The Show

Many of today’s younger students expect some sort of entertainment in the classroom. This notion is perpetuated by school board members who for the most part lack classroom experience and who willingly approved funding for the superficial bells and whistles of modern technology. When we meet these students in their young adult years in college, they have been programmed in a way to expect a show of sorts.

Fox’s article connects the ideals of return on investment with “what’s in it for me?” While Fox demonstrates how to “dig deeper”, the basic premise of consumerism certainly is one that could be utilized in any college classroom. Many students foot the bill for college; they should expect to receive information or an educational experience in return. However, to receive the benefit, the student must attend class (whether it be face to face or online). Rarely has the student thought of this point. I know because I’ve witnessed the “aha” moment.

None of this means that we need to put on a show. College is about thinking and application of those thoughts. That’s the show–we show our students how they are able to apply their knowledge and then give them opportunities to show us how they did.

Miller Fox, D. “Education and Consumerism: Using Students’ Assumptions to Challenge Their Thinking” 2014.

The Visual Dictionary: More than a Picture

The Visual Dictionary shows how language is used, and it provides a description of the word. At first glance, The Visual Dictionary seems like a dictionary to teach young children the English language. However, while it might be used for this purpose, The Visual Dictionary is more than just a dictionary for picture-word identification.

An investigation of the word zebra exemplifies what The Visual Dictionary offers. For example, a word search leads to a cartoon-like graphic image of a zebra on a page called “Different Land Animals 1 of 3”. Beneath the image, a word definition for zebra is given: “striped African mammal, a cousin of the horse.” The words zebra and horse are underlined and link to other pages. The zebra link provides detailed written information, similar to what might be found in an Encyclopedia Britannica. The Visual Dictionary reports, “Zebras are African equids best known for their distinctive white and black stripes.” Photos are also included. Another link provides a video clip of a zebra. The word horse links to a page about the morphology of a horse. The Visual Dictionary provides a diagram of a horse and labels each part of it. Further, it defines each label made on the diagram. It also defines the term “morphology of a horse.”

Seemingly a tool for the young, The Visual Dictionary offers an adult writer a resource to accurately label and describe things and a reader access to defining unknown words. Definitions, whether visual or visual with textual support, are clear, direct, and meaningful. For example, if reading an article about fashion or sewing, the Pleats and Slashes page shows what a box pleat looks like. Further, it provides pictures of other pleat types. In contrast, The Oxford English Dictionary defines a box pleat as, “A pleat consisting of two parallel creases facing opposite directions and forming a raised section in between” which confuses more than helps. In other words, OED’s definition to me is utterly useless whereas The Visual Dictionary definition shows meaning. OED’s definition of zebra, “an African wild horse with black-and-white stripes and an erect mane” in no way compares to the tiered layers of information and imagery that The Visual Dictionary provides. In sum, The Visual Dictionary provides a writer a resource to see things in terms of how they appear and then supports the image with more detailed, understandable, and useful information.


Bibliographic Citations


Dery, Bernard. The Visual Dictionary. Simon-Pierre LeBel, 9 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 June 2014. <;.

Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 23 June 2014. <;.


Forums: Friendly, Fun, and Fruitful

It is my goal to teach online, to at least explore it as an avenue of my professional career as an educator. If I were to develop a forum designed for participants new to the online teaching experience, I’d call it “Branching Out.” This forum would provide a friendly setting for like-experienced participants to meet. If I were to go thematic and develop a social forum for participants to vent about challenges and tap others for help, I might call it “Reaching Out” or “Going Out of My Mind.” This forum would create a venue for educator to have fun with their colleagues and discuss real-life situations. If I were to develop an end of the class forum where participants could post farewells or course comments, I might call it “Out of Here” or “Over and Out.” This forum would be fruitful for participants to reflect upon the course and to reveal pertinent information to the facilitator. Simply, a forum, also known as a Discussion Board, can be created for any topic. By utilizing the teaching strategy of chunking, breaking things down into small manageable parts to increase learning, forums encourage a connection among its participants which in turn build a community within the online course.

There are no hard and fast rules dictating that a course should have “x” number of forums or shouldn’t exceed “x” number of forums. Rather, it is a matter of dictation by the host environment for continuity among courses or left to the design of the course facilitator. However, for a forum to be effective and encourage engagement, Susan Edelstein and Jason Edwards in their article, “If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Learning Communities Through Threaded Discussions” (,offer a list of “must consider” questions when creating a forum. Pete Rorabaugh in his “Rules of Engagement or How to Build Better Online Discussion” ( article says, “There is a difference between expressing opinion and authentic engagement”. Further, Rorabaugh adds that in a discussion board, “the goal is intellectual engagement.”

Just as we want to engage students in the classroom, we must create ways to engage our online students to say more than “Good job” or “I agree with you” in a discussion board reply. We need to provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable replies for our participants. We need to provide guidelines regarding netiquette. Peter Connor who believes the facilitator’s role is to “help make individual postings easy to follow, keep the conversation thread focused, and keep overall discussion on-track “Netiquette: Ground Rules for Online Discussion” ( in our own courses. And as facilitators, we need to be as invested and involved in the forums as our participants. Sadly, many facilitators sit on the sidelines and remain silent within discussions. Do they remain quiet in the classroom? As educators, we model. A silent teacher is an absent teacher, thus the teacher sets a poor example of how to encourage intellectual engagement and growth. An involved facilitator, on the other hand, incorporates friendly, fun, and fruitful forums into the course to engage participants to intellectually communicate.

Not Broadway Bound…Yet

This is a response written for the Practicum course in the online teaching certification program.

Not Broadway Bound…Yet

Oddly enough, I was just this week thinking about one of my former high school teachers. I imagine on some subconscious level I thought of him because it is high school graduation season; two weeks ago, I was thinking about my college professors at my son’s college graduation. My high school teacher, who I shall cbroadway lightsall “Mister”, was a brilliant stage director who also taught art. In my brief foray into theater, I learned about how a teacher could be intolerant. As an older sister whose mom was a single parent in a time when such a label was unheard of, I became responsible for my brother, nine years my junior. Yet, I wanted to be part of the school play, a musical. Unfortunately for me, taking care of my brother interfered with my ability to become involved in extracurricular activities.

Not to be discouraged, I begged my mom for her to make other arrangements for my brother. Fortunately, she agreed. However, as circumstances unraveled and her backup plans fell through, yours truly had to miss a rehearsal. Naturally, I explained the situation to Mister before my absence. While I certainly didn’t think Mister would be pleased (although realistically, how much could one member of the chorus affect the production?), I certainly didn’t expect his ultimatum. “If you don’t show up for rehearsal, you are out of the show,” Mister told me.

As a 15 year old who had a strong sense of family obligation, and after begging all of my friends to babysit my brother for me—to no avail—I missed the rehearsal and true to Mister’s word, I was out of the show. To this day, I wonder about Mister’s lack of accommodation toward a student who faced a then uncommon dilemma and about his intolerance of a situation that should have been handled differently. His harsh response could have deterred me from seeking future involvement in school activities, yet in actuality it spurred me into finding activities in which I could be involved and still help my mom. In other words, I found a place where my interests could match my responsibilities and tolerance for it would be accepted.

More importantly, I learned the value of words. I imagine that Mister had to follow through with his edict to ward off those who thought about missing a rehearsal without a valid reason. Certainly, there were those in the cast who wanted to miss rehearsal for the sake of missing rehearsal whereas to me, watching a sibling trumps irresponsibility. For the director, Mister couldn’t be bothered to figure out realities, so it was easier to make an across the board mandate, albeit severe, to simplify matters for him. As a result, I take people’s words as truth and use the words, “I will” very carefully. When I say I will be somewhere, I will be there. When I tell my students in my English classes that their essays will be graded next week, they will be graded next week. Further, as an educator I accommodate students when possible and work with them to achieve a desired outcome, rather than closing a (stage) door on them.

As a side note, I still enjoy musical theater. While my musical stage career flashed and burned, as a native Pennsylvania who grew up 70 miles from New York City, maybe one day my name will be in lights on Broadway!

Eight or Nine Nouns About Me

This was written for the Encouraging Communication in the online classroom ION course.

Definition of noun in English:


Line breaks: noun

Pronunciation: /naʊn /NOUN

  • A word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun).


The following nouns describe things about me as a person. Explanations follow.

  1. Writer. As the story goes, it began with me, a red crayon, and a freshly painted white wall. While I still write my story, it has advanced beyond the letter “O”.
  1. Photojournalist. From the beginning, I sensed that pictures helped tell the tale. From a Kodak Brownie to film development to instant gratification on a cell phone, photos capture a moment. The moment may not be the whole story, yet it could be a good story.
  1. Educator. To be an educator is to be a life-long learner. To educate, one must know how to learn and how to share the knowledge to help others learn. Enthusiasm and passion for learning and teaching others are part of being an educator.
  1. Friend. I choose carefully and have been blessed with lifelong friends. I’ve shared stories and experiences and managed to grow my friendships through decades despite geography.
  1. Hoarder. I have a serious problem “letting go”. I have cartoons, articles, books, maps, letters, memorabilia, and too many unused scrapbooks. Too many moves, not enough time, and little motivation have aided and abetted in a gripping reality check for me. Those papers from last fall are headed for the shredder tomorrow.
  1. Traveler. Once upon a time, I wanted to travel the world. My world changed and now, I want to finish traveling throughout the United States. This country has such geographical diversity that I went from loving to fly to loving to drive. I’d rather see the mountains than fly over them.
  1. List-Maker. This assignment is right up my alley. Make a list of eight things….I make “To Do” lists on backs of envelopes and pieces of paper. I post a class itinerary on the whiteboard and on the CMS announcement section. I have a task APP on my phone. Occasionally, when I don’t lose the list, I complete it! Naturally, I have a list of the places I to which I want to travel. As one who colored on a freshly painted white wall without lines, my list went beyond eight.
  1. Reader. I once had a list of books I wanted to read. With the advent of technology and the internet, others have posted lists of “Must read books” and “The Classics”, so it seems ridiculous to start another list of my own. Besides, I find I enjoy reading books my students read; it provides a wonderful way to connect with them. And, I don’t worry about losing the list.
  1. Cheerleader. I do not speak of a high school cheerleader or Dallas Cowboy type cheerleader. Rather, I cheer for my children and for my students. Easily recognized at any one of my children’s events, I was the mom wearing the appropriate team sport T-shirt with matching jewelry, waving pom poms in school colors, and screaming like crazy.  I clapped at plays, Irish dance recitals, choral and band concerts, and drama competitions. I screamed at ROTC drill meets, swim meets, track meets, and football games. My life has been enriched by the activities which my children involved themselves. I do the same for my students in the sense of cheering them on to do well in my class and to help them remove any barriers that are an obstacle to their success.

Another Survey

This survey is developed for a course in Student Assessment.

Students will read William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and analyze it to write a Literary Analysis essay. The quiz will be available to students enrolled in the English 101 – Rhetoric course. It will be a formative assessment to provide me with information about their collective understanding of the subject matter and to offer them a place to express an opinion before beginning the graded assignment activities.

I will use the results to determine what additional information might be needed to help clarify story content and literature elements used in it. I would post the results in the Discussion Forum to further promote discussion and a place to clarify points unclear to students. Please feel free to take the quiz at:

The Munchkin Bear Advises Michael

This is a response question for the Instructional Design Course. Pick a character – Betsy or Michael – from the Orientation Introduction and tell us what they’re thinking in one paragraph. In the other paragraph, respond as if you are their instructional “coach.”

Michael’s views

This should be a snap. I have been teaching forever.  All I need to do is upload my PowerPoint presentations and lecture notes into Blackboard. A piece of cake! Okay, so maybe I’ll need to take that online tutorial about Blackboard. Maybe there is something I don’t know; it is possible. Logically, if I’m able to teach in front of a classroom of faceless strangers, I certainly am able to teach behind a computer screen! I should make a plan. Step 1: figure out which materials I want to use. Step 2: take refresher tutorial about Blackboard. Step 3: upload my materials. Step 4: let the class begin! Afterthought consideration: maybe I should develop at least one discussion board…

The Munchkin Bear Responds

            Michael’s viewpoint most likely represents what most would-be online facilitators think—before actually teaching an online course.  It’s time for Michael to engage in some actual online learning before he takes on the role of online teacher. First, since Michael’s timeline seems imminent rather than “sometime down the road”, Michael enrolling as a student in the internationally recognized ION MCVR program is not an option. Thus, I will develop a mini program for Michael which will identify basic vocabulary words such as VR = virtual reality, facilitator = his role as an online teacher, and module = individual unit of study in an online course. He will interact with me through the Blackboard message system, email, discussion board, telephone and/or Skype. Michael will quickly learn through practice about synchronous and asynchronous communication.

One of his first assignments will be to read ION’s “Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning” Michael will recognize that online learning attracts a more independent learner than he might typically see in his classroom. He will learn that there is more to online education that registering for the class. Further, linking him to the ION article will show Michael that utilizing outside sources beyond one’s own lecture notes provides variety to students. To reinforce this point and further expound on it, I will upload a PowerPoint to differentiate resources for him. At this point, we’ll discuss the differences of what it is like to be a student in an online class to that in a face to face class. Michael will now be able to begin planning, designing, and developing his online course because he has experienced the role of an online student.

According to “The ADDIE Instructional Design Process” wiki, a new term for Michael to learn,
, there are more than 100 Instructional Design models, yet the basis of each of them is the ADDIE model. Thus, before Michael begins his true development of his online course, he will be assigned two resources: “Instructional design for self-learning in distance education” and, a video about “Instructional Systems Design (ISD) Models”. Together these two resources will provide Michael with information about the ADDIE system and its components. The video will also provide information about two other ID systems (Dick and Carey Model and the Kemp Model) as well.  The document resource will provide a list of considerations for course development using the ADDIE model that goes into more detail than the video resource. By offering two different types of sources, Michael will clearly recognize the need for varied resources and understand that online course development is more than uploading existing materials in his teaching arsenal.

I am confident that Michael will assess his current plan, scrap it, and develop a course reflective of his expertise that will engage his online student participants and include analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation, i.e. the components of the ADDIE Model.

The Munchkin Bear



I’ve started a new online class: Instructional Design. Here’s my response to the first assignment.

Decide if you are a Lion, a Tiger, a Bear or an Oh My!…Choose a character from the Wizard of Oz and explain to us why it is fitting for you.

Yogi Bear, I am certain, influenced my love of the United States National Park system.

Further, even if I know exactly what is in a picnic basket, I enjoy the thrill of emptying a container filled with food. Unlike Yogi, I do not, or haven’t yet, taken food that is not mine; I ask first! However, like Yogi, I’ll admit, I’m “smarter than the average” bear. While like lions, I enjoyyogi bear park
a desert climate, and like tigers, I enjoy sitting by bodies of water, I prefer the more varied habitats of bears, which usually include mountains. And if this past winter is any indication of what bears experience, hibernation, may have an upside to it.  And like bears, I like honey. While the words, “Oh My” may have slipped into my vocabulary once or twice, it would be a rare response. So, I’ll choose to be more like a bear. To answer the second part of the question, while a great fan of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, I never thought to compare myself to any one of its characters. So, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll
choose munchkin because like munchkins, I am short in height and my singing might be questioned as actual singing. Hence, I shall become The Munchkin Bear.

In my role of The Munchkin Bear, I’ve decided to hobble along the ION MCVR road to continue my exploration of online education. Initially, I wanted to know how online classes worked and be able to answer questions my students ask of me. Now, I want to earn my certificate. While I prefer the face-to-face environment, the idea of online teaching intrigues me. In my real persona, I teach English as an adjunct instructoryellow brick road for Joliet Junior College, Joliet, Ill. For those who don’t know, JJC is the first community college in the nation, and Joliet is a suburb of Chicago and may sound vaguely familiar if you’re a Blues Brothers movie fan.

The Results Are In

Discussion boards seem to be synonymous with an online course. New to the online course realm, I wonder about the learning outcomes of discussion board participation. So, when asked to develop a survey as an assignment for my TT1411 course, rather than designing one for my current face to face class, I created one for my colleagues and for my students who have had experience with online courses.  Nine people responded to the survey. The results follow.

Which best describes your experience with online education?

This question asked respondents to select from among four answers. To date, nine have taken the survey; this represents an educational experience level from first year undergraduate work to post graduate studies with 44% indicating that the TT1411 course is one of a handful of courses taken online and 22% admit to being a seasoned pro at taking online courses and another 22% facilitate an online course. Only 1% indicated that this was the first online course taken.

Please elaborate about your experience with online learning. 

This question asked respondents to provide a brief background with online experience. Overall, experience ranged from novice to expert with experiences described as “I’m kind of enjoying it now though,” “It’s been a real eye-opening experience,” and “I like it because it lets you work at a pace that works with you.”

Which best describes your reason for taking this online class?

This question asked respondents to choose from four answers. Everyone remembered the reason for taking the online class, with reasons equally split among: It is required by my institution, I am seeking to expand my knowledge, and It is a required course.

Which describes your opinion of Discussion Board participation?

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. Two to one believe that Discussion board participation is somewhat enjoyable as opposed to enjoyable. No one indicated that Discussion board participation is not enjoyable.

 Regarding Discussion Boards, I prefer

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. While more participants prefer writing a response to a discussion board question to reading the discussion board responses of other participants, the gap is 12% or one respondent: 56% to 44% or 5 to 4

Regarding Discussion Boards, for the most part, I prefer when

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. Survey respondents clearly indicated with 89% that they prefer when each participant answers different questions rather than when each participant answers the same question.

Regarding Discussion Boards, rank the following in terms of value to you.

This question asked survey respondents to rank four choices: read responses of other participants, read and comment on responses of other participants, read comments by other participants about my response, and read and reply to comments by other participants about my response. Although one student indicated a problem with the ranking mode, the results are evenly spread in rank with read and reply to comments by other participants about my response slightly emerging as the leader with 33% of the vote and the other choices equally ranked.

In order of most to least value:

  • Read and reply to comments by other participants about my response
  • Read and comment on responses of other participants
  • Read responses of other participants
  • Read comments by other participants about my response

Please elaborate on the value you place on Discussion Boards.

This question asked survey respondents to provide an opinion of discussion boards. Two comments indicated a high value: “Discussion boards are a critical aspect of online learning as it acts as one way which students can interact with one another as well as the content” and “Discussion Boards provide an opportunity for students to get involved and create a community of learning and thus I consider them very important.” Other comments indicate there is a value: “I find them useful,” “3 out of 4,” and “It helps the students see other opinions and responses to a question.” However, other comments suggest a more lukewarm opinion: “Ok,” “It’s a great way to get to know students,” “Unsure. It goes to the value and purpose of the discussion,” and “It’s good in an idea course. I don’t teach an idea course, I teach an application course.”

Choose the seven “must haves” in an online course.

This question asked survey respondents to choose the seven “must haves” of an online course from a list of 17 activities. Some 67% of the respondents agree that five of the seven “must haves” in an online course are: reading resources, academic in nature; reading resources, application in nature; discussion board with participants answering different questions; videos; and weekly assignments. While answers varied to fill the remaining two of the top seven “must haves”, 56% agree that icebreaker and application activities fill those two spots.  Next, 44% include a collaborative activity and a module reflection in the top seven “must haves”, followed by 33% including Polls and Surveys and podcasts.  In contrast, only 11% felt research activities and guest lectures belong in the top seven “must haves”. Further, only 22% thought a final project or a discussion board with participants answering the same question deserve to be in the top seven. Interestingly, no one included Twitter or a Course Wiki in the seven “must haves”.

The top seven “must have” list:

  • reading resources, academic in nature
  • reading resources, application in nature
  • discussion board with participants answering different questions
  • videos
  • weekly assignments
  • icebreaker activity
  • application activity

Didn’t make the top seven “must have” list:

  • Twitter
  • Course Wiki

A Bit of Self Reflection

the thinker

This list, written in January, reflects my goals for the TT1411 class, the catalyst for this blog:

  1. Learn and comprehend technology terminology and identify possibilities for class.
  2. Learn what Twitter is and how it could be used as a teaching tool.
  3. Develop a blog site.
  4. Develop a discussion post and utilize it as a class communication tool.
  5. Create an online class survey or quiz.

Since the class is nearly over and I’ve already submitted my final module reflection, it makes sense to me to review and reflect upon my original goal list. The bottom line is I achieved all of my goals. I learned what Twitter is and while I acknowledge it as a learning possibility, it is not among my favorite educational technologies right now. If you’re reading this post, you will acknowledge that I’ve created a blog site. I’ve developed Discussion Posts in the course. More importantly, I created two posts for my students in the classes I teach. I created an online survey. I chose to query respondents about Discussion Boards because while I acknowledge their importance to an online course, I have lingering questions about their learning value. I plan report the findings on this blog. The integration of technology into teaching possibilities is endless. Regarding technology terminology, while there is much more to learn, at least now, I have an inkling of what more I need to learn and an understanding of what questions to ask!

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