“Keep Moving Forward” in 2010

As we begin 2010, we all have pretty standard resolutions. Losing weight, working out more, managing money better, etc. Those are all fairly standard goals we aim for as a new year begins. What about resolutions for your classroom? Do you have them? What do resolutions for our classrooms look like?

As I think about my professional resolutions for 2010, it brought to mind a quote from a Disney movie my

Lewis Robinson from Disney's "Meet the Robinsons"

kids love to watch called “Meet The Robinsons“. The main character, Lewis, is a 12-year-old lifelong learner. Lewis’ love for brainstorming and inventing was fueled by his desire to remember his biological mother. With encouragement from his science teacher, Mr. Willerstein, Lewis enters the school science fair. Lewis later learns this event is the launching pad for his inventing career and the motto that which he lives by: “Keep moving forward!”.

How do we “keep moving forward” in 2010 as it relates to professional growth? Maybe it’s jumping in and building that PLN? Maybe it’s beginning to explore new PD options in your district? Or it could be that you’re ready to implement a new teacher toolkit of web-based tools to help you be a more organized, effective teacher. This could include a web tool like Evernote or using other tools like those I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post Tools to be Thankful For.

Let’s “keep moving forward” with our professional goals for ourselves and for where we want to take our students in 2010. How are you going to “keep moving forward”?

Have a wonderful new year!


E-learning: Where do we start? Where is it going?

Is your district considering moving courses to an online format? If you are considering online or blended courses, I would like to offer some tips and suggestions for best practices for transitioning a face to face course to an online course.

A Clear Purpose

Be sure to carefully examine why classes are going to be offered in an online format and what LMS (Learning Management System) will be used for delivery. Is it for credit recovery? Is it for students that want to take a heavy course load in a content area only offered face to face such as music? It’s also important to take plenty of time to evaluate and test the various LMS tools that are available. Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo, and Angel are some of the most popular used in K-12 education. They range in price from completely free to expensive so be sure to investigate them throughly by requesting webinars and demo environments to test out before making a choice.

What does teaching an online course look like? How do I make it engaging?

I’ll come right out and tell you now that the purpose of an online course is not to digitize worksheets. An online or blended course is not a storage place for all your worksheets and PowerPoint presentations. Teaching a course face to face vs. online is very different not just from the teacher perspective but for students as well. Think about it this way: Every concept that is taught face to face has to be converted to an online format that still adequately teaches the concept or skill. When we think about it that way it feels like quite a daunting task. From a student perspective an online course might initially sound like it would be taking the “easy road”. It’s quite the opposite. Online courses require a very strong work ethic and a lot of self-discipline. Some great resources for students to self assess before embarking into  online learning can be found here. This resource was put together by some of my colleagues when we were at the very beginning of online courses. We have found that not only do students find it beneficial, but counselors have used it as well when a student asks to be enrolled in an online course.

Developing an online course takes a considerable amount of time to organize and gather resources. My district has 3 fully online high school courses and an entire semester was spent to organize and develop the courses in an online format. Online courses need to be rich in multimedia and interactivity. This can happen by using the discussion board, journaling, having a virtual classroom session, video and audio resources, and interactive websites and simulations. There are also additional tools within an online course that lend themselves well to group projects and delivering assessments.

Since students in an online class aren’t seeing each other and speaking to each other face to face, proper discussion skills need to be covered. It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers that are teaching either an online or blended course. “I agree” is not an appropriate way to respond to one of your classmates in the discussion board.  No, texting slang in the discussion board or emails isn’t appropriate either.  Each student needs to know proper “netiquette” for an online class. This is an essential 21st century skill that must be address before coursework begins. Look at how many colleges offer online courses; even complete degree programs are now offered online. I believe that students should have these experiences during their K-12 education long before year one of college.

What is the future of e-learning?

Where is e-learning going? What’s going to be the next big thing? A fully online high school perhaps? Maybe at some point there will be the potential for a student to earn his/her high school diploma online. Is it really that far-fetched? There are already college degree programs that are 100% online. What would it be like to have classes with classmates you’ll never see in person? I see tools like Skype working more in conjunction with e-learning. There could be some classmates that live down the street, and others that live on a different continent. E-learning is even now starting to go mobile. Blackboard has apps for iPhone and Blackberry for students to keep track of course assignments and deadlines while on the go.

I think it’s exciting the way e-learning is taking off around the world. I am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. If I can be of any assistance to your district about moving courses into a blended or fully online format, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always I welcome your comments.

Where do you EdChat?

If you are in my PLN then you know what EdChat is all about. It happens at two different times every Tuesday. 12PM

EdChat column in TweetDeck for iPhone

EST for our PLN friends in Europe, Asia, and other points west. Then it happens again at 7pm EST for North and South American members of our PLN. No matter which time you participate (and if you aren’t why not?!?) it’s always a highly engaging, lively discussion about education. Don’t forget to follow @web20classroom (a.k.a. Steven Anderson) so you know to vote on the topic for the week between Sunday and Tuesday!

So, where do you EdChat at? What’s your device of choice to use while participating? I was fortunate enough to participate in both editions of EdChat yesterday and during the evening edition I really began to wonder, “Where does everyone like to participate from and what device/tool is your favorite?”  I am amazed in particular how mobile technology has allowed us to participate in a great discussion with hundreds of educators from all around the globe. Where some of you tweeting while holiday shopping? Where some of you tweeting during dinner? Your favorite armchair? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe in an upcoming edition of EdChat we can have some of us upload to TwitPic in real-time to share with our PLN where we Tweet from and with what device?

Almost every Tuesday night when I participate it is using the TweetDeck app on my iPhone. As if I weren’t addicted to my iPhone enough already right? TweetDeck in general is my preferred Twitter tool of choice but the fact I can from my phone still amazes me. I had to laugh last night towards the end of EdChat when I tweeted, “Should multi-tasking be a skill required for 21st c. teachers? I just participated in edchat and gave two kids a bath! Ha!” Humor was the intent of that tweet but the more I thought about it the more cool I thought it was. I received a couple of jokingly replies wondering if my kids were being attended to I promise they were! Some of you were as equally worried about my iPhone as well to make sure it did not accidentally go for a swim in the bathtub!

Think about all the ways educators participate in EdChat every Tuesday. We have mobile phones, laptops, netbooks. etc. at our disposal to contribute the discussion. We are in our homes, schools, offices, airports,  and cars (hopefully not while in motion) while we’re communicating and collaborating with our peers. What would student engagement look like if more of these devices were in students’ hands during class? Before you comment to disagree with me let me just clarify that this post is not intended to be a debate as to whether or not cell phone should be allowed at school. The point I’m trying to make is look at how educators can become engaged in a lively, professional discuss using a wide variety of tools. Isn’t it important for students to get to experience the same type of growth and learning that we do?

If you are an avid observer of EdChat, I strongly encourage you to participate in the discussion. Vote for the topic, and jump in on Tuesday no matter your location or device. We’d love to see you there. Don’t sell yourself short, you have knowledge and expertise to share with all of us.