I just got this information today from a flyer in the hall of my building on campus (see crappy image to the right), so I wanted to get it out quickly to students.  The Chi Sigma Iota chapter from counseling psychology will be hosting an APA workshop, which is open to anyone.

Date:  Saturday, September 14
Time:  9:30 am to 12:00 noon/
Location:  209 Ball Hall on the UofM campus

This would be a really great opportunity for graduate students to take advantage of, particularly those in my Theories & Models class as well as any of my doctoral students.  Get the heads-up on APA 6th.

Late last week, Connie Malamed published a list of 100 Hand-picked Freebies for eLearning Designers as part of her blog The eLearning Coach. This was certainly a great list, so much so that I tweeted in out and +1’d it on Google+ too.

I wanted to highlight a few of the resources and tools that Connie mentioned as ones that I really value and use (or have used).

  • NuggetHead Studioz:  Kevin Thorn is a colleague/friend of mine here in town and took the plunge to go out on his own as a consultant.  Tom Kuhlmann also has a font for hand-drawn arrows and circles that I use regularly in elearning and slidedecks.
  • Articulate Community: The folks at Articulate know how to share.
  • IconFinder: IconFinder is one of my favorite search engines.
  • Jing: When I need to make screen captures, I use Jing almost exclusively.  I also use Jing to provide feedback to students on their work.  I like the 5 minute time limit, because it limits me as well to making sure that I mention (and point to on screen) the areas I care about most.
  • Poll Everywhere: I am a huge fan of Polleverywhere.com.  I regularly mention and highlight it in my workshops on mobile teaching and learning.
  • Doodle:  I used to use MeetingWizard; now I almost exclusively have switched to Doodle.

I’m Gonna Check These Out

From Connie’s descriptions, there a few that I’m going to be following up and spending some time exploring.  Here’s my quick list of ones I want to research:

Thanks for a great list, Connie, and thanks for sharing it with us!

2013 CCFA Take Steps Walk

 I’m going to do something really uncomfortable for me. I’m going to tell a very private story in a very public setting. Once a year, I decide to share a very personal story, because it’s too important for me to not share it. To the left is my avatar online that many of you see. Well, that’s not the most accurate depiction. Here goes …

When I was 16-years-old (I’m 41 now.), I became very sick.
I lost about 40 pounds without trying.
I experienced intense pain every night, and I was sick every morning (in a very gross way).
I lived with lots of embarrassing personal events.
I thought this was normal.
I graduated high school, went to college, graduated with a bachelor’s degree then a Masters, and I still was sick without any real explanation—all the while balancing life, school, work … and pain.

About 14 years ago, I started my PhD. About 13 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Finally, I had an answer. Unfortunately, it was only a beginning; my health became much worse. I have spent the last decade—practically all of my 3rd decade on our planet— attempting to manage how bad things were, and I also spent a lot of time trying to ignore how sick I was. It’s just not something I talked about. My Crohn’s was painful, debilitating, and secretive.

About 6 years ago, things changed. My disease became so bad, I had no option but to have surgery. (It was a stressful time for me already. I was preparing for tenure and promotion as well.) The surgery went well, but it lasted about 2.5 times longer than the great surgeon planned. Recovery was long. It was hard to be home, be a teacher to my students, be a husband, and be a daddy to my daughters. How do you tell your little ones you can’t pick them up and they can’t sit in your lap?

Remarkably, since that time, I have been in a much better place. However, Crohn’s is a chronic disease, and there is no cure. I’m over the 20 year mark now for living with Crohn’s. My current prognosis is incredibly positive, but the lack of a cure reminds me that things can change quickly. I’m told that there’s about an 80% chance that my disease will return. So, I’m waiting. I have a 8-inch long scar on my abdomen to remind me physically of what I’ve gone through and that it’s not over for me.

What’s worse though? What’s worse is knowing that these digestive diseases have a genetic link. So, now I not only worry about me. Now I worry about my three daughters. That is why I believe it is critical to raise money to find a cure for Crohn’s, colitis, IBD, and all of the digestive diseases to help prevent my daughters from going through what I’ve gone through.

2013 CCFA Take Steps WalkOn the afternoon of September 29th, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America will host the “Take Steps. Be Heard.” walk at Mud Island. This is the 6th year for my family to raise money and “do the walk.” It’s so important to our family that the day before, September 28th, my wife Katie will run a half-marathon, having raised money already. The CCFA walk is a great experience, and it reminds me of how much bigger my role is in helping others. I need your help, though. I would like to invite you to make a donation to help cure the digestive diseases, including Crohn’s disease, colitis and ulcerative colitis, and IBS, that plague children and adults alike. Together, we can make a significant difference. Here’s the link to donate online:


I know that many people feel that they cannot make a substantial donation. I’m hear to say, “Every donation is substantial in my eyes.” So, if you can contribute $5.00, that’s substantial. Please don’t let the amount prevent you from helping. I would rather see 500 friends and family members contribute $5.00 each than just a couple folks contribute larger amounts. (Don’t get me wrong. If you want to blow my mind with a crazy-large amount, I’m all for it.) But I want everyone who has been affected by these diseases to feel the meaning that I do by contributing.

Finally, please don’t think that this is an exclusive club. Oh, no. If you have friends, family, or other colleagues that share our passion, I encourage you to forward them/retweet/share the information and invite them to donate as well. That link again is


Blessings and health to you and your family. I hope you can help. 🙂

I wanted to let you know about an exceptional opportunity.  A former professor of mine, Dr. Lloyd Rieber, will be offering a free online course (MOOC). Dr. Lloyd Rieber is a fantastic teacher, and he speaks in a language students can understand.  I cannot offer a higher recommendation for learning than with Dr. Rieber. As a graduate student, I had the pleasure to team teach with Dr. Rieber on multiple occasions, and Dr. Rieber participated on my dissertation research committee.  While I do not know exactly how this course will be organized, I can say that Dr. Rieber creates and delivers the highest quality instruction.

For you current students, this would be a great learning experience to both learn about Stats and live a MOOC.  Friends and colleagues, you may be able to recommend this opportunity to some of your students or friends.

Here’s the announcement and links:

From: Lloyd P Rieber <lrieber@uga.edu>
Subject: “Statistics in Education for Mere Mortals” a MOOC offered by Lloyd Rieber

I’ll be offering a MOOC on the topic of statistics in education. The MOOC runs from August 4-September 9, 2013 on Canvas.net https://www.canvas.net/ .

Well, the course will be open and online (and free), but we’ll have to see if the “massive” part happens.

Here’s a link to the course site:

I designed the course for “mere mortals,” meaning that I designed it for people who want to know about and use statistics as but one important tool in their work, but who are not — and don’t want to be — mathematicians or statisticians.

An important course requirement is that you have to be able to put up with my sense of humor (or lack thereof).

Here’s the formal course description:

This short course will provide a hands-on introduction to statistics used in educational research and evaluation. Participants will learn statistical concepts, principles, and procedures by building Excel spreadsheets from scratch in a guided learning approach using short video-based tutorials. Examples of specific skills to be learned include scales of measurement, measures of central tendency, measures of variability, and the computation of the following: mean, mode, and median, standard deviation, z (standard) scores, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r), correlated-samples t test (i.e. dependent t test), independent-samples t test (i.e. independent t test), and a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA).

The course is designed primarily for two audiences: 1) educational professionals who would like to be more informed about how to compute basic statistics and how to use them intelligently in their work; and 2) first-year doctoral students who want a short and friendly introduction (or brush up) to basic statistics before taking full graduate-level statistics courses. However, this course would be useful to anyone who wants a good, short, hands-on, friendly introduction to the most fundamental ideas of statistics in education.


* Lloyd P. Rieber
* Director, Innovation in Teaching & Technology for
*   the College of Education
* Professor, Department of Career & Information
*   Studies
* 203 River’s Crossing
* The University of Georgia
* Athens, Georgia  30602-7144  USA
* Phone: 706-542-3986
* FAX: 706-542-4054
* Email: lrieber@uga.edu
* http://lrieber.coe.uga.edu/
* http://www.NowhereRoad.com

I have just received word from our librarians here on campus fantastic news.  ERIC has announced that they have restored full-text access to articles from 2005 to 2013.  This is great news!  Here is the announcement below.

ERIC Restores Online Access to Full Text from 2005-2013

ERIC has restored online access to more than 21,000 full-text PDFs with publication dates from 2005-2013.  These are documents and journal articles with permission to provide the full text that were previously restricted due to privacy concerns. Restrictions also have been lifted on the release of newly indexed, copyright-cleared full text with publication dates of 2005 or greater.

ERIC will continue to accept requests to restore access to older materials via the online form, and maintain the updated list of released documents. The Spotlight and alert areas on the ERIC home page at eric.ed.gov are kept up-to-date to keep you informed of the latest developments.

As you can see from the announcement above, you can request older documents from ERIC.  I had previously heard that ERIC had decided to prioritize their restoration based on those documents that were accessed or used or requested most often.  The online form to request older documents seems to be in this same direction.

A few years ago, I wrote a book chapter with Janette Hill at The University of Georgia on the complexities of implementing student-centered pedagogies, like project-based learning and problem-based learning.  This chapter “Weighing the Risks with the Rewards: Implementing Student-centered Pedagogy within High Stakes Testing” was published in Understanding Teacher Stress in an Age of Accountability edited by Richard Lambert and Christopher McCarthy, and it seems to be even more relevant as we head toward Common Core implementations and PARCC assessments in Tennessee.

In addition, I feel that there is a growing interest in inquiry and student-centered pedagogies within STEM disciplines. So, I thought I would provide the chapter and link in case you’re interested.


While somewhat theoretical, this chapter is grounded in the work I’ve done over the years in project-based learning and problem-based learning with K-12 and higher education.  In addition, it presents a balanced view of how students and teachers must adjust and work within their environments.

From Dr. Philip Pavlik, Institute for Intelligent Systems and Department of Psychology.  If you have a chance to go and hear about Betty’s Brain, I highly encourage it.  This is a fantastic example of technology-supported/enhanced learning in an open-ended learning environment.

Betty’s Brain: An open-ended learning environment that helps middle school students develop metacognitive strategies for learning science
Dr. Gautam Biswas, Vanderbilt University
Wed March 27, 2013 4:00pm – 5:20pm Cog Sci Seminar – FIT 405

Over several years, our research team has developed Betty’s Brain, an open-ended multi-agent environment that utilizes the learning-by-teaching paradigm to help middle school students learn science. In Betty’s Brain, students teach a virtual Teachable Agent (TA) called Betty using a visual causal map representation. Once taught, Betty, can answer questions, explain her answers, and when requested by the student take quizzes, which are a set of questions created and graded by a mentor agent named Mr. Davis. The TA’s quiz performance helps students indirectly assess their own knowledge, and it also motivates them to learn more and improve their TA’s quiz scores. Overall, the learning and teaching task is complex, open-ended, and choice-rich. Thus, learners must employ a number of cognitive and metacognitive skills to achieve success. At the cognitive level, they need to identify, understand, and represent important information from online resources in the causal map format, and use the affordances of the system to assess Betty’s progress using quizzes. At the metacognitive level, they must decide when and how to acquire information, build and modify the causal map they are creating to teach Betty, check Betty’s progress, reflect on their own understanding of both the science knowledge and the evolving causal map structure, and seek help when necessary. Their cognitive and metacognitive activities are scaffolded through dialogue and feedback provided by Betty and Mr. Davis. This feedback aims to help students progress in their learning, teaching, and monitoring tasks.

Experimental studies run in middle school classrooms show that students learn science content and do develop some metacognitive learning strategies as they interact with Betty and Mr. Davis. However, a number of students fail to complete their teaching task because they lack an understanding of a number of the cognitive and metacognitive skills needed to become successful learners. We discuss recent additions to the Betty’s Brain system, primarily a model-driven assessments methodology for characterizing and evaluating the students’ actions as they learn in the environment. Our goal is to make the scaffolding provided by the system more relevant to the student’s current learning activities. This translates to a context-relevant, mixed-initiative conversational format for adaptive scaffolding, and we demonstrate that this helps students develop the cognitive and metacognitive skills they need to achieve success in their learning task.

Short Bio
Gautam Biswas is a Professor of Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Engineering Management in the EECS Department and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) at Vanderbilt University. He has an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai, India, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Michigan State University in E. Lansing, MI.

Prof. Biswas conducts research in Intelligent Systems with interests in hybrid systems modeling, simulation, and analysis, and their applications in two primary directions: (1) diagnosis, prognosis, and fault-adaptive control; and (2) their applications to develop STEM learning environments in K-12 classrooms. The most notable project with educational applications is the Teachable Agents project, where students learn science by building causal models of natural processes. He has also developed innovative educational data mining techniques for studying students’ learning behaviors and linking them to metacognitive strategies. He is currently working on projects that combine computational thinking with visual programming to help K-12 students develop a deep understanding of STEM content using model-building and simulation, and then applying these models to address real-world problems. His research projects in embedded systems and learning environments has been supported by funding from NASA, NSF, DARPA, and the US Department of Education. In one of the projects, working on Data Mining techniques to enhance aircraft diagnostic models in conjunction with Honeywell International researchers (NASA NRA) he won the 2011 Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Technology and Innovation Group Award for Vehicle Level Reasoning System. He has published extensively, and has over 300 refereed publications.

Dr. Biswas is an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Prognostics and Health Management, Educational Technology and Society journal, International Journal of Educational Data Mining and the Journal of Metacognition and Learning. He is currently serving on the Executive committee of the Asia Pacific Society for Computers in Education, a member of Executive Board of the Artificial Intelligence in Education Society, and is the IEEE Computer Society representative to the Transactions on Learning Technologies steering committee. He is also serving as the Secretary/Treasurer for ACM Sigart.

Facebook logo

This is interesting: Facebook is planning to add hashtags as an option for updates.  While this is heavily used by twitter as a keyword and categorization method around a topic or event, I’m interested to see what this might mean for Facebook.  Social Media today reported that:

The WSJ reported this last week Facebook is moving to allow users to engage around topics by using a hashtag field in status updates, that would presumably be viewable openly by Facebook’s 1 billion users.

I think possibly the strongest benefit may be from social media users who post across social networks.  For example, I use Tweetdeck to post to Twitter and Facebook pages at the same time. Other folks use  If This Then That (ITTT) or Hootsuite to do something similar.

This will certainly allow me to use hashtags as an organization, or grouping, tool within my posts.  For teaching and learning, I could see that this would really help with postings across social networks, such as a twitter post that works well with one of my courses or teacher professional development programs and so I will be able to post it in both places using the common hashtags.

What other thoughts do you have about Facebook using hashtags?

via Facebook Hashtags: What Will They Mean for Brands and Users? | Social Media Today.

A few days ago, MindShift, a site published by KQED, published an article about project-based learning (via What Project-Based Learning Is — and What It Isn’t | MindShift).  It focused on one teacher’s vision and goals of project-based learning.  Azul Terronez is an eighth grade teacher at High Tech Middle in San Diego, CA. You can see the description of Terronez’s project-based learning below in this excerpt from MindShift’s article:

When an educator teaches a unit of study, then assigns a project, that is not project-based learning because the discovery didn’t arise from the project itself. And kids can see through the idea of a so-called “fun project” for what it often is – busy work. “They don’t see it as learning; they see it as something else to do,” said Terronez. “They don’t see the value.”

For Terronez, the goal is to always connect classroom learning to its applications in the outside world. He’s found that when the project is based in the real world, addressing problems that people actually face, and not focused on a grade, students are naturally invested.

A Continuum, though

I can honestly say that I don’t disagree with Terronez’s description and goals at all for project-based learning.  In fact, it’s how I would prefer project-based learning to occur.  However, it does seem to discount the other possibilities for project-based learning, or “project-oriented learning” as it’s called in the article.  In my research, particularly with former student Dr. Suha Tamim, we found that there is for sure a continuum of which teachers implement project-based learning.

Some teachers do choose to do projects as Terronez’s describes, that is as the single method of instruction for students to learn new content.  However, we found that other teachers use projects as Terronez also mentions as reinforcement.  But we also found that:

  • some teachers use projects as a method to allow students to go deeper,
  • some teachers use projects as a method to allow students to represent their learning in multiple ways, and
  • some teachers use projects in all of these ways.

From our small research study that we hope to be published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning soon, it seemed likely that teachers used project-based learning with an alignment to their own pedagogical beliefs about how teaching and learning should occur.  Moreover, teachers felt constrained by their school, district, assessments, or curriculum to not do things differently.

And Value?

And maybe that’s the significant point to note from this article. High Tech Middle is school-wide initiative committed to project-based learning as Terronez describes, a variation on High Tech High’s model.  If an entire schools adopts project-based learning to this level, then the supports and scafffolds for teachers and students to teach and learn in this method are there. (Frankly, I’m jealous of the work happening at High Tech Highs and now High Tech Middles across the country. A real model that should be considered more.)

However, if a teacher is doing project-based learning alone, then variations are inevitable, because the same supports are not available to the teachers or the students.  But that doesn’t make the variations ineffective at achieving learning goals. Nor should they be discounted as valuable.

By way of the Huffington Post, I found out that Childrens Television Workshop and the folks at Sesame Street have begun specific programming to address the challenges of life for little children.  You can read a synopsis from Huffington Post below.

On Tuesday, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that operates “Sesame Street,” launched “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce” — a set of free resources offered online for families coping with divorce. The tools are designed to help kids between the ages of 2 and 8 deal with and understand their parents’ divorces, and help parents talk about divorce with their children in an age-appropriate way.

As part of the initiative, a 13-minute segment will appear online that features popular puppets such as Elmo and Abby Cadabby (see above for a short clip). The segment will not air on TV.

In one scene, Abby Cadabby sits down with friends Elmo and Rosita to draw pictures of their homes. Abby Cadabby draws two pictures — one of her at her mom’s house and another of her at her dad’s house. When Elmo asks why she doesn’t live with both of her parents, Abby Cadabby explains (with the help of Sesame Street resident Gordon) that her parents divorced after having “some grown-up problems, problems they couldn’t fix… but they both said they still love [her] very much.”

via Sesame Workshop Launches ‘Little Children, Big Challenges’ Divorce Initiative (VIDEO).

As noted above, this segment will not air on TV.  Certainly, this type of  counseling is incredibly useful for children who are going through these challenges, but I believe these types of videos will be possibly even more useful for children who are not going through these and need to understand what their friends or classmates are experiencing.  I think these segments will offer an avenue for compassion to be bridged in understanding what other children may be experiencing.  I think my own children would really benefit from understanding how other children may feel, since they can’t comprehend the situation directly.