High School is Easy

No, Really It Is …

Get full credit on the easy activities — By submitting them ON TIME!
Don’t take a zero in the grade book on assignments/activities for which you should be, easily, earning full credit.  That’s just redunculous! (this is a real word – check here)

What Are These “Easy” Activities?

Listen, most schools have some version of the following three activities (four in some cases) that are used for grades.

  1. Bell work / Bell ringer
  2. Class work
  3. Home work
  4. Uniform (if required)

Explain Further Coach

Well, you should just watch the video for the explanation, but here is the premise.

Bell work / Bell ringers

These are those assignments that most teachers have right at the beginning of class.  They, usually, are short (maybe 5-10 minutes), and are meant to be done while the teacher takes attendance, checks homework, hands out papers, etc.

All students should earn whatever maximum credit is possible for these assignments.
Most of the time, you just have to get it done on time.

Class work

I really shouldn’t have to explain this.  Just participate and do the work.  Again, all students should be earning maximum points here.  This grade is usually based on honest effort, maximum participation, and timely completion.  It really is that simple.

Home work

Ok.  Here is one set of assignments where you, sometimes, might not earn the full amount of credit — IF you get some wrong answers.  However, you have to at least do the work.  You have to show that you made a legitimate attempt to complete whatever work was assigned.  Even if you get stuck, at least do everything up to the point where you get confused.  Show all of your work, and maybe even write down your thoughts in attempting to complete the work.

Uniform (If Required)

Look …
This is THE MOST unacceptable thing to take a zero on.
I’m not even joking.

If you have some kind of PE (physical education) class that has some kind of “uniform requirement” — wear it.  Whatever that requirement is — just wear it.  I mean, don’t be silly.

The fact is that taking a zero on any of these things is an act of Stupidity; not to be confused with ignorance.  They are two completely different things, but that is a topic for another day, and another video.


What in the World is a Flipped Classroom ???

There has been much talk – and sometimes debate – over this idea of Flipping the Classroom.

Well, many people – including educators – still do not even understand what a Flipped Classroom truly means in order to be able to take an educated stance in favor of, or against this newer concept.

Instead of trying to write a very long explanation, I came across the following Infographic that explains the concept and its origins very nicely.  I came across the website for this Flipped Classroom Infographic when I was looking at the blog of one of my previous professors – brainmeld.

This Flipped Classroom Infographic was published by Knewton.


Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


Best Practices in Virtual Learning Environments

Originally Posted: March 23, 2011

Woman holding a future digital reportBest Practices in Virtual Learning Environments

Dictionary.com defines best practice as “the recognized methods of correctly running businesses or providing services” (World English dictionary section, para. 1).  When based on principles, the same activities that constitute best practices in “traditional education” will, usually, translate well across any medium chosen for course delivery.  For a course to be of value, it has to answer a need – successfully.  This is where Instructional Design (ID) becomes important.  It is the analysis at the beginning that will help determine the “consumer’s” need, and how best to address that need.  Piskurich (2006) states that one of the benefits to employing ID is that it helps to identify the best practices for content delivery, essentially identifying the best manner for the target audience to successfully acquire the intended knowledge.  

Additionally, listing course prerequisites is vital and should, almost always, be mandatory.  Piskurich (2006) further suggests that course prerequisites are important for, both, the instructors, as well as, the students.   With a well-developed set of expected prerequisite skills and knowledge, the instructor(s) have a fair understanding of their students’ ability, and what kind of material they will be able to utilize with their students.  At the same time, potential students have an understanding and fair expectation regarding what information will be covered in their course.  Students that are reviewing course prerequisites can make informed decisions whether or not a course is too basic, too advanced, or just right.

Factors for Success in Virtual Worlds

Andrea L. Foster (2008) reported that educators experienced in utilizing the 3D virtual world, Second Life (SL), for distance education have stated that “…communication among students actually gets livelier when they assume digital personae” (p. 12-13).  Foster also reports that one educator, that teaches a freshman English composition course via SL, suggested that educators getting started in SL should be open to the idea of allowing students to have some control over the course in order to maximize student engagement.  Other suggestions include eliciting feedback and suggestions from other educators and students.  From a personal standpoint, this author believes that VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is essential in order to keep the audience engaged.  Having experienced SL conferences where the main means of communication between the presenter(s) and the audience have been either text chat (only), VoIP,  or a combination of both, it is very easy to say that this author found it more engaging to utilize VoIP with the occasional text chat for a side conversation/question.  Additionally, the use of multimedia such as video and/or presentation slides definitely helped to create the opportunities for increased audience participation.

Application Becoming Reality

The Simulations and Virtual Reality course that this author is currently participating in has really expanded the thought process regarding how to approach the final capstone project, and which tools, skills, and objects will be needed in order to develop a successful product.  This author had already settled on creating a course within Moodle, an open-source Learning Management System (LMS), entitled, “Developing Immersive Virtual Learning Environments”.  However, participating within the 3D world of SL has taken the original concepts to a whole new level of possibilities.

For the final project of the Simulations and Virtual Reality course this author intends to create one of the lessons for his final capstone course.  Beginning with basic best practices, this author will develop a detailed syllabus that will contain course prerequisites, course requirements, and technical requirements for the final capstone course.  Within SL, this final project will have to make use of multi-media viewers, a magazine and brochure shelf in order to provide external links to various learning objects, and text and voice chat.  Additionally, this author plans to explore the benefits of possibly utilizing SLOODLE which is an open-source project that has integrated SL with Moodle, and may be found in SL at: SLOODLE TeleHub and Fountain: 128, 128, 22 (SLOODLE, Home section, para. 1).



Best practice. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com’s online dictionary. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/best+practice

Foster, A. L. (2008). Professor Avatar. Education Digest, 73(5), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=28755255&site=ehost-live

Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

SLOODLE (n.d.). In Sloodle.org’s open source project. Retrieved from http://www.sloodle.org/moodle

Online Course Components

Originally Posted: January 29, 2011

Cole and Foster (2008) list several recommendations that should be considered by instructional designers intent on developing quality courses.  While implementing everyone of these considerations is not feasible, the instructional designer that is able to implement as many as possible will design a better quality course.  The recommendations are divided into three categories as represented in Table 1 below.

Table 1
Summary of categorically based solutions

Factors Considerations
  • High expectations
  • Respect for diverse talents and learning styles
  • Emphasis on early undergraduate years
  • Coherence in learning
  • Synthesizing experience
  • Ongoing practice of learned skills
  • Integration of education with experience
  • Active learning
  • Assessment and prompt feedback
  • Collaboration
  • Adequate time on task
  • Out-of-class contact with faculty

Note. Adapted from “Course Design Patterns,” by J. Cole and H. Foster, 2008, Using Moodle:
Teaching with the Popular Open Source Course Management System
. p. 213-214.

Copyright 2008 by O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Additionally, Cole and Foster suggest that learning goals and feedback are the key aspects that differentiate virtual learning environments (VLE) from other typical web sites.  Learning objectives provide the goals that students would not, likely, set for themselves.  Learning objectives also provide the framework for how students will interact with the VLE.  Feedback is paramount when it comes to providing students with a method to gauge their progress towards accomplishing their goals.  Feedback may be presented in several forms including: tests/quizzes, assignments, synchronous/asynchronous student-student and/or student-teacher interaction to list just a few (2008).

Horton (2006) goes on to suggest that there are three unique activities that are requisite in order to achieve VLE course objectives.  Absorb activities include presentations, teacher stories, reading, and/or field trips.  Do activities involve student practice, discovery, and/or games.  Finally, connect activities include learner stories, job aids, and/or original work.  The order in which these activities are presented to students will be based on the analysis that takes place as part of the overall instructional design process.

Oliver, Kellogg, Townsend, and Brady (2010) list several online activities as alternatives to simply having students reading assigned text.  These interactive activities include:

  • lab experiments
  • design-oriented projects
  • online research
  • collaboration activities

Furthermore, Oliver et al. assert that students may better process course content when able to utilize asynchronous communication tools similar to discussion boards and/or blogs.  Whereas, utilizing synchronous communication methods, such as messaging and/or chat, may assist with collaboration and/or planning projects (2010).

Although there is an abundance of tools available for implementation by instructional designers, it is not necessary (nor recommended) to use every single tool when designing course content.  It is important to consider what the stated learning objectives and/or goals for the course are, and then implement the components and/or activities that will ensure a successful virtual learning environment.



Cole, J., & Foster, H. (2008). Using Moodle: Teaching with the popular open source course management system. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Horton, W. (2006). E-Learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Oliver, K., Kellogg, S., Townsend, L., & Brady, K. (2010). Needs of elementary and middle school teachers developing online courses for a virtual school. Distance Education, 31(1), 55-75. doi:10/1080/01587911003725022

Examining Hybrid Courses: Online vs. Onsite Supplements

Originally Posted: January 15, 2011

Perhaps contrary to what some may believe, distance learning has actually been around for over a century.  “‘Distance education’ has been in existence since the state of New York authorized degrees offered through ‘home study’ in 1883” (Tandy & Meacham, 2009, p. 314).  The differences between 1883 and 2011 are the available delivery methods.

Young Woman Lounging in Living Room on Couch with LaptopOne modern adaption is the hybrid/blended course.  By nature, a hybrid course blends aspects of traditional onsite education with aspects of distance learning; in modern times this is, usually, accomplished through technology (El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007).  The study, “Students’ Positive and Negative Experiences in Hybrid and Online Classes”, conducted by El Mansour and Mupinga provides credence to the cliché that you cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time.  They assert that no one teaching and/or delivery method is ideal for everyone.  Some of the feedback recorded by El Mansour and Mupinga was that students liked the immediate feedback and/or live sharing of ideas with their instructors and/or classmates during the face-to-face portion of their hybrid class(es).  They also liked the flexibility of being able to attend to classwork from almost anywhere with access to the internet, and still being able to maintain full time employment.  Some of the negative feedback included disruptions to students’ social and professional lives in order to attend scheduled onsite meetings, and delays in getting feedback from instructor(s) and/or fellow classmates during the online portion(s).

Horton (2006) provides different levels of blending to consider when deciding to what degree of blending a course should be developed.  At a minimum, course designers should consider Horton’s “Level 2: Strategic Blending” when developing a hybrid course.  This level of blending would be driven by the actual subject matter and course goals when deciding how to combine classroom and web-based evolutions.

Blended learning provides the opportunity to capitalize on the pros of both onsite and online learning while, simultaneously, creating the potential pit-falls of the negative things associated with each kind of training environment.  Hybrid courses truly are akin to a double-edged sword.

One other aspect to take into consideration when discussing the pros/cons between onsite, online, and/or hybrid courses, is that of access for those with disabilities.
Tandy and Meacham (2009) provide several examples that support the idea that the sword cuts in both directions.  While onsite courses may be difficult for people with physical disabilities, they provide opportunities for people with other disabilities such as low-vision or blindness.  The opposite side of the sword is that online courses provide convenience for those people with physical disabilities.  However, developing online courses that may be utilized by people that have low-vision or blindness presents some technical and/or financial challenges for the course developers.

Ultimately the quality and success of hybrid course delivery methods will be about the same as regular classes.  There will be the champions of hybrid developed courses, there will be the inevitable antagonists, and there will be those that remain indifferent.  In the same manner that not everyone enjoys the same kinds of music, movies, or sporting events, not everyone will have the same experience(s) when participating in a traditional onsite course, completely online course, or a hybrid course.  Whether or not to recommend hybrid courses would depend on the potential students’ personal preference(s), comfort with technology requirements, and personal goals such as the need for immediate feedback, flexibility to limit social/professional interruptions, etc.




El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students’ positive and negative experiences in hybrid and online classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

Horton, W. (2006). E-Learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Tandy, C., & Meacham, M. (2009). Removing the barriers for students with disabilities: Accessible online and web-enhanced courses. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 29(3), 313-328. doi:10.1080/08841230903022118

Developing Course Outlines for Online Courses

Originally Posted: January 15, 2011

According to US Legal (2001-2011), the legal definition of a course outline is “…a brief summary of the topics covered in a particular course” (Course outline law & legal definition section, para. 1).  Additionally, Dictionary.com defines syllabus as “an outline of a course of studies, text, etc” (World English dictionary section, para. 1).

McIsaac and Craft (2003) suggest that it is paramount to have a well designed and developed course syllabus/outline in order to improve a given course’s chance of success.  They postulate that this is especially important when courses are web-based since not all students access course materials during “normal business hours”.  Course outlines must be prepared and available well in advance of the start of the course, and must be sufficiently detailed to avoid the need for mid-course changes.  Mid-course changes to the course outline will, inevitably, cause confusion and/or frustration for students that work ahead.  Finally, McIsaac and Craft suggest four elements that should be part of any online course outline:

  • Accurate calendar of due-dates and/or topic discussions,
  • Active resource lists and links embedded within the course readings,
  • Detailed steps for discussions, and
  • Detailed annotations for assignments and tests with established processes for help.

There are several websites the provide insights and/or suggestions for developing useful course outlines.  The Penn State World Campus (2000) Faculty Resources webpage, and the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (2009), both, provide very detailed guidelines and “best practices” of the things that should be taken into consideration when developing course outlines, in addition to pointing out that detailed course outlines provide the foundation for instructional designers to work with academic personnel in developing final courses which will be made available to students.




Course outline. (n.d.). In US Legal’s free legal dictionary. Retrieved from http://definitions.uslegal.com/c/course-outline

CSTL Teaching Associates. (2009). Suggested guidelines for developing a class syllabus/outline: A best practices document. Retrieved from http://cstl.semo.edu/cstl/resources/contributions/common-syllabus-2009.pdf

McIsaac, M. S., & Craft, E. H. (2003). Faculty development: Using distance education effectively in the classroom. Computers in the schools, 20(3), 41-49. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

Penn State World Campus. (2000). Creating a detailed course outline. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/public/faculty/detailedcourseoutline.html

Syllabus. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com’s online dictionary. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/syllabus?o=100074

All or Nothing ???

Originally Posted: November 13, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Learning Styles Don’t Exist
– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

First Impressions

“Hi, my name is Dan Willingham. I’m a Cognitive Psychologist and a Neuroscientist [emphasis added]….I’m gonna talk to you today about learning styles, and how Cognitive Psychologists know [emphasis added] – that they don’t exist” (Willingham, 2009, “Learning Styles Don’t Exist,” ).

Initially, I had to review this video several times just to get passed my own and personal hang-up and impression that Mr. Willingham’s introduction sounds pretentious – to me; that was my initial perception.

The fact that Mr. Willingham makes the distinction that he is a “Cognitive” Psychologist seems to indicate that he has chosen to accept and distribute the theories of Cognitivism as undeniable and unquestionable truth.  If we use child-like faith to accept Mr. Willingham’s message as absolute truth, then Learning Styles do not exist.

I do not have a “traditional” educator’s background.  Actually, my background is in IT – the Information Technology kind, as opposed to Instructional Technology.  I mention this just to bring up the point that I am not completely partial (yet) to any particular learning theory.

Learning Theory
“Learning theories attempt to describe how humans learn….what are the key elements in the process of gaining new knowledge and capabilities and how those elements interact” (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 18).  When discussing learning theories, there are three main models or strategies (isms) that are often referenced: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.

Supporters of the cognitivist theory focus on that learning which occurs in the mind of the learner.

Cognitivism focuses on the actual cognitive processes of learning.  It sees the brain as multiple compartments that are more integrated and interdependent than the straight stimulus/reaction view in behaviorism.  It says that learning is an active process of filtering, organizing, and integrating information within and between these different areas of the brain making learning sometimes harder to observe than something like a Skinner box. (T. Henning, personal communication, September 30, 2010)

Januszewski and Molenda (2008) point out the following limitation to the theory of cognitivism: “…it is meant to apply to learning in the cognitive domain….It has much less to say about motor skills or attitudes except as regards the cognitive elements of those skills” (p. 30).

All or Nothing?
Mr. Willingham seems to, purposely, use examples out of context.  Yes, you may have a student that performs better through auditory learning, but, as Mr. Willingham points out, when it comes to learning the shape of a country, that student has to, visually, see the country’s outline.  Perhaps listening to the teacher describe the geography and population of the country while seeing the shape of the country’s borders will help solidify the information in the student’s mind.  While the preferred modality for a particular student may be auditory, that does not mean that the student is not able to learn by other means.

Unfortunately, it appears that too many people put the proverbial “blinders” on, and take an all or nothing approach when it comes to learning theories.

Champions of a particular learning theory, which  may have a strong grounding in research and is therefore a quite useful description of how people learn, sometimes forcefully argue that their prescriptive instructional implications must be equally true whether or not they have been tested and upheld empirically. (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p. 18-19)

An eclectic approach combines ideas from the different learning theories without forcing the implementation of an entire “parent theory”.

Personally, I believe in the “supermarket approach”; take the parts of the learning theory that are needed at the moment, and leave the rest “on the shelf” for another day.  Whether as an educator, or as an instructional designer (or both), one has to analyze the types of learners that one has as an audience.  Then, are we able to “go shopping” and implement the best portions of each of the learning theories.

What Now?
In the end, we have to accept that different learners, not only have different learning styles, but also have different motivations to learn, different life experiences, different cultural influences, and even different levels of knowledge.

I, for one, have come to the realization that learning theories must be blended.  This is the best way to ensure that we, as educators, are able to impact the maximum number of learners as possible.


Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (2008). Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York, NY: Routledge.

Willingham, D. (2009, July 30). Learning styles don’t exist . Retrieved from http://www.teachertube.com/members/viewVideo.php?video_id=119351&title=Learning_Styles_Don_t_Exist