I’m proud to be presenting at the Cengage Learning Computing Conference in Phoenix, AZ, this week.  I have culled together a number of resources, recommendations, and best practices for designing and teaching blended, synchronous, and synchronous online courses, and so I’ve included those links below for the participants and my followers to have those all in one place.  I hope these are helpful, and I would really like to know if and how you use them. So please drop me a comment below or feel free to contact me on one of my social media streams.

Supporting Webpages & Resources Mentioned in the Slides

  1. Planning an Online Course
  2. Introductory Email to Online Students
  3. Introductory Pages for an Online Course
  4. Online Course Content Page Template
  5. Online Course Project Page Template
  6. Tips for Online Course Management
  7. Tips for Asynchronous Communications
  8. Tips for Synchronous Communications
  9. Assessment in Online Courses
  10. Building a Course Site with PBWorks

Presentation Slidedeck on Slideshare.net


Synchronous Class Meetings, In-Classroom & Flipped Classroom Slide Templates

I am super excited to be working with the Baptist College of Health Sciences here in Memphis.  I’ve been asked to present to their faculty as part of a faculty professional development day, so this is a great opportunity to share about problem-based learning, project-based learning, and some strategies to help with teaching online and hybrid courses.  This certainly overlaps with my work with the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, as well as some of the teacher professional development I’ve been doing recently, too. Below are the two slidedecks that I will be using.

[slideshare id=25621707&doc=pbl-recovered-130826222508-phpapp02]

[slideshare id=25621802&doc=engaging-backup-130826223037-phpapp02]

If you happen to have questions about any of these, please let me know.

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.

Although you're far...As we approach the beginning of the semester and many schools in the south are beginning the school year, I was reminded of this blog post I found a few years ago.  Dr. Bill Taylor, a Professor of Political Science at Oakton Community College, wrote a letter to his students regarding academic integrity.  I, again, think this is an excellent direction.  I am considering crafting a letter like this for my online course I am teaching this semester.  In fact, I may create a video or audio narrated version of this, so that I can convey my personality with this letter and expectations for high quality, professionalism, and integrity with every learning activity we do.

What do you think?

Add you thoughts here or on the original post with the slew of other comments!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Aphrodite via Compfight

Given my interest in problem-based and project-based learning, I thought I would share this video that came through my Zite feed late last week. It’s a TEDxLondon video from Ewan McIntosh in September 2011. Ewan blogged about the presentation and “The Problem Finders,” as he calls them recently on his NoTosh site. He says that,

I’ve sought out ways that we can give more of the learning process back to learners: so much of the hard work is done by teachers: scoping out what is ‘worth’ studying, preparing questions worth answering (or not worth answering!) and assessing the learning of students.

This is at the heart of problem-based and project-based learning. He goes on to say that

We’re working every week now with schools across the world in building The Design Thinking School, a pedagogical framework that borrows from enquiry-based learning and problem-solving curricula to bring new meaning and relevance to students, and we’re finding that such a framework works regardless of curriculum, country, culture or language. In independent schools with parents wanting top marks, in city schools where students are disengaged, in suburb schools were students are successful but bored… in every case it’s leading to more engaged students and better academic performance, in both elementary and high schools.

This is great. I hope you enjoy the video.


If my grant I just submitted for the Tennessee STEM teacher professional development is funded, I plan on using this as part of the professional development. What do you think of the video and work that Ewan is doing? Let me know your thoughts.

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about “flipping a classroom.” This is where typically lecture-type instruction is off-loaded as homework, then in class time is spent applying the knowledge.  The application of knowledge segment can be achieve in many ways. For example, it can be practice items that may be typically completed as homework. The application can also be through project-based learning and collaborative learning, or even the ill-structured problems that are typical of problem-based learning.

You can see a few others below that have talked about this as well:

Just the other day though, I came across this infographic that gives the basics of flipping a classroom.  I really liked this, so I thought I would share. Hat tip for this resource goes to Zite, my personalized magazine. 😉

The Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


This is an announcement from my Email Inbox about a free webinar sponsored by the Association for Educational Communications & Technology‘s Graduate Students division.  I encourage everyone to sign up soon at https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/schedule/display.do?udc=47yspb9bj2mi

AECT’s GSA is back with another intellectually stimulating webinar on Designing Inquiry-based Virtual Environments presented by the leading designers in the field. Please read the attached flyer for registration and other details.  This webinar will allow you to attend the conference without having to use the dail-up option. All you will need is a computer access and a headset or earphone.  Seats are limited.

Virtual learning environments are abound and offer unique challenges and design opportunities.

Please join Dr. Susan Pedersen, Associate Professor in the Educational Technology program at the Texas A&M University and Dr. Diane Jass Ketelhut, Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of Maryland-College Park to discuss the Design of Virtual Learning Environments that supports science inquiry.

Dr. Pedersen’s research interests lie in the use of virtual environments and games to engage K-12 learners in student-centered learning approaches, such as problem-based learning and student-directed inquiry. She will discuss her current project, the VEL science project, and demonstrate one module from that project: Rigglefish, a virtual environment for teaching genetics to middle school students.

Dr. Ketelhut’s research interests center on scientific inquiry, specifically looking at the effects of using emerging technologies for curriculum and assessment on student learning, self-efficacy, and engagement in science and a science career. She will share her experience in designing virtual environments called River City as well as her current project of designing multi-user virtual environment called SAVE Science, which is a game-based assessment system of science learning for middle school students.

Many instructional arrangements seem “contrived,” but there is nothing wrong with that. It is the teacher’s function to contrive conditions under which students learn. It has always been the task of formal education to set up behavior which would prove useful or enjoyable later in a student’s life.

— B.F. Skinner (http://www.ntlf.com/html/lib/quotes.htm)


I feel that informal learning plays an important part in my personal development, but still I hold the notion that informal learning cannot completely replace formal learning. Here are three of the reasons why.


Informal learning is not suitable for all kind of learners. Though Jay Cross is a big proponent of informal learning, he mentions in his blog that “novices learn best through formal learning, for it provides the structure, signposts, and scaffolding a newby lacks.” Being a student myself, it is sometimes hard for me to filter valuable information from the vast available resources. In such an environment, formal education through coaching and active feedback provides me with the capacity to further educate myself. Carmen in her blog “Formal Learning is here to stay” backs up on the reason for such behavior by explaining it in context of lack of prior knowledge (schemata), and cognitive load. Flora, Jane and Paul in their presentation try to explore which form of learning is preferable and explains with the help of a matrix that people who have more autonomy over learning would benefit from informal learning whereas formal learning is for those who have less self control over learning.

Accountability & Quality

Formal learning would be preferred when there would be no scope for trial & errors, meet certain standards, and have to be 100% accurate. Karl Kapp in his blog discusses examples where formal education would be most effective. He says “Without formal training if someone does something right, it is most likely by chance” and in high risk environments there is no room for chance. Formal learning would also be preferred in an environment where there needs to be quality mass production of certain product or services in a restricted time. The best example that is coming to my mind right now is the training of American soldiers during WWII.

With the new emerging policies and procedures, where effort is being made to help students to prepare for a future that does not exist yet, is commitment and responsibility involved with formal learning. Also, today formal learning opportunities are provided in such authentic environments that it would be hard to believe that it is still the 70/20/10 principle. Don Clark in his website discusses the importance of both formal & informal learning and is of the opinion that “informal learning should NOT replace formal learning activities as it is this synergy that produces effective growth”


Clark, D. (2010). The true cost of informal learning. Retrieved from: http://bdld.blogspot.com/2010/02/true-cost-of-informal-learning.html

Clark, D. (2010). Knowledge jump. Retrieved from: http://www.knowledgejump.com/learning/informal.html

Cross, J. (2005). To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season. Retrieved from: http://metatime.blogspot.com/2005/04/to-every-thing-turn-turn-turn-there-is.html

Informal Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.infed.org/biblio/inf-lrn.htm#tacit

Kapp, K. (2010). Formal learning all the way…baby. Retrieved from: http://www.kaplaneduneering.com/kappnotes/index.php/2010/07/formal-learning-all-waybaby/

Learning. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning

Weaver, C. (2010). Formal learning is here to stay. Retrieved from: http://viral-notebook.com/blog/2010/02/17/formal-learning-is-here-to-stay/

Guest Blogger

Smita Jain is a doctoral student in the department of Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. She assists faculty in designing online courses for the department of Health and Sport Sciences. She enjoys her work very much as it is also her area of interest- Online/Web based teaching and learning. She has tutored middle school children and helped pre-service teachers to prepare them to integrate technology in their classrooms. After completing her degree she wants to become a faculty, researcher and consultant in the field of Instructional Design and Technology.

Image courtesy of Mully Children’s Family at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mullychildrensfamily/4926260794/

In a previous post, I blogged out loud about my concern for misusing/overusing the term mobile learning, or mlearning.  In fact, a recent post and nudging by Michael Barbour got me to start putting some thoughts down that I’ve been mulling over for a while.  Plus, I have a very talented student right now who is working on a dissertation about mobile learning in higher education, and she has caused me to spend some sleepless nights thinking a lot about this. So, here’s a start to something that I hope will grow into more finalized.  I would really like to have your thoughts about this, so please comment and ask questions.

The definitions of mobile learning that I’ve read and have found, I believe are incomplete. For example:

I particularly like the direction and indecisiveness that Dr. Traxler (e.g., 2005, 2007, 2010) puts on the difficulty in defining mobile learning in a number of his articles on defining mobile learning.  Still, I think these definitions do not ask all the questions appropriate to mobile learning. I believe folks have been defining mobile learning, and trying to define a mobile learning environment.

Pushing my thinking even further, Dr. So (2010) in a presentation at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology asked me to consider the relationships among mobile learning, elearning, and distance learning.  He suggested that many people would argue that mobile learning and elearning were subsets of distance learning.

However, he posited that mobile learning (and elearning for that matter) were more likely derivations of distance learning, sharing specific traits but also retaining unique characteristics.

I really liked where this line of thinking was taking me, so I began to think about what mobile learning meant for teaching and learning.  In almost all of the cases I’ve read, the emphasis had been on the learner and the learning, and I like this concentration.  However, I think the current definitions do not do justice to the other components in learning environments, namely the teacher, the content, and the learning system, which in this case is the mobile computing device.  So, I’m begining to play around with this diagram:

By looking at all of the pieces in a mobile learning environment, I think it forces us to consider theoretical foundations for practices and avenues to take advantages of the mobile computing devices.  In particular, it begs the following questions:

  1. What does it mean if the teacher/trainer/facilitator is mobile?
  2. What does it mean if the device or system is mobile?
  3. What does it mean if the learner is mobile?
  4. What does it mean if the learning content is mobile?

I am planning a follow-up post about this diagram and how I think existing and future mobile teaching and learning strategies fit in.  What are your thoughts so far?  Please let me know.

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I. & Ferry, B. (2009). Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning, in J. Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Mobile Learning Network (MoLeNET ). (2009). What is mobile learning? Retrieved December 30, 2009, from http://www.molenet.org.uk
Motiwalla, L.F. (2007). Mobile learning: A framework and evaluation. Computers & Education, 49, 581-596.

Quinn, C. (2000). mLearning. Mobile, Wireless, In-Your-Pocket Learning. Linezine. Fall 2000. Available at http://www.linezine.com/2.1/features/cqmmwiyp.htm

So, S. (2010, October 27). Pedagogical and technological considerations of mobile learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Anaheim, CA.

Traxler, J. (2005). Defining mobile learning. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning.

Traxler, J. (2007). Defining, discussing and evaluating mobile learning: The moving finger writes and having writ…The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8(2). Avaiable at http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/346

Traxler, J. (2010). Distance education and mobile learning: Catching up, taking stock. Distance Education, 31(2), 129-138.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) begins its se...
Image via Wikipedia

This week is Vacation Bible School at my church Bartlett Methodist.  The exciting and fun theme for the kids is Galactic Blast!, which has been a blast.  I have been leading the Discovery Time, which is focused on science and particularly earth sciences and physics.  So each night during the week, we have been experimenting with a individual experiments and then we have a whole group time, too.  On Tuesday night, though, the individual experiment didn’t take long and I wanted to show the kids some of the most recent images from space, especially some of those from the Hubble Space Telescope.

I decided to bring my iPad and project some of the images for the kids.  Like others have discussed, you can’t just project on your iPad.  In fact, the individual applications have to release the video out (check out this spreadsheet for the list). One application that I’ve really had a lot of success with video out is GoodReader.  It’s a great application, and it worked really well for me at VBS. I was able to project an image onto the screen, then blow it up by “pinching.”  This was particularly effective when I was discussing the maria and craters on the lunar landscape.  Since my iPad is not a 3G, I relied on transferring all of the images and videos directly onto the iPad with GoodReader, too, while syncing.

In one session with kids, I was running a little ahead.  So, I also unplugged from the projector and used the Planets app to show the kids individual images of the planets.  I was able to walk around with my iPad among the kids and they got a closer view, too.  All in all, the iPad and the space images were both hits. Have you used your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch with less formal learning situations?  Let me know in the comments.