Author Archives: hkurto

I am a ______learner?

When I impulsively fill in the blank my response is, I am a visual learner. Then I step back and realize that that isn’t true. The learning style that I thought described me, well, just doesn’t exist. How can I be a visual learner without the audio? Stepping back farther, what am I learning? If I am learning to cook, then I need to smell and taste, if I am learning about a poet I need to read and visualize.  When I think about all of the things that I love to do and how I learned them I realize that I learned a lot of different information in a lot of different ways. Why would I quickly reply visual learner? How many others respond to visual?

This summer I was introduced to the article “The Myth of Learning Styles” by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham. The article clearly points out the learning styles lack credible evidence and that the differences we see in learners is based on genetics, interests, experiences and abilities. So when I characterize myself as a visual learner is that what interests me? I love to experience audio and visual presentations. One of my favorite resources is Ted Talks. It is not a glitzy produced video on ideas, but a matter of fact talk on ideas worth sharing. I love listening to podcasts such as On Point, and This American Life. I love going to workshops and seminars to experience presenters and topics of interests. When I start to dig into what it is in learning that grabs me and engages me it is social interactions. It is sharing ideas, discussing perspectives and learning from others that ignites my passion for learning. I think of what all of my learning experiences have in common, and it is that I want to connect. I want to share,show teach, tell, discuss, or explain. I want to engage and socially connect what I am learning with others.

So how do we figure this out? How do we understand our learners? I can look to theory and pedagogy to inform my teaching practices, but that alone will not work. I need to understand and make decisions of my educational practice based on constant evaluation. Willingham discusses boundary conditions, must have principles, and could do principles when observing the educational process. These all align with an analogy of teaching that doesn’t fit particular learning styles, but fundamental principles. The principles of teaching are to know your students, know your conditions and understand best practice. I need to have the space to know my students and their goals. I need to have the resources and the tools to connect. It is constant construction where we are not always aware of the final product with out the input of our families and students. The analogy of teaching, by Willingham, to architect is brilliant. There are certain rules and fundamental skills that we must apply in construction of our teaching, but the variables of ability, interest, resources and experiences will shape our final product. We must work together on a common goal of educating our students

So now when I fill in the blank, I will leave the blank there and just say I am a learner, who want to connect and learn more.


It’s all about soul

It would not be a Heather Kurto post without some sort of video! I used an application called Powtoon to create a little short animated piece on my Journey through ETAP 640. It is extremely rough, but it was my first time using this application. It was easy to use and if you have a few minutes it is worth playing around with.

What have I learned?

This class had had many layers to it. On the surface of this course we have learned how to put an online course together. We have learned the principles of effective online instruction and the philosophies that surround interactions on line. Throughout the course each of us began to dig a little deeper. Some of us even dug down to the core of who we are as individuals. I have been one of the lucky ones who is looking inward at what lies at the source of my passion. I am really reflecting on what is at the soul of my teaching? Why do I feel so compelled to be a part of educational reform? Why can’t I continue to do my job, as hundreds and thousands do daily, without changing? My voice has been validated, and I am not sure if this is the design of the course or a course that my heart should follow.

Designing my course

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to design an online course that met the needs of my students parents. I wanted to do something outside of the traditional course and create a forum where I could be a guide in a families journey with Autism. In the past I have had parents come in during the school day and we would sit and discuss the data that we had collected on their child and what our goals would be for the subsequent weeks. I have always left the our meetings feeling like the parents needed more information. I have recommended books, I have tried to hold classes before or after school to create a space where we could come together to talk about issued in autism, but it seemed to flop due to the logistics of time and location. I am really hopeful that an online course will provide the flexibility, feedback and comfort level for parents to participate in activities and discussions to help them better understand their child’s disability. What is amazing about autism is that each child is an individual and while we all fall under the same DSM IV diagnosis of autism, the characteristics vary across a spectrum.

