Monday, April 30, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Consider the 15 year old human sitting in your classroom. What will they really remember from your outstanding orations, alarming activities, and tremendous tests? Not much really. Or at least not as much as you might think. Oh yes, there will be those moments from your classroom that will forever be etched into their brain. For example, I remember the day a bird flew into my high school English class. Unfortunately, we were not reading a Dr. Doolittle story. I am pretty sure the teacher's lesson plan did not include "bird enters stage left". 

What then should we do? We must help create a series of positive learning memories for our students which will drive them to want more. Creating a classroom where this occurs must become our passion. Learning must regain its place next to 'exhaustingly fun', 'rigorously exciting', and 'lifelong'.

Note: Strategic placement of commas and periods have been used in this blog post. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

No Busy Work Please!

When we plan for instruction, we need to choose relevant and authentic tasks. In most classes there will be students of different levels of ability, none of whom should be burdened with busy work. Structure your classroom in such a manner there is always one more thing to do. Just ensure the 'one more thing' leads the student to a deeper understanding of the current objective or prepares them to enter into an understanding of the next objective.

This should also remain true when working with teachers. If you find yourself working with pre-service or in-service teachers, ensure the artifacts they are asked to produce can be used when they return to their classroom. If the artifact cannot be used in the classroom, then why create it?

No busy work please!

Resource: Surface Area and Volume module recently produced for an online course. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

There Has Always Been Three

As we look to educate, there has always been three critical components: authentic planning, clear expectations, and valid and reliable assessment. Even though these components should be readily assumed, when one or more is missing the learners will become agitated.

Authentic Planning

Failing to plan is planning to fail. As the development of lessons, modules, units and courses takes place, there must be an authentic planning phase. Classroom action must be designed to support learner obtainment of the intended objective(s). The most effective manner in which to ensure effective classroom action is for the instructor to complete the activities prior to using them with the learners. Of course, in the current educational era, giving learners the opportunity to provide input into the classroom action planning is popular. Include this technique as the maturity of the learners allow.

Clear Expectations

As a result of authentic planning, clear expectations should be easily developed and delivered to learners. Since the classroom action has been pretested and polished, the instructor should be well versed in what is expected and have the confidence to allow for individualized (read "constructivistic") pursuits beyond the content expectations. There must be attention given to classroom management as well. Students need to understand how to actively participate in self-determined learning, peer-to-peer interactions, and whole group discussions. Note: The perfect lesson plan does not guarantee classroom management. Classroom management must be addressed. If not, then the behavior of the learners can interrupt learning.

Valid and Reliable Assessment

Formative or summative assessment? Rubric, fill-in-the blank or essay? Terra Nova or SAT? There is no difference when we examine these instruments through the lens coated with validity and reliability. If authentic planning has occurred and clear expectations communicated, then valid and reliable assessment should follow. Again, I strongly recommend the instructor complete the assessment instrument before using it with the learners.


Regardless of whether you are using the constructivist learning model, objectivist learning model, or a combination, the instructor is responsible to ensure authentic planning has occurred, clear expectations have been communicated, and valid and reliable assessments are used. The tools (online or not) used to accomplish these actions are of secondary importance to the actual classroom action.

With respect to how I might adjust a course to reflect what I found in recent readings, I will analyze and evaluate the current course design, complete the activities myself, and adjust as necessary to match the intended outcomes. In addition, I will plan to support individual interest in going beyond the intended outcomes.   

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Cheating happens. 

With technology, cheating has become more efficient. 

Cheating coupled with a poor work ethic undermines our efforts to ensure a quality education for all. 

As teachers, we must look at our assessments for learning and examine the validity, reliability and, now, security. Ask yourself, "Have I developed a set of assessment tools which will maintain a secure judgement of student growth and progress?" If not, change the way you conduct assessment.

I suggest you combine online work with formative and summative assessments in class. Get to know your students and their work. Listen to their questions and provide guidance. Promote organization, model a strong work ethic, and prepare students for success. If a student then makes a bad decision, discipline appropriately. 

Cheating happens so be prepared to be completely disappointed. Confront, discipline, and move forward.

Behavior Modification

As we consider the rules of our classroom and objectives for our lessons, residual behavior modification is the end goal. We want our classrooms (physical, hybrid, or virtual) to run efficiently and our lessons to be effective. Understand, though, the success of both depends heavily on behavior modification. Will the learner behave or act differently as a result of taking part in the course?

Failure to invest time in planning and implementing classroom management and instructional design will result in a set of unwanted time-absorbing issues.

As we address of the needs of the individuals who enter our classrooms, expectations and objectives must be communicated clearly. For if the learner is to become different they must fully understand what different means. 

At the end of the day when our students leave us, we want them to think, reason, calculate and communicate better than when they arrived in our classrooms. Modified behavior which they can take "back to the streets" and use to be productive.

Resources: In continuation of the focus on Bloom's Taxonomy, check out Graeme Eyre's blog showing prompts for questions and Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything: Bloomin' Apps.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bloom's Taxonomy

In 1956 Benjamin Bloom and a group of cognitive psychologists produced a taxonomy for the development of intellectual behavior which became deeply embedded in our thinking on the process of education. Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation are an integral part of the pre-service and in-service training of teachers.

In the 1990's Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom) and a group of cognitive psychologists "updated" the taxonomy to Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating and Creating. Note: By seeing "updated" in quotes, you can safely assume my thoughts on the whole update concept.

The issue here is NOT nomenclature! Many of us in education are "stuck" teaching our students at the lower levels of the taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension and application, while students thirst for learning at the higher levels: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

I'm talking to myself here as well! The new online tools combined with time-tested techniques create endless possibilities for quenching that thirst.

How do you embed Bloom's Taxonomy into a learning environment? How can you mentor me to do a better job?

Checkout Samantha Penney's adaptation of a few new online tools to Bloom's Taxonomy.

What tools would you add to each level?

When Are We Ever Gonna Use This?

If you are or have been a classroom teacher, most likely you will have heard a student ask this question. Instead of being annoyed, understand the student is doing you a favor. They are letting you know your lesson plan is not working for them. They are giving you feedback to be used in formative assessment. They are telling you exactly what they need in order to learn. Listen and answer their question.

This question can also become relevant for teachers when evaluating online resources. Questions arise. Does the online resource actually work? If the resource works, does it satisfy a need? How much time will be involved with effectively using the resource? Does the resource enhance student understanding and retention?

Honestly, at the end of the day, the last question is the one which matters the most.

Resource: Online assessment tools: A sample of each of the following tools has been reviewed: quiz and test builder, peer-to-peer interaction, course tracking, and reflective assessment. Your feedback is welcome as well as suggestions for other tools available in these categories.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Augmented Realities

Ok, so I am several years behind this trend. I have been busy climbing things, improving my golf game and ensuring I am healthy outside of school. However, I want to learn how to program augmented realities and I want my students to learn how to program their own augmented realities (especially with items they have created in Geometry class). Obviously, there is a fascination with the 3D image. What attracts me most, though, is the complexity of making the 3D image appear wherever you want. I want students to wrestle with ideas of this magnitude.

The Perfect e-Storm Survival Guide

The movie, The Perfect Storm (2000) recounts the story of the Andrea Gail which in 1991 while at sea encountered three storms (including Hurricane Grace) which combined to create the perfect storm. The boat and crew did not survive.

In 2004, Dr. Curtis J. Bonk made an analogy to the story of the Andrea Gail and the collision in education of emerging technology, learner demand, enhanced pedagogy and budget issues. Hence, The Perfect E-Storm, Parts 1 and 2.

The inevitable will happen. Actually, the e-storm is already happening. How can we survive this deluge of intense want from so many different directions? Survival will not be easy, but YOU can do it! Consider the following suggestions:

[1] Never become completely satisfied with your teaching. Always seek to improve the delivery and assessment techniques used in your classroom.
[2] Unite with others to weather the storm. Form a study group with colleagues, take an online class, and ask your students to demonstrate the new technologies they use outside of school.
[3] Enjoy the journey. Walking in the shoes of a student can make you a better teacher. Find ways to make the experiences fun.

Here's a sample of what's out there...

Augmented Reality: GE's Ecomagination
Digital Libraries: Oxford Digital Library
Games and Simulations: Shodor's Interactivate
e-Learning: Michigan Virtual University
Reusable Learning Objects: Texas A&M Repository

Bonk, C. J. (2004, June) The Perfect E-Storm. Retrieved March 26, 2012 from

Resource: Concept Map for teaching surface area and volume of Geometric solids.