EdTech 523: Module 4 Reflection

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Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Module 4 was a transition period because I was ending one group project while I was getting started with another, and in between we had Spring Break, when my wife and I traveled a few days to Jordan and Israel. I agreed to work with one group to develop an online resource for online teachers and work with some other students to develop some discussion questions for the upcoming module.  This gave me collaboration opportunities where we met in Google Hangouts, shared a Google Doc, and exchanged friendly emails. I’m glad that I did both as I was able to use some of the work from the online resource as a reference in my communication plan.

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

Doing homework at the Dead Sea.

Additionally, I was able to work ahead  by reading the material for the next module so I could prepare the discussion questions I will present.  Lastly, I would like to comment about chapter 9  on “Transformative Learning” in Building Online Learning Communities. This chapter was very inspirational for me because it described so much of what learning online has meant for me.  It also aligns with my philosophy on learning and teaching.  This chapter meant so much to me, since it is affirming my desire to grow confident learners through online education.

The other course textbook, Learning in Real Time, helped me to envision the role of synchronous communication in online learning.  As I was reading through this text I had to think of discussion questions, but my mind was really opened to the power of synchronous communication for building an online community.

Self Evaluation Using My Grading Scale

It seems natural for me to transition my skills as a teacher to the online environment.  I enjoyed putting together my grading scale for online discussions. My experience as a teacher has helped me know how to clarify expectations and also prevent problems with students before they happen.  Of course, I imagine students that range from a typical pre-teen to a solid full-fledged teen, which are the age groups that I have been working with the last few years.  Also, my grading has been influenced a little bit by the IB Curriculum, which is my current grading standard.

It is also a little unfair evaluating myself with my own grading scale, and this is based on two factors.  First, I made the grading scale based on general ideas that I have used when I respond to a discussion prompt.  This will likely work in my favor because I know what I like in a response, because it is often what I do.  However, the second factor does not work in my favor so much.  I am probably my own worst critic, so using my grading scale with my perception would probably cause me to nit-pick details in my response. When I consider my experience, while using my own scale to evaluate myself, I would not make any changes to my scale.

Nonetheless, I think of my last post which responded to one of the students who posted a discussion question.  I know that I didn’t do all the tasks that were associated with the research of his writing prompt, so I would probably loose about 3 points there.  I make up some ground in the area of content for posting some relevant information. I really wanted to discuss Chapter 9, which was one of the required readings and no one made a prompt that addressed this chapter, so I took the opportunity to steer the discussion in this direction, but at the same time I did address many things in the response.

There were many opportunities to respond to other students’ posts and I know I met the minimum requirement, and my posts are generally very thoughtful, so I received all 10 points.  Finally, I am a language teacher so I have developed many skills for using language in communication.  I make occasional mistakes with my writing, but I usually make a point to review, and I pride myself on my creative approach to writing, especially the introductions.  I know I took care of these details in my response, so I received 5 points for each scale.  Oops! I did not include any picture or media to accompany it, but at least I made up for it in this post.  This brings my total score to 32 of 35 points in that post.

Changes to Discussion Facilitation

Even though I have not facilitated a full scale discussion yet, I can already imagine some of the challenges associated with it.  I already know what it is like to feel overwhelmed with reviewing many writing assignments, so I could imagine the work load easily getting out of hand if students are constantly posting lengthy responses.  I would have to get to know certain features of the LMS that allow me to review overall activity.  Even though I want my students to write with quality and to feel like they are writing with a purpose, I know half of my job is complete just by getting them to do that.  In other words, I won’t feel that it is necessary to read every word, especially for the student responses.  I would have to learn some teacher shortcuts for reviewing these, as well as encourage more peer review and accountability among the students.


Communication Plan for Online Teaching

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This communication plan is considering the communication role of the teacher and the student.  It encompasses considerations for the administration, content delivery, peer to peer communication, and assigned work done during an online language course.  It is divided into four parts.


Every Work Day

  • Check General Questions or Technical Problems Forum
  • Reply to direct contact inquiries
  • Post any relevant updates in the News Forum
  • Set up  or solicit a communication appointment with 1-2 students

2-3 Days Into a Module

  • Check for activity on discussion forums and provide feedback
  • Scan LMS for activity or monitor the flow of multiple step activity
  • Dedicate time to grading or offering feedback from previous module
  • Finish grading most activities from previous module
  • Display and comment on poll results if a poll given the first day of the module

2-3 Days Before Module Ends

  • Scan LMS for lack of activity and contact students or parents as necessary
  • Check discussion forum and monitor student feedback
  • Be available for an informal synchronous discussion (offer different times on different days)
  • Prepare supplemental resources for the next module


At the Beginning of the Course

  1. At this point, you should present your prepared orientation of the course, which includes: a teacher introduction, a tour of the course webpage, rules of netiquette, warning about password safety and other security issues, and completing an icebreaker activity with a teacher example.  Also review the  Orientation Guide for Preparing New Online Learners.
  2. For the first activities, ask the students to update their course profile with a short biography.
  3. Also, ask them to complete a poll or brief survey about previous experience in online courses.  If possible, allow the students to see the ongoing statistical results of the poll or survey, so they can compare themselves with the overall level of their peers. 
  4. Lastly, whether it is an icebreaker activity or an assigned post, require the students to upload (with their post) an image within the LMS.  This will help them gain confidence with the technical aspect and the user friendliness of the LMS.  The Caption Contest is just one example of an icebreaker that will allow students to accomplish this goal.

Throughout the Course

  1. For each module, the students will be provided instructions for posting in a discussion, as well as a minimum requirement for responses to other students. 
  2. Each module will provide a prompt that sets the standard for content.  In the “Discussion Forum Assessment” (below)guidelines are provided for the quality of peer responses.  Equal consideration will be given to the use of language and the unique expression, or creativity, of each post. For more information, review the following section.


Each discussion is worth 35 points.  The grading scales below will indicate how the total point values will be calculated for each discussion.  Review the tips for each scale.  These will indicate the best strategy to maximize your discussion forum grade.

Content Scale: 1-15

Tip: Read the discussion prompt thoroughly.  Make sure you have addressed all of the content requested in the prompt.  Some prompts will have more than one question.  Also, reread any written posts to make sure your ideas are clear for the reader.  Use appropriate structure of sentences and paragraphs as necessary. If the response to the content is unclear, this will affect your overall grade.

Peer Response Scale: 1-10

Tip: When responding to peers, make sure that at least two responses are thoughtful and complete.  For example, a thoughtful response goes beyond the “Good job” or “I like it” and reflects on what the other student has written. Here are some general examples: Your response can connect your own personal experiences to what your peer has written, it can question your peer to seek clarification or ask about his or her sources or opinion, or it could offer constructive criticism about their argument or opinion.  Be cautious with constructive criticism, since the person, who wrote the post, has feelings.  In order to avoid a war of words, be gentle and/or gracious with your criticisms.

Language Use Scale: 1-5

Tip: Make sure that you are checking for general correctness in spelling, vocabulary, capitalization, and punctuation. Also, because this is a language course, text language should be used lightly (not more than 2-3 occurrences in a post).  In other words, make sure your words are complete.  Smiley-cons are acceptable when appropriate.

Creativity Scale: 1-5

Tip: Each person is unique in their own expression, however to tip the creativity scale in your favor you can consider the following.  Look for opportunities to write creative introductions to your posts.  Consider inserting an image, drawing, or video that supports your content.  Add a link to text when you are referencing something that is not directly related to the material or it is not considered general knowledge.

Note: Inappropriate posts or responses may be removed and will affect your grade.  Depending on the severity of the inappropriateness, further action may be taken against the student as indicated in the Code of Conduct.  If your profile security has been violated or breached, communicate this to your professor as quickly as possible, and try to remedy the situation if you can (for example: changing the password, making sure you log out from public computers, etc.).


When working with a group of students online, there are possible issues that will arise, requiring the teacher to respond with communication strategies.  Consider the following communication needs to confront the related issues.

Individual Communication

  1. As noted in the section “Part 1: Routine Administrative Tasks”, an online teacher will be watching for inactivity in individual students and make contact with those students or parents a priority. 
  2. Other issues that might require a teacher to make individual contact, is when a student shows any dominant characteristics in general, by trying to control discussions or responses, or perhaps he or she may exhibit dominant characteristics in group activities.  Although this may be difficult to perceive online, if there are any repeated actions by one student that may be deemed as unhealthy for group communication, it should first be dealt with by communicating privately with that student. 
  3. If offenses have occurred between 2 students and it has escalated to a heated exchange, it may be necessary to meet with those students privately during a small group chat.

Whole Group Communication

  1. There are instances when a teacher notices undesirable activity in public places and perhaps it needs to be addressed with the whole group. 
    1. If a heated exchange between 2 or more students escalates to an inappropriate level, the teacher may need to consider censoring communication and addressing the whole group about the problem. 
    2. A similar type of teacher intervention may be necessary when a discussion gets off track and the main topic is no longer being discussed.  In this case, consider posting a reminder on the thread or in a general forum area, which reminds students of the topic or redirects them, and if necessary, a thread can be frozen or removed if the discussion is creating a strong diversion. 
  2. Other situations that may call for whole group communication is when a teacher perceives that there is either a lack of whole group activity or a common misconception among many responses. 
    1. In the case of misconceptions, the teacher can address this with more clarity about the instructions, or create an alternative presentation that describes the common misconception, or a presentation that either offers more guidance for the students or even shows a teacher example. 
    2. In the case of whole group inactivity, the teacher can reach out to the whole group through various forms of communication and solicit feedback and try to determine if there is a problem with the material or tasks. 
    3. However, what might work best is gathering information from regular contact with the students and use it to form a poll or survey that can be distributed to the whole group.  By soliciting the students in this way, it is less intimidating for them to voice their opinion or concerns, which are related to the course.

EdTech 523 Reflection: Voices About Social Media

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In this week’s activity, we were suppose to assume the role of a school board member, principal, teacher, parent, or student (our choice) and choose a side to support or oppose the use of social media in education.  I will respond to the teacher’s questions with regard to this activity.

Can you recognize one or two voices and/or tones from the in the activity you completed this week?

I suppose that I do, but I am not in the thick of this discussion, as most of my online colleagues are, who are States side in the USA, while I am living abroad in Saudi Arabia.  It really makes a difference in perspective.  I’m sure there are many cases reported in the USA concerning the misuse of social media.  Ironically, most people automatically associate social media with Facebook first, then Twitter.  I was glad to see that some professional educators, no matter what their role was, were promoting alternative options for social media, some of which are more appropriate for school environments. 

This is the second country that I have lived in, within the Middle East, and I have also lived for periods of time in Latin America.  Living abroad has given me an interesting perspective of society in general.  I have a lot of respect for American society, based on what I have seen elsewhere, but we (American society) are struggling to make sense of the social media revolution, just like many other places in the world.  However, (in my opinion) the USA culture seems a little more hypersensitive about the negative social effects of social media.  I’m not sure if that is related to the news culture of the USA being more transparent, or possibly  more “scandal seeking”, or if we have a higher regard for the risks. Nonetheless, we hate to hear of victims of the abuse of social media, but that is exactly what we are talking about, the abuse of something that is intended to be used for good.

One time in this region, in Egypt, social media made international news; most people in America probably gaped when they heard that the government shut down the internet to keep the message of protest spreading.  We in America really cherish our freedom, and like it or not, banning social media is a form of infringement on freedom, even if it is for a good cause.  The difficult task is deciding when it is justified and when it is not.

Do you notice these voices and/or tones in your current discussion board responses with students, if applicable?

No, these issues haven’t come up, despite the fact that I have used Facebook and Google+ with my students and I have seen very little problems with inappropriate postings.  It’s not that my students are angels, it’s has more to do with the student discrepancies not playing out in school dramas, at least not yet.

Discuss potential changes in your approach to discussions in the future. Take into account the need to rely less on hearing your own voice in favor of supporting participants reflections and learning.

The landscape of education is changing is such a way that the term “social media” is either going to branch off or broaden to include “social virtual education”.  In my opinion, “virtual-osity” cannot be avoided in formal education.  Too much of our society is developing on its foundation.  In order to maintain a competitive edge in the world stage, the next generation must be considered for driving the machine. 

EdTech 523: Module 1 Wiki Reflection

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Link to Virtual Icebreaker page

Summary of Module Activity

In this module we were asked to collaborate online with course-mates in order to produce a wiki that documents icebreaker activities.  Ironically, this activity served as a bit of an icebreaker for us because we are still in the early phase of the course and we are getting to know each other.  Our initial communication was using the Moodle forum. 

The professor was intentionally loose on the structure and assignment details, so it would encourage us to organize ourselves into a concerted effort to meet the goal that the professor put for us.  There are two student sections in this same course, so all the communication for my section began to gravitate toward one post.  The participants were able to guide themselves independently to the right meeting place. 

Once we identified the appropriate section, we needed to separate according to our professional area of instruction, which the professor had already accounted for when she created the wiki.  There was a page for adult education and K-12 education. 

A group of K-12 educators began to make a plan to meet in a conference call.  Initially there were five of us that met using a Google+ Hangout.  This was a good way to meet despite my substandard Internet connection.  Even though I started the hangout and I was disconnected a few times, I was easily able to rejoin the meeting.  During that meeting we decided to break down the K-12 education to a further division between elementary and secondary education, and we would all plan our own virtual icebreaker activity. 

Lastly, we agreed to do a follow up meeting to discuss the final details.  There were a total of 7 of us in the meeting.  In both meetings we had a few technical difficulties, but we were all very patient as we worked through them.  In that last meeting, we changed a few details of the standard layout, but we mostly discussed to make sure we weren’t missing any important information that would help make the page better. 

The wiki is housed in a Google Sites website.  I was already quite familiar with the layout and features of Google Sites, but this was the first time that I worked in a wiki type of format.  Many of the participants had not worked in a wiki before.  We were encouraging each other and helping the best we could, but fortunately, Google Sites is very user friendly, so there weren’t too many snags.

A Living Evolution: Technology in Education


Image by CCPR Computing

Passwords can be troublesome even for me, but I have adopted certain patterns for being able to produce and recall the secret codes for my many online accounts and identities.  However, many students are challenged with creating and keeping passwords, which at minimum will cause hassles in productivity.  Technology is much more efficient than the old ways of record keeping, but as more data becomes digital, organization of data is crucial.  This is even more important for password recall because it is the key to give you access to the information or tools that you need.

Technology integration into the curriculum has many challenges.  Teachers, administrators, and parents form a wide variety of stakeholders in any educational system, and among these groups, there are people who resist technology for many different reasons.  Students, on the other hand tend to embrace technology, but perhaps aren’t always aware of the responsibilities or organizing a digital life.  In my English classes, I have seen this first hand.  When students don’t remember their passwords it causes major hindrances in the lesson.

In my school, students already have to keep track of at least 4 passwords just for school related online activity.  This does not count digital information from their private lives.  As I come across useful web 2.o tools that can be integrated into my lessons, sometimes I am hesitant because it requires yet another password.  There are so many wonderful sites and activities that are language based, which will allow students creative ways to express their understanding in written, visual, and oral forms.  However, to prepare students for the onslaught of online resources, they need to have a plan for organizing their digital lives.

Geoff Cain (2011), Director of Distance Education at the College of Redwoods, has proposed an idea in his blog, DE 101: Preparing students for online learning.  He basically lays out the need for a preliminary course that puts students in contact with web 2.0 tools and other software, prior to taking content specific courses online.  This will help students learn these skills in true academic context, but at the same time it builds a foundation of knowledge that they can apply to the content specific courses as part of their later studies.  I strongly support this notion, and similar to Cain, many universities have a similar approach to preparing students for online programs.  Unfortunately, there is very little evidence of such strategies at the K-12 level.  For the most successful integration, curriculum planners should see the necessity of technology training and platforms that can be used across all subject areas.

When a prerequisite course or training is established for students, the educator can begin to build digital organization skills.  The first thing to establish is a reliable storage platform where students and teachers can safely store their passwords.  Lifehacker (2008) offers 5 recommended solutions for managing passwords.  Whether or not the computer equipment is standardized, a teacher can establish a password management system.  Even though organization requires personal commitment, we can strive as educators to create a learning environment that rewards organization.  Richard Byrne (2011) wrote Cool Tools: Digital Aids for Staying Organized, which lists some ideas for organizing information with efficient online tools.  Teachers can benefit from standardizing a particular tool so that students are not only equally informed of course content, but also can grow their organizational skills.

In conclusion, I believe an English course can benefit from having a strong technology foundation where students are prepared to organize their digital existence.  However, I believe if any educational institution is going to integrate learning platforms and learning tools, all content areas could benefit from students taking a preliminary technology course.

Can Technology Change How You Teach Content Areas?


Image Linked to HPMC Occupational Medical Services

When it comes to road-trip planning, I must admit that I am a little old fashion.  I have not yet adopted the use of GPS, so before I take off, I have to consult a map to look for the best route.  It doesn’t matter how much I pre-plan a trip, there is usually something unexpected that comes up in the journey.  What’s worse, is traveling on a known route, just because I always have gone that way.  Even though they have added many traffic lights and it is much more congested than before, I don’t bother considering other options.  Just because we have always traveled down the same road, doesn’t mean that it is the best route to take.  This analogy is intended to advocate the use of technology to accomplish certain goals in education; the process of learning is the trip and the route is the method.

The primary purpose of this assignment is to consider how technology integration can benefit content area instruction.  Since the topic is rather broad, I have decided to narrow the focus on access that technology provides between the teacher and student.  The term social presences refers to the amount of individual attention a teacher can give a student during a lesson cycle (Kemp, 2012).  Considering the traditional approach to education, a teacher has a set period of time per day that a group of students is present.  This is one reason class size has always been an important topic in education.  As budgets are tightening, school administrations are encouraging newer approaches for educating their students, because rather than reducing class sizes, likely they will increase if the traditional approach continues (Education Week, 2012). However, through web 2.0 tools, students and teachers can communicate directly with each other in written and spoken form.

Sometimes, regardless of the content area instruction, a teacher needs to have individual contact with students, whether is be for specialized instruction or assessment. A traditional class with 20-40 students makes that very difficult.  Besides the obvious vigilance that a teacher must give to a whole class at any given time, there are other social issues to consider for the timid learners, who may not feel comfortable voicing doubts or opinions in front of a group of peers.  Although traditional learning environments have benefits of social engagement with students and teacher, there are social distractions too that can cause a learning environment to not be optimal for delivering content.   Therefore, I believe technology offers a solution for giving students better individual access to a teacher’s guidance.  Teacher communication done through web 2.0 tools allows students to access the information when needed and when it is more relevant, plus it can be viewed multiple times. As many administrators are considering online delivery of content courses, learner-centeredness becomes and important approach to helping students set and achieve their learning goals (Rice, 2011).

Going back to the road and map analogy, we can say that there is more than one way to arrive to a destination.  Though curriculum calls for a well designed plan before you start the trip, often the reality is that there are many unforeseen obstacles and perhaps even some detours along the way. In time, I believe that some technology will act as a GPS system for education.  We start the journey in the right direction, then we let the GPS system guide us to the best route.  The more education begins to harness the power of technology to review student performance data and cater instruction to a student, the less dependent it will be on curriculum road mapping.  Secondly, some teachers have been traveling the road of a particular content area for a while and the way that they have always gone, may be the best way for them to deliver that content.  However, as time passed, more options have become available, and there may be more efficient ways to span the distance. The further removed the approach is from the learner, the less they can relate, and the more traffic lights will be added to hinder that route.   

Therefore, I see technology integration as a benefit to educators.  It has the potential to engage all learners, but for some learners, technology offers them other options for engaging, where they might not feel as comfortable in a classroom social setting.  It also has the potential to be more relevant to them, especially when different options are available to them for arriving to the destination.  Lastly, technology integration has the potential of providing real time directions for delivering the content, and the more student centered the content can be,  a more authentic learning experience will take place.


EdTech 541: The RISKS of the Internet


Google Presentation taken by Jink Screenshot

Some people choose to have nothing to do with the Internet because they the think the risks are too high, that someone will seek them out, use their information inappropriately, or try to hack into their private life.  We can call these people a virtual hermit.  Why a “virtual” hermit? Because it would be hard for even the most stringent hermit to keep his name out of some sort of virtual database.  Bank accounts, credit card accounts, service accounts, and even governmental records on citizens are kept in virtual safes.  So as the rest of the world forges ahead with Internet activity, what can the virtual hermit expect from his lack virtual participation. The problem with this approach is that it will become more difficult to function, much less compete, in the world without some sort of virtual identity.

Don’t get me wrong, when you or your information are connected to the Internet, there are risks.  However, there are many benefits to having access to the Internet and for this reason it is used so widely, so much so, that everyday activities are being completed online.  If you don’t participate, you will be left behind (Free Press Org, 2009). None the less, you should be aware or your effect of your activity on the Internet as well as the dangers.  This acronym  “RISKS” will help you remember these important details about your risk management while you our online.

R is for Responsibility

Most institutes require student to sign some sort of Acceptable Use Policy in order to access the Internet or computer equipment in an organized learning environment.  In other words, the users are required to be responsible with the privileged of Internet access.  This refers to anything that is related to the intentional search and network bypass of digital material that is not appropriate for school or is contrary to school and social ethics.  The Kent School District has set up an Internet Safety & Cyber Citizenship page that not only advises about Cyber Citizenship, but also points out common online risks.

I is for Information

There is a debate about how much personal information should be used in online profiles.  This short video, “Privacy and Responsibility on the Internet: Who Should Control your Identity on the Web?” by the Carnegie Council will point out both sides of the debate.  Some argue for anonymity for safety purposes, while other argue for the efficiency of data transfer with secure online profiles.  Google is a proponent of the later, and here is their video about how to set up a secure profile using Google services.

If you are not certain about the security of your online profile, it is wise to limit the amount of personal information that you include in that profile.

S is for Seekers

The two primary features of the Internet are 1) it helps connect people, and 2) it is vast.  Because of these two features, there are a lot of people that try to connect with or get the attention of many people across the Internet.  The majority of these seekers come in the form of harmless advertisements or online acquaintances.  Unfortunately, there are seekers that don’t know you, but will try to make personal connections.  You may not know the motives of these seekers, but because of the uncertainty, it is recommended not to engage in online contact with that person.  Most social networks provide the option to decline a communication request, or to even expel an online contact if their behavior has become offensive or too personal.

Perhaps the type of seeker that gets the most attention and warning are the online predators.  Here is an interesting report called “1 in 7 Youth: The Statistics about Online Sexual Solicitations” by the Crimes Against Children Research Center.

KS is for Kinky Sharing

Perhaps the biggest risk that face online users is the one that they least expect.  Kinky is a word in general that means crazy or unacceptable; sharing refers to the way in which people can easily share online content and information with friends.  Together, these two words are a recipe for disaster.  It is quite common that someone wants to share either personal information about themselves with a friend, or even intimate photos of themselves, and they probably don’t intend to share it with other people.  Unfortunately, confidence has been betrayed many times in these circumstances and the unthinkable happens, many people have read or seen your private information.  Here is a basic rule that you should follow for posting any information online: if you will be embarrassed or ridiculed by these words or content, don’t post it.  This is not to say that friends can’t be trusted, or that those that share personal content without your consent shouldn’t be punished, but the most secure way of protecting your private content, is not to share it in the first place.

Also, be aware that some online places will make your correspondence available to the public, even when it is shared between two individuals.  Take for example the US Congressman and his Tweet Scandal.


Video Free Press (2009, April 9) What is the “digital divide?” . Retrieved Oct. 22, 2012 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCIB_vXUptY

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