Partner Practice Synchronous Lesson

Having made the decision to extend my Asynchronous Lesson on a Speech to Persuade for this next unit, I needed to refine my focus. As I see it, the hardest part of teaching online will be helping students in a performance area. This influenced my choice to work with students on employing the 5 Essential Vocal Tools and giving them examples to share aloud with each other. This would give other students the chance to offer feedback to their cohorts and we could model how we give that feedback.

My partner and I picked each other fairly early. We both respect each other’s work and this offered a chance for us to collaborate. I will admit, Jim’s desire to work in Adobe Connect both excited and scared me at the same time. I was pretty nervous about raising the stakes. Jim offered to go first, having used Adobe Presenter for his Asynchronous Lesson and he felt he could at least get us going.

Our first meeting, run by Jim, was pretty impressive. Jim did not disappoint and showed off his lesson while sharing his knowledge of the Adobe Connect platform. Through collective fooling around, we each discovered attributes of the system and we shared freely.

Our subsequent practice sessions were filled with collective sharing of new facets of the tools. We explored using our iPhones and discovered the limitations of that device as well. This particular discovery caught my wife’s attention and she became interested in the project. She wants to use this in her work as her new command is spread over multiple shifts. Having a platform where her staff can attend meetings no matter where they are would prove beneficial.

A former student of mine, Noel Hoffmann, from RJ Reynolds HS class of 88 has offered to be my online student. This student is now an English teacher at the high school level. My wife has offered to be my back up as well. Having Noel has my student will achieve the same as having Jim as my partner. It raises the stakes and I must elevate my game.

My practice link is here.

Interview Tool Reflection – 521

Let me begin by stating I am not teaching this term. I have not been employed in a school since August 2008. That stated we worked on active listening and Interview Tools this week. (Please see attached documents.) Both topics attract my attention as a teacher, administrator and soon-to-be Technology Integration Specialist.
I have called the parents, or at-home adults, of my students every year I have taught, save the first one. I do not have an issue with getting my parents/adults to open up. I call with something positive I have noticed and share that with the parents as my opener. It is specific to their child and not a finger-wag. That helps in so many ways, as students come in the next day beaming with pride. I would imagine the same would hold true in distance-learning as I love to hear good feedback for work done.
I reacquainted myself with lessons regarding active listening. The Building an Avatar lesson (see below) was a good reminder of skills needed to communicate.  I feel better equipped to promote good vibes via documents to help my personality come through and extract theirs reducing transactional distance. I learned from my peers some interesting questions I might use with younger students and their families. Some of peers constructed parts of their interview document with structure I would emulate. I particularly enjoyed one peer who incorporated space for interviewer notes on the form. I thought about but did not do it, violating my own mantra – “Don’t talk about it, be about it!”
I find this activity to be crucial to establish positive tone in an online class. Much like our own class meeting Dr. Rice facilitated last week, such interaction exemplifies good teaching. Considering the challenges facing online educators, any outreach that helps close distance between teacher and student and their learning coach or parent seems like a win to me.

Building an Avatar:

Debrief, Reflect, Review and Revise

Once the event is over, all paperwork is done, and the guests are gone, I have found that most students experience a let down in the same way someone misses the show once the school play is over. The big fun project/labor of love is done and usually it is missed. I would want to create a highlight video of the presentations and reception/project defenses and share that video with the students. That way, they could all see what the audience saw. It is always hard to gauge your own performances. I would want to praise them, as the video should capture the students engaging with the community professionals and executives.

I would also want to share the results of their survey using the data sans names. Once the data is finished I would encourage them to talk about the data and process what could be done differently to make the experience better. Engaging the cohort class and gaining their feedback using the End of Project Survey on our PBL website would be valuable, as well as feedback from the cohort educators.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German philosopher and playwright used to ask three questions before reviewing a play:

1) What was the artist trying to do?

2) How well did he/she do it?

3) Was it worth doing? Does it have value?

I think with minor refinement, these questions would serve this project well, although there are many quality feedback forms on the BIE website. I would want to get feedback from some of our guests from the culminating activity. This would help assess the end products and if they could be market-ready and if they weren’t what the projects lacked to make a professional connection. I also think that feedback might be valuable for the students to see and process as well.

A discussion with my collaborators and quite possibly either the Dean of Faculty, Assistant Head of School or Head of School would prove time well spent. We should examine the student, cohort and guest surveys and assess the final products. At our meeting, posting the results would frame further conversations. Exploring the data, we could share our praises and our changes we would like to implement should we do the project again.

