All posts by cjpetersen3

Reflections of Online Learning

This has been an interesting unit on integrated course design. I was surprised to learn that the shift from Socratic lecturing to more active learning has only happened in the last decade or two. I remember both styles being used in middle and high school, but assumed it was different teaching styles based on the subject matter rather than a swinging of the educational pendulum. Maybe it seems too obvious because I’m a kinesthetic learner, but humans are thinking and doing beings. How can we expect students to think and do when we provide only information without the experience? “When you think about the goals for your course, think about what you want students to do with this subject after the course is over” (Fink p. 116). This quote helped drive the selection of learning activities for my unit. Conservation needs to include a critical examination of our own behaviors, not just identifying issues and pointing fingers. This led me to refine a home environment checklist and post-outreach public service announcement demonstrating their own “conservation in action.” Finally, I found the objective builder at ASU extremely helpful. It helps drill down the specific things we want students to do in the future and offers verb suggestions that allow teachers to assess that learning.

For me, there are advantages and challenges to an online class or degree program. I’m fairly independent and self-driven, so I appreciate the autonomy of completing tasks whenever it fits into a crazy schedule. With 2 jobs, a young family, and a work-in-progress cabin, disposable time is tight. I value the flexibility of being able to work on class when it works in life, rather than being bound to a rigid, pre-determined schedule. Fink states, “when we engage in dialog with others, the possibility of finding new and richer meanings increases dramatically (p. 118).” Although it may seem counterintuitive, I believe the online format increases this effect for me. I don’t process information quickly, I need to ruminate on it, kicking it around in my head for a while before I can integrate the ideas within the context of what I already know. Class discussions have always been tough because of this, and I’m generally left feeling dumb due to the inability to “keep up” in conversations centering on new ideas. The blog format allows me to read something, takes some notes on my initial thoughts, spend a while processing, and then come back to it when I can better articulate my response.

However, being a tactile learner, I struggle with the lack of tangibility inherent in online courses. I regret to admit that I print out almost all articles, assignments, and other materials. I process information much better when I can interact with it; circling, highlighting, taking notes in the margins and referring back to past reads are critical strategies that have got me this far in my educational life. This presents a tension of opposites, as the greenie in me feels guilty wasting trees because my dinosaur learning style is so engrained. Another challenge for me is working simultaneously with multiple platforms that are unique but often interrelated. I’m used to, and maybe prefer, having all related information in a central location that can easily be referenced. Dare I say a 3-ring binder is my style? These days, I feel like I spend as much time trying to navigate to the right spot as I do with the actual task. It took me well over an hour to locate the right place to begin updating my blog. I hadn’t worked with it in almost 6 weeks and the hierarchical order of Word Press, Reclaim, and CPanel was a foreign language to me. Much of this challenge is the newness of things. If I had a Diigo account and blog prior to this class, I would only need to figure out the UAF WordPress part. But the further behind the technology curve you are, the farther you need to go to catch up.

This integrated design unit has been full of frustrations and insights, like most meaningful learning experiences. The outreach idea has been bouncing around my head for over a year. Compartmentalizing ideas into manageable chunks with a logical sequence has been the roadblock to progress. I’ve taught students to use graphic organizers, but haven’t adopted the approach as my own. Developing a concept map(s) for this unit was a breakthrough experience for me. The purging of everything in my head to paper silenced the background noise and gave me a 30,000 ft perspective, no matter how chaotic it looked. With everything laid out in front of me, I was able to prioritize and organize ideas. It is a strong reminder of the importance of presenting many approaches to solve a problem. Students bring varied learning styles to class and this necessitates explicitly teaching varied strategies to process and retain information.

The unit design process strongly highlights the issue of individual motivation, and the way it influences effort exerted and the final product. To be honest, I’m not terribly excited to get back into formal teaching when my kids move on to school. With the Danielson model of teacher assessment, RTI, APEX, and the other silly demands placed on teachers, my conscience is at odds with the current state of K-12 education. I’m finishing my masters as a personal goal rather than a means to an end of teaching. This makes chiseling out time for school work, giving an honest effort, and maintaining a positive attitude much more difficult. I can’t overstate how refreshing and motivating it has been to develop something personally relevant and meaningful. It feels like the default setting in education is to assign tasks that are disconnected from the end goal. I can write lengthy papers on theories, methodologies, or ideal classrooms, but where does that leave me? A conceptual understanding to a kinesthetic learner is just a facade. For me, this unit design is a chance to Do what we’re being asked to do. The motivational impact of this nuance is immeasurable. Choice and control are powerful elements that teachers should utilize.

Taxonomies and Student Learning

There are a variety of value-adding reasons to utilize taxonomies in creating student learning objectives.

First, taxonomies provide students the opportunity to make connections from previous knowledge to form new ideas, questions, and stimulate new learning. Even though vocabulary acquisition is lower-level knowledge, it is essential to understand the meaning of terms before they can be applied to new learning to solve problems. In my unit on water quality, the first lesson will be designed to guide an understanding of water as a resource with limited availability. This is foundational understanding for the next lesson, which will examine the ways humans contribute to water shortages and diminished water quality along a catchment. These two activities form the schema for the third lesson in which students consider choices and behaviors made in their home and school that 1. waste water and 2. contribute to pollution. Students need foundational information about water on earth to be able to explain and interpret how humans actions can impact water availability and quality. All activities are designed, organized, and orchestrated to build up to the final activity that addresses the guiding question. Envision and plan specific behaviors that an individual or community do to improve water quality in local watersheds.

