussion forums work. They analyze what students say, when they say it, how things are said, and anticipate the learning outcomes based on this information. There are three main presences that have been described: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Much of our discussion in this class has focused on the social presence because that is the perspective our book, Paloff and Pratt (2007), uses when they explain how they see online teaching and learning will happen. To be thorough, they mention other presences even though they do not go as in depth with them. In 523 we had the opportunity to try out the teaching presence. Although I am usually an advocate of putting as much as possible into the hands of the students, I do not advocate having students lead discussions. I know that it is essential for those who want to be discussion leaders to be trained in how to facilitate a discussion and for some people in our class, this was their first opportunity. I bet it was amazing for them and they will have learned skills they did not realize could exist. At what expense is this done to the other students?

For this class, participating in the discussions was not a priority for me because I kept doing it wrong and therefore did not get the validation I am used to having in online classes that have active discussions. I think this is my twentieth online class so I arrogantly consider myself to be very experienced with how to maneuver in discussion forums. As you can see above, I am very much in favor of giving students the responsibility of starting threads. Within their thread, they own the pathway if they choose to respond to people who reply within that thread. I see it happen often in the 506 posts- we put up our image and people offer suggestions or ask questions. A dialogue forms between the one who started the thread and those who choose  to volunteer their insights on the image that was posted. In a way the original poster can assume a teaching presence, although many of the replies to the original post are actually suggestions on what to improve and how to do it. In that way, a teaching presence can be seen in many of the posts.

In courses where the instructor oversees the path of the discussion, I rarely see a teaching presence allowed to happen by anybody except for the instructor. Even in some classes where students form their own threads, when the instructor posts in the threads, sometimes the discussion becomes one on one between the instructor and the person who started the thread. For me, I do not see that as being a productive use of time and space. Instead I think instructors should use email to directly address some of their questions designed to move a discussion forward that really only push one person to volunteer ideas. I see the instructor’s responsibility to help unify the group and interpret what others have said so that the ideas can get broader and more diverse. I am not convinced that students who have not had training in techniques that can be used to broaden discussions should be made the discussion leaders. Instead, I think students should be responsible for starting threads so they can have a microcosm of the discussion under their guidance. The instructor can still step in and offer engaging questions, but they do not have to be the only ones demonstrating a teaching presence.

Teaching presence actually has two “definitions”. Both have to deal with who is guiding a discussion, but one focuses on the teacher and the other focuses on the students. For the community of inquiry, the focus is on how well the students are able to guide the discussions. The research does not measure what a good job the instructor does of being the guide on the side. It measures how often or how well students step forward to cause inquiry to happen. In other words, are students posing the questions that guide future discussion or is the only one posting questions the instructor? Be careful if you decide to research the teaching presence because some people elaborate on how an instructor can manifest their presence in the discussions rather than how to get students to take leadership roles in the discussions. When students take on the leadership roles, then they are exhibiting a teaching presence.  Chapter 8 in Palloff and Pratt elaborate on how to get students involved in the class. They have sections called, “Dialogue as Inquiry” (p. 170), “Encouraging Expansive Questioning” (p. 171), and “Sharing Responsibility for Facilitation” (p. 173). Although they don’t publicize that they are giving strategies for creating a Community of Inquiry or for getting students to develop a teaching presence, their ideas in chapter 8 align with those theories.

Articles or publications that elaborate on developing a teaching presence in students:

Garrison, Randy D. and Vaughan, Norman D. (2008) Blended Learning in Higher Education.

Community of Inquiry- a website including explanations and papers

Video that addresses how to establish the course such that students are aware of the instructor- I did NOT create this video; it is just here as a resource for anybody who may be using this edublog for ideas

Slideshare- a presentation on face to face learning with a transition to applications online

mini-website for EDTECH 506

EDTECH 506 is another amazing class. I am learning about how to organize graphics so they make sense. As I complete projects, they will be posted at a mini-website I created for 506.

The final project can be found here:

School Technology Evaluation Assignment

Teach Me High School Technology Evaluation Summary

Teach Me High School is located in an urban environment. The population is roughly 25% African American, 25% Caucasian, 25% Asian, and 25% Latino. The predominant language spoken on campus is English, however more Hispanic families are immigrating into the school. Teach Me is a charter school and by district policy, its demographic statistics mirror that of the city. By state or charter school policies, students are chosen randomly through a lottery, however to be in the lottery parents need to know the school exists and they need to formally apply. The school has roughly 425 students, about 100 students per class. About 98% of graduating seniors indicate they are going to continue at a community or four year college after graduation.

Administratively the school falls in the integrated realm because each department gets to have a say in the technology available to that department. Ultimately, though, all decisions are approved by the principal. Even though there is an Instructional Technologist on staff full time, he still has his purchases approved by the principal before they can be executed. The school moved to the Google platform, much like what Boise State does. They use Google docs to collaborate and communicate, however what happens at in-person meetings is not documented well for those who are unable to attend. The online access to all information is also somewhat convoluted and it can be difficult to find all of the documents or to remember all of the documents and databases that need to be monitored.

Attendance is taken online every block. Grades are managed by PowerSchool so students and parents have access to student grades 24/7. Teachers are given deadlines by which they need to update grades so parents and students have a somewhat continuous idea of how well the students are progressing. The school has chosen to not use a Scantron type of system which also means they have chosen to not use a computer database to automatically track multiple choice assessments. Grading is still done by hand and some teachers utilize students to grade multiple choice tests. Since grades are managed by PowerSchool, teachers are forced to adapt to a percentage-based grading system.
When teachers have long-term assignments, they will take students to the computer lab daily so students can do research. Seniors have to do a project that requires online research and also requires they make a website, however I am not aware of any formal training the teachers or the students go through to learn how to make the websites. Many teachers incorporate having students figure out things for themselves as a deliberate way of having the students be engaged with the technology. Not all teachers choose to use the computer lab. Many teachers will show PowerPoint presentations via a LCD projector. In 2010, the last year I worked at the school, no classroom had an interactive whiteboard or a clicker system to do any formative assessments.
More teachers are having students make websites, however their construction still follows a predominantly linear organization. The dynamic properties of the web do not seem to be integrated into these electronic assignments yet. Given that much of what is done for classroom use or assignments is determined by more than one person, the school is beyond the emergent stage. Since the cycle of feedback is usually limited to a few adults, the school still behaves as islands of expertise.

For support the school falls mainly in the integrated stage, however some features fall in the intelligent zone whereas others fall in the emergent phase. Since the school has one designated full time adult who knows technology on staff, much of the support the school needs is there. There are times when he is budgeted a support person who will assist with machine and software needs. Whenever something changes globally with the school’s systems, the staff goes through training during a professional development time. It is normal to have updates at every faculty meeting to help new teachers understand the policies or to let the entire staff know when changes are being done and the consequences of those changes. Some teachers are able to get training because they become affiliated with a grant that is based on using technology. Other teachers pursue learning about technology on “their own time.”

The school falls between integrated and intelligent for the connectivity. The entire school has wireless access to the Internet and email. Staff that need to bypass the filter are given a password so if they want to use a YouTube video in class they can. Specific sites are restricted due to state law or school policies. Being a charter school, there is very little communication with the district. The school has zero dependence on the district for its technology hardware or software so there is very little need to be actively involved with a district WAN.

Innovation happens between islands that are somewhat integrated. No staff member deliberately shuns technology, however not everybody chooses to embrace new technology. For example, I wanted to do asynchronous discussions with my students so our IT person made our Moodle shell accessible to my class. He had not been trained on how to use Moodle yet but he did not let that stop him from letting staff members who wanted to figure it out to try it. Sure the Moodle set-up was messy, but we were able to do an asynchronous discussion. If a teacher wants to use technology that is available, they are more than welcome to use it. The bulk of the staff, however, is still in the frame of mind where using the overhead projector counts as technology and using the LCD projector makes it easier to show PowerPoint presentations.

Overall rating:
The school falls mainly in the integrated realm with a few spikes into intelligent. Compared to other schools I have either worked at or been involved with, they are much further along with embracing technology.



RSS Feeds for Education

I am not so confident about this lesson as I have been with others because I look at other people’s posts in the discussion area and I’m thinking that I missed something in the directions. My listings in my reader are really short. I will have to investigate if that is a consequence of the sites I’ve chosen to subscribe to and forward to my shared reader page or if I am not sharing to my shared page in Google reader correctly.

This is the link to my Google reader shared page:

A couple things- I need to know if you can not access the shared page. If you are using your broncomail email address, you should be able to access the page.

I created an EDTECH 501 contacts group and put the entire class in it. I am only sharing my shared page with the EDTECH 501 group. I tried to start a reader in my boisestate gmail account but I could not find a link to reader, even under the More tab in the top navigation bar. Even searching the Google apps for Reader was unsuccessful so I’m using Google reader at my normal gmail account. If you see Ntropi, that is because I am ntropi (aka entropy). My husband has made me way too paranoid to make everything I do open to everybody. Until I get a better feel for how reader works, my shared page is going to be private. I wish I could create a share page for each group. If that can be done, please share with me how to do it.

I would like to be able to create a share page for each group because it would let me easily create a share page for each class / section I teach. Most 6-12 grade teachers have more than one section of students per day. You may want to do a project with one section, but not another. I would use the RSS links to help guide students toward useful information for the projects. It would let me provide structure as well as help show students which resources can be trusted online. Ideally I could set up a RSS page for each class or project- then again there are so many RSS applets that I bet there is one that will do it and I’m just too ignorant at the moment.

I can see myself use RSS like I’ve started using Twitter. I’ll read my Twitter feed to get an idea of what the most talked about topics are- cute little snippets that I can usually click on to get to the article if I want to read it. The RSS feeds are similar in that they are usually a 2 sentence summary (more or less) about the article they are linked to. I would just need to get myself in the habit of checking my RSS feed. I did add the RSS gadget to my iGoogle page so maybe I will check the links more often. I am sure there is an RSS feed app I can put on my iPad. Yep, if I did that, then I’d be sure to become addicted. In the past few weeks I’ve become very fond of getting information quickly to keep up to date without getting stuck in opinion wars or a bunch of “facts” that really don’t have much use to me at the moment.

Again, please let me know ASAP if the link does not work. Thank you!

I added a reply to my discussion post in the EdTech 501 RSS feed discussion. This is what I said:
I was answering the questions based on what was on the discussion page where we enter our responses. After looking at other people’s entries, I see that either I misunderstood something or I was not paying attention to details or something….

I now have a post at my Learning Log.

Thinking about it, I am even more confused because you can’t specify a Google reader shared page to be about a specific topic- what I mean is that I can’t have an educational resources page, a political page, a science page, etc. I have to put all of my shared links on one page.

Am I supposed to have multiple Google reader accounts? I am not sure I can even do that because I can’t even figure out how to use Google reader through my Boise State gmail account. I started a Google reader page in my personal Google account a year ago and since it is already in place, I don’t know how to change it to make it specifically about Education or how to make pages directed to specific audiences.

If you have a clue- please advise me what to do. I’m not trying to be a slacker. If anything, I’m overwhelmed this week with all that is happening (outside of this class) and I tried to post this early to be ahead of the craziness this week. Do I chalk this up as a “FAIL”?

P.S. I’ve started investigating the iPad apps and so far most of them just seem like a way to tap into Google reader. In fact, it seems to be the only reader they want to connect with. I was thinking I could get a reader account at Google and someplace else that organizes RSS feeds (which I have not found yet), but nope, it looks like all of it goes into Google’s reader. If I find differently, I’ll post a reply to this post and let you know what I found.

Update July 15:

I don’t know how it happened, but I can now use Google reader with my Boise State gmail account. This is supposedly the link for the shared page with the Boise State gmail Google Reader:

I still can not be logged in to my and my email accounts at the same time, but I think if I open them up in different browsers, I can access both email accounts relatively simultaneously.

I plan to use this Google reader account for topics relating to Educational Technology, teaching, or online learning. I’ll keep my other Google reader account for non-career or silly things. Plus I don’t feel like I need to make groups for the Boise account because someone would probably have to know me or have the link to access this reader account. I am hoping that I don’t lose my Boise acct if I graduate. I thought the days of revoking email accounts from students as they graduated were over. (My UCDavis email account was taken from me when I graduated in 1994.)

I am still looking into how to make more than one Google Reader shared list and it appears that if I have more than one gmail account, I can do it. It would be one Google Reader shared sheet per gmail account. How many teachers want multiple gmail accounts for every class or subject they teach? I will keep trying out iPad and iPod apps to see if any of them let me classify feeds into particular shared pages. So far all I’ve found are apps that let me import my feeds that are already registered with a Google Reader account.

If I find out more, I will come back and post yet another reply to myself to let you know what I’ve found.

Technology Trends

Technology Trends: Augmented Game-based Gesture Learning Analytics

Although my title may suggest an inability to make concrete decisions, to me it reflects my imagination. While reading/listening to the Horizon Report 2011, I imagined things I currently do or thought about how to expand on activities I’ve done with students. Now what I would like to create is a game that is augmented by being in a biotechnology lab environment, game-based because it involves solving a murder mystery, gesture-based because it involves three dimensional pieces of equipment students can manipulate in a 3 dimensional space, and analytical because the students will do labs that generate data that can be pulled from databases and used to determine whose DNA is at the crime scene. I’ve already done much of this in the classroom, but it was with real lab equipment and I gave them copies of data and made up scenarios for them to calculate genotype frequencies with hypothetical situations.

The outreach person at CEPRAP, Barbara Emberson, created an augmented game several years ago that I’ve used with students.

Image of virtual DNA fingerprinting lab "game"

Image from the DNA fingerprinting software game. I used it to introduce students to the idea of what we’d be doing in the lab before we did it. It helped some students understand what we were doing with the micropipettors and why we were doing the labs we were doing, however in some ways because it was completely virtual with students not actually using equipment, it was somewhat a waste of class time. If given a choice between having students do a virtual lab and having them do a real lab where they are working with real lab equipment, my vote is for the real lab.

Not every school can afford the real biotechnology equipment and now that science education companies are getting into the biotech scene, much of what is made is a bunch of junk.  It would be more economical for a company to design a micropipettor that can be hooked up to a computer system so the user can get immediate feedback on their technique.  They’d have to dial the numbers correctly to micropipette the correct amounts of liquids, run the gels, stain them, photograph them, and gather their results with the three dimensional and computer equipment. Although I was not able to use the software with my students, computers now map the location of bands and do all of the calculations necessary for the sizes that are in each lane. Although I used the electrophoresis method to teach students how to draw a graph using a linear regression curve, I don’t know that they have to know how to do that by hand anymore. One of my former students who is now getting a PhD in microbiology laughs at me when I talk about the sequencing gels I ran when I was in grad school. She does not do any of her own sequencing. She sends her sample to a sequencing service on campus and several hours later she gets her results. We can simulate this for high school students by using the various technologies mentioned in the horizon report. Below is an image of student working with a micropipetter. In this picture you can also see the carbonless copy lab notebooks we used.

picture of high school student using micropipettor

picture of high school student using micropipettor

Electronic books- Imagine lab manuals that can call off the instructions to the student and they automatically get checked off as the student physically does that step in the protocol.  I don’t know if I want lab notebooks to be virtual, but my student also informs me that the carbonless notebooks that I have students use in the biotech class are now being replaced by typing in results in the computer. I can only imagine equipment becoming sophisticated enough that it automatically logs into a data sheet what the human did during the lab. In my simulated biotechnology lab game, if the student micropipettes 42.6 uL of liquid, then it could automatically be written into an electronic lab notebook.

Augmented reality- the student could view their manual actions taking place in a virtual biotechnology lab. Their gestures get recorded as they use plastic equipment that mimics real laboratory equipment. The difference is that the student will virtually make a gel and pour it. They wear gloves in the lab anyway, so why not have them wear gloves that keep track of where they are moving their hands. They can make the agarose, heat it up, let it cool down, and pour it. We’d write the game so that if they poured it too soon, the gel would be brittle and have lots of unnecessary bubbles. Imagine being able to measure the gestures so well that in the virtual lab, students would have to demonstrate the same techniques they’d have to really do in the lab.

Game-based- to make the lab game based, all we have to do is immerse it in a context. Frank Stephenson wrote much of the BABEC lab stories that when I had the time to embed the labs in a story, I did. Link to  BABEC curriculum: BioRad has also submerged many of their labs in a context. For example, I used to use the BioRad primers to test foods for evidence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) with my students. Link to BioRad GMO investigator kit: Although BABEC also provided primers, I liked the BioRad ones because they made the purpose of the primers much more obvious. Imagine doing a lab like the GMO lab with classrooms all over the US instead of just with the few samples done with my students. This particular lab does not have to  be a virtual one; I’m just brainstorming about how I could have expanded the GMO lab to include data that went beyond our local grocery store and our few results. All it would take is a little imagination to turn the GMO-PCR lab into one that either stayed hands-on with real equipment and foods, or became virtual where our samples being tested were already ones sitting in a database.  If done hands-on, then I would love to see the lab expanded to a global context. The could even collect data outside the US as genetically modified foods become more global.

Gesture- based- If we turned the biotech labs into virtual settings with “real” equipment analogous to the models used in Wii games, then we could have gestured-based learning. With this type of biotech equipment, there would  be nothing to wash at the end of the period. I would not have to have multiple sets of equipment that would have to stay “in use” by one section while another section did a multi-day lab. The $200 micropipettor would hopefully be replaced by a less expensive plastic one that was connected to a computer so its physical use could be monitored. Imagine being able to have eight sets of lab equipment for what it used to cost to have one or two sets.

photo of students working in a high school biotechnology lab class

Students collaborating in a high school biotechnology lab class.

Learning Analytics- one thing I detest about most of what is available for high school students in the biotech classroom is imaginary lab settings that can not be directly connected to what is done in a real forensic or research lab. For example, I even had a graduate student come in and want to do a simulated crime scene lab with me where the students used restriction enzymes to discern the human DNA found at a imaginary crime scene. While restriction enzymes (RE) have their purpose in the lab, mainly for cloning pieces of DNA into a vector, they have not been used for human identification for years. You need too much DNA to do a RE digest. The grad student seemed so offended that I shot down his idea of wasting my students’ time by doing a lab that had no basis in reality anymore. I was appalled that he had the nerve to suggest I waste time doing something with my kids that was antiquated and now a part of the history of forensic science instead of being a current trend. When you watch a tv show that suggests using RFLP analysis, you know the show is dated because that is now a waste of time, money, and human energy. Plus, it requires too much DNA for it to be practical. Using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is now done to categorize DNA and its patterns. Last year I tried to create a scenario where my students used genotype frequency data to determine the likelihood someone’s DNA occurs in the population. I was basing the data on a list of specific allele frequencies that have been identified in a population. Finding this data was not easy, nor was it easy to show my students how to use it. Link to article with data I used with the class: Two of my students demonstrated how ineffective the exercise was when for their final project they decided to use data that resembled what one gets by doing RE digests of DNA.  I was furious when I saw that this is how they wasted their time and ours, but unfortunately since it was the end of the year I did not get to express to the class how what we just did was completely inaccurate and demonstrated how not to use DNA to find answers to questions. Now if I had access to a database where students could have used software to easily do the math that shows how multiple allele frequencies need to be used to show the rarity of a specific genotype, then I would have been less likely to have students who chose the easy way out for their assignment.  Since the entire class would have been able to follow the math involved with the allele and genotypes easier by having a computer program that let them play with the numbers, the entire class would have seen the students’ final project was a bunch of junk and it would not have had to fall on the teacher to be the only one who understood what was going on. I would like there to be an online database of allele frequency data so that biology and/or biotechnology teachers could use the data and have students calculate or figure out whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Is that too much to ask for?

Other images of students doing work in a biotech lab:  Imagine what could be done in a virtualized setting…

image of students using pH meters
Image of pH equipment- hand held meter and more expensive ones in background
student cutting a leaf for plant tissue culture
Imagine being able to teach plant tissue culture techniques that could be monitored

How we should spend the money for digital needs?

