Adding Information To My Diet

This week Gee asked an interesting question of, “What if human minds are not meant to think for themselves by themselves, but, rather, to integrate with tools and other people’s minds to make a mind of minds?” in Anti-Education Era. (Gee, 2013, p.153) He talks about “affinity spaces” where any person with passion can contribute productively. (Gee, 2013, p. 173-177) I am not an expert yet in any of these spaces, but I’m working towards that. My PLC at work is a space (virtual and in-person) where I contribute ideas to the group to better our school procedures, policies, and lessons.

Conversations in Social Media

Thinking about my possible affinity spaces led to me thinking about my “information diet”, where I gather my news and ideas from others. Every morning when I’m waking up I go through a list of apps on my phone: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, SnapChat, and Gmail. I read information from friends or sites usually with similar views than me. This is probably true of most people on the internet where we go to “ideologically driven sites where people echo each other’s views and values endlessly and mindlessly”. (Gee, 2013, p.163)

I was challenged this week to look for new sources of information that think differently than I do on educational issues. I decided to follow people on Twitter that I normally wouldn’t:

Scorebuster is a Twitter account focused on the SAT. I avoid reading about standard tests in hopes to forget their existence and remain in my “bubble” of fellow high-risk-test haters. They tweeted an article about how the SAT is redoing the test to match the common core standards and “let students from all backgrounds show what they really know, not just what they’ve memorized in prepping”. Had I stopped after the first paragraph, as I frequently do when my views are challenged, I would have gotten the wrong impression and assumed that “overhaul” was an exaggeration and the SAT would stay pretty much the same.

I also followed Urban Education to stretch my thinking.. I was shocked to see a link to how “3 black teenagers create app that lets citizens document police abuse”. This is not an article that I would normally come across unless a Facebook friend shared it. It’s not something that I, as a white middle class young female, deal with at my virtual school. To see students see a problem (Ferguson) and create a solution (Five-O) collaboratively was wonderful to read about. It opened my thinking and reminded me that if students feel personally connected to material in a classroom amazing things can occur.

I chose to follow a religious educational twitter account as well, Christian Education. I clicked on an article this week that related to my job as an online teacher. It wrote about how online classroom frequently have a more students per teacher ratio to save costs with pros and cons discussed. I challenged myself to read the article many times and process the ideas brought up. I agree that lower class sizes are always helpful, but I see many of my co-workers do amazing things with 100 students virtually attending their classes. Reading the article made me realize that I need to better my understanding of how others view online education, as well as share my personal experiences on the student and teacher end. If I can better understand the draw-backs to online education, I can hopefully purposefully work to correct them in my classroom, much like how Gee explains the many ways people are stupid in order to help educators understand enough to make them smarter.

Try widening your social media diet today!

Try widening your social media diet today!


* Birgerking. (2010, April 13). Social Media Prism – Germany V2.0 [Picture]. Retrieved from

*Borison, Rebecca. (2014, August 18). 3 Black Teenagers Create App That Lets Citizens Document Police Abuse. YAHOO! Tech. Retrieved from

* Gee, James Paul. (2013). The anti-education era: creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

* Gweneth Anne Bronynne Jones. (2013, March 19). Social_Media_Small_Plates13 [Picture]. Retrieved from

* Lewis, Darcy. (2014, September 12). How the New SAT Is Trying to Redefine College Readiness. US News & World Report. Retrieved from

* Lewis, Michael. (2014, March 6). Does the Student to Faculty Ratio Matter for Online Learning? Retrieved from

* Pine Tart. (2014, August 9). Five-O! Rate & Review your local law enforcement [Video file]. Retrieved from


Complex Problem in a Virtual Geometry Classroom

A new school year has just begun and I’m on both sides of it as a teacher and as a student. My graduate class this semester started with a discussion of different types of problems that exist; well-structured, complex, and unsolvable problems. To simplfy describe them well-structured problems have one best solution, complex problems have many things to use in order to solve it in many possible ways, and unsolvable problems are self-explanatory – they can’t be solved. These unsolvable problems are also mentioned as wicked problems and often the “solution” is just the best that you can come up with at the time with the information possible. These wicked problems can exist for may years, with new “solutions” replacing the past “solutions” when more time and knowledge is available.