Next, applying taxonomies to learning objectives require teachers to create a scaffolded blue print of what they want students to accomplish/learn and a logical progression of how to get there. This point is particularly relevant to me as I worked through this week’s assignments. As stated, this idea has been bouncing around my head for quite some time. I think the main resistance is that the topic was too overwhelmingly large in my head. The process of creating a concept map was really helpful. I ended up creating two maps. The first one was an exercise in purging all the background noise from my head. I just started listing terms and ideas in no particular sequence or level of priority. This lead to a pretty chaotic map, but really cleared my head and let me hone in on the ideas that would create a cohesive and intentional unit. I then made a second map that just focused on water quality. From there, I was able to scaffold learning objectives in a sequential and logical order to make content meaningful, understandable, relevant, and more importantly, construct knowledge.

Lastly, taxonomies such as Bloom’s, Fink or UBD lead to increased student cognitive abilities. Taxonomies provide teachers a guideline to assess the level of thinking students have accomplished. Forming learning objectives that follow cognitive levels forces teachers to create assessments and culminating activities that match the learning objectives. In order for objectives to provide a useful basis for creating test questions, they must contain verbs that describe observable, measurable, achievable actions and specific levels of thinking, because these are things that can be tested. Creating quality learning objectives forces the teacher to consider assessment and evaluation. Asking “what do I really want students to get from this unit?” causes teachers to be intentional in selecting the activities and delivering the message. This advanced planning with an eye toward the final outcome helps cut the fluff out of a unit and focus on the activities that will lead to the desired outcome. This entire process creates a lesson or set of lessons that caters to higher-level thinking.

Using Taxonomies to develop learning outcomes is a valuable way to articulate the degree to which we want students to grasp and apply concepts, to demonstrate skills, and to have their values, attitudes, and interests affected. Describing the level of expertise we are expecting from students is important because assessments and evaluations will be based on these expectations. This leads to intentional teaching, where teachers have a roadmap of where they want to get and a list of activities to get there.

P.S. I was inspired by the succinct writing of Nicholas last week. This is my attempt at brevity.

Learning Objectives for Water Quality Unit

Activity 1, Pre — “The Availability of water”
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Describe the different sources of water on our planet,
Identify where drinking/bathing water comes from,
Compare freshwater availability to the total amount of water on Earth.

Activity 2, Pre — “There is no Away”
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Identify specific types of source pollution between headwater and sea.
Explain the cumulative effect on watersheds from individual contributions of pollution/contamination along a catchment (river/stream).
Predict quality of water based on coloring/sedimentation.

Activity 3, Pre — “Home environment checklist”
Examine the choices and behaviors in your home
Assess the impact your home may be having on the environment.
Create a plan to modify your family’s behavior to help reduce pollution.

Activity 4, At Store — “Water quality testing”
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Compare and contrast water quality of Aquarium and local stream water.
Explain how pollutants lead to diminished water quality along watershed.
Measure toxicity of water using test kits and predict the health of aquarium fish if they lived in the watershed.

Activity 5, Post — “Conservation in action” or “Visioning and Action Planning”
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
Create a public service announcement or graphic representation synthesizing the water quality issues in their catchment, that integrates suggestions to improve the situation.

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Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom

C. F. Herreid, and N. A. Schiller, “Case studies and the flipped classroom,’ Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(5), 2013, pp.62-66.