I think assessment should happen each and every time this PBL is used. Change is inevitable and that will happen with students, teachers, school, and community populations. As things change, the dynamics change. Self-assessment and analysis of any PBL should occur with each use. In addition, teachers should continually appraise the needs of each group of students to insure they are meeting the needs of the students while addressing the mandates of the school system.

Manage the Project – Week 6 – 542

The group work this week was stimulating to say the least. Tasked to explore Differentiated Instruction, we discussed the concept of RAFTs. It was probably one of our most interesting conversations so far. Both my cohorts are light-years ahead of me when it comes to engaging with technology and web tools. This topic was more in my wheelhouse having spent so much time working with students who learn differently. We discussed various learning differences (disabilities seems to imply there is something wrong with students, when we are just wired differently for processing) and how they might impact on RAFT construction. From a reflective standpoint, it was one of my top moments with this group, as I felt valued. This is not a pity-party, as I have felt valued in other areas, as well. This was different.

I have over twenty years experience teaching the Holocaust in a religious school setting. I have directed numerous plays and mentored students directing plays that were shared with the community regarding the Holocaust. That content knowledge aspect and the solid background integrating theatrical coursework with other departments established my place in our group without my ever having to share what I have done previously.

The difference for me is how I have changed as an educator. I have always enjoyed working on stage with a variety of learners. I repackaged instruction on more than one occasion to reach actors struggling to understand their role or motivation on the stage. I have not always provided them the various tools they needed for success in the classroom. As I have grown, I have absorbed different strategies to accomplish the same goals I had when I started teaching – to help as many young people get excited about learning as humanly possible and to have them want to reach and attain high standards.

PBL is yet another strong tool for changing the culture of a school toward student-driven learning. It is not easy work. Like directing a play or commanding soldiers, a leader or educator must be willing to spend a great deal of time preparing and collaborating. At times, teaching is like herding cats as the students will want to follow their own inquiries. It is THAT moment when it is most exciting as they move to seek and test their thoughts and ideas.

How do you herd them? That is where assessment comes in. I learned as a young officer, soldiers will do what you inspect, not what you expect. Students are no different. Clear instructions, solid scaffolding, differentiated instruction, stimulating content coupled with assessments ending with a high stakes activity will keep students wanting more. In fact, they will value the experience when they have sweated and strained to achieve, as long as they are not sweating the construction of the assignment. Implementing Habits of Mind and seeing the students demonstrate those and the 21st Century Skills in addition to mastery of the content area would be benchmarks to evaluate and celebrate.

Having left the front of my classroom years ago, moving to seating in the round and ultimately to a Harkness Table, being facilitator will not be a new experience. Having more tools in my toolbox will make the experience richer for my students and then for me.

Though I did not share it at the time, I found an excellent slideshare that would help anyone interested in this for the future – and will share with my cohorts.

Here are the notable products for this week:

Culminating Activity

Products & Performances

Differentiated Instruction (at bottom of page)

Reflection Methods (at bottom of page)

School Evaluation Summary

This assignment was actually quite challenging for me. Early on, I wrote Heads of School for two boarding schools seeking assistance and permission on this project. I also sought permission from the local high school. None of the senior administrators replied. I was shocked; but, moved ahead. I sought help from next-level administrators and received a reply from only one. That occurred only after soliciting help from the administrative secretaries. Still none offered help until after the first of the new year.

Eventually, rather than use ancient data, I solicited help from a few faculty members, the head of IT and a secretary at one of the boarding schools originally on my radar. Not being currently employed made this task more challenging that it was likely intended to be and added a layer of frustration as the semester winds down.

From an administrative standpoint, this was an enlightening assignment, forcing the evaluator to get to the marrow of each skeletal element of an organization’s use and incorporation of technology. I can see having to make just such an analysis once employed as a Technology Integration Specialist. It would help many stakeholders see vantage points they do not often take. Certainly, this study offers a view of every aspect of the organization and how to best focus on a plan moving forward. Simply saying, “We need X.” is not enough in today’s economy. Seeing such an analysis opens the door to dialogue to a unified plan of action for the betterment of the future.

This assignment meets the following AECT Standards: Standard 4.2 Resource Management, 5.1 Problem Analysis, 5.2 Criterion-Referenced Measurement, 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation and 5.4 Long-Range Planning. Using unbiased measurement, identifying problems, analyzing resources and making evaluations and recommendations are crucial to any long-range plan. All stakeholders need to see the issues and agree before working together within the document to reach for solutions and setting goals for the future.

Link to Maturity Benchmark Survey –

Link to full-size evaluation document –

Digital Inequality Assignment

Our group used many tools and technologies as we collaborated on this project. I enjoyed using Google Chat both video and text and Google docs to allow active communication with cohorts around the globe. We used Screenshare to show each other tools and how to accomplish tasks on the Google Presentation document and other tasks. One of my partners made a survey through Google Docs which allowed us to vote independent of each other and yet explore our results and our candid feedback on each option. I became quite comfortable with Zotero as I used it from the very beginning of this assignment. I wanted to keep tabs on the varying sites and be able to offer them quickly when we arrived at the assembly point. I became better through failure, though, as more than once I cleared my screen and had trouble locating documents I had previously retrieved. We also used mobile devices for texting and talking. WordPress, YouTube and Scribd were also used.

Working with peers is always challenging. Adding large time differentials, plus life events that all are experiencing make small obstacles larger. Time is a precious commodity and setting earlier time lines would always enhance a project. The Chinese government put additional strains on our group limiting Lydia’s access and searches throughout our research experience.

I think it pertinent to think how I might use what I have learned if given the opportunity to explore this at my next school. Regardless of the questions or research, you can utilize research teams to present findings to larger groups to help with problem solving on campus and in the classroom. Moving from that, you can also use small groups to work together on research projects within the curriculum or cross curriculum. Focusing specifically on the question of Digital Inequality, one can research the specifics that exist or obstruct Digital Inclusion on-campus with faculty, students and parents

My previous teaching experiences taught me that what is ethical and appropriate in one home is not in another. Just because I see great future in technology and the role it can play in a business, classroom or household does not mean everyone I contact will share those values. In the book Social, Ethical and Policy Implications of Information Technology (Brennan & Johnson, 2004) Disbenefits (sic) of Access are discussed at length. Are we reducing face-to-face interaction while touting sitting behind a screen for longer periods of time? Are people who work in skilled labor jobs really worse off for not accessing various sites online? When trying to research a community, sensitivity must be used by the researchers not to assume that with technology every life of every member of the community is going to be magically better. Flights can still be purchased off-line and business and personal transactions can still occur without the Information Superhighway running through one’s living room. The researcher must not judge those in the community and make assumptions. More importantly, the information gained in research must be respected and handled with care. Again, this is to protect those in the survey from feeling judged for their level of use of ICTs.

We used many integrated technologies in our project from animated slides in our presentation to embedding You Tube video to share concepts of inclusion. While building the project we utilized many different devices to coordinate and gather our research so I certainly see the alignment with 2.4 Integrated Technologies. Regarding 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations, once we made our decisions as to the order of alternatives, all our research and action went to addressing those items so the stakeholders would indeed accept, approve and act on our recommendations. All of our research focused on the 3.4 Policies and Regulations of the state of Idaho. We certainly wanted our project to have that validity. We attempted 4.2 Resource Management, though in the end, I am not sure how successful that went for us. That would require every hand on every oar. Those on deck rowed well.

We would have benefited from Backwards Planning (an old Army technique) where one looks at where you want to be and when you want to be there. You work backwards from there to determine needs, and available time to plan, rehearse, correct, rehearse again, and then,  execute violently. But this is not the military and I have been in the civilian sector far longer than I was ever in service. Peer-group projects work well when all are focused on the common goal and common values are shared. I learned a great deal through this assignment, both about human dynamics and the specifics of Digital Inequality. Wanting to put this project into action at some point, the lessons learned will help keep me grounded as I move forward.

Please see the link below for our sources:

RSS For Education

Blog to Feed Chart

O’Keefe, K. (2007). How an RSS Feed Reader Works [Chart]. Retrieved from

My Teaching Resources Folder

I can see that using Google Reader or RSS would be useful in my classroom. Employing these tools in an LD classroom might allow me to set up some categories in advance so that I could filter, somewhat, student explorations in a given area. Teachers in our school could assign reading topics to study at home so class time could be spent working and discussing.

Some of it concerns me, in that too much information can overwhelm. Having never blogged before now and only seeking research I chose to seek, I feel overwhelmed with information now. I can only imagine one of my students with Organizational Management difficulties or Time Management issues trying to negotiate all the information in a feed. Hopefully, I can play with the filters to explore how to regulate this flow.

I certainly see how this connects to ACET Standard 4 Management, 4.4 Information Management as you can select the feeds that interest you and your specific research. Certainly that selection allows for information to come straight to your computer. It is a new era for me and I will explore how to control it as I progress.