Designing this course is more than creating a space. It is designing a space that makes sense to the learner. The design is so important because it creates an independent flow of the course for the learner so that the instructional time can be spent facilitating interactions, providing feedback and establishing a community of learners. The Breeze Presentations, guidance from professor Pickett and readings and manual all taught so much about the foundations of course design. They provided us with discussion topics as a community to discuss and make clear the importance of collaboration with our peers. The design phase was a lot about anticipating questions, glitches, and potential confusion.

The peer feedback was such a crucial phase for me. I sat literally for hours, combing through the feedback, with a lot of windows open in various browsers, making sense of  the feedback and my course. I realized how in my head I knew what I wanted to accomplish but I had to get that into my course. The feedback from Dan, Liz and Mary helped be untie the knots in my course to create a more flowing presentation in my activities and assignments. Professor Pickett’s feedback made me laugh out loud at my intentions, and really focus on making my goals and objectives visible to my students. I really want my students to engage in this course without fear of failure, and with an open understanding of what we all go through with the disability of Autism. I want to have open and honest conversations about our experiences. There are no tricks and I don’t want this to be difficult, but I want it to be accessible and meaningful.

The Discussions

Our community of learners during this course have been so inspirational. Every one in this course brought their interests and insights into the discussions. It became a space for all of us to voice our observations in our current classrooms/professional roles and how our visions were changing based on our understanding of presence.

This course has been my Aha moment. I have always felt a tug in my soul that something was not right in k-12 education, but what is it? Is it the content, the design, the teachers, students, parental involvement? What is is that is preventing our amazingly talented students from engaging and embracing education? This has become even more of a crisis for me as I watch my son move through our public school system. What is working and what isn’t working and how do we shift so that all of our students love and embrace school?

This course held a mirror up to the learner in me. Inside I want to connect with others. The social element in learning is vital. I want to connect, I want to be validated and I want to feel safe in my learning spaces. I want to learn from someone who is passionate about their subject and teaching. I want to be inspired and I want to feel like I am making a contribution. All of these elements have been present in our discussion forum. We have exchanged ideas, thoughts and we have been able to thoughtfully disagree.

In this last module discussion I have been watching a lot of TEDxTalks videos on Youtube after being entranced my Michael Wesch. Michael Wesch in, The Machine is Changing Us , really hit on how media/technology is impacting our interactions and classrooms. There is a buzz in some circles that technology is distracting our students to the point that education is becoming irrelevant. I think that education is providing us the opportunities to do the contrary. We are able to easily connect, create spaces that encourage curiosity and creativity without the stigma of failure. Technology can make it easier for us to be present for our students. How we are using technology is part of the solution, but not the whole picture. We need to look at our talented students bridge the gap between what they need and what they are offered. If the complaints about student attention and engagement are true (students need to be entertained and their attention spans have diminished) then shouldn’t we acknowledge that and adapt? I do not think this is the case. I think students have discovered better and more efficient ways of connecting and engaging and we have not fully caught up. In addition we keep expanding this idea of  the Global Educational Reform Movement, more aptly named GERM that focuses on standardization, literacy and math skills and this idea that if you hold schools accountable for performance they will perform. Get over it already, it is not working!

I have cited Sir Ken Robinson a lot through this module.  I am going to leave this blog with a video of his that I really feel everyone in education should watch. It really stirred my soul. He discusses the 3 important elements of education that are necessary to help the human mind flourish. These elements are creativity, curiosity and diversity. These elements have all been present in our course ETAP 640. This course has been an example of how we can create learner centered instruction, promote curiosity and creativity while appreciating and embracing diversity.  If we can let go of educational nostalgia and embrace these core values of the human mind and spirit, we may be able to create a sustainable and peaceful global community.



I have learned who inspires me!