This week I found a great article on flipped classrooms, which was a technique I wanted to learn more about through this class. The authors describe, “In the flipped classroom model, what is normally done in class and what is normally done as homework is switched or flipped” (Herried & Schiller, 2013). Typically students in a flipped class would be assigned reading or viewing of videos on their own, outside of the formal classroom setting. With this advanced preparation, students then complete homework in class, with guidance or support of the teacher. More importantly, class time can be dedicated to active learning pursuits such as case studies, games, simulations, experiments, or lab activities. In reviewing several case studies on the topic, the authors found this style of teaching advantageous for many reasons. Some of the upsides were intuitive, such as students having the ability to move at their own pace, instructors gaining better insight into specific difficulties with homework completed in the presence of teachers, and more time working with scientific equipment that is only available in the classroom. Other reported advantages were more insightful or surprising to me. “Teachers can more easily customize and update the curriculum and provide it to students 24/7” and “teachers using the method report seeing increased levels of student achievement, interest, and engagement (Herried & Schiller, 2013). Good teachers know that motivation and engagement is at the heart of good teaching. In our electronic age, using videos to teach creates an appeal and an illusion of fun that is a precursor to curiosity and self-directed exploration.
Flipped classrooms have gained a foothold in Business schools and the humanities, where critical thinking and situational problem solving skills can be honed through case studies. STEM departments have been slower to adopt the methodology. Some of the explanation for this is that the “hard skills” necessary for these disciplines takes considerable time and practice to develop. The pendulum is swinging though and prevailing thought is that time and practice spent mastering a skill is better spent in the presence of an instructor than independently, outside of the classroom. Several studies cited in this article testified to improved grades, increased interest, and less intimidation about STEM subject matter in a flipped versus a traditional classroom.
The flipped approach, however, presents its own set of challenges. The authors state “students new to the method may be initially resistant because it requires that they do work at home rather than be first exposed to the subject matter in school” (Herried & Schiller, 2013). Change is time-consuming and intimidating; as we get older, we get more set in our ways and transitioning to a new way of doing or thinking becomes increasingly difficult. If a student has alway been introduced to new material with the safety net of peers and instructor near by, they may be resistant to the flipped methodology. This leads to students coming to class unprepared for the active learning part of the lesson. Teachers can combat this by giving quizzes or homework on material addressed only in outside reading or videos. Another challenge is finding quality videos on specific subject matter. Watching a video at home can only be a value-adding activity if the content truly prepares student for the in-class activity. This means teachers often need to create their own videos that are specific and targeted at the topic in question. This is extremely time consuming and often leads to marginal quality video presentations, at best. The authors recommend the Kahn Academy ( and BozemanScience ( as sources of good educational videos. Teachers creating their own videos are using Camtasia, PaperShow, ShowMe, Educreations, and Explain Everything. They then post their new videos to YouTube, iTunes U, and Podcasts (Herried & Schiller, 2013).
With the mounting case study evidence across academic disciplines, the future of flipped classrooms is bright. I think this model is popular with both teacher and students because its focus is increased time for active learning scenarios with less emphasis on lectures and passive learning. The authors of this article suggest that the next logical step in promoting this methodology is the standardization and sharing of cases and videos. They invite teachers and education professionals to upload videos they’ve created to the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science ( and to utilize videos and case studies available in their database.
This topic was really interesting to me, and made me realize that we used this model often in my undergraduate Business Management and Marketing courses. I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but remember liking the format because we were able to demonstrate what we had recently learned and test ideas with classmates and instructors while new information was still in short-term, working memory. Case studies are so much more practical and applicable to the real world than text book definitions of concepts or practices. The biggest benefit of this article, however, was insight into how I might confront challenges with the unit plan we’re designing for this course. As stated in the “situational factors” weekly writing, I will likely only have one class meeting of 2-3 hours with each outreach group. This is not much time to activate prior knowledge, hook interest, engage in learning activities, and discuss implications outside of the classroom. A light bulb went off in my head reading this article. Why don’t I find or develop short videos on the topic, then send them to teachers to view with their class prior to field trip day? It’s an engaging way to prime students for the visit and lets me set the stage before the learning activities. Coming into the store, they’ll be more invested in the event because they have a frame of reference and have developed questions of personal interest around the topics we’ll cover. I love when we inadvertently stumble onto ideas that have the potential to make life easier while adding value and meaning to learning in the eyes of our students.

Situational Factors Affecting Unit Lesson Plan

One of my favorite parts of being in charge of a 21st Century CLC after-school program was inviting local outreach programs to share their knowledge and conduct activities with my kids. Whether it was REI cross country skiing, MOA snowshoeing, Alaska Zoo rehabilitation, Alaska Native arts and crafts, Total Reclaim electronics disassembling and recycling, or cultural dancing, the level of excitement and engagement went through the roof when something “special” was planned for the day. While an administrator might argue there is little educational value in such activities because they’re not covered on standardized tests, I contend that a quality teacher can develop learning activities that build off ideas presented in outreach programs that may help kids construct knowledge much more concretely than a slide show or lecture. With all the emphasis on skill-drilling, school isn’t much fun anymore. Who can blame kids for poor attitudes and low motivation when the “get-dirty-fun” has been removed from the equation. For all these reasons and more, I’m not racing to get back into the classroom when my time as a stay-at-home-dad is finished.
So, as soon as I landed my current aquarist job, I began scheming ways to develop an outreach program for K-8 kids in ASD. Currently this is just a dream of mine; I’m not sure that I can bring it to fruition. Management at the store and the STEM department within ASD have voiced interest when I pitched the idea, so I’d like to use this opportunity to further develop the concept. At this point, I’m planning to open the invitation to grades K-8 with a focus on tank water quality and the larger implications of pollution in our watersheds. I’m also kicking around the topics of dissecting fish to examine anatomy, determining fish age by viewing scales under magnification, and ATU (accumulated thermal units).

Specific Context of the Teaching and Learning Situation:
The average ASD, K-8 classroom has between 25 and 30 students. There is a multi-media conference room at the store that can seat up to 50 people, so this is adequate for a class of students, chaperones, and the teacher. One particular challenge centers around the fact that field trips are typically one-time events, so I have very limited class meeting time. I plan to use a variety of delivery techniques for this program. I envision starting the field trip in the conference room with an outline of activities. Then I would take the class for a tour of the fish tank maintenance room. The quantity and complexity of equipment is a statement to the conditions that must exist for fish to survive. After the tour, the class would head back to the conference room to conduct water quality testing from tap water, tank water, and a sample from the runoff pond outside the store. I believe this hands-on exercise would help solidify the realization that the quality of typical storm drain runoff is toxic to fish. With this insight, we can begin talking about watersheds, pollution, and what an individual can contribute to combat the problem.

Expectations of External Groups:
I believe society at large expects students to be aware of the mounting pollution of our earth and the impact that humans have on altering ecosystems. I think responsible members of society should expect students to be stewards of the land, water, and natural resources. To be an effective steward requires an understanding of the current issues and ideas to begin resolving the problems we’ve set in motion. Reviewing the Alaska Content Standards for Science education, I believe the water chemistry / watershed pollution topic alone addresses the following standards:
Science as Inquiry and Process:
A student should understand and be able to apply the processes and applications of scientific inquiry. 1) develop an understanding of the processes of science used to investigate problems, design and conduct repeatable scientific investigations, and defend scientific arguments.
Concepts of Physical Science:
A student should understand and be able to apply the concepts, models, theories, universal principles, and facts that explain the physical world. 3) develop an understanding of the interactions between matter and energy, including physical, chemical, and nuclear changes, and the effects of these interactions on physical systems.
Concepts of Life Science:
A student should understand and be able to apply the concepts, models, theories, facts, evidence, systems, and processes of life science. 1) develop an understanding of how science explains changes in life forms over time, including genetics, heredity, the process of natural selection, and biological evolution; 3) develop an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy.
Concepts of Earth Science:
A student should understand and be able to apply the concepts, processes, theories, models, evidence, and systems of earth and space sciences. 2) develop an understanding of the origins, ongoing processes, and forces that shape the structure, composition, and physical history of the Earth.
Nature of the Subject:
I would consider this subject matter divergent because there is no “correct” answer regarding how we should fix issues such as storm drain runoff that contributes to watershed pollution. Much of the value in education on this topic is awareness. With awareness, students can begin conversations about both causes of the problem and possible solutions. I believe one of our primary roles as educators is exposing students to various topics, occupations, causes, and situations in an effort match individual interests to the world at large. Telling a student to pursue a career in conservationism will most likely be less effective than providing an experience that ignites an fire of passion and action within an individual.
Although there are specific skills required to accurately test water chemistry, I think this is primarily cognitive learning. It seems that our natural world generally takes a back seat to profits and economic agendas. The latter are extremely short-term in scope. My goal is to be an advocate for the fish (and other wildlife) by encouraging students to consider our impact over the long-term. There is also a counterintuitive argument that spending more money to regulate industry and improve our watersheds would yield a positive economic impact because of increased use, health, tourism, and the return of more native species. Lastly, I believe the field of aquatics and conservation is relatively stable. Obviously there are rapid changes in specific fields of science that may indirectly affect some underlying assumption, but by-and-large it is a fairly stable field.

Characteristics of the Learners:
This topic poses one of the biggest initial challenges for me. Since I am not the regular classroom teacher, I am not in tuned with life situations of the students I will teach. I have enough experience teaching, however, to fully realize that this factor has everything to do with the attitude a student brings to school. If a student hasn’t had breakfast that morning or comes from an abusive home, they will most likely not get much from the an activity, no matter how engaging it might be. It comes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If the basic needs aren’t being met, kids can’t focus on much else. Along these same lines, I need to educate myself to the prior experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes students have regarding the subject. I think the best way to overcome these barriers is to collect information with survey questionnaires and informal discussions with the classroom teacher prior to field trip day. Differences in individual learning styles is another characteristic of learners that must be considered. I am a constructivist at heart, so I try to plan hands-on activities in most of my lessons. It is way more powerful to test the pH of vinegar, pour it over a hard boiled egg and witness the results on the shell than to merely lecture on the corrosive powers of an acidic solution. That said, I still plan to combine spatial, interpersonal, and linguistic components to accommodate all learning styles.

Characteristics of the Teacher:
I think my first post, “The Blind Aquarist”, summarizes my experience, knowledge, skills and attitude about the subject matter. Two years into this job, my comfort level is steadily growing. But I still have to lean heavily on experts when it comes to technical questions about equipment or disease. The class(es) I plan to develop are more concentrated than this. Water quality testing and treatment is something I do daily. Although I’m not a chemist, and don’t necessarily understand many of the granular details of chemical reactions I’m initiating, I do understand the impact of various chemicals with regard to overall water quality. Still, some of the material puts me at the edge of my expertise. I’m not inclined to stand in front of a group and teach something I don’t fully understand for fear of a 3rd grader stumping my knowledge. As I flesh out the details of individual lessons, there will likely be gaps in my own knowledge that will need to be filled. I have not taught this course before and that brings a unique set of challenges. There are classroom management, transition, material, and content issues to consider and plan for accordingly. This is considerably more prep work than a teacher merely redesigning a course. If I can make this outreach idea happen, it is something I would like to continue offering in the future. I think there is a need and an interest in this type of outreach program. The desire to do this for a long time leads me to two realizations. First, I want it to be great. I want management at the store to be invested in the idea and support me with materials, space, and growth ambitions because they recognize the value of a prevalent conservation mentality as well as potential profits from life-long customers. Second, there is room and time for improvement. I’m a perfectionist who will sometimes avoid a situation if I don’t think I can make it seamless. That attitude keeps me from trying new endeavors sometimes. Teaching isn’t perfect. It’s messy and that’s fine as long as we keep an eye toward improvement. A long-term perspective buys me a little grace for the inevitable stumbles I’ll face along the way. Course design is new to me, teaching isn’t. I think I’m pretty effective at engaging a group of students and keeping things mostly on-task as they work independently. Managing a group of kids without the rapport a teacher has is going to be a challenge.

Special Pedagogical Challenge:
As stated, the fact that an outreach coordinator is not the regular classroom teacher presents a whole slew of situational factors. I won’t have the mutual respect that (good) teachers and students share. I don’t know specific learning styles or home situations of my students. Maybe most glaring, I only have a couple hours on one day to hook, engage, teach, and hopefully spark an interest in the topics. Survey questionnaires and conversations with teachers prior to field trip day will combat some of these issues. A fun, succinct, hands-on set of activities is my best plan of attack against these challenges. I also plan to provide learning objectives to teachers prior to the field trip and encourage them to develop a KWL charts that kids can work on before and during our activities. Now the real work of course design begins!

Gaming: The Conglomerate of Leaning Theroies

Gaming: The Conglomerate of Learning Theories

The Internet has opened up a new realm of what is possible in education. This article reminded me of the work of Dr. Pendadura, who created the SAMR model to describe the effects and learning outcomes of technology integration. The S in the SAMR model stands for substitution. Meaning if you simply use technology to replace what you are already doing, it will not yield significant results. Scaffolding thought the process of Augmentation to Modification and Redefinition would produce an impact in learning.

Looking at the Kahn academy, I believe it is a valuable resource, but it is very much at the substitution level in the SAMR model. I am not trying to discredit Kahn Academy as a resource. I find that it is a substitution to the traditional monologue and practice of a traditional classroom. The benefit and difference is that it is rooted in Connectivism.

Peer learning is at the heart of constructivist philosophy. Learning is an interactive and interpersonal activity. Learners test theories and gain knowledge when they interact with others. Erik Mazur’s article reminds me of Kagan’s Cooperative learning which was a school goal at the time of my student teaching. During my student teaching, when I was intentional about including cooperative and group activities in my lessons, it maximized learning outcomes and influenced student attitudes about learning. Adding the elements of group and collaborative work create lifelong skills ( okay everyone lets play nice and focus on the goal). Peer instruction and cooperative learning are essential in the traditional and online classroom.

The author supports the idea that gaming and passion-based learning are the online, intensified atelier model of learning. This type of collaborative environment creates a social learning habitat where the student can learn and create at the same time.

I believe gaming could be supported by the following theoretical principles:
Behaviorism – joining an online gaming community is a choice. The change in external stimuli in an online community can have a radical impact on behaviors related to learning. Peer pressure is just one factor that can influence our behavior in online communities. According to Brown, “all contributions are subject to scrutiny, comment, and improvement by others. There is a social pressure to take feedback seriously. ” (p.23)

Cognitive – gaming supports cognitive theorist approach to learning as it lends to an increased awareness of goals and outcomes. There is strategic planning and a meta cognitive approach to improve success of intended goals.
Constructivism – gaming provides the perfect environment for the constructivist. Gaming provides immediate feedback with the ability to instantly apply knowledge. The social nature of online gaming supports the root belief learning is a social process.
Connectivism – as humans, we have an intrinsic desire to participate in a community or group. Online communities, gaming or other, promote this global connection surrounded by a concept or idea.

When attempting to justify gaming as a learning platform, it is necessary to consider the world our students operate in today. Beloit University 2018 Mindset is helpfu the world of a a student graduating in the year 2018.

Hello Dolly…cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.
“Good feedback’ means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.
Attending schools outside their neighborhoods, they gather with friends on Skype, not in their local park.
The rate of diagnosed diabetes has always been shooting up during their lifetime.
Since Toys R Us created a toy registry for kids, visits to Santa are just a formality.

Youth of today live in an on demand world and the Internet supports social networking on a global scale. Whether for entertainment or knowledge, students connect with networks striving to answer questions on a conceptual entertainment level in a social venue. We need to teach students how to seek healthy answers and entertainment.

In many ways the gaming philosophy in education supports the goals of Partnership for 21st Century Skills. There are parallels needed In games like World of Warcraft and the world of business. In World of Warcraft, to become a guild leader, one must start with a vision followed by recruitment. The next mission is teaching and applying chain of command, expectations, and guidelines to create a sustainable ecosystem. Gaming has the potential to scaffold levels of Blooms Taxonomy; how then can it be applied to education.
It is important for me to point out this article was addressed at the collegiate level. I feel we must proceed with caution when it comes to games simulations (and soon virtual reality) with young children. When I think about introducing my students to their first movie (The Polar Express). The drastic differences from the story to the digital story were profound. The emotions evoked, confusion between reality and fantasy, and interpretations based off multiple sensory experiences has guided our children’s exposure, and we believe it is healthy to monitor this exposure for the years to come (at least then years where our direct influence have a more noticeable impact).
Hello Dolly…cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.