Complex Problems

This week I thought of well-structured and complex problems present in the area/perimeter unit of Geometry. I will work with a couple Geometry students in my virtual Title 1 classroom and I want to use a mix of well-structured and complex problems to help them learn the material. The complex problem that I adapted came from an activity I did my first year of teaching in West Virginia. I was in a more traditional brick-and-mortar school teaching mainly Geometry to 10th grad students. I handed students a piece of graph paper, instructions, and told them to design a dream house using all polygons that we had learned. They then “bought” material from me in the form of scrapbook paper and determined how much it would cost to cover the floor in their dream house. Students enjoyed this project and I heard a lot of good conversation around the room about how to solve for the area of each room and then the cost of each room. However, I am a virtual teacher now and I can’t complete this activity in the same way.
Floorplanner Dream Park

My park created using

I am happy to say that I found a free program that will help me complete this complex project online! Floorplanner is a free tool where you can search for items and then create a layout on a grid from a top facing view. Using this tool students start with a blank grid on the screen. They can then search for items to place on their grid to show their park layout. I searched and found a circle pool, a hexagonal gazebo, a rectangular park bench, and more! I would also allow students to design something other than a park if they desire as long as they place different polygons into the area. With Floorpanner I am able to complete this project in a virtual environment and students can share their work online with each other. With the program being a free download all students in my class can have access. Students can get immediate feedback from me and their peers on their project rather than having to mail in a physical model and wait for me to receive it and critique it. Floorplanner also will allow students to quickly change their design plans by just clicking and moving their object instead of having to literally cut and paste or redraw their object.
Complex Problem: Use Floorplanner to design a park with 10 structures located in it. You must have a structure with a following shapes: regular polygon with 5 or more sides, rectangle, circle, and square. Use your floorplan to design your dream park and then determine how much sod you will require to cover all open space with new grass.

(That video was created using Screencast-O-Matic – which is a wonderful free site that I love! I have my students create these and send them to me throughout the school year because they are so easy to create and share.)

I’m excited to see how their project will work out this year! Students always find many ways to solve this complex problem and they learn a lot from discussing their ideas with their peers. I’ve had students determine the area of the whole park and then subtract each object’s area. I’ve had students “cut” up the grass area into easier shapes and figure out the area of each before adding them together. I’ve had students approximate with the boxes on the grid paper and then defend why approximation will work well for purchasing sod. The fact that there is not one correct, or even best, way to complete this project is another reason why this classifies as a complex problem.

I could see this work in brick-and-mortar classrooms as well with 1:1 technology, partners, small groups, computer labs, or done as my original paper idea. If you try this out with Floorplanner or have done something similar before in your classroom I’d love to hear about it below!
1. Celestine Chua. (2013). Problems. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from Flickr:

Mini Class: Going Beyond the Screen

It’s been quite a week this week! I went to Maine and back with my parents and learned about designing a mini online class! One is a little more relevant to this blog than the other. 🙂

If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say mini online class, please explore Massively Open Online Courses and Peer 2 Peer University. Those are where I learned about the idea that someone can create a class and offer it to an unlimited amount of people at one time. I should probably stop referring to them informally as a mini class and maybe instead call them Giant classes. It’s an amazing idea to think that an expert in a field no longer has to be bound by the number of people that they can personally reach. They can create a class where the readings, videos, homework, everything is already created before participants even start. They don’t have to worry about answering questions, providing feedback, or contacting everyone in the course. Instead they can share their knowledge with a large amount of people. The best part is that so many people are doing this FOR FREE! It’s taking Khan Acadmey to a whole new level and I’m already so excited about it!

For CEP 811 we were to explore these wonderful mini/giant classes and then outline our own. I’m not an expert on anything yet (I believe in the 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers – and that’s almost 5% of my life!) but I have been teaching online for two years now and have gone to many conferences about the best practices of online learning. When I talk to new teachers to online education or sceptics that online learning is “real” I always seem to be asked about how I build relationships with students online when I never meet many of them. Below is my mini course made for a giant amount of people that starts to answer that question. [Note: This is still just an outline and will not function as a real course at this time.]


In my Connecting Beyond the Screen course my peers will master building relationships with students in an online course by designing information sheets, planning field trips, and collaborating with peers via Twitter. 

Course: Connecting Beyond the Screen

Audience: K-12 grade teachers, with an emphasis on 6-12, who teach students online (or partially online).

Time Length: Six weeks.


By the end of this course participants will:

  • Create an introduction video to a classroom.
  • Maintain a Twitter account documenting their assignments and explorations.
  • Design opportunities where students will interact with each other outside of the classroom.
  • Understand multiple ways to interact with students synchronously and asynchronously.
  • Plan multiple ways to summarize a lesson.
  • Create a bank of questions to get students talking with each other.

picture summary

Week 1: Put Yourself out there!

Summary: Getting to know your students while teaching online often starts by sharing about yourself. If your students get to know you better, then they will share more about themselves. 


  1. Watch this video about the 8 lessons that other educators learned about teaching online.
  2. Watch this video about the importance of an introduction and three steps to giving a consise short introduction. This is a general video not related to education, but has some good points to consider while creating your introduction video.
  3. Watch this example of a teacher introducing themselves. I would suggest allowing more time on each slide so that students can read and look at the picture, but overall it’s very exciting and engaging!
  4. Watch this short video about how one teacher incorporates herself into every lesson.


  1. If you do not already have a Twitter account, create one and explore the ins and outs of using Twitter.
    1. Try watching this tutorial if you are new to Twitter. (Don’t worry I didn’t really Tweet until earlier this summer!)
  2. If you do not already have a blog, create one and explore the ins and outs of using one.
    1. Try WordPress, Blogger, Weebly, or any other you already knkow about.


  1. Make an introduction video
    1. Ensure that you show yourself either on video or in picture.
    2. Show off your work environment. Where do you work? What’s your desk look like? How and why are you organized in the way that you are?
    3. Talk about your goal(s) for the school year. These can be more personal or something that you want the whole class to achieve.


  1. Share your information sheets with others via Twitter. Use the hashtag #BTS14
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

social media

Week 2: Photo Evidence

Summary: Now that you’ve shared some about yourself in your classroom and learned about your students, you might want to put a face with all the information you are learning. Create a student information sheet where students attach a picture to send to you. Check with your school policies about photo usage before sharing with others.


  1. Read through this interesting article about putting a face to online learning.
    1. Explore VoiceThread after reading and think about if that program would work for your setting.


  1. Look at the two examples below and search online for more – there are a ton out there that just need minor changes to fit your classroom!
    1. Who I Am Information Sheet
    2. All About Me


  1. Create your own Student Information Sheet with at least one space for a picture. Since this will be distributed online, ensure that all items can be edited.


  1. Share your blank student information sheet with others via Twitter. Use the hashtag #BTS14
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

jk rowling listening

Week 3: One-on-One

Summary: Online you can really make time for one-on-one meetings that can’t easily happen in a physical environment. These “meeting” can be synchronous or asynchronous, and can go a long way in creating a deeper relationship with your students.


  1. Read this article about the importance of building personal relationships with students from the National Educational Association.
  2. Read this article about the power of connecting with students on a personal and individual level.


  1. If you do not have an account already, create a free Google Hangout account. Learn how to set one up so that you are comfortable enough to explain to students if needed.


  1. Fill out a student information sheet from last week (one you created or one someone else created that you saw on Twitter).


  1. Tweet ideas about ways to connect with students one-on-one and in small groups using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet your filled about student information sheet using the hashtag #BTS14.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.
    group classroom hug

Week 4: Building a Community

Summary: As you get to know each student, ensure that they are getting to know each other as well. Sometimes it can be difficult for students to befriend others online, they may need a push from a teacher.


  1. Read this short blurb about creating an online educational community. The goal of the article may be about a specific program, but it has some useful information within it.
  2. Go through this short PowerPoint presentation about building community in an online classroom. It’s geared toward language arts, but can be applied to any online classroom setting.
  3. Read this article about being a successful online teacher. While it certainly goes beyond just creating a community in your classroom, there are many specific helpful hints within the article and at only 8 pages you should just read the whole thing.


  1. Read through the document that gives a list of questions to start the lesson. I usually post one of these on the board while students enter my room and give them the first five minutes of class time to talk and debate the answer to the question. Once I use a question I use the strike-through on my copy so that I don’t ask the same question twice. You can choose to use this in any way that you can see working in your classroom.
  2. Look online for more ways to engage your online students. Share them via Twitter using the hashtag #BT14.


  1. Save the file of questions to start the class period with and then add at least 10 more questions.


  1. Tweet more questions that you can think of to add to the list using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet out a request to meet with others taking this class and meet together using GoogleHangout.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

 Equal Apple

Week 5: Summarize and Share

Summary: It’s become common practice to summarize the lesson’s material before moving on to the next lesson or class period. When teaching online you may also need to summarize social interactions and allow free time for students to mingle.


  1. Read this article about how to end a class period on a high note.
  2. Here’s an article about 7 ways to end a lesson.
  3. Read through this extensive list of summarizing strategies to use at the end of a lesson. Many of these can be used for content and for social summaries.


  1. Search online for more ways to summarize material for students. Think about how you can adapt them to summarize social interactions and increase student-to-student interactions.


  1. Write 5 short “lesson plans” that map out the end of your class period, showing how you will summarize the academic content and the social interactions as well as provide opportunities for students to interact with each other.


  1. Tweet your short lesson plans using the hashtag #BTS14.
  2. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.

Louvre Tour

Week 6: Think Outside the Classroom

Summary: Once you get students comfortable with you and each other in their classroom think about setting up opportunities for them to get more involved outside of your class. Plan field trips (physical or virtual), set up pen pals, start a club, design extra social online meetings for reaching a goal, etc.


  1. Read this article about the importance of field trips in schools.
  2. Read this article about the importance of field trip and other non-strictly-academic opportunities.


  1. Look through these virtual field trip options. Do any of these fit your students or school setting?
    1. Eschoolnews Top Ten Best Virtual Field Trips
    2. Subject Specific Virtual Field Trips
    3. Education World Virtual Field Trips
    4. Scholastic Virtual Field Trips
  2. Look up field trip locations in your area.


  1. Design two activities where students will interact with each other outside of your classroom.


  1. Tweet your two activities using hashtag #BTS14.
  2. Tweet a request to meet with others taking this course and meet using GoogleHangout to share you ideas.
  3. I encourage you to add to your blog to document your thinking and progress as you go through this course. Linking to this through Twitter can help you explain your thoughts to others without having to stay under a character limit.


Well after that lengthly post I’m going to keep it short and sweet to finish it off. While creating this “course” I was constantly reminded of how much effort it really takes to become comfortable with students and earn a relationship with them. I was also reminded of how important that can be. I know that every teacher forms relationships with students differently. If you have anything to add to this post before it becomes a more real course I’d love to hear about it!



  1. Dave Catchpole (2012). The Making of Harry Potter. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  2. Jose Kevo (2009). Group Hug. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  3. mkhmarketing (2013). Social Media Class. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr:
  4. Purple Sherbert Photography (2013). We must teach the children of the world equality, peace, and love. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from Flickr: