Blog Archives

EDTECH 542, Summer 2014

This is turning into a really long post so I’m putting in links to each week.

Week 1: Identifying what Project Based Learning is

Week 2 reflection PBL, June 22, 2014

Week 3, Reflection…. June 29, 2014

Week 4: Plan the Assessment

Week 5: Scaffolding

Week 6: Changing facilitation strategies, July 20, 2014

Week 7: Feedback given to me, July 27, 2014

Week 8: Final Project and reflection

Week 1: Identifying what Project Based Learning is

June 13, 2014: Week 1 part 2

I just watched a video that is at I think it is the same video that is in the explanation part for this part’s work. We’re learning what project based learning is. In my introduction I warned that I was often cynical and I’m afraid my cynicism is already creeping out. In the example in the video, it was a science teacher who decided to try something new the following week. I don’t know why I thought it was a chemistry teacher, perhaps because I find it impossible to do PBL with chemistry requirements. In our example video, the teacher decides that that week they’re going to study why people get sick from the flu. I have a few problems with this video.

  1. If the course has standardized testing at the end of the course (or in April), the teacher can’t deviate from the planned sequence of lessons.
  2. If he is at a school where all classrooms teaching the same subject cover the same material each day, then he does not have this freedom.
  3. If he is at a school where every teacher teaching the same subject covers the same material each day, then he does not have the freedom.
  4. Was studying viruses a part of his content standards? Is this something he was expected to cover anyway?
  5. By taking a week or longer to cover this single topic, what was he not able to cover in the course? What had to be tossed out?

With one of the Edutopia videos:

  1. Where is the evidence that this can be done in classrooms that are not funded well?
  2. All of the students were wearing uniforms. Even if this was a public school, they obviously have some control over what the students wear, and therefore have made a connection with the students’ parents. What about schools where parents don’t care if their kids go to school? The school is the inexpensive babysitter? I’m not saying it can’t be done there, but showing examples where kids are using equipment that could not have existed at my school because it would have been damaged or stolen does not give me the inspiration I need to do PBL.
  3. I’m not saying kids can’t do this. They totally can. I had my biotech kids doing things I did in graduate school. What concerns me is how we reach the students who are ready to distance themselves from school. The student who is interested in school will do PBL without a problem. Yet we’re saying PBL should be done to capture the kids who don’t buy into school. How do we get PBL into underperforming schools?



Managing Project Based Learning: Principles from the Field


“Teachers typically do not lead instructional activities, nor do they dispense resources, or present material to be learned. Students find their own sources, conduct their own research, and secure their own feedback. “ page 3


I could only dream of doing this. What I need to see is how you can do a totally open ended project without having it cost a fortune. I certainly did not have the money to let every group decide what materials they needed and my students’ parents could not afford to buy their materials.

I did find this part to be true: “Experienced PBL teachers report that they spend very little time

promoting student engagement or handling student misbehavior. Teachers often spend their time participating in projects as peers rather than as classroom managers.“ page 3


What is written on page 5 matches some of my experiences. I found that I could not just let students run wild with a project. I still had to create some sort of goal for them to reach. With the projects that worked, students had control over how they acquired information (I provided resources, too) and what details they did with the information. For the physical science project, they had to have the ball move 50 cm and interact with at least 3 simple machines. For the chemical science project, they did some research and then decided as a small group which aspect of generating the brown cloud they wanted to become experts in. For the crop + country GMO assignment, they picked their crop and country, I gave them a list of things I wanted to see in their websites. Even with this much control and structure, many students had difficulty with the freedom. It is very hard to break the rhythm students expect from classes that in their past were textbook or lecture based.


On page 12: “Avoid bottlenecks between courses: coordinate project schedules

with other teachers.”   I tried to do this at one school where I taught because I like to have students do independent projects continuously. I wanted to have teachers post on a common calendar when they were planning major projects or tests. Teacher freedom stopped this from being able to happen- nobody wanted to share their planned due dates for a reason I’ll probably never know. Then again, I was only 20% of a person so why would any of my ideas have significance at this charter school?



“Collaborative learning promotes time on task as well as friendships across diverse groups, such as race, ethnicity, gender, or school cliques (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).”

– This is assuming the classroom is not already segregated based on diversity because one set of demographics is in my classroom and another set of demographics is in my peers’ classrooms.

” Collaborative learning benefits students across grade levels, academic subjects, gender, ethnicity, and achievement level (Slavin, 1996).”

– Do you mean collaborative learning in general or are my courses now not subject specific?

“Lower ability students tend to work best in mixed groups, medium ability students in homogeneous groups, and for higher-ability students, group ability levels make no difference (Lou, Abrami, Spence, Poulsen, Chambers, & d’Apollonia, 1996).”

– I am actually happy to read this, although I still find that homogeneous grouping of lower ability students works better because the intimidation factor is less present. They may need additional teacher guidance, but that is what my job is. I fear that lower ability students who have become too enabled will utilize a stronger person to do all of the work for them. When there is nobody there who can carry the load, I’ve found that it gets pretty well distributed and if the students want to do the work, they will.


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Week 2 reflection PBL, June 22, 2014

Post a reflection regarding your research this week on Project-Based Learning. What were you able to find? How do you think PBL will fit into your teaching style? Do you have an idea for a project? If so, begin articulating it now.

I found several examples of PBL in biology and chemistry and highlighted a biology one for my post. It was about catching diseases and the spread of contagious ones. In the past I did a project on genetic diseases and considered changing it to fit with this project, but I really don’t want to just redo something I’ve done before.

I don’t know why, but a couple days ago I kept getting exposed to issues dealing with oceans. It got me thinking, what makes an ocean clean? I mean it is the home for so many animals that do everything in it: eat, swim, sleep?, excrete, and even have their eggs fertilized. When we say we need to have clean oceans, what do we mean? Once we determine what a clean ocean is, what can we humans do to make sure we help keep the oceans clean for the animals that live there?


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Week 3, Reflection…. June 29, 2014

Reflect on what you have learned this week, as you have settled on an idea for your project. Comment on the tools you are using or the resources you have reviewed
Respond to the question: Is it still PBL without an authentic audience?

Among other things I learned this week is that the NGSS are not as bad as I expected them to be. I am glad I don’t have to dissect them for real, though, because the way they are organized sends me into a tizzy. I’d have to rewrite the document for it to make sense to me. And why couldn’t they make the pdf document with links to what is listed in the table of contents?

Tuesday’s town meeting was really useful. I love collaborating and it was helpful to have immediate feedback from my peers. I also learned that my body is not ready for me to have a job that requires me to be outside the home for more than a couple days a week. I still hate my idiotic body and the stupid limitations it puts on me. I suppose on the good side is my ability to do physical therapy exercises is getting better. I still can’t walk without falling into walls, though. Plus I did too much and fear the dizziness is going to come back, which would really suck. But enough whining because this is supposed to be my professional log and not a personal one. I just don’t see my professional life expanding like I was hoping it would. Too many jobs want me to be able to lift 50 lbs, at least that is what the job descriptions say. And why do I have to go on site someplace when I can do the same thing from bed on my laptop. After all I did most of my Masters in Ed Tech on my laptop while lying in bed supported by pillows.

Is it still PBL without an authentic audience? I think it is. I think the peers in the class can serve as an authentic audience. I know we always want to show off the kids to other adults. I did whenever I could, but the reality of things is that there are not always adults I can show off my kids to. The year I had the ESL physical science students do projects, I videotaped them giving their presentations. I shared the video with the person in charge of the ESL support center so she could see what ESL students are capable of doing. She was thrilled and the students were amazing. I was never given that course to teach again, I think because I was able to show students capable of thinking, writing a small paper, and giving an oral presentation in English. The papers could be written in Spanish, but I wanted the oral presentation to be in English. Was this PBL? No, not really. It was a large, collaborative project where students worked in groups, designed and created an apparatus that allowed a ball to move 50 cm, drew blueprints that were ¼ scale, wrote a short paper in our tiny computer lab that had the old fashioned Macs, and gave an oral presentation. The requirements were to have three simple machines in their build, the rest was up to them. So in a way it was open ended, but I gave them the direction and put requirements on the final product: the three simple machines.

With the human genetic disease project, once again I only had students present to their peers. I did not have students build websites until a couple years after I started this project so we were still doing paper based communication. I did, however, include the personal point of view component of the project like with what I created when I was a student teacher. The personal point of view component could have been authentic if they chose to interview a doctor, a person with the disease, or a caretaker of someone with the disease. The informative brochures they made could also have been authentic if they were high enough quality to be made available in a clinic. If I were to do this project with students now-a-days, I would have them build websites to communicate their findings. Building a website, by default, opens them up to an authentic audience if they build the websites some place that lets them be seen beyond the school’s firewall.

The crop + country project was the first one that I had students build websites to communicate their findings. These had potential, but these kids were very difficult to motivate, and to get them to do anything outside of class time. They had been way too conditioned with NCLB methods of memorize and barf back on a test to want to learn how to build a website. The folks doing the senior projects did not realize yet that they should have students build websites- they were still in the paper world with the trifold poster boards. It was not until after I had students use Google sites that other teachers at my school realized the computer lab could be used for something other than them having a free period.

So is an authentic audience necessary? In my never humble opinion, no, but what I’m learning PBL to be is a little different than I remember it being when I first learned about it back in 1999 at the JFF conference. What I had been taught is that students create the questions which then leads to the completion of assignments. I think that Backwards Design (UbD) with its driving question method of creating curriculum has been integrated into PBL so that PBL is like Backwards Design that lacks the final outcome being spelled out to teachers. In Understanding by Design, you pick the standards, write a driving question, create the final assessment, and then figure out what you’re going to do to get the content information into the kids’ heads. We’re sort of doing that, but we don’t know what the final assessment will be when we create the learning opportunities for the students in PBL.

I’ve been on the rant long enough for the moment. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.


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Week 4: Plan the Assessment

July 6, 2014

Assessment is for students.

I honestly don’t know if I am being mindful enough of these Key Principles of Effective Assessment. I would like to think that what I’m designing is for students with enough guidance that they feel comfortable exploring on their own. One of my biggest concerns is that students are just going to go to a Wikipedia to find all their information. I am so sick of students copying and pasting from a Wikipedia that I am intentionally directing them to specific websites they are allowed to use. I know that wikis are not all horrible, but they do the research process for students. I used to not trust wikis, but now that I see how the ones that post to them are probably too arrogant for their work to be incorrect, the ones who post will regulate each other. I also appreciate the Wikipedia organization and its efforts to ensure credibility of what is posted. Even so, I’m not ready to just let students go off to a wiki site to get primary information. Given that I’m setting this limitation, I am still trying to let students have freedom to explore and make their own choices and decisions.

Assessment is faithful to the work students actually do.

The webquest is supposed to assist students in figuring out what is important on our topic and give them enough access to websites so they can choose important features to include in their Venn diagrams. I still need to create “A day in the life of…” and am hoping to incorporate requirements that lets students celebrate what they have figured out about how an ecosystem works. Can they trace carbon through an ecosystem? I am still thinking about how to have them present their stories because I want them to include pictures. I will be looking for websites that cater to students creating their own “books” or stories so the kids can have flexibility with how they present their ideas. I want the storybook to be unique per student because I want them to trust themselves to have ideas and to be able to find information. If this was done in my classroom, they would have the flexibility to collaborate with others to share ideas. I just don’t want duplicated projects.

Assessment is public.

Since it is a Google form, the webquest results can be published if anyone is curious about what is said. I don’t know where students can draw Venn diagrams online. I know I can go places to get a Venn diagram template, but where do they go to actually construct one online for others to see? This is so embarrassing that I have the MET and don’t know the fundamentals of how to have students make their work public without having them scan their work so it can be uploaded into a webpage. I need to investigate the links we were provided in this week’s lesson some more to see if any of them allow for students to draw circles and fill them with words. It sounds so simple that I should already know how to have students do this. Their story is going to definitely be done with an online format. I don’t know which one yet, though.

Assessment promotes ongoing self-reflection and critical inquiry.

Hopefully the summative assessments are going to have these components built in. The TED talk and accompanying project should be group oriented. I intend to use the stories the students write to create their groups for the summative assessment part. Within the summative assessment, students will be doing formative assessments where they maintain an annotated bibliography, do self-reflections, and peer evaluations on a regular basis. These assignments have not been created yet.

A couple links relating to this week’s work:

Our Assessment Page at project template site

Formative Assessment Plan

Summative Assessment Plan

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Week 5:

Reflection Week 5: Option 2: Scaffolding in PBL
July 12, 2014

Scaffolding is important to anything that involves a process. Learning and educating is a process. I am conflicted with what to write in this reflection because I want to go on a rant about how this is how I’ve been teaching for the last 20 years (when I was in a classroom), except with the new PBL, there is a guiding question that is supposed to be the focus of the scaffolding. It is very hard to write this without going off on a tangent, probably because I am so frustrated at the moment.

I rarely choose an easy path; that is not usually my style. If you want me to elaborate on that, just ask. I am frustrated because I chose to try this project using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which are extremely new to me, and I am finding are very flexible, but not in a helpful sort of way. I am finding it very difficult to figure out which life science standards written in NGSS style apply to my question, if any. I think the hunger issue is very important and can apply to biology, because after all I started the PhD plant pathology program in 1991 with the idea I’d find a way to use biology to feed people. (That ended up with my first Masters degree, the MS in plant pathology.) I still know life science content can be used to help people.

I am trying very hard to refrain from whining about how the last time I tried doing this project it proved to be a failure because I teamed up with somebody who did very little to no work. I don’t think anybody will believe me because he has now pulled out a really thorough project, even though it is not using the NGSS, nor is it a novel concept / idea. If I felt like I had the freedom to go shopping for convenient standards, or do a problem that has already been done a few dozen times, I would probably be further along. The reality is, the scaffolding I will be doing is somewhat unique because I don’t think many people have figured out yet how to incorporate PBL and life science NGSS into a traditional school structure that has standardized life science testing in April / May.

I admit that I was flustered during the first 3 weeks, spent the last week redoing everything, and am now finally able to relax a bit and do a more thorough search online for other people’s ideas. Guess what? I’m not finding much of anything concrete. The webquest page,, came up with zero webquests for science in grades 9 – 12. Most of the other things I am finding are blogs or editorials on how the NGSS are written so that PBL will be natural. The actual scaffolding of a biology project for PBL that meshes with NGSS is not easily found. I have to assume somebody has already done this. I am not so arrogant to act like I’m the first person trying to do PBL with the NGSS in life science.

Now that I see there are not many resources already around to link life science NGSS with PBL, I am going to take more liberties with my scaffolding justifications. Because I thought there are rules that I should be following, my creativity has been suppressed.  I see now that I may have to break a few “rules” because I can’t see anybody having success with them. I am not able to find ideas or handouts I can “borrow.” With this new found freedom, I may actually be able to pull things apart more than I have been. I feel the need to justify why my idea is not so lousy. Perhaps I will create the scaffold that my searching has been unable to discover.

I still want to narrow my question because I want students to focus on an ecosystem way of solving the problem, but I’ve understood feedback to suggest that I’m narrowing things too much. If this is for a biology class, it is not that I can’t bring in humanities concepts, but I also can’t let students avoid doing biology because their focus is only on the humanities ideas. Solving local hunger problems are not usually addressed in life science classes, so it may turn out that in reality, my ideas are just ideas that will stay at that level: ideas. I still have a couple weeks to think about things, so we’ll see what happens. I can’t help but feel like a failure because my question and the standards I want to use to justify it don’t seem to exist as the standards are currently written.

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Week 6: Reflection, July 17, 2014

Not being the sage on the stage is actually my philosophy of being a teacher anyway. I really despise lecturing and found it to be one of the biggest wastes of time. There is so much that needs to be done during classtime that goes beyond merely spouting factoids at kids. So for me, my teaching process won’t have to change much. I am very comfortable tossing things at kids and having them figure it out. I admit that most of what I did with kids was not as open ended as PBL is supposed to be, but I don’t have to be a control freak all of the time. I’m a better teacher when I let the kids teach me things.

Effective facilitation involves trust. There is trust in two senses. First, I have to trust the students to stay attentive and to do their work. The second version is the students learning to trust themselves. This is something I had to work on with some students more than others because they really had to know at every moment they were doing things correctly. I often found myself telling students, “Trust yourself. You’re doing fine.” They were, but they were not able to see it for themselves. I truly felt accomplished if I was able to get a student to trust herself. That by far is worth more than seeing students earn an “A” on a test.

Some students need more time than others to become comfortable with the idea of not doing cookbook science labs. Like with any ambiguous situation, students need reassurance they are going in the right direction. As long as the students are comfortable with the structure and feel secure enough to take chances, they will. When I had students who were not successful, it was often due to a larger picture than what was being attempted in class. With the non-college-prep students with whom I did the “brown cloud” project, lack of success was due more to students not coming to class than they not working during class time. This project was pre-Internet so working on their own to gather information was difficult for many to do. I had lots of books that were appropriate to address global warming and pollution so they could do the research they needed to do during class.  Personally I felt like that project was not a success, but it was not because the students were incapable of doing the work.

The main change I need to make for my teaching style is becoming aware of how to structure an open-ended project/plan. It is very hard at the moment for me to imagine a real PBL unit because of my unemployment and lack of knowing kids attitudes. Even when I was in the classroom 2007 – 2010, kids attitudes surprised me because they had become so much less self-reliant. I had gotten so frustrated with trying to get them to do anything that I made their “final” a project. They had to pick something in biotechnology that we had not been able to cover and create a way to teach it to their peers. I made it as open ended as possible. They had to create questions students would be able to answer while they were being taught, but otherwise it was very open ended. I don’t remember exactly what went wrong other than me being excluded from so many projects. If I did the same thing again, I would need them to tell me daily what they figured out and are doing. The final results were very good. My students who are artists did art and my gaming geeks made a board game. What is sad, though, is that I had spent the entire year trying to get kids to trust me and to buy into the class and even in the end, I’m afraid too few did. Many students who resisted all of the highly structured assignments also resisted the loosely structured one. I just could not win with that crowd.

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Week 7: Feedback, July 27, 2014

Use the resources from this week to assist you as you think about how you intend to debrief your PBL experience. Some questions to consider:

  • Who will you involve in the process?
  • What will your process look like?
  • Is it just a one-time assessment?

Debriefing the project will hopefully not be something new to the students because I hope that I have been getting their feedback all along. While I will see their evaluations of themselves and their peers, which will help me figure out where the structure is lacking, getting direct feedback from students has always been helpful. I usually do an end of project or end of term survey that asks students concise questions about what was done during the activities. I routinely change my teaching methods based on student feedback.

  • Who: feedback from students or other people who were directly involved with the project.
  • What: surveys or informal conversations
  • When: at least at the end of the project. If somehow I can keep in touch with the students after the project or if I get to be their teacher again, then I will continue to pester them for feedback.


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Week 8:

Week 8 reflection to class
***What do you know understand best about Project Based Learning?
If I look at Project Based Learning as Understanding by Design that requires an open-ended project, then I understand what we’re doing. The only problem, of course, is that with UbD, the final assessment is determined by the teacher to be the ultimate way of evaluating student competency in the content.

***What do you understand least well?
How to create an open-ended final assessment that adequately measures student competency in content standards.

*** What did you expect to learn in this course? What did you actually learn? More, less, and why?
I was hoping to learn how I could adapt this process to fit with online learning. This class was in its own way PBL, because we all created something while following a set structure. Was it as open-ended as PBL is supposed to be? Did we actually create projects?

I still don’t know if this could be done virtually for anything other than a virtual problem. We can’t feed people with computers, can we? It is not like they can munch on a keyboard, however could we create a website that got real three dimensional people to do something for people who are hungry?

Because I’ve been a BSU student for three years, I know that collaboration can happen online, so the group-work part of it is not a barrier. Making any product that is not electronic is the biggest barrier I perceive when we have kids do PBL in a virtual classroom. I would love to be proven wrong.

***What will you do with what you have learned?
Oddly enough, I will probably use the Web 2.0 tools I learned, more than any other component of the course.  If somehow I manage to get hired by a school that wants to do PBL, I will certainly pull from this website for ideas. I don’t know if I’ll still be able to access the website because it is trapped in Boise State’s Google arena, but maybe I can find a way to migrate parts of it to my personal gmail account? It would be a shame for this to merely be a memory.

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Artifacts from the course: Digital Game Design for K12 Students

From my rationale paper:

Google docs and other web features allowed us to collaborate in EDTECH 597, Digital Game Design for K12. Aaron, Christina and I collaborated with writing a program for our app (common Dropbox folder), creating a presentation, creating a flowchart to map out our plans, writing a paper collectively, and creating videos (mp4) to demonstrate our progress. To facilitate planning, creating content, transferring it to the submission forums on time, and processing our parts of each section, we utilized a common Dropbox folder, Google Docs, and Gliffy.

EDTECH 505: Far West Laboratories Proposal

Dr. Thompson had us “practice” writing a request for proposal (RFP) document. In this document we had to plan how to execute helping Far West Laboratory with their need to educate their school clients.

The pdf document at Google Docs

EDTECH 523: First Discussion Post


  1. Imagine that you are about to lead a discussion in a subject that you teach. Based on the required and any optional readings, what aspect(s) of leading or preparing to lead a discussion stand out to you as the most important, and why?

The most important parts of leading a discussion are

  1. Establishing a safe environment.
  2. Having students be aware of the grading rubric
  3. Having students be aware of an “I agree” versus a more substantial post. They should also understand how the grading works for both.
  4. Having students understand when to start a new thread vs continuing ideas in an already existing thread.
  5. Having it in an environment where it is easy for me to keep track of who posted, when they posted, what they said, and who they were responding to.
  6. Having it in an environment where students can easily keep track of what they posted and where it was posted- our set-up of Moodle 2 does not seem to allow that to happen anymore. I have not played with my Moodle set-up enough yet to see if Moodle2 can do it at all.
  7. Having students’ email addresses so I can reply to them privately and off of the discussion board.
  8. Encouraging students to share their ideas.

(Choose and respond to one of the following)

2a. What obstacles have hindered the use and effectiveness of online discussions in a class you have taught or taken?

I would love to respond to both of these, but for now I will just address the first one because most of the discussion areas in the BSU classes have been less effective for me than they were in the community college classes I took online. Actually I was really spoiled in Alex’s classes because they were so well organized and were really easy for me to follow ideas, figure out where I had posted so I could see if anybody replied to my posts, and they were very safe environments. I was as clueless as my peers in those classes.

A few environments that were ineffective were ones where:

  1. Students do not start their own thread with their initial post.
  2. The deadline for the initial post is not set at a reasonable time frame.
  3. The deadlines for follow-up posts are not set for a reasonable amount of time after the initial posts are required.
  4. Netiquette is taken to an extreme. (I tend to be too frank in my posts at times.)
  5. I have used VoiceThread with students and found grading their discussion to be a nightmare. I did this before I even had a clue Moodle existed and at the time was the only safe way I could figure out how to enroll students onto a discussion board. I used space at a “free” phpBB board and often tried to get students to be able to do discussions there, but there was always some logistical hang-up that got in the way. I don’t know php and don’t remember why I was not able to get students to engage with that setting, but the phpBB’s failed and VoiceThread was more energy consuming than effective.
  6. In one online class, our discussion board was a list-serve. Yeah, doing discussions via email was less than organized or productive.

A couple environments that were effective or slightly effective were:

  1. WebCT with new science teachers. Here we discussed various ways of teaching different science concepts with our students. It was with the eMSS program, of which I was a part from 2003-2007. I was a facilitator in the chemistry area for two years.
  2. Blackboard with my student teachers. I used to teach science student teachers. They were required to do a reflection each week. The first year I taught with the program, I followed what I was told to do. Students emailed their reflections to one of the two instructors who by themselves gave feedback to the student who sent in the reflection. I wanted to make the reflection part of the course more interactive because I am not the source of all knowledge. Our students were very talented people who also had good ideas or may have been able to commiserate. I was able to talk my co-instructor into letting students turn their weekly entries in to a discussion board in the Blackboard course I set up for our class on the weeks they were to be turned in to me. She did not want to bother with Blackboard or to share the authority on teaching with the students who were obviously too inept to share constructive ideas with their peers. What little I was able to do with my student teaching graduate students was as good as I could hope it would be given the opposition I faced from my superior co-instructor. This happened fall 2005.
  3. I did get to use Moodle with my students once and that worked great for me, but since it was their first time, our product was not as good as I imagined it could be. I did not know how to use Moodle at that time so I was learning how to use it as they were. I had facilitated discussions with WebCT many years before so I knew the concept of a threaded discussion, but Moodle was a new environment. My students wanted to use Facebook but our IT person told us at the beginning of the year that we were prohibited from using fb with kids. That, of course, did not stop the cool teachers from using fb with their kids so my popularity got another ding by not using fb.
  4. I took a SQL class online where we had to turn in our homework assignments to the discussion forums. Our instructor set it up so that you could not see what other people posted until you posted your solution. This was effective because you could not cheat by looking up the answers before posting your own solution. Plus after you posted your ideas and then you saw how others solved the problem, then you could learn from your mistakes. She did have a discussion forum set up for each week’s major assignment where we could post questions to solicit help from the instructor or our peers. I almost failed the course, but not because of how the discussion forums were organized.

2b. Based on your experience with online discussions as a teacher and/or a student, what techniques do you consider most effective for soliciting interaction and critical thought? Are there experiences you have found particularly fulfilling or frustrating?

This is the question I did not answer

EDTECH 523: VoiceThread Moderation

I think this is a reflection on what was done for the VoiceThread moderation:

Voice Thread moderation

How do you help students interact effectively in an online course?

A few of us have posted examples of how we help students interact effectively in our discussion areas. Although Chris has not held online discussions with students, she likes the small group approach. In addition she likes the idea of having students be facilitators. Bret  confirms the importance of using multimedia and unique opportunities to engage a discussion. James also likes the idea of having student facilitators and freshness to the content, but cautions against overwhelming the students with too many new ideas or tools to learn. Sarah points out facilitator involvement is crucial, yet the facilitator needs to be careful to not become the discussion. Let the students be the discussion by finding a balance between facilitator input and student contributions. Earl stresses modeling effective communication so novice participants experience what they are expected to do in the discussion. So far our discussion has focused on group size, discussion format or setting, facilitator involvement that may involve student facilitators, and modeling what we expect of the participants. What other suggestions do you have about how to get students to interact in a discussion forum or even with wiki collaborations? We have a few more days left for this discussion, so please provide examples from your classroom, experiences with online learning, ideas from the readings, or unique perspectives you’ve acquired while in this or other online classes. What has motivated you to interact in our online courses?

How do you sustain online discussions?

A few people have shared aspects of online discussions including how the discussion is launched, what happens during the discussion, and how to prolong it. Kathryn stresses the importance of using open-ended questions to allow for freedom of expression of ideas. Bret cautions instructors to not assume that an open-ended question will guarantee student participation that stays focused on the topic. How would you build community building into the online discussion that may be more natural to create in a face to face environment? Sarah seeks the perfect balance between structure and flexibility. What suggestions do you have about how to create flexibility while still giving enough structure so students feel safe in the environment? Earl suggests extending discussions with hypothetical situations. With that in mind, what do you suggest we do to get people who have not posted to this discussion yet, to post to the discussion? Do the facilitators send out personal invitations to the discussion? Do we respect that for this discussion we are graduate students and therefore have the choice to participate or not? If you are working with adults like we are, but who may not be as comfortable with the online world as we are, how would you lure them to volunteer their ideas in an online discussion?

How do you keep a presence in online discussions without taking over the conversations?

So far, everybody recognizes the importance of having the facilitator being a part of the discussion. Kathryn points out that creating a social presence by providing feedback to participants. James suggests instructors target the posts that are not getting many responses by replying directly to those ideas in an attempt to stimulate discussion based on what is said in the neglected posts. Sarah’s audio file was not loading at the time I crafted this summary.  Jessica recommends brevity while including leading questions to further the discussion. How do you suggest a facilitator follows these recommendations without overwhelming the discussion? How does one provide feedback, but not so much that it curtails further discussion?

How do you use online discussion in your blended courses?

So far we have heard a few ways people can use online discussion areas to allow for collaboration or submission of individualized perspectives on a topic. Glori has her students do mini-case studies by perusing the literature and deciding what they would incorporate into their own practice. Adam does a sort of jigsaw where he posts questions about themes in geography and allows students to self-select which ones they will respond to. Then he challenges students to visit a different theme and contribute to its thread. Bret confirms the uniqueness of using discussion forums as a review area for essay exams. He commends Adam for using the discussion area to stimulate student interactions and follows up with questions about procedures for doing such discussions. Kathryn suggested using the discussion areas as a place to do summarizing activities or for students to provide feedback on the course without having time constraints you can have in the face to face classroom. Sarah not only uses discussion areas as a place for students to brainstorm, but since it is out in the open, she can also give feedback and approve their ideas before students prematurely commit to a topic that may not be as fruitful as originally anticipated. What are some other concrete examples of ways you can engage students in an online forum?

EDTECH 523: Module 4 Reflection

Module 4 reflection and summary


I restrained my participation in Module 4 because my style of taking online classes is not congruent with how this class is organized. I am changing what I normally do to meet the expectations of the class. This is not the only time I have had to change my behavior so it is not a big deal; it just decreases my enthusiasm for doing the reading or for challenging me to think or to come up with new ideas or solutions to problems.  In contrast, the discussion forum Bret and I did was not totally new to me, and I appreciate that Bret was open to having our discussion’s focus center around a video instead of a paper. I went hunting for various videos on how to hold online discussions- there is a playlist at my mgetzedu YouTube channel if you want to see what else is in the list that I put our video in. The video we used better fits my way of doing discussions because as Bret taught me, we could have a different panel per main idea. We did not have to squish divergent ideas into one thread- they could be spread out and people had a choice about where they wanted to post or not post. Viewing the responses, we stayed consistent with the topic within a panel instead of being bombarded with too many divergent ideas in the same space. The ideas were focused around a question that had sample answers in the video clips. If nothing else, I hope people learned how they may be able to use Voice Thread with their classes. Voice Thread can develop a discussion in both a horizontal and vertical direction- horizontally it has breadth whereas vertically people can develop one aspect to a lengthy degree. Since we do not have a large class like we do in public school, we did not get to see the full extent of chaos that can happen when inexperienced people participate in VoiceThread.

Reflection of my activity during the VT discussion thread:

The discussion board was a success. I was able to try out the discussion techniques I was taught for the eMSS program and through the PBS online facilitator’s class. It has been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to facilitate so it felt great to be able to do it again. This was my first chance to try landscaping posts and rereading them, I am not sure they are as succinct as they could be, but they are not that bad either. The personal emails to initial posters got some pretty good feedback and it let me develop more of a relationship with a couple of my peers. I am glad to see some people had the time to visit the VT discussion and tried the various ways it lets you communicate to others.

Reflection of: Use your checklist/rubric and assess 1 of your own postings from previous discussions. Did you meet the criteria outlined in your own assessment tool?

Discussion post: Online Discussion Management Issues and Strategies, Sunday, March 18, 2012, 08:41 AM

Relationship to my rubric:

When did I post? Satisfactory because it does not start a thread and it was later than 4 days after the discussion opened.

What did I post? Satisfactory because it is on topic, demonstrates a perspective that has not been mentioned yet, and stimulated at least one other person to share an idea. Although my idea did not stimulate several other responses, what people said in response to what I said did stimulate more conversation.

Usefulness of post? Satisfactory because I do not think what I said was inspirational enough or relevant enough to other people for them to care about the need to have introductory courses for students new to the online environment. Just about every successful school I’ve attended or taught with has had minimally an introductory lesson on how to use the LMS so I thought it was relevant to bring it up in this particular discussion.

  • What changes might you make in your teaching practice based on what you now know about facilitating effective online discussions?

I wish I had an online teaching practice so I could make changes. I am still at the beginning of my online career. Although I have a lot of experience with taking classes online that included discussion forums, I do not have much experience facilitating courses online. I am sincerely hoping that I will one day get to use what I have learned in this and other BSU classes so that I can contribute to other people’s learning.

EDTECH 523: Create an Evaluation Instrument

In EDTECH 523 we created a synchronous presentation and were required to watch other presentations as well. To focus on other people’s presentations, we were asked to create an evaluation guide that we could fill out during the presentations. After the groups finished, we emailed our presentation form to the respective group. I’m connecting to my evaluation instrument by having a link to it here as it was uploaded to WordPress. The other link is to it living in my Google Doc area. Finally, I did a copy and paste of the document and put it at the end.

Create an evaluation instrument R3

Evaluation instrument at Google Docs

Purpose of this assignment: Create an evaluation instrument for evaluating the quality and appropriateness of synchronous instruction.


Yes/No or N/A


Classroom Mechanics:
Introduction to the lesson:Could be a poll on the screen or an activity on the whiteboard- just has to be something students can do to amuse themselves until the session starts
Participants welcomed
Presenter reviews classroom controls
Audio and/or video enabled for participants
Students do something in the classroom  other than just sit there.
Presenter records session
Students are encouraged to raise hands if they have questions
A copy of the ppt slides if applicable
Web links are available
Presenter remembers to turn off recording
Lesson includes:

Yes/No/ N/A

Lesson objectives
Polls for formative assessment
Polls to keep students engaged
Student expectations shared
Questions for students to answer that they will turn in later
Shares files students can download as take-away info
Presenter provides files students can download so they can follow the lesson as it happens
Ppt slides are uploaded to a share screen or are shown from presenter’s computer as a shared screen.
Students are used to help advance the lesson
Encourages student-student interactions.
Encourages student-content interactions.
Students use whiteboards or the equivalent  to answer questions.
Formative assessment is done so the presenter can see if the lesson was successful
Student product is used somewhere in the lesson to either evaluate student work or to give an example of what can be done at a student’s level
Presenter is organized so that there are not unnecessary lulls
Presenter speaks clearly
Presenter speaks slowly enough
Presenter speaks loud enough
Some sort of closure
You can tell there was a reason this worked better as a synchronous lesson than an asynchronous one

Other comments:

EDTECH 523: module 5 summary

For Module 5 your summary should include information about the following:

    • Complete the required reading and review materials provided on synchronous tools and strategies.
    • Develop a lesson to be delivered synchronously using appropriate instructional strategies.
    • Practice delivering your lesson.
    • Create an evaluation instrument for evaluating the quality and appropriateness of synchronous instruction.
    • Post the completed evaluation instrument and your reflections to the Evaluation of Synchronous Instruction forum in the MAIN discussion board.
    • Please, also submit your completed evaluation instrument to the appropriate link in the Module 5 activities for grading.
    • Submit discussion idea and/or lead a discussion.
    • Participate in ongoing discussions. Apply critical thinking and questioning strategies to your discussion posts.


Module 5 was fun because it got me back in the Adobe Connect classroom which is always a challenging environment to be in because it is so convoluted. Preparing for Bret and my synchronous lesson has also been fun because it is collaborating with someone who is intelligent and knows more about our topic than I do. This means I get to learn something while doing this project and have someone who can patiently handle my questions when I get lost. In contrast, since I bought the Adobe eLearning suite in the fall, I have Adobe Presenter which takes PowerPoint files and uploads them to the Adobe Connect server. It was a nice opportunity to refamiliarize myself with the software.

My evaluation instrument was somewhat incomplete so I revised it as I reviewed the synchronous sessions. Interestingly, when I evaluated the Photoshop lesson presentation I realized I had not planned on evaluating something that was not necessarily like something listed in chapter 6. Bret and I have been trying to figure out how to adapt what we want to do to fit one of the suggested activities in chapter 6 and still be within 10 minutes. I think we have a clue what to do and I hope everybody who wants to be a part of our audience will join us and the other presenters on Thursday, May 3. It was also a relief to see that there will be at least six people in our audience. We were not sure what type of audience we could count on so we can now plan breakout rooms and student activities better.

It makes sense that chapter 5 in the Learning in Real Time text is applicable to Module 6 since it covers formative assessment, how to integrate it into the class, and how to pick up on non-visual body language. Since that chapter may need to be a part of the Module 6 reflection, I won’t go into more depth here. I will share a few ideas about chapters 4 and 6, though.  For chapter 4, I found their analysis of various online teaching settings to be accurate based on what I’ve experienced. I used to IM with my students when they had a quick question and at times we would mosey on over to our virtual office to use the whiteboard for further explanation. Explaining dimensional analysis through IM can be done, but using a whiteboard is much easier. Although I have never taught or taken a class in a MUVE, I think that is what second life is like so I expect I will experience it when I take the class that has us use second life. Although I’ve attended webcasts, I’ve never led one. Although I have had a few online teaching opportunities, I’ve never actually been able to hold an online lecture or class session for students who were expected to be physically present. My current teaching situations are one-on-one and my previous one had live sessions as optional features for the students. I could do them as often as I wanted to, but they were never required to attend a session. I hope that one day I do get to have a real online class with real students that will be “my” students that I get to usher from one lesson to the next. The activities in chapter 6 will be very useful once I have the setting and the bodies with which I can practice.

EDTECH 523 Module 6 Reflection

Module 6 is where we teamed up with a partner to plan a live presentation for our peers using the Adobe Connect software. This is the reflection I wrote after Bret and I did our presentation, which was a fantastic experience.

Module 6 reflection

The readings and how they are reflected in our presentation:

Chapter 5 of the book was my favorite chapter. Even though Bret and I scoured through chapter 6 figuring out what type of interaction was possible and feasible, chapter 5 contained stuff that had tangible meaning for me at this time. In our presentation I played the role of behind the scenes host. I tried to calm people’s worries if they were expressed in the chat area during the presentation. I made it to one of the breakout rooms to help them get started with their conversation and let them know that they were doing great by writing on the notes screen. I also let them know they could use audio and video cams in the breakout room without bothering others. Before we pulled people out of the rooms, we sent the 20 sec warning that you were going to have your reality change. For the anticipated review of what went on in the groups, I pulled up the notes screens so they could be seen by everybody and therefore not be left out of any discussion. We also planned for a parting gift, which apparently did not download for some people. I have no clue why that didn’t work because we put the documents in there correctly. I also hope that some people get to take the survey so they can see what a Google form can do and if they use the links at the end of the form, they can view the data as it comes in. I was glad to see some welcomed the idea of having a “parting gift.”

I did not get to enact all that was suggested in chapter 5, in part because I was not a solo presenter. Also, since we were doing a round-robin of classroom jumping, there really was not a way to be prepared enough to welcome people as they entered. I understand that it was difficult to get people in as guests and Bret and I learned that barrier early on. I think this is why he came in our room as a guest and had me turn him into a host. Somehow everybody was turned into a host so it did not matter that Bret did not enter as a presenter/host. In some ways, the software is too friendly by putting a cookie in our machine and not making us re-register for each room. That is why I used my Mac when I was a participant and my PC as the presenter. I anticipated quick room changes and knew I’d mess it up if I tried to enter the other rooms while using my PC because the PC is cookied. It is not reasonable to expect people to have 2 computers to do this lesson so we could not expect everybody who had already presented to be out of the presenter registration. I think that is why so many people showed up as hosts when they entered the room- their machines were cookied and it is tough to remove that status.  I guess since I spend so much time trouble shooting things because I often find them difficult to maneuver through quickly, that it proved to be an asset for me to know the Mac would work fine in the guest position.

Bret and I also used the Mac as a guest computer when we prepared for our session. Since we could not talk very clearly when we were not in the same room, it was hard for one of us to be presenter and the other to be guest when we practiced. I signed in to our room as a guest from my Mac laptop so I could see what the guests would see during the presentation. That is what taught me how the breakout rooms work. I could tell that putting ‘Mel on the Mac’ in a breakout room did not stop “her” from being a part of what was happening in the main room until the “start breakouts” button was pushed. Part of my nervousness in the beginning of our presentation was being afraid everybody would let their curiosity get the better of them and they’d move themselves out of the breakout rooms before we started them. The plan was originally to keep people as guests because we did not want them to play with stuff that was already set up to go. Fortunately we are working with adults so my fears were unnecessary. Everybody behaved themselves as perfect students and none of our tricks got messed up before they were delivered.

The backchannel- Bret and I did not necessarily see eye to eye on the backchannel, but this was not my place to be the total control freak so I went along with our main chat area being a backchannel. I don’t know if Bret has ever participated in a backchannel chat during a real presentation. I’ve actually only done it once, and that was when it was being taught to me at an ASCD presentation last year.  I wanted there to be a backchannel and a real chat area, but it would have been too chaotic in the short amount of time we had. We named it the backchannel anyway so people could see that if they had enough room on their screen area, they could have 2 chat windows during their presentations- one for real concerns and the other one to be social.   I am biased toward letting people use presentations as a way to make friends because sometimes not everything that is said needs to be heard.

That was another place I was not able to communicate well enough to get it into Bret that he did not need to do a lengthy introduction to what an LMS is. In our last practice he did narrow it down to maybe 2-3 min of talking, but today he went for more than 3 I would guess. I know my patience started to wane and I came close to just sending out the polls while he was talking. If you think today’s presentation was long-winded, you should have seen it during our first practices. I respect Bret because he wanted people to learn something during our presentation and he really is an expert on today’s talk. That is one reason we did this topic; it is relevant to what we may do as teachers and Bret had to do something similar for people in his district. Plus it had so many components that let us expand it in ways that let us play with Adobe Connect.

Bret did a fantastic job of outlining our expectations and establishing the norms for our session. You may have noticed that he built it in to the beginning of the PPT slides. He designed the presentation slides and let me go crazy with Adobe Connect bells and whistles. We somewhat followed the suggestions given starting on page 84 where there is one main person up front and someone else behind the scenes. I did not do all of the logistics alone; Bret helped with setting up the 4 types of polls and how to space everything so it would be ready to be used when we needed it to be there. I took care of naming things in a way that would make sense to us and others, putting the exit survey in a website link pod, uploading files for the file share, and creating the exit survey in Google Forms. Since I bought the eLearning suite when I was taking 521 I wanted to play as much as I could with the software. For some reason I could not get Bret’s slides to upload correctly so he did a screen share for our presentation instead of it being a file he used from the EDTECH servers.  It would actually be really cool if the eLearning suite was required instead of the other CS5 suite because then we could possibly have lessons on how to use Adobe Captivate. I’ve only played with it once, but that is something that would be an asset to know how to use for online teaching. Dreamweaver , Flash, and Photoshop are also a part of the eLearning Suite so if you get to make suggestions to the department, you would not be too out of line if you suggested having the department use the eLearning suite in the future.

Other people’s presentations:

Even though I tried to follow advice and looked at other people’s eval tools when I revised mine for tonight, I found what I thought was important was somewhat tangential to what happened. Since the presentations went so fast and I did not want to take time to watch the recordings, I had lots of gaps in my evaluation forms. Regardless of what it seems I did not learn, I found these things to be new to me and very useful:

  • Students writing on whiteboards. I knew it could be done, but had not experienced it myself in Adobe Connect yet. Actually I don’t know if I knew there could be interactive whiteboards in Adobe Connect. Had I known, we may have set up a whiteboard for each breakout room instead of using notes windows to record student interactions.
  • Students could format their notes screens. When we pulled up the Notes screen for group 1, they had done some formatting. That was so cool. I don’t know if anybody else noticed it, but it was neat to learn that students could take ownership of some of their output if Notes pods were used for collaboration.
  • I am still not sure what Adam did so we could move things on the whiteboard. I may have to email him to see if he can tell me. Adam did the music lesson, didn’t he?
  • I liked Barry’s equations on the board. I had not thought of being able to pre-arrange whiteboards for each student until I thought about how to use what he did in his lesson. I do not expect you have had a chance to read my feedback to him yet so I will also mention it here. If I knew who my students were that were going to show up, I could create a whiteboard for each student. They come to class and put up a problem on their whiteboard while they wait for others to arrive. Another way of doing it could be to “seed” the whiteboards with problems and assign the whiteboards to students as they arrive. They would put up their work so they could explain it to the rest of the class during the session.
  • This sort-of ties in with what Janette and Earl did with the chat windows. Even though we followed directions and only wrote on the chat screen we were assigned to, I wonder if they could have been set up to be pre-assigned to students and restricted from others being able to write on them.   I had not thought of using chat windows as a way to run small discussions. Watching that process was very useful.
  • I liked how Chioma used the chat window for formative assessment- she kept us alert because she was asking questions that required feedback. Even though I was a little disoriented because her Adobe Connect window would not open on the Mac at first, I found her technique to be effective. It was quick and she could use online learner cues (p.82) to gauge participant interest.
  • Travis and Kirkland were very creative by having a game be the final assessment. I also found it interesting how they assumed everybody should know how to do a screen-shot. Is that the level of our online students? Do they know all of these techniques?  If I did not have Snag-It I would be at a loss for how to do screen shots and actually use them.

The only problem I had with the presentations, other than them going at a pace that was a bit too fast for me to be comfortable with the changing scenery, was that there were not enough of them. I thought we were excluded from the rest of the spreadsheet because we were not welcome in other sessions so I did not try to be a part of them. Now that I see how talented my peers are, I wish I had been. I learned something from everybody today. It did not matter if their presentation had been memorized, polished, perfect or not, everybody offered something unique that let me walk away with more than I had arrived with in my bag of tricks. Thank you for this opportunity.

Reflect on assessment of learning outcomes in online environments. Consider the following questions in your reflection:

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

I think formative assessment is more readily done in synchronous sessions because the feedback is instantaneous. It could be done asynchrously, but the instructor won’t know what the students are thinking until the student remembered to turn in his/her assessment.

In both cases, written assessment where students analyze something can be effectively done.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

I think it looks somewhat different online than in a traditional classroom because students who are afraid to volunteer an answer in the classroom will often speak up online. Even today, everybody participated in Chioma’s questions. She did not call on single students like what normally happens in the traditional classroom.  This is one reason I want to be an online teacher and enjoy being an online student. I hate answering questions in verbal face to face discussions, but as you have seen, I am quite prolific online. I know I am not unique so I wanted to used online discussions to compliment the ones we did face to face. Once again, I assert that hybrid instruction is optimal because the learning environments are diverse and can cater to the diversity of our learners.

Edutainment, spring 2011

I actually took Edutainment before entering the Boise State program. In Spring 2011 I took a few classes online, including the Edutainment class to see if I wanted to come to Boise State for a degree. Here are some links to things I wrote or projects I did while in the Edutainment class:

Four Categories of Edutainment

Explain how these items are edutainment

Edutainment has many limitations

Evolution of edutainment

An Edutainment movie– this is a movie plot I would write if given the appropriate opportunity to write a movie script.  The Edutainment class let me realize how historical fiction is a form of edutainment and this movie would be historical fiction based on my teaching experiences with some rather unique children.

Instructional elements of comic strips

Comic strip I made

Copies of individual assignments:

Assignment: What was the significance of playing and learning within edutainment? Link to document online

Include the title of the edutainment you analyzed and a basic introduction. Indicate how it focused on playing (entertaining) (more than 100 words), how did it focus on learning, what were the learning objectives and which teaching and learning methods were used (or how they were trying to deliver the contents to players).

The edutainment I am analyzing was inspired by one of this week’s articles,” Edutainment- Is there a role for popular culture in education?”.  I tend to make assumptions, one of which is that edutainment involves electricity.  It is either found through watching TV, a movie, or playing a computer game. I never really considered books to be edutainment, but I can see how historical fiction qualifies as Edutainment.   In light of this realization, I will discuss how Lisa See’s novels instruct me about Chinese culture and history.   After some thought, I realized that a few of See’s books that I read were on my iPod, so I suppose that even though they were merely books to read, electricity is involved after all. Lisa See is part Chinese and through her family and personal connections, she has traveled to many parts of China that very few non-Chinese visit. These trips and meetings with a wide variety of people fuel the factual information she includes in her books.

How her books focus on entertaining:

Lisa See presents her characters and includes their histories and circumstances.  For example, Shanghai Girls was about two sisters who were sold by their father to a businessman to cover a gambling debt.  The girls were to accompany their new family to the United States and essentially become their sons’ wives.  As the wives they would be obligated to perform all of the traditional Chinese duties.  They would have the lowest significance in the house which means they would do all of the chores that were too disgusting for other people.  They would be obligated to service their husbands and would be expected to have many children, ideally all boys. For the sisters, however, this is not the upbringing they expected.  The father they knew was a rich man so they were spending their days in Shanghai posing for an artist’s calendar images. This was one way they could earn money independent of needing money from their father, however it turned out that when the father sold them, they too lost their money. In an attempt to circumvent the obligation their father set for them, the sisters tried to avoid immigrating with their new family. We are caught up in their circumstances as we experience the consequences of their decisions.

The time period for the book starts around World War II and at first we learn about the Japanese invasions into China.  The two sisters, along with their mother, go through difficult challenges just to try to leave China.  Reading the book, you feel their hunger, their fear, and their uncertainty for their fate. The sisters have to leave their mother and venture by themselves to San Francisco. Upon their arrival I learn about how immigration at Angel Island worked and the prejudices people coming from China faced. One of the sisters got pregnant during her last days in China and gives birth on the floor in the Angel Island women’s dormitory bathroom.  By bringing in anecdotes that seem plausible, the reader is brought into the story and wants to keep reading.  Ms See creates characters we can relate to or who have behaviors we find so intriguing that we have to keep reading. We are entertained by the conflicts, challenges, and ways her characters solve their problems.  Meanwhile, we are learning Chinese history and about its culture.  We are having too much fun imagining what the characters are going through to realize we’re learning about World War II (Shanghai Girls) , the history of the Three Gorges Valley (Dragon Bones), the social circumstances for foot binding (Snow Flower), the consequences of respecting familial obligations (Peony in Love), China’s Cultural Revolution (Flower Net), how American consumerism leads to exploiting Chinese women for cheap labor (The Interior), and Chinese politics such as the All-Patriotic Society (Dragon Bones).

How did it focus on learning:

The introductions and/or prologues include credits given to people that helped Ms See with her research.  Just reading these passages, you start to trust that what you are about to read (or just read) could have been true stories. Some of the stories are real and she tells you who they are actually about.  The characters in the book are conglomerates of historical figures and anecdotes that are shared by friends or people she meets while doing her research. Clearly one of her goals is to educate people about what it is or was like to be a woman in Chinese society.  Her stories are validated by Organization of Chinese Americans and the Chinese American Museum.  Each of those groups recognized her with an award that also acknowledges her contributions to Chinese American women’s culture.

What were the learning objectives and which teaching and learning methods were used:

The learning objectives are to teach Chinese history and culture as accurately as possible.  Ms. See also incorporates common Chinese words, written in pinyin, to help bring us into the culture.  I’ve taken a class in Mandarin Chinese and find the words to be anchors that bring me even more into the story than I would be if she used the English version of familial relationship words. There is baba and jie jie which, to me, show stronger ties between people than merely saying dad and older sister. Ms. See will often pause in the writing to explain Chinese terms, their significance, and in the process shows us why they are integral to the storyline.

In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan we learn the term laotong and its significance for Chinese women who otherwise would not have a close friend specially picked for them based on the circumstances of their birth.  In this story we learn about foot binding.  The details are so thorough that we can feel the women’s’ pain and commiserate with them. When they lose a child, which was common at the time the story takes place, we cry for them. After reading Snow Flower, I really felt like I had a much better understanding of the history and significance of foot binding, arranged marriages, and familial obligations.  She also had her main characters represent two social classes so we get to experience prejudices and assumptions that are made merely because of birthrights. Even though we do not formally label social classes in the US based on parental lineage, we are aware that there is a social strata in the US.  China, by comparison, has a societal class system that pre-determines a person’s life.  Women do not get to make choices because their social status determines what they can and cannot do.

One’s birth, and therefore social class, and its impact her future is a theme found in Snow Flower, Shanghai Girls, Peony in Love, and Flower Net. Each story takes a period of time and focuses on historical as well as cultural events that would be happening at that time.  Flower Net takes place in 1997 where we learn about the impact American desire for objects has on the peasants who work in dangerous labor shops to create the objects we want. This is one of three books whose main characters are a Red Princess who went to college in the US and now works for the Chinese government as a detective, and her boyfriend/later husband who is an American lawyer.  In the Red Princess Mystery Series we learn more about the ways American and Chinese cultures contrast each other and yet are dependent upon the other.  The scenarios are ones that people my age can relate to because they are ones that could have happened during my lifetime. Even though the locations and events are contemporary to the early 21st Century, Ms. See still manages to integrate history lessons into the plots. In Dragon Bones, a historical site becomes an archeological dig so we are introduced to the relics they could actually find in that location if that site were being researched today. Even though the characters are from the modern day, the purpose for the archeological digging is to find evidence that Chinese culture has existed continuously for 5000 years.

I am not actually sure if the learning objectives and teaching methods are deliberate, but what Lisa See does is captivate the reader into exploring humanistic stories that create a novel that paints a much broader picture of the history of Chinese culture, and how that history still influences decisions made today.

Assignment: Evaluation about the purpose of comic strips:

link to assignment on Google drive

What are the instructional elements in comic strip and how do they affect learning?

Instructional element Examples of comic strips
Motivation- use of color or extreme characters to capture the curiosity of the reader. Peanuts certainly appealed to many with the big round heads and Snoopy with his side-kick Woodstock, the tiny yellow bird. includes music and animal noises in the background to capture the attention of viewers. It is also a very colorful website.
Literacy- to increase the reader’s control of the language. It could be to enhance a language they already know or in the case of Living Books, it could be using the media to teach the reader a “new” language. Living Books.In the educomic deliverable 1, an example was given of how an ELL instructor used Calvin and Hobbes comic books as his text.You can pull up a bunch of comic strips about the English language at: website, has many comic strips available to be used to help teach English and grammar.
Literacy- as in content knowledge of a topic. Larry Gonick’s  cartoon textbooks like the Cartoon Guide to Physics, the Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, and others. Many high school teachers use his books to supplement their curriculum or as an alternative to the required textbook because the imagery shows what is happening.  Words would be confusing whereas illustrations can explain changes that happen over time.  (Comic books referenced in the educomic deliverable 1.)
Visual- visual learners are attracted to the images that often show what is happening instead of having to read a narrative explaining the plot. The comic strips at illustrate what is being discussed so the reader can make sense of the words that are there.
Visual permanence- the reader determines the pace at which the stimulus happens.  The reader decides when to move on to the next topic unlike in video media, where it progresses while the watcher is separate from controlling the pace. Any graphic novel  or “cartoon guide to…” falls in this category.  Sidekicks is a website that caters to the graphic novel. The ones she reviews are suitable for all audiences, including children.
Intermediary – the level in which comic books are written varies.  Many of them are at a basic level so they are able to capture new readers, while others can be more complicated and are geared toward experienced readers who may just be looking for something amusing to read. Comics in the New Yorker would cater to the experienced reader who is looking for a moment of humor. Likewise, political cartoons in newspapers cater to the person who has to know something of the background of the subject matter to get the “joke.”  The comic strip, Rhymes with Orange, also has a dry sense of humor. It can be found through the website, where the search was for the name of the cartoon.
Popular topics- the lessons being taught in the book may be universal like “be nice to each other” but the context can change easily to adapt to current events or topics. Although not a comic strip, at this website,, Scott Tingley the webmaster of Comics in the Classroom interviewed Matt Dembicki, the author of Trickster. Mr. Dembicki writes comic books with themes with the intent of exposing readers to various cultures and themes that are found in those cultures.  Trickster is a graphic collection to illustrate Native American tales.  (link to site was in the EduComic article.)
Development of thinking skills- apparently there are cartoons that help you with spatially understanding what to do or how to approach a problem. Ikea directions on how to build their furniture falls in this category.  I don’t know if they have any directions written in words of any language with their assembly instructions.

References used for content in this paper:

Deliverable1_StateoftheArt. (2008). State of the Art

EduComic Project: Using Web Comics in Education  Retrieved March 18, 2011, 2011, from

Various websites are listed adjacent to the information that came from them.


Choose one edutainment TV program or one 40-60 minute video, not listed in this week. Describe it: its title, content, teaching strategies and entertainment/instructional elements (300 words).

Title:  NCIS


Although I do not think NCIS is intended to be edutainment, they do spend time explaining how the science of forensics works.  Much of the time they are wrong, which is one reason I see it as a concern for teachers. Our students may see the time in the lab or how to handle a crime scene as being portrayed accurately in this show.  As a science teacher, I need to be able to explain to students why they can not trust entertainment shows as being educational.

Teaching strategies:

  1. It uses blood and guts to attract students- it captures the viewer’s attention with its storylines.
  2. It finds a way to incorporate forensics into being key to solving a mystery.
  3. At times they explain the equipment or procedure used during the forensic analysis.
  4. The viewer sees that even goofy females can be forensic scientists.
  5. They portray the scientist’s position as one deserving respect.  They are not the “geek” who needs to be shunned.  The scientist’s role is one that any person can do if they study enough.

Entertainment/instructional elements:

  1. Common set of characters from one episode to the next. They develop the characters over time and allow the viewer to grow with them as they learn more about their circumstances. The continuity keeps viewers attached to the show. We may not come back from one week to the next to see which forensic trick we’ll learn this time, but we’ll come back to see what circumstances the characters get into each time.
  2. The science is a perk of the show. Not only are we entertained with the story line where the good people solve the mystery about how someone died, but we get to journey with them as they investigate the crime scene, do tests on materials from the crime scenes, or think through the rationale for the crime.  Can we, the viewer, figure out what happened before they do on TV?  How good is our intuition with the limited amount of information we have?

Assignment: Create an example of Edutainment

Submit your assignment including its link to YouTube, title, instructional purpose, target audience and pedagogy.

Link to You Tube:

Title: ASCD 2011 in 10 minutes or less

Instructional Purpose:

  1. To show people why they would want to attend an ASCD professional conference.
  2. To give people an idea of what they can learn from ASCD authors
  3. To give people an idea of where they can go to learn about some of the latest education jargon like Understanding by Design and RAD

Target Audience:

  1. Teachers
  2. Educational professionals
  3. People curious about research done in the education field


Too many of my peers do not understand why a membership in ASCD is useful, let alone why they should pay the hundreds of dollars to attend a conference. This was my second ASCD annual meeting and like the last one, I feel energized and excited to be in the field of education.  Walking the vendor floor I was often asked if I was having a good time or if I was learning anything.  My answer simply put was, “Of course I am.  This is ASCD.”

I made the video to cater to adult learners. Adults do not have time to waste. Their 10 minutes of the video needs to be well structured, not boring, and give them information they can still use when they walk away. I grabbed photos of the main sessions I went to that I thought might grab the attention of the people in the EDTECH class. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to detail everything I sat through or every conversation I had, but this video gives a glimpse of what the average person can see and learn when attending an ASCD conference.

My peers who are going into the field of education that involves teaching theories need to know the names Carol Ann Tomlinson, Jay McTighe, and Judy Willis.  My photos of Dr. Tomlinson did not come out well so I used the introductory slide to introduce her talk. What are important are the theories she explains in her numerous books. I made a slide that lists the “catch” phrases she used in her presentation to stimulate the viewers’ curiosity.  Hey, if I can get the learners’ dopamine to flow, then I am setting them in a good direction to want to learn from some of the best researchers in our field.  There are two people I did not get to see this time, Robert Marzano and Grant Wiggins, but I sat in their presentations six years ago when they were in SF for the ASCD conference. These are two people not mentioned in the video, but if my classmates watching the video also get to read my rationale for the video, they can add those names to the list of people’s works to read.

Judy Willis’s theories are actually new to me because I let my ASCD involvement relax.  I am glad I got to see her present because I now appreciate the acronyms she has brought to edu-land and the power that is in her ideas. I am impressed by her background, a doctor of neurology and a classroom teacher, so I put more trust in what I am learning from her than I do in most papers I read that seem to be published for the sake of being published. Now I need to go through the house to see how many of her books I actually own and start reading them.

I’ve been a fan of Understanding by Design (UbD) since 2005 when I tried to teach my student teachers how to use it to do lesson plans. When I went back in the classroom in 2007, I modified UbD to fit my needs.  I think it is important for my peers to see that UbD is flexible and even the people who generated the UbD acronym recognize that there is a need to change our approach to the 3-step process.  Personally I think they have seen some of the damage that has happened with the emphasis on memorizing factoids and want educators to create more authentic assessments that are based on standards instead of the multiple choice questioning rote recall that has happened over the last several years.

Intentional or not, there were some themes in many of the sessions I attended.  Our students are digital natives, we are digital immigrants.  I even saw their generation abbreviated as iGen- that notation was new to me. There is more of a focus on the neurology of learning than I’ve seen in the past- the emphasis on what to learn seems to have shifted back to how do we get the kids to learn what they need to know so they can transfer it to new situations. My video was produced so educators can see that these themes now co-exist along with how the digital or online world is incorporated into how time is spent learning.


Week 14: Summarize one game which you are playing. Describe motivating factors in it. Is it enhancing your motivation? Evaluate the game in terms of categories (Challenge, Fantasy, Control and Curiosity, etc. ) Malone (1980) suggested. (600~800 words)

While reading the Malone paper, I could not help but reflect on how particular characteristics he describes are embedded in the game We Rule Quests. The most obvious factor to me is the sound. Malone presents it in a positive light: sensory curiosity.  I saw it as an opportunity to control the game by turning it off. The sound in We Rule becomes mundane and is too annoying to even just be background noise. The immediate feedback, however, when you click on a person is amusing. I will turn up the sound at times just to see if it is doing anything other than playing the jovial music and I am amused by the various languages my peasants use to say hello to me.

Other ways We Rule captures players is by not having an obvious rule book. I went online at one point just to see if there were rules I was not aware of, but there really is not anything beyond what I figured out by playing the game. Although it is in a fantasy setting, what keeps me going is my curiosity. What will happen when I tap on this or that?  To start the game, you get plots of land and grow crops until you have enough money to buy objects to put in the town. That part seemed obvious. What is not obvious is, what is the point of buying different objects?  I still don’t know is why I would want to buy specific objects.  For example, buying a library is very expensive. Does this mean that I’ll amass a lot of coins by collecting fines? If I buy the cheaper tailor’s shop, will I make less money?  Is there a relationship between how much an object costs, how much coin I can make from it, or how fast its timer resets? Payoffs happen in specific time increments, but only if I come back to tap on the object. My curiosity pulls me back because I feel like I am being challenged to figure out the rules of the game. I have no interest in conquering other kingdoms, nor do I even know if that is a part of the game. I keep thinking it may be because many of the objects I can buy are for the sole purpose of defending the kingdom, but other than acquiring defensive objects, I have nothing suggesting I need to conquer my neighbor. My interactions with my neighbors let me acquire objects while on a quest, but that is all I can really see for the value of knowing other people in the game.

Curiosity is also fueled by the quests. We are challenged to go on quests. It is as if our purpose in the game is to gather objects that we find by visiting neighbors and going on a quest. Malone says with respect to curiosity and challenge, “They should be novel and surprising, but not completely incomprehensible.” (p.165)  My cognitive curiosity is being tampered with because a part of me wants to see what the outcome is by doing quests, but another part of me just gets frustrated and does not see the value in having this be a part of the game. I am still in the stages of “What happens if I tap on or if I buy…”. I am still engaged in the game because my cognitive structures are being formed. I don’t need to see the results of a quest to get me to keep playing. I can play the game even if I don’t do any quests, so why should I frustrate myself when I can’t always ask for things when I visit other kingdoms? Again, not knowing the rules lets my curiosity be fed, but in time I will just give up on a part of the game because I don’t get enough feedback telling me why I want to continue following my curiosity.

Another part of what I am missing is the fantasy component. I understand the setting is probably Europe in the 1600s.  What I don’t understand is why. Why am I put in this environment?  I think all of the wizard and magical stuff is nifty, but is there a reason for it being in the game other than as decoration to create a specific environment?  My dragons don’t seem to do anything. They don’t blow fire. They don’t eat my peasants. They are no threat. Why should I want to buy an object with a dragon? Is it because they are cute and flap their wings when the program is communicating to the server correctly? I see how Malone describes fantasy as a way to put the game in a context that lets it break the rules of physics and real-life. This game certainly breaks the rules of reality, but I fail to see why it matters.  If following Malone’s reasoning, the game is not really a fantasy game even though it takes place in the land of wizards, crystals, and frogs that are as large as cottages.

Perhaps what I am taking for granted are the skills I use without thinking about them. If fantasy is built on a skill, then my imaginary life in We Rule depends on making enough coin to buy objects. I wanted to see if I could get through the game without buying more mojo. Since I was learning by trial and error, I used up almost all of my mojo in the first 10 minutes without realizing what was happening. Other than using real money to buy more mojo, from what I can tell there is no other way to acquire it. That is frustrating because there is no skill other than giving them cold hard cash to give me the advantages that mojo can buy. Is this an intentional part of the fantasy?  I expect that I’m supposed to be learning not only how to buy objects wisely so I don’t run out of coin prematurely, but I’m also supposed to figure out how to budget mojo which represents real money. Am I supposed to see how real money equals power and how fake coin is just for amusement? The metaphors I could make to go with this would take up much more space and words than you probably want to read at the moment- please let me know if this is what you want to read. In the end, I may give them some money because I respect people who make “free” apps and really only accept donations from their patrons who show their appreciation. I feel like I’ve spent at least $5 worth of time on this app that I’ll buy some mojo as a way of thanking them for giving me some entertainment.

As far as We Rule being edutainment, I’m torn. I am certainly amused, my curiosity is satisfied by immediate feedback- having numbers pop out of objects lets me know immediately what they are worth, the time keeping controls tell me exactly when I can harvest my next set of income, and other immediate feedback mechanisms are in place.  Other than learning how to budget coins and mojo, I am not sure what I am supposed to be learning. Yes I find the scales of coin and xp on each crop and how long it takes to grow a crop to be interesting- how can I maximize my income in as short of a period as possible?  Plus I have to think of when I need to harvest the crop because it will decay if left out for too long. To me, however, this is very small scale learning for the amount of time I’ve put in to playing the game.  I may continue to play the game when I need some brain candy, but it won’t be because I feel like there is some amazing educational theory or concept I will gain by putting more hours into it. I think I am at level 26 and have given the game enough of an opportunity to show me what I can learn about the culture and mechanisms that were present in this historical community.