Cyber Safety in The Classroom

This article discusses multiple factors regarding Internet safety including: general need, parental involvement, application, and denial. It dissects “need” in the context of funding and safety. Schools and districts are Federally mandated to implement Internet safety to continue receiving funds for telecommunications and Internet services. However, cyber safety is an important and essential topic whether it is mandated or not. The article also emphasizes the importance of starting the conversations related to Internet safety at a young age.

The moment we give students a key allowing them access to the Internet, we need to start teaching digital ethics. This can easily begin with passwords/passphrases. With direct instruction, students can begin to associate the connection of security and/or privacy early. Think about what you would say to a child the first time you gave him/ her a key to something valuable. What would you say? Keep it safe (why?). Don’t share it (why?). Don’t lose it? (Why?) what does it protect (why?)…..

Parental Involvement
On-going communication with families is an essential component in education. Schools should have multiple methods of established communication venues to communicate what online resources students access at school. But Internet safety, privacy, and security extend beyond the classroom. Parents don’t always know what they don’t know or feel embarrassed to ask. Parent nights, hands-on exploration, and access to resources is vital in today’s education system. Whether or not the school is pushing large technology initiatives, digital ethics and Internet safety are societal issues. We need to be preparing students for success in life. This includes digital life. Teaming up with parents is a great start in promoting successful digital futures.

Enlisting Web 2.0 Resources
When we teach students to drive a car, direct instruction leads to hands on practice which gives way to independence. Direct instruction, immersion with practice, and independence are at the heart of teaching students how to manage their digital presence. This article highlights the importance of hands-on practice in social medias and other Web 2.0 Resources. However, I find there is a huge piece missing in this article related to privacy. The Children’s Online Privacy and protection Act (COPPA) is a Federal Law designed to help parents remain in control of what personal information websites and other services can collect about children under 13. Teachers and schools need to consider what kind of personally identifiable information they may unintentionally be sharing through media, websites, apps or services for young children. This topic is one that requires further exploration on many levels.

Some schools have lock down policies with respect to personal devices in schools. Students live in a world of anytime, anywhere access. If we don’t allow personal devices in schools, they still can access Internet resources off campus. We live in a digital age and digital ethics is a social issue that cannot be ignored, and students are in need of direct instruction and hands on practice in school and at home, but it has to be taught somewhere.

As my children grow, I question technology use in school unless it authentic and hands on. Computers have more potential that passive skill and practice learning. At the same time, I want the expectation for technology integration at a young ages to SLOW DOWN. I want to know that schools and individual teachers are considering Federal laws and scaffolding Internet safety and digital ethics practices as my children advance through school. I am most concerned about their lens of exposure and digital footprint because of peer pressure and the lack of instruction (beyond a few mandated lessons by the Federal government in Anchorage School District). I wish for teacher, school, and community buy- in for this topic.

Character Education for the Digital Age

Ohler, J. “Character Education for the Digital Age’ (February 2011) , online:

This article paints a picture of the confusing technological environment our children tip-toe through and proposes a framework that would begin truly preparing them for the digital world in which we live. Due to the history of our educational system and the sensitive, complex, and legal implications surrounding the use of digital technology at school, some teachers or districts take the stance that the Internet is too problematic or distracting to effectively use in a school setting. The author asserts that this mindset communicates that “issues concerning the personal, social, and environmental effects of a technological lifestyle are not important in a school curriculum, and that kids will have to puzzle through issues of cybersafety, technological responsibility, and digital citizenship without the help of teachers or the educational system” (Ohler, p. 1). This is the essence of the “two-life” perspective; technological expertise, although vital to a productive life, comes at too risky a price, so kids will need to gain that knowledge on their own. The “one-life” perspective proposed by the author says the opposite. It suggests that the role of educators is to encourage kids to use technology in school, and then openly discuss it’s impact within the global context of society and community. “If we want to pursue a future that celebrates success not only in terms of abundance but also in terms of humanity, we must help our digital kids balance the individual empowerment of digital technology use with a sense of personal, community, and global responsibility” (Ohler, p. 1).

I’ve stated before that I believe digital devices are merely tools in the toolbox of an intentional teacher. It’s the creativity, drive, and desire to cater to the various learning styles of diverse children that set great teachers apart. The author of this article takes this “tool” idea a step further. He states that while on one hand we may view the capabilities of our modern age as something completely new, on the other hand, we are simply using the tools at our disposal to meet an basic human need – communication with other people. From cave art to the Phoenician alphabet, our ancestors used the tools of their time to tell their story and thereby build community. We are at a unique time in history where we can utilize our latest “tool” to establish the citizenship needed to function as a contributing member of a larger community. This can only happen through a “one-life” perspective, where digital tools are treated as another ingredient mixed into the the school soup. The author states that the teacher’s responsibility is not only to help students use the tools in creative, productive, efficient ways, “but also help them place these tools in the larger context of building community, behaving responsibly, and imagining a healthy and productive future, both locally and globally (Ohler, p. 2).