We are in our last module and I am thinking about how everyone in this course has been so inspirational. I am surrounded by a group of educators that are thoughtful, intelligent and really question what is effective teaching and how that impacts education. It is so important that we have these conversations and look at ourselves as learners to then reflect on how our students learn. When I watched the Penn state videos on managing online workload, I realized how powerful connection, sharing and collaborating is. Professionals from around the country put together a 2-5 minute video to create an advice bank of over 70 videos that guide us to be better teachers. Why is it that we (educators) don’t connect more?  It is so inspirational to hear ideas and be empowered with the ability to pass on wisdom and knowledge to the next generation. We have the ability to make a difference if we create spaces to inspire each other.

I LOVED the presentations A Vision of Students Today and The Machine is Changing Us. I could feel myself back in the lecture centers of undergraduate school. I am pretty sure that the professors did not know my name as I sat in Intro. to Biology in Lecture Center 7. The physical space itself is not designed for interaction, and educational experiences. What I have realized in this course, is that teaching presence and social presence and cognitive presence come together to create meaningful learning environments for students and teachers. We want to facilitate this in our classrooms but also in our schools, buildings and districts. We want to create shared spaces where teachers are working together connecting, asking questions, working together to find solutions. When we look at the Seven Principles of Effective teaching, all of these principles are centered around communication and interaction. It is about forming relationships and understanding each other. It is about connecting, creating and understanding.

What I am learning is that together we can make a difference in our classrooms. That educational research needs to be put into practice, not just online, but in our schools and communities. The tools of the 21st century are creating avenues to share ideas to inspire connections, to make visible our message to the world. My message today is thank you for teaching me and pushing me to be a better teacher and student.

Heather (4)


Who Inspires You?… at

Am I there yet?



I am feeling like a kid in the backseat on a long car ride. I am a veteran teacher, and I feel like I am awakening to an inspirational era in education where we have the power to shift the educational system to a learner centered experience that is engaging, socially connected inquiry based and fun! While we worked out of professor Pickett’s manual in building our courses and are guided by the research gods, I feel more like a mad scientist. I am having  so much fun experimenting and trying new things. I have been pushed to figure things out and for that my course is stronger.

I have spent the past two weeks cutting and pasting, linking and embedding. I have been trying to coax my hot mess of a course into a refined piece of educational art that inspires connection and inquiry. Garrison (2007) discusses a shift in social presence in a course from personal to purposeful. “Balancing socio-emotional interaction, building group cohesion and facilitating and modeling respectful critical discourse is essential for productive inquiry (Garrison, 2007, pg. 69).” This is a goal of my course. I want the students taking this course (parents of students with autism) to be in a community where they feel safe and empowered to ask questions. My role is to moderate and guide the course and to facilitate community. I need to balance social, cognitive and teaching presence in my course. The unknown now is my students. What if they aren’t that into my course? What if they don’t find my activities engaging? Is there room to shift once we begin?

While I am aware of this course ending and the development of our courses are almost complete, I feel like this is the beginning. It is a new way of looking at education from a teacher and student perspective. While we have grown and our courses have developed, it will continue to grow and shift over time and with experience. It is a lifelong journey of understanding learning and connection. The explosion of new technologies and increased connections will impact our abilities to be life long learners in our journey through life. So where am I? I am at the beginning of a journey of excitement and discovery.

Heather (4)




Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,11(1), 61-72.


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)





Oh the places I’ll go…

Getting out of my head

This module has been an unveiling of what I thought this course would originally be, to the endless possibilities of what it can be. I have had preconceived notions about teaching, based on the mass experience that I have with teachers, and education. I find myself defaulting to settings of writing a lesson plan, to deliver content, but not myself. I posted this segment of The Big Bang Theory, because I thought that Amy (Mayim Bialik), was right on in what she said about teachers. Teachers have the responsibility to entertain and engage. Sheldon (Jim Parsons) needs to get out of his own head, set his ego aside and look at what will engage his students. “Education is a performance art,” and online education is no exception. We need to perform through written words, visual effects, exploration of technology, and reaching out and being present for our students. Opening the door to these concepts has flooded me with excitement and enthusiasm to explore a multitude of paths that lead to connecting schools and families around students with autism.

