Monthly Archives: July 2013

I am here

I realize that each post I have made has some visual embedded, but I am a connector. I connect questions, observations and new ideas to what I know. Isn’t that what all learners do? When I read the post prompt of “Where are you?” I know that Professor meant in the course, but I immediately had a flash of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. “The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage (Sagan,2011) .

Where am I? I am at a point in my teaching profession where I am aware of the disparity between best practice and what is being practiced in most classrooms. I watched the presentations of Grooms, Ragan, Oakly, Capponi and all of the “Rock Stars” of the educational world and I was inspired. I want every student, from kindergarten to doctoral student to experience an engaging and inspiring educational environment. Bowen spoke about creating significant learning environments through information ideas, experiences and reflection. As a teacher I need to have the courage to push our profession to embrace and acknowledge the teaching profession as the portal to our futures. We have the knowledge and ability to reform a system that can be used as a vessel to inspire lifelong learners, thinkers, and innovators. We have so much information at our fingertips and we are learning how to teach individuals to access that information to make informed decisions and ask questions to reveal a higher level of understanding across contents.

So I am here, designing a course to help families understand Autism Spectrum Disorders. My course is packed full of information, but it is only a tiny slice of information that is available. I am overwhelmed with making the course flow for each learner, with presenting each module to engage all the senses, in evaluation and in the ability to provide students feedback once the course begins. What I am observing is I have put a lot into my course and it is like a plate of spaghetti. I need to clean it up and use the course manual as a recipe to refine this course. My goal is to create an appetizing presentation that inspires my students and feeds their hunger for knowledge. This knowledge is not just on content, but in discovery of tools that will aide in the quest of future knowledge.

Heather (4)


Sagan, C., & Druyan, A. (2011). Pale blue dot: A vision of the human future in space. Random House Digital, Inc..

What I am is….


Who we are:

Created with Padlet

Photo on 7-21-13 at 10.53 AM

First of all I need you to know that I am submitting my blog from the island of Saint Marteen! We are on family vacation this week. My husband asked if I was taking my laptop, as if I would leave it behind.

What I have realized about myself is I am like a kid in a candy store when it comes to technology. I love to try new things, and I like to try everything! Mary and Anne discussed the use of Padlet in the section “How am I doing it in this course? And how are you doing it?” Well, I had to check it out! While in the  airport I plugged some Tootsie Pops in my kids mouths and started extracting lines from every one’s blog. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by a diverse group of peers who are so talented and knowledgeable. I am learning so much, and am dreading the end of this class.

With that being said, what have I discovered about me?

Me the teacher in my course:

So this module we really explored the nooks and crannies of our course. The course manual has been my bible. The section that I really have been focused on is pages 71-80 in Teaching presence. What I am coming to realize is that I am really weak in tying in my activities to assessments. I love the creativity behind activities, but I do not easily tie the activities into my objective or assessment. It takes a lot of time and thought into really putting myself in the shoes of my students. Trying to understand how and what they will learn from my activity and how I can assess it is not as transparent for me. In our course manual the section Confirming Understanding through assessment and explanatory feedback is sectioned off into areas titled: Think about how you will evaluate your learning activities, Confirming understanding through assessment and explanatory feedback (peer to peer feedback, creating opportunities to collect student feedback on course, use). This area of course assessment is getting me to think about my purpose in activities and assessments.

In addition to understanding and connecting with assessments the article A Follow Up Investigation of Teaching Presence” in the SUNY Learning Network connected me to what I need to do in direct instruction. I need to “present content and questions, focus the discussion on specific issues, summarize discussions, confirm understanding, diagnosis misperception, inject knowledge from diverse sources, and respond to technical concerns (Shea, Pickett & Pelz, 2003, pg. 71). ”


With each module I have a realization of self. It may be a large “a ha” or a tiny hmmm. I understand that this process is continuos not throughout this course, but throughout my career. I know that there will never be a point where you say, “that is it, I am perfectly done!” If you do then it is time to walk away.

Heather (4)


Shea, P. J., Pickett, A. M., & Pelz, W. E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 61-80.

Who am I?

I have been asking myself this question for a few decades. Who am I? It is not a question that can be answered without some observation  .

Observation of self as learner

As a learner I am always looking to learn the right things. I want to learn what the teachers want me to learn, I want to be a good student and meet the criteria set by the teacher. Last semester I took a course with Professor Vickers and he had made a statement that we would not all have perfect posts all the time, and that was ok. I panicked! Does that mean that no one can earn an A? Of course not. What Professor Vickers was saying is that this is a learning process. It will be clear to us where our skills can improve based on his instruction and set up of the course. He was right, through his guidance and rubrics I was able to improve my ability to respond and write in our discussions. His teaching presence was there to support our individual needs to help us reach the goals of the course, and our personal goals as learners.

That has not cured my anxiety as a learner. I appreciate the “assume nothing” attitudes of instructors. I thrive on constant feedback and actually correct my work whether it receives credit or not. I am here to learn! I recently realized that another class I am taking is graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. What I don’t like about the course is the minimal feedback of the course. I want to know if I am meeting the goals of the professor, or how I can improve and strengthen my abilities. I am not just increasing my knowledge of content, but I am looking for instructors to “coach” me in educational theory and practice. Young (2006), confirms my feelings as a learner. Young states 7 areas that students view as effective online teaching. These 7 areas are: adapting to student needs, providing meaningful examples, motivating students to do their best and facilitating the course effectively delivering a valuable course, communicating effectively, and showing concern for student learning. (Young, 2006). These are all areas that I thrive on as a learner, but am I a high needs student?

Observation of self as teacher

I am observing the detail that I need to attend to in my course. Where Am I going and what are my objectives? I can honestly say that I have spent my 15 years of teaching with “common sense” but I have never had to articulate what that was. In this class I am learning to articulate the process of the what, where, how and why of my course. I wanted to use Answergarden in my course because it provided a visual and it was aesthetic. Professor Pickett pointed out that I needed to have a clear goal/purpose for this cool tool. I hadn’t thought of what that purpose was. I honestly was just showcasing it. Peeling back the layers of the course I need to be sure that the goals and purpose are visible on each layer. Good design and facilitating success in our courses is essential in meeting our goals for our learners. The seven principles of good practice (Chickering & Gamson, 1987): (1) frequent contact between students and faculty; (2) reciprocity and cooperation among students; (3) active learning techniques; (4) prompt feedback; (5) time on task; (6) the communication of high expectations, and (7) respect for diverse talent and ways of learning, need to be carefully threaded through our course. As a teacher I have been aware of these principles in the physical setting, but in the online world I need to not just be aware of these principles, but I need to guarantee them.  

The Future of me

How this will impact me as a teacher both online and in face 2 face courses will be a future observation of self. I have come to an understanding and awareness of the subtle complexities of myself as teacher. I know that there will be a constant flow of understanding of self  to my practices as a teacher. The more I am aware of community and the overlap of content, learner and assessment the better understanding I have of myself as teacher and learner (Shea et al., 2003)


Heather (4)



Chickering, A. W., Gamson, Z. F., & Poulsen, S. J. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education.

Shea, P. J., Pickett, A. M., & Pelz, W. E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 61-80.

Young, S. (2006). Student views of effective online teaching in higher education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 20(2), 65-77.


Climbing a mountain

Please answer the question in the box below :D!

What are you learning?… at

So this is the module where I feel that I am climbing the mountain, and I have hit the peak. The planning and preparation has been completed. I feel like I can now have a lot of fun planning and researching activities that will meet my learners needs. I have learned so much about theory and development, now I look forward to practice and engagement.

A Sparked thought

In exploring activities for my course, I came across a great resource  Ted-ed lessons worth sharing. I found a great piece titled:

What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about persuasion.

What really struck me about this video was the reference to rhetoric and the 3 means of persuasion. This is a concept that I was taught in early philosophy courses, but has resonated with me in the development of this online course. The 3 means of persuasion according to Aristotle are ethos, logos and pathos. In online teaching we need to create a course that has ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos is the “establishing of character (Russell, 2012),” or in online terms presence. Does the presenter have a vested interest in the subject, expertise in the field, good character, a voice? Pathos is the connection with the audiences emotion. How are we connecting to the audiences? Logos is the logical connection that the presenter makes. The facts, figures and/or claims that the presenter makes on the subject matter.

We are instruments of persuasion in developing our online courses. We need to be able to present ourselves as credible, passionate and logical teachers of our subject matter. We are to pull our audience in (pathos), present them with the facts (logos) and be confident and prepared in our teaching of the subject (ethos). When creating our courses we must think about the power of persuasion. How we choose our words and activities for a course will impact the effectiveness of our course.

Online we don’t have our physical presence, but our words act as our presence. If I label a module simply “Module 1: Introduction,” I will not be conveying the passion that I have for the topic. Words that work online are simple, short, texturized, alliterate and they paint a picture and create questions (Russell, 2012). We want to be careful in constructing our course to be mindful of text, titles, tags, links, and our message (Russell, 2012). This is creating Logos or logic. We want our content to make sense from the audiences point of view, we want to follow the framework of professor Pickett, and create relevancy in our course. We are pulling in what we are known for, our credibility,what we are passionate about with a clear strong voice to create ethos. Pathos is the facilitation of emotional connection to our content. This is the materials that we use to connect with our students. If I just present my students with the facts, and do not give them a connection, how can I expect them to take ownership of the content?

What I Learned from this Module…


So what have I learned so far? I am learning a lot about control and presence. There have been so many great conversations this module about control. I am not sure we ever really defined control. The discussion of shifting from teacher centered to learner centered classroom was tied up in the idea of control. Control is a broad term. Kelly and Kevin vollied around the terms of facilitator vs. control freak. What I learned from their conversation is the realization of balance and an open mind. Of course we as instructors need to have “control” over our course. We decide on the content, materials and parameters of the course. We select activities and facilitate instruction. The when, how, where and why shifts in an online course. I (as instructor) am not trying to get “through” a lesson in a designated amount of time so my when and where shifts. I can offer a variety of mediums through technology and Web 2.0 to enhance content and understanding so my how shifts. The why is where the perceived control comes into play. Why are we learning the content, and why are we engaged in these discussions is guided by the students, and we need to shift and let the students guide through their inquiry. What is it they want out of the course? How can we find answers to our questions? I am prepared to shift my teaching and as we learned in Module 1, shift happens!


In Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS)  Larry Ragan discusses the importance of discussion of content, and how we design our courses. In online teaching we are focused on the thought process of instructional design. How do we want interactions to occur, what activities do we want our students to be engaged in and how will we assess our students. We need to be able to thoughtfully go through the processes of course development. He also discusses the need for collaboration among professionals. We need to plan and collaborate to be effective. Being effective involves Social Presence . Professor Pickett discusses social presence within the framework of the community of inquiry. What I really took away from professor Pickett was not just her attempt at developing social presence, but her rationale in the development of trust and community in her practice. She discusses the awareness of students and the professor, in getting to know each other as individuals in the course. We need to put in “energy” to help break through the barriers of our computer screens. We need to get our voice and personality through to our students to connect.


A Preliminary Investigation of ‘Teaching Presence’ in the SUNY Learning Network also leads us into the discussion of presence (I am detecting a theme). Teaching presence is not a one shot consideration. We need to think of our presence in developing curriculum, setting time parameters, the use of technology, the abiding of “netiquette,” and the instructional/learning activities. All of this you must do to strive for presence in your course. Which is the third principle of Effective Online Pedagogy. In (My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy Pelz discusses letting the students do all the work and establishing inter-activiy in addition to presence. In The Role of Questions in Teaching we learn that having the students do most of the work and establishing the interactivity is complimented by the students ability to ask questions and seek out their own solutions. “Thinking is not driven by answers, but by questions.” 

So what have I learned? I have learned who I am as a learner, and what I appreciate in a professor. I have learned that I need to let my voice and personality be known to my students because that is how we will connect and become emotionally connected to our course. I reflect on Professor Pickett’s introduction by her daughter. I immediately connected and realized that there was a human being behind the words, and she was relatable. This course is challenging and pushes my abilities, but the interaction with students and the professor helps me know that I am not a lone, and gives me space to evaluate my goals and reflect on what my presence is in our class and in developing the course.

Building the course activities

While there is a lot of work to be done, the course activities are set and ready to be tweaked. Once I was able to acknowledge my voice, I tried to make it clear in the development of my course. I had fun creating titles and spaces for conversation and interaction. I pulled in resources that I feel emotionally connected to. I am keeping an open space for students to be present and for us all to jump into this course with the expectation of learning. I suspect I will be learning just as much, if not more, from my students.

Heather (4)


Russell, L. M. (2012). Digital Rhetoric: Doing Things with Words Online.





I must be learning! I am asking myself a ton of questions. I am questioning myself as a learner, instructor and even my purpose. I am questioning educational practices not just from the perspective of an online instructor, but in a face2face classroom too. Professor Pickett asks the question, “are you prepared to change the way you teach?” Thinking driven by questions, process trumping content, what does it all mean?

I am shifting my attitude and outlook. It means I am shifting from standards and uniform teaching to a more learner centered approach. How can I do this?

Celeste has pointed out Instructional Principles for Self-Regulation. The four principles are:

  1. Guide learners to prepare and structure learning environment
  2. Organize and transform instructional materials
  3. Use instructional goals and feedback to present student monitoring opportunities
  4. Provide learners opportunities to self-evaluate performance against a standard.

This is a great response to the concerns that many of us have about giving up control. The deeper I get into the conversation the more I am realizing that the control was never mine to keep. It was a starting point for teaching, but if you don’t pass on the control, the learning is static. The flow of learning happens when we open up the stream of control until it pools around our students and they then open up and let the ideas flow. My role is not to disseminate content, but to guide inquiry and facilitate dialogue. Shea et al., 2003 discuss how we do this. Mary points this out in her post as:

  1. identifying areas of agreement and disagreement
  2. seeking to reach consensus and understanding
  3. encouraging, acknowledging, or reinforcing student contributions
  4. setting climate for learning
  5. drawing in participants and prompting discussion
  6. assessing the efficacy of the process

Maree asks a great question, What proven strategies can we use to help students achieve self-regulated learning and how can we help students recognize this in themselves and apply it to our content?

This leads me to questions.

Are we teaching two courses at once?

Are there prerequisites to being an online learner?

Do we shift a little? Or do we totally shift educational practices?

I cannot help but think about Professor Shea and Professor Vickers course ETAP 687 on Games and Learning. We recently read an article by Linguist James Gee. Gee discusses what we can learn from games. In his article Learning by Design Gee discusses good principles of video game/computer game design. He list the principles into 3 sections: empowered learners, problem solving and understanding. “When we think of games, we think of fun. When we think of learning we think of work. Games show us this is wrong. Games trigger deep learning that is itself part and parcel of the fun (Gee, 2005).”

We are designing our courses to develop a new way of thinking, and this provokes the question of how, and it requires a lot of shifting in expectations, outcomes and development.

Heather (4)