This is an assignment for EdTech 501. We were given 7 recommendations and were asked to evaluate them, followed by our suggestions on how to spend the money. I made a PowerPoint presentation that can be accessed at:  There is no audio at the SlideShare link.

In addition, I made a video in Camtasia, but it turned out to be huge. I don’t know if you’ll be able to open the video. Here is the link:

Elements of Educational Technology

Instructions: You will explore and provide your perspective/reflection on one of the following elements, specifically how the word relates to or enables a better understanding of the definition of educational technology: (1) Study (2) Ethical practice (3) Facilitating (4) Learning (5) Improving (6) Performance (7) Creating (8) Using (9) Managing (10) Appropriate (11) Technological (12) Processes (13) Resources.

Definition of Educational Technology (2004):

According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

My Response:

The one I pick is number 3, facilitating. Even though it may seem like I picked facilitating because it was near the beginning of the chapter, that is merely a coincidence.  When I read the description that goes with facilitating, it proved to be different than what I expected.  I expected to read about how as education has become influenced more by the invasiveness of technology, the teacher’s role has been replaced by that of a passive facilitator who merely monitors the students.  I thought that in this facilitator scenario, teachers do not have the responsibility of determining what gets taught or how to teach it because when the technology comes in to play, the teaching is exuded through whatever media the students are using.  Turns out I was wrong!  It has been known to happen.

As I read the passage about facilitating, I felt like I was reading my ideal job description.  The way the authors described the teachers’ actions is more like the teacher being a coach who has made it possible for students to have open ended opportunities to interact with content such that they gathered the important parts and built them into their psyche. The teacher still scaffolds the lesson, but it is done in such a way that the students take ownership of the direction of the learning and therefore they have mastery of the subject and not just a spectator’s point of view.  The concept of constructivism comes into play because the students are constructing meaning.  Fortunately when I was taught how to be a teacher, I was taught methods that follow the constructivist approach.  It is something that I’ve tried to embody in all of the classes I’ve taught, however the factoid based tests tended to interfere with the slower methods used in constructivism. That soapbox is one I shall stand upon at a later time.

Another aspect of the facilitating philosophy is that the teachers are not seen as the oracle of knowledge. Being in a classroom is not for students to sit and listen to a teacher talk at them. Even if the teacher is using “technology” via PowerPoint slides, the point of the technology is not to make lecturing easier on the teacher. The point of the technology may be to use the PowerPoint slides to engage the students by having them take roles in explaining concepts shown on slides. Technology is used to facilitate getting the information in the students’ hands so they can determine how to use it and to make sense of it.  Page 4 has a statement that sums this up perfectly, “the key role of technology is not so much to present information and provide drill and practice (to control learning) but to provide the problem space and the tools to explore it (to support learning).”  There are so many teachers I’ve taught with who really need to think about that statement. Too many times they act like they are doing the right thing because they are using the technology, but in reality they are merely fooling themselves because they’ve transformed the technology to be yet another way for them to control student behavior.

I hope that I will be able to become a facilitator of student learning by using technology to help students acquire and utilize information. I still want them to guide the direction and flow, but I hope to have the opportunity to build their scaffolding.  The TECH museum in San Jose, CA has done just that by creating curriculum that empowers students to find solutions to what may seem like common everyday problems. With these projects, students construct solutions to the design challenges.  Most of the challenges are low-tech, meaning the students don’t have to use anything that involves electricity to do their project, however if they found a technology that helps them build their solution, it certainly would not be discouraged.  The point of many of the design challenges is for students to collaborate and come up with something that exists in three dimensions.  They often create a prototype, test it, and then make changes as they see the flaws that remain. This is not dissimilar to what happens in educational technology where instructional designers use technology in a ethical manner as a way to foster student projects that reflect what they learned and the means by which they learned it.

Video of someone at the TECH museum in San Jose explaining how their Design Challenge activities work.  This is one way constructivist ideas can be brought into the classroom:


Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1977). The definition of educational technology. Washington, DC: AECT.

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Chapter 1: Definition. In Educational technology: A definition with commentary (pp. 1 – 14). NY: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). (2004)The Definition of Educational Technology.
Washington DC: AECT, Definition and Terminology Committee

found at: