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.