Say, show, do. These three words summarize constructivism and good teaching. If we want kids to walk in a quiet, straight line, we tell them what we expect, demonstrate what it looks like, and then let them practice in real world context. Why then would we expect kids to be good digital citizens without explicit instruction and guided practice? We create a taboo around the Internet when we tell kids they should pursue digital interests outside of school, while adults aren’t present. “Because of the extreme freedom, anonymity, and pervasiveness that characterize cyberspace, concerns about values and character education have now shifted into overdrive (Ohler, p. 3). If the end goal is ethical digital citizens, isn’t it precisely the role of educators to model appropriate behavior in this realm as we do in all others. Teachers can do this by simply having conversations about sources and copywriting. When citing ideas or information, they draw attention to the fact that this is not original, but borrowed from a specific source or from the collective wealth of information. They can also do this by discussing the importance and sensitivity of passwords. I remember a quote from a internet safety class I took years ago. “Passwords are like underwear, best kept to yourself and changed frequently.” This is a quote I’ve used often to break the ice, relate the importance to something we understand, and begin a uncomfortable conversation with a little humor. We as educators are in an ideal position to teach and model critical citizenship practices for our students.

The author recommends several steps for developing character education programs within a school that reflect the values of the community. First, public meetings afford community members the opportunity to discuss and debate the ideals they hold dear. Since character education has historically been intertwined with community values, it’s imperative that members outside the school have their voice heard. Next, students must be directly involved in developing character education programs. Students are “in the trenches” so to speak; they have a better idea about opportunities and pitfalls in cyberspace than most adults. They, like adults, are more likely to buy into outcomes if involved in the decision-making process. This process of inclusion leads to valuable dialog, the exchange of opinions and motivators, that is crucial to educated, informed policy. Finally, it is recommended that school districts check to see if the department of education has already adopted mandates for character education. Although the mandates may not be comprehensive, it’s a starting point to begin the conversation about guiding principles of exceptional character.

Ethical behavior and character education is not something new or revolutionary. The world we live and operate in, however, is changing so fast that the assumptions behind them need to be reevaluated periodically. If we as educators are charged with instilling mutual respect and preparing our students for a successful future in this world, we cannot create a “two-life” paradigm. We need to have proactive conversations about the challenges students face online. We need to model appropriate behavior and decision-making and teach students how to navigate the confusing world they faced with. We begin this by letting the monster out of the closet and teaching our students how to communicate and interact with it in a healthy manner that builds up humanity and the global sense of community we all desire.

Online Learning — Good Teaching?

One of the challenges many teachers face is identifying and refining teaching strategies and practice to increase the efficacy and enjoyment of learning. This statement is true for face-to-face settings as well as online learning environments. With the advancement in technology and the influx of many new buzz words related to instruction (blended instruction, flipped classrooms, personalized learning), there seems to be a strong pull in changing the teaching and learning environment.

Migration of the learning environment into online formats is more about creating a different structure for the teaching and learning environment. The following elements are listed in the article as a conceptual framework for online learning. These experiences are listed as being supported by technology, but I would argue that ALL of these best practices are essential in both synchronous and asynchronous environments, as they can support constructivist philosophy.

Expository instruction — Digital devices are the conduit to communicate knowledge resources. Course management systems, resources, and information needed to participate in class is included in this element. In this learning experience, the learner is receiving direct and explicit instruction. (Creative teachers can find ways to make expository instruction active and interactive.)

Active learning — In active learning, knowledge is based from an active experience where interaction takes place between the learner and the setting. In an online setting, the learner can utilize simulations, contact experts, utilize web based resources, games, access articles, join professional learning communities, and a use variety of digital resources to build knowledge. It is important to point out the constructivist nature in the active learning section. The learner is selecting a tool to construct and build knowledge. The research paper indicates that online resources such as quizzes and multiple-choice skill and practice type activities yielded little results. It is apparent that such resources could be classified as passive learning (think about it in a traditional classroom setting — how effective were quizzes in the learning process?).

Interactive learning — Interactive learning is at the heart of constructivist philosophy. Learning is an interactive and interpersonal activity. Learners gain knowledge when they interact with others. Collaborative projects, discussions, chats, and virtual reality are examples of methods to increase interaction among learners in an online setting.

Another major point that stuck out in this article is that the role of the teacher changes when looking at these experiences. The three practices listed are not practices to employ in isolation. I am looking at these experiences as progression, or stages. In the expository instruction stage, the stage is being set for the instruction. I look at this as the teacher providing guidance and explain the concepts and skills students are required to learn. Background knowledge can be activated and new challenges can be presented. From there, students can move into active learning. At this stage, learning is interpersonal, and the teachers should act as a resource to enhance the learning experience. For example, the teacher can provide rich resources for the student to explore and manipulate. In the last stage, interactive learning, learning develops through interactions with peers, and the teacher becomes a “guide on the side’. When a teacher assumes this role, he/she also puts himself/herself in the seat of a learner.

I think it is worth pointing out that the experiences listed above are, in my mind, essential components in teaching in a 21st Century classroom. This statement is true from kinder to higher education. These three experiences are vital in both an online and a traditional setting.

The Newborn Parent

Five years ago this month our daughter was born and I received a crash course in parenting. I had been working with elementary-aged kids for quite a while, but my experience with infants was next to zero. One of the biggest challenges for us initially was the lack of sleep. (Go ahead and mock me for ignorance if you’re a parent.) Our daughter didn’t like being put down and had extreme difficulty sleeping alone. This presents obvious problems with parent sleep during the night, but also with daily routines. During the first week that I was home alone with her, I would put her in her crib at nap time and try to get my chores done. She would scream, I would check on her and adjust her. She screamed, I didn’t know what to do and felt like a bad parent. She screamed, I wouldn’t get anything done and she wouldn’t get a nap. For those of you without kids who think this would cause an infant to sleep better at night, think again! After a week of trying the same thing with the same results, we were both exhausted and nothing got done. The mounting fatigue and carnage in the house were changes to the external stimuli that forced a change in behavior. I started cooking, vacuuming, and doing house chores with her in a backpack. She seemed to be oblivious to the noise and movement, but the physical proximity met her needs. Lesson learned; she spent the first 6 months of life attached to me in a carrier. I remember driving to Talkeetna during her first month and gritting my teeth as she screamed for the second straight hour. Rounding a bend, I drifted and drove on the rumble strip for several seconds. Immediately she stopped crying. When I corrected my driving and the vibration stopped, she began crying again. My wife and I made eye contact, acknowledged the change in external stimuli and I drove on the rumble strip for the next 40 miles. These were both somewhat knee-jerk reactions without thought, memory, or reflection. Much of the learning during that first month would likely fall under the category of behaviorism. My behavior, the way that I acted toward my new daughter and the way I approached new challenges was directly affected by changes in the environment. I lacked the experience and context necessary to plan or reflect critically on my choices; they were a reaction to external stimuli.

As I began to develop an existing knowledge structure, I was able to reflect on details that created enjoyable experiences. When we went outside, my daughter calmed down and acted mesmerized by her surroundings. I was tired, stressed, and missing the release that comes with exercise. I decided to try bundling her up and going for progressively longer walks. This was December/January in Anchorage, so it could get brutally cold. Regardless of the temperature, she would stop crying, watch her new environment, and eventually go to sleep. With a few minor adjustments to her layering system, I was eventually able to go for 12-15 mile runs with her blissfully sleeping in the chariot. My own motivation to improve our health and quality of time together led to reflection, planning and implementation of new strategies. With the success that came from a morning routine, I established a rough schedule for our day. The structure and predictability that blossomed from thinking continually about improvement set the tone for our wonderful early years.

Part of the routine we established was reading books together in the afternoon. My wife and I are believers that literacy happens somewhat naturally through exploration with books and text. My daughter was drawn to the images contained in books and I held reading as a meaningful activity because I want to foster an environment where books and literacy are important. As we established the culture of book time, however, I realized it was much more than merely reading books. I watched my daughter’s excitement at the mere mention of book time. I felt her snuggle into me and beam at the feelings physical proximity created. My very anxious, very active daughter would cease movement, completely captivated by the story and the feeling of being held tightly. “Waz Dat!?!?” was the first sentence my daughter uttered, pointing at a bear as we read together one day. This question was the beginning of a rich dialog that helped form the person she is today. With those first books, I began to observe and interpret her body language. I constructed an understanding that reading to your kids is about so much more than literacy. It’s about building relationships, fostering love, developing social skills, talking about characters and the emotions they feel, personalizing the struggles of book friends to understand complexities of our own lives. It’s about laughing, crying, sharing, being silly, making plans for the future, and most of all it’s about chiseling out time in our busy lives to share an activity we enjoy together. This isn’t a lesson I could have learned by reading a book, listening to a lecture or participating in a conference. This learning was a contextual phenomenon that happened through repeated observation, processing, and interpretation.

My daughter is now five and the challenges don’t go away, they just evolve. Stubborn individualism would characterize my approach to learning the craft of parenting in those early years. Without a support network or friends in a similar situation, I internalized issues, bumbling my way through and eventually figuring things out on my own. Maybe it’s because the issues become increasingly complex, but we’ve begun seeking support and guidance from outside. Part of that is meeting and developing trust in other parents or our pediatrician. Part of that is participating in online communities – connectivism. When the developmental tics that started at 6 months began to look disturbingly similar to Tourette’s Syndrome, we sought answers online. I remember feeling a sense of relief that other parents were going through the same struggles and actually had advice for creating a comfortable environment to reduce episodes. I was able to take a textbook definition of something I didn’t understand and that scared the hell out of me and put it in real words and actions that could possibly help the person I so dearly loved. As we began to have reservations about putting our anxious daughter in a loud, chaotic public school system, we looked for advice from other parents and alternatives to public school within an online community of parents with similar struggles and stakes. This online network has also provided resources and activity ideas that any busy, stressed parent will appreciate. As the complexities of parent or any other job mount, it’s reaffirming to share challenges with people in a similar situation. More importantly we can leverage what we know by participating in the collective wealth of knowledge that already exists.