What the readings taught me

At the start of this module I had realized that I did not complete my course outline, so in a panic state I whipped one up and submitted it. While I rushed, I felt that I hit the elements asked for in the assignment description and I was satisfied with the start of my work. I proceeded to the next modules reading, where I read A Series of Unfortunate Online Events. As I proceeded to read the article my face began to flush. By the end of the article my face was on fire with embarrassment and shame. How could I have hit almost every “avoid” recommendation? Am I that bad of a teacher? Some examples of blunders are: I thought that online discussion equaled participation, I did not acknowledge the importance of community, I thought what I did in the classroom would translate online…I could go on, but I won’t. Using this article helped me comb through my original outline and begin to deconstruct the course so I could put it back together in a way that showcases a better picture of who I am, and what my goals are for the learner. This is such an important topic to me (connecting schools and families) and you would have never known that from the original outline. An example of this, was in my module headings. Professor Pickett was screaming through her posts, “who are you, I don’t hear your voice.” She was right. Not only was she pointing out an observation of my outline, but she modeled how voice and presence can be delivered in an online course. Rodgers & Raider-Roth, 2006 define presence as “We define this engagement as ‘presence’—a state of alert awareness, receptivity and connectedness to the mental, emotional and physical workings of both the individual and the group in the context of their learning environments and the ability to respond with a considered and compassionate best next step (Rodgers & Raider-Roth, 2006, pg. 266).” I put my voice in my titles, that reflected more of my personality. Instead of a section titled Emotional Regulation, I titled the module It’s getting hot in here (yes it is a song reference that jumps in my head when a student has a meltdown).

This leads to the second article, Do online students dream of electric teachers? The fear is that online teaching will become more of a money making opportunity for universities, and less of a tailor made educational experience for learners. We know that to be a successful online student we need to be self-regulated learners. That does not mean that professors should neglect the needs of their students. Online presence and the ability to connect professor to student and student to student creates a successful online experience (Pickett, 2008). Scorza write, “Whenever possible I like to adopt a conversational tone in online course materials, even making use of humor, where appropriate (Scorza, 2004, pg. 48).” This activated my connection with professor Pickett and her use of smiley faces at the end of her posts :). I feel connected when I see that face and can sense professors presence.

Where does the journey continue?

Conversations and connections with classmates have really highlighted this module. Maree Michaud-Sacks and Ryan Mulligan have brought in Gagne’s works and tied it into our current online design.  (Gagne, Wagner, Golas, & Keller, 2005), Principles of Instructional Design is a book that I was able to go back to and reference. I was lucky to take a class Systematic Design of Instruction (ETAP 623) with Jianwei Zhang. Professor Zhang’s class is a great course to take before this course. Many of the principles learned in this ETAP 623 are so important in developing our courses. Through the observation of discussions, and participation of discussions I was able to come to a better understanding of who I am and what I want my presence to be on line. Mary Huffman responded to my post on assessments, by grabbing shovel and digging to a new layer in my understanding of how and why I want to assess my students. She left me with a question of “What else can help your students understand if your material?” What is great about this question is it is student focused. It is not how will the instructor know if the students learned, but how will the students know. This shifts my perspective and has inspired my own digging of how I will accomplish this and what tools I will need.

Packed and ready to continue

This module has added many tools to my bag, and I feel ready to encounter the next challenge. The structure of this course, the interaction with peers and professor, have all contributed to my collection of tools I will need to continue this journey. I am excited to see how deep I can go, and oh the places I’ll go!

Heather (4)


  • Scorza, J. A. (2005). Do online students dream of electric teachers? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9(2), 45-52.
  • Rodgers, C. R., & Raider‐Roth, M. B. (2006). Presence in teaching. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 12(3), 265-287.